Writing is a balancing act between the new and the conventional. We want to branch out but we’re afraid that it won’t settle well with our readers. We often wonder, should we experiment in our writing or should we stick with the tried and true? The question seems simple but the answer is not.
I often struggle with this matter. Most recently I’ve decided to try my hand at flash fiction. Honestly, I’m still baffled by it. The genre is powerful and complete in a way that’s inexplicable. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if I have written anything salvageable.
The uncertainty makes me dread experimentation. I may want to try something but I’m so petrified by the thought of failing that I question myself constantly. Is there a plot beneath the new form? Are the characters well-developed? Am I conveying my thoughts well enough? The most persistent and dreaded question: am I “doing” this right?
I know that there is no “right” way to write. Some forms, such as flash fiction, are so different from the others that I keep wondering what makes some stories work and others not. The best solution, of course, is to ask other writers to review the stories and give feedback. Should be no different than any other story.
The problem: I am still petrified by the thought of failure. In this case, the failure would manifest as embarrassment in the company of my peers. I can’t get myself to ask for feedback because I’m too worried that they will think less of me if the work is a mess.
You see the conundrum? I’m going to get nowhere if I continue like this. I could decide to avoid experimentation period. At least I’ll know that I will please some readers, right?
There’s a problem with that approach, too.
Beyond the external factor of people criticizing writers for repeating themselves, there’s always a reason why they want to experiment. Often, as in my case, it’s because they aren’t inspired. They’re having a problem with the same-old, same-old. They have writer’s block and have to shake off the cobwebs. If they don’t break from the rut, all of their future work will be stale–if they produce more work at all.
What’s a writer to do?
Simply put: JUST DO IT.
We never know if something will succeed if we don’t try. Yes, we might fail. We’ll more than likely fail over and over. Will we embarrass ourselves? Possibly. It depends on how we react and the thickness of our skin. Without failure and possible embarrassment, we’ll never reach our full potential. We’ll never learn if we don’t make mistakes and we’ll never stumble across our greatest works if we don’t cast our nets wide.
I know, easier said than done. I definitely know that. I’m partly using this post to convince myself that it’s OK for me to experiment and that I won’t humiliate myself if I ask someone to look these pieces over. Sometimes you have to fight back the inhibitions and do something without knowing how it will turn out.
Besides, you may find your next favorite way to write when you experiment. Isn’t that worth the risk?