Sunday, April 8, 2012

Day 24: Know Your Limits -- Then Push Past Them

In a 2009 Wired editorial on "Design Under Constraint," creative director Scott Dadich talks about the limits inherent in filling a magazine page with anything other than text and designs. It's still not economically feasible to add video or sound to a printed page, but what Dadich understands is that every page offers the opportunity to overcome its apparent limits. ( design/magazine/17-03/dp_intro)

As writers, we push past the limits of a page every day to build our writing practice. In fact, we only limit ourselves by adopting restrictive ideas about inherent abilities, judging whether our writing is "good or bad" and by seeking a critical view of our writing when we are too vulnerable. Unfortunately, seeking criticism too soon can reinforce a false sense of inferiority.

Limits and goals can fence us in only if we allow them to build a brick wall around our imaginations. As a writer, it's possible to tear out the bricks, but it takes less time if you start with a picket fence that you can squeeze through.

One way to get beyond false restrictions is by writing in a genre or style that you despise or fear-- because some teacher or mentor in your past told you not "to go there." Try a page of science fiction, a limerick or a romantic scene. I know many of you flinched at the last one, but going beyond the limits of your prejudices can help you find a character's voice or put a false limit behind you.

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