Limitless Clarity

by Quinn Barrett (If you’d like to guest post here, please check out our guidelines.)

Quinn Barrett is a native of Southern California, currently residing in the West Los Angeles area. After graduating from UCLA with a degree in English, she worked as a corporate business development strategist specializing in emerging growth technology, software and Internet companies. Invisible Snow is her first novel.

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Recently I saw the movie Limitless on DVD.  Without giving anything away … the movie’s protagonist, played by Bradley Cooper, is a struggling writer.  He has an idea and a publishing deal—that detail by itself makes the movie a tad unbelievable—but no matter what he tries, he can’t manage to get any words on a page.  As he battles with writer’s block, he serendipitously runs into an old friend who turns him onto a new drug which enables him to access 100% of his brain’s potential.  Surprise, surprise, he ends up writing a bestselling novel in four days and the meat of the story goes on from there.

After watching this movie which I would generously give 3 out of 5 stars (I could have gone to 3.5 with a better ending) I asked myself two questions:

  1. If I could take a pill giving me unlimited clarity as a writer, would I take it?
  2. If I could have complete access to my full brain potential, would I still choose to be a writer?

My answers:  No and yes, respectively.

You see, as much as we might complain about the pain of our creative process, it’s also what makes us unique and distinct at writers.  It would be fun to think that everything came easy and fit seamlessly into our perfect word puzzles, but I wonder if we would appreciate our accomplishments as much without a degree of struggle and angst.

The idea of having superhuman brain potential sounds intriguing, but doesn’t actually interest me.  As writers we have the ability to create fantastic situations and then use the characters of our creation as guinea pigs to watch our theories play out.  Our stories are merely metaphors for life—cautionary tales that remind us we’re doing okay, we’re on the right path, or sometimes challenge us to awaken or change.

Each character we create is an element of ourselves—the heroes as well as the villains.  Writing fiction is about finding the balance between light and dark, good and evil.  We need the bumpy roads for material.  We need experience to infuse wisdom into our characters—something we can’t possibly do for ourselves (read sarcasm).

Writing is fun because it is supposed to be fun.  But writing can also be difficult for the same reason—it’s supposed to be.  If it were easy, everyone would do it, but not everyone is a writer.  Simply playing the piano doesn’t make me a pianist.

The path of a writer is not always comfortable, but it offers unique opportunities into spacious worlds of fantasy, drama, mystery, suspense, and intrigue.  A writer’s process is a constant reminder that our most powerful resource is our mind’s imagination.

The pill in the movie Limitless represents the main character’s desire for clarity—all he wants to do is write.  Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to sit at our computers or put pen to paper and receive an effortless stream of words on demand?  Clarity can be an elusive thing for writers and therein lies the struggle.

How each of us overcomes this state is a personal journey.  I can only speak to my own process.  Whenever I feel confused, I know that clarity is nearby.  I have to stop trying so hard and let my characters speak through me.  Whenever I feel uncomfortable writing a particular scene, I know have to let myself go deeper and be willing to feel vulnerable.

I’ve learned to view confusion and discomfort during the writing process as important road marks on the right path.  How deep we’re willing to go personally inevitably impacts the reader’s experience and the richness of the story as well as the development of characters.

There is no quick path to success and fulfillment as a writer.  And even if a miracle pill existed to aid us in our pursuit of the next great string of bestsellers, a whole new set of issues and obstacles would most likely emerge to replace the more familiar problems.  So I say, embrace the struggle… we’re all in the same boat.  Let’s appreciate the clarity when it does present itself and remember that clarity will return if we can just get out of our own way to allow it space in our process.


Check out Quinn Barrett’s novel Invisible Snow. Invisible Snow is a classic family drama about wealth, power, greed, and redemption. Marriage is a delicate dance of power between lovers, but Kate and Paul Delacroix are strangers caught in a disparate union somewhere between betrayal and truth. Confronting their true selves for the first time results in an epic clash of wills where only one will prevail. The legacy of the family business is at stake, but power is not always about money. Their showdown results in a shocking twist of fate—a destiny Kate never saw coming. Visit for more details.

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