Get Out of Your Own Way – Limitations and Creativity

censorship-610101__180In the article, How Constraints and Limitations Will Make You More Productive & Resourceful by Marelisa Fabrega, she discusses ten ways that limitations actually spur creativity and productivity.

As a creative, I wholeheartedly agree. With no limits, it seems, we can’t get out of our own way. In the article, she talks about how Jack White, the lead singer of The White Stripes, forces himself to stick to time and financial budgets, even going so far as to use lower quality instruments so he has to ‘fight’ to get the sound he wants. ‘Doing without and making do’, on a grand scale, as it were. As a fan of the group, I’m duly impressed and figuring out ways I can apply the same principles to my writing, and other areas of my life.

As a writer, I know how tempting it is to throw in a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and pretty soon, you’ve got a tiger by the tail. The blank page beckons, but limiting myself to characters, plots, twists, and turns, results in a tight, focused story, and that equals a satisfying experience for my reader. (Side note: I still remember in grade school, the English teacher talking about how you need to consider your audience when writing. Applied then, applies now.)

I’ve also written a lot of non-fiction, and this usually adheres to a word length. Often, I’ve amazed myself at just what I could pack into a 900 word magazine article.

Dwight Swain, author of Techniques of the Selling Writer, (a.ka. the Master, for me) I find, quantifies the writing process in many ways, imposing limits on how a scene should be structured, for example. Those limits have been my salvation many a day.

Short stories, in my mind, are the ultimate form of limits in literature. They’ve always been my favorite: Sherlock Holmes, O’Henry, Flannery O’Connor, Jack London and more continue to inspire me. Paradoxically, the shorter the story, the more is packed into those words. Every single one’s got to count.

A good friend of mine who creates inspired, beauteous carpentry projects, asked me last week if I ever worried about running out of time for all the ideas I had for stories; he felt the same about all the woodworking and other ideas he has for projects. I said I did, for sure. But I’m thinking that by imposing more limits on myself, I can bring more of those stories to my readers, in the time I’ve got left.

Here’s to grace under pressure.

Please share: how have limits helped your creativity and productivity?

Rebecca E. Neely is an author of stories filled with romance and suspense, and most recently, an urban fantasy series, Crossing Realms. In modern day Pittsburgh, the only hope for a clan of human guardians against an enemy draining its life force is a trio of women possessing psychic powers.

Look for The Keeper, 1st in the series, coming this Spring!

Get a FREE sneak peek of THE KEEPER right now!

Thanks for reading! Love to hear your thoughts.

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