Jean Cocteau once observed that, “the spirit of creation is the spirit of contradiction,” an interesting avenue to explore on a Wednesday morning. You can think about this in a number of different ways. Writing fiction is often an exercise in polarity. You establish a status quo and then explore something as far removed from it as you can credibly go: taking your hero from a place of safety and normality to one of danger and uncertainty, giving yourself as much scope is possible to examine the terrain that lies between. In the course of a good story, the protagonist should move from  ignorance to knowledge, weakness to strength, emptiness to fulfilment and his state at the beginning should be as different as possible – contradictory – from his state at the end in order to give the journey resonance and meaning.

However, when you are writing creatively, contradiction needn’t necessarily confine itself to exploring opposites. Cocteau was an iconoclast, out to subvert all kinds of assumptions, something you can do to great effect when you are writing fiction. You can upset your readers’ notion of what the story might be about by whipping the metaphorical rug from under their feet, or you can confound your characters’ expectations (both in terms of plot and other people) of what might happen next, or who exactly they are dealing with.

You could also try contradicting your own instincts as a writer – don’t reach for the comfortable phrase or the first response, turn your default settings off instead, and do something different. Try working in a genre that is new to you, or write about a character you wouldn’t be seen dead with in real life, or have a go at poetry if you would normally stick to prose. You might find your own expectations are restricting you, so have a day of being contradictory and see where it takes you…