What makes the difference between $2.00 and $0.20?
THE BENEFITS OF CREATIVE WRITING
My grandfather (R.I.P.) once told me, “Take that rage and put it on a page.” I never forgot that quote, and to this day I continue to use this as inspiration for self-therapy. A lot of people do not realize the profound psychological effects of creative writing. When you write your thoughts or your feelings on a piece of paper, you are not only telling a story; you are also clearing out the system in which we function on. When I am unhappy about something, I often find myself writing a song, a poem, or a short story that often has nothing to do with the issue in question. However, what is the psychological value of doing this? To be honest, I would say that about 80 percent of those things I write down are never read, and most likely will never be read. In fact, they will probably sit on my hard drive for years before I ever see them. However, when you write, you are clearing the subconscious gunk out of your existence and placing it onto a sheet of paper. I have done analyses of my writings, and have found that often what seems to be a short story based on fiction is actually a subconscious mechanism for my brain to clear itself out. James Hetfield is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the band: Metallica. He is also the primary writer, and is attributed as the author of around 90 percent of their songs. He eventually found himself in rehabilitation for drug abuse, and upon returning to songs he had written years before his induction into a clean life, he realized that a lot of the songs he had written were actually about drugs – and he never intended it to be that way. An example is the song: “Master Of Puppets.” “End of passion play, Crumbling away, I’m your source of self-destruction, Have your breakfast on a mirror.” These seemingly infamous words may sound like jargon, and to him they were…until he examined them in rehabilitation and found these songs were written about cocaine! “Have your breakfast on a mirror,” as one, represents this method.
ALLOWING THE VENT
So, what’s my advice? Allow yourself to vent. Next time you feel you are upset, or angry, or even happy, you should write something down. Do not write about what it is; let your subconscious guide you into writing something that is a creative story or a poem. The more abstract you can be, the more likely you are to heal. And you may write something that is actually worth reading – even if just by you and you alone. Let us use a broad example: Donald Trump. Are you pissed off about what Trump is doing? Or are you pissed off about what he isn’t doing? Well, do not write about Trump; do not even write about politics. Just write! Clear your head and let your hand do the work. Write a short story, and think of it as a hidden message. That is the point of creative writing: allowing a sense of mystery and symbolism in your work. I think Eminem said it best: “These songs are inkblots.”
THEY ARE INKBLOTS
The point of writing is to hide what you are really talking about. The goal is to get something out to the world that is so abstract that the meaning is subjective. In other words, “inkblots.” Let the reader decide what the writing is about, rather than trying to convince them of the topic. That way, it is up to the reader to understand the nature of the content. I often like to think of it as, what would happen if this piece of work was examined in an English Composition class one hundred years from now? I would want a teacher to ask me to write an essay on what the symbolism behind so-and-so is; what the writer was implying when he wrote so-and-so. Think back to English class and recall the many books we had to read, and the many questions we had to answer. They were all subjective, and that is what makes those books worth reading. Writing is therapeutic if done correctly. I would say you should be writing something new every day. If you have an iPhone, use the “Notes” section to document various poems or songs; write short stories using that function. Then, return to it days or weeks later and try to figure out what you were talking about. Can you uncover your own thoughts in words that may seem abstract? And did you accomplish something? I would actually go ahead and write at the way end: a section on how you feel after you wrote that piece. Do you feel alleviated? Do you feel more angry than you originally were?
EXAMINING TWO WRITING STYLES
But the truth is, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to plan. However, there are a number of different ways to do this. Some people like to plan; others like me are willing to just jump right in and get things going, allowing it to “flow.” We will be examining these two polar opposites using what I call “writer personas.” “The Planner” is someone who starts with an idea, followed by a short three-paragraph synopsis (often preceded by an outline that consists of bulleted points), and then a few revisions of the synopsis, followed by a lengthy treatment. Though there is nothing wrong with this type of style, it does negate a bit of the purpose of creative writing. I feel that creative writing cannot be planned or organized. I do understand the idea of coming up with a treatment for your story, or a general idea of what you are writing, but in the words of Steven King: “Write 500 words at a time and never read what you wrote; just write.” The pros are that you will know exactly what the story is about, and you will be able to easily synthesize plot points, character backstories, settings, and chances are you will find yourself writing a great piece. The cons are that sometimes it is just as bad to over-prepare as it is to under-prepare. My advice for this type of writing is to leave in a lot of “blanks.” By that I mean, plan to an extent, but also plan for improvisation. If you have a strong character backstory, is there a way to add to it as you progress? Is a good guy who was planned to be the hero perhaps someone who can end up the enemy in some way?
In other words, plan…but also plan for improvisation!
Here’s where I come in, as I am one of these. I begin with an idea and I let the story envelop me. It can be problematic because often you are left with no real structure. As illustrated in my upcoming release (a sequel to the infamous “Port Risk”), there was a lot of great content – the kind that makes you thrilled and sick to your stomach at the same time. However, because I had no idea where I was headed with it, I ended up stopping the writing process for over three months, and it sat there on my hard drive collecting dust. In the end, I came up with a great twist ending, but you can tell by reading it that it just was not on-point. The other problem with this method of writing is that it often causes a severe lack of content. I freewrite with every book and every story; there is no “planning” involved – ever. This is probably why none of my books ever exceed 20,000 words: without planning, I am forced to write based on my mood. However, that is where the advantage of freewriting comes in! Your mood will change every day; your mindset will also change. This allows your brain to come up with new ideas based on emotion, and that is quite possibly the most powerful facet of freewriting: you are relying on your daily rhythm, and the emotions you feel will pour out onto that page.
Though you may be stuck with less structure and content, it’s worth its salt.
IS THERE A RIGHT ONE?
That’s for you to decide. I suggest trying both.
See which you are comfortable with. If you are a seasoned writer, chances are you will know which utilizes your skills the best. Sometimes trusting your gut is the answer, but be prepared for a lot of “waiting around.” Other times, planning to a tee will give you plenty of content and a great setting/backstory for each character, but the emotion may be lacking. Either way, see which works for you and trust your instincts – always!