Ah, sweet homeostasis. That divine little holding pattern that so many of us humans cling to. Cute little creatures of habit, we like to find our lane, our niche, the familiar, the expected, the routine. I’m almost even inclined to believe that we not only enjoy it, but the longer we spend in our well-loved ruts, the harder it is to leave them. Even when we need to. Even if we want to. Even as the world changes around us. Isn’t that just when trauma and painful growth usually happens? When we are forced to change? Or are left behind because we refuse?
I could probably write a good 10,000 words alone on what change does to us as humans, but this blog is about writing, so I’m going to narrow it down.
Every writer has a rut. The niche you gravitate towards, the style you use, the genre, the POV, even your character choice…we have familiars that feel good to write in because they come easy. We know the pattern, the trope, the arc of a plot and all its points. And we could write this way forever and do, probably, quite well for ourselves (James Patterson and Nora Roberts own prime real estate on this front). But we don’t do very much growing.
Why is it important to grow?
Well, unless you ARE James Patterson or Nora Roberts (and if you are, holy shit welcome to my humble blog, thanks for reading) the chances of you scoring big on mass repetition are slim. Plus, the world of writing is changing and trending and learning to understand and at least try out these new waves, will help us adapt to the new and dynamic tides of readers. It will also help diversify your portfolio for future projects. Sounds like a 401k investment plan, right? Well—in a way it is.
Changing up your routine, your genre, your trope, your characters, even your plot is scary and hard and it may feel like you’re stumbling around in the dark. You may get tangled up, and blocked. But the best thing happens when you struggle and even when you fail. You learn. You learn what works, you learn how to take chances on solutions you might not have thought of before. You learn that you are capable of writing a flash fiction piece when all you’ve ever written were 200,000 word novels. You may learn you can plot a novel when all you’ve tried before is a 1200 word magazine article. You learn that you can explore different avenues of writing and still keep your voice.
You will learn. And learning empowers us, it invests in our ability and talents so when the next project, idea or work in progress comes around, we are armed with experience and inspiration to deal with it. So submit to a contest or journal that takes something you’re new to trying. Sign up for a class not in your genre. Try out a magazine article, or a poem if that’s not your normal route home. Do it. The worst that can happen is rejection and that’s not the worst that can happen in the grand scheme of things.
Get out of your comfort zone and face change and challenge as if they were opportunities for bigger, grander landscapes ahead. Say yes once in a while, even when it scares you.
We don’t always get to choose the changes that happen in our lives, but we can choose how we move forward with our art. We can jump out of the rut and careen into the unknown. We can fall. We can get scraped up. We will rise, take the lesson and keep leaping. To the end, that someday, we won’t be afraid of any new endeavor and will jump up to the opportunities that come by. And every time we do…we learn how to land on our feet. We will learn to navigate all kinds of bigger change if we chose to jump into the small changes.
You never know where your next great adventure will show up. Don’t let your head be buried in your rut when it does.