Why I Don’t Want to Be “The Next Great American Novelist”

Okay, here is my deepest, darkest, dirtiest little secret: I don’t want to write “important” books. Why? Because, in general, I don’t enjoy “important” books (enjoy is the key word here).   

I can hear your shocked gasps. Okay, okay, before you get outraged, let me clarify that I do like SOME important books. I love Jane Eyre and all of Jane Austin’s works. I love To Kill a Mocking Bird and Gone with the Wind. So why don’t I like the rest?

Honestly? They depress me. Let’s take an inventory:

The Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemingway. (Sorry, Dad.) Depressing? Yes.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. (Sorry again, Dad.) Depressing? Yes.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Depressing? Yes.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Depressing? Yes. (Ooh…. I’m going to get in trouble for that one.)

1984 by George Orwell. Depressing? Yes.

A more modern example? Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult. (Although every single high school kid should be required to read this and discuss it.) Depressing? Yes, very.

Now, I’m not saying that just because these books are depressing, you shouldn’t read them. You should. They’re important. (Although I will say you don’t have to read War and Peace. I gave up on it halfway through. Sorry, Tolstoy.) They have important messages, and everyone should read them once. But now I want you to imagine trying to WRITE one of these monsters. Can you imagine spending months, or even years in these worlds, with these characters? By the end, I’d probably be a raging alcoholic. How would you cope with the constant angst and sadness?

The other reason I don’t want to be a great novelist is the responsibility, the constant pressure. How would you ever write another word after your first book was hailed as your masterwork? Wouldn’t you feel you had already published your greatest work, and everything left inside you wouldn’t measure up? Have you ever noticed a lot of the great writers only wrote one full-length novel? (Harper Lee, Margret Mitchell, J.D. Salinger, to name a few.)

All I know is, I just want to write things that make me happy and that make my readers happy. If you’re being honest with yourself, you know you wouldn’t want to spend years in those stories either, would you?


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