Saturday, March 29, 2014

My Current Projects

Haven't been posting prolifically for quite a while, but I've still been working very hard on my ideas. These are my current projects:

Writing Jokes

This took over my life! I'd long viewed the writing of jokes as a great exercise in lateral thinking. I honed my joke writing to the point where I was good enough to do stand up comedy in pubs and clubs. It went really well. I continue to work on my joke writing.

The "Alternative Pivot"

This became an obsession.When you are thinking about a subject creatively and you make a switch in focus that leads to new ideas, what is the "thinking pivot" that led to the switch? How can you devise strategies that mean you can consciously make such switches?

For example: You are doing the classic creativity exercise - listing as many uses for a paperclip as possible. Standard responses would be along the lines of:

Link them and use as a chain.
Make a hair clip
Wrap the paperclip round a pencil to make a spring.
Use to clean fingernails.
A bookmark.

However, a switch in thinking may happen. This switch could lead to viewpoints such as these:

Google for "uses for a paperclip" to get ideas from other lists on the net.
Contact paperclip manufacturers to find uses.
Start a blog called "Listing uses for paperclips" and get ideas from other people.
Make a list of other paperclips that are available instead of the standard type. (For example, you can buy giant paperclips and these may suggest a catalogue of other uses that become apparent because of its size.)

These kind of switches can happen by chance, but I want to make the switching more systematic.

Another good example is what I call the "British Rail Trick" that I saw on a programme many years ago. A group of executives from British Rail went for a first  meeting with  an advertising agency about doing some adverts for British Rail. When the executives arrived they were made to wait in a room. The agency kept them waiting two hours.Eventually they brought them coffee but the coffee was cold. Eventually a person working for the advertising agency entered the room, smiled and said, "Our job is to ensure your passengers don't feel how you feel right now."

How was the person who came up with the idea for this stunt come up with the idea? How did they switch their focus to thinking about how they could utilise a time that is usually taken for granted - the time spent in a waiting room - to make a clever point? With "normal" thinking the meeting would probably have been a routine meeting about what the agency could offer, and the real creativity would happen when the agency sat down to make up adverts.But with a switch in thinking the agency came up with a novel approach.

What is the alternative-pivot that would systematically lead to this type of "switch thinking"?
I've made good progress and I'll be posting soon.

The "4th 'R'"

This is thought-experiment territory. In school you learn the importance of the "Three 'R's" - reading, writing and arithmetic. Is there another 'R' that is just as important but is missing? What could this 4th-R be? I think it could be something along the lines of "option management" - a bundle of strategies that can be used to be introspective about our life and think creatively and productively about the concepts that make up who we are and what we do in our life.

For example, my wife suggested the idea that we should devote Saturday mornings to playing with our daughter. A very simple idea but you could - as with many other simple ideas - get through a life without considering that option - even though it's utterly simple. How to structure your own thinking so that options like that become available? My thoughts about this are related to my thoughts about the alternative-pivot - you need to find a thinking strategy that makes your thinking switch to considering options that are available.

Systematic Fiction Project

Been working on this one for fourteen years now! I've made some great progress, with most of the breakthroughs coming from the type of thinking I've had to do when juggling concepts around in my head while trying to write jokes.

First you need an "idea hook". That is, a simple idea for a story/scenario that makes you think, "Wow, that's a good idea for a story! I wonder what happened?" Then you need to develop a story in a way I call "Idea to idea": That is, you have your idea-hook but need to find the next inspiring idea to give the story its next direction; an idea that inspires you and gets your brain thinking about possibilities. 

The "Fake Day" 

I keep a diary - the sort where I write the day's events. I want to be able to create a diary with "fake days" where I create events for a future diary that are plausible but creative. This may help with other creativity techniques.

Lucid Dreaming Techniques

I'm not happy with the current techniques out there to achieve lucid dreaming. They seem like a lot of work for little returns. We might find out in the future that these techniques are indeed the best way to achieve lucidity, but until then I'm going to assume there's a great technique to achieve regular lucidity that we haven't discovered yet. 

Thursday, March 06, 2014

A New Blog About Lucid Dreaming Experiments

I've started a new blog where I'll be posting my lucid dreaming experiments (I don't want to clutter up this blog with all the experiments I'm doing!) The most important challenge there is to simply find strategies that lead to the most lucid dreams.

Lucid Dreaming Experiments 

 I'll be posting some new creativity techniques on this blog very soon.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

SSILD Lucid Dreaming Technique

There is now a blog about the SSILD lucid dreaming technique:

SSILD lucid dreaming

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Sunday, January 06, 2013


..and this blog is still alive!

Been busy working on my joke writing, devising lucid dreaming techniques and looking at improving my general creativity. Hoping to have the time to post soon!

Friday, September 07, 2012

SSILD lucid dreaming technique

I recommend this new lucid dreaming technique:

Lucid dreaming technique: SSILD, Senses Initiated Lucid Dream.

A quick summary: In bed at night, you do a number of cycles where each cycle focuses on observing the darkness behind your eyelids, listening to the noise in your ears, and noticing body sensations.

More lucid dreaming techniques to come soon!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Reverse Blinking Technique

A friend alerted me to this Reverse Blinking technique. I was sceptical at first, but I was so amazed by the results I felt compelled to share.

What Reverse Blinking may do for you:

Nothing (it doesn't work for everyone.)
Put you to sleep quickly.
Make you so tired you feel you have to sleep.
Put you into a trance so that you can use autosuggestion.
Initiate hypnagogic hallucinations (that is, the kind of hallucinations we experience pre-sleep).

How you do it:

1) Lie down comfortably, as if you're going to sleep.
2) Relax. Close your eyes.
3) Count to five in your head.
4) On the count of five reverse blink: that is, open your eyes quickly (but in a relaxed manner) and close them again. (NB: I estimate that the reverse blinks are about twice the duration of a normal blink - with the eye-opening the duration of one normal blink, and the eye-closing the duration of one normal blink.)
5) Repeat stages three and four.

Experimenting with hypnagogic hallucinations

I wanted to see if I could combine Reverse Blinking with autosuggestion to control the images I would see in hypnagogic hallucinations. I achieved this simply: In my count to four (before the reverse-blink) I would insert the suggestion: "I will see an image of London". Then, after a while - once my eyelids were feeling very tired - I stopped reverse-blinking but continued with the counting to five and the London suggestion. On the count of five I was finding that random images of London places were popping into my head, without any attempt to visualise on my part.


There are some experiments I want to try with this technique.

1) I want to see if I can make the hallucinations creative: I'd make a suggestion like, "I'll see a good idea about a place in London" etc.

2) I want to use the suggestion, "I'll see a memory from my childhood my conscious mind has forgotten".

3) On some occasions I've actually stopped blinking and dreamed that I was continuing to blink. I would be interesting in finding out what happens if I create a trigger to ensure I keep blinking and don't fall asleep. Maybe this would be a metronome in 5/4 time. The sound of the metronome click would remind me not to fall asleep. What will I experience when I continue Reverse Blinking beyond the stage where I'd normally fall asleep?

Trying it

Would love to know how others get on with this. I expect that some people will find that it doesn't work at all, while others will, like me, be amazed. When I used the technique two days ago I was reverse-blinking and thinking to myself, "It isn't going to work this time" but within two reverse-blinks I was hallucinating.

A word of warning though: hypnagogic hallucinations can be frightening.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

100 Tips for Improving Your Creativity

My BrainReactions challenge 100 Tips for Improving Your Creativity has reached 100 ideas! I've memorised my favourite ones and I'm thinking of ways to categorise the suggestions. Maybe the two main categories would be: techniques you can use to create ideas now, and attitudes/behaviours you can adopt to develop your creativity in the long term?

I've got another one to add: at the moment I'm into an intensive exercise regime. Immediately after I've finished exercising I start brainstorming for ideas. The ideas are flowing at the moment using this approach. It's also worth keeping a pen and paper handy because I think of ideas during exercise too.

Looking at this approach from a broader perspective I reckon there must be many benefits to be had from generating ideas in different mind states. For example, I like to write jokes, and I've found that I come up with more ideas after I've faced a fear or have been concentrating intensely for a long period of time.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Listing Facts About A Subject

Suppose I want to improve my blog. To kick off my thinking -- and before I get creative -- it's a good idea to list as much information as I can about blogs and blogging. My aim is to make a list of 100 facts about blogs and blogging. Here's a way to quickly list such information.

I'll start out with a title: blogs.

I need to start listing information and I can do this by using the letters within the title word - blogs - to create words. Using the "b" and the "l" I list a couple of one-syllable words that start with those letters. Say, be and like. So the first item on my list reads:

1) Be like...

All I do now is complete a sentence about blogs that starts with those words:


1) Be like...a kind of journal you write online.

Now I've started out it gets easier; I can pick one of the words from that sentence and use it as the start of my next item on the list. I choose "Online":

2) Online...

and I can then use that word as a trigger for more information:

2) Online...blogs are very popular.

Then I continue the process, selecting a word from each sentence and using it to help me list more information. (I've highlighted the chosen word in blue.)

3) Very...many blogs are listed on Technorati.

4) Technorati... tells you the latest about what's being talked about in the blogging world.

5) Blogging...can be addictive.

6) Can blogs replace books?

7) Books have been written based on blogs.

8) On a blog, you can talk about any subject you want.

9) You can blog twenty-four hours a day.

10) Hours can fly past when you're blogging.

11) Hours can be spent reading blogs.

12) Reading blogs is easier if the layout is nice and the font easy to read.

13) Fonts can be difficult to choose.

14) To start blogging requires a site like

15) Like a blog and you'll visit again.

As you can see, this is quite a nifty way to list information. It's important to write down the information (not just do it in your head) and set a quota of 100 items -- to take you beyond the obvious. To sum up, there are two ways to use information to trigger further items:

1: Use the letters from a previous word to list words, then use those words to trigger the listing of information.

2: Select a word from a previous item and use that as the first word in a sentence that triggers the listing of more information.

These are the first two techniques that I'm adding to my brainstorming template that will be specifically used for the listing of information.

Example: 100 List, "Information about blogging"

Current creativity projects...

I've become both a keen student of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and a prolific writer of jokes. Inspired by the lessons I've learned in the Medici Effect, I've been thinking about ways to fuse CBT techniques, joke-writing techniques, and creativity tips (especially those generated in the BrainReactions challenge: 100 Tips for Improving your Creativity.)

I'm thinking this will be a kind of brainstorming template where the idea is to create 100 ideas, with each entry on the list being guided by prompters within the template (Such as "Name something that won't work", or "How would you achieve the opposite?"

I'm thinking there could be different templates for different tasks -- such as: problem solving (and definition), creating ideas, and the listing of information and facts. I will start blogging about some of the techniques I've used so far and see how it works out.