March 6, 2011

10 Ways to Train Your Brain for Inspiration

By Andrew S Rodgers

Brain Inspiration

How do you just "be creative"?

Ever been stuck for inspiration with the clock ticking down till that next session? Recent studies show we are able to gear our brain towards desired areas and influences. This means we GMs we can gear our brain towards role playing and the generation of ideas. The tips below will help you to create more and better ideas fast, saving you time and energy.

  1. To get the most benefit from the time you spend developing new ideas it helps to do it regularly.  This makes it easier to get into the groove, you’ll generate better quality ideas and you’ll also generate more ideas.
  2. A great challenge to set yourself if you’re just starting off is to do half an hour’s writing everyday for seven days straight. With this method you’ll find the first few days might be difficult, but by day six and seven your mind will be flowing with ideas and you’ll be writing for more than half an hour.
  3. Don’t close your mind off to things that may inspire you outside of your writing or game prep sessions.
  4. Create associations between what you write about or develop and something else. I typically use music. When I write about undead I’ll have Enigma MCMXC A.D. on, as when I was young and reading the Dragonlance series I would always be listening to this.If I’m writing about the drow then I’ll listen to Ommadawn as I think this is the type of music they would have. This music acts as a trigger for me, so when I’m lying in bed going to sleep at night with these playing it inspires my mind into action and I start to generate ideas around the topic associated with the music.
  5. Ask open-ended questions to yourself about the topic you want to develop. Open-ended questions cannot be answered in just one or two words. Make yourself answer these questions to brainstorm concepts and ideas around your topic of interest and flesh out what you are producing.Great examples of opened questions are “What are the overall plans and objectives of organisation XYZ?”, “What are the roles of the primary NPCs in the scenario?” and “When will this encounter take place in the adventure and why is it significant?”
  6. Brainstorm three times. Do it once until you can’t think of anything else. Do it again the next day. Follow this up with one last attempt. It is usually in this last session that the best ideas come forward.
  7. Ask your mates. I like to do this when I am struggling. I simply throw out what I’ve got to them and spark up the conversation. A couple of hours later I have some great ideas and also some leads to develop on my own time.
  8. Sometimes you need to trick your mind and use cues to get inspiration. These can be simple things such as leaving the lid off your pen, leaving room at the bottom of a page, or if you are like me and use dot points for each new idea, I will leave one on the page when I finish with a session. These might seem insignificant or irrelevant, but they help to train your brain to create ideas by sending a signal to it that you haven’t finished yet.
  9. Mix into this some generic media sources such as books, movies, computer games, pictures and posters. Many of your friends are likely to have seen or read them as well, so instead of directly taking ideas from them, grab a concept from them and adapt it. Put your own spin on it by using some of these tips.
  10. If you have a specific area you want to develop, Google the topic and see what comes back. There may be some great forums or websites you can read to spark an idea.

So with that deadline for your next session still looming, start gearing your brain by using the challenge in tip two. Set yourself the target, clear some time out of your day and get inspired.

Charles Ryan

As a writer, designer, and GM, I can get behind this entire list. Inspiration can be a mysterious and elusive thing, but you can also put your brain in the right place to make it much, much more likely. Great article!


Great list, but you’ve forgotten my favourite stand-by: consume new information constantly, things like stumble upon, google play, technorati, digg, etc offer troves of information to be consumed. There’s always something that seems to twig the subconscious into connections. As long as your mind is keeping the problem/topic you’ve been working on in there, new stuff learned will try and find links.

Andrew Rodgers

Thanks for the comments guys, and I do agree with you Aaron I have used tools like stumble upon in the past. I find it a good way to help you generate new thoughts and inspiration as it can make you challenge your current perceptions on a topic and give you a new angle by exposing you to new material.

Chris Dra8er

Good stuff I can vouch for, been a writer for over 20yrs. Just to add a bit; not only should you do it everyday but at the same time everyday (if possible), that way your brain will automatically switch into a creative gear easier and predictably. Routine is the key!

Again thanks, great advice!

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