The Poem Strikes Back! (creative writing exercise)


It’s a bit strange title for the blog post, isn’t it? This is a different approach to writing prompts and exercises that you are accustomed to on this blog, but the last thing we want is to be boring and monotonous.

And before you dismiss whole idea, because it sounds silly – actually it is all about being aware of different perspectives. This is a sort of continuation of blog posts related to mindfulness and why not taking a role play as a foundation for writing prompt? To go even step further, let’s imagine that you are a poem. What would poem have to say? We use our writing as a tool to release our anger, love, passion, depression, fears, admiration, secrets, desires…Is your poem tired of you? Are you whining all the time? Are you always concentrated on what’s going on inside yourself that you missed a beautiful, strong and passionate  winter storm? The birch outside your window doesn’t have any leaves, have you noticed that?

Or you are trying to please everybody all day and you forgot to smile. Can you count how many times you smiled today?

Do you remember your latest dream? And when was the last time you danced to your favorite song?

Let your poem tell you all that. Imagine your writing is a mirror, what is it reflecting? What is missing out of your life? What is too much?

This is something I like to call reversed mindfulness. You are observing, noticing, listening…but instead of what is, we can focus on what isn’t. Our poem can tell us that story, a sort of self-reflection that shows us where our life is at, right now and what we can change.

It doesn’t matter if its humorous, boring, exaggerating – nobody is perfect, so neither is your poem. It’s about the understanding how we can enjoy life more.

So here’s the setting: It’s time for your writing. You are about to sit at your table but there is already a piece of paper waiting for you. It’s a poem, addressed to you and it says: “Dear_______

So, this is my take on the exercise:

Dear Maja,

how are you today?

Another grey Tuesday in the sunny Hague?

That rainy hat you are teasingly pressing on your head

Forget it…let it blow

like a wild bat…

Feel the wind through your hair,

that boring despair – leave at home

(there’s no such thing  “a graceful yawning”

I can tell you that!)

And why there are only two crossed lines

on your forehead?

Smile with your face,

you don’t have to know everything just yet.

Life unfolds, there is a reason I’m saying you this.

Stay close to me, my dearest friend.

You are not alone – like the Moon follows Earth,

I’m behind you, invisible, most delicate thread

you’ll understand, close your eyes, jump over that doorstep.

What your poem has to tell you?

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Poetry in disguise: using your casual writing to discover the poet within


I can bet that many of you, as a little kid (just as I did) liked to have a small notebook or a diary where you would write your cutest and most intricate secrets – how you hated your lunch or how that boy in the second row always gave you weird looks and laughed at your braces.

And I do believe that even today so far I have never met a real boredom – because I’m always doodling, jotting something down and I find easy ways to amuse myself. That habit of simply recording your thoughts can have a deeper meaning and transfer into something more beautiful and valuable. Today I want to share my experience with that.

I’m a strong advocate for journaling and daily ‘casual’ writing, because if you look at it more clearly, it is a perfect guide and companion: paper can hold on to anything, it is there without any judgment, ‘listening’ and helping you reflect on your daily thoughts, feelings and experiences. I believe that our journal/diary entries can be a great source for poetry writing as it is a simple tool where you express yourself in a variety of ways – writing but also collecting and keeping small memorabilia (like scrap book), photographs, pictures, making interesting collages, vision boards, to do lists, goals and ext.

All that merged with poetry that accentuates language and experience can lead to developing your own little master piece. Any journal entry can be an inexhaustible source to discover poems as journal is a bridge between you and your perception of life. When you start to write, it is adventure for itself as you never know what might happen and where the words will lead you. You might get sudden burst of creative inspiration and from there transform it into the most beautiful poem. There are no barriers, limitations or vocabular sensitivities. You write who you are, in that moment. What I like about having journal as an inspiration for poetry writing is that it allows you to examine questions you probably wouldn’t consider ‘poetical enough’. But there’s the catch: it is a place for openness, no hide and seek games – it’s just you and your real interests, desires, emotions – raw, uncensored.

If you read your writing entries more carefully (and in the title I on purpose used term casual writing instead of journaling because even drawings and doodling can be translated into a poem – many people don’t keep journal per se but like occasionally to write and draw) you can recognize where poetry is well disguised and waits for you to be discovered.

What to look for?

  1. Pay attention to the language.

    Are there any words and sentences that seem more melodical, poetical, that offer sensual rhythm – being that about your beautiful pet, funny afternoon with your child or romantic evening with your spouse – these are emotions that can be translated into poetry.

  1. Pay attention to the feelings.

    Follow your writing entries to see where you write/draw with passion and strength, where you eloquently describe what happened to you (being that injury, pain or even a dispute with a friend), where all your senses are awaken and your descriptions are very detail and elaborate – from there you can derive sincere and strong poem.

  1. Pay attention to the core themes that are repeating.

    These are your central life issues and reveal what is deeply rooted inside and what’s important to you. In your poem you can further elaborate those messages, explore their meaning and get clearer insight on how they are impacting your life. In my case, that’s the issue of health – how that impacts everything that I’m doing, my general quality of life and many of my poems are health and family related.

In one my future posts I intent to discuss in more detail how we can use journal writing to enhance our language and poetic expression.

Do you journal or write every day? How that impacts your poetry writing? Please, share in the comments below.

The tightness and the nilness round that space
when the car stops in the road, the troops inspect
its make and number and, as one bends his face

towards your window, you catch sight of more
on a hill beyond, eyeing with intent
down cradled guns that hold you under cover

and everything is pure interrogation
until a rifle motions and you move
with guarded unconcerned acceleration—

a little emptier, a little spent
as always by that quiver in the self,
subjugated, yes, and obedient.

So you drive on to the frontier of writing
where it happens again. The guns on tripods;
the sergeant with his on-off mike repeating

data about you, waiting for the squawk
of clearance; the marksman training down
out of the sun upon you like a hawk.

And suddenly you’re through, arraigned yet freed,
as if you’d passed from behind a waterfall
on the black current of a tarmac road

past armor-plated vehicles, out between
the posted soldiers flowing and receding
like tree shadows into the polished windscreen.

Seamus Heaney

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7 prompts to inspire your writing during holidays


Holidays…you like them and you hate them in the same time, right? I don’t know about you, but for me – every holiday I enjoy some additional spare time  I have if I manage to take short travel or read a good book. But sometimes, it can get hard and hectic to fulfill all family duties that are expected of you, do the errands, cleaning, cooking…and guess what – little or no time for writing. As we are entering a ‘red zone’ of holiday celebrations, there are some smart ways you can employ even in the midst of chaos and steal few minutes for your poem writing. Still, being busy with everything else can leave us feeling empty and tired – all you want is sleep and quietness.

Today I want to encourage you even if you are buried over your head with holiday preparations, travel plans and ext. to use that atmosphere creatively and festive, holiday spirit transform into an inspiration for writing.

Here are my top 7 seven writing ideas:

1.If you have some unresolved issues about upcoming holidays, use that as an opportunity to more explore in your writing. What are your current plans – would like to change them? Are you excited or nervous? How would you rather spent your holiday time? You can write a poem, story, or just as an idea for free writing or journaling. This can also serve as a casual warm up writing sessions for something more concrete you have in mind to write.

2.Imagine you are a travel writer set on a new adventure, traveling to a place you always wanted to visit. Where are you going? Who is traveling with you? What are you most excited about? Describe every detail, people, atmosphere, landscapes…For more creative insights on this subject you can also have a look at this creativity exercise and deepen your writing practice further.

3.Try to evoke some dear and meaningful childhood memory you have in relation to holidays. Portray those feelings in a poem that will honor that happiness and excitement you experienced as a child.

4.Remember some funny moment or joke during family gathering. What was funny about it? Did you have a good laugh? Or you disliked it? Use it as trigger to further inspire your writing.

5.Pretend you are a hosting a festive party for your favorite holiday. Everyone is there, your family and friends…everything goes well until something unexpectedly happens. Guests are confused and don’t know how to react to latest developments..

6.What is your favorite holiday? Describe it without actually naming it, but through the usage of your senses: how does it smell, is it cold or warm? Is it noisy,  are you alone? Are you traveling? Employ your senses to the most intricate details and let your imagination takes you from there.

7.You are just about to go to the airport (for your holiday vacation), when your old school friend, you haven’t seen in ages appears at your door. What do you do? You engage in conversation, you invite them in, you are pleasantly surprised or something else happens?

Use these prompts not only to ignite your writing but challenge yourself to examine some of those feelings you might be having about holidays, family relationships and ext. Let your imagination go wild and no matter how chaotic your holidays get, squeeze in some time for writing to release any tension you might have and give yourself a chance to relax.

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Spice up your writing with ‘upgraded’ found poetry (creative writing exercise)


Creating and being creative are certainly two conditions similar, but not the same. Creating is often related to producing something new, innovative, while being creative is often referred to being able to observe two, three or more unrelated objects and connect them in a new way, thus eventually producing something new.

So today’s exercise is while having a broader writing prompt, also an opportunity to practice being creative, where poetry can be a wonderful tool to use.

For example, pick your three favorite poems, from three different authors – the best is if the poems are thematically different (but doesn’t have to be) and ask yourself, what do they have in common? The more challenging this is, the more creative you’ll have to be with your writing and create  a new poem. But instead of just creating found poem, go a step further: use these three poems just as a starting canvas for your new writing where you will try to revive the initial feelings that made you love those poems in the first place. Find that image in your mind that emulates the experience you had while reading those poems and portrait that image in your new poem.You can use some stanzas in your writing or you can just refer to those poems as a starting point – it’s up to you.

I’ve chosen excerpts from the following that are quite dark, sensual and haunting – perfect for the Halloween warm-up 😉

This Is A Photograph Of Me by Margaret Atwood

It was taken some time ago
At first it seems to be
a smeared
print: blurred lines and grey flecks
blended with the paper;

then, as you scan
it, you can see something in the left-hand corner
a thing that is like a branch: part of a tree
(balsam or spruce) emerging
and, to the right, halfway up
what ought to be a gentle
slope, a small frame house.

In the background there is a lake,
and beyond that, some low hills.

(The photograph was taken
the day after I drowned.

I am in the lake, in the center
of the picture, just under the surface.

It is difficult to say where
precisely, or to say
how large or how small I am:
the effect of water
on light is a distortion.

but if you look long enough
you will see me.) 

There Are Intersections… by Joyce Mansour

There are intersections where the night

The joy jumps on the back

Of the passerby

Such the lonely dawn in the acid wind

The decapitated dies standing up


Body to body in the mud

Teeming furnace

The worms

Whips with triple straps

Caress the tip of the roots

Of flesh

Meat of sacrifice

Gem of the putrefaction

With no burden other than its arms

Tied elbow to elbow


Bundles of blood on the promised land

Thunderbird Motel by Kelly Boyker

There is no place to drown here, so instead
we take turns suffocating each other with pillows
going just a little longer each time.
I am already rehearsing my speech to the manager,
already placing the ice cubes in my mouth
hoping they melt before the maid wheels her cart into our room.

 My ‘upgraded’ found poem:

There is no place to drown here,

yet if you do leave a lonely dawn to live

melting ice cubes will form a lake,

with muddy intersections

where worms eat the roots

of the acid wind with joy.

The center of the picture,

photograph carved in the land halfway up of
a gentle

is the blooded pillow I dived in, absorbing my mute speech.

Body to body

elbow to elbow

awaken city of your sensual thoughts

culminates in this subsided, heavy roar of

broken eternity –

resistance takes place,

like gem of the putrefaction,

distortion of time

in the tied flesh of the watery space.

This is a wonderful exercise as it teaches you to connect things in different relations and helps you evoke that emotional response you need to fuel your creative writing. I was always somehow amazed with the topics of loneliness, isolation, mysterious and esoteric, always being different and not falling into patterns of societal stereotypes (which partially explains my selection of poems). And it is one of my driving creative forces – exploring and going beyond the given boundaries and prejudices.

I simply love this exercise as it helps you literally to rewire the typical thinking of your brain and produce interesting moments in your creative writing. It’s super easy, doable anywhere you like it, and can keep you being proactive with your writing when you lack ideas or inspiration.

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Making sense of life: putting your memoir in poetic discourse (writing prompt)

Dent Blanche im Nebel, 4000er im Kanton Wallis, Schweiz. Alps of Switzerland

Following this post published few weeks ago, it occurred to me: there is always something we haven’t told yet. A story, an event or memory that we shy from for some reason, that we avoid thinking about, talking about. And I don’t mean talking to others, but to ourselves. That internal conversation (or lack of it), has a subtle impact on our day to day life governing our decisions and choices in ways we are not even aware of. Our subconsciousness is like a vast ocean where we can drown deep with our feelings or we can strive for the surface to enjoy the sun and blue sky.

Each emotion and memory from the past has hidden opportunity for growth and healing. And these are the main reasons why people engage in writing memoirs. It’s a path of self-exploration, where time, the main ingredient offers different perspectives and lays a platform for us to embrace and accept our past. Not simply to remember but to celebrate each moment in life as these moments are the foundation for our future self. It can be painful and cathartic, but most importantly – freeing! In this interesting interview, Samantha M. White the author of  Someone to Talk To: Finding Peace, Purpose, and Joy After Tragedy and Loss explains that in your memoir writing  – the results can go beyond your initial intention.

Writing my memoir transformed my life. Not only my day-to-day present, and my future, but even the past about which I had written!

Transformation was not my goal. I wrote it because I had a story pent up inside me, pressing to be told – to share what had happened to me, and how I had found my way out of pain. I wanted to assure readers of the universality of suffering, and the reality of healing and finding new joy. I felt driven, and afraid that if I died before publishing the book, an important message wouldn’t be heard”.

So today I want to propose a bit different writing exercise. Think of any event or situation in your life that you would like to understand better, to explore, analyze or that just needs to be ‘poured’ on your paper and write a poem about it. Tell your story using poetry. And you might ask, why just don”t write about it? I think that poetry goes beyond prose writing and it allows you more freedom to express your feelings in different ways. Often we can’t find the right plain, straightforward words to say something but it needs metaphoric guidance that offers us strengths to deeply dive into the ocean of our subconsciousness. Take your time and write your way through it.

Narrative form of poetry and memoir complements each other to open the door of that internal conversation – you might be surprised what ‘s on the other side.

I personally often use this technique to simply sort my feelings and make a sense of life. These confessional poems are often highly emotionally charged and there’s the beauty: being able to feel is for me a proof that I’m alive. Accept every emotion that comes your way, because that’s human – to be vulnerable and celebrate your flaws, mistakes and successes as you navigate through life – the best you can.

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5 tips how to use poetry for self-nurturing


Today I want to talk about why you need to be selfish. We all need to be selfish, but in a healthy, unconditional way – not capriciously neglecting others. What I mean is that in many situations, we dedicate our time and energy to others and fulfilling other people’s needs while completely forgetting to take care of ourselves. And we can lead our lives in such manner for some time, but it’s not sustainable. Dissatisfaction, disease, stress will silently crawl into our lives and we will start to wonder: Where did I go wrong?

I do believe that we all need to have that little time in a day when we only focus on ourselves and our needs – when we practice self-nurturing. That can manifest in many forms: eating healthy, exercising, having a meaningful daily/morning routine. These little acts of self-love can recharge our whole being so we have more energy, ideas, creativity and even time to share and be of valuable service to others – being that family, our job, community, sharing our creativity through hobbies. It doesn’t matter. Being mindful of our own needs and why we want to fulfill them is what it means creating positive experience and fertile soil for desired impact. And now you might ask, what does poetry has to do with it?

Well, some time ago I wrote how poetry has that restorative power and how it can  help you in reconnecting with your own true self. It can help you in your creativity, meditation. But it does go further than that. Here I share my 5 favorite tips on how poetry can help you in your self-nurturing practice.

You know when you have a bad mood, like during those autumn raining days when you simply don’t want to get out of bed and all you can think of is sleeping ‘the rest of your life’? Well, we all have those moments. Instead of forcing yourself ‘to be normal’, take few minutes of your time and write poem:

What do I feel?

Words and rhythm you put in your poem will not only help you reinforce the healing power of poetry, but you will be able to come down to the root cause of your feelings, which is the first step in your recentering and addressing what’s been bothering you.

The second thing you can do is to simply let go of anything you think might be holding you back and write a poem about it:

I let go…

and have paper accept everything you want to release: being that negative feelings like resentment and anger, to stuff, people and relationships you believe are not beneficial to you and your self-growth. Use this writing prompt as an opportunity for self-reflection and analyse what’s the excess in your life. Once you write that down it might even spark some inspired action where you further simplify your life – by letting out what you don’t need you make room for new, constructive experiences to enter your life.

And we all know that where our focus goes, that’s where our energy flows. We can use this in a positive way and instead of dwelling on what’s wrong with our life all the time we can take a look at what we have to appreciate.

I appreciate in my life…

and continue your poem about hings you love in your life. What makes your life remarkable, different, what you are grateful for? It is such an empowering motivation that shifts your mind and actions to be rather grateful for what you have instead of complaining about what’s missing.

We also as a human beings have tendency to be our worst and hardest self-critics. We have a habit of blaming ourselves for even situations that were not in our control and beyond our influence. Well, it’s time to step back and simply allow yourself to be a human being that makes mistakes, make wrong judgments and sometimes acts unaccordingly.

I forgive myself…

is a writing  prompt where you can pour your heart out and set your self free of any guilt, past decisions, choices you made and simply accept your quirky, unstable but beautiful nature.

And the last one is a sort of a bucket list:

I want…

Start your poem with these simple words and focus your thoughts on what you would like to attract more of in your life, what to experience. Don’t contemplate on why and how, but how it feels, indulge  all your senses and let your imagination do the rest. This is similar to visualize with words exercise, I recommended sometime ago, but here don’t play around with specific goals, but more with feelings you would like to invite in your life.

This writing prompt will further help you in your future decisions to have more patience with yourself, to be kind and gentle towards what you think is right for you. It will also help you sharpen your intuition and act from that deeper knowing what’s good for you instead of what’s right thing to do (according to other people opinions).

In the long run, we all strive to achieve that peace with ourselves and listening to our inner guidance is the only sure way to reach it.

How do you practice self-care? Please share in the comments below.

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Practicing this exercise will make you more confident in your creative work

creativity confidence

Most of the confidence we develop throughout the years stem from our past experiences – predominantly on how other people perceived us and our work. Not gaining enough recognition, pile of rejection letters and even just a random bad comment can blow away all our creative self-esteem – that many people stop creating all together. Paying too much attention on other people opinions can instill  fear that  paralyzes not only our creative outlets but practically our complete approach to life. That kind of attitude leads to isolation, avoidance of trying new things and not sharing our accomplishments with the world.

The good news is that we have control of our feelings towards what creatively we can offer to the world.

When you get to the root of this problem, it’s all about belief and what we chose to believe. You can chose to believe that:

  • you are creative person,
  • your creativity matters,
  • you can add value and improve other people’s lives through your creativity.

The most important opinion is the one we hold for ourselves. From there you build and harness your confidence. Once you are aligned with who you are, and you truly believe  you are creative person, no one can destabilize your confidence – on the contrary. Your positive creative offerings and your abilities to create expand, grow and gain more interaction with the world. That’s what creating really means.

By now you are already guessing that we can use poetry as an effective tool to create more beneficial beliefs for us.

In this case, poetry can help us implement presuppositions to improve our confidence and strengthen positive attitudes towards creativity. This technique is often used in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming)

A presupposition is simply a statement or belief that is assumed to be valid.

It can be something like this:

I am a creative person and I have everything I need to create.

I share my work as it inspires others to learn and create.

I can finish any task by taking small steps.

There is no failure, only certain results.

Success is possible for me.

Now  think of any situation in your creative pursuits where you would like to gain more confidence. Close your eyes and imagine vividly you are doing that activity right now. Imagine each detail, smell, touch, as you observe yourself, notice your feelings, how your senses react.

For example you don’t feel comfortable submitting your written work to journals, you fear rejection and that prevents you from sharing your work:

It might feel like this:

“My heart is pounding, and I mean really hard pounding! What’s wrong with me? It’s just a poem anyway. They might not like it, it’s not such a big deal! But look my hands are trembling and suddenly I feel so cold! I can’t believe I already forgot to spell, I’ll never finish this application letter. Look at other writers here,  they all have already published their work! Who am I? My writing is not good enough, the criteria is too high, I can’t compete with that!”

In the next step pick one of the statements (or write your own). For example:

There is no failure, only certain results.

and apply it to your situation and imagine what would it look like where you totally believe this to be true. How would your writing life be different? Close your eyes and notice how you now perceive the situation whilst holding this new truth for you. Notice what you see, hear, feel and write a poem about it.

I chose you, to be fertile soil for my words. As you have been for so many poets before me, who inspired me, taught me and gave me the strength to write even more. Reading your pages gives me warmth and sense of belonging. It’s peaceful anticipation and only words are important. If I can’t nest my words in your lap, well they can’t fail. They have strong wings to fly farther and farther…until they find new home in someone else’s heart, cradle on the pages that will spread my joy of writing. If you don’t chose my words as I have chosen you, you are not destiny carved in a stone.

This is just one stop in my creative journey. You can’t stop the words. You can’t erase the words. In their eternity we arrange them one moment in time. This moment might not be mine, but the next, and the next and the next is.

After you finish exercise, think how this new belief may altered your perception: do you feel any different about the initial situation? Are there any actions you are going to take and when?

In our example it might be something like:

“Yes, I like this literary journal and I can submit my work there. If they reject it, I can apply elsewhere. It doesn’t mean I am a bad writer. They just might not like my style, but certainly there is right journal for my poems to be published.”

You can play around with different statements and situations and with time you will notice how your confidence increases. You pay more attention on what you can learn and improve than on the (false) judgments other people might hold against you.

I like this poetic approach as it feels more empowering and positive to me, instead of ‘dry’ writing. Poetry allows us to taste and experience situations differently: it’s magical what it can do for us and our confidence -practically in any area of our lives. It shifts your mood and the rhythm and melody you put into your thinking gives it another vibe, that positive feeling gets easier ’embedded’ into your subconsciousness.

And remember: confidence is a state of mind – you can get there with little persistence and practice.

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Visualize with words (creativity exercise)


I like to call visualization : strategic thinking while having fun. When you read about principles of strategic thinking it might sound too managerial and business oriented, but it is actually a sort of visualization: where you tactfully visualize and plan your desired outcome. Once you develop the ability to relive in your mind what you would like to experience, you are somehow training and preparing your mind (and body)  to achieve  in matching that picture with your performance.

Often guided meditations and visualization exercises are tools with aim to awaken all of your senses and help you more easily and vividly imagine you succeeding in your goals.

But also your writing can help you in visualizing what you want. You know you read good book if writer is capable in his words to put you in the center of the story – where you have impression you are experiencing everything written.

So the next exercise I will propose will help you not only in your visualization, but also you are practicing your writing.

Exercise is very simple, yet effective:

Your task is to name three things, topics, projects – what ever you are working on (or would like to achieve) and describe them using words you never used before to describe them; how that accomplishment looks like, feels like. Try to be descriptive as much as you can, use your senses and be precise – write a poem about it.

Let’s give it a try:

  1. First word: writing

Leaving engraved deep trails, beyond all boundaries and false confinements. Soundless I’m heard above all mountains and below every ocean; materialized thoughts in the smell of graphite, focused desires in every beat of pen on paper, caught ideas with smiley face, released drama in every vowel.

Where and when I offer me to you.

2. Second word: coaching

In service, empowering,  alignment of what I am with fruitful response: where other side becomes glitter in its own eyes and smiles with confidence and determination, air is filled with blooming possibilities and every atom of my knowledge is transferred and received openly, crushing any doubt, inability and disbelief.

3. Third word: creativity

Every moment, every day is new and gives new beginning; different, weird and enjoyable – there’s nothing to be afraid, no reason to hide. It’s warm, exciting, giggly, live, sharp, focused and likes to dance and cuddle.

In the sea of everything existing, it’s the laughter that connects, inspires and teach: with every key stroke, plaudit nod and  receptive silence.

It’s making unbelievable desirable, silly sensible and complex simple, but truthful.

So this is my take on the exercise. Now it’s your turn. Do you use visualization in your work? Does it help you in your writing? Please share in the comments below.

And therefore, though thy name shall pass away,
   Even as a cloud that hath wept all its showers,
Yet as that cloud shall live again one day
   In the glad grass, and in the happy flowers,
So in thy thoughts, though clothed in sweeter rhymes,
Thy life shall bear its flowers in future times.
A Vision Of Poesy (an excerpt)
Henry Timrod

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Getting into the flow (creativity exercise)


Probably you can recall that there were moments in your life when time seemed to stop, everything around you just froze and you were riding this wave of creativity where everything was possible; you felt like you can accomplish anything, you were so immersed in what you were doing that all of your senses were focused and sharpened on that one particular activity, and your body excluded everything else? Fun and exciting in the same time, right?

And today it might seem harder to achieve that creative bliss we are all looking for, since we are so distracted and interrupted with everything going on around us. In this TED talk Dr. Csikszentmihalyi, explains that our nervous system is incapable of processing more than 110 bits of information per second. If you’re listening to someone talking, you need to process about 60 bits of information per second in order to understand what they’re saying.

He further points out that when you are doing something with high focus, your mind don’t have enough room to process other information concerning how you feel, bodily functions or other needs. Creative people often call this as the entering the state of flow and like nothing else except what they are creating exists.


“The flow” graph.

So how can you enter the ‘flow’? Can it be practiced? How can we use it to improve our creative skills?

As you can see on the above graph, the state of flow is dependable on the level of skills you use and the level of challenge you pursue. The higher the challenge and the more skills we need to engage, the better chance we have for entering the sate of flow.

During his research dr Dr. Csikszentmihalyi  and his team have evaluated many people on this topic and they managed to derive  few crucial points that describe how it feels to enter the state of flow:

  1. There is complete focus and determination;
  2. There is an overwhelming joy and excitement;
  3. There is an inner knowing that task can be delivered;
  4. All worrisome thoughts disappear and they are replaced with clarity and motivation on what needs to be done;
  5. The self-awareness is concentrated on the present moment.

It’s interesting to note that this research was performed on the topic of happiness and what makes people happy. Simple answer came out to be: being creative and enjoying it as much as possible.

So how can we use these key findings and apply them to our writing? How can we practice entering the state of flow?

Here are few suggestions:

  1. Pick an enjoyable, yet challenging activity with clearly defined goal.

Since we are talking about writing you can chose to write a poem that has certain amount of words, poetic form that is new to you, story on the topic you need to do further research and inquiries – something that goes beyond your ordinary writing practice. Remember that here you need to be fully engaged and use your skills. The challenge you pick can also help you enhance your capabilities, so don’t be afraid to go overboard of your usual writing. Play with words and dictionaries, learn foreign phrases – all that helps you become more creative and inventive in writing.

  1. Remove distractions as much as you can.

Once you enter that creative flow, if something interrupts you, the harder is to go back in and continue. So clear your desk, turn off your phone and concentrate on the task at hand.

  1. Let go of any past experiences that might influence your expectations and results of the activity.

Mastering that flow mindset takes time and practice so be gentle towards yourself and monitor your emotional response. You are in control of your attitudes so if you get too excited (angry, anxious, worried), calm down and try to regain your steady levels of energy: being sluggish and bored is also a sign that you fell of the ‘flow wagon’.

  1. To spice things up – give your self a time frame:

to work on a poem, a story, a chapter, an article in a continual interval – for example 30 minutes, and give all you’ve got. Focus on your writing and you’ll see how time will past in split second.

  1. Make it a regular habit.

Getting into the flow and enjoying the activity that brings desired results takes practice, so make it a part of your daily routine. Schedule your ‘ time flow’ every day and commit to it. Not only are you working on your creativity and skills, but you are improving your mood and bringing more happiness into your life. After all, isn’t that what we all are looking for? It’s worth a try.

Boost your lateral thinking for creative problem solving + exercise


The first definition of the term lateral thinking came in 1967 from Dr Edward de Bono.He has become the world’s leading authority on conceptual thinking and has contributed to development of new tools and approaches to the  organizational innovation, strategic leadership, individual creativity, and problem solving. Present in the innovation industry since 1970. his exclusive strategies and methods have brought remarkable results to organizations and to individuals from a wide range of cultures, educational backgrounds, occupations, and age groups.

So, what is actually lateral thinking? It is a way of thinking that solves problems through an indirect and creative approach, using reasoning that is not immediately obvious and involving ideas that may not be applicable by traditional step-by-step logic.

This kind of thinking requires of you to go beyond the obvious and even to take into account parameters that your traditional logic might easily dismiss.

One really attractive and interesting example is given in this article.

Pretend that you’re trapped in a magical room with only two exits. Through the first exit is a room made from a giant magnifying glass, and the blazing hot sun will fry you to death. Through the second door is a room with a fire-breathing dragon. Which do you go through?

There are many ways we can approach this problem in order to solve it. One way could be using poetry techniques, for example kennings.

Bed of fish, smooth path of ships, island-ring, realm of lobsters, slopes of the sea-king, whale-house, land of the ocean-noise, blood of the earth, frothing beer of the coastline…

These are some of the terms and phrases used by the Viking and AngloSaxon poets to name/describe the sea. The word ‘kenning’ comes from the Old Norse verb að kenna, which means ‘to describe’ or ‘to understand’. Poetry asks us to think and view the world from the different perspective. And kennings question our habitual way of thinking. If we apply this technique to the above problem, we could call sun “object that gives light to the earth, object that brings day… “.

So by using this technique, we could come up to a solution by deducting our thinking: sun, in a day time, in the above example is dangerous for us, but what happens when the day goes by? Darkness. And the answer presents itself: we should wait for the sunset, and the first door is a safe passage for us.

The answer to this puzzle is an example of what psychologists call “lateral thinking”:  instead of going ahead onto the problem, going sideways can present an elegant solution.

So next time you have a project, creative problem you are working on, try to name it, describe it differently, focusing on its  functions and elements and solution might unexpectedly reveal itself.

How often do you use your lateral thinking? 🙂

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