I remember a time when I was in college, when money was tight, that I literally ate nothing but pizza for about four or five days. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. I was working at a Papa John’s doing delivery at the time, and there was always extra pizza left over at the end of the night which we’d take home. It was a college student’s dream (free food, say no more), and it almost ruined me for pizza.
Let’s clarify: I love pizza. Maybe it’s the simplicity, maybe it’s the grease, maybe it’s the geometric perfection of a perfectly-crafted pie. Time was when I could eat an entire pie by myself, but (probably for the better) those days are long past.
So to have nothing but pizza for almost a week is one of those things that maybe sounds like a good idea before you actually try it, like a juice cleanse, or a trip to the beach with your two sub-preschool-aged kids. The beginning is fine, maybe even fun. But before long the monotony sets in, then the actual physical discomfort, and before very much time passes at all, you realize what a terrible decision you’ve actually made, but there’s no way out.
By the end of the week, I felt ill, with terrible whanging headaches. I didn’t feel like getting out of the house at all; I had to force myself out of bed for class and work. My friends said I looked terrible. I believed it. I had put on three or four pounds gorging myself on pizza just because it was there and it was free. Needless to say, when my paycheck came in, I rushed to the grocery store to pick up a more equitable spread of staples for the college student (Ramen noodles, cereal, peanut butter and jelly … you know, the healthy basics).
Short of the actual physical difficulties you can cause yourself eating basically nothing but bread and cheese for days on end, the boredom and monotony are even worse. We humans may be creatures of habit, but as has been said before, variety is the spice of life. Until they start selling Soylent Green, our physiology dictates that we need a varied diet. You can’t get everything you need from just one source.
So what’s all that got to do with writing?
Pretty much everything, actually.
The monochromatic writer is as boring (and possibly as hazardous to your health) as an all-pizza diet. The writer owes it to himself to consume a varied diet of literature, as well as to serve up a spread that satisfies a bunch of different tastes. Both in the form (novels, short stories, plays, poetry, or even blogs) and in the substance (the genres, the types of characters, the tone and timbre of the stories).
To focus only on novels is to neglect the elegant brevity of the short story. To write only poetry robs one of the nuance of a finely crafted dialogue.
And if you only read in your genre, you’re sealing up the door of your own echo chamber. It’s much more interesting than reading horror over and over again to read science fiction, explore mysteries, go galloping through YA or coming-of-age stories, and weave into your own writing the little gravelly bits that stick to your brain from those other stories.
Or, you know, you could just eat pizza all the time.
Just don’t come running to me with your blockage issues.
This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.