I love psychology. The brain is the most fascinating thing, it encompasses our thoughts and emotions and has the capacity to think about itself, which is pretty cool. In another dimension, I would be a psychologist. In this one, I’d be too busy creating characters based on my therapy patients #youknowyoureawriterwhen
Recently, I have been listening to the audiobook “59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change A Lot” by Richard Wiseman (what a great name for a psychologist turned author). It is all about easy things we can do to trick our brains into doing what we want them to do. There are chapters on happiness, persuasion, romance and even creativity. My Favorite nuggets of wisdom from Sir Wiseman were the tips for boosting creativity. They were too good not to share on the internet.
So, next time you are in a writing rut, don’t know how to get your characters to do what you want them to do, or feel uninspired test out one of these tips.
- Find some trees: Apparently, humanity as a species really likes trees and shrubs. They make us feel relaxed because trees mean food. When your brain is relaxed it feels free to be creative and take risks! So, for optimum creativity write in a space where you can see some trees, or go stand by a tree for a few minutes before moving inside to write. Fake trees or pictures of trees do not work. See how smart you are? Only the real deal for you and your brain.
- Look at some art: Looking at pictures like this,where there is a pattern, that eventually gets broken gets your brain thinking more creatively. What is super cool about this, is if you hang this picture on your wall that is enough to get the creative boost. You don’t even have to actively look at it, it just needs to be nearby. Going to an art gallery is also great for creativity, but for those days when you don’t have time to take an extra 9 hours to fly to Paris, hanging an image like this on the wall of your writing space will have to do.
- Imagine a creative stereotype: This one is super strange. Imagine an artist – not a specific one – a generic one. How do they dress? What kind of art do they make? What do they like to eat? What is their opinion on grass fed beef? Congratulations, you have just boosted your creativity. Apparently, thinking about a stereotype of a creative person (musicians, nonconformists, and dancers work too) convinces your brain that you are creative like them. You should start to feel inspired and your ideas will suddenly be more creative.
- Pull Something Towards You: We learn, almost from birth, that we pull good things close to us and push bad things away – picture a baby pulling their favorite blankey to their face while pushing away a spoonful of pureed brussel sprouts. This creates a positive association with the motion of pulling. Again, positive associations make you more relaxed and that helps you be more creative! So, if you are sitting at your desk writing, take one hand and attempt to pull the desk towards you (you don’t even have to move the desk, though you could if you wanted) even though you might be slowed having to type with just one hand, it’s a great creativity boosting strategy for plot mapping, brainstorming and rut breaking.
- Lay Down: This rule is my favorite, and one I have been unknowingly applying for years. I love laying down, I would never stand up if a sedentary lifestyle wouldn’t turn me into a beached whale. My husband always laughs at me because even if I start out places in a seated position, usually after 15 minutes I’ve somehow managed to adjust my body into a horizontal angle. When you are standing, or sitting upright, all of your blood would want to rush downwards because of gravity. Again, you are a smart cookie, so your brain has a mechanism that keeps your blood flowing throughout your body instead of pooling at your feet. This mechanism is running full speed when you are standing, but turns off when you lay down. The benefits of shutting this mechanism off are twofold. First, your brain isn’t working so hard so it can focus on being more creative, and second, when your brain isn’t working hard it is more relaxed and at this point you should know that your creative mind likes to be relaxed.
- Distract You Consciousness: Though the conscious part of my brain is definitely what I want running the show when I am in the office or doing my taxes, my consciousness isn’t the most creative part of my brain. In creativity, the subconscious is where it is at. Problem is, we can’t just turn our consciousness off, unless we are sleeping, and I am not the best speller in my sleep. Thankfully, psychologists have some tips on how we can learn to listen to our subconsciousness in our waking lives. You’ve probably experienced this, getting a great story idea in the shower or solving a plot hole on your drive to work. This doesn’t happen just because your shower and your car have good brainwave acoustics – it happens because getting all your parts clean, and keeping your car on the road distracts your consciousness. With your conscious thoughts distracted, your subconscious can come out to play, coming up with creative solutions your consciousness would never think of. A good way to do this without having to drive somewhere or shower is to first give your subconscious a problem to solve i.e. how can my character who is tied up to a log, floating down a river towards a death waterfall escape this situation. Then, stop thinking about the problem and go do an activity that requires focus, but not necessarily creative problem solving. Go organize your books in alphabetical order, play a game of pinball on your computer or reorganize your tupperware shelf so that it doesn’t all fall out when you open the door (that actually might take too much creativity if your tupperware is as unorganized as mine). As you do these things your subconscious will be running on the creativity treadmill and when you go back to your writing your brain might have solved the problem for you, allowing your character to remember there is a knife in his pocket that will allow him to cut the ropes and swim to safety.
- Cross Your Arms: This one isn’t actually a creativity booster, instead, it is a motivation booster. Sometimes in the middle of a writing session I will suddenly run out of juice, and even though I have ideas to write down, I suddenly don’t feel like writing anymore. If this happens to you, try folding your arms across your chest for thirty seconds. This body language will trick your brain into thinking you are feeling stubborn/determined and will help you find new motivation to keep writing.
Obviously, none of these tips are going to turn you into a creative mastermind (but you probably already are one, you just don’t know it) but, they are fun little tricks to pull out when you need that extra boost. I’ve been working them into my writing routine, and it could just be the placebo effect talking but so far they seem to work.
What do you do when you feel creatively stuck? What are some of your #youknowyoureawriterwhen moments?
Stay Amazing My Friends!