(notes for something a lot longer)
when I was 19 I remember writing something like "my area of interest is gay werewolves, aliens, and zombies." I didn't actually write much genre stuff but I liked the idea of genre because I felt that same-sex-attracted characters in fiction were either "just like everyone else" or alternative in the way that characters in literary fiction always are. And the genre of the fiction was the same--very mainstream, or a particular kind of alternative.
I wanted to write fiction for people who were ssa, but had other kinds of weirdness going on too.
when I was 18-20 I was writing a book and part of the main character's backstory involved having lived in a fantasy world with her best friend, and having a very fantastical/overdramatic view of romance which led her to throw herself down a flight of stairs in attempt to get attention from the girl she had a crush on, when she was 13. This led to the character becoming depressed when she realized that the people around her didn't have the concept of a girl liking another girl, because no one understood the motivation behind what she had done. Some of the book was about the girl and her best friend (now 17 and 18) trying to go back to the people they were as kids, and some of this was about the girl trying to build a fantastical narrative around the experience of being a sexual minority.
When I tried to talk about the book to a straight person, the person said, "Why does everything you write have to about showing people how hard it is to be gay?"
People would say, "Why don't you write things that everyone can enjoy?"
I don't enjoy stories where the structure of the story implies everyone is heterosexual in a particular way. I don't enjoy stories where there are offhand negative comments about disabled people. Or writing where images/words about Autistic, intellectually disabled, and mentally ill people are used as analogies to illuminate the feelings and personalities of non-disabled people.
However no one writes these stories with the aim of my enjoyment.
If I had to do it over, I might not have majored in creative writing--and without that goal I might have chosen to attend a different college, which is a strange thought. I'm just not sure I believe in the workshop, if you know what I mean.
I mean, how can anyone believe in it? It can be thrilling when people are nice, or when they talk about your characters in a lot of detail. But it is the case that it is just an assignment and people sometimes aren't prepared or don't have anything to say, so they/we bullshit about other people's writing in an attempt to come off as smart. How do you know when someone's comments are bullshit?
Also--as a (b&s)mws, how do I know when someone's comments are even worth taking? My primary aim, in writing, in the long run, is to write things for people who have nothing exactly specifically for them to read. Gay zombies for example and Autistic people in general, since at this point I can't name a single work of fiction about an Autistic person that is written by an Autistic person.
Yesterday for the only time in three and a half years I became extremely upset because of a workshop, to the point of crying and not being able to sleep. Now, I really do not know if I believe in workshops anyway. But my general experience of a workshop is people give you some suggestions and they also discuss what you wrote which is kind of fun and you get to think, with other people, about something that you made. Which is at least a pleasant feeling, and I was looking forward to it yesterday because I was really excited about the story I'd written.
However, people were so detached from what I wrote that I didn't understand almost anything they said. They talked about clarity and the main (disabled) character being closed off, and his "problems" and his lack of understanding of what was going on--almost none of which I thought were issues at all. I thought I wrote a story about a character who understood things other people assumed he didn't understand.
There was also an unstated assumption that I was writing from the outside--that is, that I was trying to write the thoughts of someone with autism, and figure out what those thoughts might be like. Maybe I had worked with kids who had autism, or something, because I seemed to be doing a pretty good job. It was certainly very original to write a story about such a person.
I've generally had good experiences with workshops for stories that contain SSA characters, but I remember having a bad experience as a first-year. The straight people in my class expressed that they didn't understand the character's feelings about being gay, which were clearly stated in the poem. I ended up feeling that because the poem was somewhat humorous and the character was somewhat odd--and therefore her reaction to being gay was odd--the straight people couldn't relate. They wanted very very conventional feelings about being gay, if there was going to be a gay person in the poem.
(I received a positive note from a queer student in my class, who mildly added,"I think if this appeared in an LGBT journal, you wouldn't need to explain it.")
Is it the case that if I write something I think is one of my better pieces of writing, and receive what seems like an extremely negative (and detached from the original) workshop, I should just ignore the workshop because they are not people in my community and my goal is not to write something that they can understand without trying?
I don't write because I like writing. I mean, I do. But I don't struggle for ideas the way some people do--or if I do, I know that it's because I'm trying to hide. If I'm going to "write the book I want to read" then I will never run out of books to write because nothing like the book I want to read exists. If I start writing stuff that isn't about disabled and gay werewolves, aliens, and zombies (figurative or literal), or other people who need to be written, then there is no joy or drive in writing for me.
At the same time, this is obviously problematic and lonely, especially in workshops.