Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stretching Your Creative Muscles

Want a quick and easy way to increase your creativity?

Don't we all!

Well, sorry, I don't know any quick ways, but I do know a trick that's fairly easy. Interested?

First, let me tell you a bit about when and how I first discovered this "creativity exercise". It was at a time when a lot of magazines -- both writing magazines and psychology magazines -- were touting creativity tests. "Are You Creative?" -- or some variation thereof -- blared from dozens of colorful covers.

I looked at the question, laughed, and went on my way. Of course I was a creative individual. Between writing, musical composition, art, and a dozen other "creative" hobbies, I reeked creativity. Right? Well, I thought so.

But then one day I grabbed one of those magazines, took one of those quizzes, and discovered that I'd been wrong all along. According to the test results, I didn't have a single creative bone in my little body. I was aghast. Everything I'd believed about myself had been a lie.

Fortunately, the magazine I'd chosen had a remedy to suggest. For those -- like me -- who scored low on the CQ (Creativity Quotient) hope still existed. I just needed to begin exercising those creative muscles and maybe, in time, I'd see improvement.

In looking back, I laugh a little whenever I tell this story, because I know I've always been a creative individual, and I've been exercising my creative muscles all along. My problem wasn't a low CQ; it was letting myself be too easily swayed by what I read. I've since learned not to put a great deal of faith in psychological tests, especially ones designed to measure something that really can't be measured.

But back then, I needed something to boost my sagging confidence, so I undertook one of the exercises listed. It proved to be somewhat of a turning point for me with my writing. It helped me discover a new approach to putting words on the page. It also taught me the value in that old adage about putting one's rear in the chair and staying there.

So, without further ado or explanation, I'd like to share this simple creativity exercise.

  1. Sit down in front of your computer (or typewriter, if you're still in that mode).
  2. Note the time.
  3. Begin writing -- about anything. Don't go back to correct errors; don't erase; don't worry about spelling. Don't even worry about content. Just start writing.
  4. Keep writing for as long as you can without stopping.
  5. When you absolutely can't write a moment more, stop.
  6. Note the time.
Now, look at how long you wrote. Double it and make that your goal. For instance, if you wrote for 55 minutes, your final goal will be 110 minutes. If you couldn't make it past 20 minutes, fine. Your final goal will be 40 minutes. Or, if you find yourself having fun, like I did, and you end up writing non-stop for 2 hours and 45 minutes, your final goal will be 5 hours and 30 minutes.

The next day, sit down in front of your computer and begin writing non-stop once again. This time write for 5 minutes longer than you did the previous day. Write about anything! Write about the weather. Write about how silly and pointless the exercise is. (I did a lot of that.) Write about family, friends, old memories, what you need from the grocery store, and what other things you could be doing if you weren't trapped in that hard-backed chair.

Each day, add another five minutes to your time until you eventually reach your goal.

Sounds a bit silly, I know. What you'll find, however, if you give this exercise a try, is that a lot of incredible things happen between Day 1 and your final goal. I'm not going to say much more because your experience will be different from mine. I will say, though, that what goes on during this creativity exercise can have a profound effect on your writing and your life.

I encourage every writer to give this little creativity exercise a try -- just once, at least. If you do, please let me know your thoughts -- afterward. I'd love to share stories with you.

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