Divergent thinking questions are designed to encourage people to consider things in a new way. This allows you to come up with new ideas and, hopefully, more creative ideas. The point is to not limit yourself.
The ability to think creatively about something is a talent that can help you immensely in a lot of fields. Engineers need to come up with different ways to solve problems when the standard solutions aren’t working. Businessmen need to find a new way to negotiate a contract that has sticky points. This skill is also called “problem solving”. It’s valuable. In writing, the ability to apply divergent thinking can help you:
- Create more unique plot points
- Find more unique solutions to problems
- Create characters that are more memorable
Some people say that the first six ideas you come up with have all been done before. It’s a lot easier to come up with a 7th idea if you have the experience.
So, when you start to think about what you can do with a tree branch, you want to write down all the ideas you have, and not just the “good” ones. But, don’t limit yourself to what YOU could do with a tree branch. What could your neighbor do with it? Or your best friend? Or Superman? A giant? Also don’t limit yourself to what you WOULD do with it. Think of all the possible uses for a tree branch. It can be a huge tree branch if you want – as big as a whole Redwood. Or it can be a teeny tiny tree branch that an ant could cross without issue.
There are two ways you can do this exercise. If you want it to jump start your writing day and you only have a few minutes, set an alarm for 3 minutes and get started with ideas. After the alarm goes off, stop for a moment, take a break – refill your cup of coffee, get another slice of toast, run to the restroom, pull open your document or just sit – for a minute. And then, spend another minute with ideas. In that minute you took off, you should see that your brain was still working on the problem – and you’ve probably developed some really unique ideas.
The second way to do this exercise is to come up with all the ideas you can until you can’t come up with any more. Don’t give yourself a time limit. When you run out of ideas, take a break and come back to it later.
So… tell me: What did you think of that you could do with a tree branch?
(You can highlight below to see some of the ideas that I came up with. I started running out of ideas toward the end…)
- Grab something in water
- Play with the dog
- Practice baseball
- Smash it into a million tiny toothpicks
- Build a stick house
- Play tick tack toe
- Leave stick messages, with letters shaped from sticks
- Drum the ground
- Build a damn
- See how deep water is
- Paddle a boat
- Smash someone’s foot