How do you work on your skills?
Or, as my son likes to call it, skillz… hmm, I think that’s how you spell it. Maybe more like skillzzz.
Skills. Honing the craft. Expanding the horizons. Or perhaps even doing something entirely new. How does that work for you, lovely readers?
I’ve been writing for… oh wow, let’s just say it has been decades now, and my writing has changed; of course it has, that is a long time. In my wee babe days as a wee lass at the University of Washington, I explored all sorts of weird forms of narration. Okay, I am going to date myself here, but it was the end of the 90s… yes, as in before 2000… and the world from our young perspective was dark, angsty, and full of imbalances.
(The world is still a lot like that, but growth, maturity, realizing the limitations of my anger and angst has more or less pulled me from that mindset.)
Back then, however, I explored the many different forms of narration with that mood in mind. I had several rather eccentric writing professors and they pushed the odd and the un-ordinary. There are distinct memories of sitting around a long table with the other 12-or-so writers in the advanced writing classes and hearing them read from their work about having sex in shady hostels in Europe; or finding a best friend dead in the bathroom from heroin overdoses… yeah, that flavor of writing. Gritty. Dark.
As it was called.
I didn’t particularly like that dark road or enjoy looking through a lens of bleak existentialism, but I was young, a budding writer, and I wanted these professors to nod in their serious way as I read from my latest attempt, and my peers to be impressed.
So. I wrote about suicide. I wrote about depression and finding myself staring down at the bottom of an empty bottle of vodka, with a handful of pills in my fist. I went down that road and threw out the conventional narrative and tried for something lyrical; something different, a more modernist stream of consciousness, all in an attempt to catch the absolute desperation that I occasionally fell in.
Surprisingly, it worked. I got the praise. My fellow classmates who had mostly ignored me (I was quiet, and had a hard time with people… hmm, that hasn’t changed much, ha!)… suddenly they were interested.
Receiving the proverbial pats on the back, the sudden interest, and acceptance of stories in small college journals, I decided I had a path, a “type” and a “voice”… I had a Way.
But I didn’t like it. I explored those themes throughout my four years, but it wasn’t comfortable and surprise surprise, mining the dark did little to alleviate the dark. I’ve heard that some writers find writing about the darkness cathartic. I was not one of those people. Instead, I found myself obsessing.
I stopped writing.
For a little while at least.
My break from writing was nowhere near as long as the break that would come later in life, but I did stop for a while, to reassess, to re-evaluate, and… most importantly… to evolve beyond where I was at 18 and towards something different, something that reflected my 23-year-old self (still, such a baby! Goodness).
And that brings me to the subject of this post.
How do you, lovelies, continue to learn, evolve, and hone in on where you are right now in your writing journey? Have you changed style, subject, or even medium in your journey, or has it more or less stayed the same with tweaks along the way?
Of course, I’m sure all of us continue to work on grammar, word choice, sentence structure, etc., all of which are important elements for readability… but how do you work on your writing’s soul?
As I am just now at the starting line of a new project, I’m thinking of ways to strengthen my writing, but also analyzing the kind of writing I’ve done, the sound of my voice, and where I want to go moving forward.
I am reassessing. Again. As we do. And I am interested to hear what you do when starting a new project, or when stuck?
How do you grow in your art? I would love to know.
Until next time, dear readers, may you find inspiration around the smallest of corners.