Thinking Inside the Box

There is the thought that one must not constrain or limit creativity. That you should let it take you anywhere it wants to go. Just sit down, imagine, and let it flow.think inside the box

Don’t “box it up!” But. I want to present to you a different way to look at it.

See, there are some really good reasons to put rules on your creativity, to “box it up,” if you will. In fact, I am becoming of the opinion that it makes you more creative.

So what exactly am I talking about? Well, as it usually happens to be for me, I am referring to writing, and writers, and story-telling, and such. And how does this Thinking Inside the Box apply? I shall tell you. It’s quite fantastic.

So. Imagine you are sitting down to begin work on a new fantasy or sci-fi story. (take your pick — whichever you like working on better)

And so you start thinking up things. In a fantasy, it’d be creatures, like dragons, and centaurs, fauns, satyrs, elves, dwarves, wizards, and how they all interact with each other, and what they can do, and the limits are really… well. They aren’t there. It’s a different list of things for a sci-fi, but a similar thing, all the same. The limit is your imagination. Which can be so wonderful, yet so very terrible. Unbridled creativity can run away, and become lost in the mess of it all.

What I want to present to you is the thought that setting yourself boundaries, very firm boundaries, for your story and it’s world, magic, science, etc. etc., is a good thing. For multiple reasons.

Allow me to use for an example one of my newest favorite books and author.

I recently finished reading the first two books of the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. (working on reading book three right now).

First off. It is brilliant. The story is epic, and the “magic” is really creative and just like “wow, that is so freaking cool.” And you know one of the things that makes the magic cool? It’s limits. There are incredible limitations to the magic of the Allomancers (aka, Mistings, or Mistborn, depending on what kind of Allomancer you are and your abilities), and I believe those limits are what make it really good.

Within the box that Sanderson built for himself, his creativity runs wild. And it is so awesome. Because now that he has laws, laws of physics, and magic, and what not, he is able to think with those in mind, and come up with these amazing things for his Allomancers to do, that are totally “believable.” Because none of it is random. We know what things they can and can’t do. So when they do something that is super creative, you’re like: “I would have never thought of that, but yeah, they can totally do that. AWESOME.”

Sanderson has three “laws” that he uses to apply to writing, and they are pretty fantastic.

(for more about those laws, go here: )

In his first “Law,” Sanderson talks about “Hard Magic” and “Soft Magic.”

Hard magic is for those magics and technologies that have very set rules. The author sets up the rules, and then the author follows them. Like Sanderson has done in his own writing repeatedly.

Soft magic is more undefined. It allows for the author to reach in, a god in the little world of their novel, and do almost whatever they wish, or need to, to make the story happen. Deus ex machina becomes frequent, and so cheap, and very unbelievable at times, using Soft Magic as your mode of approach.

I would encourage you to read all three of Sanderson’s Laws. I found them very thought provoking, and whether you like them or not, or want to use them or not, it is good food for thought.

What I am saying is that setting up boundaries doesn’t hamper your ability to be creative, but fuels your creativity.

So, next time you are writing, creating a new world, editing your WIP, whatever it is, if you haven’t already, I would encourage you to get inside the box. Set up rules. It makes writing easier, actually, because you know the rules. You wrote them down in that notebook over there. But you can do some awesome things within those rules, and blow your readers away.

So yeah.

(And the TARDIS is just awesome, and a great example of this)

Consider thinking inside the box. It is bigger on the inside.