Let’s travel (creativity exercise)

MrSpock

Following ideas from previous post, I thought it would be interesting to play around with notion of travel when it comes to our creative projects and goals.

In my personal experience sometimes happens that we have too many options or too many choices that we need to make, and that can keep us stuck in one place; no matter is it writing, creative problem or something else. It simply fuels our indecisiveness and we continue prolonging to tackle problem with some serious determination.

Today, I will suggest some simple exercises that might help you move forward in right direction or bring clarity when it comes to problem solving.

First exercise: Time travel. That is one of the greatest desires of humans, time travel. As a kid and a great fan of Star trek series, whenever was happening something I didn’t like I would pretend I’m teleporting myself to different world and time 🙂 But looking at it form scientific point of view, time as a parameter was invented by humans in order to give meaning to natural quality of impermanence. Eminent scientists, such as Stephen Hawking and Kip Thorne  are allured with the possibility of time travel and continue to debate about it in their most recent works.

So why not play around with this notion by ourselves?

Imagine you were in a different time period, maybe 10, 100 or 500 years ago and how then would you deal with the problem? You don’t have your computer, phone, car or even electricity at your disposal, just met your basic needs. How would you approach your problem with fewer resources at hand? Or, you can go in future and imagine you have everything you need to achieve your creative goals, and more. In 10 years or 200 years ahead, how your situation would be different?

Second exercise: Space travel. Stage your situation in completely different geographical (or even planetary) location where conditions are completely opposite. Different climate, different culture, different societal values influence life: how that would impact your creativity, realization of your creative goals?

It’s interesting where our imagination can take us and how that can raise some additional points of view – just thinking about the problem differently conditions new ideas to come forth. In this way, you are giving yourself opportunity to experience your creativity in an unexplored manner. You can write a poem about it, or a short story. The point is to stir up inspiration that just might lies dormant and is waiting for some initial idea to trigger an avalanche of creativity.

It’s worth a try 🙂

The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking,
Yet there isn’t a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn’t a train goes by,
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
But I see its cinders red on the sky,
And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with friends I make,
And better friends I’ll not be knowing;
Yet there isn’t a train I wouldn’t take,
No matter where it’s going.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Mind mapping through poetry (creativity exercise)

plutarch

Since our creativity can be unpredictable, often times we can find ourselves having that huge idea, but still not managing to record all details, write everything down without losing a bit of it.

So today, I want to to share with you my impressions about little tool I use regularly to brainstorm a problem, or a project idea that I have found to be quite helpful. It’s mind mapping – with a twist. Probably most of you are aware of this technique but as the old Latin proverb says, “Repetition is the mother of all knowledge.” Mind mapping can help you become more creative, train your visual thinking, memory, and solve problems more effectively.

The basic notion behind this technique is to visually capture, connect and sort out information, or even get a great amount of information under control in order to generate new and fresh ideas.

The process is quite simple:

  1. You put in the center (of your paper) your main idea.
  2. Around that idea, now write all other topics that relates to your idea, establishing new relations among main and side topics.
  3. It’s almost like forming a tree where each branch further drives you to generate more details and more connections.
  4. And now the twist: try to think of this map you are building like it is a poem.

Dream-Vision

Instead of dry listing topics and ideas, with the words and phrases you chose, give your map a rhythm, lyrical note. Use adjectives, describe emotions related to your idea, expectations, why is it important. Imagine you are writing a concrete poem for example.

In this manner, your project will become more vivid and real to you. You are actually mapping your visualization, through words giving your senses the chance to “live” everything in your mind. By “breathing” in that emotion with your words, positive energy, you become more eager to put everything in work and apply solutions you came up with. It’s fun and interesting way to brainstorm every time you need more clarity and focus.

Now, this technique can be used for writing actual poems, novels and books (great as a storytelling technique as well) , but it can help you even in your vacation planning and job search.

What do you think? Worth a try? Please share your thoughts in the comments, below.


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Let gratitude empower your creativity (exercise)

Deepak

In almost any religion and culture we have heard of the importance of being grateful: to search for positive aspects in life instead of dwelling on what is wrong and how world is a bad place to live in. Our modern and fast paced environment has so much to offer: yet we  get trapped in to trivial and petty things instead of concentrating our attention on more important experiences. Those negative feelings that arise can literally block our creative energy, potential for problem solving and seizing the opportunities.

Gratitude can help us combat fear and anxiety. That feeling of appreciation opens the door for receiving even better things to flow into your life – like creativity. Experience of positive emotions and nurturing the state of well-being helps us engage in the  activities that encourage discovery and growth. Your observation improves; your relationship with the environment improves and you tackle problems from different angles.

Every problem comes with some sort of stress and crisis, but instead of wasting your precious energy on what you lack, you can learn from new situation and reinforce your ability to cultivate sense of inspiration.

Of course being content and grateful doesn’t mean neglecting the problem and looking at the world through pink glasses. It’s about finding self-confidence in every situation and feel liberated to explore the world as what it is.

Gratitude, like creativity, can be developed through practice.

Here are some ideas where to start:

  1. Read something inspirational at the start of your day;
  2. Imagine experiencing your good;
  3. Celebrate your small everyday victories;
  4. End your day with thinking of 3 things you are grateful for.

Poetry does have that restorative power and use it into your own advantage: as you might pour out those negative feelings in your poetry, try also to step back and write your poem about all good things in your life, that you love and care about. The more you write, the more things you will find you like about your life.

This beautiful sonnet by Alan Seeger offers a different perspective on our modern lives and stuffed cities, where we can see beauty and light in our ordinary surroundings.

Down the strait vistas where a city street
Fades in pale dust and vaporous distances,
Stained with far fumes the light grows less and less
And the sky reddens round the day’s retreat.
Now out of orient chambers, cool and sweet,
Like Nature’s pure lustration, Dusk comes down.
Now the lamps brighten and the quickening town
Rings with the trample of returning feet.
And Pleasure, risen from her own warm mould
Sunk all the drowsy and unloved daylight
In layers of odorous softness, Paphian girls
Cover with gauze, with satin, and with pearls,
Crown, and about her spangly vestments fold
The ermine of the empire of the Night.


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Work with opposites (creativity exercise)

frost

 

Many of us get trapped in ordinary, routine thinking which makes it hard to get into a mood of generating fresh and innovative ideas. We routinely get up every morning, brush our teeth, drink coffee, go to work – mostly every day at a same time, using the same route…And to tell you the truth, it can be a creativity killer. What we need is to mix up things a little bit, challenge our habits, language and way of thinking.

We are also aware that we do live in the world comprised of opposites. In Chinese philosophy and especially in Taoism, Universe is seen through the lens of yin and yang energy, male and female, strong and weak, dark and bright, cold and warm. Perceiving reality from the opposite side can give us clue in which direction we need to move forward in order to sort things out.

So for this exercise, as a warm up I propose you pick some ordinary words, something you frequently use in your language and list the opposite meaning of that word; first that comes to your mind.

For example: sky – bottom, ground

                          water – dry, yellow, sand

                           coffee – tea, sweet, cold

                           work – vacation, free time, relaxation

Do this for a limited time, maybe five to ten minutes. The idea of this warming exercises is to somehow ‘flush out’ that ordinary thinking, and give room for more ideas to come and encourage creative problem solving.

As a next step you can pick your real problem/project you are working on and apply similar technique. If you repeatedly struggle with something, “turn over” your thinking: instead of trying to develop your best solution, think of the worst thing could happen. How can your project fail? What is the worst scenario? Write every detail of that, using some key words related to your project and answering questions when, how, who, why, how much ext. To make it more fun, write a poem about it.

From that vantage point it might be more clearer what you could do in order for your project to succeed. By being able to imagine what we would like to avoid, it may opens a clear path in our mind of right things we need to do: who to contact, when to do something, how to prioritize our time.

Knowing what you don’t want to, is a first step to achieving what you do want.

I am not ambitious at all:
I am not a poet, I know
(Though I do love to see a mere scrawl
To order and symmetry grow).
My muse is uncertain and slow,
I am not expert with my tools,
I lack the poetic argot:
But I hope I have kept to the rules.
When your brain is undoubtedly small,
‘Tis hard, sir, to write in a row,
Some five or six rhymes to Nepaul,
And more than a dozen to Joe:
The metre is easier though,
Three rhymes are sufficient for ‘ghouls,’
My lines are deficient in go,
But I hope I have kept to the rules.Dear Sir, though my language is low,
Let me dip in Pierian pools:
My verses are only so so,
But I hope I have kept to the rules.

J. K. Stephen


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Awakening your creativity (exercise)

marthagraham

Many of the exercises presented here on the blog were focused mainly on premise that we already have creative ideas going on,  and we just need a little nudge to keep us forward and invoke some new ideas. Now, I do get often asked, what about when we don’t feel that we are creative beings, when we need courage and motivation to first discover creative side of us? Well, today I have two little exercise to propose for those grey and uncreative days, when you don’t simple know where to start. I suggest: start simply, from the most basic things:

What makes you smile?

What makes you angry?

What are you curious about?

Who would you like to be?

Write a poem answering these questions – treat them like a little poetry prompts, with that difference that you don’t have to share them with anyone, they are only for your eyes, for your own journey to awakening creativity. You can actually start your own creativity journal where you can daily reflect on your ideas, feelings, experiences, circumstances; how any of these factors influence your creative power you certainly have residing within you. It just needs to be properly initiated and directed.

For the next exercise I want you to think of certain words like:

creativity

passion

purpose

inner voice

stillness

and try to picture in your mind, metaphorically, what kind of living being each word could be? What kind of associations does it bring? Is it an animal, plant, flower, tree, insect, child, another person, describe everything in detail, write a poem about it. It will help you reconnect with your creative force to more vividly sense what it means for you to be alive, creative – where to search for your passions and purpose.

Besides brainstorming exercises I will continue also to post these little nudges for you to instill this creative conversation with yourself that will help you achieve your goals in any creative arena of your life.

Build on resolve, and not upon regret,
The structure of thy future. Do not grope
Among the shadows of old sins, but let
Thine own soul’s light shine on the path of hope
And dissipate the darkness. Waste no tears
Upon the blotted record of lost years,
But turn the leaf, and smile, oh! smile, to see
The fair white pages that remain for thee.

Prate not of thy repentance. But believe
The spark divine dwells in thee: let it grow.
That which the unpreaching spirit can achieve,
The grand and all creative forces know;
They will assist and strengthen as the light
Lifts up the acorn to the oak-tree’s height.
Thou hast but to resolve, and lo! God’s whole
Great universe shall fortify thy soul.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox


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Want to improve your writing? Practice receptivity and allowing

holzer

Being receptive and allowing creative flow are somehow two basic modalities that we have to work with in order to engage in creative process. Today’s post is intentionally dedicated to this topic since if we manage to divert these two modalities  to “work for us” – it’s a sure way to combat any type of creative blockage. It might be more suitable for writers beginners, but I think that we all need from time to time to remind ourselves of some basic approaches.

What does it mean being receptive? You probably have noticed that in my writing I often use term ‘tune in with your inner self, inner being’. And that what it exactly means being receptive. You can consciously prepare yourself for receptivity by having faith and trust in that moment, that very second that your mind already knows everything that it needs to know to be fully creative, open and expressive. To sink in to your deep creative core you can practice meditative, rhythmic breathing that is connecting your awareness to what is flowing to you in each moment. Engage your senses, don’t shut down that feelings, let them freely find their space and meaning in your blank page – in that very moment. In order to keep that initial spark, in the quietness of your mind you can ask yourself: what is it that I need/want to say? What did I want to write about?

Ideas will come and start to accumulate and your task is only to write, without hesitation or any type of editing on the go. Something that was bugging you about your creative project, piece your were working on months ago might resolve and just what you needed can appear. Never waste your writing because that just might be the missing puzzle in your future work.

The second part of the process is something I call allowing. Allow yourself, give permission to yourself to write, create – no matter how many disapprovals, rejections, judgments you might received in the past. That negative voice in the back of our mind can block us from engaging in creative work and that’t the last thing you want to do.

You create and write for your own sake, for your own being to feel alive, attuned with creative force around us. You are in charge of your motivation, actions and willingness. And next time, when negative voice speak from nowhere all of a sudden, write everything the opposite.

That negative voice can say something like:

Nobody is interested in anything I have to say.”

And you can write your affirmation:

‘I’m interested in what I have to say. I want to say. I need to say. I write because I want to say!’

‘There is no money in writing. It’s a wasted time.’

and your affirmation:

‘If I write more I will get better in this craft; being better means more opportunities to be published; being published opens possibilities to get a new source of income.’

or

‘I write because I love to write. I don’t need money from writing.’

This is one way to respond to that negative self-talk. Allow yourself just to be creative and you’ll be amazed how your writing improves.

Poetry to us is given
As stars beautify the heaven,
Or, as the sunbeams when they gleam,
Sparkling so bright upon the stream ;
And the poetry of motion
Is ship sailing o’er the ocean
Or, when the bird doth graceful fly,
Seeming to float upon the sky;
For poetry is the pure cream
And essence of the common theme.

Poetic thoughts the mind doth fill,
When on broad plain to view a hill ;
On barren heath how it doth cheer
To see in distance herd of deer.
And poetry breathes in each flower
Nourished by the gentle shower,
In song of birds upon the trees
And humming of busy bees.
‘Tis solace for the ills of life,
A soothing of the jars and strife;
For poets feel it a duty
To sing of both worth and beauty.

James McIntyre


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Expressing our ideas (creativity exercise)

Laurie_Halse_Anderson_

On a few occasions I wrote here on the blog, about the importance of using our own voice and our own words to deliver authenticity in  writing. Well, quite the same comes when we want to express, define or articulate our ideas. In my last post I emphasized that the best originality and authenticity comes from our own interpretation of an idea and that can determine its creative potential and inventiveness.

So, today I’m  proposing a little bit different approach: instead of working on your own ideas, let’s take one idea you heard about or read about in the last 72 hours, but one that you really liked and admired.

Now, try to express that idea in your own words, but use something that Ken Macrorie defined as  a ‘kitchen language’: the language you would use while you are comfy on a Sunday morning, being lazy in your pajamas, when you don’t think about anything – you are just you, being relaxed at home with your coffee, simple and uncensored. You don’t have to impress anyone, or watch your words. It’s your language but not something you would usually use to make your point about something.

Once you have set your ‘comfy’ mood, using your ‘kitchen language’ write a poem about that idea you heard. It’s interesting what might come up, but that’s the point – for you to get comfortable in your own skin and your language while expressing and discussing something you really care about.

Of course being comfy and accustomed to ordinary can have its own hinders. Our everyday life can make our thoughts and words too ordinary, repetitive, and actually can reduce our richness of language and vocabulary. For the second exercise I suggest you do something quite the opposite: imagine you are 5. And you might still don’t know how to pronounce all the words – invent new ones and express that beautiful idea that captured your attention. Wake up that sleepy child inside of you and tell your story about that idea like a 5 year old would – in a form of a cute poem. We know at times children make memorable, funny statements. But as we all progress to school sometimes our language become emptier and lifeless. Well, this exercise is an attempt to fight this and experience that unforgettable writing, with all the giggles it might carry.

These exercises can dramatically shift our thinking patterns, but what will emerge with time is your unique view and interpretation of the world: one that you want to fully accept, embrace and enjoy.

Give it a try and share your thoughts in the comments below.

Be glad your nose is on your face,

not pasted on some other place,

for if it were where it is not,

you might dislike your nose a lot.

Imagine if your precious nose

were sandwiched in between your toes,

that clearly would not be a treat,

for you’d be forced to smell your feet.

Your nose would be a source of dread

were it attached atop your head,

it soon would drive you to despair,

forever tickled by your hair.

Within your ear, your nose would be

an absolute catastrophe,

for when you were obliged to sneeze,

your brain would rattle from the breeze.

Your nose, instead, through thick and thin,

remains between your eyes and chin,

not pasted on some other place–

be glad your nose is on your face!

Jack Prelutsky

Just listen (creativity exercise)

eric-clapton

What triggers and inspires creativity in one person is quite individually. There are a lot of factors influencing this process, but usually it is something that catches our attention, (like curiosity) and initiates that idea from which everything else begins. So today I want to invite you to pay attention to your surroundings. We all tend to sink into our own minds, thoughts drifting on their own…But focusing and paying attention to our surrounding is of great importance since it reflects our abilities to spot opportunities, and act upon them; turn that inspirational thought into something viable and move forward with our creativity.

I propose two exercises:

  1. Listen to everything and everywhere. ‘Blend and tune in’ with your environment and listen to the sounds, conversations (I’m not suggesting you spy on anyone!) and notice what randomly catches your attention: a word, song, laughter, baby cry.. and write a poem about it. Let that be the initial spark of something you absorbed from your environment and you are creating further. Don’t censure yourself, just write your poem and what ever comes – let it surface.
  1. Hear what you don’t like listen to. I particularly don’t like the news and don’t listen/read them but for the sake of this exercise give it a try: pick one news headline and that can be something you really dislike; now write your own news that are quite the opposite, news you would like to hear or read in the newspaper, news in the form of poem. I know, it can feel a bit strange – first writing news (and you are probably not a news reporter, just like I’m not) and second – making a poem out of it. But that’s the purpose of this exercise: to stretch our minds and look for solutions and possibilities where we are unlikely to find them.

By following the steps and doing the exercises I propose here on the blog, you may find your creativity increase dramatically. We create and develop opportunities, but we also need to be able to recognize something that might work for us – we can train our minds to get better at this; to be more responsive to an external stimulant. It’s a sort of getting into habit to cultivate inspiration and is a sure way towards leading an inspirational life.

‘T is you that are the music, not your song.
The song is but a door which, opening wide,
Lets forth the pent-up melody inside,
Your spirit’s harmony, which clear and strong
Sings but of you. Throughout your whole life long
Your songs, your thoughts, your doings, each divide
This perfect beauty; waves within a tide,
Or single notes amid a glorious throng.
The song of earth has many different chords;
Ocean has many moods and many tones
Yet always ocean. In the damp Spring woods
The painted trillium smiles, while crisp pine cones
Autumn alone can ripen. So is this
One music with a thousand cadences.

Amy Lowell

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Play with words (creativity exercise)

confucius

I’ve always been criticized by my family members and friends, that I’m at times childish and how everything I want to turn into a game. Well, in my opinion life can be dull enough and by adding some playfulness into it – is my way of getting a sun shine in my dark days: which of course doesn’t mean that I take life lightheartedly and that I’m not serious when situation requires. On the contrary! I just think that through gamification and playfulness we can learn with ease, soften the tension when some problems arise and is actually a great tool for brainstorming (about which I will write in some of my future posts).

But for today’s exercise let’s just play with words. I will suggest couple of ways  – you can add your own or alter this suggestions according to your preference. Below are written couple of words:

sky                               table                         spice                                  medicine

hope                             flesh                        doing                                 escape

inevitable                   immense                minuscule                       golden-brown

chew                            pull                           face                                   inhale

in between                 cryptic                      soft                                      people

Now these are random words I picked and we can use them in variety of ways in different brainstorming sessions.

Version 1:

You can circle and chose around 5 words from the list above and write your poem including those words. But here’s the catch: you also have to include 5 key words related to your project you are working on and incorporate them in the poem too. Now, don’t get bothered with the logic and form, just write your poem – no matter how silly it may sound: the purpose is to get your creativity pumping.

For example:

My words from the list: medicine, cryptic, inhale, flesh, chew.

My key words: business, entrepreneurship, art, creativity, purpose

This medicine is a cryptic business.

As I inhale stagnant air

I chew with purpose

while creativity floods my flesh;

I’m the captain of my entrepreneur-ship:

It’s an art and courage to sail alone

so far and deep.

This poem turned out to be quite funny, but this unexpected relation between unpairable verbs and nouns can spark unexpected views on problem and reveal hidden solutions. This poem, produced in the form of free writing, no matter how funny, does speak of courage and risks I need to take; that I’m in charge of the outcome and for me is quite empowering. Just let your inner being play – it already knows what you need.

Version 2:

Write three haikus or very short poems, using in each poem one noun and one adjective from the list above. Also include your own key words: Let’s say:

1.

Immense sky  covered in blue.

A joy spread with purpose.

2.

Minuscule face enters home.

Love, a life’s art.

3.

Wind gives wings to golden-brown spice.

Split second of nature’s creativity.

If I would go in deep analysis of every and each of these sentences – what do they have in common (as how I interpret them ) is that I always first have to look at nature as it is the inexhaustible source of inspiration where I will find new ideas and solutions.

Version 3:

Take one key word and all the verbs in the list. Make a poem out if it.

I inhale and breath as my business goes so well!

With joy and smile I chew this small chocolate

as I pull this feeling deep inside, hoping never to escape.

Now this example turned almost into an affirmation and self-encouragement; being present in the moment; taking one step at the time and enjoying life’s little things.

This is fun and interesting way for us to stimulate our subconsciousness and it’s like having a conversation with our true self. Language and words are that wonderful tool (every time available to us) that can help us move from stagnant thoughts in the direction of creativity, inspiration and hope.

So what do you think, ready to play with words? 🙂

 

3 R (creativity exercise)

pablo

In many years of environmental practice what I learned is that everything revolves around resources: how you use them, manage or generate them.

Well, this same notion we can apply in different ways in order to get our creativity flowing – especially when it comes to writing. Rewriting, revising our own or somebody else’s work helps us not only to become better writers, but also it helps us develop our reading and analytical skills. You learn to question ideas, statements and arguments. You learn to notice and search for new relations, discover weaknesses and come up with new ways to improve what’s already there. So, this is what I propose:

1.Reuse

your old books, magazines or even shopping receipts and try to create new poem. It can be similar to collage, but this time try to focus specifically on words and create your poem out of them. Cut out your favorite words and phrases or circle them on the given page and make them the constituent part of your new writing venture. Play with the words. Try different arrangements. Pick words that somehow inspire you or relate to a project/problem you are working on. Once you found an arrangement you like, you’ve created a found poem. What kind of emotions or reaction words trigger?  Read them, play with them and they just might offer some new, fresh perspective on the questions you have.

2. Reduce

Now, this one I believe is going to be fun – at least was for me and can really help you in you writer’s block. Try to find a poem that you dislike, that you feel negative about and simply wreck it! That’s right: tear it apart! I don’t mean tearing the physical paper, but omit, reduce, erase, everything from the poem you don’t like and use it as the basis for writing a new one –  in a way that feels and sounds right to you. This little, simple exercise can be really helpful later in your own writing.

3. Recycle

This one is similar to the previous but it refers to your own writing. Find something that you wrote long time ago, when you were in a different mood, influenced by other circumstances and give your writing a make-over. Use your own writing as an inspiration for your new poem, dress it in new words, develop stanzas out of sentences and see where it takes you. Our past experiences are our best teachers and what we’ve learned we can use to adequately manage our creativity and direct future actions. Take the knowledge you acquired into your own advantage and just let your free writing do the rest.

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