Lead Narrative Designer and all-round business person at Lo-Fi Games, with a speciality in writing for non-linear and open-world games.
Do you know what one of my biggest career-related fears is? I specifically say career-related because obviously swimming with sharks, finding a spider in my shoe or accidentally eating a mouldy yogurt are also pretty bad things.
But, my career-related fear as a writer is that I’ve used up my small well of creativity. My creativity was finite and I only had so many ideas at my mind’s disposal. I’m not naturally the most creative person. My favourite subject in school was maths. Sometimes, when I’m struggling with writing, I start reconciling accounts as a break. I like numbers, numbers do what you tell them to; ideas don’t come to me so easily.
Maybe they don’t come to any writers that easily? Maybe we all just side eye eachother, jealous at eachother’s apparent prowess at churning masterpieces out at will. Regardless, I’ve proved to myself that good ideas ARE in my head somewhere. But let’s just say they need beating out with a stick. With nails in it.
I put myself under alot of pressure to write good stuff. Sometimes that stuff just doesn’t want to budge. So I had a look for things that might inspire me and defeat the dreaded writers block… and I took an improv course.
So, improv was cringingly embarrassing and I hated it… but I also loved it? Sometimes you’ve gotta do things that scare you, push you out of your comfort zone. It may be unpleasant, but only in times of pain and hardship do we get the opportunity to grow the most… right?
Improv was hilarious and it was so silly that my face hurt with laughter. But more importantly, it reminded me how to think up new ideas without judging them; instead to grab them as they appear and work from them rather than deny them. And after telling stories of lizardmen wars and after walking through portals inside imaginary whale mouths, I remembered that despite my imposter syndrome, there are actually some pretty freaky ideas inside this head of mine. I’m perfectly capable of coming up with creative ideas on the spot.
There’s also something quite liberating about letting go, goofing around like a child and allowing your ideas to flow without judgement. Not only this, but some of the methods I learned could easily be adapted to help kickstart creativity in other arts too.
Although improv is heavily partner reliant, I still believe most of the above exercises, even alone, are brilliant for pulling us out of a ‘dry’ spell or block in creativity. At the very least, they’re useful reminders to turn off our ‘judging mind’ and find our way back to our thinking zone.
All in all, it was tough letting go but I’m glad I tried improv. Despite being THE most important thing to remember with writing, I frequently forget to just… write. Let the ideas flow. Instead, I put pressure on myself, sitting head in my hands as I try to will out great ideas. You can’t force out good ideas without wading through and laughing at the shitty ones first. Cool ideas don’t appear out of thin air. They need to evolve.
So… I won’t be doing it again, I’m not that extroverted. BUT… I will be watching a lot of improv as it’s funny as heck.
Takeaway: Don’t be afraid of making ideas that suck.