Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Disturbing Self-Revelations

I’ve written quite a few posts about how writing is an act of self-discovery, a way of peering into your mind, of interpreting the world around you.

Well, I now have 13 short stories under my belt, and I’m beginning to see a pattern. One of the things I’m discovering is that I have a penchant for writing material that is disturbing to others. A recent rejection acknowledged the story was “a good concept, well-told,” but was deemed “too brutal” for publication.

That wasn’t my intention, I just thought it was a good story. But re-reading it, I kind of get it, although it didn’t seem that way to me when I wrote it. I knew it was intense, but I didn’t think it would be that hard on the reader.

On reflection, I realized similar themes run through several other pieces. These are stories I understood might be difficult for some readers. The problem is, the “difficult” parts aren’t gratuitus or put there to shock. They’re the foundation that powers the whole story.

To me, art should have no limits. Everything is on the table, available for exploration. But the reality is that most people aren’t going to have the stomach for graphic depictions of things THAT HAPPEN ALL THE TIME IN REAL LIFE.

Sorry for the caps; but it’s a big point. Can we not tell stories about the disturbing things humans do? That seems weak, doesn’t it? On the other hand, if it’s too unpleasant, why would anyone read it?

I like extreme juxtapositions – people triumphing over trauma, for example. But the triumphing part has no meaning if you don’t talk about the trauma too.

Am I discovering that my voice is unpublishable? That’s probably an overstatement, but it seems clear there’s a limited audience.

Ultimately, the artist has to be true to their vision, whatever that might be. I’m still figuring out how to best express my ideas without alienating people who might find it meaningful.

Where are my boundaries? Or is this the wrong question?

Maybe the right question is: Should there be any boundaries at all?