Boxes and Imagination Muscles

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The past few weeks have seen a lot of my old neuroses come to fore. Ones I thought I had legitimately dealt with, not buried. So that’s been fun. It has also been illuminating.

My current course instructor is not an individual who believes in detailed instructions. Or back information. Or, seemingly, explanations of any kind. Simple assignments are taking me hours because I obsess over the fact that I don’t know what he wants and I’m not sure if what I’m creating is what is expected.

I’ve always been this student: Give me a detailed list of what you want and expect and I can deliver. Easily. Quickly. Give me a vague, open-ended, self-directed assignment and I will struggle. Endlessly. Miserably. I like to have boxes that I can check off. They make me feel like I’m making progress and hitting targets.

Now, the correlation to my writing…obviously, fiction writing doesn’t come with a straight set of boxes to check off as you write. Sure, there’s the requisite setting creation, character fleshing, genre conventions, and plot points (usually) that need to be tackled, but beyond that there’s a lot of freedom. Much of writing involves vague, open-ended, self-directed ideas that cause me to flounder.

Instead of disheartening myself with this moment of epiphany, I’ve decided that the current issues I’m having with maintaining and completing projects is simply a lack of muscle. I’ve been so thoroughly trained to create and complete according to others’ specifications that my own imagination muscles have atrophied. Even here on the blog there’s a mandate in terms of content. Sure, I can write about whatever I want, but there’s an expectation that it my topic covers writing. It’s a box for me to check off.

Perhaps these vague assignment write-ups are an opportunity for me to trust my instincts and challenge myself to let my imagination go. Gosh it’s stressful, but I’m willing to try. If it helps me in the long run I am all for it.

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