When You Find Your Creativity Flagging Diverge From the Norm
Every time I sit down to write, before my fingers even touch the keyboard, I rub my hands together maniacally. Like I’m the evil antagonist of my own story. I don’t know why I do this. Maybe I’m trying to hone the ancient comedian writing gods and we all know how dark and twisted those folks are.
There I’ll be, staring at a blank Google docs sheet, the sound of my dry palms chafing one another, with a glimpse of a joke tiptoeing through my mind.
I must figure out the joke.
That’s what my ego tells me. It whispers the words like a spring breeze on the open prairies, and I am helpless to ignore these cries. If the readers are laughing, then I am successful — end of story.
But is that the end of the story? Of my story? Is funny all I’ve got?
As online creators, we often fall into this trap of what works. We’ve had some success with humour or how-to or erotic space fiction (I, however, did not have success with my erotic space fiction), and we concur that this is our meal ticket. We tell ourselves that we are nonfiction writers, or tech bloggers, or can only craft stories that are made up from the deep recesses of our imaginations. Full stop. We just aren’t any good at the other stuff.
We say that we can’t write from our life experiences because the people in our lives may get angry about our stories.
To that, I reply with a brilliant quote from Anne Lamott.
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
We stuff ourselves into these tiny boxes that we may never escape from because, at some point in our career or hobby, someone told us that we were good at humour or how-to or erotic space fiction, so now we must run with it.
At that pivotal moment, our brain said, “holy shit, you guys! Someone likes us; someone really likes us!”
And our ego replied, “Well, you know what this means? If we want to keep getting praise, we must never again stray from this one specific thing that people told us we’re good at.”
And this is how we get trapped in the dreaded niche cyclone of hell.
Look, if you’re a niche writer, I’m not looking to throw down right now. If you love writing on one specific topic, I say go for the gold, my friend. The thing is, I know many writers who started niche writing, and by slinging stories daily about constructing cat hats or building tiny homes made from paper mache, they developed this intense love affair with writing in general.
They started as a blogger and became a full-fledged writer through trial and error. They experimented with different writing mediums not because they were looking for praise but because they wanted to explore what the writing world had to offer.
Those are the stories of life under the pen (or keyboard) that I love to hear.
These stories we show to the world are more than just info-tips and tutorials. As writers, our words are our love language. We really do bleed through our fingertips and often drop our souls onto the page.
The thing is, lately I haven’t been. I’ve been writing for my ego rather than my heart.
I’ve always known that my humour work does well, but I had been good about forcing myself to play around with other genres in the past. I’d write erotica that was pure crapola (but I sure had a lot of fun doing it!). I went through a slam poetry phase and have always loved microfiction as a writing exercise-I’ve even had a few of those pieces published!
It occurred to me recently as I was staring at my blank screen, rubbing my hands together, trying to come up with my next joke, that I just didn’t have a joke. I was all joked out. The jokes were no longer strong with this one.
So I had a little panic attack and cried my trademark ugly cry, but then I realized that this isn’t the end of the world. Of course, writer’s block can feel hopeless at times. “If I can’t write what people want from me, they might not want me at all,” is the self-destructive blather that the ego monster whispers in my ear.
As creators, we must be careful not to place our value as human beings on the same rung of the ladder as our stats page.
This is why experimenting with new ideas, new mediums, new techniques, and new genres is crucial for our growth and development as writers. Writing a second-person POV story about the life and times of a dog-man who was genetically mutated by a freak bubble gum factory explosion may not be the most lucrative endeavour. But I bet it would be fun! And also, if you write that story, please send it to me immediately because I would very much like to read it.
My point is, our writing needs exercising too.
You know how you can plateau when trying to lose weight? There you are, shedding pounds like nobody’s biz and then a few weeks in, you haven’t changed anything in your routine, and your weight loss comes to a complete standstill.
That’s when your personal trainer, or in my case, a friend who knows a lot about weight loss but I don’t have to pay to get advice from, tells me I need to switch up my routine to trick my body into dropping weight again.
We sometimes need to trick our writer’s brain into creativity again.
A few weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to write an audio play. I don’t really know much about playwriting, but I love listening to audio plays on my Audible app. I brainstormed a great plotline, did some character development and spent a lot of time googling how to write a play.
Did I tuck in immediately after that? Nope. Because my ego told me that I couldn’t do it. I’m no good at fiction. It wouldn’t make me any money. I’d probably fail and then feel bad about myself for the next ten thousand years.
The truth was, I wanted to write that play. I wanted to exercise my creativity and see what the thing might amount to for the simple sake of curiosity. So I told my ego to get off my back, man! And I started writing without worrying too much about the outcome.
Not going to lie, the thing needs some work.
But I’m still excited about it. It is a baby that requires constant care, but I can see her growing into something more mature every day. And as a bonus, I’ve gotten my jokes back!
By switching gears for a little while and not solely focusing on the pieces that will make me the most money, I gave my creativity the brain boost it needed.
If you ever feel lost in your creativity, try writing in at least one new medium every week for a month, whether it’s playwriting, nonfiction, fiction, absurdist, satire or an intimate and raw stream of thought piece.
Switching up our outlets, allowing for error, and learning new ways to write is the only way we will ever get better at our craft. Sure we may be excellent at one aspect of writing, but do you really want it to end there? I sure don’t.
So I’m going to keep pushing my creative limits, opening up the emotional floodgates and gifting myself the confidence to appreciate all the new writing adventures that come next.
Lindsay Brown is a writer who loves slinging funny tales but also likes to write semi-serious pieces every once in a while. She was super serious about wanting to read that dog-man story, so somebody please write it. You can find more of Lindsay’s work here. Unfortunately, no dog-man stories will be included in those tales.
Originally published at https://vocal.media.