Does Your Fiction Writing Style Change If You Haven’t Practiced For Quite A while? – A Ramble

2017 Artwork Does Your Writing Style Change article sketch

Last Halloween, I got back into writing fiction after spending a while (probably less than a year) where I didn’t really write prose fiction. Before that, I’ve had other times where I didn’t write fiction for 1-2 years.

So, I thought that I’d look at the question of whether your writing style changes if you don’t write fiction for a while.

In short, it both does and doesn’t. When I wrote my Halloween stories, I noticed that they contained a mixture of writing styles rather than just one consistent “style”.

Several of them contained elements from various older versions of my writing styles – for example, this story sounds a lot like something I would have written in 2009-10 and this one sounds like a slightly improved version of something I would have written in 2005-7.

As well as this, some stories also sometimes contained elements from the slightly formal style that I use when I write these daily articles. This was especially interesting, since I found that I could write some stories a lot quicker if I made them sound a bit like a non-fiction article (like I did in this story and this one).

Not only that, my regular non-fiction writing and art/comic making practice also meant that I had all sorts of techniques for dealing with writer’s block/ uninspired moments that I didn’t have when I used to see myself primarily as a fiction writer.

So, some skills can transfer from other creative things that you may have been doing instead of writing fiction. This may or may not affect your writing style.

In the end, whether your writing style will or won’t change if you haven’t written any fiction for a while all comes down to experience and practice. If you’ve been doing other writing-related things in the meantime, then this will probably have some effect on your writing style.

Likewise, if you’ve read anything that uses a writing style that you really like, then parts of that style are probably going to seep into your own writing style when you get back into writing again.

However, if you’re out of practice, then your natural instinct will probably be to “pick up where you left off”. In other words, it’s very likely that you won’t completely lose or forget your old writing style. Because of all of your past experience with writing, you’re probably going to unconsciously end up using a similar style to the styles that you used to use.

Plus, if you haven’t practiced for a while, then your style is probably going to have all of the same flaws that it used to have. In my case, this is an annoying tendency to use rather “functional” narration if I’m writing fast. Likewise, I sometimes tend to over-use certain descriptions and sentence structures. So, you’ll probably end up keeping most of the flaws from your original style if you’re out of practice.

In addition to all of this, you have to take the fact that you haven’t practiced into account too. If you practice a skill regularly, then it soon becomes fast, fluent and intuitive. It becomes something that is almost second nature.

This feeling can go away a bit if you haven’t practiced for a while. As such, don’t expect the very first thing you write after you haven’t written for a while to be as flowing, eloquent or polished as the things you used to write.

Getting back to that level of skill and that distinctive style may take a little bit of practice, although it’ll probably take considerably less time that you would have to spend if you had no prior experience.

Still, this is probably different for everyone. I’ve been talking a lot about my own experiences and trying to find general lessons in them. But, I guess that the only real way to see if your style has changed or not is to try writing something.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Can Art Skills Atrophy? – A Ramble

2016 Artwork Can Art skills atrophy article sketch

Although this is an article about artistic skills and art practice, I’m going to have to start by talking about my webcomics and about computer games for a while. As usual, there’s a good reason for this that I hope becomes obvious later.

Even though my “Damania Reappears” webcomic mini series will be appearing here every night for another week or so, I’ve already got started on the next comic – this will be a horror comedy comic (featuring the characters from my mini series) called “Zombies Again!”. Expect to see it begin about a week and a half before Halloween.

Anyway, when I was making the second page of this comic, I included a call-back to one of my other comics from 2015. This was one of the comics that I made when I got back into making comics occasionally after a long comic hiatus in 2014.

The shocking thing was that when I compared my comic page from 2015 to my one from this year, I noticed that the old comic had much better shading. I took a look at the other B&W comics I’d made this year, and the same was true for them too. I had actually got worse at drawing in black and white, even though most of my art starts out as a B&W drawing before I add paint.

Although, I could explain it by saying that I took more time with the comics I made in 2015 – this didn’t discount the fact that my upcoming Halloween comic contained some fairly basic contrast errors (which I later had to correct in MS Paint after I scanned the relevant pages). These were the kinds of basic mistakes that I just wouldn’t have made in 2015 – since I’d have paid much closer attention to the number and position of blank, shaded and dark areas in each panel.

Of course, back in late 2014 and early-mid 2015, I was absolutely fascinated by black & white drawing. I practiced a lot and considered it to be one of the “coolest” ways to make art.

Then, in late 2015, I discovered the joys of limited palette painting – this had all of the advantages of B&W drawing, but it resulted in even cooler-looking paintings. So, naturally, I started focusing on this instead – in fact, the majority of my more recent paintings use a limited palette of just four watercolour pencils.

I guess that returning to black and white drawing again is sort of like returning to the “basic” version of a computer game after you’ve got completely used to playing a particular fan-made modification for it.

Presciently, I actually had this exact experience shortly before starting my upcoming Halloween comic. I’d been using a mod called “Brutal Doom” for “Doom II” quite often for the past few weeks, only to play a fan-made level that was designed for the original un-modified version of “Doom II”. Suddenly, I found that I wasn’t quite as good at playing a game that I usually consider myself to be fairly good at.

So, have I lost these skills? Is it even possible to lose skills through a lack of practice?

Personally, I’d say probably not. Whilst it is true that skills tend to recede into the background if they aren’t practiced regularly, I’d hardly say that these skills are lost. They might temporarily degrade slightly, but you just need to take some time to re-acquaint yourself with them.

Not to mention that, although you might not instantly be as good as you were – you will still probably be much better than someone who has never practised these skills. After all, you’ll probably still remember something.

To use yet another personal example, I produced relatively little art in 2011. When I finally decided to practice every day in 2012, my art looked fairly similar to my art from 2011. I hadn’t exactly got better, but I didn’t really get any worse either.

Of course, this probably all depends on how long you have spent away from a particular skill – and your reasons for not practicing it. One thing that probably helps with skill retention is to keep practicing related skills whenever possible.

For example, although I’m not as good at black & white drawing as I was last year – my practice at painting and other types of drawing have meant that my actual drawing skills haven’t stagnated or degraded, even though I’m not as good at the techical aspects of creating striking black & white images as I used to be.

Likewise, although I seem to be less eager to write fiction than I was five or six years ago, I was still able to write an interactive story last Halloween within the space of about five days. Although my writing style hadn’t really improved much, the fact that I practice non-fiction writing (eg: these articles) every day, meant that writing large amounts of fiction in a relatively short time didn’t seem like the large task that it might have done if I’d given up writing altogether for the past few years.

Even with other skills, I haven’t lost everything. Whenever I’ve picked up a guitar after years of not practicing, I’ve found that I can still actually remember and play a few of the many things I learnt when I was a teenager (eg: the intro to both Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water” and Iron Maiden’s “Fear Of The Dark” seem to be permanantly imprinted onto my brain).

So, if you’re going to be abandoning a particular skill for a while – then it can be a good idea to practice related skills wherever possible. But, even if you don’t, you probably won’t forget everything.

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Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Three Very Basic Tips For Getting Creative Again If You’re Out Of Practice

2015 Artwork Getting Creative Again Article sketch

Although this is a short article that is intended to help you get back into being creative if you haven’t made any art or written anything for quite a while, I’m going to have to start by talking about myself for a little while. I should probably also point out that if you read the article I wrote a couple of days ago, then there isn’t a huge amount of new stuff here.

A few days ago, I mentioned that I hardly created any art at all during 2011. In many ways, this is probably why I stick to a daily schedule when it comes to making art (and writing these articles too), since I’m kind of worried about accidentally losing interest and not producing anything for a long time.

Still, if something like this happens to you, then don’t despair. It’s possible to become creative again and I thought that I’d give you a few tips that might come in handy:

1) Done is better than good: I know that I’ve mentioned this old saying before, but it’s something that is worth remembering if you are trying to get creative again.

In short, the most important part of getting back into making art or writing again is to actually make stuff. It doesn’t matter how good it is, the important thing is that you actually make something.

For example, on the day I wrote this article, I wasn’t really feeling very artistic. I’d been feeling uninspired for a while and it seemed particularly bad on that particular day. I’d tried, and failed, to make a couple of paintings and I was ready to give up. But, I told myself “I have to make something today“. So, I did:

"Abstraction Base" By C. A. Brown

“Abstraction Base” By C. A. Brown

It wasn’t anything particularly great, but I’d still actually managed to paint something. So remember, when it comes to getting back into making things again, “done is better than good“.

2) Start Small: When I got back into making art in spring 2012, I set myself the goal of making one small drawing each day. I’m not exaggerating about the “small” part – each drawing was only about a quarter of an A4 page in size. They looked a bit like this:

"Midnight Haunting" By C. A. Brown [26th April 2012]

“Midnight Haunting” By C. A. Brown [26th April 2012]

When I started doing this, it seemed like a gargantuan challenge. But, it also seemed manageable – after all, I only had to fill a fraction of a page every day. And, after a few months, I felt confident enough to start making slightly larger drawings….

So, if you’re getting back into creating things after a long absence, then remember to start small and gradually re-build your confidence.

3) Keep it basic: Generally speaking, doing lots of simpler things on a regular basis is a much better way to re-build your creative confidence than attempting something more elaborate on an occasional basis is. In other words, go easy on yourself.

Yes, your first instinct might be to prove to yourself that you’ve “still got it” by creating a masterpiece. And, if you actually manage to do this, then that’s great (and, more to the point, why are you even reading this article?).

But, if you’ve got less confidence in your abilities, then it can be a good idea to start by making a few simpler sketches or writing a few shorter pieces on a regular basis.

After all, basic things are a lot easier to do well if you’ve already got some experience – so, by doing these simpler things fairly well, you’ll quickly start to re-build your confidence in your own abilities.

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Sorry for such a short, repetitive and basic article, but I hope that it was useful 🙂