Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Staying Brilliant

by Annette Lyon

In a recent magazine, I came across a listing of how some of the geniuses of our day keep their minds sharp, honed, and ready to create and think of new things.

One was a writer, but others included an inventor, an engineer, a choreographer, and two scientists, one of whom was a Nobel Prize winner for physics.

What struck me about their methods in keeping their minds alert and active is that all of them are things that work for unleashing the creative writing mind, for smashing through writer's block, and coming up with great new story ideas.

As you read about them below, take note and try one or two next time you start feeling your creative mind begin to slump.

Reach for a book
Sometimes opening your mind to another way of thinking and seeing the word can shake up the dust gathering in your brain. When the pieces settle, you'll find new connections, images, and words. You might see the world with a slightly different lens, and you might even learn something that you could use in a story some day.

Talk it Out
Sometimes when you feel as if you've hit a dead end, it helps to use another person as a sounding board. Who you use doesn't matter (it doesn't have to be a writer; heck, use your five-year-old), because it's not so much their feedback you're looking for as much as hearing yourself explain the problem out loud so you can see it differently. It's amazing how easily plot problems can fix themselves when you've verbalized them. This can be especially effective over the phone, although the jury is out as to why.

Take a Break
If you have the chance to go on vacation to a new place, jump on a plane. New sights, sounds, smells, and experiences fill up your creative bucket like nothing else can. But if heading off to Italy (or even Yellowstone) isn't in the cards, a simple trip to a museum, a park, or even a walk around the neighborhood can "unkink" the knots in your creative side and free you.

Work on Something Else
Running into a roadblock with your fantasy novel? Don't stop writing altogether, just shift directions. Try writing an essay, an article, a mystery, a romance. Exercise a different writing "muscle" for a while, and in no time you'll be ready to return to the project you were struggling with.

Change Your Focus
Take a deep breath, walk away from the computer, and do something else for awhile. Chat with your neighbor over the fence. Watch TiVo. Bake a batch of cookies (extra chocolate chips). Weed the garden. Fold laundry. Doing something else for a while can be all your tired-out brain needs to recharge and get back to work.

Dream About It
Right before bed, think about your writing issues, whether it's character, plot, conflict, or whatever. As you drop off to sleep, your mind will often still be working on the problem, so when you wake up, a solution may well present itself, provided you don't jump out of bed and get going on the day. Let yourself wake up slowly and review the problem and any new ideas that might have occurred as you slept. A refined version of this technique is called lucid dreaming.

Give these techniques a shot. They work for modern-day geniuses; they'll work for you, too.


Julie Wright said...

All of these methods work for me. I'm glad you posted them here. Great information!

Rebecca Talley said...

Great suggestions.

I wish I could wake up leisurely and think about solutions to my writing problems, but it's always a constant race between me and the bus to see who'll make it to the top of my driveway first (and, hopefully, I have all the kids with me who need to get on the bus).

Thanks for the suggestions, I'll try them.

Heather B. Moore said...

All excellent ideas. Reading other books is really helpful. Just one word or sentence can spark an idea.