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Thursday, January 30, 2014

7 Strategies to Kick-Start Your Imagination

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Seven Strategies to Kick-Start
Your Imagination


New writers often ask me what they should write about.

How do you get ideas? they ask. I know I want to write but I can't think of anything interesting enough to fire my imagination.

To be honest, I think that coming up with ideas is a largely a learned skill that gets easier with practice. Writing regularly has a way of triggering the mind into coming up with ideas, almost as a byproduct of the writing process.

But if you're stuck, how do you re-ignite your little gray cells? Here are seven strategies that may help you.

1. Read Outside Your Comfort Zone

Don't read whole books, be a browser. Pick up books and magazines you would never normally touch and read things at random.

Go to Amazon and download lots of free samples on science, anthropology, astronomy, history, eclectic stuff you wouldn't normally expose yourself to. Let your mind read enough to be puzzled, intrigued or fascinated, then stop and move on.

This process will help fire different neurons in your brain - the first step in lateral imagining.

2. Stop Thinking

A great way to fall asleep is to force yourself to stay awake. A fabulous way to gain weight is to go on a diet. Put your brain on a diet.

For ten minutes try to think about absolutely nothing. Force every single thought out of your mind. Push them away. Try to get to a still point of silence in your brain.

When you stop the inane chatter in your mind and force it to understand that nothing is important, you open up more creative pathways for your left brain to explore.

3. Brainstorm like a Child

We're born with fertile imaginations because every new input is strange and needs understanding. Everything needs analysis when you're a kid.

Recapture that youthful playfulness by asking why? of everything, just like kids do. Don't accept the answer your mind automatically gives you. Think harder. Imagine different explanations.

Good writers do this all the time. They learn not to accept the fail-safe answer but to keep questioning. Just asking the questions will make your brain more active.

4. Rip It Up

Go to a yard sale and buy up an old dictionary, a yellow pages and another fat book, maybe a bible. Tear out all the pages, tear the pages into pieces and stuff all the scraps into a plastic bag.

Then make it habit to pull out three or four pieces of paper and try to see connections between the words and names and events in your grubby little hands.

Making connections between random words has a name: it's called inspiration!

5. What If - With Scapple

The wonderful people who made Scrivener have produced a mind mapping software called Scapple. With just a little work, you can create words and bubbles and links to your heart's content.

Type in a word and ask 'what if' questions to yourself. What if my mailman was a frog? What if the sky was green? That kind of thing. Put your answers in to Scapple and link them back and forth.

You can get a free copy of Scapple here:  

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scapple.php

You can also get a free copy of Scrivener here:
http://literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php

The two programs are compatible - and if Scrivener doesn't get your imagination firing, you're probably not a writer!

6. Play Dice

Write down six names for imaginary characters. Number them one to six.

Throw a dice and pick the name that matches the number you just threw. Then write down six places, numbering them. Throw the dice, picking the numbered place you threw.

Now you have Patrick from Cincinnati for instance. Then write down six character attributes or plot ideas. Keep throwing the dice to choose between six options.

Let you mind do the rest. It's forcing your mind to make new connections that jump starts your imagination.

7. Make Lists



You may not believe it yet but your mind is teeming with ideas. We have around 80,000 thoughts a day but less than 2,600 actually impinge on our consciousness. Of those around 90% were the same thoughts you had yesterday.

The way to come up with ideas is to force your thoughts down new pathways.

Making lists is a great way of opening up your neural networks.

List ten names of characters. List ten ways to cook an egg. List ten ways to climb a hill. Push yourself. Don't settle for less than ten.

List ten obstacles to getting your perfect mate. List ten ways a criminal might rob a bank. List ten ways a warrior might kill a dragon.

You can immediately see that by a slight shift in your thinking process, you're already coming up with story ideas.

This is the secret to coming up with ideas- and now you know it!

Keep Writing!
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