I imagine there will be a point where I burn out when it comes to writing. I’ve done it a few times, very briefly, and have always bounced back, but there might come a day when it gets much, much harder to do so. There seems to be a “If you’re not anxious when you’re not writing, then you’re not a writer” mentality in the corners of the internet that I frequent, and truth be told I’m not sold on the idea that this is a healthy mindset. Yes, you should love what you do, and I do, but like any relationship there has to be some boundaries. Like it or not, writing is a job, and even people who like their jobs burn out: we wouldn’t tell a businessman “If you’re not anxious when you’re not in the office, you’re a bad employee” or an EMT “How can you sit at home while there are lives to save out there?”
What we would tell them instead is to make a change. Not to quit, unless that is indeed what that person decides that they need to do, but to take a break or approach the job from a different angle to keep the sense of curiosity and newness alive. Even if the novelty doesn’t end up panning out, they can come back to their job or project just a little fresher.
So in the event that I want to spice things up and not write exclusively novels? Here’s what I’d want to do, in no particular order:
A graphic novel or comic
Fun fact: I actually tried to work on a graphic novel with a friend of mine from the art department when I was in college. It didn’t end up panning out because of paperwork issues, but even feeling the spark of something starting to come to life from this collaboration was a great feeling (at least for me—I don’t want to speak for her). There are some stories that just work better when they have a beautiful visual component that isn’t necessarily film or stage.
I have a couple of ideas brewing that might work best in a two-dimensional, visual medium, especially now that graphic novels have gotten pretty big and webcomics allow for a greater freedom of story and accessibility. The only thing holding me back on this is that I can’t draw. Well, I suppose I can, but definitely nothing of a quality I would feel good about showing other people.
A guide to a fictional universe
I’ve been known to procrastinate by researching things. This is how I know so much about, among other things, obscure laws, food, and as much about the field of medicine as I can feasibly learn about without actually touching anything bloody or looking at pictures of organs for too long. I’m a student at heart and suspect I always will be, so if there’s something I can learn that sounds even remotely interesting, I’m sitting in the front row with rapt attention. This tendency of mine extends to fiction that I consume. If I get into a new series, I’ll scrutinize the entire thing and check out Wikis and TV Tropes pages until I’ve exhausted all of my reading and watching material about it and have to start developing theories of my own.
I’d love to be able to be the authority on information like that and not just consume it. A number of “official guides” and other supplementary materials are written by the creators of a series, so a project like this would end up evolving from something else that I’d work on. It would also satisfy my need to share all of the details that I wanted to include but couldn’t as a result of constraints on time, length, ratings, complexity, or any other reason.
A review series
When I was first planning on doing a website and blog, I debated making it a review blog—specifically, one that reviewed books and their film adaptations in a “compare and contrast” kind of format, in a style similar to that of Lindsay Ellis. I also toyed with the idea of making review videos rather than written blog posts, but scrapped that idea because I’m not very good with cameras or editing videos and writing is kind of my thing. I ultimately decided on the “write about whatever comes to mind” approach in part because I wanted a bit more flexibility in what I said and how and in part because while I love reading, I wouldn’t be able to update as often as I’d like to if my schedule relied on getting books read quickly or on a particular schedule. I might do the occasional book review or “Film of the Book” post (the working title of that aforementioned review blog), but I think we’re all comfortable with what I have going on right now, so I don’t plan on changing my style too much on this site. Looking at the work of others is a great way to learn and grow as a creator, and if I can find a way to be entertaining and informative to other people while I do it, all the better.
Really, though, what writer doesn’t at least wonder what a script adaptation of their work would look like?
A movie, stage production (traditional or experimental), TV series, web series, or even a video game: it doesn’t matter what, but a script would be a good challenge for someone like me. I love dialogue, and a script is almost nothing but dialogue. It would also be an exercise in releasing control of a project and trusting other people to make decisions: I have a history of being a control freak when it comes to creative endeavors to the point where I wouldn’t let many other people read what I wrote. I’ve spent the last several years actively working on getting better about it: that I was willing to share nearly 1,600 words of not just a draft, but a NaNoWriMo draft, with the internet of all things, seems to me to speak to how far I’ve come.
More to the point, writers don’t get many opportunities to work on teams. Having a team of people to bounce ideas off of and help bring a story to life could be affirming for me and my craft in a way that simply showing a draft to another person couldn’t do.
“Ok, great, but a musical is literally a script with music. If you want to write music, why not just say that?”
Believe me, I’d love to be able to write music, and I attempted songwriting in the past, but it just never grabbed me. I’m not a composer by any stretch of the word, so I only managed to write incredibly cheesy rhyming poetry with a loose meter. I don’t consider myself a poet at all—please, give me 300 pages to write something, but don’t confine me to 300 words, I beg you—and to call my songwriting attempts several massive steps back in what little I can do with poetry would be generous. I ended up frustrated and embarrassed, and I’ve shelved all of my attempts indefinitely after showing them to exactly one person.
While I’m not confident enough to create it, I love music. Some people wonder about who they would cast as their main characters: I wonder what their leitmotifs would sound like and how they would modulate throughout the story; how those themes would weave in with those of other characters or the main theme during major plot developments; and what instruments would represent them in the orchestral score. I love listening to film scores when I write, absolutely think that they’re integral to the story, and while it admittedly doesn’t take much to reduce me to tears I believe that hearing the score of a film adapted from one of my novels would absolutely do it.
If I was writing songs in the context of a framing narrative—even if I had to write to fit a particular piece of music or I was working on something like an opera, which is almost exclusively told in song and has very little spoken dialogue—I would feel much more secure in what I was doing. I’d have an opportunity to stretch my underused poetry muscles, which would help improve my prose, and all with the benefits of also working on a script I mentioned previously. And the music, you guys.
The good news? I’ve found a way to indulge my impulse to write a musical. No, you’re not going to see my name on Broadway, and it’s nothing that will end up published, but I have a fun little side project (more of an experiment, really) that I think you’ll get a kick out of hearing about. More on that story next week, though: it’s kind of a long one.