This transcript has been adjusted to correct minor mistakes and provide you with the most up-to-date addresses for all the referenced links…
Hello, and welcome to Season 1 Episode 8 of The Write A Novel podcast.
So we all know that writing can be draining at times. Sometimes the ideas flow, and sometimes they don’t. So, this week, we’re going to look at four steps to recharge your creativity.
But first, let’s go over the writing term of the week. This week’s term is “Flanderization”.
Flanderization is the act of taking a single, usually minor or unimportant character trait and exaggerating it more and more over time until it completely consumes the character and becomes their defining characteristic.
The process is named after Ned Flanders from The Simpsons. When the show started, he was the friendly, kind neighbor who believed in strong family values, religion, and going to church. As the series went on, his religious inclinations became over-emphasized until he transformed into an obsessive zealot.
This sort of character evolution is most common in long-running comedy shows. Over time, the reasonably funny actions of well-rounded characters become old hat, and the writers find themselves making those characters more and more over-the-top and ridiculous to keep the comedy from becoming stale and repetitive.
A fantastic example of flanderization is found in the American version of The Office. Each of the characters within the first two seasons of The Office represented a workplace archetype, the type of people you would easily relate to because they’re common in almost all office settings.
As the series droned on, Michael Scott transformed from an oblivious, self-centered boss to a crazed hyperactive teller of incessant jokes. Dwight Schrute transformed from an average bootlicker, constantly agreeing with Michael and striving to be on his good side, to a psychopathic sadist who can never understand when his actions go too far.
While this process is less common in singular novels, it is certainly a potential problem that authors should watch out for when writing a series.
What do you consider to be the most grating example of flanderization? Let me know on Twitter @QJ_author, or head over to my website at TheWritersEverything.org/transcripts so that you can comment on this post directly.
Refuel Your Creativity
As writers, we all know what it feels like to be in the zone. It’s that magical time where the sky is the limit and anything is possible. The ideas just keep flowing, and you execute them all flawlessly. But sometimes… Your creativity simply… Dries up.
The aging process is certainly no friend to creativity. While pre-school and grade-school encourage, and reward, children for being creative, middle-school and high-school redirects the focus of students to uninspired statistics and facts.
Then comes the 9-5 drag, and we certainly know that employers don’t usually encourage us to take time to flex our creative muscles. The older we get, the busier we are, the more concerns we have overwhelming us constantly, and the more time we have to spend struggling to make it through this thing we call life.
No doubt you got into writing because you love being creative. So no doubt you know how frustrating it is to be looking at a blank page when your creative juices have run dry and you have no idea what to write.
Is there anything we can consciously do to revitalize and refresh our creativity so that we can return to the page with the resources we need to craft our beloved tales once more?
Today we’re going to look at four steps we can take to do just that. First, we need to have a literary intake. Second, we need to stop and smell the abstract. Third, we need to siphon our creative juices. And fourth, we need to just quit already.
Ok. So first… If you’ve ever been on a long car ride, you know that the first thing you do is go to the gas station and fill up the tank. That gas is the fuel that propels your car forward towards your destination. Eventually, however, your gas guage will reach that dreaded E. At that point, you have one of two options: end your trip prematurely, or refill the tank.
Creativity is the fuel that drives our writing. But just like gas in a car, our creativity will only last for so long before we need to refill it. If we don’t, we’ll end up stalled in the middle of our novel, without the fuel to keep us going.
Can refilling our creativity be as easy to do as filling our gas tank? To a certain extent, it can be. All we need is a solid literary intake. By literary, I mean that we need to consume the stories of others. This doesn’t necessarily have to be in novel form. It can include movies, TV shows, video games, and more.
A regular intake of stories that we love will inspire us. It’ll give us ideas for settings, characters, plots, scenes, and more.
To do this, however, requires that we do more than mindlessly sit in front of the TV watching the same old show for the 5th time in a row. We need to intake stories with the goal of identifying what we enjoy about them. Then we can build off of those elements. We can imagine what these aspects would be like from our own unique perspective.
Second, we need to stop and smell the abstract. Yes, structured storytelling is great, but it’s not the only thing that you can input for the sake of your creativity. There are literally countless other sources of inspiration available to you.
You could take a trip to a local art museum. Drawings, paintings, and sculptures are so far from story-telling as a source of self-expression, yet they are just as inspiring, if not more. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
You could listen to your favorite genres of music. Open up Pandora and set your station to play the songs you love. Personally, if you’re looking for inspiration, I’d suggest movie themes. These epic sprawling symphonies were designed to guide you through the narrative of an amazing story, and they can be just as good, if not more, in jumpstarting your creativity.
You could listen to podcasts. Try finding a few on the topic of writing, such as Helping Writers Become Authors or The Creative Penn, and allow them to expand your horizons on what you consider to be possible in your creative career.
What is the ideal source of non-storytelling input to refill your creativity? Well, that’s for you, and you alone, to identify. Experiment. Take your time. Try new and different things. Over time, you’ll figure out what on the abstract revitalizes your creativity.
The third step we need to take its to siphon our creative juices. To a certain degree, I don’t believe that any of us necessarily “lose” our creativity. Rather, we just become too busy to notice its existence. It gets put on the back burner while we focus on more pressing problems.
So how do we rediscover our creativity? Imagine someone trying to siphon gas out of a car. If they just sit there with the hose in the gas tank waiting for creativity to spew out of the vehicle, they’re going to be waiting for a long time.
What is the key to their success? They need to get it going. By putting forth a small amount of effort at the beginning, sucking the gas through the hose until it starts to pour out into their gas can, they create a cycle that will continue without continued work.
How do we siphon creativity from our head? The answer is simple. Keep a notebook, or note-taking app, with you at all times. Whenever you have even the slightest idea, write it down. It doesn’t matter if it’s just one sentence, or even a concept, like “Evil Knight who likes to bake”.
Writing these down serves three functions. First, you’re going to end up with a journal full of inspiration to fall back on whenever you feel like yours is lacking. Second, you’re going to provide your brain with concepts that it will continue to dwell on and work out subconsciously while you go about living your life, and before you know it, they’ll be full and complex, or even just integrate themselves into your future stories of their own accord.
And finally, you’re going to create a path from your brain to the page, and the more your ideas tread that path, the easier it is. Eventually, it will be like that gas siphoned out of the car. It will no longer take effort on your part to keep the ideas coming.
The fourth step you need to take to recharge your creativity is to just quit already.
We’re inundated with sensory input virtually 24/7. Our eyes scan the screens of TVs and cellphones, the pages of books and magazines. Our ears listen to the conversations of others, the music playing in the background, and the podcast we’ve been binging for the last two weeks.
If our creative mind seems to be refusing to speak to us, maybe it’s because it’s shy and the world is just TOO LOUD.
Turning it all off, taking time to let our subconscious minds silently and peacefully organize themselves, can be just what we need to give our creativity room to express itself yet again.
Consider performing activities or participating in hobbies that are rote, and thus leave the creative portions of your brain free to do whatever they like. Thus could include painting, sewing, crafting, woodworking, cleaning, mowing, lifting weights, running, etc.
As someone who has been listening to podcasts and or books almost regularly for the last ten years, I can tell you without the shadow of a doubt that the only time I’m creative is when I force myself to stop being connected, when I give my brain the chance to be alone with its thoughts.
Well, what have you found that helps you to recharge your creativity? Let me know on Twitter @QJ_author, or go to TheWritersEverything.org/transcripts and leave a comment on the appropriate post.
Character Development Question
Now it’s time for this week’s character development question, which is:
Has the character ever tried to change his nickname?
As we’ve seen in the last couple episodes, nicknames can be given for any number of reasons, both positive and negative, and characters don’t always like their nicknames. In fact, they may have such strong negative feelings about their nicknames that they actively work to convince their friends or associates to rename them.
In the Big Bang Theory, Howard actively tries to convince his astronaut Co workers to call him Rocket Man, while they choose the much less flattering nickname of Fruit Loops.
Writing Prompt of the Week
And finally, we’re going to have our writing prompt of the week. This week’s prompt is to imagine yourself embarking on an expedition inside your subconscious to search for your creativity. What do you find there? Let your imagination run wild, and let me know what you come up with on Twitter @QJ_author.
Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of The Write a Novel podcast. If you’d like to read a transcript of this episode, you can find it at TheWritersEverything.org/transcripts. If you’d like to listen to future episodes, be sure to subscribe on whatever platform you’re currently listening on, and be sure to give it a rating while you’re at it to let me know what you think of the podcast. The Writer’s Everything is also available as a free downloadable magazine. If you’d like to read it, simply go to TheWritersEverything.org/magazine, and download the issue of your choice. If you’d like access to exclusive bonus content, such as my list and review of the top Character Name Generators on the web, you can go to TheWritersEverything.org/newsletter. If you’d like to support the podcast, you can do so at Patreon.com/QJMartin. For your convenience, all the referenced links will also be in the show notes.