Over the weekend I read this blog post by Matt Debenham on What Writers Can Learn from Purple Rain, and it’s brilliant. And not just because Purple Rain may be one of the greatest albums of all times, which it really is*. But the bit that stood out to me the most was point number 5:
Don’t be afraid to look dumb. Look at that album cover. It’s ridiculous. Yet does Prince look ashamed? He does not look ashamed. He’s looking out at you, saying, “Yeah, I’m on a motorcycle in a pirate shirt and waistcoat. Yeah, the border is my mom’s good spring tablecloth. What of it? I made a goddamned masterpiece here that you can also throw on at a party. What have you done?” I know too many writers, both published and un-, who seem humble or even vaguely embarrassed about what they do.
I’ve seen this so many times. And it is quintuply true for sci-fi and fantasy writers. Not only do “real” writers** often not consider us on the same level as them, we internalize that. We accept the idea that we ought to be looked down upon, that we are lesser.
Back when I went to the DFW Writer’s Conference, I had the opportunity to interact with writers of all sorts of different genres and disciplines. But the most eye opening was when I asked one young woman what she wrote. It wasn’t her response itself, “I write fantasy books,” but the way she said it. Eyes at her feet, quiet voice, meek expression seeking forgiveness. This wasn’t the tone of a person proud of her work. This was the tone of a person confessing the things they did to score meth.
And I knew I had done the exact same thing.
And there’s no reason for it. We are, quite frankly, the most intensely beloved genre. I mean, what are the biggest books in recent history? Harry Potter, Twilight, Hunger Games? What do we have to be ashamed of? Not a damn thing, that’s what.
I’m going to own it. Loud and proud.
Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’ve got a purple vest to put on.***
*- A fact I did not appreciate at the time. To be fair, I was 11 when it came out.
**- The ones who write “literature”- which I’m not knocking. I just have issue when they knock us.
***- I honestly do. And it’s fantastic.