There’s a funny paradox about creativity. It’s more difficult to create if you have all the options in the world available to you. You know how they always say think outside the box? Well if you don’t have a box to start with, then you have no focus.
When I worked in advertising, there was always a “box,” rules to the creativity. And we hated it! We were dragged kicking and screaming, art directors, copywriters, designers, animators, all of us, to get back in the box. But the funny thing is, having a box makes it easier. The box was created by the client who wanted such and such target market and had to be yellow and used the latest lingo or whatever. Whatever it was, we pushed the limits of interpreting those rules and usually found a successful and creative solution.
By creating limits, you actually free up your brain to start making choices. In writing, I like to usually start with a mind map or clustering. I first came across this concept with Gabriele Lusser Rico’s excellent book Writing The Natural Way.
By writing a core concept in the center and then clustering ideas outward from there, you bypass the judgmental thinking into a more natural non-linear way of thinking. This used to be called right brain versus left brain, but it’s been discovered it’s a bit more complicated than that. But there are regions of the brain that are more linear and other more non-linear.
I use mind maps/clusters daily for everything from brainstorms on business problems to planning an event to creating music to writing lyrics to writing stories.
I recently joined a wonderful writer’s workshop run by NY Writer’s Coalition and the whole time is spent using writing prompts. This is just short timed writing periods about a topic chosen by the facilitator.
One fun prompt was “write from the point of view of a tourist attraction.” That was a rather unusual topic, but the stories generated were fun and truly unique dependent on the writer’s experience, personality and point of view.
The next time you’re stuck, use a writing prompt. The prompt is the box. You need to stay in the lines but really push it to the limits.