A method of problem solving which I haven’t written about for a long time is the ten minute writing practice. I first came across this in Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones (highly recommended) as a way of freeing up one’s natural writing abilities. She saw it mainly as a way of writing fiction. But since my ambitions didn’t lie in the direction of fiction, I quickly saw that it could be an effective tool in the armoury of methods which one can use in order to increase one’s creativity.
The idea is simple. You just write for ten minutes continuously without lifting your hand from the paper. You are not allowed to revise or correct. This is very similar to journalling. The differences are that you normally write about a specific subject and that it is shorter. When writing the three pages in my daily journal for instance I normally take 35 minutes plus or minus. Ten minutes is a much sharper focus.
To use the method, take a problem or issue that is facing you at the moment and just write round it for ten minutes. When I say “write round it” I mean don’t just write about the subject itself, but also write about your feelings concerning the subject, the circumstances surrounding it, its history, in fact anything that comes into your head.
Then when the ten minutes is up, go back and underline anything that represents a new insight, a point for action, something further to investigate, and so on. You will often find that you have some quite valuable points. And even if you don’t, you may find that new ideas come to you spontaneously over the next few days, because you have stirred your brain up to think further about the issue.
This is an effective method and can be applied to a lot of situations. I have in fact been writing in exactly this way to produce this posting. The only difference is that I have typed this to save time, but normally I prefer to do the 10 minute writing practice in handwriting.