Clustering to free the imagination

As far as creative writing is concerned, I've been in a dry period for too long (hence the compulsive blogging, which at least maintains the writing habit). Am I suffering from writers' block? Probably. I  suspect that years of activities that rely on left-brain thinking (I was trained as an auditor in a former life and I regularly play chess, bridge, and computerised card games) have stifled my creativity. So I've ditched the card games and prescribed clustering (a technique also used as a team activity in the world of business, where it is sometimes referred to as brain storming)  in the hope that it will be the cure. I'm planning to build a habit of spending ten minutes or so on the technique each morning.

This technique was included in a creative writing module that I studied as part of my OU  literature Degree course. You are probably already familiar with it but if not  - the following has been culled from my course reader:

Clustering -

 A technique developed by Gabrielle Lusser Rico in her book Writing the Natural Way (1983)

Based on the separate functions of the brain's two hemispheres

Aims to bypass the analytical functions of the brain which might initially constrain creative writing

 Clustering helps us to move backwards and forwards between different areas of the brain as needed. It suppresses the analytical mode that we often go into when we begin to start thinking about writing something. It is more like drawing or sketching than writing and helps us to begin writing more easily and coherently.

How to do it -

This is a fast exercise. Spend no more than 3 minutes on a cluster

Take a blank sheet of  paper and choose a word or phrase connected with what you want to write about

Write this word or phrase in the centre of the page and circle it

Write down every connection that comes into your head

The words or phrases that you write should fan out from the initial circle like a branch 

Don't worry about being neat. Here's a sample cluster (not written by me!)


Once you have drawn a cluster the idea is that you look for things in it that you find particularly interesting and use them as the basis for free writing exercises, which will further release the creative imagination.

Popular posts from this blog

The Bookseller of Kabul - A Must Read

The Hearts and Minds of Men by Fay Weldon