Monday, 10 February 2014

Psycho Bites: How to Boost Creativity

When that light bulb goes on, we all know it is time to write as much as you can. When it goes out, what can you do? There are some basic ideas which I have listed for completion sake, but below those old favourites are suggestions geared to kicking your brain into creative mode and are backed by psychological research.

The basics:

  • Read through what you’ve already written. This is helpful for editing and keeping your plot consistent but it can also remind you of a few ideas that slipped beneath your radar.
  • Read a good book that gets you excited about writing again, or a really bad one that motivates you to do better.
  • Brainstorming ideas is also a good exercise. The trick is not to be too rigid. Let your mind flow and include anything that comes to you, even if it feels highly irrelevant. The more you allow your mind to wander, the more likely it is to bump into that killer idea.
  • Switch your medium. If you usually write on a computer, then pick up the old pen and paper.
  • You don’t have to write in chronological order. In fact, I don’t. I write where I feel inspired to, and then I read through what I have and see how it fits together. That way I can ensure that there are loads of intense and action-packed scenes spread throughout the novel.
  • Leave it. The idea will come when it’s ready.

The scientifically backed:
  • Direct attention inwards. Cut off all distractions and just think about your particular problem for a moment. I usually run through potential storylines before I go to sleep and have jotted down some of my best ideas from those moments, but it doesn’t have to be before bed.
  • Intelligence is very different from creativity, with the latter being slower to develop rather than regurgitating facts or applying some sort of rule. Taking it slow can be the best thing for a book.
  • Do something completely mindless. You heard me! Clean the house or go for a walk. These tasks allow your mind to wander even if you’re not specifically focusing on that pesky plot hole. Studies have shown this is more effective than switching to a complicated task or doing nothing at all.
  • New experiences fuel creativity. As well as giving you more experiences to draw on in your writing,, mixing up old routines means that the brain can no longer rely on the old connections. Take a different route to school or work, or even attempt to find a new way of completing an ordinary task. Studies have shown breaking old routines and opening up your mind to new connections can boost creativity by 15%
  • Sleep. Robert Louis Stevenson came up with the idea for The Strange Case of Mr Jekyell and Mr Hyde after a long sleep and Giuseppe Tartini’s famous violin solo was inspired from a dream. Although psychologists are still a bit baffled by what sleep is for, there is evidence that it a good night’s sleep can give your brain the boost it deserves - Arianna Huffinton tells it how it is in this short video:

If anyone has any more tips, post below! I’ve heard eating fish and blueberries are also helpful although I wouldn’t recommend putting them together. So now it’s over to you guys: what do you do when you’ve got writer’s block?