Wikipedia defines Creativity as: “A mental process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations between existing ideas or concepts.”

Creativity has been attributed variously to divine intervention, cognitive processes, the social environment, personality traits, and chance (“accident,” “serendipity”). It has been associated with genius, mental illness and humor. Some say it is a trait we are born with; others say it can be taught with the application of simple techniques. Although popularly associated with art and literature, creativity is also an essential part of innovation and invention, and is important in professions such as business, economics, architecture, industrial design, science, and engineering. Unlike many phenomena in science, there is no single, authoritative perspective or definition of creativity. Unlike many phenomena in psychology, there is no standardized measurement technique.

Julia Cameron, author of “The Artist’s Way, A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity,” postulates that “Creativity is the natural order of life. Life is energy: pure creative energy. There is an underlying, in-dwelling creative force infusing all of life—including ourselves. When we open ourselves to our creativity, we open ourselves to the Creator’s creativity within us and our lives.”

As writers, we struggle with the creative process on a daily basis. We create unique and sympathetic characters; characters that jump off the page; characters with credible strengths, flaws, and fears; characters with real goals and compelling motives; in short, characters the readers can relate to. At the same time, we also need to create a plot line that hangs together, a plot line with twists, turns, and surprises, a plot line to spotlight our wonderful characters. And finally, writers need to use creative prose as the cement to bring both characters and plot to life, coaxing users to keep turning the page from the sheer joy of reading.

For those of you who have hung in with me to this point, you will no doubt be pleased to know that I have decided to take a proactive approach to this creative problem solving thing with my next book:

a) Cut myself some slack: stop beating myself up when ideas do not magically appear on demand, tell myself it is okay to take the time I need.

b) Silence the little negative voice in my head with positive affirmations, for example, “I am taking the time to formulate brilliant ideas,” or “I know the perfect solution,” or, “I am a creative and talented writer, brimming with countless ideas.”

c) Go for a walk or do something else. A change of atmosphere is beneficial. Gentle exercise helps shake up the brain cells. A change in activity stimulates other parts of the brain. For instance, when Einstein got stuck on a difficult concept, he would go into another room to play his violin. Upon returning to the problem, he discovered he’d found a solution. Exercising his mind in a different way boosted his creativity for the work he was doing.

d) Meditate. Sometimes the best way to improve performance is to do nothing at all. Meditation provides creative benefits of calming my mental chatter.

e) When I’m stuck for an idea, open a dictionary, randomly select a word and then try to formulate ideas incorporating this word. Or flip through Tarot cards and use the pictures as inspiration. You’d be surprised how well this works. The concept is based on a simple but little known truth: freedom inhibits creativity. There are nothing like restrictions to get you thinking.

f) Define the problem in detail. During the process, I find that ideas generally spill onto the page. Hey, so I’m an analytic thinker. What can I say?

g) Brainstorm. Talk the problem through with someone. Anyone. Husband. Critique group. A friend. Sometimes, I just need to hear myself talk to discover the answer. Also, brainstorming helps identify sacks full of new ideas.

h) Always carry a small notebook and a pen or pencil around with me. That way, if I am struck by an idea, I can quickly note it down. Upon rereading my notes, I may discover about 90% of your ideas are useless. That’s normal. What’s important are the 10% that are brilliant.

i) Take a shower. That’s because moving water releases negative ions, thus boosting the brain, increasing intuition, and promoting positive thoughts.

j) Listen to inspirational music.

k) Eat chocolate!

l) Keep writing until I reach the solution. My creativity process is iterative. It employs tedious, often painful, trial and error. I wish it didn’t, but it’s my process.

I would love to hear about the techniques you use for improving your creativity.

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