The Enemies of Creativity

These terms were coined by author Jack Heffron in his book, “The Writer’s Idea Book.” The descriptions following each term are paraphrased, and include my own solutions to combating the enemies, all of whom I have come up against.

Which ones do you find nag you relentlessly?

THE PROCRASTINATOR

This is a great word. Sounds a little like a super villain, doesn’t it? We’ve all met this guy. We wake up with the intention to pull out the laptop, but then we hear a little whisper in our ears, “This week isn’t that great to start on that new chapter. You have so much going on already… kids’ soccer, work, that dinner party. This weekend would be better.”

Then, surprise, surprise… that weekend doesn’t work out either. Too much to do, and not enough time to do it.

The solution? It sounds simple… just do it. Ignore the voice. Literally block off time for writing so that there is no excuse.

THE TALKER

This bitch doesn’t know how to shut up. The Talker gets a great idea on how to broaden her protagonist, or the perfect situation to shake up a scene, then BAM she feels the need to tell everyone in her writers group, her significant other, her neighbor, her dog… and then the magic is gone. Her great idea is dead. The Talker is an expert as squandering the creative nest egg.

Next time you feel this urge coming on, look in the mirror and tell yourself to shut the hell up. Put the phone away. Pretend that you’re writing is a secret, because it is. Keep those great ideas selfishly tucked away until the day that they are all polished and ready to be released onto the world.

THE CRITIC

“This isn’t good enough.”

“Delete.”

“Why did you think this idea would work out? Its not interesting and no one will

read it.”

Get the picture? The Critic has nothing good to say. She forces you to edit and reedit every line as you write, sometimes deleting it all because she says that it’s hopeless.

Tell her to fuck off. Keep writing just to spite her.

THE JUDGE

The Judge is probably the hardest to combat, because she is your conscience. You’re happily tapping away, and before you know it, an hour has gone by. It’s then that the Judge sneaks up on you. “Um, excuse me, but shouldn’t you be paying the bills, or playing with the kids, or doing the laundry, or raking the yard, or….”

Guilt is hard to overcome, especially if its something you’ve heard from loved ones. Your significant other isn’t sensitive to your need for creative space, or your family is demanding of your attention.

Just get over it. You can’t be a good spouse/parent/roommate/daughter/son if you aren’t fulfilling your own needs as well as the needs of others. Spend time on you, too.

THE AUTHOR

The Author is easily hated among writers groups. They see every single writing moment as valid ONLY if it leads to publication. They don’t believe in exercises in creativity or in something as silly as “free writing.” They see their efforts as wasted if they don’t get a publication from it.

This aspect of every writer needs a reality check. Everyone has had their moment of “why am I even bothering if nothing comes from it?” But you have to understand that something IS coming from it. With every exercise, you grow. The more you grow, the better you will be, and the more likely you will be to get that publication. Keep that in mind to quell the Author.

It’s Okay, But Your Characters Are Boring…

Think for a moment: are you more likely to remember the title of a book that you enjoyed, or a character? How many influential characters can you name?

Okay, now what’s the title of the book? Or even harder, who wrote it?

Exactly. Memorable characters MAKE a story. When a reader cares what happens to a protagonist, they continue to read, and will shove the book into a friend’s hands proclaiming, “Read this!”

How do you create a memorable character?

The best piece of advice I’ve ever received to this question is: real people make shitty characters.

A memorable character must be larger than life with pitfalls and triumphs that are greater than himself. He must be relatable, and possess a need seeded in suffering from his past. Day to day sufferings are not enough to drag sympathy from your reader. You have to be mean.

Examples:

Harry Potter – probably one of the most memorable characters of this generation. He comes from a broken home and spends seven novels running from someone who is trying to kill him. Everything seems to be against him, and yet, he is able to pull himself up and overcome adversity every time.

Tyler Durden – not the protagonist of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club, and yet this is the name most people will recall when asked who the main character is. Tyler is grudgingly prophetic in his rants and is charismatic in a way that makes the reader believe his anarchist lessons. And yet, he is relatable, because he is the type of man that most want to be: the “above it all,” passive, fuck-you kind of man. He truly doesn’t care what others think.

Hester Prinn, Katniss Everdeen, Sydney Carter, Atticus Finch… all memorable because they are multidimensional. They have needs, desires, shortcomings, and strengths. They are real.

As an exercise, have a conversation with one of your characters. Ask her about her life. Charm her. Have her charm you. Insult her. Make her cry. Make her uncomfortable. Turn her on. Discover her obsessions and give them to her, then watch what she does with them.

When you can imagine your character in front of you, and surprise yourself when later you realize that she is only a character, then she’s ready for your stage. Put her in the spotlight.

I Got Lost

I’ve returned to pester you. Are you afraid? You should be, because this author lady is back with a vengeance, a new breed of cynicism akin to the “super bug,” and freshly clipped fingernails set for typing.

But first, I have a confession.

I tried to not write. What? Yes, that’s right. Write? No, right. Correct.

I blame Palahniuk. Genius as he is, I think he didn’t realize the power of a stupid little quote in the hands of a heartbroken, misguided little writer. Moi….

“The worst part about writing fiction is the fear of wasting your life behind a keyboard. The idea that, dying, you’ll realize you only lived on paper. Your only adventures were make believe, and while the world fought and kissed, you sat in some dark room masturbating and making money.”

I thought to myself, “I want to fight and kiss… and I’m in the dark room NOT making money.”

I was already in a hole halfway to China thanks to my heart being played as someone’s pinata, so I stopped. Sure, I continued to journal, but I didn’t write the way I used to. I ignored that bitch, Serendipity. I stayed away from the writers group I’d been religiously a part of for nearly a year.

“How can you write anything, anyway,” I justified to myself, “If you’ve never experienced anything?” Experience, I did. The fruits of those experiences are now to be a part of my second blog, “Over Katrina’s Rainbow.” The writing dregs, well, those are for you good people. No need to thank me.

So, yes, I’m back. Are you ready, because I am.