March 3, 2008
Writing Against Type: Challenge Your Writing Style
Actors often fear being typecast in certain roles. For example, no one will ever watch a movie featuring James Gandolfini again and not picture him as Tony Soprano. This can help or hurt him, and more times than not, actors dread the results of being typecast, which means they cannot “grow” as an actor.
Consider the same consequences for your writing. A comment made to me recently concerned a very talented writer and his notion that he had been “hiding behind his blog” and ignoring his larger projects, meaning his novels. Speaking for myself, I am guilty of this behavior as well. My recent attempts to revitalize my writing have worked, and I am taking steps not to “typecast” myself into a role of sharing nothing but personal anecdotes about my life on my blog. This should be the challenge which you as a writer put to yourself: to produce a poem, short story, biography, or even a play which you never attempted before.
The end result of that written venture does not have to be the remarkable; it should be an instrument to discover new talents hidden within. How you ever had a workout and exercised “muscles you never knew you had before?” The concept here is to give your literary voice a day at the gym.
For example, if you’re the type of writer who consistently produces high quality, yet gloomy works of fiction, try writing a happy story. You may hate yourself as you do this, but the challenge is that you’re demonstrating an ability within yourself to construct worlds, characters, and lives out of whole cloth in a manner which you are not accustomed to. Writing against type makes a writer think, and often our routines and habits leave us bored and in a rut. A new style, and different genre attempted, can give one the jolt needed to craft something out of the ordinary when previous projects have yielded less than desirable results.
With that said, I’ve found that I read many blogs with beautiful and many times stark poetry offered by gifted artists. In my experience, I’ve authored some rhymes which I feel are immature and not up to the standards which these other lyricists uphold. Many of my poems were written over a decade ago. For the sake of this article, I’ll present one here to demonstrate my lyrical deficiencies.
Short of Buying Forever
May 14, 1985
The horizon struggles
To embrace the embers
Of discarded daydreams
A tip-toeing of trees
The hushing of branches
And dew drop serenity
Replenish leaky souls with hope
Settled in the twilight
Immorality hawks its wares
To a pauper with big, empty pockets
Maybe my ability has improved over the years even though I concentrate primarily on writing fiction. Recently, I've challenged myself to attempt poetry again, and I am able to illustrate that I can make keen observations about my own style by crafting symbolic verses. This is a rough draft of a poem I wrote about a week ago. The basic premise of this one is that I’ve witnessed too many people pass away; and at some point, the dying seem to accept their fate. In one or two cases, they appeared happy. Remember that this is a first draft, and I have unearthed emotions and a style which I may utilize again.
Eyes touched by imaginings
The corners, from there
Unfiltered by dust, accompanying angst
Ailing, infringed upon, a right mind
Captured by malignancy,
Invaded from within
One word, with such dread
Presented potions to purify
To wait, and to become
Diffused urge, sidelined fantasy
Embarking on Saturn for
Want of the Moon
Beyond the cradle
Unearth aged man
For absent youthful humor
And then, approval
Bring here demise
Raised hands, encourage
Return in grief,
This is not poetry as I would want to enjoy it; but the idea is clear. Trust your writer’s instincts and research another form. Write a fantasy novel, a play, a short story. Take yourself around the block a few times, and you may meet some neighbors with interesting lives. Bring your laptop to a different vantage point and you might create a work of art. Challenge yourself, and you cannot fail. Stay safe, and you’ll lose your edge. Write, and write well, and you can live forever. Well, your words will anyway.
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