WARNING: be prepared for a rant!
Over the past month or so I have been looking into starting an online creative writing course. This led me to click on a link to a creative writing contest. I thought what a brilliant idea, and was all set out to enter one of my poems which I’d worked very hard on, just to see the reaction to my writing and see if it held any weight when compared to other, more experienced writers.
So reading the contest rules, I came across a little bump in the road. For the poetry section of the competition, the poem could only be a maximum of 42 lines and if any entry sent in that was over the limit, it would be automatically dismissed and the entry non-refundable.
So, trying to be optimistic I decided to rework my poem to fit under the 42 line criteria as it exceeded it by 5 lines. Once reworked, I read the finished product through. I was so unhappy with what my poem had become. It was nothing like its former self, and I felt that I was selling myself out and compromising just to enter a contest.
I do understand that there must be a set limit in literacy competitions otherwise entries would be ridiculously long however, my poem had become worse due to the writing restrictions. Is it just me or does a 42 line poem seem too short?
It may seem such an overreaction, but I was very angry! While I stress that I am not a perfectionist, I do want my work to be of the best quality it can be, and the 42 line criteria was restricting me to submitting a less than worthy piece of writing. Safe to say, I scrapped the changed version of my poem, went back to the original and didn’t enter the competition, but it did get me thinking.
I think I’ve always known about the limitations of creativity, I’ve just never really sat down and thought about it before. I believe that in general, there are two types of limitations when it comes to writing…
First off, there is personal restriction, which I have no qualms with. Whenever I write, in the back of my mind I am always thinking of how I want my writing to be laid out, what order words should be in, do I really want that cheesy alliteration or should I just go with a classic pun instead?
For poems I take it one step further, and perhaps only allow myself a certain amount of syllables or words per line, instead of just free verse. Sometimes there may be a rhyming pattern, or the poem structured in four line stanzas, for ease of speaking or to represent a meaning. Basically, you get the picture, there are many limitations, however these only enhance my writing and definitely not hinder it.
Then there is the second limitation, outside influence. (I have many qualms with this!) This is when you write for others. You write what they want you to write, you write using their structure and their word limit but most importantly you forget to write for yourself. I feel this does nothing but hinder writing. The joy is squeezed out of the process and it becomes no more than a means to an end. Writing is supposed to be a creative outlet where thoughts, feelings, personal opinions, experiences, struggles, among many other things can flow onto the page and become something amazing. Something to inspire. Something to motivate. Something that’s thought provoking and gets people talking. I’ve always said that the written word is one of the most powerful tools in existence but how can you expect someone’s writing to grow and be a means of creativity when it is only recognised if it meets certain standards. There is so much wrong with the expectation of writing. No writer should have to compromise their work for anything, word limit and all. No writer should have to sell out and change their work for something that will “fit the mould”.
I love the development of a piece of writing. It all begins with a single line, and evolves into something unimaginable, and if you write for yourself then it makes the process so much more enjoyable.
I suppose I am one of the lucky ones. At a young age I know that I want to write, but not just for the sake of writing. I want to write for myself which makes it all the more rewarding. I don’t want to compromise any of who I am and what my writing is, just for it to be accepted. Don’t get me wrong, as a writer or even person in general I understand that to have feedback, and especially constructive criticism can make people’s writing better, and I am open to that, 110% in fact. I want to grow as a writer, and I am grateful of any help and time spent helping me along the way, but I will not change what my writing means to me or fall into the trap of writing less than the best I am capable of for anything.