5 Ways to Strangle Your Creativity

stranglerVineWhat a Pain…

Your inborn creativity is probably a large part of what makes you a writer. Situations, characters and settings pop into your consciousness like bubble from the bottom of a boiling pot. You are also probably driven to a certain degree by a compulsion to bring new things out of your brain and into the world.

What a pain in the neck!

All that stuff rattling around in your head, not to mention that nagging voice going “Write, write!” like some shriveled, cantankerous maiden aunt, is just a drag.

Killing Creativity

Here are five ways to choke off that pesky creative gift:

  • Make writing a hit-or-miss affair. Forget about making a commitment to write on a regular schedule. Write when you feel like it, or when it’s convenient, or when there’s nothing good on TV. Sure, you’ll spend most of your time trying to get your narrative voice tuned up and remember what happened in the story last, but who cares? It’s a casual deal, right, this writing?
  • Don’t read. This includes craft books, fiction, non-fiction, magazine, the newspaper, and package labels. Get as much information and entertainment as you can from broadcast media. The farther you get from the written word, the less inclined you’ll be to bother with it – and the less able!
  • Avoid art in general. Stop listening to music. Limit your broadcast consumption to fact-based programming. Stay away from art museums, and if you happen on a piece of public art, either ignore it or make fun of it.
  • Never take time out. Don’t sit back and let your mind wander. Don’t daydream. Keep every minute of every day filled with some productive activity, like polishing your doorknobs or picking the lint out of your rugs with tweezers and a magnifying glass. Work lots of unnecessary overtime.
  • Do it somebody else’s way. If you must write something creative, don’t do it in your own, unique fashion. Find somebody else’s method and follow it like you were its slave. For example, take the Hero’s Journey model and follow it exactly, and write from 4:30 until 6:30 every morning, even though you’re not a morning person and it’s more natural for you to write in shorter bursts.

I hope you’ll be able to find the fortitude to smash your creativity flat. If not, well, shucks… you’ll just have to write and enjoy yourself, I suppose. My sympathies.

Happy writing!

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Trouble Spots: The manic tale of a young man's escape from Hell.
The manic tale of a young man’s escape from Hell. Think: action, laughs, outrageous demons, and even romance. Or don’t think at all—it’s up to you. Available at most online bookstores.
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Looking for Ideas? Look to the Shadows

Carrying Darknessshadow052017

I carry a lot of darkness around. Some of the shadow is the result of past life experience and some of it’s from genetics. This is unfortunate for me and the people around me, so I have been working on reducing or managing that dark streak since I was about ten. I still have a long way to go, but the good news is that sometimes I make a little improvement.

Story Fuel

The other good news is that the darkness fuels my writing, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. My first novel*, even though it’s funny (I hope), is set in Hell, and filled with monsters and violence. Even Heaven turns out to be less than it’s cracked up to be. Those elements, even though couched in slapstick silliness, come from that black crack in my heart. My second novel, now in progress, is a dark thing. The world it’s set in is hostile. People use and abuse each other and take it for business as usual. That setting, those characters, the story, all drink from the same vein of darkness I haul around.

Maybe it’s time to turn off the lights and venture into the shadows.

Light

Lest I dig a complete ditch of despair, I have to pause and observe that I have more than a shadow land inside. There’s love, sensitivity, humor, determination, compassion—all kinds of good stuff—in my interior landscape. It’s these bright aspects that enable me to turn that rage and depression into art (such as it is). The creation of art, in turn, makes my life brighter.

Ideas from the Shadows

But it’s still the dark side that spins up most of my ideas. I think this is because conflict is what drives stories, and you don’t find conflict at the bright end of the rainbow; you find it along the path of the rainbow while you’re fighting to get to the blasted end.

Are you hard up for a story idea? Or for the next turn in your story’s path? Maybe it’s time to turn off the lights and venture into the shadows.

Happy writing (be it dark or light),

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*Novel #1: Trouble Spots

Follow the Crazy Brick Road

brickroad

A Disorderly Day

Yesterday, the day got away from me. I was going to write, meditate, make lasagna, do some family insurance paperwork, fill the birdfeeders, bake some brownies and write this blog post. Instead, I wound up running a set of errands and going on a garden tour with my wife. Very little on my lengthy to-do list got done.

If your story’s taking an unexpected turn, that probably means it’s alive.

I could have gotten frustrated about this change of plans—in fact, I came very close, but I didn’t. Instead, I decided to just go with the day and see where it took me. As a result, I had one of the most pleasant Saturdays I’ve had in some time.

Isn’t this a Writing Blog?

There’s a so-what here for novel writing, whether you write with a plan or by the seat of your pants.

Sometimes, the story is going to get away from you.

Your characters are going to do that apocryphal thing where they take on lives of their own and start doing what they want to do, or you’ll realize you’ve written yourself into a corner, or you’ll realize you’ve got a tiger by the tail when you’d been going along thinking you had a tame bunny by the floppy ears.

The bunny-become-tiger thing is happening to me with my current novel. I thought I had a nice, tidy idea about two sister getting separated and it’s turned into this juggernaut with monsters, assassins, a huge geographical landscape and a little magic. The prospect of corralling all this material is not a little daunting.

Be Grateful

Yet, when something like this happens to you, I don’t think it’s time to throw up your hands in defeat or disgust; rather, it’s time to throw them up in gratitude. If your story’s taking an unexpected turn, that probably means it’s alive. The thing to do is roll with it, revising your plan or changing your pants as needed. If it turns out badly, well, that’s what rewrites are for.

Just follow the crazy brick road, using your best judgment as a sturdy walking staff. It might turn out to be one of your best journeys ever.

Happy Writing,

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Trouble Spots - High Resolution

Why I Write

joy2Joy.

That’s why.

Because joy is different from happiness.

Happiness is that wonderful, fizzy feeling you have when things are pretty much going your way, you’re doing what you like, and you’re smart enough to be grateful for it.

Joy is a sense that the grounding of things, the long-term outcome, the big picture, are whole and positive.

Happiness is great, but it tends to fade in and out, like an iffy signal on A.M. radio. Joy, on the other hand, hangs around.

When the prose stinks, the characters fall flat, the plot meanders into ever deeper and more stupid places, writing brings me joy, even though I may not be so happy right then.

So, I persist, and when happiness shows up to accompany joy, well, that’s a great day.

I wish you many days of both.

Cheers,

Carson

 

wishie-cropped-for-090916
Check out Wishie. That’s joy, right there.