by Laney Flanagan
Have you ever sculpted a mermaid dancing through the seas? Well, I know I sure as heck haven't. But that doesn't mean I won't ever do. Maybe one day my mermaid sculpture will become world renowned and popular enough that even art thief's drool over it. Who knows? I won't ever know if I am capable of sculpting this lovely piece of art until I at least try to create it. Now, this is just an elusive example (and I'm not very fond of mermaids) but this idea of trying new things relates highly to honing in your writing skills and gaining wisdom in the craft.
This whole idea of growing in your craft from trying new things came from the creative writing class I am currently taking at CSU. When I first signed up this class, I figured it would be focused on fiction writing and gaining skills to write a novel. So, to say I was caught off guard when my teacher announced that for the first 8 weeks of class we would be focusing on poetry, is an understatement. I felt like I was being pushed out a plane without a parachute. For me, a girl who adores fiction in all its aspects, poetry was this mountain of doom and I had no idea how to conquer the lava fields and barbed wire fences. But I didn't really have much of a choice, I mean, I really needed an A in the class so all I could do was bolt down the hatches and jump right in.
As our poetry unit moved through the semester we learned and experimented with ideas regarding image, tone, complicated relationships, and various other skills. Each class we would produce a poem regarding the topic and at the end of the unit all those poems would be put into a portfolio and critiqued by my teachers. And I noticed something as I moved along from lesson to lesson, from poem to poem, my writing got better. My poems become more concise and abstract, and less narrative, less like a story. I found myself feeling more like a poet then a fiction writer! There was this new spark inside, different from the one I feel when I'm working on my novel. It was a quick little spark, just enough to keep the flow going as I wrote the stanza. Then it would go away for a little while then start back up every time I went to class or worked on my poems outside of class. A new fire was ignited and so was a new love.
I also noticed that all the lessons I learned in my class for poetry can be applied to my fiction writing. Metaphors can be expanded on, using certain descriptions can change the tone of a page from hyperactive to dreary, and writing doesn't always have to be confined to rules. Poetry taught me to loosen up in my writing and just let it flow (revision will always happen later). Let the spark fly and then let the words flow. I can now sit down for ten minutes at home and crank out a poem to get the juices going so it becomes easier to sit with my fiction writing and feel more successful, even if I only write a paragraph or two. Poetry has given me a new sense that what you write doesn't always have to be organized or long, as long as you write something you'll be just fine.
So, maybe go sculpt a mermaid or really just try something you haven't done before. Cook a new recipe, watch a new TV show, drive to a place you've never been, write a poem. You never know what you might learn or what you might get out of the smallest things until you try them yourself.