Why couldn’t I write science fiction or fantasy or mystery?

Sometimes I bemoan the fact that I don’t write “popular fiction”, while at other times I’m completely smug about it.

Mostly, I feel smug, and then I check out the best-seller lists and bemoan again.

This week, I’ve been reading the Lou Reed biography Transformer and it got me thinking a few things:

1. If you’re a creative genius, you can be an asshole.
2. If you’re a creative genius, you don’t have to be popular.
3. If you’re a creative genius, you make your own rules and don’t give a shit what anybody thinks.
4. Popularity and critical acclaim are very different things.

Ergo 5. If you can tell a story, you can get away with being poor writer (Twilight, anyone?)

Despite these 5 points, and even though I wrote my first book (200 hand-written pages) at 12 (and subsequently burnt it – thank you, Poe), followed by a tonne of poems, short stories and three (unpublished) manuscripts, it still feels like I don’t know anything about story-telling.

Earlier this year I had one of my manuscripts professionally edited, and one of the comments I received was: Are you familiar with the three-act story structure?


Yes, I’ve read how-to writing books, but the information goes in and leaves quickly. I just want to tell a fucking story, and sorry that it doesn’t suit the ideal of the hero’s freaking journey or the blessed three-act-story structure. 

But back to Lou Reed. He reminded me (among other things) that we create because we create (sometimes, though, people like Lou Reed create because they are assholes), and that we don’t have to follow rules. I don’t know much about Lou Reed (a little more now thanks to the biography), except that some of his music moves me (like this and this).

Then I went on to read one of Lou Reed’s last interviews in NME, where he said:

“Every single one of us there was … wanting to do something magnificent. We weren’t there to make money or be pretty or get laid. We were trying to create a diamond. We wanted to make heaven on Earth…”

Being a kid is lonely. Being an adult can be equally lonely. Writing makes some of us a little less lonely, but it’s hard to be immune to the “game” – you know the one, write to publish etc etc. It’s a trap that, soon enough, makes me feel that I’m doing it wrong, and suddenly I’m writing to someone else’s idea of what makes a story.

When I was a kid, I wrote about what I wished I was. As an adult, not much has changed, except my writing is dirtier and, I think, more honest because, above all else, honesty matters (despite this blog’s tag-line). (Oh, and having a spider named after you is kinda rad, too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loureedia)

I miss Lou Reed. I didn’t know him, and I’ve only discovered his back catalogue in the last few years, but I miss his type of brutal honesty. He lied a lot, too, but he let us into who he is a bit, and that’s something neither Stephenie Meyer nor Lady Gaga give me. 


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