From squirting warm water on your sub’s bottom before spanking them or only ever frying your empanadas in canola oil, there are lots we try to make life a little more fun. Not all of what we get into works or even fits well into our day. Just as many bucket list items can exceed our expectations, as plenty more can come up short.
The point I’m trying to make here is that giving stuff a try, messing with the old program, shaking life’s snow globe is a good thing for humans to do from time to time, even if the results on each attempt vary.
As it is for us writers.
When it comes to my fiction writing, I primarily pen erotic or fantastical fiction (horror, science fiction, fantasy). As a general rule, I don’t try my hand at mystery, romance, westerns, crime, or ‘straight’ fiction of the kind you’d find in The Paris Review or The New Yorker. This is not to say I haven’t flicked my keys (did I ever tell you about the time I got pulled over in Florida for flicking my keys at a busload of nuns?… sorry, that’s a story for another time) over a wide range of fiction genres.
Still, I just don’t write stuff other than erotica and fantasy fiction, mostly. When I do attempt to shake up my usual approach, I mix my favorite genres (ala Robert Sheckley, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury… all Godheads of what I meagerly try to scribble, I concede). And when I can, I’ll slip in some satire.
Shmushing in some mocking of organized religion into a horror story or attempting to write a hot robot sex scene is how I challenge myself, good/bad/effective/lame.
Should you be doing the same?
Maybe not writing the hot robot sex scenes, I’ll give you that, but should you be mixing genres, even writing something completely foreign to anything you have ever attempted? While I have mentioned this kind of exercising the old mental muscles in other columns, I still like to avoid those: “You must do this or that to become a better writer” edicts. But as I began this little diatribe, I do think experimentation, a little bob-and-weaving to the side of your usual chugging down the track, changing up your way of doing things, clears out the old cobwebs, and might just be fun.
You also might stumble into a genre you never considered or thought you had the talent for and suddenly find you do.
Mostly, as I say over and over again in these little writing life lessons, a writer needs to write. That’s really the only absolute I will give you (a writer also must much read). But trying your hand at something beyond your usual or flicking your keys across a mix of genres might just do your skills a world of good.
(Did I ever tell you about the time I got pulled over in Florida for flicking my keys at a busload of nuns?… sorry, that’s a story for another time)…