Isn’t creativity fascinating?
I’m willing to bet you’ve had remarkable episodes of sustained creativity, times when everything clicked, and you couldn’t record your thoughts fast enough.
Those moments are magical, aren’t they?
And, if you’re anything like me, you’ve tried to recreate them.
- You follow a schedule. You mix it up.
- You write in silence. You add some music.
- You tinker here, and you tinker there.
But it rarely works.
So, you walk away and return to the same spot on the page.
Sometimes, no matter what you try, you can’t find the creative flow.
You’ve tried all the well-worn paths, but they’re passive by nature:
- Put it away for a few days.
- Go for a walk.
- Wait for optimal conditions.
You’ve tried dozens of remedies without results.
Still, you wonder if there’s more you could do…
What if you could consciously direct your thinking?
What if you could summon creativity, without waiting for it to come to you?
What if you could synchronize your conscious and unconscious minds for optimum creative output?
What if I told you all of this is possible?
It just takes a little practice, and the willingness to try something new.
Would you find that interesting?
Let’s take a closer look.
Here are five unconventional ways to summon creativity.
Take a random object, like a paper clip, a coffee maker, or an alarm clock, and brainstorm ideas. Begin by associating it with different concepts or emotions. Explore how it could symbolize a character’s journey or represent a theme in your writing. All you need is a single breakthrough to jumpstart the creative process.
Step 1: Choose an Object
The first step is to select an object. For this instance, let’s choose a paper clip. The mundane and commonplace nature of a paper clip makes it an intriguing object to imbue with symbolic value. Don’t agonize over it. Choose something quickly, randomly, and stick with it.
Step 2: Brainstorm Attributes
Think about the mundane physical attributes, the typical uses of a paper clip. It’s small, often overlooked, versatile, flexible, and has the capability to hold things together. Write down these characteristics.
Step 3: Relate Attributes to Concepts and Emotions
Take the attributes and try to link them to broader concepts or emotions. The overlooked nature of a paper clip could relate to the concept of invisibility or feeling undervalued. Its versatility and flexibility might connect to adaptability or resilience. Its role as a binder could symbolize unity, connection, or dependence.
Step 4: Create a Character or Theme
Next, consider how these concepts could relate to a character or theme in your writing. For instance, you might create a character who, like a paper clip, is often overlooked but has the ability to adapt and the strength to hold relationships or situations together. This could form the basis for a theme of resilience, adaptability, or hidden strength.
Step 5: Incorporate the Symbol
Once you’ve established your character or theme, start to weave the symbolism of the paper clip into your story. This could be as simple as your character fiddling with a paper clip, or as complex as them working in a paper clip factory.
Step 6: Deepen the Symbolism
Delve deeper by making the paper clip a metaphor for the character’s journey or the story’s theme. Perhaps the character starts to appreciate the humble paper clip’s abilities as they recognize their own value. Or, the paper clip could be used in a critical situation, highlighting its importance and reflecting the character’s personal growth.
Step 7: Reinforce the Symbol
Consistently reinforce the symbolism throughout the story, developing and evolving it alongside your character or theme. For example, as your character grows more confident, they might start to see paper clips not as mundane objects, but as essential tools, reflecting their self-acceptance.
The key is to start with the object’s concrete attributes and then progressively associate them with more abstract concepts, emotions, characters, and themes. By doing so, you can transform a simple object like a paper clip into a powerful symbol in your writing.
Spend time in nature, observing its details. Consider the patterns found in plants, animals, or landscapes. Let the serenity and beauty of the natural world inspire new ideas and metaphors for your writing.
The key here is active observation. You’ll want to participate, creating a dialogue or interaction with what you’re viewing. Like the paper clip exercise, you’ll want to compare/contrast elements. Look for associations. Begin with the more obvious material associations, and move on to abstract concepts.
Step 1: Select Your Setting
Choose a setting outdoors, a place where you can immerse yourself for an extended period of time. This could be a lake, a public park, a nearby forest, a beach, a cornfield, or any natural setting that resonates with you. Make sure it’s accessible and practical.
The first time I did this exercise, I chose a remote corner of my yard. After taking in every detail, I settled on a wolf spider and its web a few feet away. The changing light on the web and the circular structure reminded me of our human cycle of days: daybreak and nightfall, the familiar paths we follow. As the web flexed up and down in the wind, it reminded me of life’s fragility. Pulling back, creating some distance between myself and the object, I thought about how humans played opposing roles: spiders and prey.
Step 2: Equip Yourself
Make sure to bring a notebook, a pen, or a recording device/cellphone to capture your thoughts and observations. Think about the accessories you’ll need to stay comfortable: appropriate shoes or boots, water, insect repellent, etc.
Step 3: Attune Yourself to Your Surroundings
Begin your immersion exercise by quieting your mind and noting the specifics of your surroundings. Breathe deeply; listen to the sounds. Observe the light and the color palette, the feel of the textures around you.
Step 4: Detail-Oriented Observation
Begin to take note of the smaller details – the intricate patterns of a leaf, the vibrant hues of a bird, the rhythm of waves on a shore, or the movement of clouds across the sky. Consider the relationships between different elements – how plants grow towards sunlight, how birds react to changes in the weather, or how rocks erode over time.
Step 5: Reflect and Associate
As you observe, let your mind draw parallels between what you see and the themes, characters, or emotions in your writing. How do the relentless waves embody persistence? Could the tall trees represent resilience? Perhaps the playful squirrels suggest a carefree character.
Step 6: Record Your Thoughts
As these ideas come to you, jot them down or record them. Don’t worry about formality or perfection at this stage; the goal is to capture the raw ideas and emotions inspired by your surroundings.
Step 7: Craft Metaphors
After your immersion, review your notes and begin to craft metaphors, similes, or symbolic descriptions. For instance, you might describe a character’s sorrow as ‘deep and vast as the ocean’, or their hope as ‘blooming like a desert flower after a rare rainfall’.
Step 8: Incorporate in Your Writing
Finally, incorporate these metaphors and observations into your writing. The goal is to weave in these elements to create more vivid imagery, deeper symbolism, and a richer narrative.
Remember, nature immersion not only provides fodder for your writing, but it also serves as a great way to recharge your creativity and connect with the world outside your usual routine.
Engage your senses in unusual ways by trying new foods, listening to unfamiliar music genres, or exploring different textures and smells. These sensory experiences can evoke emotions and imagery that inspire fresh ideas.
Again, take an active role. Slow down, and carefully record the experience.
Step 1: Planning Sensory Exploration
Determine which senses you want to explore first. Whether it’s taste, touch, smell, hearing, or sight, plan an experience that’s unusual or unfamiliar. For example, you could decide to explore new cuisines, try aromatherapy with unknown scents, listen to a foreign music genre, or visit a tactile art exhibition.
Step 2: Gathering Materials
Once you’ve decided on the sensory experience, gather the materials you’ll need. This could involve buying exotic ingredients, downloading new music, purchasing essential oils, or acquiring tickets to an event.
Step 3: Engaging Your Senses
Dedicate some time to engaging with the sensory experience, and try to focus on one sense at a time. This could involve slowly savoring a new dish, intensely listening to unfamiliar music, or consciously feeling different textures. Don’t be afraid to pause between bites, between musical passages. Try to isolate and articulate the individual ingredients.
Step 4: Be Mindful and Reflective
During each experience, practice mindfulness. Focus deeply. Try to understand how the experience affects you. Does the taste of the new food trigger memories or feelings? Does the new music evoke specific imagery? Does the scent or texture stir up any emotions?
Step 5: Record Your Experiences
Keep a sensory journal where you jot down what you feel during these experiences. Describe the sensory input (e.g., the sharpness of a cheese, the smoothness of silk) and your emotional and cognitive responses (for example, it reminded you of a childhood moment, made you feel happy or uneasy).
Step 6: Connect to Your Writing
Review your notes and see how these experiences and the emotions they evoked can be related to your writing. Maybe the rhythm of the music can symbolize a character’s heartbeat in a tense scene, or the unusual taste of a fruit can illustrate a character’s first experience in a foreign land.
Step 7: Craft Descriptions
From these experiences, create vivid sensory descriptions that reflect both the sensory input and your emotional response. This can enhance your narrative, making it more immersive for readers, who can ‘taste’, ‘hear’, ‘feel’ the same things your characters do.
Step 8: Integrate in Your Writing
Finally, weave these sensory descriptions into your writing, enriching your narrative with these fresh perspectives. The sensory elements enhance your stories.
By using sensory exploration, you can add a new, vibrant dimension to your writing, breathing life into your characters and the worlds they inhabit.
Take a favorite piece of writing or artwork you’d like to deconstruct. Analyze its structure, themes, and techniques, and then reimagine it in a completely different context or genre. This exercise can help you generate innovative ideas while honing your analytical and creative skills.
Step 1: Select a Work
Choose a memorable piece of writing or artwork, something that speaks to you. It could be a short story, a novel, a painting – any work of art that holds meaning for you. Choose something you can learn from, something you can analyze deeply.
Step 2: Initial Deconstruction
Begin by analyzing the chosen work. Pay attention to its structure, themes, techniques, and elements. For a piece of writing, look at plot structure, character development, setting, themes, and writing style. If you chose a piece of art, examine its composition, color usage, technique, theme, and symbolism.
Step 3: Detailed Analysis
Delve deeper into your analysis. Why do these elements work so well? How do they interact and complement each other? What emotions do they evoke? How? Why? How does the creator leverage these elements to convey their message or theme?
Step 4: Record Your Insights
Take meticulous notes on your findings. These insights will help you better understand the work, and they’ll also enhance your creativity.
Step 5: Choose a New Context or Genre
Next, decide on a new context or genre to reimagine the work. It could be a different time period, culture, or setting if it’s a piece of writing. If it’s an artwork, perhaps you could reinterpret it in a different art form or style.
Step 6: Plan Your Reimagining
Plan how you will incorporate the original’s structure, themes, and techniques into your new context or genre. How can you adapt these elements while maintaining their essence? The key is to reimagine the work, not just copy it.
Step 7: Create Your Version
Start creating your version of the work. Use your notes and plan as a guide, but allow yourself the creative freedom to deviate if you find an exciting new direction.
Step 8: Reflect on the Exercise
After finishing your work, reflect on the exercise. What did you discover? How does this discovery impact your understanding of the original work? How has it expanded your own creative and analytical skills?
This reverse engineering exercise is not just about copying or mimicking. It’s about understanding the nuances of a work, seeing what makes it effective, and then using those insights to create something original and innovative for your own purposes.
Random Word Generators
Use an online random word generator to generate a series of unrelated words. Challenge yourself to incorporate these words into a story, poem, article, or essay, creating unexpected combinations and narrative twists.
Step 1: Find a Random Word Generator
Use a search engine to find an online random word generator, or try these options:
Step 2: Generate Random Words
Set the generator to produce a suitable number of random words. For a first-time exercise, 5-10 words is a good starting point. Click the generate button, and write down the words.
Step 3: Analyze the Words
Look at each word. Consider its connotations, potential associations, and the emotions it might evoke. Some words might stir up vivid images or complex feelings, while others might seem ordinary or neutral. Record your initial thoughts.
Step 4: Brainstorm Connections
Try to imagine how these words could be connected in a narrative, poem, or essay. Don’t rush this process. Let your mind play with different scenarios, characters, themes, or arguments that might tie these words together.
Step 5: Draft an Outline
Once you have an idea of how to link the words, draft an outline for your piece. Decide where and how each word will fit. Will it be central to the plot or theme? Or will it be a small detail in a scene or argument?
Step 6: Begin Writing
Start writing, using your outline as a guide. Allow the story, poem, article, or essay to evolve organically. If a word doesn’t fit neatly into the narrative or argument, try to think creatively about how it could still contribute.
Step 7: Refine and Edit
After finishing your first draft, review your work. Ensure that each word is integrated smoothly and enhances the piece. Adjust sentences, tweak the plot or argument, or rephrase statements as needed.
Step 8: Reflect on the Experience
Take a moment to reflect on the exercise. Was it challenging to incorporate the random words? Did it lead to unexpected creative decisions? Did it push you out of your comfort zone and expand your writing abilities?
Using a random word generator encourages you to think in innovative ways, stretching your creative boundaries. It can lead to brand new ideas, unexpected narrative twists, and exciting creative breakthroughs. This technique is particularly useful for overcoming writer’s block or sparking inspiration when you’re feeling stuck.
Put these exercises in a safe place. Return to them when you feel stuck. These novel approaches will serve you well when you’re feeling uninspired.
Sometimes, it’s better to take an active approach to creativity.
Give the muse a little push.
What do you think?
What’s your go-to remedy for summoning creativity?
Share your thoughts below.