Boxes are for cats and children to play in, not to put yourself in.
Throughout much of our lives we can spend a lot of time fighting against being put into some box or another. Especially when we’re younger, we resist being labelled, boxed in, enclosed in boundaries, or however we decide to explain our rebelliousness. But it is incredibly easy to put ourselves in a box without even noticing it. This is definitely something that authors do, sometimes intentionally in furtherance of their career, and sometimes unintentionally and unconsciously. These boxes come in many forms, from genre to writing style to our social circles, and even our reading material. These boxes can be supportive at times, but I think it is very important, particularly for writers, to step outside of them occasionally. Some people also refer to this as “stepping outside your comfort zone” but I like the box metaphor, mainly because I have fond memories of playing in cardboard boxes as a child. Anyway!
Over the years I have taken pains to step outside of my various boxes, sometimes in a conscious attempt to push myself, and sometimes through simple necessity. My move to another country is one such conscious attempt to push my personal boundaries, but it certainly isn’t the only one. It has undoubtedly been wildly successful in helping me to grow as a person however, as well as leaving me with an amazing year of memories. When it comes to my writing, I find that pushing myself out of my comfort zone is the only way for me to get anything worth-while done. The first challenge I set myself was to “win” Nanowrimo last year. I succeeded at that challenge, and the result was an entirely new world of writing, blogging, stories, and a redefinition of my personal image to include “writer.” Now, a new Nano year is almost upon us (less than a month! Do you know what story you want to write?) and a new challenge. Who knows how this year’s Nano will change me? Before Nano even begins this year, I am challenging myself to finish writing Through Brass Goggles (about time, right?), a conscious attempt to trick myself into writing faster.
In writing, personal challenge is important, perhaps even critical. Challenge yourself to finish the manuscript, to make it better, to write the hard parts as unflinchingly as the fun parts. Challenge expectations, your own and others. Step outside of your box and write something different once in a while, or discard the box altogether and write something different every time (but be aware that this isn’t necessarily a great way to build a career). Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I’m going to try and find a cardboard box to play in.
Thought for the Week: “There is nothing like a challenge to bring out the best in man.” Sean Connery
Currently Reading: Anne’s House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery