Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 50

Childhood Play

This is the fiftieth installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here

My Thoughts:

I came across this Friedrich Nietzsche quotation when I was a teenager and I held on to it tightly: “Man’s maturity: to regain the seriousness he had as a child at play.” At the time, it was a reminder to stay young and playful, to hold off on “adulting.” Nowadays, as a writer, I often think of creativity as a harkening back to the state of childhood play. As Nietzsche pointed out, play was neither half-hearted nor frivolous; it had intensity and focus perhaps unrivaled in adulthood. When in the flow of creating something, it’s that same dichotomy of intensity and playfulness that often leads me to an inspired piece of art. For this week’s Curious Creative, we’ll do a simple listing exercise to bring us back to our childhood worlds of play.

Your Turn!

  1. Open your notebook to two empty pages side by side. Create seven columns and label them: BOOKS, OBJECTS, FICTIONAL CHARACTERS, TEACHERS, GAMES, ACTIVITIES, and OBSERVATIONS. 
  1. Spent 10 minutes filling in each column with as many examples from your childhood as possible. My own example: 
BOOKS
OBJECTS
FICTIONAL CHARACTERS
TEACHERS
GAMES
ACTIVITIES
OBSERVATIONS
-Anne of Green Gables
-Little House on the Prairie
-Forever
-Where the Wild Things Are
-rock collection
-butterfly net
-pogo stick
-stilts
-Barbies
-Cabbage Patch Kids
-Jem
-Ariel
-Belle
-Anne

-Mrs. Donohue
-Mrs. Brandt
-Mrs. Hofgesang
-Mrs. Polio
-Kick the Can
-Capture the Flag
-Super Mario Brothers
-Tetris
-Man Hunt
-Candyland
-I made clothes out of paper and tape for crickets I collected from the garage.
-I raised Painted Lady Butterflies from eggs my mom ordered.
-People liked hanging out with you if you were funny.
-Playing video games for a couple hours was fun, and then all of a sudden it wasn’t.
-I was the fastest girl runner I knew.

How did you do? Did you enjoy reminiscing about your childhood? Did it feel playful to remember? Did remembering remind you to be more playful?

To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing!


Inspired by: Linda Barry’s Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor (Drawn & Quarterly, 2014)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 49

Four-Panel Diary

This is the forty-ninth installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here

My Thoughts:

In Lynda Barry’s cartooning class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “What It Is,” about halfway through the semester, she assigns her students “the four-panel diary.” On each diary page, students illustrate four scenes from that day, including “daily things” and “things that stand out.” 

I very much like what Barry writes about the purpose of this activity: “Both writing and drawing lean on a certain kind of picturing—not the kind that is already finished in your head and just needs to be put to words or reproduced on paper. It’s a kind of picturing that is formed by our own activity, one line suggesting the next. We have a general direction but can’t see where we are until we let ourselves take a step, and then another, and then we move on to the third… You don't know what your drawings will be like until you draw them with this kind of picturing in your mind that moves your hand. The trick is just that: Let it move your hand.”

Her directive to “let it move your hand” is very apropos to the generative stages of writing. You must surrender to not knowing what the finished product will be until it appears at the end. This surrender is central to the creative process (and addictively fun!). For this week’s Curious Creative exercise, we will adapt Barry’s activity to writing.

Your Turn!

  1. Divide a piece of paper into four equal quadrants.
  1. If you are an early morning creative, think about the day before. If you are doing this in the evening, reflect on the day you’ve just had. For this particular activity, it’s better to do the latter.
  1. In each panel, time yourself to write a 2-minute description of a scene or image from your day. Do not tell a chronological narrative of something that happened. Simply imagine a scene, a flashbulb memory if you will, and use words to describe what you see. 
  1. These scenes don’t have to be the most exciting moments of your life; you can even focus on “pouring milk on your cereal,” as Lynda Barry suggests. The important thing is that you capture a scene in your mind’s eye, even if the picture is terribly fuzzy, and for two minutes, describe it with words on the page. 
How did you do? Did you let the process sweep you away, not knowing what you’d write until the description appeared in each panel? Were you able to actually imagine a visual picture in your mind’s eye for each panel? Did you notice interplay between image and word?

To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing!


Inspired by: Linda Barry’s Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor (Drawn & Quarterly, 2014)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 48

Time Constraints

This is the forty-eighth installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here

My Thoughts:

In his book, Cartooning Philosophy and Practice, Ivan Brunetti leads budding cartoonists through a drawing exercise in which students are constrained by time limits. The exercise goes as follows. Fold a piece of paper into quarters. In the top left quarter, first draw a castle for two minutes; next, in the top right quarter, draw one for one minute; in the bottom left, draw one for 30 seconds; and in the bottom right, end by drawing a castle for 15 seconds. 

Through this exercise, Brunetti shows that somehow, in each of these time constraints, one figures out how to fit what’s necessary into his/her drawing. He also demonstrates that a lot of thinking and planning ahead of time is not necessary or helpful. Whereas beginning artists might stare at a blank page with unlimited time feeling like they don’t know how to draw a castle, a ticking clock pushes them to do it without thinking (and discover they can!).

If you are a visual artist, this is a great exercise to try for your Curious Creative exercise this week. If you are a writer, you can adapt this activity to the written word by following the steps below. 

Your Turn!

  1. Choose a family photograph. 
  1. Fold a piece of paper into quarters.
  1. Set your timer to 5 minutes. In the top left quarter, write a description of the photo for 5 minutes.
  1. In the top right quarter, describe the same photo in 2 minutes.
  1. In the bottom left, describe it in 30 seconds. 
  1. In the bottom right quarter, describe the photo in 15 seconds. 
How did you do? Were you able to keep your hand moving the whole time, without pausing too much to think? Did your descriptions, as they got shorter, narrow in on a certain aspect of the photo, such as a specific person, what people were thinking, or the emotional relationship(s) between family members? Did your final 15-second description consist of the most important “lines and shapes” of that photograph? In other words, did it boil down that moment to its essence?

To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing!


Inspired by: Ivan Brunetti’s Cartooning Philosophy and Practice (Yale University Press, 2011).

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 47

Index Card Portraits

This is the forty-seventh installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here

My Thoughts:

One of the best ways to get into the writing mindset for me is to draw. It quiets and calms my mind-chatter, but it also centers me into my physical body and presence. It’s possible that engaging in any right-brained activity would help one access another creative activity- dancing to write, drawing to dance, etc. Personally, I drew a lot as a little kid and am not sure which came first – writing or drawing. But to this day, I place a lot of importance on the act of physically holding a pencil and channeling images or words through my arm, that this physical act is a completely necessary first step in anything I create. 

Lynda Barry, cartoonist and creativity teacher, swears on this as well. In her book, Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor, she writes “The trick seems to be this: Consider the drawing as a side effect of something else: a certain state of mind that come about when we gaze with open attention.” In the course she teaches at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, “What It Is: manually shifting the image,” her students write, draw, paint and cartoon entirely by hand. In this week’s exercise, we are going to try an assignment she gives her students a few times each semester.

Your Turn!

  1. Take a stack of index cards and a drawing pencil. Go to a public place.
  1. With whatever time you have, whether it is 10 or 45 minutes, draw people, one on each index card. 
  1. Try not to get caught up on perfection, details, or verisimilitude. Rather than spending 45 minutes drawing one perfect portrait, it’s better to draw a handful of portraits, rudimentary ones      like those you drew as a child. Draw characters out of simple shapes (circles, triangles, squares) with minimal features. Barry calls them “quick and workable alternative[s] to stick figures with a lot more soul.”
  1. Later, ink them in with a black pen. You can also fill them in with watercolor or colored pencils.
  1. The purpose of this exercise is purely to exercise your creative muscles, but something surprising might appear on your paper. You might end up using one of these images as inspiration for a future art or writing project.
How did you do? Did you keep your hand in motion the whole time? Were you able to turn your language-brain off and not think too much as you drew? Did anything original appear? Could any of these characters be inspiration for a story?

To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing!


Inspired by: Linda Barry’s Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor (Drawn & Quarterly, 2014)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 46

First Lines

This is the forty-sixth installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here

My Thoughts:

Poets & Writers magazine has a column called “Page One: Where New and Noteworthy Books Begins.” It consists of 10-15 first lines from recently published books of fiction, poetry, and memoir. I am often introduced to great contemporary reads through this column, when I take a chance on a book because its first line struck me.

At a writer’s salon I recently attended, one of the prompts was to write as many first lines for a short story or a novel as we could in ten minutes. I asked if they needed be ones from books already written that we could recall, or if we were to invent ones of our own. The answer was the latter. 

But I think there’s merit in collecting first lines from already published books. 
I can’t help but think that part of creative play is collecting and gleaning beautiful things, that sometimes this is a necessary step in the writing process. For this week’s Curious Creative exercise, you will both glean and create interesting first lines.

Your Turn!

  1. The first step is to pull a handful of books off your bookshelf and open them to their first pages. Record about five favorite first lines. Here are mine:
The shell collector was scrubbing limpets at his sink when he heard the water taxi come scraping over the reef. 
The Shell Collector, Anthony Doerr
How angry am I? 
The Woman Upstairs, Claire Messud
Six days ago, a man blew himself up by the side of a road in northern Wisconsin. 
Leviathan, Paul Aster
He is flying. 
The Aviator’s Wife, Melanie Benjamin

Notice that some are punchy and succinct, some throw you into the middle of a story enticing you to stick around to find out what’s next, and some ask questions.

  1. Now set the timer for 10 minutes and write as many first lines of your own. Any topic. Any style. Go for variety. Try some starting off in the middle of an action. Try some that ask a question.
  1. If you have the time, the obvious next step, of course, is to take your favorite of these first lines and keep writing! 
How did you do? Did you notice effective strategies in the already published first lines? Did you create any of your own that would entice a reader to pick up your story and keep reading? 


To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 45

Moved by a Famous Photograph

This is the forty-fifth installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here

My Thoughts: 

The other day, I came across this photograph of former President Obama leaning over so a little African American boy could feel his hair. Boys at school had told the boy that he had the same hair as the president and so he was curious. He told this to the president, and without hesitation, Obama leaned over so the boy could see for himself. I was particularly moved by the little boy’s facial expression in this moment- as if his eyes were asking incredulously, “Could it really be?”

I had seen this photo before, but something about seeing it again in this new moment, perhaps with all that has happened in our country since it was taken, struck a chord. As a writer, I pay attention to moments like these. Why did I feel moved? What exactly was happening in the photo? And how did it relate to what was happening to me?

In this week’s exercise, you will begin with the feeling of being moved by a famous photograph, and you will use writing to uncover exactly what inspired this feeling.  Once you circle around enough details in the photograph, you will come across what exactly struck the chord, and when you do, you will run with it!

Your Turn!

  1. Find a photograph that moves you emotionally – one you’ve come across in the news or pop culture, not one from your own life. If nothing comes to mind, peruse Life Magazine’s most iconic photos. 
  1. Write about what you see. Describe the body language and facial expressions of the main figures. What are they wearing? Who stands in the sidelines? What are their expressions? Imagine what happened several hours before this photo was taken and what happened later that evening. Write possible dialogue that took place when the photo was taken. Who was standing outside the frame?
  1. Chances are, because you were moved emotionally when you first saw the photo, something you write in this brainstorming stage will strike the same chord. When it does, narrow in on that detail and run with it. If it is something about the facial expression of a certain figure, write his internal thoughts. Write what he later spoke of to his friends that night. Write what he was thinking that morning when he got dressed.
  1. To further this exercise, shape this freewriting into a poem. Cross out all the preliminary writing (what you wrote before you found what struck the emotional chord), and revise what remains. Add just enough details to clue the reader in on what is happening. Then make cuts so the writing is concise and succinct (less repetitive as feverish brainstorming can often be). 
How did you do? Once you found something that struck a chord, did your writing quicken? Did you tap into that same feeling, perhaps uncover its source, and achieve some kind of understanding or catharsis? Does the finished product have the potential to move the reader to feel the same emotion?


To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing!

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 44

Writing with a Mirror


This is the forty-fourth installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here

My Thoughts:

In James Pennebaker and John Evans' Expressive Writing: Words That Heal, they write about the power of staring into your own eyes as you write by placing a mirror in front of your writing space. They pose that while making eye contact with yourself, you see yourself as others do, and this new perspective can help you gain new insight on a significant personal issue.

Though the aim of The Curious Creative is not necessarily to heal but to play, the two are not exclusive of each other. Therefore, I am curious how gazing into one’s own eyes can alter the style and content that comes out of one’s pen. For this week’s exercise, we will find out!

Your Turn!

1.   Place a mirror in front of your writing space, either up on the wall behind your computer or on the desk in front of your writing pad.

2.     At the top of the page, make a list of 3-4 things that came to your mind when you first woke up this morning. Circle one that you’d like to try writing about.

3.     Gaze at your eyes. 

4.     Write continuously for 10 minutes. Periodically make eye contact with yourself as you write.

How did you do? Did your writing appear to take on a different audience? Did it seem more or less self-conscious? Did you delve deeper into whatever was initially on your mind, gaining a new insight? Did you feel more centered or connected to yourself?

To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing!



Inspired by James Pennebaker and John Evans' Expressive Writing: Words That Heal

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 43

The Red Wheelbarrow

This is the forty-third installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here

My Thoughts:

William Carlos Williams was both a modernist and imagist poet. Imagism called for precise imagery and direct, clear language. By focusing on one single image and describing it with “luminous details” as imagist poet, Ezra Pound, called them, the reader can experience the image’s essence. “The Red Wheelbarrow” is one of Williams’ most famous imagist poems:

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends 
upon  

a red wheel 
barrow
  
glazed with rain 
water  

beside the white 
chickens.

With a phrase like “so much depends upon,” the reader is left to fill in the blanks. Williams’ success is not only what he chose as his “luminous details,” but also that he picked an everyday object that, for most people, has many uses, connotations, and memories packed into it. 

In this week’s exercise, you will also describe some everyday objects that have been lying around your house or your backyard, and choose one packed with the most meaning to create a poem modeled after Williams’. Your creative play will be the “luminous details” you choose.

Your Turn!

  1. Choose five tangible items from your home or wherever you are doing this writing exercise. Observe them closely. In writing, describe each briefly. 
  1. Choose one item from your list and write a poem based exactly on “The Red Wheelbarrow,” by coping the lines "so much depends/ upon" and keeping the line and stanza lengths. Fill in the rest with your description of the object you chose.  
  1. “Red,” “glazed with rain water,” and “beside the chickens” were the only three details Williams included. Your poem need not have more than three descriptive details, and they can be just as simple. Notice that Williams chose a color, a visual detail about its texture, and what the item is juxtaposed next to. Feel free to use these categories to guide you if you are stumped.
How did you do? Did the “luminous details” you chose, in fact, shine? Did following a model, in terms of phrases and line/stanza lengths help you focus on and isolate a few simple, yet, powerful details? Were you able to pack enough connotation into the particular object you chose?

To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing!

Source: Inspired by teacher Stacy Chestnut’s exercise from her creative writing class at East High School, Wichita, KS, September 2017.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 42

Symbols from the Past

This is the forty-second installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here

My Thoughts:

In this week’s exercise, you will write about a symbolic object from your past for symbolic audiences. You will use the physicality of an actual object as a prompt to recall an experience in your past. Then, you will retell the story to various audiences, because the implied presence of others will affect your thoughts and ultimately, writing. This activity might yield different styles and voices than you’re used to – it’s creative play! And linking symbols to the past can clarify the experience’s meaning – an added bonus!

Your Turn!

  1. On your desk, put a physical item that is a symbol from your past. It should be something you naturally associate with a certain event (letter, clothing, picture, toy). 
  1. Freewrite for 5 minutes about that time. How did it affect you in the past and how does it continue to influence you now? 
  1. Now write for 5 minutes about that same general time, but for a different audience.  Choose an authority figure, someone you have a formal relationship with, but who was not in that story (judge, boss, FBI agent, parent). Explain to him/her this event. What were your thoughts and feelings then and now?
  1. Finally, write for 5 minutes imagining you will share the story with a close and compassionate friend. This friend should also not be connected in any way to this event.
  1. Now analyze how the stories are different.
How did you do? Did you feel different as you were writing them? Did some writing feel more genuine than others? Did one give you a new perspective on your experience?

To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing!


Source: Inspired by Pennebaker, James W. and John E. Evans. “Writing in Different Contexts,” Expressive Writing: Words that Heal. Emunclaw, WA: Idyll Arbor, Inc., 2014, p. 87-92.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 41

“Why Did You Decide To Get Married, Buy a House, and Have Two Kids?”

This is the forty-first installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here

My Thoughts:

Anytime we don’t follow social norms, we end having to justify ourselves repeatedly to curious people. People are always asking one another about the out-of-the-box choices they’ve made. We never ask people who have followed the status quo questions like, “Why did you decide to get married, buy a house, and have two kids?” But as soon as we do something out of the norm, we end up having to explain it to others our whole lives. In fact, you might already be bored of telling your out-of-the-box story, but I am sure you have it memorized as a schpeel you tell those who ask. For this week’s exercise, we’ll use your memorized script as a jumping off point for fresher storytelling.

Your Turn!

  1. Choose an out-of-the-box thing about yourself that people are always asking you to explain. 
  1. Tell this story in paragraph form (prose) in the third person (she/he not I/me) as if you are explaining yourself as this other person you know.
  1. Think of 4-6 different possible titles for this story. 
  1. Choose the most compelling title and write it at the top of a blank page.
  1. From this title, tell another story. Give yourself permission to have it be about something totally other than your out-of-the-box story, as long as it still fits the title. This time, write in the first person (I/me) even though it’s no longer about you. 
How did you do? Did writing your own story in the third person give you any insights or unexpected emotions about the choice you made or the situation you found yourself in? Did the title you chose inspire an interesting new story, and did it feel refreshing to break free from the rehearsed story to telling something totally different? Did changing the person from third to first again help trigger a fresher voice for storytelling?


To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 40

What is Your Design Tendency?

This is the fortieth installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here

My Thoughts:

For this week’s exercise, we’ll keep it simple and give you something creatively playful you can do anywhere anytime. Yet, the self-knowledge you glean from this quick exercise might inform you of your artistic leanings, which you can choose to abandon or embrace in future creative projects!

Your Turn!

  1. Take a pile of things from your pocket and arrange them on the table till they’re aesthetically pleasing to you.
  1. Then reflect on your design tendency. Did you go for symmetry? Chaos? Color? Lines? Patterns? Big? Small? Functional? Shocking?
How did you do? Did you learn something about your artistic leanings? Is this a tendency you can further embrace by intentionally using it to guide you in future creative work? Or would it benefit you to experiment with abandoning this tendency, and go for the opposite? 

To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing! 




 Source: inspired by the workshop, “Body Language: Exploring Your Secondary Intelligence,” taught at The Hugo House by Jill Leininger and Ilvs Strass on 8/13/17.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 39

Renaming Familiar Tales

This is the thirty-ninth installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here

My Thoughts:

Writing prompts are aplenty in how-to-unleash-your-creativity books, and with the Internet, it is so easy to quickly snag a prompt. But there is still something difficult about reading a prompt and then staring at a blank page.  That is why my site aims to engage in creative play, doing something a little out-of-the-box or multi-modal, in order to bypass any intimidation that might come from staring at an empty piece of paper.

This week’s exercise has you design the writing prompt yourself by visiting old familiar tales, and it adds a physical element – taking books off a shelf, slapping sticky notes on them, opening to first pages- in hopes that, by engaging yourself in these different ways, the writing will come more easily.

Your Turn!

  1. Go to your bookshelf and pull out 3-4 books you’ve read. 
  1. On sticky notes, write a new title for each book related to its theme (ie, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Entrenched Racism; O Pioneers! – Unforgiving Land; The Joy Luck Club – Mothers Revising their Lives through their Daughters). Slap these sticky notes onto each book. 
  1. Choose one of these invented titles and stick it at the top of a piece of paper. 
  1. As quickly as you can, think of personal connections – a situations or events from your life- and list them on the paper. 
  1. Open the book from which the title came. Copy down the first three words of the first sentence. Begin telling your story from here.
How did you do? Did you feel released from over-thinking when slapping new titles onto old books? Were you able to list 2-3 personal connections to the titles? Did having the first three words written already give you a good jumping off point for your story?

To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing! 



Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 38

Ekphrasis Formula

This is the thirty-eighth installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here

My Thoughts:

An ekphrasis is a visual description about a work of art. One of my favorite examples is William Carlos Williams’ poem, “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,” written about the Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting of the same name. 

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
by Pieter Bruegel, 1525-1530 



Landscape with the Fall of Icarus 
by William Carlos Williams, 1883  1963

According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring 

a farmer was ploughing
his field
the whole pageantry 

of the year was
awake tingling
with itself 

sweating in the sun
that melted
the wings' wax 

unsignificantly
off the coast
there was 

a splash quite unnoticed
this was
Icarus drowning


In this ekphrasis, William Carlos Williams employs a very simple technique: he literally describes what is happening in the painting in a journalistic manner (when, what, where). But what makes this poem powerful is his use of two simple words: “unsignificantly” and “unnoticed.” This adverb and adjective, with their emotive connotations, give the reader a feeling of pity for Icarus, who has failed at a lifetime achievement, so easily forgotten and unimportant to the everyman.

Ekphrasis offer a nice way into writing poetry, both through the accessible inspiration of visual art and the simple journalistic formula. In this week’s exercise, you will choose from several famous paintings and employ William Carlos Williams’ template for success!

Your Turn!

  1. Choose one of the following paintings:
The Lady of Shallot 
by William Holman Hunt, 1896



 Ballet Dancers in the Wings
by Edgar Degas, 1834-1917



American Gothic
by Grant Wood, 1930



  1. Begin your poem, “According to (artist’s name), when…” 
  2. Next in your poem, describe the following literally:
a.     the occasion (what is happening in the painting)
b.     the season or time of year
c.      the atmosphere (look at the background for clues)
d.     describe the subject of the painting with 1-2 adverb and/or adjectives

How did you do? Did you notice new details from spending time looking closely at the artwork? Did having a formula allow you to connect with the artwork on an emotional level? Were you able to express some kind of (new) emotion about the artwork through your poem?

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