Lesson 2: Inspiration and Production
Let your mind run wild with ideas,
then reign it in with discipline.
Another famous psychologist by the name of Abraham Maslow studied creative people who were happy and successful to discover how they think. He found there were two phases to creative thinking–the Inspiration Phase and the Production Phase.
To start writing creatively begins with BRAINSTORMING, a term that means to think of new ideas without restricting yourself. This is the fun part of writing–to think of the plot and characters. Don’t be your own worst critic. Too often writers won’t let an idea a develop, so they kill the idea before it has a chance to develop. You might say to yourself, “That’s a stupid idea,” or someone else may scoff at your idea, but don’t listen to this criticism. Give your idea time to grow.
Often a writer doesn’t know where the story will lead, so it is sometimes difficult to start writing. When you can’t think, it is called a “writer’s block.” To cure this problem, just let your imagination run wild during this Inspiration Phase. Let your mind think of anything it wants. Don’t criticize your idea before it can grow up. You may not know where it leads, but like a seed, water it and watch as it grows in your imagination.
Imagine if Walt Disney had told someone that he was thinking of making a cartoon about a singing mouse who was a boat captain as he did in Steamboat Willie, his first cartoon. Imagine if Disney had been criticized and stopped with his idea because someone thought it was dumb. Today we would not have Disney World if Walt had listened to such criticism.
Don’t let other people (or yourself) rain on your parade of ideas! So, just brainstorm and think of ideas–plots or characters who you want to develop. Let the ideas flow before you decide if they are bad or good.
To help you think creatively, you might talk a walk alone or with your dog to think of new ideas. I take my dogs jogging and during this quiet time, I often think of my best ideas. I simply let my mind mull over ideas and once I’ve gotten a good idea, I let it develop from a small vague idea into a full blown story or character.
Just imagine without restraints. If you don’t like the idea, simply think of another and another until you create one that will be like turning on a light in your brain. Even during your writing, you will think of new ideas as your brain mulls over the characters and plot. This is the fun part of writing–being imaginative and creative.
Brainstorming is the first phase of creative thinking. Once you get a few good ideas like thunderbolts that spark your imagination, you will enter the second phase of creative writing that is called the Production Phase.
This is the hard part where you have to work at your writing. Don’t think it will be easy to write a good story. You will put in a lot of time and effort to produce a good story, and in order to make it as easy as possible, let me give you some help from my four decades of writing.
One tip is to learn how to type in school. I took typing classes every year while in high school. Since I was an athlete, some of my friends laughed at me for taking typing classes. I have to admit it is hard to learn how to type properly, just like it is hard to learn any new sport since there are new methods and techniques to learn. Then you have to practice and practice in order to become good just like you do in sports or in music. Today, I can type nearly 40 words per minute and this skill has helped me to write many articles and books during my career.
During the Production Phase, you will not only work on your character development and plot, but also you need to focus on clarity. DD Palmer, the original chiropractor, wrote a monumental book of nearly 1,000 pages over a century ago and he cited one concept that was his guiding light:
“Clear writing requires clear thinking.
One cannot convey clearly to others
what is vague and indistinct in his own mind.”
This rule remains very true today for any writer: if your writing is unclear or confusing to your reader, you need to clarify it. If it has bad grammar, your mentors need to tell you. If your storyline does not flow, you need to know. This is the challenge of the production phase, so be open to criticism and suggestions, but don’t give up since you will succeed eventually.
But it may take Lesson 3 for you to really write clearly.