April 1, 2010

Realizations of Self Through Art

I wrote about finding my audience on the other blog Tuesday. When the realization I'd been writing for the wrong people came, it felt like a slap. I was stunned. I didn't quite believe it, and I felt like a fool for having missed the fact for so long all at once. How does a writer miss something like that?

I started writing for pleasure when I was ten. Elementary music classes, a.k.a. band, started in fifth grade at the school I attended, and looking back it's like learning to read music and actively participate in an arts class is what first introduced me to my muse, finicky posterchild for ADHD that he is. I threw myself into learning music as the school year began that fall. By Christmas, my list consisted mostly of art supplies and craft kits.

As winter began to warm into spring, my fingers began to itch for pen and paper.

It took a few weeks, but I finally caved and began scribbling a skit in my notebook during a D.A.R.E. presentation. (I know. I know. But it wasn't like I was interested in trying any of that junk I'd seen on the news that made people act like morons. When would I have time anyway? Homework kept me busy until way past bedtime.) Mr. Nelson, our band director, caught me scribbling out a different story a couple weeks later. He encouraged me to keep it up, so long as I wasn't writing during class and inadvertently alerted my friends to my new past time in the process. Their reaction once they wore me down and I let them read it is what hooked me on fiction writing.

Back then I wrote for my peers. As I aged, so did the audience I imagined. Well, it did most of the time anyway, I did try writing two or three picture books, but they stunk. However, my imaginary audience's ages stopped inching upward as I left high school.

I blame my muse's issues with Peter Pan syndrome.

Eight years later, I sat there wondering why he was suddenly shouting at me to up the age of my audience. (ADHD, posterchild for it, all the way that one. What was he doing for eight years?) Maybe he saw something lurking on the mental drawing board, being scribbled out because it didn't fit with the audience I was writing for at the time, and decided it was a better idea.

I've always had a sarcastic and acerbic sense of humor. It's one reason I was so quiet in school. Kids my age didn't always get the fact I was joking, and I can't stand arguing. So if there was any chance my attempt at humor would result in unintentioned insult, I kept my mouth shut.

It's cliche at this point, but it's also true we all have light and dark in us.

I realized my sense of humor is an expression of the darker aspects of my nature years ago. What I hadn't noticed was the increasingly disturbing ideas garnered by my perusals of science articles. Give me a scientific advance, and I can follow it out to a projected perversion of itself, twisted through long term exposure to human nature. This is what makes me a science-fiction writer, this automatic look into the kaleidoscope of possible futures when presented with a recent discovery.

I started out in college with the idea of becoming a biochemical research scientist who wrote as a hobby.

Months of periodic, uncontrollable shaking spells put an end to the notion I'd be spending my career in a lab. No matter how much I joked about it in high school, I had no desire to prove my senior prophesy of blowing myself to Timbuktu my first day on the job after receiving my doctorate. So, I changed my major from chemistry to English, keeping my minor in biology, with the intent to become a reporter with aspirations of working for a wildlife magazine one day.

As time went on, through the ups and downs of life, my studies, and some things I heard, saw, and read about during my internship and early career I began to hold a more jaded view of human nature. I understood more of the science articles I was reading. With this greater understanding and less than optimistic view of humanity when viewed through a mass lens, the colors in my kaleidoscope darkened.

That's when my audience changed.

The line between YA and adult fiction is one of perspective. To teens the world - life - is full of hope. Sure there are bad things out there, but life stretches out ahead of you. No matter how horrid things get, there's plenty of time for everything to turn around. Adults have been through enough of those rough patches to know they come with the frequency of chuckholes on a forgotten street. Adults often expect a world full of shadows, and that makes the sparks and patches of light all the more precious.

* Photo is of "Little" Brother with the girls. He's just a similar image lounging in the picture here to what I have of Muse Boy in my head, though not quite the same, and I can't draw. Sorry C.

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