My writing has been ticking along quite nicely over the past six months or so. After taking an unplanned break I jumped back into things with a last minute decision to tackle NaNo and polished off one and a half first drafts by the time March rolled around. Things were going well, I was proud of myself for making up for lost time but, in the back of my mind, I knew something about my writing was a little stale.
I’ve always been a contemporary girl. Whether it’s reading or writing, it’s always been my genre of choice and, aside from a questionable horror novel I wrote for NaNo many moons ago, it’s all I’ve written during my adult life. There are great things about knowing a genre back to front, inside out, but it’s only in the last few weeks I’ve thought about the negatives that might come with that.
– Everything feels ‘done’.
When I start dreaming up a new idea I can’t help feeling like it’s been done before and then all I can think is that it’s been done before…but better. It’s a very easy way to kill any creativity and I’ve abandoned many a solid idea because I’m worried it doesn’t feel fresh.
– I’m too aware of the market.
This has always been a stumbling block for me and it’s something I’m actively working to overcome. Whenever I start a new project I can’t help wondering what an agent, an editor, a blogger would think of it. I’ll stop mid-sentence to delete a cliche that I know irritates people and I’m always trying to avoid names that have been used in contemporary books I’ve read before (finding a name for a love interest that hasn’t been used before is tricky, let me tell you). Sometimes I haven’t even put pen to paper before I’ve abandoned an idea because I’ve already identified fifty five different reasons why an agent wouldn’t be interested in it…and I’ve really struggled to get out of this mindset, even if I have no intention of sending the end result off to agents.
Of course, self-doubt is something every writer suffers with but I can’t help wondering if it’s hitting me particularly hard at the moment because I’m so clued into past, present and future trends of the particular genre I’m writing in. As I blog mainly about contemporary books I see the market from both sides – as a reader and as a blogger, and I think it’s always tough to retain full creativity when you’ve peeked behind the curtain.
So, after a very long introduction I’m almost getting around to actually making my point.
Last weekend I went away on a creative retreat with two of my closest friends (one who’s a writer, one who’s an artist) and I had a lot of time away from work and other distractions to think about who I am as a writer and what I want to get out of writing. As I’m not actively seeking publication I don’t have any of that pressure or expectation, so why am I putting so much pressure on myself? Writing should be fun and I want to get some of the magic back that I felt when I started crafting stories as an eager teenager who wanted to create new worlds and dive headfirst into them.
When I thought about who I was a writer back then I realised that I was pretty naive about the way the industry worked. I didn’t know anything about agents or advances or book prizes or marketing budgets and all I had to play with was the joy of writing and the excitement of dreaming up a story and bringing it to life on paper. That’s the enjoyment I want to get back and I think I’ve stumbled on a way to do just that…
I’m starting a new project, one I’ve had in my head for years now but one I never thought I had the knowledge to tackle. I’m throwing caution to the wind and jumping into a genre that I’ve never written in before and, to be honest, a genre I never thought I would write in. It’s only been a week and already I feel more excited about writing than I have for years. I’ve spent the last seven days obsessively scribbling ideas in a notebook, Pinning images onto a secret Pinterest board and starting to flesh out my idea. It’s not something I’m writing for anybody other than myself and, for the first time in ages, I feel that giddy excitement that I haven’t felt since I was thirteen years old and writing Harry Potter fan fiction on my clunky old family computer.
So I guess what I’m saying is that if you feel like you keep reaching dead ends with your writing, try jumping outside your comfort zone, even if it’s just for a page or two, and see what it shakes loose.