So I’ve just unsnarled myself from a vicious plot-block. I knew the bones were there; I was missing something. In the end, I needed to follow my own advice (again), strip back the many ideas I’d grown to love to reveal a core truth, then start brainstorming fresh from that point. Finally, success. For now. I’ve learned that my wip is going to be full of these fits and starts, these moments of inspiration followed by perspiration when something just isn’t working as planned.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m stuck–really stuck–I just can’t get much accomplished in front of my computer. I need Thinking Spaces. Here are a few of my favorite approaches:
* Steal from the sandman. It’s late. The lights are off, my spouse is snoring lightly, my dog is sprawled on the bed, and my mind is a dull blur. I’m on the edge of sleep. Doesn’t seem like a situation conducive for idea-generating on the surface of things, but it often is. Something happens to the brain right before sleep–it’s physical, it’s chemical, and it’s barrier-reducing, allowing you access to unboxed thoughts you may not have during waking hours. (Even scientists have noticed the before-sleep-creativity phenomenon.) That’s why I keep a nightwriter pen and a notebook on my bedside table, and often go to bed with a story question in mind.
* Zen. Any change of scenery is good for me when I’m stuck. I have to get up, leave my computer or laptop, and be elsewhere. Lately, I’ve taken to lying down on the couch or floor with my SONY IC Recorder in hand and my eyes closed. The ideas come fast and furious, and because they’re going straight into the recorder, I don’t stop to analyze my thoughts. This makes it easier to follow the path of a stray idea to its endpoint and learn more quickly if it has merit.
* Take a thinking shower. The hot water? The steamy air? A moment of solitary relaxation? I don’t know what it is about a shower that encourages a stream-of-consciousness brainstorming session, but it’s one of the most effective ways I know of to deal with a tangled bit of story.
* Work out. I can’t say I love my treadmill, but I use it anyway–and I’ve definitely noticed that doing so perks me up in the middle of the day. My mom called recently to report a new study: Swinging your arms while walking enhances creativity. I couldn’t find that particular report, but the link between exercise and creativity has been studied for a while now. It’s another situation in which a mini recorder would come in handy.
* Pack a suitcase. I went on a writer’s retreat in January (see “any change of scenery is good for me” point above). I had a very productive time, writing new scenes and outlining others. Of course it’s a good idea to break away from routine on occasion, shut down the technological devices as much as possible, and be alone with your thoughts. Though I did work on my laptop during the day, the evening hours found me with a Moleskine notebook and pencil; they were even my dining companions. And I have to say, there’s just something about a Moleskine–especially when accompanied by chocolate mousse.
Have any tricks to help maximize your creativity? How about favorite Thinking Places?
Write on, all!
Photo courtesy Flickr’s jurvetson