I've always felt that writers aren't smarter or more creative than non-writers. I think the difference between a writer and a non-writer is that a writer doesn't have enough sense to know this should be difficult. Writing and creativity are products of the mind- not extraordinary minds- every mind. You can also tap into this creative power by learning a few simple tricks.
Recognize that your brain is awesome, but it has limits. It has a difficult time changing gears from one mode of thinking to another. Remember trying to get through math class right after lunch? Your mind was focused on the social realm and until it completed the transition, math was unnaturally difficult. The same is true for creativity. Learn the creative modes and keep them away from each other. Never try to do two of these at the same time. Each has it's own place. Here are the modes:
• Creative Freestyle- If you''ve ever sat down and scribbled out a great poem without much thinking, this is the mode you were in. This is also the mode you’re in when you’re in "the zone." When you’re actually entering the prose and your mind opens like a floodgate- that's the freestyle creative mode. In this mode there is no logic and no criticism. If you’re thinking critically or in logical, sequential terms- then you’ll and hamper your creativity.
• Logical Freestyle- This is the plotting and outlining mode. You should be thinking in practical terms here. Times, dates, events, orders, locations. This is the mode of structure and planning. It is creative, but only in the sense that you creatively organize. Criticism is still out, and if you find yourself immersed in creative thought that’s not related to logical planning- you're in the wrong zone.
• Logical Formal- In this mode your creativity is turned off almost entirely. You’re thinking like a mathematician now. Outline and plot your writing, but only to enhance the structure- no new ideas here- just organizing. Think of this as the finial edit of your plan or outline. No major creative changes- just focus on the plot or outline itself.
• Critical Freestyle- Get out your red pen and mark up your manuscript. Be merciless- let all of that self criticism and doubt flood onto the page in red ink. When you feel yourself arguing against an edit- ignore it. This mode is for criticism only. Criticism can be general or specific. You could mark up your comma usage, or you could make a note that this portion of the story is weak. Don''t think of solutions- not now. Just criticism.
• Critical Formal- Go over your marks and look for technical reasons why the writing is not working. Write some suggestions for improvement, but not in a originally creative sense. For example, instead of thinking of a million ways to make the reader more sympathetic to your character, you would write, "Writing in this passage is weak. Lack of reader sympathy for character. Find way to increase sympathy." If you were to go beyond that and start thinking of creative ways to do that- you're in trouble. Wait, be patient.
Always know what mode you need to be in. Keep each mode separate, and you'll find writing is easier and more enjoyable.
(c) Jeff Heisler
Jeff Heisler is a freelance writer and novelist.
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