I write fantasy. Specifically, I write epic fantasy, which has its tropes and conventions like any other genre. I know this. However, I am writing an epic fantasy now, and every time I find my characters sitting down to eat: they’re eating stew. I don’t even know why! I don’t even like stew in real life.
How do I get my characters to eat something different? What else is there to eat in epic fantasy? Why don’t I know this already? I am so sick of stew in my writing. I just don’t know what to replace it with! Help. What do I write about in its place? Where do I go from here?
Stew Stinks (he/him)
When studying the delights of the Universe, there are often traditions that we find ourselves stuck in. It sounds like you have found yourself stuck in the tradition of your school of thought. There is nothing inherently wrong with traditions, they can help us to know where we come from and where we are going.
However, when traveling the Universe, sometimes traditions can feel suffocating.
It sounds to me like you feel overwhelmed by the school of thought that dominates your tradition. You do not have to carryover every single custom from the school of thought you follow for it to be a valid manner of practice. You can pick and choose the ways that you study the Universe. There is nothing to say that you must be orthodox in the approach that you take to your studies.
It is always nice to acknowledge one’s heritage, but there is nothing wrong with deviating from the norm. You can take the pieces of your culture that work for you and add new pieces to your practice. Thus creating a new form of studying the Universe. This does not make your work wrong.
In fact, it makes the Universe a richer place because it adds to the tapestry of traditions practiced in order to see the wider picture. There is beauty in the diversity of ways that the Universe can be traverse and studied.
Thus, the conventions of your culture have their place. But you can deviate without repercussion because you are adding to the beauty of the Universe. And because there is no one who will tell you that you are wrong to diverge in your personal practice. It is after all, your practice. The only limits to your study is your imagination.
You say that you feel confined. Try to think outside of the conventions of your practice and try something new. If lighting incense is a common part of your practice — perhaps try lighting a candle— or leave the burning aspect out altogether. There is no right or wrong way to study the mysteries of the Universe.
I hope this helps you, my fine wayfarer, go forth and study the riddles of the Universe in peace. I know that you will meander into the right practice when you give yourself permission to deviate from the orthodoxy of your tradition.