Some reasons why I am not a novelist

When I tell people I am a writer, they tend to presume that I write novels. Novels are the most visible and popular form of literature, and best-selling novelists enjoy both fame and wealth. I impute the kindest of motives to these presumptions, choosing to see in them a tacit wish for me to be both famous and wealthy. Because folks tend to be disappointed and lose interest if I disabuse them of their presumption, out of kindness I sometimes don’t bother. What follows is the beginning of an explanation for this outwardly irrational choice on my part, which won’t probably be of interest to anyone who isn’t also a writer.

  • I don’t like being in charge of people – I want people to be in charge of themselves. As a teacher, I gravitated to decentralized models of pedagogy and strove to create environments wherein learning was student-driven. I prefer the role of facilitator. This sometimes works with real people, under the right circumstances, but it doesn’t work very well with imaginary people. As a writer, I have to make all the choices for my characters, and that really goes against my nature.
  • I see too many possibilities; my view of the big picture contains a lot of detail. I can detect and analyze patterns more easily where I don’t have anything at stake – in the past, for example. Future projections bring out excessive caution in me, as the undetermined factors increase exponentially at every step. This makes it very difficult to create a story arc of novel length and complexity.
  • I can only be involved in so many long-term projects at one time. I am currently parenting two children and partnering with another adult. I manage a household, help maintain the yard, and take care of a cat. I just don’t have the energy or the desire to take on another epic project at this point in my life. I feel insanely gratified that I manage to write at all.

This is by no means a complete analysis, but it is devilishly difficult to analyze something when one is smack in the middle of it. Additional posts on this and related subjects are in the works, so stay tuned!

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2 responses to “Some reasons why I am not a novelist

  1. Oh, I can so relate to this! This is why I don’t keep fish: I don’t like to be responsible for the life, environment, and death of another thing. It’s stressful. This is why I do personal essay. A perfectly valid form of writing! And you do it well! You’re poetry isn’t bad either! Write on!

    • At this point, I don’t even have house plants. I think the real reason I haven’t turned my yard into a vegetable garden is less possible reaction from the homeowners’ association and more a lack of interest in taking on another commitment. All my garden plants are perennials or self-sowing annuals. ;-D

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