Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blockbusting for Writers Post 1: Not Writing a Novel

I have recently gone back to a book I read in grad school called Conceptual Blockbusting by James L. Adams. This book, which discusses all sorts of mental blocks that get in the way of our creativity, was the required textbook for a creativity seminar I took my first year. At the time, I was far more interested in how creativity related to design and product development, but now that I am rereading the book, I find that the principles apply to writing as well.

Today, the topic that's on my mind is a perceptual block: the tendency to limit the scope of a problem. Adams uses the 9-dot problem as an example in his book.

9-Dot Problem
Using four straight lines, connect all nine dots.

What does this have to do with writing, you ask? Simple: it's our tendency to limit the problem too much that makes us unable to see the solution. In terms of writing, that might mean defining what the end-result will be before you've put anything down on paper. Like when you set out to write a memoir but really what comes out is a short story about a dragon and a princess. The Intern has a great post on this very topic: books that aren't really books.

As for me, I'm doing whatever I can to avoid limiting my current problem... er, project. At the moment I know this:
  1. There is a character.
  2. There are pieces of scenes involving this character written on index cards.
  3. There is a secret.
The trick, of course, is figuring out how to make these pieces hang together enough so that I can hand in something for my writing workshop tonight.

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