“It’s business. It’s not personal.” How often has one heard that? I admit the usefulness of the concept. Decisions made under the spell of emotion and private urges do not always bode well for the greater good.
But, does downplaying the personal bode well for a writer of fiction? Except for formulaic writing, what is fiction except a personal statement? Then, having written the story, what additional obligation does an author have to his readers? How much of his personal life should the author reveal?
In my case, my writing has been influenced by my unique life story, including culture, religion, business career, and overcoming illness. Those influences individually, though, are not what I find compelling about my life story. Instead, I find compelling how I have built bridges across them. Indeed, the challenge of building bridges is usually at the heart of the conflicts addressed in my fiction.
There is, however, no fiction market segment called “Building Bridges.” I have always believed that I could rely on the content of my writing to reveal my unique perspective to the world. I wonder, though, if I have missed a bet in connecting with readers. After all, what starts off as a country song can cross over into the more general market. It might not pull that off, though, if not already successful in the country arena.
I also remind myself that once the product has left the computer and forays into the commercial world, it is no longer solely a personal statement but, indeed, a business. And, business requires identifying market segments.
My head hears that. My heart resists. Could insistence on the theme of "Building Bridges" ever work? Or should I just go the expected route and self identify focused solely on culture or religion or business or overcoming illness or something else? Will my choice make any difference in how my writing is received? And, in marketing my work, how much of Judith Mercado should be revealed to motivate someone to buy my work?
This last question, by the way, is what prompted me to write this post after a recent encounter with someone who had not realized the role illness had played in my life. He did not realize it because I never talked about it. So it got me to thinking about what an author's obligation is to his readers. The result is this post. Obviously, I have not answered my own question.
So my novel’s manuscript has gone out to my readers. Second guessing is now in full force. They will hate it! How embarrassing. What was I thinking? Such is my internal chatter.
Okay, so I am sure they will find glimpses of good writing. They might even think it well written. But, they might not. And, as I wait, there is little I can do. The book has been sent out. It is no longer under my protection. It has been exposed to the cold light of day. Can I handle it?
My writing frequently explores multicultural themes. Born in Puerto Rico, I moved at a young age to the U.S., where my parents became Pentecostal ministers. Early immersion in Latino and religious cultures preceded later experiences as a businesswoman, a White House Fellow, and life aboard a trawler cruising from Martha’s Vineyard to South America. These sometimes incompatible worlds have given me a respectful outlook toward differing points of view. My short stories, poems, and essays reflect my own inclusive, yet sharply defined, journey across cultural and socioeconomic boundaries. I recently published Peace on the Journey, a poetry collection which explores the theme of renewal in the face of adversity.
The defining image of this blog is a waterfall. Its inspiration comes from a scene in one of my novels in which the infant protagonist escapes her mother’s attention and wanders off to a nearby waterfall. While there, she experiences a mysterious sense of wellbeing, which she yearns to replicate for the rest of her life.
"I have made love to my writing and am now in the afterglow."
"Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession... Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
About his fictional town Macondo, widely acknowledged to be inspired by his real home town of Aracataca, Colombia. “Macondo is not so much a place as it is a state of mind.”
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
"The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers fear."
"The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing."
Blaise Pascal, Pensées
"There is vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and, because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly... to keep the channel open."