Ready, Set, Go!

Posted On June 15, 2010

   I’ve always suggested activities to go about your creativity in a thoughtful, meditative way. I thought I’d change it up a little by suggesting a few assignments that require a kitchen timer (or the alarm setting on your cell phone) as a way to toss a little ice water on your muse, move so fast that your censor can’t keep up, and of course, have some fun!

   If you’re a writer, grab a piece of paper, set your timer for 3 minutes (start small and increase the time on the next activity or the next time you attempt the assignment), and look out the nearest window. Now, go! Write down a list of everything you see. Tree, leaves, bark, branches, birds, seed pods, gravel, dog poop, grass, headlight, grill, awning, sidewalk, plastic bag, etc.  Write until the timer dings. If you’ve exhausted what is on the ground, look up at the sky, or across the street, or add to what you’ve listed, such as green leaves, dead leaves, loose leaves. Make it a game. Can you come up with more items from the living room window than the bedroom window? Try it out and see. You can even visit a book store, coffee shop, grocery store, or post office (be careful here, as they might question you if you look suspicious) and discover how many items you can record in a different place. Take it a step further, and play with the items. Perhaps they tell a story from an ant’s perspective, a pimply-faced kid who works at the convenience store, or an overworked mother of three busy children. Are these items what a kidnapped victim can see through the slats of an old barn, or might they be used by a magician, or maybe they are viewed by an alien from the Jax Galaxy? Use a handful of your images to write a short story or a scene. Hey, why not make it more fun by setting your timer and seeing how far you get in 5 minutes? I bet far enough to leave your critic in the dust.

   If you’re a songwriter or poet, do the above exercise, then take one word that really ‘jumps’ at you, place it in the middle of a fresh sheet of paper. Draw some ‘spokes’, like that in a bicycle wheel, and derive some rhyming words or phrases. Don’t forget to time yourself! Even if the words are silly . . . especially if the words are silly and make you giggle, write them down! Create a change in scenery by using the phrases and rhyming words to move from day to night, from a worm’s perspective to one of a bird (Oh! What if the bird picked up the worm?!), from a dog’s thoughts to that of their owner. Your critic doesn’t like ‘fun’ or ‘laughing’ or creativity whose only purpose is to delight the child within. That’s okay. It will give up and pout in the corner.

   Like to sketch or paint? Take a kitchen chair and sit in front of your open refrigerator. It will feel good on a warm summer day, and if you do this with your freezer, you’ll have to be quick so the ice cream and popsicles don’t melt (you do have these summertime ‘kid’ treats in your freezer, right?). Now, set the timer, and draw or paint or grab whatever colored chalk you can reach first. So what if the lid of the mayonnaise jar is lopsided, or the broccoli is out of the produce bag, or that you include (or leave off) mold on the cheese. Once the timer goes off, close the door. Stretch a little by picking a couple of the items and use them in an unusual way. Maybe a triple-decker sandwich, an arsenal for a dastardly villain, or a meal made for the ill neighbor next door. Paint it. Perhaps place a little girl in the middle of a large drawing paper, the items floating above her head in cartoon bubbles as she dreams of what to do with them. Give them eyes and legs and place them in a line marching across the counter. Don’t forget to set the timer! No perfection, no judgement, no criticism! Just some fun; a little outside the normal boundaries you may keep yourself corraled in.

   This is really only just the start. Where else can you go, what else can you look at, listen to, smell, touch, or taste that with 3 or 5 minutes, you can create a list or a picture (or several pictures) or a bubble map or silly lyrics or an army of soldiers carved from wine corks? Creativity is all about play. You are only limited by your mind, not your imagination. We are all artists, if we choose to walk the edge. Dipping our feet, watching the ripples expand out when we pick up a pen or paint brush or chalk or saxophone. Revel in the chills that chase themselves up your spine at the spark of something that begins to take shape . . . an idea or thought that wasn’t in existence before you decided to take your imagination out for a romp in the park. A word of warning, however. Joy, fulfillment, beauty, smiling and laughing, all ignited by the muse viewing what has been birthed, can become addictive. You may want to do more it. Perhaps choosing to paint or write a song instead of cleaning out the garage or pulling weeds. That’s okay. Do a little creative ‘play’, then turn to the creative ‘work’. Satisfy the ego, the part of us that is the adult, that demands that the items on the to-do list must be accomplished. That’s alright. Perhaps . . . what if . . . even the ‘work’ becomes fodder for the muse?

   Summer is a time when most of us are reminded of being out of school when we could sleep in, then hang out with our friends in the sunshine and fresh air. Why not revisit those days? Take your kitchen timer and a pad of paper with you. Sit under the branches of the tree in the front yard (ignore what the neighbors might think), and play a game with your creative self. My newly remodeled web site now has a few more short stories that show where my muse was allowed free rein. If you’ve read what’s been there, you might be interested in what else I have to say about a road trip and the past 19 years of my chosen profession. Check it out at Post a comment and let me know how many objects you were able to sketch from your fridge or rhyming words you could write before the buzzer sounded.

Written by Michele Venne

Writer of immersive and intriguing stories.

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  1. weighty

    gonna send this to my mom


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