A friend of mine once told me, “If who we are today is who we will be tomorrow, then our lives are already wasted.”
Every day, as writers and as people, we can choose to grow and evolve or we can choose to remain the same. And evolution goes both ways: it can improve you or it can drag you backwards.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, evolution is “the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form.” What does that mean?
In one word…Change.
Evolution makes you versatile
I am in favour of perfecting and mastering an art form, but I sometimes wonder: At what point does the quest for perfection turn into comfort, fear or complacency?
The day I lost my perpetual need to be angry was the worst day of my life as a writer and a slam poet. I was convinced that my anger was what made me a writer because it forced me to go deeper within myself. In my performances, my anger was seen as passion. Anger defined me as an artist.
The truth was that writing from a place of anger was safe. I could say the same things and someone in the audience would still connect with it because of the volatility in my voice.
I realized I was limiting myself as a writer. When I allowed myself to change and stop being obsessed with anger, the tone and message of my writing also changed – and improved. To compel the emotion I’d once gotten through anger, I had to work harder and find new things to say.
That knowledge expanded my horizons as a writer. I learned different styles, different techniques, different topics than I’d ever written on before. I met new people in pursuing all this knowledge, and they introduced me to still more people, and that wider circle eventually became my clientele.
How do you allow yourself to evolve?
We aren’t scared of change itself. We’re scared of the consequences that change brings.
I was scared that letting my anger go and writing about more tender topics like my spiritual journey and falling in love would make me lose my passion as a performer. I was worried it would make me ordinary.
I was afraid of facing that consequence – even though I had no way of knowing what change would bring me.
How do you allow yourself to evolve and explore new writing styles or genres when you’re afraid of the consequences of change?
- Reconnect with your personal mission
- Acquire new knowledge and techniques
- Build a tribe of like-minded people
Reconnecting with your personal mission as a writer can help you find direction and help you embrace change. One of our biggest fears in changing our writing style is that we will somehow lose track of ourselves and who we are.
By keeping our personal mission and values in mind as we experiment with new styles, we have a solid rock to keep our feet on while everything around us is malleable and moving.
Knowledge is power. The more knowledge you have about a given change you’re about to make, the less scary it becomes.
As you explore new styles or genres as a writer, you’ll learn things you never knew – like the fact that this style is seen as the most compassionate style, or that a famous author you admire broke through some of the same barriers you’re struggling with by using this technique.
The more you know, the less frightening change will be for you.
Studies have proven that people take on the qualities of the people they’re closest to. If your five best friends are twenty pounds overweight, odds are good that you are, too. If your entire extended family is middle-class, it’s unlikely you’re a millionaire.
We want to fit into our tribes, which is why we take on their characteristics. If you hope to become a kind of writer that doesn’t exist in your current tribe, go find some writers who fit the mold. Surround yourself with a tribe of writers whose influence you’d like in your work – and make the time to see them often.
How do you see yourself evolving as a writer?