Mar 212013

Tap into the power of metaphors to boost your creativity

Metaphor: jaws in space


I once heard that Ridley Scott pitched his idea for his movie “Alien” as “Jaws in space” (confirmed here). How brilliant is that?! With that simple 3-word metaphor, the director was able to convey his novel idea for a movie so precisely that it baffles the mind!

A metaphor is a soft thinking technique connecting two different universes of meaning. Examples: Food chain, flow of time, fiscal watchdog. The key to metaphorical thinking is similarity. The human mind tends to look for similarities.

Excessive logical thinking can stifle the creative process, so use metaphors as a way of thinking differently about something. Invent and look for metaphors in your thinking. They are also potent tools as they make you and your audience look at things a different way.

Imaging within another sensory or conceptual frame can help. For example, in the visual images of spring which inspired Vivaldi’s “La Primavera”, one can clearly re-imagine then while listening to that piece of music.

When thinking of a problem and its solution, it helps to expose the mind with many related concepts. The hope is that the juxtaposition of 2 or more of those concepts will create a eureka moment that will lead to a solution. It’s not always a perfect fit but by stretching and examining the parts of the connection, you can start discovering new facets of the imperfect metaphor to lead you to the perfect solution.

Flex your metaphorical thinking muscles

Coming up with metaphors might come naturally for some of us as our brains tend to think metaphorically in the first place.  However, it’s sometime difficult to force their creation. It’s more like “they come to you” and not “you go to them”. That’s where English majors have an edge. That said, you can become good at it with some practice.

Here are some interesting resources on how to create and make use of metaphors.

Do you like metaphors? Share your favorite one(s) in the comments section below this post.

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