The story-in-a-box: open it up and it unpacks itself

One of my favorite parts of creativity is the brainstorm. Writing is fun, but can be hard. Brainstorming is not hard. No idea is bad when you’re brainstorming, silly mortal! Even if you don’t use something you’ve written down, it’s keeping the brain hamster running in its wheel and could lead to other, better ideas. So you can just write down anything that comes to mind and worry about picking out the good stuff later. Until then, it’s limitless possibilities, and you get to just live the story.

I see ideas as boxes. Like a package from Amazon (one of the best kinds of packages, am I right?). It comes to you, you bring it inside. You have an empty room ready for it, and you take it there and open it. BOOM, explosion. Looks like that little idea box has a lot of stuff packed inside.

All the contents of the box begin to fill the room. Some of it is simple and obvious, like furniture — the developments that come easily from the basic idea. Then you have the stuff you have to open up and inspect, the cabinets filled with knickknacks — the more complex parts of the idea you must turn over in your hands/mind to see every bit of it.

If the brainstorm is my favorite part of creativity, then the unpacking is my favorite part of the brainstorm. When one idea leads to another, then another, and it feels like it will never end. I have that going on with my current story idea. I also have the “staring at self in mirror while brushing teeth” epiphanies, which are fun in their own right.

I have a little time off starting tomorrow. A perfect opportunity to play around with this idea. I was thinking of doing a zero draft by writing it in a “storyteller” format to get the plot down. A fitting method, I think, as it is a story in a tribal setting.

Let’s see what else this box holds.


Getting over writer’s block. As easy as climbing a mountain.

Yes, indeed. Mt. Writingsuccess. The clouds engulfing the peak create an illusion that it is smaller, more easily scaled, than it actually is. I’ve challenged this mountain before.


It bested me.


All writers start at the bottom, surrounded by the writer wannabes. All it takes is one step up the mountain to set yourself apart from them. One step. It’s actually quite easy. No need for rock climbing gear, oxygen, or warm clothing. Just taking the one step is all you need to do.


It’s all uphill from there, my friend.


I climbed beyond the one step. It took time. Effort. I penetrated the cloud cover. Had I reached the top? Hell no! I stood on a ledge and stared up, up toward the peak. So high.


I fell off the mountain. I rolled to the bottom. The fall left me broken.


For years, I stared up at where the clouds met the mountain. I tried to remember what it looked like up there. I couldn’t. Maybe it was best that way. Perhaps I should just forget.


That’s when I saw it. The goat.


Cocky little bastard was standing almost sideways up there. The goat stared at me. It trapped me in the boxes of its rectangular pupils.


Hey!” I yelled. “Don’t you judge me, goat! Climbing mountains is easy when you have cloven hooves.”


Mountain goat

Man, check out this asshole. Smug little shit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Its bleat echoed down to me. Mocking me. Well, to hell with that jerk. I wouldn’t let him get away with it. I started climbing again, determined to get that goat. The climb was harder now. I remembered falling, and I still bore some lasting injuries from it. The goat wasn’t waiting for me, either. It leaped and scrabbled its way higher. I didn’t care. I would eat that damn goat. Raw.






I’m glad I finally fought past the writer’s block. But was that the hard part, or is the hard part really ahead, like I suspect? My skills have lay fallow, so I must relearn them. That sucks, to know I may be a worse writer now than I was years ago at the height of my game. And I can admit to myself that the height of my game wasn’t much. I have a publication in a semi-pro magazine, but that’s it, and that one was a long battle to win. But I will go on. I have to believe I can reach the same level. I have to strive to go beyond it.


My current story is a start. After several drafts and a lot of time, I can say with certainty that it is — okay. Considering it is my first “completed” effort (in quotation marks because it is a full-length story even if I’m still working on it) since the block, I’d call it remarkable. A miracle that I even finished it. But there is so much more climbing to do. I don’t even know if this story will ever be good enough in my eyes to send out to magazines. I’ve got some plot issues to fix, and they’re pretty tough bananas to peel. Might need to give them time to get ripe. Part of me fears putting the story in the drawer, though. What if I never come back to it? I suppose if I end up writing things that I like better, it shouldn’t matter, but it’s symbolic now. Then again, a symbol could be relatively unimportant, only there to inspire greater things.


We’ll see. I’ll tinker with it over the next day or two and make a decision later. Maybe I just needed to write it to break the block, to serve as a learning experience. Who knows?


One last order of business before I sign off. I’ve gone by many names in my day. I shift in and out of them like I change my shape, trying to find something I look good in. Seeing as how I’m making a serious go at the writing thing, I need to settle on a name to write under. Since this is meant to be my personal/professional blog as a writer, it’s probably best to bear that label here, as well.


Ruskin Drake is a name of the past. It served me well enough. New life, though, comes with a new name. Hopefully this time, the name will stick.


You can call me Hob. Hob Nickerson. Nice to meet you.