I'm a fan of the Lee Child series of Jack Reacher books. For anyone who doesn't know them, they follow Jack Reacher, ex-military police officer and now a rootless drifter. In each book Jack comes to a town and gets embroiled in some intrigue. Jack is the smartest and toughest guy in the room. Stuff blows up. Women swoon. Jack moves on in the end. They are well written and reliably entertaining books.
Repetitive? Not as much as you'd think. Child makes it work. His prose is strong, the characters are involving, he clearly knows his main character and his world very well, and he is a master of creating constantly unfolding suspense. Reading Child's books, I think "here's someone who really knows himself as a writer." He knows his strengths and he plays to them extraordinarily well.
This got me thinking about my strengths and weaknesses as a writer. What are they? Well, I'm still figuring that out but if I had to say right now I'd say... I think I'm good at dealing with characters in depth and I'm pretty good at writing action scenes and have a bit of a descriptive flair. I think I'm good with tone. On the minus side? Well, despite my theatre background, long dialog scenes frustrate me. I feel like I write action better. I find that dealing with too many characters at once confuses me so I keep casts small. Also, whenever I've tried to be overly smart or clever in my writing I fail. I'm better at simplicity.
So let's say that's a fair assessment of my strengths and weaknesses. What do I do with this info? How should it affect what I do on a daily basis? Do I be like Lee Child and stick with what I know I do well? Or should I at some point write a dialog heavy, complex novel of ideas with a sprawling cast because I should be challenging myself and trying to expand my horizons? Some mix of these things?
It seems to me that there is honor in either choice. Being resolutely who you are or pushing yourself into uncomfortable territory to try and grow.
What do you guys think? First, I'd love to know what you all feel are your strengths and weaknesses and then where you fall on the continuum of A) know yourself and do what you do consistently well or B) purposefully throw yourself into your weaknesses in an attempt to grow, even if you fail?