I just finished reading Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild and Other Stories.” I’ve read “Bloodchild” several times as I work on my own short stories. But there is something special about reading the collection. Butler, a confessed novelist, but her short stories are masterfully clear, engaging, concise and impactful. She relays the most graphic and disturbing content as if they were announcements in a pew bulletin.
Butler also wrote with freedom. She wasn’t bound by tropes, rigid structure or “approved” content. She wrote HER stories her way and waited for others to experience the brilliance.
Upon reflection, I can see the cowardice in my own writing. I write in anticipation of readers’ questions or desires. I spend a tremendous amount of time on description, backstory, and minutia that really don’t approach let alone advance the plot.
It’s like making pasta sauce, but letting your dinner guest pick the ingredients, proportions, and timing, whether they can cook or not. I can’t even imagine it! I don’t even let people IN my kitchen when I’m cooking, so I do I let strangers all up in my stories when I write?
In short, I’m not telling MY stories. I’m trying to get readers to affirm that I am a good writer –this is artistic cowardice at its finest.
Good writing is about the work, not the writer.
I regret not reading Octavia Butler earlier in life. But I am grateful for the opportunity to feast on the results of her talent, hard work, and the ZERO fucks she gave when they tried to tell her what should be in her sauce.