Back to posting, and the creative freedom of limitations

After a multi-month hiatus from posting, I am back. All I can say is, college happens. Yet as winter break looms ever closer (oh, blessed vacation!) I feel compelled to write more regularly. Call it holiday magic or too much egg nog, but despite the pressures and responsibilities of being a college student, writing is slowly becoming a significant priority in my life. I am finding that the best reason I have is that I can’t help it. Writing makes everything else makes sense. It’s a primary way I engage with the world around me, play with it, make sense of it, love it, cry with it, and dive into it. Through my writing I hope to bring some degree of comfort, understanding, joy, healing or catharsis to my readers. It’s a gift to myself to allow myself to partake in the creative process and through doing so serve the smallest corner of the world that I inhabit.

That said, I’ve found that the best way to surprise yourself and stumble into a creative situation that pushes you to think in new channels is to do writing exercises that have rules. In order for exercises to be effective you need to follow the rules. There’s this impression floating about that being a writer involves being undisciplined, even unruly. While it’s true that creativity is by its very nature subversive because creative ideas challenge the way we think about the world and the authority we give to ideas or systems of thinking that perhaps don’t deserve it, being a writer requires a hell of a lot of discipline. Obedience, too. That’s what I love about writing exercises. They challenge me to work creatively within a set of rules. Instead of being restrictive, I’ve found that imposing limitations on a creative assignment actually frees me as a writer to see more infinite possibilities within an imagined situation. For instance, you are guaranteed to come up with something interesting if you tell yourself to write a story using only one syllable words or to include a pig, a go-go dancer, an arthritic sushi chef and a conversation about tired feet in a single scene. No exceptions.

The following are two short exercises that I had fun doing. In the first one, I was to tell a short story within the bounds of 10 sentences. Each sentence had to have the number of words in appropriate descending order (i.e. sentence 10 has ten words, sentence 9 had nine words, etc.). In the second exercise, I gave myself the rule to develop a scene through questions. No imperative statements, no declarative sentences. Questions only. Do you get it? Enjoy.

10-1 Exercise:

Tonight I let the big man down, and it rained.

His face, when I broke the news, was death.

Clouds gathered on his brow and tears fell.

“She went peacefully. There wasn’t much blood.”

He wouldn’t even look at me.

I closed my eyes tightly.

He shook his head.

The rain fell.

He knew.

“Sorry.”

 

Questions Exercise:

Is there enough room? Can we breathe? Where’s the light? Is there a way out? Does your phone work? Where’s our guide? Was this supposed to happen? Is this part of the tour? Is it day? Is it night? How long has it been? Do you have a watch? Can you see me? Do you have any food? Are you as hungry as I am? How long has it been now? Are they coming back? Does anyone know we’re here? Are you afraid? Why are you breathing so hard? Is anyone there? Hello? Are you sure your phone doesn’t work? Can you try? Are you looking for a way out? Is that your hand? Are you really walking forward? Do you see anything? Hello? Can you hear me calling? Where are you? Hello? Where are you? Is this a trick? Am I alone? Are you there? Hello? Hello? Hello?

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