I don’t buy comic books and I don’t know much about any of the heroes, but when my grandsons lived with us, they dragged me to see a lot of Iron Man, Avengers, and X Men movies. And I enjoyed almost all of them. Just like the urban fantasies that I love, comic book heroes always face overwhelming odds. Good always versus evil. The fate of the world is at stake. And there’s so much action. How fun is that? So it surprised me when I listened to a quote by Stan Lee, after his death, where he said, “I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: Entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end.” (I got that quote from Screen Rant’s list of 10 most important quotes from Stan Lee: https://screenrant.com/10-inspirational-stan-lee-quotes/ )
I love his words. When I was a kid, I always wanted to do something important with my life. It wasn’t about making oodles of money. It was about changing the world, and in my eight-year-old mind that equated to becoming a teacher. To me, teachers shaped kids’ minds and kids were our future. And I didn’t change my opinion all through school and college. That’s why I taught elementary for six years. But it dawned on me that yes, teaching was important, but there were so many other factors that shaped a child, my influence was like a pebble dropping into an ocean. And when laws changed, and Indiana wouldn’t hire anyone with a Master’s Degree anymore when I wanted to return to my old job, I told myself that raising two awesome daughters could change the world, too. Still believe that. And then when I discovered writing, I thought I’d found the perfect vehicle for more.
Somewhere in time, though, I realized that serious fiction might not be for me. I was more drawn to genre novels. At the first writers’ conference that I ever attended, the speaker asked us to raise our hands if we wrote genre. My friend and I lifted our arms, and he sneered at us and informed us that we were hack writers, that we only worked for money. (I wish). Now, I knew that I’d never be compared to Margaret Atwood or Shakespeare, but that still ticked me off. I took pride in what I wrote whether he thought it was worthy of literature or not.
A few writer conferences later (and I chose ones that focused on genre fiction), and the speaker asked one of the really talented romance writers why she chose to write “beneath” her. Again, I silently fumed while the poor writer struggled for an answer. (She came up with a good one, too. Not that it satisfied Mr. Smirky Pants). Since then, I’ve decided that it’s hard to write ANYTHING well. And if you do a good job, you’ve earned my respect. I’ve also learned that some people STILL have to have an hierarchy of what’s important literature and what’s not. That’s their problem, not mine. But I still fussed about the things that, in my mind, I couldn’t write well.
That’s part of the reason I had so much fun writing outside of my comfort zone for the three short stories I posted on my webpage for the beginning of October. I’d told myself that I couldn’t write dark and dismal very well. And when I posted those three stories, I was pretty satisfied with them. I’d achieved my goal. And do you know what? It wasn’t as much fun as I thought it would be. Because they’re not the real me. Yes, I could write them. Did I want to write any more? Not really. And that was a revelation for me. I’m happy writing what I write. That’s why Stan Lee’s quote struck such a chord for me.
I’m grateful to all of the authors who write the books that I love to read, the ones that bring me so much enjoyment. Stan Lee’s right. Offering entertainment is an end in itself. Yes, serious, weighty volumes inspire me, but so do cozy mysteries and smalltown romances. The world needs people who care about what they do, whether they collect garbage, perform surgeries, sing and dance, or write comic books. Do what you feel passionate about (within reason:)
P.S. I won’t be posting another blog until after Thanksgiving, so enjoy the holiday. And happy writing!