I recently read Rabbit Redux by John Updike. I read Rabbit, Run before, and I hadn’t been impressed. In fact, I hated Rabbit a little bit. The book stuck with me though. I’d think about it before I went to bed. I let some time pass (and my life settle down a bit), and I picked up Rabbit Redux and loved it. Updike is masterful at creating a flawed character. Rabbit seemed like he could live and breath as he learned the lessons that come with life.
I read John Updike’s biography, because I was interested in this man who could create such a life-like character. I have been struggling to write lately, and I needed some motivation from one of the greats. I’ve been focusing on reading, because sometimes when I read a lot the writing falls into place. Updike was a prolific writer. He wrote a book a year. He also didn’t let himself be pigeon-holed into a genre. He wrote the Rabbit series spanning from the 1960’s to the 2000’s, character-based writing like mine, that explored topics such as social norms, race-relations, and sexuality. But he also wrote some sci-fi-like, magical realism, historical fiction, and even prose.
I’ve struggled to find my style. I think all too often these days, publishers are looking for genre-based books. I mean, how many vampire books can we have? Romance? Humans love to classify information. Oh, Lauren Greene, she writes women’s fiction. Or, oh, Lauren Greene, she writes Southern Literature (not even listed as a genre on Amazon.com—what’s up with that?). But why? I write because I love to write. I write to solve my problems, the world’s problems (not likely), and because there’s something inside of me that doesn’t feel fulfilled unless I’m writing. I think Updike got that. I didn’t know him personally (I wish I had met him). It seems to me that he wrote what he felt like writing and his audience followed him. I’d like to be that type of writer. The one who follows her creative whims. But in order to do that, I have to sit down and write again. I have got to make it a priority. I have to decide that as a writer, I write, I seek publication, and I do the hard shit like marketing. Because in the end, I kind of want to be like Updike. I want to lead my life doing what I love, and I want it to show in the beauty of my writing. I want to mold a character into someone who feels real. Someone who my reader can relate to or even hate. Someone who sticks with the reader long afterwards in a familiar, comfortable sort of way. Writers are supposed to make their readers feel. And if I can do that then I’ll feel like maybe I’m doing my job.
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