Disagreements, differences of perspective, verbal sparring. This is what good stories thrive on. So it's no wonder that sometimes in the course of discussing things we're passionate about–like writing books–writers can get a little heated up.
I witnessed a couple minor disgreements between writers and editors this week over the definition of quality, and I was reminded of the early days of this blog, back when I'd take on the "establishment" and picket low quality in Christian publishing, excited to find quotes from folks like Marilynne Robinson in The Tennessean this week who said, "I think a lot of Christian fiction feels pat." Which sounds like she's saying something to the effect that Christian fiction is low quality, though she goes on to say that it seems many writers (many, not all) don't learn in the course of writing. And this is why it feels pat. Predictable. Expected.
These days, I think my fire has turned into a babbling brook. Or maybe a little bunny. I don't want to argue anymore. Some people think predictable writing is boring and pat and connotes low quality. Others think it's nice to escape in something comfortable and safe. Whatever. We all have different reasons for reading and different qualifications for our reading material. I think I've grown to appreciate more pat writing in recent months. I don't care if it makes me seem less intelligent or interesting at parties. Pompous objections to predictable fiction are so predictable and they bore me. So there.
After so many years of fighting for "high quality," working to define it by some objective standard, and searching for new ways to enforce it–or at least get high-quality equal attention–I'm tired of it. I love the difference of opinions, but I just want to read good stories. Maybe I'm compromising. Maybe I want too little out of life or something. But I still want a lot. I want to be surprised, challenged, gripped, inspired. I want to read things that expand my view and make me more accepting, more loving, more dead to my selfish demands, not more. I want excellence, but I want a broad definition of that when it comes to opinions about something as particular and complex as novels. Most of all, I want more respect paid to the people who just enjoy reading and for writers to forget the elitism and attitude, the arguments that go nowhere, and the whining about there not being enough good stuff to read. There is. You just might have to search for it among the piles. Or you might just have to write it yourself. Quit your grousing.
That's the way it is in life. You have to work for it.
So my word for the week is to keep reading, keep writing, and keep fighting for high quality however you define that. Just don't be narrow. And don't come barking at my readers when you don't agree my fiction is high quality. Differences of opinion are what make reading much more fun.