Can creativity be learned? It seems to me sometimes that my ideas are pretty pedestrian, while some other writers just overflow with offbeat concepts for stories. While this may be a hobgoblin of my standard issue writer’s neurosis, it bears thinking about.
In fact I do think that creativity can be expanded. We’ve learned in the last decade or so that the brain is fairly plastic. People with brain injuries can often overcome their limitations with the right kind of therapy. So it seems likely that a writer can learn to overcome limiting patterns of thought, and become more creative. Even if he or she can’t, so what? It has often been said that there are no new ideas. There are only 20, 14, 7, or 3 plots out there anyway, depending on who you talk to and how reductionist they are. It’s all in how YOU tell the story. No two people will approach a tale in quite the same way.
But if you do want to boost your creativity, how do you change the way you think? One idea that Howard Allen suggests is using what he calls “angularity.” Take your characters and give them the challenges of a different set of characters from a different story. Put them in a different setting. Shake it up. How could the worst thing you can think of be the right thing for your hero to do? What is the obvious answer to the story question? Now think of something that’s really different. What if your villain is really the good guy?
You may not chose to write a story like this, but playing with these exercises will stretch your creative muscles.