While discussing my reservations about taking a certain tempting creative writing class at BYU, I found I stumbled onto the right words for my quandary. I've had this ethereal fear for some time, and have no way to substantiate it yet, but... I fear I am a word crafter and not a story teller. This might seem a slight distinction, but I assure you, it is not.
This is why I have always loved poetry - the challenge of the exact right word, the exact right meaning, the exact right meter. And why I love picture books, whose length, close ties to pictures, and indeed, internal poetry, make them more word art than plot. So what will this mean for my dream of writing middle grade and young adult novels? I don't know.
Fear is a paralyzing thing.
I have this fantasy in my head of starting such a novel and completing it on the sly. Then I whip it out *BOING* to the astonishment of my sweet and supportive husband. This fantasy has nothing to do with quality, only completion. I know the first (at least) novel is practice. But this would let me practice in private - no kibitzing. But how would I write a novel, crappy or not, without plotting help?
So do I stick to poetry, my first love? Well, there isn't much "market" for children's poetry. And it isn't that I'm looking for money, or even fame...but I want what I write to be read.
So what am I going to do? Start writing poetry for adults? No way. I could not, and would not, keep up with a collection of academia that specializes in writing and publishing their personal brand of babbling that makes sense to no one but the writer and other members of academia who congratulate themselves on interpreting such things, pontificating on the symbolism espeically as involves some certain group of oppressed minority that they themselves have studied in depth, but all it really boils down to is how it works through their own experience of thinking they are superior to the average, limited, and in point of fact, stupid, lay-reader who likes movies, fantasy, entertainment, and gasp words that makes sense together. (Sorry to sidetrack to a sudden endorsement of the Reader's Response critical theory, but I have always been delighted by a "critical theory" that at once makes sense and defies analysis.) Those poor adult writers whose work is actually readable, are often labeled as simple and obvious. I'm sorry dear The New Yorker, you prestigious beast, you have failed to seduce me.
I must pause and interject that there are some exceptions. My poetry teacher at BYU, Lance Larsen, is an adult poetry writer that I admire. And I remember loving Wild Iris by Louise Gluck.
Word crafting versus Story telling. The best writers are both. I'll be doing some internal searching and hopefully, someday soon, bypass some of that fear and try. What story do I have to tell?