Even if you’re not a writer, flash fiction can be even better than journaling for getting straight to the point of your block. You can try different responses, personalities, and histories for the characters and see if it changes the scene in any way. It also gives you empathy for all of the people involved, instead of just a single reaction or a list of feelings.
Creativity and imagination require an open mind ready to receive new ideas and play with them. Many of our feelings and reactions to a situation can shut this valve off, often when we most need a creative response. The funny thing about creativity is that it responds to challenge. Present it with a preconceived idea fully accepted as truth and it will nudge at you until you explore the idea further.
Sometimes the very reason we experience a block is due to an ingrained and conditioned aversion to digging too deeply into something we don’t understand. You may be writing fiction when suddenly a character confronts you with a behaviour you don’t want to write about. Perhaps it’s your own behaviour, but it may be that of a parent or other authority. Fiction is an ideal place to explore your feelings about behaviours that you were told were acceptable but are not, or vice versa.
Don’t be afraid to let your characters explore subjects for you. Prejudice, insecurity, fear, misconception and misunderstanding, rules and religious laws, jealousy, resentment, disappointment, frustration, boredom, disillusionment – any of these can cause paralysing block if we let them control us. Why not let a character control the situation instead?
Even if you don’t write fiction, or don’t write at all, it’s worth a try. Flash fiction of no more than a page or so is great for getting straight to the point of your problem. The reason this can often work better than journaling is the feeling of directing actors on a stage. You can try different responses, personalities, and histories for the characters and see if it changes the scene in any way. It also gives you empathy for all of the people involved, instead of just a single reaction or a list of feelings.
Another reason fiction works well is that it distances you from your problem - your resentment or other negative emotions that can cloud your view of the situation are removed. Many people find it difficult to assess themselves honestly – we tend to either put a better spin on our actions or make ourselves out to be worse than we really are.
Dig back and find the root of your blocking feeling. Write about it. Now write about why you (or your character) feel this way.
What can your character do, or ask someone else to do, that will help to ease the situation? Is your character showing you that you need to change your attitude to a situation or to somebody you interact with regularly? Remember, it is far easier to change how you react to somebody’s behaviour than to try to change another person.
Simply decide for yourself that the situation or person is not important enough to cause you to block. Don’t give it power. Give that power back to yourself as an artist.
This article was first published on BellaOnline in March 2006. © Elsa Neal
Do you need help writing flash fiction? Try these books:
Writing Realistic Dialogue and Flash Fiction by Harvey Stanbrough