August 6th, 2010

post image: lightbulbCars are obvious. Humans like to move around a lot and, as a species, we're predisposed to solving problems as quickly and efficiently as possible. So what could be more obvious than inventing an object that moves around under its own power, carries people and cargo, and only costs between ten and ninety percent of each paycheck? If cars had never been invented, it's likely you would have come up with the idea just this morning.

Unfortunately, most creative ideas appear brain-dead obvious in hindsight. Why of course we came up with refrigerators, tube socks, and the printing press! We can't imagine our lives without them. But when it comes to looking forward, things get a bit more difficult. Sure, anyone can read a Harry Potter book and think, "Heck, I could've come up with that!" But the odds are: no, you probably couldn't. And neither could I.

The lack of recent public updates on my own creative process is in direct correlation with my own inability to peer into the future and come up with anything worthwhile. I've struggled off and on (or, more accurately, off and on and on and on and on) with writer's block (if that's the right term). This isn't an uncommon affliction and I'm confident I'll get over it at some point. (The way I'm confident I'll pick six winning lottery numbers someday.)

Oddly enough, though, over the last few weeks I've struggled more with the struggle itself---a meta-struggle of sorts. I've become fascinated by the entire concept of writer's block. The creative process is just that: creative. We, as fiction writers, by definition get to make it all up as we go. There shouldn't be any problem with that at all. I mean, what could be easier than writing about anything? In fact, to prove my point, I'm going to try it now. Here goes:

Mr. Sanders stepped out of the car, his left foot plunging into a puddle. "Not again!" he groaned through clenched teeth. The rain had been relentless the past few days and Mr. Sanders seemed to have developed a unique talent for parking next to flooded potholes. He was late for work, of course, making this all the more annoying.

He shook the excess water from his shoe as he muttered a few more curses under his breath. He closed his car door and began his daily plod through the parking lot to the front door of his office. Only a few steps into his trek he heard a low, rumbling sound. Was that thunder? It could be. He saw lightning in the distance on the way to work. But something in the back of his mind told him it wasn't thunder. He took a few more steps and he heard it again, though this time louder and more clearly. It wasn't thunder. It sounded more like . . . like . . . no, it couldn't be. An animal growling that loudly and deeply would have to be huge.

Mr. Sanders covered a few more yards when the growling sound was unmistakable. He turned to see a huge dragon entering the parking lot, vast wings outstretched, and a nasty look in its eye. Mr. Sanders froze in his tracks, no longer worried about his drenched sock. The dragon moved closer; in fact, it seemed to be coming right toward him. Alarmed, though not yet frightened, Mr. Sanders' mind raced through his options. "I could run," he thought. "Or call for help. I'm sure there's a cop nearby. A dragon-slaying cop." He closed his eyes and shook his head. The dragon approached. "Think! Think!" he said to himself, though this time out loud. It was becoming apparent to Mr. Sanders that the only solution to this problem was to fight.

He set down his briefcase, opened it up, and pulled out a longsword, shield, and full body armor. "And I almost didn't pack this stuff this morning!" he thought to himself. The dragon picked up speed as he donned his gear. Just as he at least pulled on his helmet, the dragon was upon him! He raised his sword to strike, but the dragon was too quick: it swiped the weapon from his hand and it skirted across the parking lot. The dragon raised it's clawed hand for a second strike--certain doom for our Mr. Sanders--when the most extraordinary thing happened. Mr. Sanders picked up his brief case, held it out with both hands, and just as the dragon attacked, he slammed it shut around the dragon, and clicked the lock shut.

He continued his journey to the front door, thinking of his day ahead and what other adventures might beset him when he had the most horrible thought.

"I bet he eats my lunch!"

Um, okay. That actually helped me remember what my problem is. Anyone can make up any kind of story like that on the spot. Making up a good story is the tricky part. Now I know why I've been at this so long and have so little to show for it. Dang. The creative process is hard.

But I'm not going to let that stop me. If I keep at it, sooner or later something good's bound to happen. Right?


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4 Responses to “The Creative Process”

  1. Hrmm...actually, I think Mr. Sanders's story might actually be the start of something..."Dragon Tails, and Bits and Pieces of Assorted Other Monsters". Or something.

    Seriously, I know I struggle with lacking creative inspiration, and my (wonderful, and wonderfully talented) friends urge me to "just write!"—as you just did. But it seems not to be quite so simple.

    However, you've given me an idea for the next time I'm in the mood to write, and the creative river has run dry: Start with a mundane moment (stepping out of the car) and see just how fantastic (as the adjective form of "fantasy") I can get in 500 words.

    Thanks for the chuckle, Charlie...and good luck getting the creative tap turned on again!

  2. Texas Deb says:

    I realize it is a regulation BOOK you are after Charlie Boy, but reading this blog (and of course, the elseother one) has me realizing - something good is ALREADY happening here. Your writing. In public where it belongs.

    Hope the other format eventually unfolds itself for you as well - I have faith that it will - and in the meantime I am grateful to get an occasional dose of Charlie right here!

  3. hillsc says:

    My apologies for the late appearance of the previous two comments. I had mis-checked a moderation setting, but all is well.

    Welcome Steve! (And Welcome "back" Texas Deb!)

  4. [...] as it turns out, good fiction really CAN'T be whatever I want. The reader still requires plausibility and consistency. And drawing a clear map of one of my most [...]