Creativity: How Does a Writer Get Ideas?

National Public Radio posted an article today entitled “5 Ways To Spark Your Creativity“. As writers of fantasy and science fiction, as well as scientists, this subject is particularly pertinent. The article cited such things as letting your thoughts wander while you do mindless tasks, exposing yourself to different cultures by living abroad, and sleeping on a problem. It also talked about the effects of your surroundings; for example, the color blue incites creativity, and watching or listening to humor or mood-boosting music releases creativity-blocking anxiety. The interesting thing is that these conclusions are all scientifically based, not just hand waving, feel-good notions.

Personally, we’ve experienced success with some of these methods. Putting aside a problem in favor of a good night’s sleep is one; numerous times, an issue has resolved itself during the night, while the brain has done whatever it is the brain does while you’re unconscious. Also, letting thoughts drift has worked on dozens of occasions. As sailors who regularly do overnight passages, we tend to have plenty of quiet time to just think. Of course, a beautiful star-scape, the glowing Milky Way, and shooting stars certainly punch up the imagination. Alternatively, role-play gaming (RPG) gets the creative juices flowing. One of our most successful methods is brainstorming while driving, sailing, or walking long distances. This is most useful for working through issues, such as tangled or stumped plot lines, but also is good at stimulating creativity by working off of one another. For example, there would have been only three Scimitar Seas novels instead of four if not for a long walk we took on Acklin Island in the Bahamas, throwing around plot ideas. That was a good day…

So read the article and try some of these methods to spur your creativity to greater heights. Better yet, tell us some of the methods you use to create your own special spark!


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