Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thinking outside the box

Some of you took it as a challenge when I asked you to "think outside the box" for last week's Red Writing Hood prompt.

I love that. I do.

When we see a prompt, sometimes an idea hits us immediately. We have just the thing, we think. And off we go, whipping together that post in 15 minutes flat.

Which is great. We're busy. All of us are.

But sometimes, the obvious can also be the cliche. Or it can be something that doesn't challenge us to dig deeper, think harder, stretch ourselves.

I had to write many, many game stories as a sportswriter over my career. I covered more than 100 baseball games a summer, and believe me, they weren't all nail-biters.  There were those games that were gifts, where it was won in the final at-bat, or when a rookie pitcher threw a one-hitter.

But there were also times when literally nothing happened. Nothing interesting, that is. Add to that deadline and, yes, a word limit, and all kinds of other ancillary stuff - and I would sit, paralyzed, the only thing coming into my head were cliches. Bad ones.


The minutes ticked away. The only sound in the press box was the tapping of computer keys.

So I started typing. Deleting. Typing. Deleting. Until, finally, I found something, a germ of an idea from a virus of cliches.

Why am I telling you this? Not all my stories were masterpieces. But I always tried to find something unique, something different.

Some days? I just needed to get the story in.

Just like you do.

But most of the time, if I just pushed myself a little more, it always made the story - and me - a little better.

No comments: