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:
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.
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.