Like many things — design, baking, napping — writing is a craft, and you gotta work at it to keep it sharp. Keeping a regular schedule is a good start, but it’s easy to get stuck in a rut. There’s little way to avoid it, writing is a very solitary activity — and sometimes your brain can’t see its own forest through the word trees. Or…something like that? Let’s roll with it.
Fortunately, there are ways to break free from that mind forest. This past weekend I attended a one-day writing workshop, run by a friend and coworker. This guy — he’s involved in so much, I seriously don’t know how he does it. He writes, he plays music, he hosts entrepreneur workshops at his job. My only theory is that he’s actually some sort of zombie hybrid that requires little to no sleep. IF ONLY I COULD GET THAT BUG.
Ahem. Anyway. One of my favorite sessions was about disruptive thinking. We were challenged to take a story we’d written previously and reframe it — put it in a different light, cast it in a different genre. And MAN. I was shocked at how difficult this was for me. I mean, really, I shouldn’t be shocked — I don’t deal well with change, and apparently that extends all the way to my writing style. I hadn’t realized it, but I’ve become so set in a very particular voice that it was extremely difficult for me to break away from that.
Now, I know what you’re going to say — but Laura, having a voice is good! Writers spend years trying to develop “their voice”. And yeah, I know. It’s good to have a writing style that’s distinctly you, that works. But it’s also good to a) know why that style works for you, and b) freshen it up every once in a while. Neither of which can be done if you’re continually writing in the same tone, the same voice, never stretching those writing muscles and going out of the comfort zone.
I doubt that my “main” writing voice will change too much (I mean, never say never, I got a whooole lotta writing years ahead of me). But I am going to be more conscious of testing out new styles, voices and genres in short stories. They seem the perfect playground for experimentation — what fails, what works, what sticks. Who knows, maybe I’ll create the perfect Hemingway-Atwood-Faulkner lovechild. Only time (and practice) will tell.