Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Weekly writing coach: Flex your creative brain

Can you track how your mind creates new ideas when you write?  Can you exercise that "muscle?"  This New York Times article looks at how scientists are attempting to track creativity in the brain, and this ProBlogger post on how to make sure you're functioning at your creative best looks at the research from a slightly different view, examining the deliberative and spontaneous routes to creative ideas.

The Times article describes some of the tests scientists use to prompt the brain into creative thinking.  Why not try some of these to exercise your creative mind this week?

  1. Choose one common object--a brick, a sheet of paper, a pencil--and come up with a list of as many "new and useful" functions as you can. (This tests divergent thinking.)  How many creative uses can you think of?  Make this more challenging and limit your time: 2 minutes? 3 minutes?  Then, try it over a longer period.  How many uses for a brick can you come up with in a week, if you leave it in the background of your mind?

  2. Draw the taste of chocolate, or write a caption for a cartoon (as you can in The New Yorker's weekly contest).

  3. Get way out of the box and "imagine people could instantly change their sex, or imagine clouds had strings; what would be the implications?"  Other tests ask you to rethink historic events--as in,what if Hitler had won World War II.
Any of those exercises would be great to try with your fellow writers in the office, or online, as well as by yourself. 

It's useful to note the observations of Rex Jung, a researcher at Alburquerque's Mind Research Network. From the article:
“The brain appears to be an efficient superhighway that gets you from Point A to Point B” when it comes to intelligence, Dr. Jung explained. “But in the regions of the brain related to creativity, there appears to be lots of little side roads with interesting detours, and meandering little byways.”
That's a great analogy, and a reminder that creative thinking may take some time.  Now, take the time to try at least one of the exercises above, and keep yours in trim.

NOTE to readers:  I've had to turn off the commenting option for this post, which appears to be a spam magnet.

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