As some of you know, I've stopped working on my novel, Rooster, for a couple of months now. I can still think of ways to make it better, but I also think the project deserves a rest. It captures a time, and that time is over...for now. I've started a couple of other projects, but both of them are still in the highly experimental phase. Because of that, I've felt trapped in a sort of writing limbo.
Along comes NaNoWriMo, a month dedicated to the completion of a new novel. I figure what better opportunity to try something new. So, I've decided to go out on a limb, scribble outside the lines, step out of my comfort zone and...conform.
Yes, yes, as artists, we often challenge ourselves to be original. And, truly, I think this is an important (though not strictly essential) concept that all artists must confront. But, I think there's also something to be said for being able to imitate the classics.
The downside to conformity, even temporary conformity, is that we may never be able to scrub that unoriginality out of our brain cavity once we squish it in there. But, I subscribe to the idea that knowledge is power. I'm up for the challenge of breaking out of tradition rather than never knowing what tradition is to begin with.
Thus, for the next few weeks, I'm working on a novel structured traditionally, with traditionally sympathetic characters, and traditional primal conflicts. In homage to Scott G. F. Bailey, I'm spending the rest of October in the outlining and researching phase. I've been reading Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm. And, tonight, I'm arranging colored index cards into a three act structure after having spent the first part of the weekend reading Save The Cat. November will be devoted to writing this new book, currently titled The Collectors. And, if I hate it, I figure I've only lost a month.
I'm hoping, through this experiment on non-experimentation, to pick up some good story-telling habits. I'm also hoping to direct my creativity into other areas of the storytelling process. By fixing certain elements, like structure, my creative energy will flow into other avenues, like scene building and character traits, that will force me to think in a different way. As Icelandic superstar Bjork says, "The less room you give me, the more space I've got."
What do you think? Is it worthwhile to be traditional? Should we master the old ways before we step out in new directions? Is conforming on some elements a good way to force creativity on other elements?