Challenging Yourself as a Writer
Sounds cliché, right? It’s not just a simple saying. Sometimes we feel that just writing alone is a challenge, and I have certainly felt that way. The daily challenge of just getting words into print isn’t really what I’m talking about here. What I am saying is, are we truly challenging our ability, not just the mere act of writing. Are you writing things that you are comfortable with? Sometimes, it’s about stepping outside that comfort zone, if only for a moment. That’s where the challenge comes from.
I write horror, for the most part. That’s my comfort zone. Especially when dealing with characters who have a law enforcement or military background. That’s what you could call my wheelhouse. That’s where I have the easiest time coming up with characters and stories. That’s where I’m “safe” as a writer.
When I was given the challenge of writing Sci-Fi for the first time, I almost said no. I’m glad I didn’t. It forced me to delve into a genre that I’m not comfortable in. Granted, I did fall into my comfort zone by using characters of military type. That made the project easier to handle. However, there were other characters created there that weren’t. Two groups of characters, to be exact. I had to write well outside my comfort zone on a couple of them. The people who have read my Sci-Fi have commented on those characters, in particular, as being some of their favorites. I won’t say which characters, especially if you haven’t read those books. Give them a read, then we’ll talk.
My point being, those books took me outside my comfort zone. I’m proud of those books, for many reasons. I think that they challenged me as a writer, and I learned a great deal from the experience. I know that I can write outside my normal genre and outside my normal archetype for characters. I have more confidence in my writing now than I did before I took on those projects. It helped me to grow and improve in ways I hadn’t expected. Now, my first love is horror and likely always will be. But, I now know that I can write whatever I set my mind to.
If you’re finding that your writing is staying within your own comfort zone, maybe you should try it. I’m not saying that it has to be a project that takes up a lot of your time or that it has to be published. I’m saying, write something different than your usual fare and embrace the challenges that come with it. If you’re a novel writer, try your hand at poetry. Write short-stories? Try something longer. Write action/adventure? Try romance. These are just examples. Whatever you write, try something that is totally different. Even if you never show it to another person, it will help your writing. It will help refine your skills as a writer.
There are lots of exercises that we can try to help us in our writing. Taking a creative writing course, reading different genres than your norm, listening to different music than you’re used to. All of these things expand your creativity. They are doorways into our own imaginations. When you listen to music, have you really just listened to the lyrics? That’s a great form of writing. Songwriters are imaginative and have a very short window to tell a complete story. It’s a brilliant form of writing. Listen to the lyrics. It’s as refreshing as reading a book. You never know what you might have been missing.
Writing is a talent that you can easily take for granted. We get so comfortable in what we normally do that we lose focus on the wider world that is open to us. My personal exercise in challenging myself is this blog. I’m a storyteller at heart. I find it far easier to tell stories than to write an informative blog about different topics. I try to mix up the topics so I’m not just sticking to one.
I’m also planning excursions into the fantasy genre, pure action/adventure without the horror aspect, more Sci-Fi and others. I may even get back into writing poetry. I used to do it all the time and haven’t really done it in years.
My point is, break out of your comfort zone once in a while. Write things that you don’t normally write. Read books you don’t normally read. Listen to different music. You’ll be happy that you did. After all, you don’t really have anything to lose but you have the world to gain. Imagine what you can achieve when you realize that you can write whatever you want.
I want to be known as a writer, not necessarily a specific genre writer. I don’t know what I will want to write in the years to come, so why would I want to lock myself into one genre? I know that I don’t read just one genre of books so why would I limit myself to writing just one? Who knows where this journey might end up taking me. I want to be ready for anything.
Take the challenge to test your abilities. Let your writing flourish and grow. Who knows, you might find that you enjoy writing something totally different than you ever expected. You won’t know until you try. What have you got to lose?
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