|Image from Wikimedia Commons|
Like a cabinet-maker learning how to craft a chest of drawers, the writer takes the tools in hand, and learns the use of them, the tricks of them—the way to make a smoother-sliding drawer, to make the joints dovetail more neatly; how to polish and to decorate the piece until it's pleasing to the eye. Learn these lessons, and you'll make the upward climb of any craftsperson, no longer an apprentice but a journeyman, at work upon the masterpiece that will, in time, admit you as a worthy member of the guild.
That masterpiece is not, as many think, the greatest work you'll ever make—it's just the first work you produce that's at the level of the masters who have trained you. You still have new techniques to learn (and to invent), and if you are creative and work hard enough, you might just reach the level where a person only has to glimpse a chest of drawers to know that it was made by you.
Because that's the challenge, isn't it? Once you've found your niche, as a writer—once you've learned to make that chest of drawers—what then? How do you keep the work from going stale? Sometimes a cabinet-maker tackles this by also making chairs, or desks, or bookshelves...but what if even your best bookshelf isn't quite up to the level of your chests of drawers? And what if chests of drawers are all the public really wants from you?
Well, then, as Gardner says, you have to get a bit inventive. Change the wood, or add an inlay; turn the legs a little differently. Toss in a secret drawer.
With every book, I like to push myself beyond what I've designed before; to try, as Gardner dares me to, new angles. And I'm doing it again, with this new book I've just begun: A Desperate Fortune. Like the others, it's a dual-time story, but it has no paranormal features, and the modern story's heroine is unlike any heroine I've ever tried to write before.
I'm never sure I've got the proper tools to do this sort of thing. I'll have to rummage round to find them, or make new ones, and I'll definitely have to learn new skills, but that's all part of what, for me, keeps writing so fun and exciting.
What keeps you from going stale?
(Come back Thursday, to catch up with Julie's post)