Limits

A famous bookstore in Paris, across the river from Notre Dame Cathedral

Hemmingway used to hang out there.

Everything has its limits. Probably even human stupidity, Professor Einstein. There is no perpetual motion machine. Even if you fall off of a cliff, you won’t go faster than 120 miles-per-hour before you splat. This blog is limited, because in maybe five to ten years, I’ll probably move away from Las Vegas. Can’t call it “Live from Las Vegas” if I’m writing it in Bordeaux, can I? But what about your writing? Does it have limits?

Well, of course it does. You can only sit and push keys for so long before you either go insane or pass out. And you can only write the stories you make up, which is probably just as well, as Hamlet and Huckleberry Finn have already been done pretty well. But what about some of the other limits you put on yourself? Genre, for instance. Are you absolutely committed to only writing one type of literature? And why is that? Seriously, you need to answer that question, because you might have the next great gothic novel churning around inside your mind and not even know it, because you only write contemporary romance. Are you, that is, limiting yourself without any good reason?

I know that James Patterson is a weird person to use as an example. And, yes, he provides outlines to ghost writers, and stuff like that. I know. But he writes in multiple genres. He has a series of chapter books about Middle School that are both funny and informative. This is in addition to his usual stuff. Is Patterson successful because he doesn’t limit himself? Hell, I don’t know, but it’s worth considering. Closer to home, maybe, consider Edgar Allen Poe. He wrote classic horror. But some of his stories, such as The Gold Bug and The Purloined Letter, are actually pretty funny. Even The Murders on the Rue Morgue, horrible enough on its face, has a bit of a forehead-slapping twist at the end.

I tried a thriller. Bought a how-to book, outlined a novel, drafted a lot of it. Then I started it anew as a chapter book. So, maybe I’m wrong? Or maybe not, again, I don’t know. But if the worse thing that happens is that you end up with a new idea for your usual genre, might it not be worth it to try something new? If only for the exercise?

Everything has limits, but it’s often a good idea to push on them a bit, don’t you think?