I’ve noticed something about my writing lately. The less I TRY, the better the finished product is. This seems counterintuitive, so I spent some time thinking about it – while I was supposed to be editing Fear of Falling.
If I were a comic book character (Writer-Girl, saving the day with her impeccable grammar, excessive parenthetical references, and her catchy turn-of-phrase!) I would have an arch-nemesis. (That’s one of the rules. Good guys are really boring without bad guys.) Self-Sabotage would be mine, thwarting me at every turn. (Kind of like Spiderman vs. Spiderman in the black outfit. I picture Self-Sabotage looking like Writer-Girl, only dressed like one of those women in a courtroom drama with the suit and the glasses perched on their nose so it looks like they’re looking down on everyone else.)
To carry on with this analogy, the second Writer-Girl sits down at her keyboard to Write Something Important, Self-Sabotage gets a call and shows up to throw the whole arsenal at her – insecurity, fear, distraction, indecision, doubt … you name it. And sure Writer-Girl can slog through, pretending to ignore the efforts of her arch-nemesis, telling herself she can revise it later. But we all know that Self-Sabotage shows up at the revision table too.
Interestingly enough after fifteen minutes visualizing the adventures of Writer-Girl and her struggle to finally defeat Self-Sabotage, the few plot points in Fear of Falling that had been giving me trouble fell into place, and I finished the revision without difficulty.
I had an idea yesterday morning. I looked at the word-crumbs for writer-pigeons, and did my vocabulary thing. (I list the prompts, then give either a definition or a synonym or two or three out beside it. Thinking about non-traditional ways to use a prompt sometimes starts the creative process.) But then I pulled up Bejeweled 2, and started playing in Hyper mode. Self-Sabotage just smiled to herself, thinking she was so good at her job, she didn’t even need to show up anymore …
And between rounds, I made a few notes about how the prompts could tie together. But before I could get too serious about it, I went back to Bejeweled. While most of my brain was scanning for matching gems at warp five, the rest of it was thinking about the prompts and the quote.
Twenty minutes later I had the skeleton of an entire story, which I wrote with little interference, and which turned out to be pretty decent. Decent enough, in fact, to have the potential to be a real short story and not just a flash piece. (Not that there’s anything wrong with flash. Just sometimes the characters need more space to tell their tale.) In contrast, the story I tried to write last week – when I was determined to write and wouldn’t let myself do anything else until it was written – is terrible. Beyond terrible. A complete cacophony of contrived, disjointed images. I only haven’t deleted it entirely because I can’t bring myself to think it’s beyond saving. Yet.
To test the theory that sidetracking my logical mind can improve my creativity, I did the same thing again this morning with a different set of prompts. And lo, twenty minutes later I have the outline of a story that looks to be good (I was so excited that the shameless trickery worked that I had to blog before I actually wrote the piece.) I guess it’s based on the same logic that dictates you will not think of the answer to that random question while you’re thinking about it, but hours later you’ll sit straight up in bed and say “Ethyl Merman!” (or whatever the piece of information you were looking for is.)
So yeah. In case there’s anyone out there who gets super paralyzed when they sit down with the intention to write, maybe you can try not trying and see what happens. Worst case scenario: you’ll get better at Bejeweled. :p
(Reprinted from Blogging in the Dark)
TL.Schofield is an old mom and a new bride, living in central GA with a white dog and a black cat – one of which she is allergic to. Her first published piece is currently posted at 10Flash. She recently placed two stories, Arrival and Escape, in Flash Fiction Chronicles String-of-10 Flash Fiction Contest and blogs at Blogging in the Dark.