From My Notebook: A Few Easy Ways to Think Creatively


By Dave Hood

In a quiet study, texts on writing lining a book case that stretches to the ceiling, a abstract print by artist, Wassily Kandinsky, hanging from the wall, a young woman, desiring to become a writer, sits at her desk with pen and notebook in hand, unable to write a poem because she believes she has nothing to write about. A few miles away, another writer sits at a coffee shop, listening to soothing sound of the trumpet of Miles Davis piped out of the sound system, words flowing like a river from his mind to the page. One writer is able to generate ideas, and another has hit the creative wall. What if you are like this woman, unable to discover ideas for your creative projects, perhaps writing, photography, painting, or some other creative pursuit? What should you do?

You must learn to think creatively.

What is creativity? Physician, writer, deep thinker, creative genius, Edward DeBono once said that “creativity is breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things from a new way.” In other words, when faced with a creative problem or creative challenge, we must shift our mindset. How can we do this? Much has been written about creative thinking in recent years, for instance, Michael Michalko, author of the book, “ThinkerToys,” identifies and explains 39 techniques we can use.

And so, you have many creative thinking techniques to choose from. The key is to find the techniques that you like. Here are four simple techniques that I use to solve creative problems and creative challenges:

1.) Changing perspective. Instead of continuing to look at the creative problem from your own perspective, view in from a different perspective. For instance, suppose you desire to take a picture of a popular place. You could do what most people do, and take the picture from eye level. Or you could find a high place, and take the photo from a bird’s eye view.

2.) Challenging assumptions. Most people embrace conventional wisdom, accepting the collective consciousness as truth. Why not challenge the assumptions by asking why this must be so? For instance, most people assume that a face most be illuminated when taking a portrait. What if you shot a portrait with the face in darkness?

3.)Exploring a creative problem or challenge by asking and answer journalistic questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? You can explore any topic with your camera or pen and notebook by answering these questions. (This technique is called starbursting.)

4.)Conducting some mind mapping with a pen and piece of paper to generate new ideas. Suppose you want to write about some particular aspect of Christmas. First, draw a circle in the center of the page. Inside the circle, write down the you wish to explore, in this case, Christmas. Next, think of all the subtopics you might explore, such as shopping, enchanting gifts, Christmas tree, cooking turkey dinner, listening to Christmas Carols, attending midnight mass. For each of these subtopics, draw a straight line from the circle, like a spoke on a wheel. On each line, write down a particular subtopic. Finally, for each subtopic, write down all the ideas, facts, details that come to mind. For each fact or idea, draw a straight line from the the subtopic it is related to and then write down the idea or fact.


We are all creative in many ways. Anyone can learn a few creative thinking techniques, then apply them to a particular creative challenge or creative problem. But most people sabotage their creative thinking abilities by telling themselves, “I’m not creative.” Thinking this way is limiting, resulting in a creative block. When you are mentally blocked, you are unable to generate new ideas. Next time you are faced with a creative challenge or problem, such as taking a photograph with the desire to avoid capturing a cliche or sitting at your desk without a topic to write about, approach the problem as a creative thinker using these four techniques.

For additional information on how to learn to think creatively, I recommend you read these books:

  • Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques by Michael Michalko
  • A Whack on the Side of the Head: How You Can Be More Creative by Roger Von Oech
  • The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use it For Life by Twyla Tharp

About Dave Hood

Lover of poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction. Professional photographer and writer. Without the arts, life would be rather mundane, like a walk down the same old path on a dull day.
This entry was posted in Creative Nonfiction, Creative Writing, Creativity, Keeping a Notebook and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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