In class this morning, my writing students were lethargic and half-awake. They were willing enough, but after all … an early Monday morning is tough on creative types.
Until I started a brainstorming exercise. It was a very simple one: what building on campus would make the best setting for a fantasy story?
A couple of quick suggestions were thrown out, and then the group began to think. And as we considered different buildings and which aspects about them–creepy vibe, Gothic architecture, the smell of an old, dim reading room–made them viable settings for the fantastic, I saw imaginations wake up. Synergy began to spark. Mental wheels started turning. It was an easy step from there to plotting scenarios. Suddenly people were calling out, “Nobody use that! It’s mine!”
Now I’m sure that anyone reading this post is well aware of the benefits of brainstorming with others. Years ago, when I lived in Tulsa, a group of my published friends would meet monthly for an afternoon of plotting. Most of them were romance writers, with multi-book contracts and numerous deadlines. They needed ideas, and this was an efficient way of sparking creativity while getting fast feedback. (We also enjoyed a good lunch!)
But my point today is that a writer should also brainstorm just for fun. Just for creative play. Without assignment or deadline, with no impatient editor waiting at the end of the session for a productive result.
There’s only free inventiveness, without the burden of any expectation. Your imagination will blossom in that kind of environment. Later, you’ll find yourself inspired and invigorated, with new energy for the real project you’re writing.
In other words, remember to play. Your inner artist is a child, after all. Let it have some fun.