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Packing Heat 113: Creative Limitations

Listener Feedback

In the show notes last week, OcotilloDawn said:
I outline or I wander. Outlines keep me on track. But they can change (I try pretty hard to stick to them, but not so much that I'm not listening to my better sense).

I find that when I veer from my outline, I always do it in the same direction — which is fine for the first story, maybe, but I don't want all of my stories to be so similar, with the same characters, the same reactions, the same plot complications, etc. And my lazy brain will take that easy/known track if I don't jerk it back to a plan now and then.

That is the greatest use of an outline for me.

I love this! It got me to thinking about various limits I impose on my writing to help my creativity flourish

Creative Limitations

Sometimes when the sky's the limit and you have no parameters whatsoever, writing can be tough to start, and can end up being predictable. It's like being handed a marker and being told to "draw" without knowing upon what, and for what purpose. Here are some ways to impose limitations on your writing to force yourself to keep it fresh.

1. Form
Different forms flex different writing muscles. If you usually write novels, consider a novelette to force yourself to be more focused and to the point. 100-word drabbles are challenging short-shorts. Flash fiction can be many lengths. I've seen 300-word, 500-word and 1000-word flash fiction markets.

2. Random
Seventhsanctum.com is a goldmine of random prompts. Sometimes it's easier to ask a disinterested party what you should do—as long as you make sure that the options they can choose from are all options you can work with.

3. Call for Entry
Calls for entry bring out our competitive natures. When our brains see the challenge, "How can I participate in this project?" it's often happy to start cranking overtime to provide you with solutions.

4. Collaboration
Collaboration is hard—really hard—but if you're willing to set your ego aside and pitch in to the good of the project, having collaborative partners can really open up new and exciting possibilities.

5. Challenges
Nanowrimo or flashfic-a-day are a couple of ways in which to challenge yourself. Sometimes the goal of meeting that deadline is enough to influence your brain to cast farther for interesting solutions.

From Composer Ray Drossaert:

"In the creative professions isn't it about freedom? Creative freedom? To a degree yes. But it is my experience that creativity functions best when there is a pressing need for it. When there is a very specific situation to find a solution to. And that's something that hardly exists if there is complete creative freedom... Funny, eh? ... So let's see if we can create some 'problems' to give your creativity that needed boost! You can describe a problem as "a set of limiting circumstances". So to unleash your creativity you might as well set up some artificial limits, because these limits push you away from your habitual 'solutions', thus prompting you to find a different path. Of course you obviously want to produce better quality work instead of worse, so you need to pick these limits intelligently."

And a plea - if you derive any value from this content and you have an iTunes account, please leave the podcast a high rating there! I do this all for free and it's a labor of love, so kudos would be appreciated, cherished, hung on the wall, etc.

Your Assignment

Write a flash fic this week. I don't care which length! I want you to have a story in your stable you can whip out at a moment's notice to participate in a newsletter/antho/project/whatever.

Listen at Packing Heat, about 19 minutes


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 20th, 2010 10:05 pm (UTC)
I miss writing drabbles daily with Ali. Been writing with her for 4years - I finds it hard to write alone now. My outlines as so basic, I think in the future I'll make more in depth ones.
Once I have a computer that can handle iTunes I will gladly leave positive feedback.
Jul. 21st, 2010 08:48 am (UTC)
I like flash fic a lot and you've made me stop and think why. I think it's because I like to concentrate an idea into a few, choice words. A quick fix :). I don't have trouble having an idea - just running very far with it! LOL

I also like the fact it's free from pressure - no specific word count, no need to consider its theme or future for publication, and no deadline (apart from your 'do it this week' LOL).

*off to scribble*
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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