Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Creative Exploration

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Image: MorgueFile: Bang
I recently read two posts that I found very interesting.  Most interesting to me was the different positions they took (unknowingly...the posts and authors weren't connected in any way) on the same issue--creative exploration.

One of the blogs is Original Impulse.  The blogger is Cynthia Morris, who describes herself as a creative coach for others...I think of her as a writer, since that's how I know her online.  She's a novelist and essayist and a proponent of having fun creatively, exploring creativity, and--as her site mentions--having a "creative adventure."

I think I've watched with interest especially because she does things that I don't do...she takes risks where I'm cautious.  She does things on a bigger scale than I--she travels to France to sketch and recharge her creative batteries where I might go to a local coffee shop.
And she recently decided to forego her regular blogging and focus on focus on painting.  She explains the hows and whys in her post "Getting Real, Getting Vulnerable, Getting Visual."

Which I find really inspiring.  I do. I never want to feel boxed-in, creatively.  Of course, I'd have to adapt what she's doing to suit my own life.  My visual-artistic talent is sub-zero on any scale and I've got two kids who still depend on me a lot, so travel is pretty much out of the question.'s just another reminder of those stories that are asking to be written.  Some time soon I'm going to shift focus to them (and no, they're not traditional mysteries.)

The other post, which took a strikingly different view, was by experienced writer James L. Rubart in his post "You Can Only Write in One Genre. Period. End of Story."  And, as he mentions in his first paragraph, the post title pretty much sums up his feelings on the subject...the remainder of the post he explains his position on the topic.

My post isn't a tale of a good approach and a bad approach or what to do or what not to do.  James Rubart has some very good points in his piece and he's looking out for readers and writers, too...which I appreciate.  Yes, readers can get confused when we branch out into different genres.  We've carefully built up reader loyalty, then we're pulling the rug out from under them.  Worst case scenario, they feel tricked.

This, honestly, is one of the real joys of self-publishing.  As I read through the comments, I kept looking for someone to bring that point up.  Finally, near the middle of the (long) list of comments, I found someone--James Scott Bell, as a matter of fact.  As James stated:
Branding has been an essential element here, due to readership building, store ordering and shelf space. All that's been turned around in the digital age. I reflected on that a bit ago. Traditional publishers are starting to catch on, albeit slowly, to the idea that (to paraphrase the old Wonder Bread commercials) a writer can build strong readers 12 ways. 
There are many ways to address this problem and none of them involve short-changing ourselves creatively.  For one, we don't have to face a roadblock from an agent or publisher if we want to explore a different genre--we can publish the book ourselves.

For another...if we really don't want a dedicated reader to accidentally purchase a book in a different genre, we could use a pseudonym.  Yes, it means building up another brand. But it's worth it.'s easy enough these days to link the two names together on sites like Goodreads and Amazon.  Our websites could also list the books with a disclaimer: it's a different genre than they're used to reading from us.

Creative freedom and freedom of expression is incredibly important for us to thrive and continue producing...and producing quality content.  We need to find the balance between satisfying our own creative impulses and making it a satisfying experience for our readers.

Have you considered writing other genres?  Or...even exploring other artistic formats?