Today we are diving back into our series on improving creativity for writers, based on Shelley Carson's book Your Creative Brain. If you are just joining us, check out the first two installments: the Absorb brainset and the Envision brainset.
Today's brainset is the Connect brain set.
The Connect brain set is the closest to our usual idea of creativity. It involves the ability to generate a large number of unique and out-of-the-box ideas. Instead of settling on obvious solutions, a person who’s comfortable in Connect brainset imagines all kinds of off-the-wall possibilities. To a Connecter, a glass isn't merely a vessel for holding water. It's a paperweight, cookie-cutter, bug trapping tool, weapon, rolling pin, musical instrument, and more.
This brainset is also characterized by the ability to make unusual associations. For example, someone less comfortable with the Connect brain set might associate the word ‘cake’ with birthdays, flour, candles, etc. But someone strong in the Connect brainset might think about mud, the computer game Portal (The cake is a lie!), cabaret girls jumping out at parties, pie, cakewalks, etc.
How to strengthen the connect brainset:
1. Practice turning off the critical side of your brain. You can evaluate the ideas later. The more ideas you generate, the more likely it is that you'll hit upon a really good one.
2. Brainstorming with other people helps, but you’ll get more unique ideas by brainstorming separately before sharing what you came up with.
3. Take advantage of good moods. Studies have shown that people perform better in these creative tasks after receiving an unexpected gift, laughing, or hearing a good joke. And this seems to work in the opposite direction as well -- generating ideas quickly can improve your mood.
4. Go outside. Studies suggest that exposure to bright light and beautiful scenery improves mood and decreases cognitive inhibition, putting you in a better frame of mind to create freely.
Exercises for the Connect brainset, inspired by Carson's exercises but tailored for writers.
1. Plot Development Sprint:
Think of an undeveloped story idea, and write down a few areas where the plot needs fleshing out. For example, say you're writing a story about a girl who visits her grandmother. You might list as questions for more exploration: Why is she visiting her grandmother? How does she get there? What obstacles do she meet along the way? Now set a timer for 3 min., and write down as many answers as possible to your first question. Remember, don't evaluate these ideas. That's for later. After these 3 min., move onto the next question, trying to come up with more ideas each round.
2. Story idea brainstorm
This idea is inspired by writer Dean Wesley Smith’s short story challenge. Flip through any random book and pick out a phrase that stands out to you. Now write that phrase down, and set your timer for 3 min. Now pretend that phrase as the title of the story, and generate as many scenarios as you can to fit that title. Next, pick two phrases and brainstorm as many stories as you can incorporating both of those phrases in some fashion. If you're adventurous, move on to three or even more.
There are four more brainsets, but I won't cover them on the blog because I don't want to give away too much of the book. If you're interested in learning more, check out Your Creative Brain.
What have you learned about creativity from the series?
Note: In a nice dovetail to this post, science fiction writer Paul de Filippo just published an essay with 40K books on writing science fiction -- more specifically, science fiction that isn't stingy with ideas, but crams as many as possible into one story. 40K books was kind enough to give me a copy to give away on this blog.
Here's the description of the book:
The complete title of this work is: How to write wild-eyed, overstuffed, multiplex, maximalist, recomplicated, high-bandwidth Science Fiction, or, “realize I don’t wanna be a miser/how come everybody wanna keep it like the Kaiser?”
Don’t expect this book to be a traditional “How To”. It’s a travel into the Science Fiction.
“Science fiction is the literature of ideas?
Sure it is—on a tightly rationed basis!
The truth is, most writers of science fiction and fantasy are naturally stingy.
We tend to hoard ideas, like the dragon Smaug lying on his treasure. We parcel them out in dribs and drabs. One notion per story. Maybe two High Concepts per novel.
Why do we do this?”
To enter to win a copy of the book, do one of two things:
1. Share this article on twitter, and leave a comment with your twitter handle
2. RSS subscribers will see a secret password at the bottom of their post. E-mail scratch that send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with that code as the subject line.
I will choose a winner on Wednesday, July 13.
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