Episode #47: Don’t Be Afraid to Evolve
The Evolution of Projects
Don’t be afraid of letting a writing piece sit until the idea grows and matures to the point where you feel you’ve got a handle on it. It happens with lots of writing projects, as drafts 1 to 20 and beyond take a twist or turn, whether fiction or nonfiction, poetry or essays.
Book proposals are an interesting example, especially nonfiction proposals. The author puts together an idea he feels great about and submits it. The agent or acquisitions editor shows interest, but contacts the author saying they like it, but would like to see some tweaks and changes. If the heart of the message or idea remains and the author has the time, energy, and grit, I’d encourage him to go for it. Don’t be afraid to let that project evolve to give that publisher what they think will sell in the market and best serve their readers.
The evolution of an individual project is an expected part of the writing process, but don’t be afraid to evolve as a writer.
The Evolution of the Writer
You might launch your career thinking you’re a poet. That’s how I started. Over the years I’ve gone on to publish everything from feature stories in newspapers and magazine articles, to books and a podcast. From poet to podcaster, I evolved.
With each new venture, I wasn’t always sure I wanted to take the risk of being a beginner in that area. It would have been easier not to evolve—to stick with what I knew.
The Evolution of This Podcast
In fact, if you’ve followed this podcast for long, you know that it, too, has evolved. When I launched, I called it The Writing Life with Ann Kroeker. But somewhere along the way, I realized a technological misunderstanding on my part meant I thought my podcast name was used for the feed in places like iTunes, but all that time it was actually grabbing the name of my website, which is Ann Kroeker, Writing Coach. I had to adjust in some way, to make some decisions, to evolve.
Would I launch a new site devoted to the podcast using that original name, disentangling it from my main website and blog? Or would I simply change the name of the podcast midstream, renaming and rebranding it to what iTunes thought it was all along and leave everything else the same?
I chose the latter. That’s why you’re listening to Ann Kroeker, Writing Coach. At risk of confusing listeners, I let the podcast evolve.
Stay Focused or Evolve?
If you’re feeling safe and secure in the genre you know well, where you’ve gained accolades and name recognition, that’s great. It shows you are working toward mastery. You’re focused.
If you are scared to evolve, however, and that’s holding you back from something you’d like to try, don’t let fear keep you from evolving. You may find that the new type of writing you wanted to try ends up being your sweet spot, and you never would have known if you hadn’t let yourself evolve.
A lot of us feel we don’t have a lot of extra time to mess around—like we need to stay laser focused to accomplish our goals. And that very well may be. You may have the last laugh when you walk on stage to receive your Pulitzer Prize. There’s wisdom in “niche-ing down,” as they say, and being the best you can be at that one thing.
But I think back to that 20-year-old poet straight out of college, and I’m glad I evolved. I love the writing I do and the coaching I’m capable of because I was willing to evolve.
If someone offers you the opportunity to contribute to a project and you’ve never written like that before…maybe you should try it. If you’re an essayist feeling a little nudge to try your hand at fiction…experiment.
And remember that even skilled poets may not excel at the first few attempts at creative nonfiction. A novelist may struggle to adjust to the format of a screenplay. An essayist may wonder how to operate within the constraints of poetry.
Enjoy what you’re good at. Keep doing that. And then, on the side, take a playful approach to new ventures and see where they take you. You may find you’ve evolved into the writer you never knew you wanted to be.
And we’re hanging on your every word.
Click on the podcast player above or use subscription options below to listen to the full episode.
- The Writing Life – Beginnings, Pt 1 (a memoir piece about how poetry initially helped me identify as a writer)
- The Writing Life – Beginnings, Pt 2
- What’s The Thing You Really Want to Write…That Scares You? (episode #32)
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Featured image design by Isabelle Kroeker (photo via Ann Kroeker)