Sunday, December 18, 2005

Creativity / Thinking Technique: Thinking To Songs

About this post

Type of technique: streaming

The post in a nutshell: run a song through your mind and replace the song's words with your own thoughts.

Key benefit: the internal critic is muted or even silenced.

Thinking To Songs

My goal

I had a simple goal: I wanted to design/find a technique for thinking that would switch off the internal critic during thinking (and especially creative thinking). I like the streaming technique but it is not always easy, as the internal critic often kicks in. The Thinking to Songs technique is a product of those considerations.

The technique

To use the technique I simply run a song through my mind and replace the words of the song with own thoughts. I do it 'live' - I keep going through the song and make up the thoughts as I go along. There is only one concrete rule: no stopping. I don't stop to consider (or perfect) the lines that have gone or are yet to come. If I am struggling to fit new thoughts (words) into the song then I either allow myself to repeat some of the words from the previous line or make up nonsense to replace the song's original words. However if I think that a thought or idea is worth noting I will stop to write it down. I don't worry about making my thoughts a perfect match with the existing lyric; I allow some errors such as a syllable overlapping the end of a line.


The good thing about this technique is that many of the attitudes important to creative thinking are automatically applied by using the technique.

1) The technique helps to switch off the internal critic - the critical voice that can kill ideas or interrupt thinking. (I believe this effect occurs because I have to think quite quickly to fill the spaces in the song.)

2) The technique can be used anywhere and at any time. Before I devised this technique I virtually always found I had to use pen and paper for creative thinking. This technique focuses my mind in a similar way to using pen and paper.

3) The generative 'yes and' attitude is automatically adopted, as the quick thinking required to make up new words to fit the song virtually smothers any chance of criticism.

4) The song's structure can set a quota in two ways: through the length of each line of the song, and the entirety of the song itself.


The technique can be used in any situation where the verbal aspect of thinking occurs.Here are my initial thoughts.

Taking stock: examining where my life is now and where I want to go. Organising my diary and 'to do' list.

Exploring a subject: I can use the entirety of the song to write key information about a subject.

Writing a journal: I posted a question on Innovation Tools asking what advice people could give regarding improving creativity. Charles Cave said that keeping a daily journal is a sound idea.If the Thinking to Songs technique is used to help write a journal then it is easier to apply the all important suspension of judgement.

Writing blog posts: I treat an entire song as a quota - I must encapsulate the essence of the post in one song. This helps to quickly ascertain the key points.

Creating fiction: I have been experimenting with the technique to quickly create the bare bones of a story. I have to create an entire story within the entirety of the song. I imagine an excited child recalling a good film they have seen.The words that the child uses to explain the story replace the words of the song.
Dialogue: I imagine a character literally singing their dialogue. They have the whole song to discuss the situation.

Brainstorming: I would think that the technique could be used in brainstorming - whether it be a lone brainstormer or a group. As discussed in the benefits, there are many important attitudes and approaches useful for creative thinking that are automatically achieved by the use of the technique. Maybe the technique could be used in conjunction with the rubber-ducking technique.

Random stimulus: the real words of the song are sometimes (unintentionally) included within the new words, and nonsense is sometimes necessary to fill out a line. These words can be treated as random stimuli and can be used to guide the development of the thinking.

Cognitive behavioural therapy: I can use the technique to express and explore my thoughts about a subject or something happening in my life and then identify any distortions in my thinking.

Further points

Metronome variation:

I think a metronome could be used to apply a variation of this technique.A word would be said on each beat of the metronome. The metronome could be set for one or maybe two beats a second.

Repeating words:

Sometimes when using the technique I will deliberately take a word or phrase from the last line created and 'force' it into the next line at some point.

Starting in the present moment:

I will often start out by creating words that reflect the present moment and my activities. For example:

'Here I am now looking for christmas ideas' etc

See also:

Talk streaming

Write streaming


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