First off, the information for both the Hearth Cricket Giveaway and the BookEnds Contest is now in the header above so as not to flood subscribers with daily posts containing clues. That should tidy things up a bit until December 16th.
We all have tools we regularly use to solve problems. Some people are list makers, some like to talk things out, some research to see what other people have done in similar situations, and some simply pray and wait. I’ve been known to do all of the above, but another tool I like is clustering.
I first learned the technique in Gabriele Lusser Rico’s Writing the Natural Way. You simply begin by circling a key word in the middle of the page and add more circled words around it. It’s best to work quickly and not judge. Sometimes the words that come to mind don’t seem related at all, but that’s okay.
Soon you’ll be adding more lines to more circles, working outward from the initial trigger word (or concept – I often put a question in the middle circle). After a while something happens. A pattern may develop that you hadn’t noticed before, your thinking may become more focused in one area, or a sudden realization may hit you like a cartoon anvil.
Because of the non-linear nature of the process, it taps into the right side of the brain which allows for new perspectives, emotional responses, and a better view of the big-picture. Clustering used in combination with more linear, pro/con approaches affords a double barreled approach to figuring things out.
I used this technique a lot in writing, often for discovering my character’s motivations but also to work out the flow of individual scenes. However, it’s also a useful tool for any thoughtful problem solving. Recently, I clustered my Christmas gift list! Other examples include prioritizing writing projects and developing a winter exercise regimen I can actually live with.
Tomorrow I’ll be talking about another problem-solving technique over at the Midnight Ink Author Blog, Inkspot. If you have a go-to tool for working out solutions, please share!