The Comfort of Habit

This past week I’ve been religiously listening to a new artist. After getting hooked on a few of her songs, I turned to YouTube to find acoustic sessions featuring this artist (because e.v.e.r.y. song sounds better acoustically, in my opinion). The video I clicked on was one of “NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert,” in which musicians play a few songs behind a tiny desk for a teeny tiny audience. It’s quaint and acoustic most of the times, which is all that matters. After playing two of her popular songs, the artist figured she would play ┬ánew one. She prefaced the song with it’s working title, “sad song 11,” since she already has 10 sad songs. The audience chuckled and she thanked them for their “courteous laughter”.

Even though this side conversation had nothing to do with me enjoying acoustic music, it struck a cord with me. As incredible and talented as this artist is, she openly acknowledged her weakness: her tendency to write sad songs repeatedly. She was self deprecating about it. Not ashamed of her work, because she loves her music. She performs her songs and markets her art for a living. Nonetheless, she judged herself for sticking to habit. I won’t read further into her, but the feelings she was displaying are so common among writers. Yes, we write what we know, which isn’t always easy to reinvent, but it’s even more true that we retreat to our established niche and write how we write best- however that may be.

This week I submitted a poem that scares the shit out of me. I honestly think I spat the poem on the page because I was so overwhelmed. I had spent all of my time consumed in the design of the poem, which involved minor photoshop skills that I severely lack. Not only was the creation of this poem complicated, it was foreign territory for me. I wanted to write sad song 11. I wanted to write down the left hand side of the page about my grandma. I was no where near my safe house, my niche. I’m weirdly embarrassed of putting something out there that felt so bad and so not me. But, this is the first step in changing my writing style and embracing all those insane (and admirable) formats I read in workshop from you all.

Tell me about your niche. Where is your comfort zone? How do you want to expand?

2 Replies to “The Comfort of Habit”

  1. Hey Allison,

    Niches can be both comforting and limiting in various ways. I know my niche, which tends to be songs about romantic relationships in some way, shape, or form, can be frustrating a lot. Its easy to write within the niche, but it is much more satisfying to churn out something new and different. I’m interesting in writing /attempting to write more humorous poems, adventure novels like the ones I love reading, and nonsensical lyrics that focus on the sounds made more than the message.

  2. Hi Allison & Marina!

    I think it’s really interesting you brought this up. I was just thinking about how I am constantly writing about romantic/sexual relationships. Oftentimes they pertain to what’s going on in my own life, but not all the time. I think one of the biggest things I try to do is pick a different metaphor for the romance/sex I’m writing about. For example, a couple of weeks ago I wrote a poem about finding a guy’s hair all over my room–which is strange in itself, because boys are always complaining that girls shed everywhere. The other day I wrote a poem where floral imagery was used to stand in for sex/intimacy. Last time I was in workshop I wrote a poem about cooking linguine and using steam and the curling of the pasta to mimic sex.

    As I am writing this, I’m realizing I probably write about sex/intimacy/relationships too much–but they are my favorite things to write about so why would I stop?

    I think I need to broaden my writing away from personal relationships in my life… Not really sure how to start doing this.


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