These shoes drive me insane. They’re stunning and overpriced but fit like a dream and make any ho-hum outfit dazzling. I found them online and took a leap of faith ordering a brand and size I’d never tried before, and the retail gods smiled down and they arrived in all their sparkling perfection. They were actually the inspiration for my Instagram account FashionAndFiction pairing two of my loves, books and shoes. How does this relate to writing in any way shape or form? Oh trust me, it does.
I save these shoes and rarely wear them, worried they’ll scuff or the heel might come off. But really, what good do they do in my closet, nestled between two pairs of everyday pumps? And as much as I logically know that these shoes were made for walking, I still snugly lock them away. Worse yet, sometimes I do this to my writing.
I don’t take risks when I should. I harbor plot ideas that feel too wild or hide away poetic bits that read more purple prose than I’d like. I keep them tucked in the corners of my brain firmly labeled with yellow caution tape. These ideas watch others come to fruition in stories and essays, in poems and play scenes. Because whenever I sit down to write the really risky stuff, I get the sensation of standing on a writing precipice and what if, what if, the ideas don’t take off? Then my precious writing time has been squandered on mischief rather than the slow and steady projects that are safer bets.
But with safety comes complacency. Safer ideas are often derivative of one another. They chug along and are enjoyable to write and complete, because there is a defined ending and no mental gymnastics required. And there is a time and place for them. They are satisfying and cozy, a literary form of grilled cheese and tomato soup, the mahogany loafers I can always count on because they’re already scuffed and a little beaten-down so I can really go anywhere, do anything, in them without pushing any boundaries.
The jeopardy in lively solely in these safe writings is that the wilder side to writing, the big risks and the big payoffs, don’t often stand around waiting for the proper moment. In fact they are risky because they’re like a maelstrom that arrives while you’re in the shower or manifest from a wild scene you’ve witnessed, a catastrophe in the news, the urgency of the human condition, and they need to be welcomed and managed as handily as you’d ride a rollercoaster from start to stop. Screaming and shaking and possibly breaking off into unchartered territory.
And that’s what writers, and artists and scientists and many other professionals in creative fields, are for. To push the boundaries of what we know and what we like. To show the world how things could be. One of my favorite authors, Jennifer Egan, always takes risks. Whether it’s a chapter written in PowerPoint or a story fully developed on Twitter, she pays fair homage to her wild ideas. And they create new spaces in the literary world.
So, I charge you to think back to the nuttiest idea you’ve had, whether it’s a play written backwards or an edible poetry collection, and give it a shot. Who knows, you might unleash something incredible or break a literary mold. And even if you don’t, your creative brain will thank you for the exercise. Personally, I’m taking those shoes out for a spin and beginning a chancy short story because today is a great day to start, don’t you think?
A mother, teacher, and writer who enjoys all good stories and believes in the magic we can make every day by telling them.