Yep, you’re getting ready to scratch the surface of an idea you’ve had for some time, or excite a recent one, or maybe it feels like there’s nothing getting you itching to go at all. Don’t fret. You’re not alone. In my experience it’s the idea of coming up with an idea which is the part that rattles us the most, so take a deep breath. All writers, artists, doers of anything worth doing have come up against THAT at one time or another.
10 Tips for Tapping Into Your Gray Matter
1. Stream of Consciousness: Simply begin to write. Do not stop, write for one whole minute. Let the words, even if they are nonsensical, pour out. You never know where this strategy will take you, still, trust in the process. You may discover new places.
2. Create a list. Any kind will do. Start with ideas that puzzle, perplex, or mystify, or things that make you laugh, or public figures who inspire, or interesting places. Which on the list is speaking loudest and why? Write about it.
3. Consider your field of study, your personal experiences, and how the two might overlap. Look for even the slightest connection. In what ways do they intersect? Explore that connection.
4. Childish wishes. Think back to when you were little. As kids you might’ve answered the question: What do you want to be when you grow up? Well?
5. Get up and go. Staring at a blank page? Take a walk. Take your pen and pad, too. Or write using your phone. (But be sure to go into settings and press airplane mode to avoid distraction!) Stop at five different spots as you stroll, using your senses as guide, focus on one particular, write for 2 minutes. Move on.
6. Favorite quotes. Favorite thinkers. Favorite doers. Favorites, period. Write a letter to one such favorite (even if they’re long gone) share the reasons for your admiration and finally, ask one specific question. Imagine where the Inquiry leads.
7. Food, glorious food! There’s always an appetite for something yummy. Recall a comestible, taste a memory. Set this up as you see fit. Maybe you have many pairings or maybe the main course has many memories attached. Dig in.
8. Music to your ears. Think of a tune and link it to a moment in time. Let the tune take you somewhere specific. In an elevator, a doctor’s office, a car? A concert? A retreat? A funeral? Once there, reflect on your reasons for being there. Describe the scene as it relates to the feeling. What is it about the location, the people, the things, the event? What did it mean then? What does it mean now?
9. Embarrassed to the max. We can find humor in our own bloopers, or perhaps hitting a more serious note is in order, either way, go for human emotions like shame, fear, or pain. All I can say is having your second grade teacher stoop to pick up your bunched flowered undies in front of the whole class, underwear which has slipped from the static cling grip of your purple polyester pants is one example.
10. Think of a time you were wronged. Someone cut in front of you, took something from you, lied to you or treated you unkindly. Write it from the other person’s (the person who hurt you) view. Be careful to step completely out of your role and see it from the other point of view. You might even come away with a new way of looking at an old problem.
Photo Bonnie J. Toomey Tannenbaum Cottage