Goldilocks and the Three Struggles of Creativity: Oceans, Deserts and Mountaintops (Oh, My!)

Hello Friend’s,

Are you a writer who struggles with the highs and lows of creativity? No – don’t leave!!  I really couldn’t think of a better opening for this article.

Of course, writers are plagued by creative pitfalls, no denying that. The writing mind is like living in a hut with Goldilocks, running amuck from “Too many ideas! Oooh, myyy!” to “I’ve got nothin’. Bye.”, or “Damn the critiques! I’ll do what I want.”

All three scenarios can have you shlumping around in your pajamas for a month, with your only portal of light, or air, being the tiny hole where your nose pokes out of your hoodie, because you couldn’t cinch it any tighter. Argh!

While this is all true, most writers would not trade their creative woes away for something else. We love our art, our craft, our passion. The creative mind of a writer is like no other. We can be anywhere, doing multiple things at once, while holding a conversation, and Goldielocks is bouncing on the bed in our head, reciting storylines! (or crying)

Sounds a bit much, but it’s often true. You may ask yourself whether it’s possible to be, perhaps, a little too creative? Are we all a little cray-cray?

Few people ask this question. And it depends on what exactly anyone means by too creative. More often, than not, people delving into their creative side find themselves seeking inspiration and guidance from external sources to get the creative juices flowing again in the wastelands of our minds.

But, yes, there are times when writers can feel we are tossing about in a crazy ocean of creativity, awash in tides of ideas with insufficient time or outlets to capture and develop them all.

Fear of losing great ideas to the depths of our turbulent minds can cause panic. We may start several projects at once in a frantic effort to preserve ideas and give them the first breaths of life. Suddenly, we become spread too thin, finishing little to nothing, and feeling completely overwhelmed.

The crazy cycles of creativity can eventually leave us frustrated, exhausted, and most likely ineffectual. So, in case you haven’t read any writting tips lately, I’ve written my top three tips to help get that lunatic, Goldie, under control

1) Oceans of Ideas:

If you find yourself drowning in an ocean of ideas, fearful of having these gems sink away to the abyss – first, rejoice! You are fortunate to have so many concepts to deal with. It can also be overwhelming to the point of shutting down effective productivity. And as fun as it may be to constantly start new projects, it can cause you to never complete any of them.

The key to calming your chaotic ocean of ideas and actually see your writing projects through to satisfying ends is to simplify, organize, and focus.

Instead of starting a multitude of projects focus on one (maybe two, to keep stagnation at bay) and see it through to completion.

This may feel extremely difficult, at first, if your habit is to have many things going at once. There is really nothing, at all, wrong with working on more than one project at a time, many writers are successful at it. But if you never seem to complete them, or it takes much longer than you would like, it may be a good idea to scale down.

Get a little notebook dedicated to story or poem ideas. As the ideas pop in, jot a few brief notes for future reference, such as, short plot summaries, brief character descriptions, or scene outlines. In other words, important tidbits, you don’t want to forget.

Handy and ready reminders to utilize when you are set to plunge into your next WIP will clear the clutter from your head, keep you organized, and allow you to focus on the immediate project.

2) Deserts of Desolation:

In a creative drought, the ability to conjure fresh, exciting ideas seems to evaporate. For a creative mind this mental dry spell feels like being lost, wandering in a hopeless desert landscape. The lack of ideas is far worse than drowning in overabundance. Though it may be a comfort to know many writers suffer from these lackluster voids of uninspired inertia, it doesn’t make it any less of a bummer.

But don’t despair, wail, moan, or chunk down mounds of poptarts for more than a few days, anyway. The only way out of the desert is to drag yourself through it. This does not mean you must sit in front of your key board everyday, pounding on it like a brainless ape, or Jack Torrance, for that matter.

No. I’m a much better advice giver than that!

This is a journey of nourishment. As dried up as your brain may seem, you can coax it back to a writers’ fantasyland, where waterfalls of inspiration await. Here’s how you can nurse your creativity back to health over the course of …well, we’ll let your brain decide.

1. Take naps (rest rejuvinates the brain)

2. Eat some nuts (brain food)

3. Listen to music that moves you

4. Shop for a few books, one fiction, one poetry, and one craft (writing)

5. Make green tea (improves brain function/slows brain aging)

6. Read for pleasure

7. Take walks

8. Love on your cat/dog

9. Eat a delicious treat

10. Limit social media time

11. Take a bubble bath

12. Do something on your bucket list

13. Cook delicious meals

14. Spend time with someone you love

15. Doodle in a notebook

16. Close your eyes for five minutes, breath deeply, and feel nothing but the calm within

17. Write about how you feel and what you enjoy

These activities can be done in any order, as you wish. Before long, you will experience flickers of dreamy light and hear the call of inspiration.

3)  Lonely Mountaintops:

The question of being ‘too creative’ is not only relative to creative abundance. It can also refer to the end designs of creativity. It is possible to be so uniquely creative, or sitting on the ledge of “don’t give a damn”,  that your art is unrelatable or, at least, appreciated by very few.

In either case, it can feel as though you are standing proudly on the peak of a mountaintop with blue paint on your face, shouting “Freedom!”. Invigorating in the power, but a lonely glory.

Whether or not obscurity is something to be concerned about can only be reckoned by the mind of the creative individual. If focus of importance for the writer is placed on the commercial aspect of the art, i.e., financial gain and recognition, then a shift in mindset will need to occur.

If, however, you love the freedom to thrive outside the boundaries pedestrian expectation, without a care for acknowledgement or monetary rewards – then live it up! Open the flood gates and let the waters of creativity take you where ever they may.

It’s a tough choice, picking between the joy of writing what you want and reaping the rewards of writing what is popular or trending.

My advice to your sassy Goldilocks is as follows:

Do write what you love (that’s joy of passion)

Don’t chase trends

    a) they are always changing

    b) you may not possess the skill

         and knowledge for the genre

    c) no joy or creativity exists in

         copycating for a few bucks

Do read a variety of books even if they are not in your writing genre

Do learn the basics of style and structure

Don’t obsess about writing “rules”

Do shout from the mountaintop (write your story wild and free)

Do recognize all first drafts are crap

Don’t delete anything!

Do rewrite, rewrite and rewrite to fix story holes, ensure flow and character consistency

Do read your story out loud to catch errors, hitches in flow and dialogue

In reality, you can enjoy the best of both worlds to some degree. No matter your ultimate goals with writing, and even if you tend to be very technically inclined with your structure – Write like a crazed demon first, clean up later.

One final note: Creativity should never be restricted. And who is to say, or know, what readers will go crazy for over ever changing times? You may be the one. It may not be this month, or next year, but never stop writing your passion and sharing it with the world. Goldie will approve.

Take care –

Joan❤

Wiley Writing: Interpretation of Character (Reality vs. Fiction)

Writers of fiction, and sometimes certain types of poetry, use a strong magnifying lens when creating characters for their stories. We hear of the importance of writing believable characters and the need to zero in on specific traits of each character to make them relate as fully formed people. They must have voices, behaviors and personas that feel legitimate to the reader.

Characters must not only be interesting (because they basically are the story), they must also stay true to their character throughout the length of a story, no matter the number of books they appear in. In a sense, it is a trust issue. The expectation is that readers can trust characters to behave consistently throughout the breadth of the story. Often, the only character permitted to deviate from their perceived role is the villain. Villains are, after all, full of trickery and evil.

However, if our story heros wobble too much on the rails of trustworthiness, the author will pay a price for disappointing the reader’s expectation of character consistency. Potentially, a bad review, for one.

Although the demand for realistic and trustworthy characters seems fair, it can be considered a fantastical one, a paradox of reality, in a sense, when we consider a couple of facts.

1) Real people are not exceptionally interesting, most of the time.

2) Real people do not always behave in consistent, trustworthy ways.

3) Our perceptions of real people are skewed depending on situations, preordained judgements, and the way others choose to present themselves to us.

Yeah, it is amazing we can function in real life at all when we so often cannot be certain of the authenticity of the people around us. Which is the point of this article.

It’s all about survival.

In real life, it is our natural instinct, stemming from ancient humans, to make quick judgements based initially on visual appearances, then behavioral perceptions, and lastly, personal interactions. Our ability to sniff out potential threats happens fairly fast, a natural aptitude built into our DNA, crucial to self-preservation. However, people have evolved over the past few thousand years, becoming more skilled in not only changing our physical appearance, but also excelling in the deceptive art of disguising behaviors and intentions. We don’t always know what sort of person we are dealing with.

Our instincts attempt to protect us from other people in three ways:

  1) Visual:  We look for clues of a person’s character, social status and relatability. In other words the more comfortable we are with the visual aspects of another, the more appealing they are, the more we are drawn to them, and the more likely we are to trust them. We look for for familiarity, and similarities to either ourselves or those we already trust. A process of visual typecasting, if you will.

  2) Behavorial:  Whether we realize it or not, the moment we meet someone, we are on guard, observing and absorbing every detail of their behavioral system. We subconsciously begin ticking through a mental list of likes and dislikes regarding this new person. We get “the vibe”, registering whether or not they mesh with our own personality, behaviors and even values. In just a matter of minutes we can walk away, certain we like or dislike someone. Though this first impression is not always correct.

3) Personal Interactions:  It is we begin to interact with someone on a regular basis that we forge a more realistic perspective of who they are, or at least who they are in relation to us. Love or hate them, it is our perspective, personality and the chemistry we develop (or underdevelop) with this person over a period of time that dictates how we feel about them.

Through personal interactions we can develop a solid understanding about people at work, our in-laws, etc., creating friends and foes. We can begin to feel confident that we know these people well enough to believe what we are experiencing is the reality of who they actually are. That is until they do a character dump, a sudden personality three-sixty, or several layers of their onion peel away, revealing a side of themselves we never expected. This can be either disappointing, or a wonderful revelation.

No matter how the disparity in a person’s represented persona is revealed, it can turn our personal perception of someone around or upside down, either ruining the relationship, hurting us, or potentially steering us in a more positive direction than before. Losing or gaining trust for the individual, after believing we already knew who they are over a month, or several years, of personal interactions, can really shake us up!

So, how does any of this relate to the characters writers create? And why does it matter? Submersion.

Readers read for escape, plain and simple. We want adventure, romance, action and suspense. When we decide to purchase a book, it’s like a handshake with the author. Our purchase is akin to an unwritten agreement, a contract of sorts. We have read the title, the blurb, the extended summary and possibly a slew of reviews. The book’s details have intrigued us and we are committing to the contract by putting our money down.

Trust is now on the line.

Of course, no reader can expect the content of any book will meet every literary desire on a mental tick-off list. Most are reasonable people and will give the writer a free pass here or there if the plot lagged a little, or had a hole or two. But there is one thing most readers cannot get past…

Terrible characters!

Characters are the vehicles by which the reader escapes the real world and its real people. Our desire is to dive into a fantasy experience inside the head of a realistic hero whom we trust.

This is the paradox part I mentioned earlier.

Obviously, fictional characters are not real, but they must feel real. We must be able to size them up and pass judgements on them in a matter of paragraghs. The writer’s job is intense in these early pages. They must prove their hero passes the readers three point perspicacity test: Visual, Behavioral, and Interaction. Readers must feel they can trust the hero for their story survival.

When the reader meets the hero for the first time, the desire is to form a connection, fairly quick. It is a partnership of trust that the reader understands who this character is, is able to connect or relate to them, and agrees to trust them on a journey into new world full of adventure.

As we zip along on the story rollercoaster we will learn some more secrets and anomalies about their character. These may be hard facts about our hero’s past, or a surprise secondary reason they are doing what they are doing. They can even go through a mental rough patch that has readers yelling “What the hell is wrong with you?”

This is all fine and good, because it won’t change our belief in the realism of the character or break the code of trust we have vested with them. Ultimately we trust the character to pull head out of butt, at some point, before the end of the book.

What the main character can never do is betray the reader. A character acting as the hero, and also our trusted story liaison, must never perform a surprise character dump or three-sixty their personality. As common as this may be in our real lives, it is not the reality of character we expect to experience in books.

In summary: Readers enjoy realistic characters whom they can trust for their story survival. Writers only have so many pages to bring together a handful of traits and mold a believable, relatable hero readers can connect with and trust for the duration of the story. Real people are slippery fish. Just when you think you know them they can flip on you unexpectedly – but never your story hero!

Trust and survival are key in life, as well as fiction.

Joan❤