by: Rebecca Taylor
One thing that I think helps keep our creativity alive is to challenge ourselves as writers. It is easy to fall into writing a form – always about the same subjects, emotions or character types. If we challenge ourselves, we have to leave our comfort zones. This can be frightening especially if we are sending out this work after completing it. We don’t know how a potential publisher might react but let’s be honest with ourselves – do we ever know how our work will be received? The answer is no but we’re writers and we are a determined bunch. We keep on going, no matter how many rejections one piece may be met with. Sometimes, our rejections come with suggestions for improvement but most of the time editors only have time for a form letter.
How can we challenge ourselves? There are lots of ways. Here are some of my suggestions:
1) Answer a writing call – sites like Places for Writers (www.placesforwriters.com) always have lots of publications looking for work. Read the guidelines for one and write a piece that you think would be fitting for them. It could be a publisher looking for a genre that you’ve never written before like fantasy or romance. You have nothing to lose by trying to write something different. The worst thing that will happen is that you don’t like the piece and decide not to send it in. This isn’t wasted time. It is a challenge and even if you don’t submit it, you might get some idea out of it that you can use in the future.
2) Try writing in a different format. Do you always write short stories that are fiction? Try writing a non-fiction piece, an article or even a poem. You could try turning a poem into a short story or vice versa. If you write a lot of poetry, do you always use the same form? I like to change formats. I especially like the way an acrostic poem can challenge me because I have certain letters that my words must start with.
3) Take one of your characters and put him or her in a different situation. She might be a recluse who finds herself in the middle of a bustling city or a forward thinker who ends up in a town from the past. How does this affect her thoughts, her actions and the outcome of the story? By changing our characters plans, we challenge ourselves.
4) Follow a writing prompt. Many sites have them including this one that has a prompt generator (http://www.jc-schools.net/write/create.htm). Being given a sentence or a few words will make you think many what ifs and this will get your mind whirling.
Happy writing. I hope you enjoy challenging yourself.