I tried out a new coffee shop on Monday. In a different part of town. Far enough away I had to drive instead of ride my bike. I love writing in coffee shops, and wanted this new place to be worth the disruption in my normal routine. So I printed off the latest draft of a WIP and crossed my fingers.
You never know what you’ll get when you try out something new. Luckily, I found comfy chairs, first-rate java, and a pleasant space conducive to writing. And best of all, I got some work done.
Then I saw someone who I would never see at my usual coffee joint. A bodybuilder with a shaved head, wearing a red flannel shirt and gray spandex shorts (that left nothing to the imagination), with the phrase “What doesn’t kill you / Makes you stronger” tattooed down each brawny forearm.
A big difference from the suited yuppies, bored hipsters, and yoga moms at my regular spot. (Side note: I am none of these).
This man, so different from me and the characters I tend to write about, was a good reminder that we all need to change things up every now and then.
When I write, I sometimes find myself sticking to what I’m comfortable with. The same characters in different stories, the same stable of gestures and physical reactions. The same patterns of storytelling.
And while that’s ok, especially when drafting, sometimes you need to change things up, particularly as you revise to make your story the best it can be.
Sometimes it’s a simple as writing in a new locale. Or tackling a writing prompt to push yourself to write about something new or someone different from yourself. Think of that bodybuilder, tight shorts and all. What would he make of your story? What would he do if he was in your story?
I’m not saying every story needs some big man hopped up on ‘roids to pack a punch. Or that you need to give your MC a tat just because. But I do think it’s important you step outside yourself and analyze your work through someone else’s eyes. To see if you have pushed your story and your characters beyond the realm of your own experience and into that of a general audience.
You might just find what’s missing.
How do you change things up with your writing routine? How do you push your craft forward?
Can you go home again?
1 month ago