Over the past few years, I’ve come to the realization that I’ve learned an amazing amount as I evolve as a writer… and I’ve ‘unlearned’ just as much. It’s not just the hard-and-fast general rules we all learned in school that I’m talking about, like the grammar and composition and all that. I’m talking about rules regarding style and theme.
I think of my pre-trilogy work as me essentially learning the basics: in short, how to tell a cohesive story. They followed everything I’d learned up to that point. While you can definitely see a personal style coming out of it, the end result isn’t quite up to par. I’m going by the rules, but I’m really not putting all that much of me in there to make it my own. [I mean, other than dropping in obscure music references, inserting bad jokes, and general whinging about how life sucks.]
While my work finally evolved over the many years I worked on the trilogy revision, it really wasn’t until Meet the Lidwells and In My Blue World where I think I finally understood how my writing needed to evolve even further. They’re both completely new projects that totally do not read the same way the trilogy does. And even more so with the Apartment Complex story, where I’ve completely broken down any self-made barriers I’d put up in regards to style and story.
I tend to go through certain phases like this with certain aspects of my life; I’ll latch on to a new habit or process, or follow a new interest, and stay with it for a few years until I get bored with it. This boredom isn’t caused by the thing itself; it’s that I’ve been digging away at it passively and without question until I realize it’s doing nothing for me anymore. I suppose in the context of the trilogy — where I worked on the damn thing for almost twenty years — it was not just a relief to finally let it go, but to find a new project to latch onto, and in effect, a new writing process and style.
I’m pretty sure that in the next five or so years, I’ll have come up with some new writing projects that the me of today would never expect. [The Apartment Complex story is a perfect example here.] I’ve come to fully embrace the shorter turnaround and the shorter project that won’t keep me busy for years on end. I’m still thinking of writing new stories in the Mendaihu Universe, sure, but they’re not going to be my only claim to fame (so to speak). I find the quick turnaround much more exciting, and keeps my creative brain on the move.
I enjoy the idea that my writing continues to evolve. I’m trying to get out of the age-old habit of telling the same stories over and over again, and this is the best way to do it. I might still possess the occasional tell-tale stylistic quirks that make my writing unique, but the stories themselves will be different. And that’s how I want it. It’s how writing will continue to be a joy and an adventure for me.