Sunday, October 03, 2010

Uniforms

I went to a Macmillan coffee morning on Friday, which was bizarre enough in itself, but the thing that stood out most, in that country house, with its stone-flagged kitchen floor and fine stairwell, was....er... me.

Having just returned from a week in the mountains, I am still favouring my Aviemore uniform: walking boots, a (bright green) waterproof jacket and a pair of cleanish jeans. Everyone else was wearing designer clothes, perfect hair/nails and names like Felicity. I have a lot in common with these women, but I didn't cut the mustard in my semi mountain garb; they didn't recognise me as a middle class, middle-aged, country-dwelling mother, but rather as some transient who had wondered in off the Downs.

Conversely, if I'd turned up to Corrour Bothy last weekend with anything other than a pair of Zamberlains (or similar), hair awry and broken nails, they'd have thought I'd taken a wrong turning at the carpark (the shopping area is the other way).

I confess to feeling a little at odds with my surroundings while searching for a friend amongst last month's Thunder in the Glen gathering (Harley Davidsons R Us). Despite being a biker myself, and being in a pub I know well and love, I didn't fit; I was wearing the wrong uniform. But I didn't really mind.

I feel all right in my ten-quid jeans and a pair of boots. I've tried and failed to smarten myself up over the years, invariably reverting to my own uniform, that one that says "ME" and the one in which I feel most comfortable.

When it comes to writing, I realise I'm lucky – not just because I'm happy in my clothes, but also because I'm happy in my genre. I often wonder, however, about those whose writing is less mainstream than mine? Do they feel out of place? Are horror writers able to show their work to their mums? What about authors of erotica? Some genres, once considered way out on a limb (e.g. fantasy & paranormal), can now been considered mainstream in their own ways, but I know the stigma remains in some people's minds.

Are you happy in your genre, or do you feel under pressure to write something more... normal?

14 comments:

Graeme K Talboys said...

I'm happy with what I write, but my biggest problem is trying to explain it to prospective agents/publishers. Because it doesn't fit a genre and because most people have to go and look up what I talk about 'transrealism' (the Wiki article is a fairly good introduction), I know it's much too much like hard work for mainstream publishing. And whilst I'd like to make a pile of dosh from my work, I'd much rather stick to writing I enjoy and am happy with.

Queenie said...

I couldn't write something more normal if I tried, so it's just as well I'm happy in my genres.

Leigh said...

Graeme - I like that - sticking at what you like and bugger the cash. Great stuff.

Queenie - You? Normal? What was that you were saying about wacky friends? ;-)

Juniper said...

Nothing to do with writing (since I am not a writer) but your story reminded me of Mr H. accompanying me once to Cork Week sailing regatta. I was in 'uniform' as I was working there (shorts, polo shirt and deck shoes) and he was the only one there in a leather jacket ;-)

Some of my yachting friends are never out of uniform, but I hover somewhere in between everybody; a bit like you I'm a jeans and boots or trainers girl and can just about fit in most places, be it Glen Nevis campsite, the sailing club, a motorbike showroom or a dog show.

Thank you for the thought provoking post!

~Juniper~

Lane said...

I'm writing pretty much in a mainstream genre so I don't have the problem.

In real Life I often feel like a fish out of water when the 'uniform' doesn't fit. The older I get, the less it matters but there's always that 14 year old voice that whispers 'you're a bit different to them'. But it's getting quieter:-)

womagwriter said...

I'm comfortable both in my jeans and in my genre! Fleece rules.

OfficeGirl said...

I am comfortable in my genre. I went between middle grade fiction and young adult for awhile there when I realized Im much to dark a writer to possibly be anything but young adult. I would only scare middle graders. Also, I only wear jeans, summer and winter complete with a hoodie. I like that about myself as well. When I try to be to girly I feel uncomfrotable and stared at. Go figure.

Karen said...

I'm finally comfortable in genre and jeans - well not jeans so much at the moment as I've just eaten way too much apple crumble.

HelenMHunt said...

Well, I'm pretty much a jeans and jumper girl most of the time. I tend to wander a bit genre wise but I'm usually happy with what I'm writing at any time.

Jenny Beattie said...

"I've tried and failed to smarten myself up over the years..." Yup; me too. I like a nice handbag but the rest... I'd rather it was comfortable. If it's a bargain too all the better.

Genre? Well I've only just realised what I'm writing - psychological thrillery type thing - so maybe one day I'll work out where I fit elsewhere in life... but I rather suspect I won't. Yes, I care less as I get older too.

Sue Guiney said...

Interesting stuff. I do believe that you can try to write -- and be -- something other than what comes naturally, but it won't work as well. Best to be true to who you are. It makes for more compelling books, and more interesting people!

Carol said...

Ha, I have never fitted in and probably never will...I'm definitely a 'this is me and if you don't like it then that's your problem' kinda gal!

I remember my Mum talking about going to a Save the children fund coffee morning and being horrified to find everyone in their designer togs. She had been cleaning and so turned up in dusty jeans with a scarf round her head....she's not like me and hated the fact that she stood out like a sore thumb!

C x

Captain Black said...

I've experimented in many genres but have my favourites: SF and crime/thrillers. I'm happy enough to write those but don't really expect much attention from a publishing world that (from my viewpoint) seems to be drowning in Women's fiction. If that's what "normal" is, then I don't think I could write for that market unless there was a gun to my head.

Troy said...

If I had a particular writing genre it would involve hiding medical references like ME and Downs within my writing. How odd you might think, but then again....