Creativity and Finding an Outlet

Creativity Sessions writing process. Evening Satellite Publishing.

Creativity is tricky. Trying to be creative is even trickier.

In recent months, I’ve found myself searching for more of an outlet for my creativity. Writing stories is my first creative love, but the fact is that it comes with several limitations, some of which I may be unnecessarily imposing on myself.

I also struggle with a lot of the mental aspects of sharing my creativity with others, especially through social media. How much sharing is too much, too revealing, too damaging to my own privacy? Ideas run through my head all the time, and I feel compelled to share them with people, but I often don’t, or perhaps more often I share them in person with my wife or my friends. That type of creativity sharing can be quite cathartic, but it leaves open the question of whether, and what, and how I share my creativity beyond that limited group of people.

This very post comes out of a sense of frustration that I didn’t have something else to write about. So, I’m going to do some unpacking here and see where it takes us.

Limits on My Creativity

I mentioned above that it feels like there are limits to my creative outlet in writing stories. As soon as I wrote that, I thought that many of those limits must be self-imposed, so I’d like to examine them. In no particular order:

  1. Not enough time
  2. Worries over my copyright
  3. Keeping ideas about my fantasy world-building close to the vest
  4. Limited formats
  5. Limited platform(s)

Five off the top of my head; not bad. That should be enough to delve into for a bit.

Not enough time

I’m not a full-time writer and likely will not be in the foreseeable future, so this limitation is partially by circumstance. However, I think it’s also due in part to the way in which I approach writing. I primarily write novels or at least short stories, and so sitting down to write 100 words doesn’t feel like much of an accomplishment.

Now, look, I fully realize that every little bit counts towards the greater goal. I get all the writing mantras. But it can be difficult to maintain that steadfastness day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month as you churn over a longer story.

Worries over copyright / protecting my ideas

I’m combining items two and three, because they feel very much related, although still different

Worries over copyright infringement is not easy to navigate, especially online, as I discussed last week. But even beyond the notion of someone stealing my work, I’m quite protective of my creative ideas, especially when it comes to my world-building universe.

With enough prompting, I can quite easily ramble about the myriad ideas I have for my fantasy universe, but I sometimes worry that speaking my ideas out loud will… release them from my mind. As if the words roll off my tongue and the ideas themselves evaporate.

Strange, I know. I’ve learned to be careful about how much I reveal about my stories, my ideas, and where I might take them, because I don’t want to lose the drive to write them down. Speaking them out loud is a form of sharing them with the world, but I know I can develop them in so much more depth and with more coherence if I write them down. So, I try to “save” my ideas for my writing, or maybe only discuss certain aspects of them, if I want to workshop them with someone I trust.

Another piece of “protecting” my ideas springs to mind.

Limited formats / platforms

I’m also combining items four and five.

I realize that there are tons of platforms out there where I can publish stories for various online communities to read. Wattpad, Tumblr, Reddit, IngramSpark, Kindle, this blog… and literally hundreds or thousands of other websites I cannot even name.

But does publishing my story in one space restrict me from another? Is a freemium story platform like Wattpad too open to exploitation of my ideas? Is there just too much damn content online for any of this to matter? I have no clue.

Creative Limits

If you couldn’t tell, I’m in the process of reassessing how I write and publish my stories. I love the idea of publishing novels, and I will continue to strive for that. But if I’m only publishing a novel once in a blue moon, then where do the rest of my ideas go? Is there somewhere else I can put them to get them into the world without feeling exposed — to copyright infringement, or loss of my ideas to the ether, or whatever else?

These questions bug me, so to this point I’ve resigned myself to the full self-publishing process with novels, novellas, or short stories, because it feels more official, and safer.

But I think I can find something else to fill the drawn-out in-between spaces — spaces in my head, in my publishing schedule, in my day-to-day schedule where smaller ideas can be nurtured and thrive. I just don’t know what yet.

Steve D

The 4 Most Frustrating Story Hang-Ups for Writers

Creativity Sessions writing process. Evening Satellite Publishing.

As a writer, it feels great to find your rhythm with a story. You’re flying along the keyboard — or paper, or vellum — and the words seem to shoot from your fingers. You don’t even seem to have the same tiredness in your hands, or the ink stains on your pinky that you so often get with less fruitful writing ventures.

But we all know those high-flying moments are the anomalies when writing a long piece, like a novella.

More often, you find yourself caught up in some absurdly minute detail that you simply cannot leave behind until you find the perfect word, even if it’s just one among tens of thousands.

These hang-ups can be entirely derailing to a decent writing flow, but you’re not the only one it happens to. Here are a handful of the more frustrating writing hang-ups we’ve all likely encountered.

#1 – That. Perfect. Term. Word.

I mentioned it above, and we’ve all been there. How many times have you searched through a thesaurus to find just the right phrasing? Or some alliterative flair? (I know that wasn’t alliteration, but I didn’t feel like spending several minutes looking for a synonym for flair.) Or even the word with the right etymological root to fit the style of your story?

The answer is too many times. But we’ll all do it again.

#2 – An NPC’s Name, or Clothes, or particular shade of brown hair

I know, I know, writers aren’t supposed to refer to their own creations as “non-playable characters”. Every character is the hero of their own journey, et cetera. But every story has them — characters that you know for a fact you will never see again, but because they’ve met your Main Character in some backwater inn and happen to have a bit of knowledge to help your Main continue their quest, they just have to have a name, and maybe a few clothing descriptors. And a cool tattoo. And strangely penetrating eyes that seem to hide deep-seeded pain. Aaaaaand now you’re writing a short story for them.

I suppose that’s what name generators are for.

#3 – The Dreaded Scene Transition

I definitely struggle with this one. You’re writing a scene that you know has to take your characters to the next place, or the next plot point, but you just can’t seem to make the turn. So it feels like you only have two options: let the transition drag on for another several paragraphs, detailing every step each of your characters are taking, throwing in random chit-chat dialogue that, while entertaining, is certainly not getting them anywhere fast, and overall just refusing to end the current train of thought…

Or you could make an awkward narrative jump that feels like you’re leaving something behind, but you’re not quite sure what. And now you just have to move on.

#4 – The Scene that Grows Too Big

This is sort of the opposite of number three, where a scene grows far beyond what you had intended, either in length, or scope, or even in its emotional weightiness. Maybe some of you wouldn’t consider this a hang-up, but it can be disruptive if it no longer lets your narrative flow in the way you had it outlined. That’s when the Dreaded Scene Transition hits, but you can’t just delete all that great work! So maybe you reform it until it flows better. Or you leave it and change your outline!

More Hang-Ups!

Those are just four potential hang-ups that I definitely run into every now and then, and I’d bet a lot of other writers do, too. Leave a comment with your “favorite” storytelling hang-ups!

Steve D

When Rewriting is more Efficient than Revising

Although I haven’t officially updated you all on my writing progress for April (that’s next week), I can tell you that I have moved on to the second draft of “The Herb Witch”.

Since I wrote the first draft by hand in a journal, I’m now transcribing it to the old electronic typewriter (PC) and making edits along the way. Here’s why this type of rewrite is more efficient than revising a single draft.

Continue reading “When Rewriting is more Efficient than Revising”

Writing a Novel vs. Writing a Short Story

For the first time in my authorly endeavors, I have two major works in progress… in progress.

I’m 60k words into The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy, a sequel-ish novel of 180-200k words that I know I’m not finishing this year.

Simultaneously, I’m 6k words into a duology/novella of about 60k words that I damn well better finish this year.

And after much deliberation and introspection, I can confirm: writing a short story is different from writing a novel. Continue reading “Writing a Novel vs. Writing a Short Story”

Using Side Characters to Provide Perspective

Perspective can be one of the most important aspects of writing an in-depth, detailed narrative, especially when world building is a big part of your writing.

World building is the reason I started writing.

So, that means sometimes I want to write about the story underneath the plot–the cultural or historical context, even if it just pertains to one character’s arc. Continue reading “Using Side Characters to Provide Perspective”

Building Characters To Hide Yourself Within

I’ve always admired Stevie’s ‘Creativity Sessions’ for their purity of endeavor; I don’t think about writing so much as I feel burdened by the drive to write or by the procrastination instead of writing. I’ve accepted this lack in my self – always more emotion than logic, always more flailing than finesse. In an effort to find some middle ground, I thought I’d craft one of these for myself and see how it feels, you know? So tell me how I do in this, my personal step-by-step process of character building:

BLUEPRINTS Continue reading “Building Characters To Hide Yourself Within”

How Pantsing Makes Revising Harder than It Needs to Be

That’s right, I said it. My semi-pantser model of writing the early drafts of WoEM has become a bit of an annoyance. I think I have been converted to a planner.

Now that I’m well into of my revisions — in the final third of my story — my somewhat free-wheeling outline style has come back to bite me.

Luckily, I found a somewhat easy way to fix it… and avoid it in the future. Continue reading “How Pantsing Makes Revising Harder than It Needs to Be”

Creativity Sessions: Finding a Character’s Heart

Last Friday, I touched on the changes that were beginning to manifest in the third draft of The Warden of Everfeld: Memento.

As one of two leading protagonists in the novel, I knew that Jaed’s characterization was paramount to both a well-balanced story, and an enjoyable read. Achieving that has been easier said than done.

Continue reading “Creativity Sessions: Finding a Character’s Heart”

Creativity Sessions: Writing Social Issues into Your Story

Throughout my revision process for The Warden of Everfeld: Memento, I have continually questioned the information I am presenting in my story. Is this detail pertinent to the scene? Does the reader care/need to know this? How does this trait affect the character’s personality?

These questions are vital for building real, lifelike characters while also maintaining a fluid and natural story arc. However, at times I have wondered if the trauma or suffering I put my characters through is necessary to tell the larger story. Continue reading “Creativity Sessions: Writing Social Issues into Your Story”

Writing Lesson #64: World-Building Offers Many Avenues of Storytelling — Use Them

cs-thought-bubble

NaNo 2016 got off to a less-than-stellar start for me. For a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the shock induced by the presidential election, I was not focused on writing my second novel, The Warden of Everfeld: Legacy. Part of me feels like I’m jumping ahead too much, considering my first significant round of revisions looms for part one, The Warden of EVerfeld: Memento.

I tend to second-guess myself in such ways. The point is, I haven’t advanced WoEL much beyond the 5,000 words I covered over the first eight days or so. Instead of wallowing in my own thought process, I decided to change focus. Continue reading “Writing Lesson #64: World-Building Offers Many Avenues of Storytelling — Use Them”