Expand your author horizons in these four ways and knock down creative walls in your work as a result.
Earlier this month, I shared with my #WriterWednesday newsletter readers, some strategies for authors to get unstuck and find actionable writing pathways forward. One of those strategies was to “adopt a renaissance mindset,” and per your (#WriterWednesday readers) request, here are even more ways to do that!
#1: Take Crazy Chances
This might sound particularly alarming, especially if you pride yourself on being more of an introverted observer of life than a spotlight-loving stunt performer in it. But kicking down the walls of your comfort zone and doing something you thought you’d never do, just to see what happens, will broaden your world as a person and as an author. Kick the walls down responsibly and safely of course. But learn how to get comfortable being uncomfortable (as my yoga teacher says). Growth, lessons, and sometimes the best ideas, all happen in the discomfort zone!
#2: Listen to Other Sides
Make it a habit of being around, even virtually, people who are different than you. This could mean different countries, cultures, careers, and walks of life, or different points of view (the more drastically different the better, creatively speaking). Take a sledge hammer to any echo chambers you might have inadvertently created in your world and see what you learn.
The keywords here are learning and understanding (which is not to be confused with endorsing) – not judging and dismissing. Not for this experiment anyway. The goal is to expand your author world by learning how other people think and view the world. How, as authors, are we supposed to capture the human experience, while hiding in our small corner of it? Come out of your corner and see what useful things you find out.
Laugh at yourself, your mistakes, your eccentricities, and at the overall comedy of life! Find a way to the funny. Actively seek out sources of comedy and leave no stone unturned fellow authors. If for no other reason than to get a big hit of the “happy endorphins” that are released with a good ol’ belly laugh. Maybe we need to replenish our stash at this point?
It’s interesting how laughter can come so easily to us in real life, yet comedy is one of the hardest types of writing to do well. Why? Partly because it’s so damn hard to predict what will be funny, agree on what is funny, and then explain why. (Did anyone see #BernieMemes coming?)
Therefore, to expand your author horizons must include a regular practice of finding things to laugh at, figuring out why they’re funny, and of course, looking for a way to replicate the lessons in your writing.
The more you understand what makes people laugh, including through their tears, the better you’ll understand what provokes all the other emotions as well. The human experience will begin to shift into focus.
#4: Be a Story Collector
One of the greatest gifts of my job as a ghostwriter and memoir expert is getting to hear people’s life stories. Before this career I got to do the same thing (albeit a bit messier) as a nurse. I got to stand at bedsides and do my work while listening to where people were from, what they did for a living, what they loved to do, what made them laugh, and all the things they went through in life and somehow lived to see another day.
Want to expand your author world? Ask people to tell you their stories. Sometimes it feels like social media was invented exclusively for this reason, to give people the opportunity to talk about themselves. Or if you need a more specific and productive reason to talk to people, find a creative parallel to your books or author brand, interview people for articles to write, and voila – content!
Adopting a renaissance mindset goes beyond reading, watching movies, absorbing art, and other ways of expanding your intellectual and creative horizons. It also means engaging in real life, rolling up your sleeves, getting dirty (physically or metaphorically), being uncomfortable, and seeing what you can learn about yourself, others, and life as a result.
Expand your author horizons by deploying these strategies, and watch your writing shine!