A to Z Challenge 2015 · An Encouraging Word · Orson Welles

L is for Limitations

Celebrating the A to Z Blogging Challenge with quotations on the writing life.


The enemy of art is the absence of limitations.

Orson Welles

 What a statement. It seems so counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Don’t limitations restrict artistic expression?

Ah, but as a writer of fiction I have discovered that restrictions force me to be clever. And clever makes for a much better story.

Closed doors and a narrowed outlook are a challenge, like a puzzle waiting to be solved. This is one reason why I enjoy writing historical fiction.

Picture this: A young man and a young woman are attracted to one another. Could it be True Love? They happen to come to the same party and they talk. Hang on, the music is blaring so they must shout. Well, okay, that’s an obstacle.  Sort of.

But how much better to push them back 200 years. Toss in some social restrictions, including a desperate need to marry for money and a batty spinster aunt who is the young woman’s chaperone. There she is, wedged between them on the sofa, with fat sighings over her ailments, making random remarks to passers-by. But what about True Love? This is the couple’s one opportunity to talk. Will it be wasted? Heck, no. But their words must dance around that aunt, and therein lies the fun.

What puzzling limitations are you facing in your artistic project? Can you spin them in a fresh a way and bring cleverness and wit to your work?

Photo: Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho (Creative Commons Flickr). Image is link.

13 thoughts on “L is for Limitations

  1. I like writing the obstacles to love forced on us by modernity. The greatest obstacle we have, IMO, is ourselves. The pressure to conform to sexual standards created by others that can be observed in almost trial-by-combat on social media makes us look inside almost go “underground” to try and find truth for ourselves and any family that might be built. Either way, the path to true love never did run straight.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your ability to run deep with contemporary settings is a marvel to me. I do better with light comedy that delves in a roundabout way into the “underground” of the human experience.


  2. “…with fat sightings over her ailments.” Love!

    I’ve always felt the tension of limitations vs. freedom, but I will always recall Madeleine L’Engle writing about the limits of the sonnet–rigid format but complete freedom within those lines to write about absolutely anything. And Malcolm Guite has written beautifully about the “bounding line.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great minds, Roslynn. I thought about mentioning the self-imposed limitations of the sonnet (and other poetical forms), but for this year’s challenge I’m focusing on being brief.

      The “fat sighings” was borrowed from Jane Austen–from a description of Mrs Musgrove–and recombined. Into my mind it came, and I had to use it. 🙂


  3. It’s difficult to write truly Christian novels today without being labeled a bigot, just for admitting I’m a Christian. You spoke of reviews yesterday. I was obliterated and castigated (I have a dictionary!) on Amazon for allowing my faith to show in my work. Though I had written nothing inflammatory or judgmental, and I had labeled the work as Christian, several people who hated Christianity showed up to give me one star reviews. If you aren’t a Christian, and you don’t like Christians or Christian novels, don’t buy them. Simple.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Robin, I had you in mind for yesterday’s post, when I advised having a trusted friend look over the reviews.

      When browsing it seems simple, as you say, to just move on (without comment) to a novel that is more pleasing to the buyer. But there are some who cannot resist the temptation to defame a book they don’t like the look of. In other words, to be a troll. I am sorry that this happened to you.

      When the Internet was young, I came across a rule for good manners online (“netiquette,” if you will): “Remember the human.”

      Good advice that many ignore.

      My next book has Christian themes, so I will be stepping into the cauldron with you.


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