Writing

How to Think More Creatively: 6 Types of Thinking

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Feb 12, 2020 • 3 min read

When the authors of novels, short stories, and screenplays generate new ideas, they often fall back on themes and settings they’ve mined in prior works. For famous authors, this can be a calling card—for instance, readers expect Tom Clancy to write military thrillers. But when authors wish to push beyond their comfort zone, they engage in new ways of thinking to generate ideas that may not be wholly instinctive. In other words, they must embrace creative thinking.

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6 Thinking Styles to Help You Write More Creatively

If you want to enrich your writing process, consider practicing your ability to use the following six thinking styles:

  1. Creative thinking: Creative thinking is a mental process that allows people to concoct new ideas, methods, and philosophies that deviate from conventional wisdom. While creative thinkers do pay attention to established rules and norms, they embrace critical thinking skills to challenge and transcend those norms. Creative and critical thinkers avoid copying the work of their predecessors; they use the work of others as inspiration but consciously try to create something wholly new in their own work. The most creative people ask big picture questions when approaching the art of writing.
  2. Analytical thinking: Analytical thinking involves logical thought processes where you examine the parts of a process and mentally synthesize them into a larger whole. Analytical thinkers excel at real-world decision making because they’re able to break down and comprehend complex problems. Analytical thinkers are good at studying successful books, poems, and screenplays, using careful evaluation and logical thinking to understand what makes them work. Writers who employ an analytical thinking process can quickly learn the “rules” of writing in a particular style. This can be particularly useful if you’re writing genre fiction. Analytical thinking techniques let you process the basic parts of genres—the essential archetypes and tropes—so that you can piece together a cohesive whole.
  3. Abstract thinking: Abstract thinking involves processing theoretical concepts. When it comes to writing, abstract thinkers make excellent philosophers. They tackle complex problems as thought exercises since they are skilled at processing information that isn’t necessarily connected to concrete examples. Challenging writers like David Foster Wallace and Thomas Pynchon are abstract thinkers, and their work is loaded with themes and hidden meanings that reward readers.
  4. Concrete thinking: Concrete thinking is grounded in the observable world. It’s a more “meat and potatoes” way of thinking that eschews any sort of theoretical representation of concepts. Sequential thinkers who work step-by-step may prefer to process information in concrete terms. Concrete thinkers tend to write in practical terms with an eye toward true-to-life representations and problem-solving. Concrete writers avoid purple prose; they describe specific items and paint a visceral image for their readers. Mysteries are often written in concrete terms. Readers don’t want to slog through abstract descriptions of a crime scene; they want the concrete details—from the open window to the make-up kit scattered across the room to the dead body.
  5. Convergent thinking: Convergent thinking involves coalescing individual components into a cohesive whole. This thinking and learning style helps problem-solvers induct general rules from individual bits of information, often by trial and error. This makes it a cousin of inductive reasoning. Convergent thinking helps writers piece together disparate ideas into a unified story. Convergent thinkers can take snippets of plot, character, and setting and find a way to make them work together within the same novel or film. Charles Dickens applies convergent thought in A Tale of Two Cities. And in The Naked Lunch, William S. Burroughs weaves the loosest of story threads into one single book.
  6. Divergent thinking: Divergent thinking lets one consider the myriad possibilities that span out from one idea or fact or storyline. A divergent thinker might look at an object and think about all the things one could do with it. But divergent thought processes push beyond the status quo, by applying lateral thinking—which prioritizes approaching problems from new directions. In writing, divergent thinking allows you to consider all the possible ways a story could unfold. From films like Rashomon and La La Land to books like Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, divergent thinking in art explores the various ways a story can reach many different conclusions. Take note, however, that if you have perfectionist tendencies, a divergent thought process can become overwhelming. Sometimes having too many good ideas can slow your writing to a crawl, so make bold committed choices and keep pushing forward.

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