Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Narrow My Choices, Please!

As 2012 begins, planning is on most everybody’s mind. It’s ironic but for creative people such as writers this “left brain” item is very important. 

I’ve had my share of moments of paralyzing anxiety before the blank page, and I’ve also experienced those moments of “flow,” when my narrative seemed to hum along as if it were a speedboat on a sea of glass--with me at the helm in complete control. In every case (far too few!) flow happened after I had turned my material every which way but loose. 

In other words, after I had planned . . . and worked my plan.

I learned a long time ago that planning functions as a kind of constraint on the creative process, and in the right context that is actually a good thing.

When a painter decides to use acrylics rather than oils, or to paint a landscape rather than a still life, he’s placing a constraint on his work. He’s narrowing the universe of possibilities, but more important, he’s reducing the fright he feels when he faces that blank canvas. 

Similarly, planning constrains the writer, reduces her anxiety, and frees her to create. Planning can be as simple as deciding when to write and where, or settling on a certain genre or character. 

Try it and see if this is true for you: the more structure you create for yourself— the more limits you impose—the more freely creative you’ll be. Of course, it’s possible to strait-jacket yourself. Should you do that, you’ll certainly know it.

It’s as if all that left brain stuff is a clutch that lets you smoothly shift into your creative gear. You can’t plan when that magic will happen, but you can plan for it to happen.

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