I came across a short article on the PsyBlog describing seven psychological methods to enhance your creative thinking. The tips "3. Absurdist stimulation", "5. Combining opposites", and "6. Path of most resistance" resonate with me in particular. These ideas are closely related and collectively seem to grow out of the notion that our creative thought processes are stimulated when one's mind is confronted with contradictions, inconsistencies, anomalies, and the unfamiliar. I find that I'm very much drawn to paradox and conflict in art, literature, and film, probably in large part due to this kind of stimulation of creative thought patterns: you are forced to synthesize some kind of meaning out of disparate concepts.
While reading the PsyBlog article, I found myself doing something I really enjoy, and used to do often when I did research as a physicist, but don't do nearly often enough nowadays: traversing a conceptual network (in this case a network of web links). For example, the article refers to an article by Albert Rothenberg regarding the concept of "Janusian thinking", which of course I had to google, which lead me down a path of exploration. A couple of books I came across that look interesting: a book by Rothenberg called "The Creativity Question", and a book by Jordan Ayan called "Aha! 10 Ways to Free Your Creative Spirit and Find Your Great Ideas".
I would add this as an eighth tip for stimulating creative thinking: explore a conceptual network. The most frequent opportunity I have to do this activity is if I'm in the mood to find new music: in iTunes, I will start out at a node of an artist or album I'm already familiar with, or perhaps one I heard on Pandora, and then follow the "listeners who purchased this album also purchased this album" links. The basic idea is not a new one, it's essentially what doing research is all about, but I feel that the ease with which one can set up and follow links between related ideas in the electronic information age allow for a network traversal that just simply wasn't possible in the age of card catalogues. And it has a way of stimulating healthy associative thought patterns, which is a good thing.