There’s something very insulating about being an author, and I’m not altogether certain that’s a good thing.
I immerse myself in my W. I. P. - work in progress—and although in many ways writing is my job, for me it’s actually a lot more than that.
For the time that I am working on a novel, that story becomes the center of my world. It’s what I think about most of the time, and the only thing I really want to talk about. Because my stories are character driven, I need to get into the heads of my characters in order to tell their story in the best, most complete way possible.
I know that there is another world—what is generally referred to as “reality”—on the outside of this little creative oasis of mine. I’m somewhat aware of the day-to-day happenings in that world. But it’s as if I am protected from the sharp edges of it.
This is at once both comforting and alarming. It’s comforting because not much can really affect me. I don’t usually become emotionally invested in happenings outside of my family and friends, and my work. That’s pretty comforting when you think about it—the fact that I can pretty much control my environment.
However, sometimes, I wonder if I’m not missing some key something, namely, life itself. I don’t watch many movies, and there’re only two or three shows on television that I will sit and take in. I tune into the news once in a while, I watch a few “talking heads”, and of course, I catch the headlines online.
But there are trends, if you will, of popular culture, that I simply don’t appreciate—basically, I just don’t get them.
And there are some trends I studiously avoid altogether. For instance, some “reality show” personalities, littered liberally, sort of like salt on french fries, almost every day at many and various online sites. Egads, you can’t avoid them! I do my best to completely ignore them.
I have to ask, do people really care about these personalities—how much skin they show in their clothing selections, who they’re sleeping with, who they kiss in public, whether or not they’re having a bad hair day, and what they tweet? I mean, really?
There was a time not that long ago when I worried that my lack of familiarity with popular culture would inhibit my ability to connect with readers. Think about it for a moment. I’m a fifty-eight year old woman writing stories aimed at the generation younger than my own—and even the next one younger still. The women who read my novels are aged about 21 to 45. Those are the ages of some of not only my children, but some of my grandchildren.
My readers are no doubt into popular culture. They watch the same television programs, read the same books, go to the same movies. Some of them play video games, either online and on game-systems. They go to bars and night clubs, listen to rap or country music and know all the moves of all the dances, and all the ingredients of the trendiest drinks.
At one point I worried that I was being too insulated. Maybe I was in danger of falling out of step with my times! If an author is out of step with her times doesn’t she become redundant?
One thing you have to know about these author-types: they have no shortage of imagination and tend to apply it liberally everywhere.
I’ve since come to the conclusion that I can be aware of the world that my readers move in without having to move in it myself. I can be tuned in to what their lives involve, what their mindsets may be, without having to live those lives myself.
I don’t have to be like people who are younger than I am; I just have to listen to them, and to understand them.
And then I have to tailor my stories, so that the words I write mean something to them.