Thursday, February 23, 2012

Filling the blank page when your head is empty! Tips for refreshing parched creativity.

Weeks ago you agreed to write an article for an organization’s newsletter or to speak to a local civic group on “anything you want.” Or, even worse, you were given a class writing assignment. You had lots of time and certainly could come up with something since the topic was wide open.

Now, your deadline is a few days or hours away and you’ve got nothing! Your mind is a giant tabula rasa, a frozen white tundra of nothingness. What are you going to do?


Then, once you’ve exhausted yourself screaming, calm down and get a bit more productive. Here are simple techniques to light up your cold gray matter with some hot ideas.

Play: Stress shuts out ideas. A great stress zapper is play! My home office is sprinkled with toys that make noise. Playing with them briefly siphons off a great deal of stress and helps clear the headwebs. Find something to play with.

Humor: If you’re not reading the comics every day (or at least on Sunday), it’s no wonder you’re dull-headed! Get out the funnies and have a good laugh while you’re playing with your toys. I’ve got collections of the Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, Dilbert, New Yorker cartoons, and more that I’ll flip through for inspiration. It works.

Clip File: Clip and save those newspaper and magazine articles that grab you (or print them off the Internet). Don’t worry about organizing the clippings; just save them. Going through a hodgepodge of clippings creates a whole new context for each. You’ll see ideas and concepts connect and clash in unexpected ways as you browse.

I’ve got a half-dozen of those expandable brown folder thingies and a box full of articles, ads, quotes, postcards, photos, and other odds and ends collected over the years. Browsing them is a great way to kick-start ideas.

Read: Read your clip file. Read a book. Read the cereal box. Go through books you’ve read and look at passages you underlined. Read bits and pieces from a magazine covering a topic you have no real interest in. If you’re dry on ideas, reading is one of the best ways to get your brain refreshed and functioning.

Listen: Put on your favorite music, close your eyes, and really listen to it. Borrow a teen’s iPod and try to listen to their music. Turn on the radio and tune into a talk show. Enjoy an audio book. Step outside on your back porch and just listen. It’s amazing what you’ll hear when you tune into the background “noise.”

Now write: Write whatever comes and keep writing for at least 15 minutes without stopping. Then read what you’ve written. Somewhere in there will be the key idea that will unlock that paper, article, or talk. All you’ll need to do is flesh it out. Odds are the ideas will flow almost faster than you can capture them. If they don’t, start over.

(Taken from  All Writing Is Not Equal: How To Write Anything Better.)

How do you get your creative juices flowing? Have you ever experienced writer's block? How long did it last? How did you overcome it?

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