Monday, 16 November 2009

Where do ideas come from, mummy? #1

Here's a great tip for getting ideas flowing - get into your brain quick before your brain knows you're in there.

I do this all the time and it's thrown up some wierd and wonderful stuff!

  1. Sit down somewhere quiet where you won't be distracted (unless you're distracted by quiet) with pen and pad or computer.

  2. Pick a subject - quick! Something vaguely on your mind? Have you been thinking about eyebrows or oysters? Or pick a word at random from a book you have close to hand. It doesn't matter what you choose - this is just a starting point. Don't think too much. You're not browsing here, you're shoplifting. Pick it and run with it.

  3. Start writing. Start on the subject you just picked but if you veer off don't worry - the important thing is to keep writing non-stop for ten minutes. The trick is to train yourself not to think too much.

  4. Don't stop! If you get stuck write down the first words that come into your head even if it's nonsense. No-one's watching, no-one's judging. It's a different way of using your brain - tapping more into the subconscious and that's where the good stuff is!

  5. After ten minutes, stop (unless you're on a roll in which case you might want to see where it takes you).

  6. Maybe now, maybe later, read back what you wrote. Sometimes it really will be gibberish, butI have found that often what you have written is rich in ideas, phrases, sometimes even the beginnings of characters or plots for stories, occasionally even the skeleton of an entire poem.

  7. Take what you want from this - if there's a good phrase or idea file it away for later, or use the exercise to jump-start your day's writing. If there's nothing there, don't be put off. Try another time.

The exercise is particularly useful if you want to write on a particular subject and have drawn a blank. Your right 'creative' brain makes connections you may not have thought of. Here's an example:

Broken Biro

two kinds of broken biro – the knackered bic – a simple snap, a short sharp blow to the back of the parentheses - and the unreconstructed ballpoint spilling it’s nuts and bolts before you – the tiny spring like the ring binder of your almost empty jotter, the worn knob you press and repress for the satisfying click that masquerades as action, the internal gubbins – casings, little plastic rings and tubes if you’re lucky, the slim missile of ink – a weapon of mass deliberation. Thick blue black blood. Sometimes, miniature engines or batteries, a yard of dazzling coloured silk like a magician’s entrails, a swarm of ideas, barely visible to the naked eye, the declaration of independence inscribed on a piece of fluff, a new species of bacteria unleashed, splendid microscopic racehorses galloping off down the page, raw wit in its natural state, the dust of all your fore-fathers, molecules of air once breathed by Julius Caesar, the composted droppings of the doubt fly.
Look at it all – innocuous, lacking deliberation, just the things that happened to be inside your pen. What to do with it all? Where to keep it?


  1. "gubbins" is a good word to start with!!!

  2. Brilliant first post, BB!! I'm all fired up now that I've got instructions (what DOES this tell you about me??) and I loved your free-writing/thinking. My god what a wonderful brain you have. 'Weapon of mass deliberation' is a fabulous term.