Routine and familiarity are common as a writer. We write what we know and we write what we are comfortable with. There are plenty of writers who write within the same genre, scope, and so on and never change it no matter how many short stories, books, or essays they may write. It is all too easy to find something you are good at writing about and continue to write about it, but what if you decide to go outside of that area of expertise?
For instance, if you write fictional love stories – your past three books and all your short stories have only been love and relationship stories then the thought of taking on a fictional mystery murder story probably makes you highly uncomfortable.
But that’s good!
We want uncomfortable. I have realized, as a writer over the past couple of years, that exploring what is outside of your norm is where your best work can come from. If someone would have told me three years ago that I would end up writing a nearly ten-thousand-word murder mystery piece, I probably would have laughed at them, but I did and I have never done so before. I never had any intention of wanting to write within that genre of fiction, and yet it is one of my favorite short stories I have ever written.
It may take some research or a little more effort on your part, but is that really so bad? Especially considering you may come up with some of the best work you have ever produced. I would say no.
The same thing goes for writing outside of your usual style or form. Working on a piece that is experimental can cause anxious feelings for a writer if they are used to a more traditional form of writing. Yet working with different experimental forms or styles even if it is something as small as time manipulation in a piece can be at the very least a good exercise. I have found to try everything once in writing and if it doesn’t work for you or limits your writing abilities then don’t stick with it and move onto the next thing. If you are having writers block, don’t know what to write, or feel like all your work is starting to sound the same then what is stopping you from changing something in the form, style, language, genre, whatever within your writing. As most things in life go, you don’t know until you try and if you don’t go outside of your comfort zone in terms of your writing how will you ever find out what other areas you may excel in?
No matter where you are in your writing career, remember to keep your mind open to new things. I think every writer gets writers block or hung up more than once during their writing career and remembering that there is more out there to explore is a wonderful thought to have. Making yourself accomplish short exercises or play with your style can lead to fantastic things and can help you learn about yourself as a writer, so get uncomfortable and dive on in.
Hollie Stark is a MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at Roosevelt University and serves as a reader/editor for issue 43 of Oyez Review.