27 January 2012


Many moons ago I used to be a trainer, business skills training as opposed to animals in case you were confused.

The sessions I ran at one training conference were interspersed with those of another trainer. For ease of timing and handover I sat in on the other session, which was on the subject of creativity.

The trainer explained ways in which we stop or limit creativity, and then demonstrated a number of techniques to help kickstart our creativity. The examples and activities centred around sales, but most of the techniques should be familiar to writers.

The most obvious ways we sabotage ourselves is by thinking we aren’t creative, and our fear of failure.
No point in entering the short story competition as I won't win.
If I don't send the manuscript to the publishers I can't be rejected.

We believe the rejection is saying we're no good, when in reality it might be that the publisher has just accepted a similar story, or they aren't taking on anything new. We've just struck the editor at the wrong moment.

We can stop our creativity by judging an idea too quickly.  As soon as it pops above the radar our critic jumps on it and says, 'What rubbish, you'll never make a writer.'

That's why something like NaNoWriMo is so great. We've told our inner critic to take the month off, and if it does make an appearance we don't have the time to listen to it and censor our ideas.

Among the creativity techniques the trainer presented, i.e. brainstorming, six hats, mind mapping etc. was one called something along the lines of 'getting yourself fired'. The technique was that when trying to solve a problem, you thought of the most outrageous way you could solve it, a way that would most certainly get you fired if you implemented it. Having come up with that outrageous idea, you then pulled it back a little to something that wouldn't get you fired, but was still way beyond what you would usually suggest. Using that technique the group actually came up with some really good ideas for problems that some of them were struggling with back at their office.

Often when working with plot, we know what we want to happen and push the character into making that choice. The problem with this is twofold. One is that the actions are often out of sync with what the character would do, and secondly, the plot point is often the first thing we thought of, and therefore the one the reader will be expecting because it is so obvious.

The secret then, is not to stop at our first idea.  We need to keep pushing our creativity, and with the character in mind, come up with all the different ways they would act and deal with the situation.  Have a creative day.

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