Constraint: The Creative Gift by Guest Blogger Heather J. Wood

Novelist Heather J. Wood shares the benefits of limitations...

Heather J. Wood
One often thinks of creativity in terms of the blank canvas or the blank page—i.e. the freedom to be able to write about anything one's imagination can conjure up. Some writers chafe at the thought of restrictions. Yet, having set limitations can also be an immense source of creativity. For myself, at least, boundaries have allowed me to go in unexpected directions.

I would not have imagined myself writing a teen-oriented novel involving roller derby. In fact, I would have thought the idea was ludicrous a few years ago. Yet when I was offered the opportunity to write "something about roller derby", which eventually turned into my recent book, Roll With It, I was given a wonderful creative gift. The project turned out to a liberating rather than a restricting experience.

For one thing, I wasn’t worried about being "literary", so I felt free to write more naturally and authentically. The roller derby subject matter compelled me to write a number of action scenes, despite the fact that action scenes had previously been mostly outside my creative comfort zone. Writing the book was also just a lot of fun—something I hadn’t expected when I started the process.

My writing group, "Moosemeat", produces an annual chapbook of flash fiction. Some years, we use very loose themes or creative prompts to develop our stories. I've always been impressed and astounded by the nature and variety of the stories created thanks to the themes or in opposition to them. It's as if small boundaries allow the opening of new writing frontiers.

So, my humble advice is to accept the gifts of artistic constraint when they are offered to you. You'll likely discover hidden spheres of creativity and inspiration.

Bio: Heather J. Wood was born and raised in Montreal. She now lives and writes in Toronto. Tightrope Books published her first novel, Fortune Cookie, in 2009 and her second novel, Roll With It, in the spring of 2011.