Today's tip comes from the ever-helpful Deren Hansen who blogs at The Laws of Making. Make sure you give him a visit when you click off here. Enjoy!
The writers' version of, "Boxers or briefs?" is, "Plotter or Pantser?" Writers talk as though their preferred mode is a fact of their nature: "I'm a born pantser--couldn't outline to save my soul," or, "I can't write until I know where the story is going."
I have long argued that that plotting and writing by the seat of your pants are, in fact, techniques, and that there are times when one will serve you better than the other.
I'm often met with tolerant smiles when I make this case, but now I have evidence. In a post on the PsyBlog, titled, "Unusual Thinking Styles Increase Creativity," we read about a study in which people with a rational problem-solving style (plotters) and people who approach problems intuitively (pantsers) generated more creative answers when they were asked to solve a problem using the opposite style.
In brief, there's apparently some truth in the cliché corporate admonition to, "think outside the box." (If you'd like to know a bit more, I have a longer discussion about why switching things up leads to more creativity in a post about thinking differently on my blog.)
So when you need a shot of creativity, switch your dominant pattern: set your outline aside and try free writing, or make your muse sit at a desk and do something systematic.
As an example, when I get stuck I find it helpful to ask myself questions about the story (e.g., Why is this secondary character in a particular place at just the right time to interact with the main character?): I try to make the questions as systematic as the ones a journalist might use in an interview and then I free-write the answers. I've discovered some of the coolest things about my story that way.