3. Keep a Dream Journal
When our brains go into REM mode during sleep, that's when dreaming occurs. Most of it is nearly impossible to remember, but the recall is there if you just get used to it. Keeping a dream journal is the best way to tap into this.
Keep a notebook and pen next to your bed. Get into the habit every morning of writing down what you remember about your dreams. It won't be much at first, but within about a week, you'll start remembering more and be able to write more detailed logs. After a couple months, you might even be able to trigger lucid dreams.
The reason this is a boon to your creativity is because it shuts off the analytical left brain. I've recorded dreams about visiting a town where a pirate is the mayor, where I'm driving the Mach 5, and one in which a demon in the art style of the Scott Pilgrim vs the World graphic novels questions me about my dreams. Your right brain isn't terribly critical of what goes on in dreams, so you end up with these bizarre juxtapositions of logically incompatible ideas.
However, this also means that recorded dreams make interesting fodder for creativity, sometimes providing the seed of an idea. Your brain is simply jumbling together ideas that it's been mulling over for the last couple of days. The connections it sometimes forms are the sort of thing you normally would never think of when conscious because your left brain is being way too critical of content.
If this also leads you to experience lucid dreaming, that has advantages as well. You can rehearse performances, reinforce knowledge you already have, practice a skill, and improve your memory and recall. Of course, this will take some time to get used to and it may be months before you achieve actual lucid dreams. I suggest you do some reading on the subject if you're interested.
Otherwise, just keep a dream journal. Remember to write your dreams down immediately upon waking. Don't get up to stretch and dress. Don't stare at the ceiling. You need to preserve the visions of the dream on paper before they fade away.
This a freewriting type of exercise that I'm fond of. I discuss it along with others in my ebook "Say What?" It works well for people with very visual imaginations. What you do is write down a single thought. For the sake of example, let's say it's storms. Write it in the center of a blank page and circle it. This is your keystone thought.
Now write down all the things your keystone makes you think of, circle them, and draw a line connecting them to the keystone. Lightning, howling winds, dark clouds, pitch darkness, cold, rain, and so on in this example.
Now repeat the process with every new little node. Lightning makes me think of violence, inspiration, thunderclaps, destruction. Rain makes me think of rejuvenation, flooding, the scent of water in the air, the drumming of falling rain, mist, fog, and summer. Pitch darkness makes me think of isolation, obscurity, fear, night, and so on.
Just keep repeating the process for each node until there's no more room on the page. You now have a mental road map of imaginative connections between disparate elements. The more connections you make, the more you start to see possibilities open up before you. You can explore possibilities you never thought of before. IN this little example, I already got the seed of an idea for a routine using some stage hypnosis and a murder mystery story using effects such as getting people to smell the scent of rain even though there isn't a cloud in the sky.
If you're familiar with freewriting and other concepts, clustering should come naturally to you. Effectively, this is freewriting in a visual format. Experiment with it and see where it takes you. It's an effective way to turn off the analytical left brain for a few minutes, and once you get the feel for it, you can try similar methods such as automatic writing and cave writing.
1. Think Like a Time Traveler
As an avid gamer I've tried out numerous systems, settings, and genres. Pen'n'paper RPGs are still my favorite for truly expansive thinking since so much more is possible when you have a game master responding to your ideas and actions in real time. On that note, I point to a concept from an underrated gem published by Wizards of the Coast called Urban Arcana.
As the name suggests, it's an urban fantasy game. Among suggestions for the players and game master, it recommends that you learn to think like a person displaced in time and space. Go to a hardware store and put yourself in the frame of mind of not knowing what most of the stuff is. Think of the most outrageous uses and explanations for these things that you can. That is every day of a time traveling wizard's life.
Through this exercise, you end up coming up with some pretty interesting ideas. As an example, here's a list of some of the spells and magic items described in the Urban Arcana rule book:
- A wristwatch that makes you faster.
- A bullseye tattoo that magically makes you a better shot.
- A backpack with an extradimensional interior of over 100 cubic feet.
- A spell that lets you teleport to the location of a telephone you're calling.
- A spell that disables all surveillance and security devices temporarily.
- A spell that lets you read barcodes and other data sources like a machine by running your finger over them.
I'm working on an effect based on that last premise, incidentally. Part of my Dr. Question Mark show.
Anyway, the point is that you start thinking of things not as what they are but what they could be. It's a call back to the days of childhood imagination. For a child, the impossible is only a matter of time. One of the unique challenges to doing magic for children is that they don't take things for granted as adults do. Everything around you could do something fantastic and they're waiting for it happen. Consequently, you can't rely on surprising them as much. But that's tangential to the point.
The message here is to exercise your creativity by thinking laterally and observing possibilities instead of facts. A lot of comedy is based on this as well. You see it frequently in Mystery Science Theater 3000.
"He's got two huge Sudafed on top of his car." (lights on a police car)
"I think the Tin Man had that thing surgically removed." (a small satellite)
"This is the most complicated beer bong I've ever seen." (lab equipment)
"Eat this baguette! Eat it!" (guy getting hit with a 2x4)
Next time you're out in public, give it a try. Consider mundane objects and start thinking of them in a totally new context.