People tell us to think outside the box. But you can’t do that without a box to start with.
When I begin a new drawing or comic strip, I need the edges first. The simple act of outlining the box gives my brain purpose. Before this, I’m faced with a blank paper and limitless possibilities. And honestly, that stresses me out.
Only by focusing on a small space can I start to create. Oftentimes, I find myself wanting to break through the borders I so recently inked. Yet it’s a line I know I am crossing. A venture outside the norm.
The same is true when starting up a work of fiction. If I sit down at my desk to “write a story”, nothing happens. There is no starting point.
I’m a big fan of fiction anthologies. These great publications center their stories around a theme. This becomes the seed from which ideas sprout. Even if my writing doesn’t get accepted, the story I create is usually one of my favorites.
As a teacher, I find the same thing in my classroom. Students baulk at open ended assignments, yet thrive on specific prompts. It’s as if your brain is trying to do two things at once — come up with an idea and also write with skill and creativity. Asking it to do both results in an overload.
A little limitation, the lines drawn to create a box, sometimes lead to a fruitful conclusion.