Do you challenge yourself as a writer?

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I had a conversation the other day with a writer friend of mine.  We both confessed to having a fear of our writing becoming stagnant.  She refused to become a one-trick-pony.  I agree one hundred percent.

She’s had more books published than me, but I understood where she was coming from.  I write historical romance and romantic suspense, but the nice thing is that both of those can be expanded to include a wide variety of fun time periods and adventures.  I can even write a historical romantic suspense!  The possibilities are endless.

But is that enough to keep my inner thirsting writer satisfied?  The answer is a resounding NO.

In college, my writer friend and I would challenge each other.  He was always brooding and jaded, so I challenged him to write something beautiful and imbued with hope.  I, on the other hand, was challenged to write something dark that did NOT have a happy ending.  We put the task before us to write outside of our comfort zones.

That challenge has stayed with me.  Write outside of my comfort zone.  Up to this point, I’ve taken baby steps with this idea.  But no longer is that the case. I wrote and published a novel and a novelette last year.  This year I’m upping the ante.

I promised myself that this year I would write more than I ever have before.  One project on that list was to write a stage play.  So I did some research and dove into it, ready for the frustration and uncertainty that comes with a new venture.

The idea for the play hit me out of the blue and it reflects a lot of me in it: a dash of humor, a healthy dose of romance, and a side of self discovery.  The notes came together quickly, as did the outline, but I was at a loss when it came to formatting the blasted thing.  Some helpful sites directed me in the proper format of a play, and let me tell you, it’s a pain in the backside.   But the project is worth it, because I think it has a powerful message.  At least I hope it does.

Again, that writer’s insecurity rears its ugly head.  While that fear is hovering over my shoulder, I brush it off and go back to it.  I can’t edit a blank page, now can I?  Write the bloody thing and then go back and perfect it, just like I did my novels.

While I set lofty goals for myself this year, you don’t have to take it nearly so far.  Challenge yourself to write something outside of your comfort zone, even if it’s just a short story or a journal entry.  If you never use it, it’s not a big deal.  But it pushes you to think outside of your self-prescribed box of tricks as a writer.

If you write romance, try horror.

If you write thriller, write literary.

If you write mystery, dabble in satire.

If you write horror, try something a bit lighter and family friendly.

The challenge is to write something you normally wouldn’t choose, something you struggle with personally.  It will not only help you polish your writing skills, but it will help you grow as an individual.

Like my mom always said, “How do you know you won’t like it if you don’t try it?”

So try it…and see what happens.  Good luck.

I had a bad day…

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We all have terrible days.  Those kinds of days where you want to just pull the blankets over your head and go back to sleep or when you wake and not a damn thing goes right from the moment your feet hit the floor.  My personal favorites are the ones when someone strikes a wrong chord with you and all you want to do is throw every piece of china you can get your hands on at them.  *takes a deep breath* Yes, we can all relate to those kinds of days.

What kills me is when I finally get the inspiration to write and one of those days comes crashing down right on top of me.

Last night, I wanted to write.  I’d been stressed out all day, stressed for the last two weeks to be honest, and I suddenly found myself with a few moments of peace and actually in the mind set to write.  It figures that SOMETHING would kick the happiness right out of me.  My husband, bless his little heart, decided to start a rather frustrating conversation that predictably landed me in a bitch of a mood.

I didn’t want to write then.  I didn’t want to do anything.  I disappeared into my room, readied myself for bed, and stared at the ceiling.

I had wanted to write.  I should have written.  There was no excuse why I didn’t just channel all that anger and frustration and pain into a scene, into a character.  But no, I chose to shut down completely.   Cause that’s what I do.  I shut down.

What does this have to do with writing?  A lot actually, especially when it comes to me.  I will find every excuse under the sun why I can’t write.  When I finally do find a moment of drive and inspiration, it often is overshadowed by days like yesterday.

How do I push past it?

When I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

~ Kirsten

Writing Centers Me

During my recent trip, I was reminded of a major, wonderful, side effect of a daily writing practice. Because my practice/habits are so ingrained, I write no matter what (at least a journal entry), every single day, including when traveling.  What is this side effect I value so highly?  What is this reward for working so doggedly at a daily practice?  In non-flowery language (or the best I can do with my passion on the subject), it’s this:

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Writing centers me. You could say it’s my bubble.  My form of meditation.

No matter what chaos of life (good or bad) swirls around me, a pen, paper, and a little time are all I need to leave it all behind for a while. While one person might say “I need a drink,” or another might say “I need to work out,” my friends and family are used to hearing “I need to write.”  Though I know keeping a journal has multiple benefits (I count on that), I’m convinced it is the physical act of writing that does the trick.

When things are going great and I’m beside myself with excitement or giddy over an upcoming event, writing helps me appreciate the joy (and tone it down a notch, lol). I appreciate recording the moment to remember in detail at some future date, but it’s the movement of the muscles in my arm and the ink onto the page that do the job.

Sometimes I concentrate on the formation of each letter and word. Sometimes I instantly enter that trance state that lets my inner being have direct access to the page. Sometimes I write for a purpose, sometimes I don’t. Position doesn’t seem to matter, either.  I like a high table or to lie in bed, and sometimes I’ll curl up in the oversized, overstuffed chair that is my “thinking” chair. Sometimes I can type, and I do compose most of my fiction that way, but it’s pen and paper I find I am eager to use.

Satisfied, content, tired, stressed, thrilled, nervous, overjoyed — it doesn’t matter. The physical act of writing puts me firmly in the moment and brings a sense of rightness, a place of physical and emotional calm.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.