Jumpstart your creativity

“Realize everything is connected to everything else.”   
– Leonardo da Vinci

Of all the journaling techniques I’ve tried, my favorite may be the most effective, as well as the fastest jumpstart for generating new ideas – the cluster. Creative writers, business group leaders, teachers, and psychotherapists, among others, use clustering as a powerful way to brainstorm.

Instead of a list down the left side of a page, a cluster resembles a spider’s web circling out and around the page with thin lines connecting related topics. Seemingly unrelated words and ideas find a place on the page when you let go and jot whatever thoughts and emotions arise.

The cluster’s power results from combining left- brain linear thinking with right- brain creativity to allow you to come up with a page filled with words and phrases or simple drawings. Going back and forth between thinking mind and creativemind, you discover something original and authentic you may have never thought of before you began.

Your cluster should take about five minutes. Writing following your cluster may take another 10 to 15 minutes.

• Write a word in the middle of a sheet of paper.

• Circle it.

• Write down the first word or phrase that comes to mind and circle it.

• Draw a line connecting the second circle to the first.

• Repeat. As you write and circle new words and phrases, draw lines back to the previous word, the central word, or other words that seem connected.

• Don’t worry about how they’re connected— the goal is to let your rightbrain see patterns. Later the left brain will put these relationships into words.

When you feel like you’ve worked long enough creating your cluster, go back and reread the words and ideas on your page.

You may want to cross out some words or phrases that seem irrelevant, or let your left and right brains work together to produce an outline. Finally, write a paragraph or two using the images, ideas, and feelings generated in your cluster.

In Writing the Natural Way by Gabriele Rico, one of the earliest books describing clustering, the author describes creating “trial webs,” clustering several key words to find a focus. Like a flash of lightening, you may feel a sudden pleasant surprise signifying recognition of a meaning. This may point you toward your writing task or a decision that you’re considering.

If you are looking for new and creative approaches to your writing, come to the Kanuga Conference Center near Hendersonville, N.C., May 19-22, 2016, where instructors for the Denver-based Center for Journal Therapy and The Writing Institute will lead multiple workshops. Full details can be found on journaltherapy.com.

Susan Hendricks leads guided journal writing groups in Columbia as a licensed clinical social worker and certified journal therapist and is an instructor for The Writing Institute, The Center for Journal Therapy’s online educational platform.

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