A long, long, time ago (just typing those words makes me want to start singing “American Pie”), I was given the best piece of writing advice ever. I’d been struggling with defining my niche as a writer, and frustrated that I couldn’t get down deep into my gut and extract the feelings living there.
Growing up, I was pretty famous in my family for writing lengthy story poems, or odes, always in couplets, for all our major events. Most of these contained quite a bit of humor, and they most certainly wouldn’t qualify as “serious poetry.”
For 10 years and three months, 272 times, I wrote a bi-weekly humorous personal experience column for the Chinook Observer. It garnered me 11 state awards in 10 years. The editor called it “fluff writing.”
Fluff? Well, yes, I suppose it was. But it was what I knew how to do. I loved telling stories that entertained as well as informed, and humor always found a way to sneak into my work, no matter what the topic.
But what I secretly longed to write was cutting-edge, suspense-filled, heart-pounding fiction. I wanted to be taken seriously as a writer, and I thought I must write serious stories to achieve that status.
And then a writing colleague explained to me how the world needs all kinds of writing. He said my style and voice were perfect just the way they were, and that I was a “serious” writer just as long as I kept writing.
Then he told me the five most important words of my entire writing life. He said, “Don’t fight what you write.”
And at that moment, I knew I’d never be rubbing elbows with Stephen King or James Patterson or J.D. Robb. But that certainly didn’t rule out having my books on a shelf next to the likes of Debbie Macomber or Janet Evanovich.
So that’s when I accepted what I write as being “good enough” and started working on a Cozy Mystery series. Oh, it’s still “fluff,” all right, but it’s darn good fluff, and it turns out that it’s exactly what many people want to read!