Want something to generate some fun, original ideas even if your brain is out to lunch?
Look no further.
You can, with this technique, change your creative context. I’ll tell you just how in a moment. But first, let me make a confession. I’m a loose-constructionist when it comes to defining “creativity.” For me, a creative idea does not have to win you Nobel Prize, get you on the Today Show, or put you in Forbes Magazine. If it’s new to you, then you’re off to a good start.
Creative Clash – Banging Words Together
Most of us have heard of or tried brainstorming, and that’s a great, mind-mapping tool. But what about producing a new idea when you’re brain-storm has proven to be a drizzle and not a gully-washer? What if you need something a bit more mechanical that doesn’t depend, at least at first, on inspiration?
I’m going to suggest to you that you do a variation of an idea that I first came across in Ray Bradbury’s The Zen of Writing. Bradbury talks about how many of his ideas came from lists. He would just sit down and write a list, not a mind-map or anything other than a plain old, one-idea-to-a-line list.
So just make a list, one word to a line. If your brain is shot, then just write down what you see or hear in your room or on your TV screen. (Didn’t think I knew it was on, eh?) At the moment, my list would be: books, table, dog, green, washing machine, rug, dinner, flowers, wine, horses. You can keep going if you want, but 10 topics will do.
Now it’s time for step two, creativity with word-clash.
Word-clash is taking the first word and banging it against every other word on your list. So, you’ll write book-table, book-dog, book-green, or book-washing machine, and on and on. Some of these may be meaningless, but others may be the beginning of a metaphor or other cool idea. You might even have a new invention on your hands. Book-washing machine sounds like just the thing when your favorite anime’ has been handled by a niece with sticky, strawberry-jam hands. Book-table doesn’t inspire anything new, but book-horse could mean a couple of different things. It might be a text on horse-shoeing, or some other aspect of horse ownership, or it might be about how to gamble on the ponies.
There are no right answers, only interesting possibilities.
The point is to crack open your ordinary frame of reference and get you to place familiar ideas or objects in unfamiliar places. This, when it works, is the stuff of metaphor. The power of poetry comes from these insightful connections. You can explore this power by just randomly banging some words together.
Don’ underestimate the power of this tool. And you don’t have to wait until you are fried to try it. Another variation is to cut the list in half, and put the pieces side-by-side. Yet another variation is to take a dictionary, randomly open it to 10 places and stab your finger down on a word. Take what you get, or cheat a bit, and build a list.
That’s your assignment for the day. Take the 10 words or phrases and do the clash. Then you put the jumble of ideas under your pillow to sleep on it. If nothing else, maybe the tooth fairy will foul-up and leave you a quarter.
Or a book-washing machine.
It’s worth a try.