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    The Writer's Mind

    I've always felt that writers aren't smarter or more creative than non-writers. I think the difference between a writer and a non-writer is that a writer doesn't have enough sense to know this should be difficult. Writing and creativity are products of the mind- not extraordinary minds- but every mind. You can tap into this creative power too by learning a few simple tricks.

    Recognize that you brain is awesome, but it has limits. Your brain has a difficult time changing gears from one mode of thinking to another. Remember trying to get through math class right after lunch? Your mind was focused on social things and until it made the transition, math was unnaturally difficult. The same is true for creativity. Learn the creative modes and keep them away from each other. Never try to do two of these at the same time, each has its own place. Here are the modes:

    Creative Freestyle. If you've ever sat down and scribbled out a great poem without much thinking, this is the mode you were in. This is also the mode you are in when you are in "the zone." When you are actually entering the prose and your mind opens like a floodgate -- that's the creative freestyle mode. In this mode there is no logic and no criticism. If you are thinking critically or in logical, sequential terms -- then you will hamper your creativity.

    Logical Freestyle. This is the plotting and outlining mode. You should be thinking in practical terms here. Times, dates, events, orders, locations. This is the mode of structure and planning. It is creative, but only in the sense that you creatively organize. Criticism is still out, and if you find yourself immersed in creative thought that is not related to logical planning -- you're in the wrong zone.

    Logical Formal. In this mode your creativity is turned off almost entirely. You are thinking like a mathematician now. Outline and plot your writing, but only to enhance the structure- no new ideas here- just organizing. Think of this as the finial edit of your plan or outline. No major creative changes- just focus on the plot or outline itself.

    Critical Freestyle. Get out your red pen and mark up your manuscript. Be merciless- let all that self criticism and doubt flood onto the page in red ink. When you feel yourself arguing against an edit- ignore it. This mode is for criticism only. Criticism can be general or specific. You could mark up your comma usage, or you could make a note that this portion of the story is weak. Don't think of solutions- not now, just criticism.

    Critical Formal. Go over your marks and look for technical reasons why the writing is not working. Write some suggestions for improvement, but not in a originally creative sense. For example, instead of thinking of a million ways to make the reader more sympathetic to your character, you would write, "Weak. No reader sympathy for character. Find personality traits to add to increase sympathy." If you were to go beyond that and start thinking of creative ways to do that- you're in trouble. Wait, be patient.

    Always know what mode you need to be in. Keep each mode separate, and you'll find writing is easier and more enjoyable.

    Copyright © Jeff Heisler

    Jeff Heisler is a freelance writer with a wide range of talents. He writes marketing copy for major corporations. He's also the author the popular "Was That Out Loud?" humor column, appearing in print and web format across the country. Jeff writes novels, essays, short stories and anything else you can think of. You can visit his site at to learn more about Jeff's writing and marketing services.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ

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    The Journaling Life: 21 Types of Journals You Can Create to Express Yourself and Record Pieces of Your Life

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