In the month of January 2014, I wrote a bunch of things, and really none of them were in what I’ve always considered to be my comfort zone. Over the last few years, as my identity as a writer has slowly solidified, I’ve come to view myself as a novelist who works in one very expansive secondary universe (Aerdh). Until last year, I never really pushed myself to write short stories. Until recently, I hadn’t pushed myself to stretch past my primary universe.
In January, I wrote two nonfiction pieces. I rarely write personal essays, though it’s something I’d like to do more of. I tend to let my lived experiences creep in and color my fiction rather than relating them frankly and explicitly. So, that was a stretch.
I also completed three short stories and started a fourth in January. Only one of those was set in Aerdh. One of the stories is a contemporary fantasy based on Celtic myth. One of the stories is a historical lesbian mad scientist bit of speculative fiction. The one I have yet to finish is my first piece of straight up science fiction.
A year ago, I had only just started writing short stories, and I’d only written one single piece outside the universe of Aerdh. I sort of thought I wouldn’t be able to write anything but novels set in Aerdh; I thought of myself as a one-trick pony, I guess. It happened pretty organically—I’d been meaning to stretch myself by writing outside of Aerdh for some time, and I hit a bit of a block with the (Aerdh) novel I’ve been working on, The Incoming Tide, so I poked around the internet for calls for submission. Each of the pieces I wrote last month was specifically written for a call which outlined a theme or concept. Just that little external nudge and I found myself writing things I would never have guessed I had it in me to write.
Every time I feel like I’ve hit my stride as a writer, I either stumble or I inadvertently leap forward. It’s funny that growth happens that way, in these pitfalls and great jumps. I always assume growth will be this smooth, steady transition, but it never is. It hops and skips, and one month you’re struggling and the next month you’ve gone and impressed yourself.