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?

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, August 29, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 37

To Write Without Thinking: Exploring Body Language

This is the thirty-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:

For writers, sometimes we need to find our words in non-linguistic ways. Sounds strange, right? Admittedly, when I am most in the flow while writing, I am often not thinking. I leave that place of words, that linguistic center of my brain, and enter a different space. Similarly, while dancing tango, when I am at my best, which means most connected to my partner and the music, I am not thinking. If words do enter my mind, I immediately fall out of this connection and often make a mistake. As a result, while dancing, I work hardest to not think. The challenge is that unlike dance, where movement and breath are the building blocks, with writing, words are the building blocks, so how can we not think with words while creating words? 

I recently took a creative writing class called “Body Language” (see source below), in which we used the language of movement to inform our creative writing and vice versa. I was most interested in transferring the zen space I enter in tango to my creative writing practice. I was able to achieve this for a few moments through an exercise the teachers had us do. We were to watch a qi gong movement, and without knowing its name in Chinese, ascribe it a name. Both performing the motions myself, and watching our teacher and classmates do so, put me in that zen state in which I could muster up a name without thinking too cerebrally. I used as little language-based thought as possible to conjure up a title, operating from a place of “blink decision making” or intuition. 

For this week’s Curious Creative exercise, you will experience the exercise for yourself to hopefully put you in that same non-thinking mode of creativity. My hope is that with this mere 10 minutes of creative play, you will form muscle memory to help engage you in this non-thinking mode while writing in the future.


Your Turn!

  1. Watch this youtube video.  You will see a man do two different qi gong movements. The subtitles are in German, so unless you know German, you will not be affected by learning the titles of the movements. The first one starts at 0:50. The second one starts at 2:36. He repeats both a couple of times. 
  1. Without thinking too much, write a title for each of the movements. Just to give you an idea, some qi gong exercise names are “Immortal Looks to the Heavens,” “Dragon Holds Pearl,” and “Bamboo Bends in the Wind.” You don’t need to think of similar names; just know that you can create metaphorical ones, not just literal descriptions of the movements. 
How did you do? Did a title pop into your mind immediately, without apparent word-thought? Were you able skip any belaboring over word choice? Did you feel a kind of pressure-free relaxation as you watched the movement?

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.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 36

No More Be Verbs!

This is the thirty-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:

Writing teachers will often tell you to replace your be-verbs (is, am, are, was, were, have been, am being) with more interesting action verbs. The idea of be-verbs is very boring because something that ‘is’ is not doing anything. ‘Existing’ is very abstract. It is hard for the mind’s eye to imagine, but an action can be imagined. This week, we will play with a paragraph authored by someone else. This simple exercise will get you thinking about stronger verbs, so when you write your own material, you are conscious of making interesting verb choices.

Your Turn!

1. Glean a paragraph from anywhere. Make sure it is littered with be-verbs. Highlight the be-verbs.

example: Have you ever wondered why most of the things in Nature are so visually pleasing? Why spirals, though imperfect, are so attractive? Why four petal flowers are so rare? The answers can be found in mathematical principles.

2. In this first round, replace the be-verbs with action verbs that don’t change the meaning of the paragraph too much.

example: Have you ever wondered why most of the things in Nature PIECE TOGETHER so visually pleasingly? Why spirals, though imperfect, CURVE so attractively? Why four petal flowers VISIT so rarely? The answers SCREAM in mathematical principles.

Note: You may have to make some small changes in the rest of the sentences. If the sentence is a passive sentence, you may have to switch the subject and object for the sentence to make sense with an action verb. For example, you would change “He was eaten by the crocodile” to “The crocodile devoured him.” If the sentence uses a be-verb to describe something, you may have to change the part of speech of the adjective in the sentence. For example, you would change “She is beautiful” to “She hovers beautifully.”

3. In the second round, be more creative. Have fun! Wax poetic! Don’t be afraid to change the meaning of the paragraph.

example: Have you ever wondered why most of the things in Nature BLEED so visually pleasingly? Why spirals, though imperfect, WINCE so attractively? Why four petal flowers GIVE BIRTH so rarely? The answers DRESS in mathematical principles.

How did you do? Do your verbs give visuals? Does your last paragraph lean towards poetry? Are you more aware of how interesting action verbs can enhance writing?

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: “Why Seashells are so Alluring?” Inspiration Bit. http://www.inspirationbit.com


Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 35

Too Many Adjectives

This is the thirty-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:

One thing you are not supposed to do in most creative writing is clutter it with adjectives. Writing teachers tell you over and over again that good writing is all about interesting nouns and strong verbs, and that adjectives and adverbs water it down. For this week’s exercise, you will first indulge in what you’re not supposed to do- overwrite with adjectives- and then you will redact them to see what remains.

Your Turn!

  1. Simply write a description of the room you are sitting in. Go out of your way to describe every noun with at least one adjective, more if you can. Even add adverbs to each of your verbs. Write in the form a paragraph or freewrite. 
The stained, splintered picnic tables, wooden and square, line the grey, textured, pressboard deck floor. Empty and blankly anticipating the afterwork hours, they are bare and dirty, silent bearers of unwelcome splinters. Oblong globular lights zigzag neatly above them, hungrily anticipating a later hour.

  1. Take a black pen and cross out every adjective and adverb.
The stained, splintered picnic tables, wooden and square, line the grey, textured, pressboard deck floor. Empty and blankly anticipating the afterwork hours, they are bare and dirty, silent bearers of unwelcome splinters. Oblong globular lights zigzag neatly above them, hungrily anticipating a later hour.

  1. Rewrite the remaining words as a poem, adding line breaks where appropriate. Change articles (a/an/the) and prepositions (to/from/in/at) as needed. 
picnic tables line the deck floor
anticipating the hours they are
bearers of splinters
and lights zigzag above
anticipating the hour

How did you do? Does your poem include space that the original description did not have? Space that allows the images to breathe – suggesting subtleties and connotations?

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! 



Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 34

Food and Home 

This is the thirty-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:

For this week’s creative exercise, you’ll explore the connection between a specific food and the feeling of home. There will be plenty of rich sensory details to explore- taste, smell, texture, and sight. Also of interest will be how such concrete details can conjure up the abstract feeling of home.

Your Turn!

  1. List several food dishes that remind you of “home.” They can be regional specialties or your own family’s traditional dishes.
  1. Of these, circle your favorite.
  1. Spend five minutes clustering or mind-mapping some of your memories associated with this food. Recall details of events, people, and environment.
  1. Pick the most interesting detail from your brainstorm, and plug it into the opening sentence: “It was _______________________ that told me I was home.”
  1. From this sentence, continue drafting a personal essay or narrative.
How did you do? Did your sensory details make for rich writing? Were you able to uncover interesting details that conjure up the feeling of home for you? Did one particular story emerge?

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: “Apple Pie.” “The Time is Now,” Poets & Writers, 7/6/17, pw.org.