Creativity Training Part 1 – Mental Preparation

Alison Strachan

A guest blog by Alison Strachan

In my last guest post I touched on some helpful tools designed to help writers and artists make the most out of their time and keep creating. Today I’m going to go through the first point I mentioned: Mental Preparation. It is something that if used correctly – on its own and in conjunction with the next few tools, can really help condition our minds to keep creating consistently. It requires some effort but is well worth it in the end. Give it a go and let us know what you think!

Mental Preparation

If you have scheduled writing time on certain nights of the week just as I do, you can prepare yourself mentally before you sit down at your computer. I have heard the this technique described as Calling Down Lightning or Training your Muse but whichever way you look at it, the process is the same.

Keeping in mind a specific topic, character or something that interests you, the first step is to ask your brain a question. Let’s use my guest post for example. For my first guest post on Brad’s blog, I was asked to write about how I find time to write so I made a mental note of this, and filed it away in my brain.

Now it works best here if you can be specific about the type of information you require. To do this you might phrase a question to yourself such as:

  • What techniques have I used to ensure I have time to write and complete my goals?

Or you could ask:

  • Tell me ways in which I achieve my creative/writing goals within a limited time frame?

You get the picture. I have even heard of people being successful in asking their brains to come back with an answer by a deadline. Such as:

  • By tomorrow evening, tell me four ways in which I can maximise my efficiency in my limited writing time.

Then, utilising our brain’s Reticular Activating System (RAS) I am able to collect relevant ideas to use when I sit down to write.

RAS is a filter our brains use to process information using our subconscious. Ever wondered why ideas seem to pop into your head while you are in the middle of something else? You might be drifting off to sleep at night, or in the shower (this is where it happens most to me) or you might be going for your morning run and an idea slams into your conscious thoughts and you know you have to write it down. Your brain’s RAS filter has been making sense of the information you have soaked in over the last day (or two) and is making sense of it all for you.

You are actually reinforcing negative pathways in your brain when you allow yourself to sit at your computer getting frustrated with the blank page in front of you. You see, the two halves of our brains work in different ways. Our right half tends to be the creative thinker or our Muse. The left half tends to be our logical thinker, or our editor. Everyone is different and this means some people are more creative or more logical than others but in order to nurture the flow of ideas, we need to try and listen to what they are both telling us – without reservation.

The left and the right brain are squabbling siblings if you will; one is a control freak and the other a free spirit. They love each other but typically have a way of getting in each other’s way. If we ask our subconscious brain ahead of time without putting pressure on ourselves, our natural processes take over and the squabbling tends to go away.

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The left and the right brain are squabbling siblings if you will; one is a control freak and the other a free spirit. They love each other but typically have a way of getting in each other’s way.

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There is an article on the Write to Done blog here that might help you understand a little bit more.

This is why switching to menial tasks are often the best way to de-stress when facing a writing challenge and it helps to take notice of when your brain seems to feed back the most ideas. Remember you need to write all those tidbits down – even if you think the ideas are ridiculous.

Another way to make the most of this tool is to make a concerted effort to expose yourself to varied information while you are letting your brain percolate. This might be in the form of the internet – but I would advise against losing yourself in social media within that time as it seems to be detrimental. Instead I would suggest going out and exploring the world. Go to a café and people-watch, go to the beach or take your kids to the park to run around while your brain does its thing.

Image by digitalart via freedigitalphotos.net
Image by digitalart via freedigitalphotos.net

You’ll be amazed.

In my next post I will go through some ways to use the information your brain throws back at you.

What about you? Have you tried this technique before? Did it work?

What other ways have you tried to generate ideas?

Alison Strachan has been writing for many years. She considers herself an amateur writer, making progress with honing her craft, learning about the publishing industry and finding her voice. She is passionate about the environment, animal welfare and wants to make a difference with her writing.

She shares tips and excerpts of her fiction at Writing My Truth. You can also stalk her on Facebook, Twitter (@writingmytruth) and Pinterest and read the prequel to her fantasy novel here.

7 thoughts on “Creativity Training Part 1 – Mental Preparation

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  1. Great advice, Alison. Reminds me of words of advice I learned many years ago. The brain is a powerful tool of computation, and it will do its best to answer any question. The secret to success is asking it the right questions. For example, many people ask “OR” questions (e.g. should I be a heavy metal drummer OR an accountant). You’ve asked your brain to make a choice, and that’s what it’ll do (spoiler – it tells you to be a heavy metal drummer). But imagine if you asked it “AND” questions. How can I be a heavy metal drummer AND an accountant? If that’s what you ask your brain, that’s the problem your brain will solve … and it will solve it!

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