Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Spiral of Creative Thinking

Creative thinking  skills assure more success in all areas of life, especially when accompanied by critical thinking skills. The path of gaining creative thinking skills is less linear and more multi-dimensional that may require periods of backtracking, wandering aimlessly or standing still. Skills also demand emotional intelligence to manage the feelings that arise -- emotions that often have little or nothing to do with the task at hand.

The learning curve for developing creative thinking skills can be steep, but well worth the effort.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Ask Questions

We like to have answers. You can learn a lot about what and how you think by asking questions of others because:

  • the answers will give you insight into what you are really asking, especially if not answered
  • you may gain knowledge you didn't previously possess
  • new information may open the door to new areas of thought
  • if the answer is an opinion, you can compare it to what you believe
  • the question you ask may lead you to what you what you really want to know
Thinkers try on new ideas like a compulsive shopper. When they fit, they can make for an entirely new presentation of your core ideas. Sometimes they don't suit one model of thought, but coordinate beautifully with another. Other times they won't fit and you are required to discard them. This seems simple and obvious, but requires practice to assure emotional baggage doesn't color or distract from what you believe to be true.

Practice asking questions for insight and the integration of new information rather than confirmation and validation. In taking yourself and your personal needs out of the questions, you are better able to focus on the ideas and the mental processing that goes with understanding those ideas.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Thinking and Feeling

Too often, thinking becomes emotional. Maybe a thought triggers old baggage. Perhaps embracing new knowledge threatens the way you see reality. The greater your resistance, the more volatile the reaction. Being open-minded is a lofty goal, but you are an emotional being.

When confronted with information that provokes an emotional reaction you have any number of choices including:
  • hold onto what you know with righteous indignation and shut down your thinking
  • let go (if you can) and see what happens
  • distract yourself from this particular line of thinking and return when you are ready
  • work through your feelings until the path is clear to move your thinking forward
  • do something physical to help work through your feelings
  • fight the emotional battle within yourself to allow better thinking
You will make different choices depending on the thoughts and feelings you experience. You may even cycle through many of the choices listed above or find choices of your own. Part of thinking is developing emotional intelligence, a personal process only you can design.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Opinions & Creative Thinking

Take a stand. What harm could it do? Generate discussion? Create conflict? Maybe you will learn you are mistaken? All of the above? These are good things for both the creative and critical thinker. Why?

  • generating discussion opens doors to new information and pushes the limits of what you think you know
  • conflict that isn't personal is an opportunity to contrast ideas and/or find ideas that embrace opposing ones
  • learning to be mistaken and move on is a lifelong lesson that will haunt you unless you practice
Part of critical thinking, learning and embracing new knowledge requires overcoming resistance. You want to be right, right now, but sometimes you're not only wrong, the scaffolding of your arguments are faulty or your story is inauthentic. To others, a shift in thinking may not seem as big of a deal as it is to you. When you can set your ego aside and let go, your thinking and writing will be clearer, sounder and far more creative. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Bringing the Brain Together

The model of left brain/right brain that evolved in the 1960's now makes for a terrific metaphor: The idea was that the left hemisphere holds the logic of the critical thinker, the right hemisphere holds the imagination of the creative thinker, and for each of us, one side is more dominant than the other.

We now know that certain cognitive functions and other specific brain activities may be located in a particular part of the brain but it is their interaction that maximizes thinking. In other words, thinking requires skills in critical analysis as well as creativity. When the synapses fire between the areas of the brain, thought happen.

Writing requires both critical and creative thinking skills. Your challenge is determining how to use your skills effectively. Do you think about the beginning and end before filling in the middle? Do you know the middle before deciding upon your thesis and conclusion? Do you spew words before refining? Do you outline before proceeding?

Draw upon different sides of your brain, especially when stuck. You may surprise yourself. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Creative and Critical Thinking

  • If you can't think, you can't write.
  • If you don't think before you write, you could end up spewing verbiage that remains an unfinished draft that doesn't captivate readers or audience.
  • If you don't develop critical thinking skills, your expressions could wander around aimlessly and lack depth.
  • Without creative thinking skills, your writing unique writing voice will not be expressed.
Developing your creative and critical thinking skills will enhance your writing before you put words on the page. Consider outlining, mapping or even making notes before you begin, even if you find a need to veer in a different direction.

The map is not the territory.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Incorporating New Ideas

Thinking and writing are work -- fun, but still work. Sometimes you have to switch gears because you discover a new idea or concept that reshapes your original intention. Other times the feedback from others forces you to rethink your intention or how you can best fulfill your intention.

Change is hard and changing your mind is even harder. When you are writing or thinking about what you're writing, you may need to take time to let your thinking change to incorporate new ideas, include new information or assimilate feedback. You may even surprise yourself when you succeed.

Let your work evolve. This may mean discarding large chunks of what you have written. No, you didn't waste time writing what you discarded and yes, you just might use it elsewhere.

BE NOT AFRAID or be afraid and do it anyway.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015


Whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction, you need to write what is true. You want your reader or audience to feel the truth in whatever you are writing. Even the most exotic fantasy or science fiction is rooted in a truth that resonates.

Truth isn't only about facts and evidence. Truth requires a willingness to be vulnerable to the feelings it provokes. As a writer, when you show the value of seeking truth, you take your reader or audience with you so that they also want to seek truth.

Beware of "truthiness" -- truth laced with fallacies. Honesty is challenging but worth the effort.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Map is not the Territory

A guy talked about the book he was developing. He was excited because he'd worked through a complex plot with dynamic characters for his science fiction novel. There was no doubt in his mind that the final product would be well-received.

There was just one thing. Although he did all of the thinking preparation, he had yet to write anything down. He claimed that all he had to do was type up what he was thinking. End of story.

The act of writing is an act of discovery. Thinking and planning are vital for successful writing, but so is writing and rewriting. Putting words to paper (or screen) is a process unto itself. You make a commitment to the process in a way that will shape and reshape your original thoughts.

Just as acting is reacting, writing is rewriting.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Creative Thinking and Inductive Reasoning

You may or may not think of yourself as particularly creative. Just because you can't draw, make music or perform double pirouettes doesn't mean you can't be a creative thinker. Yes, much of your creative impulses were educated out of you, but there is hope. All you have to do think creatively is move out of your comfort zone and explore new ideas.

Inductive reasoning is your friend. Although the conclusions of inductive reasoning are uncertain, First you collect data and evidence and then you draw a conclusions. Your reasoning may prove effective or may result in a fallacy. Whatever. The exercise of inductive reasoning will help you think more creatively.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Gender Challenge

You don't always need to include gender as a target market, but sometimes it helps. For example, the sexiness of Fifty Shades of Grey attracts both genders, but the overall content targets women. This was no easy feat and E.L. James rose to the occasion. That's not to say that this book (and now movie) is brilliantly written, but it did gain traction beyond those who regularly read chick lit.

Part of identifying your target market will not only help you recognize for whom you are writing, but will help you cultivate your unique writing voice.Also, cultivating your writing voice will help you better identify your target market.

When critiquing, recognizing some of the fundamental differences between you and the author or writer will help you better understand their work. You may not be the target market, but applying creative and critical thinking skills will assure a better result.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Experience Shapes Thought

Your experience conditions how you apply creative and critical thinking to your writing and how you critique the writing of others. Enhancing these skills assures better success.

We are creatures who love our routines. Rather than seeing the act of writing as a discipline, consider creating rituals that match your thinking style. However, before you put words to the page, think about why a particular story needs to be told here and now.

  • For whom are you writing?
  • What do you want your reader or audience to gain from your work?
  • How do you want to affect your readers or audience?
  • How will you sustain their interest?
If you're critiquing the work of another writer, recognize that the writer may not share your way of thinking. Keep an open mind and embrace the different mindset so that you better speak to the needs of that writer. 

Use this strategy for critiquing published work. You will enhance your creative and critical thinking skills through analysis without worrying about the feelings of the writer. This is an excellent way to exercise your unique way of thinking.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Nonthinking Thinking

Sometimes, not even problem-solving will help you find resolution when writing or critiquing. Thinking is hard. Not thinking is even harder. When focused on your task, letting go can be challenging. The fear of never finishing what you started is a real concern and can drive you wackadoodle.

Not thinking isn't really a lack of thought, it's more of a diversion or a way of stimulating other parts of your brain. 

Trust your intention, commit to the completion of your work and step away from the page. Let the resolution rise from your creative unconscious to your conscious mind. You may surprise yourself.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Recognize the Subjective

Complete objectivity is not possible, even when you've developed heightened skills in critical and creative thinking. At the same time, as you enhance your thinking skills you will be better equipped to separate objective evaluations from subjective conclusions.

Subjectivity can be exploited to write content that provokes. Nor do you have to play fair when you write. However, there is a fine line between provocation that engages and provocation that alienates.

In critiquing, the subjective aspects of the work and your subjective reactions can give you insight into how a piece works. Being reactive is normal, but an effective critiquer  also need to assess from whence a reactions come from, separating the personal from the universal.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Training the Brain

Training your brain is like exercising any other muscle. You work out until your body responds without conscious thought. Like great thinkers, athletes may be born with an innate talent, but without training, these talents are not fully realized. Moving past prior limitations can be painful, but worth the effort. The initial discomfort of brain training pays off, especially when writing.

Discovering and assimilating new information is one way to train your brain. The key is the assimilation part. Gathering information isn't enough. Learning to integrate the new information in a way that broadens or deepens your original thoughts takes effort and a willingness to alter your thinking.

One way to apply brain training to writing is sharing your work with others and learning to assimilate feedback in a way that improves your work. This takes practice and more practice. You will falter, stumble and fall numerous times before you are able to get up and do the work that needs to be done. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Target Audience

For whom are you writing? If your answer is one of the above, you're doing yourself a disservice. Not only will the marketing of your work suffer, but the work itself will also suffer.As you think about what you will write, focusing on a target audience can help you shape your work effectively.

Thinking strategies for articulating your target audience include:
  1. Choose someone from your life you believe would value and enjoy your work and write for them.
  2. Visualize reading your work (or having it read) to a group and think about who would be included in that group.
  3. Identify other works that share your target audience.
  4. Determine where your work would appear in a directory or bookstore.
  5. Think about what makes your work special.
  6. Look at your social media interests as a way of focusing your intent. 

The form your work takes may change during development, but your target audience is likely to remain the same. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Danger, Will Robinson

Ah, the conundrum of provocation. On the one hand, you want your work to make others think. On the other hand, your work may inspire emotions your readers do not wish to feel. 

As a critiquer, your challenge is to recognize and accept your reactions to a piece of written work. Monitoring your reactions can give you insight into the effectiveness of what is written. Did the content get under your skin because you disagree or was it because the writer didn't back up their conclusions with evidence? Did a particular character push a button in you or was their a disconnect between who they are and what they did?

Critiquing isn't only about the work, it's about you and your thinking process. Think of this as an opportunity for possible insight.

(If you don't know who Will Robinson was it's because you never watched LOST IN SPACE)