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What is Mainstream Writing?

Updated on June 12, 2012

My Quest

During the school year, I wrote a short story about love and romance. I intentionally wrote the story not trying to write a mainstream love story, but something "indie" (independent). However, that got me asking the question: What is mainstream writing? After doing some research, and asking my teachers, I came to the conclusion that the truest definition of mainstream writing is: writing that is realistic as opposed to science fiction or stories that alter nature and reality. Also, according to, "A mainstream work of fiction takes as its subject matter ' the stuff of ordinary life' as experienced by us all in the twenty- first century - hence its universal appeal." That definition did not satisfy me, but I left it alone for awhile. A few weeks flew by, and I totally forget about my quest to figure out the definition of mainstream writing. But one day, as I was flipping through the television channels I saw an episode of the fifth season of "Jersey Shore". The fact that the show has been on for 5 season makes sense to me, but at the same time is mind blowing. The overwhelming acceptance of these 7 to 8 regular people amazes me because the show, simply put, is glorifying a promiscuous, heavy drinking and surface-driven lifestyle. Unfortunately, I feel more and more people are not only accepting this type of lifestyle, but are living it out thinking that this is the ideal way to live. Taking these factors into account, it makes sense that "Jersey Shore" and shows like it sell, because obviously sex and living life "on the edge"...that "YOLO" lifestyle...sells. This portrayal of life has been presented so many times that it has unquestionably become "mainstream". As a result of flipping through the channels, and without even trying, I found myself once again thinking about the definition of mainstream writing.

Film director, Ang Lee gives his definition of mainstream. "Mainstream films have occupied Hollywood, but you can get bored very easily. It can be very repetitive, and I think now we want something fresh and something inspiring and different, daring. The mainstream film is very expensive to make... It's made for the worldwide audience, you have to please so many people, and the business men start running the movies rather than artists."

Obviously making a movie and writing a book are different, but the same principle applies: don't be a writer who limits your ideas and/or just tries to capitalize on the ways of popular culture. Like Ang Lee said,"we want something fresh and something inspiring and different, daring." A great metaphor of being daring is the Alaska salmon. Everything between media, culture, friends and other outlets are flowing in one massive direction like the current of a stream. The salmon, however, takes the current head on and doesn't succumb to the rushing waters, but stays on its path. In the same light, deep writers do not yield their ideas to what popular culture demands, but instead stay true to expressing what's on their heart. So what I've learned on my quest is that my original desire to write something "indie" was really me wanting to creatively express what's true in my life, instead of trying to write something that may please a lot of people, but isn't true to me.



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