Hi, there, and Welcome back!
At every turn in your writing, you will be faced with choices,
decisions about the direction you should go, what someone should
say, what a character might do. And when you back yourself into
a corner, it will be your creativity which gets you out of it.
More than one writer has enjoyed and excelled in the game of
"How do I get Out of this?" where you specifically get your
characters into a jam, and then see if you can write them back
out of it. Keeps you alert, that's for sure!
At any rate, as long as you have the quality of focus, the
more creativity you have, the better off you are.
Specifically, the structure of creative breakthrough has been
pretty well broken down. The ability to design "Ah Hah" moments,
moments of unusual clarity, is an incredible boon to those of
us in the arts.
Basically, the process works as follows:
- You clarify the problem. Define as clearly as possible exactly
what the difficulty is.
- Do massive research. Swamp yourself in every possible piece
of information which might contribute to an answer. This is
done both to give you raw material to chew over, and to keep
your conscious mind occupied.
- Brainstorm every answer you can come up with.
- When you have reached the absolute limit to what you can
come up with, take a complete break. Exercise, take a nap,
make love, go see a movie, etc. IT IS WHEN YOUR CONSCIOUS
MIND IS TOTALLY PREOCCUPIED WITH ANOTHER TASK THAT THE AH-HAH!
MOMENT WILL OCCUR.
The key to brainstorming is that you MUST give yourself SPECIFIC
permission to come up with absurd answers. Otherwise you will
think only in a direct, linear path, and miss the chance of genius-level
breakthrough. For instance, you're writing a scene in which a
character faces certain death--surrounded in the kitchen by vicious
escaped bank robbers with a dozen guns. How do we get out of this?
You start brainstorming. Could your character be a karate expert.
No. She's 67 years old, with one leg, and you don't want to change
that. Can she appeal to their humanity? No, you've already established
that one of them killed his OWN mother for taking a piece of his
Juicy Fruit. Well, then...could God reach down and take her out
of this freaking situation? Well, no, but...(the image of the
roof being lifted up, and God reaching down suddenly strikes a
nerve). What if something ELSE lifted the roof up? A T-Rex? No,
Speilberg's cornered the market on Jurassic carnivores. How about...a
tornado? Or a hurricane? What exactly IS the weather in this scene?
Could it be that I never considered that? Even a bad rainstorm
could wash out roads, trap criminals in the house, kill power...
Hmmm. Kill power? If this was built up properly, would the
audience go for that?
Maybe not--but what if the power outage created the crisis
in the first place...and it's the power coming back ON that
changes the situation? Eyes adjusted to darkness don't like
light... So maybe there aren't a dozen guns. Make it two guns.
And the light comes on, and they shield their eyes, and she
wrenches herself away and runs out into the storm, where the
fractured electric lines flap about in the yard, sparking...
This is the way brainstorming works. Give yourself permission
to think of the absurd, and go from the impossible to the improbable
to the possible to the YES! THAT WORKS! moment that we all love.
This is another place where the dream diaries come in useful.
It is quite valuable to specifically exercise your creative muscles.
Looking at the Goal-Conflict-Disaster-Reaction-Dilemma-Decision
model, you can see that virtually any image you have can fit into
this cycle somewhere.
If the image of an object comes to you: Is it a Goal? (Does
someone want it?) Is it a Disaster? Does it pose a Dilemma?
If so, to who? Why? How might they want to resolve it, and what
kind of goal might result?
If the image of a person--who are they? What might they want?
What might their inner demons be?
What about if it's a place? Or an action?
Practice playing with these pieces, specifically stretching
and twisting your mind. Such mental gymnastics are the tools
you will need to build a career.
NEWSPAPER CLIPPING EXERCISE
Another exercise, one which I recommend heartily, is to open
the newspaper and give yourself one minute to find an article
upon which to base a story idea. You don't have to write the
story, but DO block it out using the tools we have detailed.
Once again, this kind of exercise gives you absolutely invaluable
skills. It is important that you have absolute confidence in
your ability to think yourself out of any corner you might back
yourself into, that you can generate a hundred ideas an hour
for days at a time. And the only way you can do that is practicing
to generate creativity on demand. These exercises work. I would
suggest that you try them, and devise others of your own.
science fiction game. Science fiction is specifically a game
of "What-if". There are actually three basic questions:
"What If" is used in questions like: what if someone invented
Time Travel? What if someone resurrected his dead children? What
if it turned out that Santa Claus was real?
- What if
- If Only
- If this goes on
"If Only" is a wish list. If only we lived for two hundred
years, what might we accomplish? If only human beings weren't
jealous, how much more sex might we enjoy? If only health food
tasted more like ice cream, and less like puree of bat shit...
"If this goes on" Observes a phenomenon, and says "whoops!
this could be trouble" or "this could be fun". Overpopulation,
pollution, inflation--all have been fodder for many many science
fiction stories. And will be for many more.
Although these tools have been most specifically developed
in SF, they are invaluable in other genres as well.
How might you adapt them to your work?
When you have a problem, try getting together with two or more
other writers or friends, and see how many ideas you can come
up with in an hour. Once again, AND THIS IS MOST IMPORTANT--give
yourself permission to come up with silly answers. This is the
core key to breaking writers block.
is, specifically, the confusion of two separate states:
Flow state is where you are just drifting, coming up with
ideas, writing raw text, whatever.
- Flow State
- Editing State
Editing state is where you are judging the ideas that you came
THESE STATES MUST NEVER BE CONFUSED.
If you don't mix these two states, you will NEVER suffer writer's
block. You may be writing drivel, but you will ALWAYS be able
to write. And it is a great truth that if you write enough,
and read enough good writing, and stay focused on your goal,
you will begin to improve. I believe it was Ray Bradbury who
said that a writer has "A million words" of shit in him, and
that after that, he begins to be a real writer.
So get going! Write scenes, and scenes, and scenes. Edit and
plan one day, write raw text the next.
You may need to experiment to find the environment which best
supports your optimal flow state. For many people, soft Jazz
or classical music works well. I like ocean sounds and Vivaldi.
But you must experiment, until you find what works best. Trust
me--if you will pay attention to what I said in this paragraph,
you will have five times your money's worth. Frankly, I am shocked
at the number of people who go brain-dead for ideas. I am NEVER
blocked. Sometimes I write lousy, but I can ALWAYS write. And
I guarantee you--a hundred thousand words of lousy writing will
teach you a hell of a lot more than six months of empty pages.