In a previous season of my life, I was a pastor. Some of you know and some of you don’t know that. That season taught me several huge things that I have not forgotten and hopefully never will. Massive things about humanity, suffering, life, and definitely myself. One of the bigger lessons that came from that time was an understanding of who I am, in particular, and what I can and cannot do within the limits I have been given.
To give you a metaphor, of sorts, I have a screwed up back. It came from misuse when I was young and a lack of proactive self-care. This injury has been, at times, traumatic and life-altering. At other times it’s just annoying. Sometimes it’s not there at all. But one of the times I feel it more than any other is when I’m exercising. If I am working my body in a way that is vigorous and difficult? Well then I definitely begin feeling that injury flair up. This is a good example of a real limitation I have. A boundary, if you will, and I likely will always have it.
There are similar boundaries in my writing, but I’m only recently discovering them. One of the biggest boundaries I have, and that is particular to me, is a stark lack of romance. Don’t take this to mean it’s most obvious definition. I can be exceedingly romantic with my wife. She knows me well and that each year her birthday is a national holiday, and that she means more to me than any other woman alive. But take the term romance in one of its other meanings.
My writing process almost never produces tears from me. It doesn’t make swoon. It doesn’t cause me to fall in love with any of my characters. I often feel like a bit of an outsider from some of the many writers I interact with for this very reason. I don’t have talks with my characters, nor arguments. I don’t put myself into their stories so deeply, and with such passion, that I lose something of myself. I am not romantic, in that sense. And that’s perfectly okay.
I’m me. Just me. I am not an amalgam of other people. I am not really emotional at all and I don’t begrudge nor envy anyone who has more capacity to emote than I do. My writing is full of subtly. This is both a pro and a con. There are things hidden inside every one of my books that almost no one ever uncovers. But my books aren’t filled with feelings, either. They’re there, of course, because life has them, but I don’t tend towards the flames of rage, the elation of happiness, or the darkness of depression as others might.
And this limitation doesn’t make me a worse writer, just a different one. And I write all this to say, essentially, that worrying your writing isn’t good because it’s your writing, is silly at best and self-destructive at worst. Make your writing the best it can be, certainly. Make it technically superior, wild, crazy, fun, engaging. But don’t just imitate what you think you should write. Instead, figure out where your boundaries are. Figure out how to write within them in a way that displays your strengths and admits your weaknesses. And at the end of the day, write because writing brings you joy.