Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Necessity is the Mother of Invention – Boost Your Creativity with Restrictions

Nearly seven years ago I had a stroke and lost the use of my right arm. Think of how many things you need two hands for! I can’t do up zips or tie shoe laces for example.

But the restriction has made me find other ways of doing things. It’s surprising what you can do if you think creatively. Clothes that need hand washing aren’t too hard, but how do you wring them out? Roll them in a towel, lay the roll on the kitchen floor and walk up and down on it!


Have you ever tried to free write with no starting point? How long does your mind float about before deciding what to write? Limit yourself to a subject, and the words come much easier.


In the same way, your characters have to have restrictions or limitations. They create the crises that give the reader the emotional roller-coaster that grips them. When I first wrote the plot for my science fiction novel Flight of the Kestrel: Intruders, it was about a small space ship with a crew of eleven who all liked each other and obeyed orders. Yes, they had adventures, but how boring! And how unrealistic. Would you believe eleven men, stuck in a small ship, on patrol for weeks, never falling out or getting upset?


Put your characters in limiting situations so they have to find a way out. Ask ‘What if?’ What if the car breaks down? What if the policeman doesn’t believe him? What if they arrive too late?


You can ask ‘What if?’ of yourself too, when it comes to finding ways to promote your work. Yes, we know about social media etc. But what if there was no internet? What else could you do? Why not do it as well?

Sometimes restrictions are just what your creativity needs to boost it to greater heights. Don’t sit in front of a blank page/screen trying to decide what to write. Make a narrower channel and see where it takes you.

Ann Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at

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