Not long ago, a group of long-time friends and I got together over a delicious chili casserole (mild) and caught up with one another.
We often share something creative with the group, as one of us is a poet, another a painter, another a photographer, two are working on a short video project, and so on. This time Patti had copied some uncaptioned cartoons from the last page of The New Yorker (available online). The idea was for each of us to write our own funny captions. It was hard! And, in fact, I was the only one who totally froze and left my sheets blank.
Not everyone's captions were hilarious. Some were definitely amusing, while others were more on the feeble side. But everyone else at least tried to be a good sport and came up with something. I couldn't for the life of me form a complete sentence without rejecting it before writing it down. When I wretchedly trying to explain my blankness by saying, "Everything I came up with, I rejected," they all found it hilarious.
But it was true. My inner critic could see ahead and turned down every half-formed thought.
For a writer, that can signal a big problem. Did those cartoons really matter? Of course not. We were just a group of friends having fun. At first I thought maybe my brain freeze had to do with my lack of visual sense more than anything else. Or maybe the fact that I was the only one not drinking that night? Upon further thought, I realized this was a good example of the power of one's internal, infernal, fretting critical faculties. Maybe, if there's a next time for this sort of thing, I'll just have to try less hard. (And if that takes a few sips of wine, so be it.)
Forget about your audience, find the fun
Don't assume negative judgment by judging yourself. One of the big writerly fears is that of appearing foolish, but there's a time for judgment, and most of the time, that comes much later. Even though I wrote that some of our efforts were less than stellar, I enjoyed listening to them all and laughing at the many ways you can be creative (and I felt foolish anyway, for not coming up with a single caption).
To stick with the cartoons as a single example of creative writing: when I interviewed Donna Barstow, a professional cartoonist, she told me she aims to produce the number of cartoons a New Yorker editor told her he likes to see from serious cartoonists, which is a minimum of ten new ones each week. Not all of them are necessarily going to be as funny as she or an editor will like. But the more, the merrier, you might say.
Copyright (c) Susan K. Perry, author of Kylie's Heel