I’ve said it quite a few times now – I’m not into strict guidelines for writers. I DO think we need guiding sometimes, to learn the power of literary devices, and to pick up new techniques and writing methodologies. But not one single methodology – because we’re all different, think in different ways, and so will express ourselves in different ways too.
But one thing that I always advise writers to do (and everyone really, but writers above everyone else) is to try new things.
Just a few days ago, I became a blacksmith for the weekend – and I’m only now starting to loosen up my hands again! (You can take a look at the forge I went to here). I met people I wouldn’t usually meet, got to try something new, and came home with a little swan-cum-snail pendant and a coat rack, shaped like a dragon.
But even if you don’t have the time or funds to do this sort of thing (this one was actually a Christmas present from my husband), there are still endless new things you can have a go at – from crafts at your kitchen table to even having a go at portrait sketching.
I’m a bit of a fibre artist on the fly. For several years, Knittynudo meant I knitted, needle-felted, and embroidered hundreds and hundreds of sculptures and sold them to collectors all around the world, and I still work on commissions now. All of that started with seeing someone needle felt a lttle painting on TV and I thought I’d give it a go.
I recently thought I’d have a go with thread painting – a very simple form of embroidery in which you mainly use one simple straight stitch, and each stitch becomes a brush stroke.
(Not sure why everything I do turns into a fox though)
Or pottery? I’ve done a few pottery courses in my time, too, dragging friends and my husband along for the ride.
But even if craft isn’t your thing though I’m yet to find someone who doesn’t get a thrill from some sort of art – it’s just a matter of finding one you like, there are other things you can try, from horse riding to team sport to – oh I don’t know – being a tree surgeon!
But why am I blathering on about trying new things so much? What difference will it make to your writing, really?
Let’s find out…
It inspires curiosity
We’re writers because we’re curious.
We’re curious about world issues, about the ins-and-outs of people, about the purpose of being. We explore and create new words with every sentence we write.
Trying new things means you’re exploring new worlds in REALITY, too. New places, new techniques, new cultures. Whole new ways of life. By trying your hand at something new or niche you’re dipping into a world you previously knew nothing about, and the more you learn, the more doors will open. It’s the old maxim – the more answers you get, the more questions you’ll have.
Who knows what’ll inspire your next poem or story?
Increased courage and confidence
There’s a small amount of bravery needed to try something completely new. We’re all human and afraid of failure. But no-one’s good at everything – and you never know, you might discover that you’re pretty good at lino-printing, javelin, or… erm… cross stitch!
Go to a class with a friend if it helps, and laugh off the flops and failures. None of it matters! But all the while you’re reaching out of your comfort zone and becoming a well-rounded person who’s happy to both win and lose. The ability to pick yourself up and get on the horse is essential as a writer, with so much potential rejection looming… For everyone!
You’d think trying out a new craft or skill will actually make your think MORE.
Perhaps it does. But it’s also true that there’s definitely a part of the mind that switches off when you’re crafting or doing something arty. And it’s the same for exercise. There’s something wonderfully physical about it. Time flies, and you’re unifying brain and body organically.
I’ve written lots of this subject before for magazines and journals. I’ll blog about it in full some day. But for now, just trust me – give it a go, be locked in the present moment, and feel the peripheral world melt away…
Meet new people
In a similar way to the ‘inspires curiosity’ point, meeting people you wouldn’t normally meet is food for the soul.
You might be more of a people-watching-wallflower, and that’s ok. But by talking to these new people you’ll get to learn their stories, hear how they got to where they are, and understand their own personal ‘arcs’. Everyone has a story, and hearing people tell theirs feeds writers in a similar way to reading.
And listen to the way they speak – the swing of their sentences, their dialects. It might just inspire a character for a future piece.
Who doesn’t want a story or two to tell?
Trying something new, whether it’s in a class setting or at home on your sofa not only helps you see the world differently, but it helps you to see yourself differently. I made a joke earlier that everything I stitch turns into an animal – but it’s no coincidence that nature and animals are a recurring theme throughout my poetry and prose.
While trying something new, you might discover a never-before-explored talent, or even the opposite – something you really DON’T like. By bringing all your senses to life via new sights, smells, and sounds, you’re not only storing these in your creative bank but you’re adding them to your understanding of who you are too.
So there you are!
Even if it seems a bit nerve-wracking at first, going to a new group or activity along does get easier. I think the first time I went alone to anything like this was to a Beginners Meditation Class at a nearby Buddhist Temple. I hadn’t a clue what I was letting myself in for, but discovered the excitement and independence of doing something that was JUST FOR ME and I ended up going every week for three years.
Let me know what you fancy trying in the comments! And if you’d like to find out more tips on developing your storytelling skills, delve into my ‘How to be a Writer’ guide.