That thing you do

puzzle_pieceAs humans, we like to categorize things.  Things that fit are good; things that don’t fit are bad.  It’s why we love the people we do, eat the foods we eat, read the books we read, and write the things that make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  Categorizations make sense of the world, and whether or not we can admit it, we all fall into one broad slot or another when it comes to the images we project to the world and the activities we take part in.

Genres are my favorite way of looking at divisions in the world, because they’re both so simple and so complex.  You can go really, really wide with the somewhat redundant “speculative fiction” tag, or go super duper narrow with “angel and demon steampunk” or “post-apocalyptic teen love story where everyone uses a bow for some reason even though everything else is really technically advanced”.  Authors are encouraged to find a niche audience to speak to, and that’s helpful for both writers and readers.

But how do you find your category?  How do you find your “thing”?  Sometimes it takes people decades to figure out where they belong, and some people never manage it at all.

I resisted my category for a really long time.  Even though I grew up around nerds, Magic players, MMORPG aficionados, con-goers, and LARPers,  I didn’t enjoy every single thing I was supposed to enjoy as a “geek girl”, and it left me feeling alienated and insecure.  The external manifestation of the category didn’t fit my internal love of all things fantasy, and that was a disconnect for me that made me think that somehow I wasn’t committed enough to what I was supposed to like.

That’s all nonsense, of course, but it took me some time before I realized I can like whatever the hell I want to like regardless of whether I hit level 60 in World of Warcraft or know how to play Settlers of Catan.  I’m very happy being a fantasy writer, because it’s the space where my brain fits and I get the most fulfillment from my work.

So my question to you is this: how did you find the thing you do?  Did you leave the womb in your Doctor Who cosplay outfit, or did it take you a long time to come to terms with your passion for harlequin romance?

Do you fit the social picture of your favorite genre, or do you fly under the radar?  Does it matter?  Do you care?

I find it really fascinating to think about the topic, so leave a comment below and join the discussion.

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2 thoughts on “That thing you do

  1. I’m a salesman. People look at me funny when I start talking about dragons and knights. It’s like, where did that come from? But growing up I was into the pencil and paper rpgs and such. I do MMOs. In second grade I was already writing fantasy fanfics. Or sci-fi? Whatever the Big Friendly Giant would land under, I suppose. It was just the only world I understand or felt I could be fully understood. When you just write about an event you went through, so much can be lost. When you can exaggerate it with mystical creatures and magic, it seems to get across better for me.

  2. I used to think I was a sci-fi guy. I’m a HUGE Star Wars fan, Matrix fan, and read just about all of Frank Herbert’s books in high school. But I’ve never had much interest in other sci-fi stuff like Star Trek, Dr. Who, etc., and could never get into stuff like Asimov, Bradbury or H.G. Wells.
    I’ve never considered myself a fantasy fan, but yet I love Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Fablehaven and LOTR (and your books, Jennifer!). I’ve never been interested in D&D, Magic, LARP (though it looks like fun) and I don’t even know what MMO stands for. But I do collect and play Yu-Gi-Oh and Pokemon TCGs.

    I think that’s what makes me proud to be a “geek”: I like what like regardless of what I’m supposed to like. Even regardless of what my fellow geeks might think I should like. And I’ve learned, after many years of trial and error, to write what I like and have faith that there are others out there who are like me.

    Yukon Cornelius said it best: “How do you like that? Even among misfits, we’re misfits!” 🙂

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