I’ve been working on my fiction writing lately and talking quite a bit with other writers about their work. Last week I finished listening to an unabridged audio version of a bestselling novel and realized that I’ve been working way too hard at this. I enjoyed the novel; the plot was interesting, the characters were quirky, the dialogue was hysterically funny, and the situations were wacky and amusing. It was a very entertaining read, but not even the author would call it great literature. She has published dozens of novels in various genres, all best-sellers, and makes a good living at it. She writes to formula, but her work isn’t hackneyed because she brings her imagination and sense of humor to bear on the aspects of each novel that aren’t governed by the formula: character, dialogue, setting, and plot details.
I don’t have to write great literature to be a successful writer. In fact, I’m far more likely to be successful if I don’t write great literature. That may seem surprisingly obvious, but it’s a blazing revelation that takes all kinds of pressure off my writing.
Now I just have to get myself to believe it.