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.

My Favorite Procrastination

My Favorite Procrastination: what I do when I should be writing.Writers procrastinate.  Of course we do.  I’d like to think of it as part of the plotting or pre-writing process.  Sometimes it is.

And sometimes it’s just good, old-fashioned procrastination.

I can waste time in Tumblr and Pinterest with the best of them.  However, there’s a special place I get lost, only to surface hours later with a sheaf of notes in my hand and no clue how I managed to stay up so late.  I did it last night.

I have a thing for history.  Not just any history, specifically Colonial and Edwardian America, European history, the history of Britain, and the history of the Picts (because I’m insane for wanting to know the unknowable).  I ran across a link for a documentary while listening to a song that was stuck in my head.

That’s all it took.

I surfaced from my gluttony after 2 a.m., cringed, and clicked to the next episode.  Crazy, right?  But I have a small pile of notes on Medieval England, Neolithic Scotland, a lost continent in the North Sea, the Romans’ efforts (and failure) to conquer Scotland, and the role of the Church in governing birth, marriage, and death to add to a growing collection.  And I’m just getting started.  Part of that sheaf is a list of documentaries I want to watch. Regrets?  I have none.  I was filling the well of writerly things (or adding to the compost pile if you prefer).

Procrastination, yes, but also story seeds by the dozen, a short list of characters, and settings both beautiful and bold.  I was also clever enough to write down sources and bibliography information to use as reference.

Procrastination with a purpose, then.  A few well-spent hours feeding my love of learning and history and legend and story.  It was worth cursing my alarm clock and dragging my sorry arse out of bed this morning.

I do have one regret.  My body is shutting down in a quest for sleep, and I won’t be able to start on that list of documentaries tonight.