We all understand that creative writing is produced by creative people. We mean that people with the right kind of minds and the right interests can write interesting poems, stories and plays. Many of us enjoy reading that kind of writing, and some of us even play at writing it. We don’t expect creative writing to solve real world problems.
An analytical approach to writing suggest that maybe writing does not require creativity; instead, writing is a remarkably effective way to make ourselves more creative. Words are cheap – we no longer even have to pay for paper and pens (just a tiny bit of electricity). They work when we use them correctly and sometimes, surprisingly, they work even when we use them by mistake. There is no downside risk to writing your way through a problem.
Here are five simple ways that you can use words to allow you to become more creative: to see new possibilities in existing situations; to create models that demonstrate the effects of change before they happen; and to discover common ground with others even where none existed before.
Write lists until you run out of things to write.
Then keep writing whatever comes to mind, even if it seems crazy or repetitive. In the third stage, you will find that sheer perseverance results in some genuinely new ideas.
Think of someone who would be able to solve the problem you are attacking.
It does not have to be someone in the same field, just someone who has the moxy to generate new ways of getting to results. Write a letter or prepare a report as if you would have to present it to that person. You will find that in order to write for that person, you need to think a little like that person – and new answers will begin to appear.
Pick a format you would not usually use to deal with a challenge and write about it in that format.
You could write a short story about a business problem or a departmental report about your toddler’s temper. The key is to pick a format that gives a defined structure to what you will say. As you write, remain aware that you need to meet the requirements of the format you have picked, whether it’s a post-modern play or a funding proposal.
It is the nature of language that a few words need to cover huge experiences. Keep asking yourself “what specifically do I mean there?” or “how could I make that clearer if I were talking to someone who didn’t know me or this situation?” As you exert pressure on the language to make it more tangible and specific, you will find the edges of the situation you are describing. Sometimes you will dig down to a new insight, and sometimes the words that are not quite right will pull you in a useful new direction.
Try to write the exact opposite of what you mean.
This is not entirely a rational exercise (what is the opposite of orange?). You will find, however, that if you ask yourself: what is the opposite of what I want to say, you will find that you have an answer. This is a three part process: you need to think about what you want to say, figure out the opposite, and then evaluate whether you’ve either moved toward what you wanted to say or changed your mind about what you think.
You have a lifetime, unlimited supply of words. With those words, you can define situations, influence other people, and create possibilities that do not yet exist in real life. After all, it’s easy to move mountains with your words – it’s only hard when you move them with a shovel. Through words, you can create new possibilities – mechanically at first, and then with genuine energy.
You do not have to be a creative person to create new possibilities with words. You just need to be analytical enough to choose words and structures that are counter-intuitive and to notice what happens in your mind as you use them. Words might even make you believe you are a creative thinker after all.
About the Author:
Linda Ferguson, Ph.D. is a senior partner at NLP Canada Training Inc. in Toronto, Canada. With her partner, Chris Keeler, Linda offers training that allows people to wake up, find their best selves, and get the results they want. Clients experience rapid, sustainable change and long-term learning about how their thinking drives success. They offer certifications in NLP and Ericksonian hypnosis and courses in language, influence, corporate storytelling and Enneagram. Read more from Linda at http://www.nlpcanada.com or http://www.nlpcanadatraining.blogspot.com