A Divergence Test For Writers (Inspired by the book Outliers)

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Happy New Year! I hope each and every one of you see success and productivity in 2013. May you write many words, imagine great stories and read tons of books.

Currently, I am reading the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a story about success. I’m very interested in the facts Malcolm shares about the world’s most successful people. There are so many things that contribute to a person becoming successful and to be honest it’s simply fascinating. Yes, hard work is at the center (according to his findings it takes about 10,000 hours to achieve success) but so many other things come into play as well, such as birthdays, geographic locations, opportunities and sometimes being in the right place at the right time.

I stumbled upon a chapter in the book that made me think blog post. The section talks about geniuses and the studies done on groups, scholars thought or claimed to be the most intelligent. A test given to them is called the “Divergence test.”  My interest was piqued when Malcolm explained that this type of test requires you to use your imagination. Perfect for writers, right?

So, let’s do it together (the sample he gave) and see what different types of answers we can come up with. Below you will find two words. The book says write as many different uses you can think of for each item, but for this post I will say five. Don’t read my answers until you come up with yours, then let’s compare. Okay, Ready, Set, Go! Be sure to use your imagination, don’t just write the obvious.

1. Brick
2. Blanket

Look over your answers, can you use any of them for a story you are writing? What do you know, this just became a writing exercise.

Here is what I came up with for Brick.

1. Build a House (my obvious answer)
2. Protection (A brick can do some serious damage)
3. Book Ends (Why not?)
4. Use to jump over when running an obstacle course (Be sure to be careful if doing so)
5. If you have a window that won’t stay up on its own, a brick can be used to help prop it up.
6. To stand on if extra height is needed. (I know I said five but I couldn’t help myself)

7. A planter (Yes, I’ve seen it done on Pinterest)


Here is what I came up with for Blanket

1. To cover yourself for warmth (my obvious answer)
2. To use as a roof when making a fort (my children do this all of the time)
3. To cushion something if transporting (if you are traveling, you can wrap a blanket around something fragile)
4. To cover a window (think college students)
5. To spread out on the ground while picnicking or a beach while sunbathing
6. To cover a body (Some of us write crime novels right?)

Okay, how did we compare. Now look over my answers and your answers. Can you use them in your story? Perhaps the eccentric neighbor invites you in for a cup of coffee and you notice she uses painted bricks as book ends. You get the idea. I love being inspired, and this book and the test listed in the book did exactly that. I hope I have inspired you today and would love if you list your answers in the comment section. I’m super curious to know what you come up with.

Happy Writing!


Filed under Inspirational, Uncategorized, writer's life, writers, writing, Writing

4 responses to “A Divergence Test For Writers (Inspired by the book Outliers)

  1. Absolutely, you can use them in a story. I’ve heard of this book, but haven’t read it.

    • Maribeth

      It definitely is an interesting book. Add it to your list. Thanks Medeia again for being my biggest commenter in 2012. I hope to see your comments just as much this year. 🙂

  2. Great exercise to get those creative juices flowing. This is probably the longest comment I’ve made ever, but it’s fun to share ideas.
    To stand on when you want to reach something. (I’m short)
    A door stopper (You can cover with material and make them look pretty cool. I’ve seen this done and it’s neat)
    Lift it like a weight to build muscles. (I’m trying to get fit in 2013…we’ll see how long that lasts?)
    Hold down something light, like a tablecloth outside at a cookout, so it won’t blow away.

    Use it as a veil for a little girl (my sister and I did this growing up) or a cape (actually I think I might have done that too).
    Catch a person who’s jumping out of a window. (Don’t recommend it for fun, but in desperate times like a fire, it could work).
    Smother a fire(Hmm, seems I have fire on the brain, wonder why?)
    Cover a spill on furniture like a couch (my brothers did this when we were little to escape my mother’s wrath).
    Thanks for the fun post!

    • Maribeth

      Thanks Renee for joining in the fun. I loved reading your answers and wasn’t surprised that we had some similar answers. Have an awesome day!!!!

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