Ampersand on yoga

Quotes on writing stick in my head much the way dictionaries stick to my fingers. One I really like is “Writing is a yoga – you become a writer by writing.”

Yoga is about moving and stretching. Ampersand knows all about that, and he does it daily, without even thinking about it. I believe cats probably wrote the book on yoga.

Writing as a yoga is also about moving and stretching. If you always write the same genre, the same themes, the same stories, over and over, then that’s all you can write. Or at least, it’s all you can write easily.

We all have themes and subjects and styles that we love and are used to, things we enjoy exploring in our heads and on paper. I like fantasy, and I write a fair bit of it. I know a lot about the denizens of fantasy, about magic and its rules, the ways things can go right or wrong. I have a lot of stories in my head about that, and it’s hardly any stretch at all to write them.

Now and again, however, I get a challenge that makes me stretch outside of my usual subject matter and style. I belong to an office on Zoetrope called the Flash Factory, where every week we have a prompt contest. Someone sets a prompt, and whoever would like to write a story to that prompt, does.

One week the prompt required an experimental story. I don’t do experimental. I like plot, and most of the experimental stories I’ve seen are short on that. But, what the heck, I thought, and forged ahead. And I wrote a piece that not only turned out to be one of my favourites, but also sparked the idea for a larger project done in the same style. I stretched – the writing muscles went “ow,ow,ow – no, wait, that feels good!”, and I now have another style at my command.

Another week the prompt was to write a mystery. Again, mysteries are – well, a mystery to me. But as a result of that prompt, I’ve got two new stories, an ongoing character (perhaps two), a whack of new ideas and another way of writing. I’ve written more science fiction this past year than I’ve ever done, because, again, science fiction isn’t my comfortable form.

So – stretch. There are dozens and dozens of fiction forms out there, lots of ways to approach any story. Check out Flash Fiction Chronicles for a really comprehensive list of where you could take that story. Your heroine could be a fairy princess, Victorian inventor, starship pilot, mediaeval abbess, werewolf; your hero could be a cyborg, mad scientist, Elizabethan thug, or an explorer in almost any world.

“Or a cat,” says Ampersand. “Don’t forget about cats.” Then he puts his leg over his head, just because he can.

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2 Responses to Ampersand on yoga

  1. So true, the prompts in the FF will make us write in genres we never would have considered!

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