Thinking Beyond the Box
It looks like I am starting a new series. PsychologyToday.com has wonderful articles and I’ve picked a few I’d like to abstract from a writer’s point of view. This first one is about Lateral Thinking. We usually call it ‘Thinking Outside the Box’.
As writer’s we think…a lot. Call it visualizing, imagineering, or directed fantasy, we spend an inordinate amount of time inside our heads. Don’t be afraid to just let your mind play. The more you practice lateral thinking, the easier it gets. Don’t set boundaries. Far out ideas can yield wonderful results as they are refined.
First steps first, if you are going to think outside the box, you must first define the box. What DO you know already? What are the immutable laws of story physics? Is the sky pink, the grass blue? Do your characters have two arms and two legs? Simple stuff. You probably have most of that figured out. So what is it that needs working out?
The article brings out interesting questions. Do you understand the REAL problem? It may seem your character has an easy decision to make but have you taken into account that his grandmother made him promise to keep the land in one piece?
Did you jump on the first offering? I find it helpful to break out the white board or paper and surround the initial question with numerous options.
Maintain your flexibility. Just how many of us have trashed an entire segment of our story because our Muse finally woke up from a wine-induced coma and screamed, “NO!!” There is nothing you do that can’t be undone. Your spouse may wonder about the strange guttural utterances coming from your work area, but they’ve learned to accept and love you by now.
Beth Comstock, CMO of General Electric offered this advice. Nurture the newborn idea. Feed it. Give it room to grow. Burp the darn thing if necessary. Commit to a promising idea. Unless you decide to write the entire story from the ending to the beginning…in Klingon…most ideas have some promising aspect. When you find a good one, work on it. Talk it out. Whether it is with a trusted friend or family member or just to yourself, hearing it out loud makes it real. (Spouses are contractually obligated to listen. It’s in the vows. Look it up.) Don’t give up. You may need to shelve an idea for a while so your subconscious can chew on it but make sure you come back to it.
Albert Einstein is considered one of the most intelligent people of our time but he often sat back and just visualized his ideas, sometimes as a train engine chugging along. He believed that intelligence and creativity work best together.
As writers, we have an innate ability to put together words. We are the storytellers and, as such, have been respected for our talent and knowledge across time. But we need to believe in ourselves and our abilities. We need to trust that our instincts are good.
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