everybody has a style. you search it out in the web. you wear it on your body and hair. you employ it in your writing. the more you define your style, the more it defines you. this is the double-edged sword of a style or a signature way of doing things: the more you feed it the more you’re (stuck) in it.
ENTER: Oblique Strategies (OS).
Developed by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, these are a series of flash cards (or now their digital equivalents) whose messages aim to “break creative blocks by encouraging lateral thinking”.
examples of these messages are:
Use an old idea.
State the problem in words as clearly as possible.
Only one element of each kind.
What would your closest friend do?
What to increase? What to reduce?
Are there sections? Consider transitions.
Try faking it!
Honour thy error as a hidden intention.
Ask your body.
Work at a different speed.
Gardening not Architecture.
while originally conceived primarily for musical creativity, Oblique Strategies have wide-ranging applications to any creative endeavor (even house-cleaning!)
so, what to do? the quick and dirty way is to simply access the list of cues via the web:
if you like seeing them all at once: https://carinelallemand.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/enoobliqstrat1.pdf
however you get to the strategies, pick one at random and apply it to your creative process.
a short example follows:
oblique strategy (applied to poetry writing):
honor your error as a hidden intention
misdirect to not give it away
i miss hats
and i dont miss hats
hide the brain
show the brain
something so squishy cant
ideas gotta come more
in the sponge
intentions in the sponge
and the sloppy
outpour is never
the mis takes
the snap of the clapperboard
whatever you think of the poem, the process of using the Strategies to trigger a writing session is freeing and stimulating.
what the card says isnt up to you, what you do with it is.
so pick a card, any card and crack the creative code.
send your texts to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll post what you send.
going to use it for something other than writing?
no problem, send an audio file or image of what resulted from employing the strategies.
Maria Popova tackles OS in her post:
and Brian Eno himself explains the process: