Friday, November 30, 2012

Get Your Creativity to Explode: the Method

Think creativity and methodology are opposites? Well, they kind of are, but there's more, if you look closer. Any writer who's struggled to get the creative juices flowing knows that these two things can complement each other, and it's natural to find a method to inspire creativity. Yes, there's a method to your madness!

James Scott Bell said it well in The Art of War for Writers, one of his books on writing. (I'm in the middle of a re-read of the book, and it's so full of great information that it keeps showing up in these posts. :)  ) Bell says you have to feed inspiration, and one way to do that is develop a method for releasing your creativity. As a writer, you have to do this, because you have to become "a walking idea factory."

Walking is one of Bell's main methods of releasing creativity, and he suggests that there are few things you can do before, during, and after walking to capture the ideas that surface (pp. 54-55). To paraphrase:
  • Before you walk, get fully focused on your idea that you want to develop
  • While you walk, listen to an audiobook or do something else that will allow you to be creative without thinking about it. While you're listening, for example, ideas for your own novel will be sparked unconsciously and rise to your consciousness.
  • Write those ideas down, while you're walking. Take a pen and pencil or a voice recorder with you on your walk.
  • When you get home put all those ideas in a file on your computer, expanding each one as you add it. Let the words flow.
  • Let the ideas cool down for a day. The next day, look at them again and assess them, after you've slept on it and let your subconscious do its work.
  • Set aside the ideas you don't use, but don't delete them. They might come in handy someday.

Bell believes that if you get used to thinking this way, your creativity will explode. Makes sense to me! But I do think it pays to be aware of how important tapping into your subconscious is for this to really work. Yes, the movement of walking frees up our creative energies, but two of Bell's steps—one before the walk and one after—seem critical to making sure it's the type of idea generation we're after.

First is getting fully focused on the idea you want to develop before you walk. Do this during your writing time which is, yes, before.

Second is to sleep on the ideas before you even begin to think about them critically. Let your subconscious mind work on them while you sleep.

So, what do you think? Do you use a method like this, or something totally different?


  1. Linda, walking is great. I actually will have a problem with a character, or plot or something and then Dick and I walk and we discuss it. I know it's a little different from what he suggests. But the outcome is the same.
    Also, I'll go to the gym and listen to music and read something random. Then my mind gets working and shifts to not focusing on what I'm reading, but developing ideas. Thanks for sharing another great tip!

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  3. I don't but I love this idea and I'm definitely going to try it now. Focus is a powerful thing so I can see how this could work really well. Thank you for the idea!