21-day Creativity Challenge

It’s said that it takes 21 days to break an old habit, or better yet, to break in a new one. How about making Contemplation and Creativity YOUR new habit?

An example of one of my creative collages to use as a writing prompt

An example of one of my creative collages to use as a writing prompt

What if every day for the next 21 days you created something new? It might be something you write in your journal. It might be a collage you make, add a short message to, and post to Instagram. You might challenge yourself to write a new blog post or update your Facebook page.

So here are a few personal thoughts about creating a 21-day creativity challenge:

1. Everyone needs a can opener to start new writing. I’m an experienced writer. And even so, I need prompts and visuals to get me going. Otherwise, my writing tends to be unfocused and without purpose.

2. Visuals provide excellent starting points to open both your heart and your voice to put doodles (and words and sentences and phrases and lists) on the page. When I trust my heart, and just write to visuals and prompts, I don’t have to worry about where things go. It’s freewriting, something I talk about ALL the time. Sometimes what turns up is useful for my creative process. Sometimes, it turns into product.

3. Reflections on creativity are personal. They’re part of your inner work and journaling process that may or may not lead to other writings you do.

4. The practice of freewriting increases your confidence as a writer. Opening up to write whatever comes builds your writing muscles. Every time you show up to the page and write, it becomes easier.

5. Practicing writing for 21 days in a non-judgmental way invites the muse in and creates a consistent habit. Sneaking into the flow of writing like this keeps that sweet muse alert to visit you more often too.

6. At the end of the 21 days, you’ll be a stronger writer. At least that’s been my experience. I want to keep on keeping on, and write, write, write some more. I notice that it gets easier, day by day, and at 21 days, I’m eager to put pen to page EVERY day.

So what do you think? I’d love to see your name in the comments, or on Instagram, or your blog. Please share our writing experiences (not what you wrote, but about your experience of the highs and bumps, flaws and all, of having written). I’ve already attracted many writing friends and colleagues who’ve joined the challenge.

If any of the above resonates with you, then say YES to it. Take creative action. And let me know what you did. Onward!

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The Well of Creativity

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I believe the well of creativity is always full — there for your taking, waiting patiently for you to dip in.  Using writing prompts as mini-assignments gives you the dipper to draw your personal connections from the deep recesses of the well.  If you’re looking for writing inspiration, trust the prompts to trigger fresh possibilities.

Suggested Steps

1.  Read the writing prompts.

2.  Quickly, write down anything that comes to mind for each.  First thoughts… uncensored.  (My recommendation:  a writer’s notebook or journal as a tool you use consistently for recording these first thoughts.  The writer’s journal becomes your personal written archive for more material and personalized writing prompts.)

3.  If one of the prompts spurs you to write more, go for it!  Don’t stall.  The Muse is speaking now!  Don’t let her get away.

4.  Over the next few hours or days, allow the prompts to germinate.  Revisit them daily.  New thoughts may come.  Through your reticular activating system (RAS) the prompts will attract new material for you.  Allow the prompts to inspire your daily writing practice in unforeseen ways.

5.  Find a quiet place (or if you prefer raucous, then turn on the stereo, way up loud).  Practice a combination of:  Breathing – Stillness – Listening.

6.  Move.  Go for a walk.  Practice yoga.  Leave your desk.  Sit in a comfy chair.  Go out on the porch.  Take a drive.  It’s often here where you’ll “hear” fresh ideas too.

7.  Write.  Write.  Write.  Return to the prompts and to your initial thoughts.  Set a mini-goal to write 500 words on a selected prompt.  Then another…  Keep writing as long as you are inspired.

8.  Add to, refine and polish those that seem to have promise for “product pieces.”

9.  Trust the process.

10.  Make writing for practice, for process, or for product a priority for every day.

11.  Enjoy the journey!

Freewriting – Process vs. Product

 

CoffeePaperPenThe concept of freewriting is to allow your words to flow onto the page, uncensored.  Read a prompt, put pen to page, and write.  Don’t stop to think… just write what comes to mind based on the prompt.  Allow whomever you draw your creativity from (the Universe, your Muse, God) to speak to you.  Use the prompt to conjure up sensory details from all 6 senses (see, smell, touch, hear, taste and “feel” emotional connections). Be spontaneous, expansive, and fluid.  Write first thoughts.  Freudian slips are okay, even welcomed, as they often take us where we really need to go.

Writing Prompts (or Assignments)

Writing prompts are intended to trigger your mental archive.  Use them as a springboard from your personal experience into writing.  All of us carry around images, emotions, and feelings that connect to past experiences, current situations, and future dreams.  Allow the prompt to “inform” your writing, but not “define” it.  The prompt may tell you to write something a certain way, but what comes to mind for you is something different.  Great!  Fine!  Write what your creative spirit tells you to write.  Anything you write is wonderful-neither good nor bad, it just is.

Allow yourself to be surprised.  Use the prompt to draw out your creative spirit and allow her writing to show up on the page in whatever form you choose.  Welcome short bursts-small pieces of 100 words, for example, can always grow into big pieces too.  Just get something, anything, written down.

Prompts as Writing Practice

I believe there are two kinds of writing:  writing for process and writing for product.  While the two go hand in hand, I believe what comes first is writing for process.

Consider:  where do you get the seeds for a new piece of writing?  how do you get from a series of thoughts to a fully polished piece that’s ready to send to a publisher?

In my experience, working with prompts and writing practice is a natural stepping stone on the path to publishable material.  Our first step is to write based on inspiration triggered by a prompt, allowing our writing to flow with personalized intention.

I call this “writing for process.”  You may not be able to see where this piece of writing is going, but what you’re doing is tapping into your mental and experiential archive.  You’re getting thoughts and ideas down on paper.  You’re strengthening your writing muscle.  You’re acknowledging your writing voice and personal style.

I believe as writers we need to collect a good sampling of these “writing for process” pieces.  They are the springboards for larger projects and help point us in directions we may not have seen or acknowledged before.

Once you have a collection of “process pieces” you can then begin to shape for publication the ones that interest you.  Here’s where your “process pieces” turn into “product pieces.”  These “product pieces” become the writings that you actively “work on” and polish.  With the “product pieces,” you begin to look for suitable markets, honing and refining to publisher guidelines.

In order to get your writing practice started, or to stimulate your creativity further, I invite you to get a free copy of my ebook “99 Ways to Jumpstart Your Creative Writing.”

Video Post – Do You Doodle?

Do you doodle?

Are you a simpleton? A fool? Perhaps you swindle or ridicule? Or maybe you’re a corrupt politician?

Creative genius and visual entrepreneur Sunni Brown shares what it means to doodle in this 6 minute video. What does doodling have to do with writing?

Watch the video, then continue reading below.

What does doodling have to do with writing? As creative artists, writers need to practice “thinking” via various modalities. If a picture is worth 1000 words, then perhaps it’s a visual representation that’s the gateway to the words.

Some ways doodling may lead to heightened creativity:

  • Map out characters in a setting as a way to develop a scene. That will lead you to choreographing character movements as well as setting details.
  • Use doodles to get inside your protagonist’s head; what would he/she draw? and why? That will lead you to their motivations
  • Create a set of doodle icons as you edit your work; for instance, a swirly “G” might mean “check grammar.” A stick man “I” might mean indent or insert more content.
  • Choose doodling over dawdling. When you’re stuck for what’s next, just doodle. As Brown points out, making spontaneous marks helps us think. Doodling could be the answer to what’s right around the corner for your next sentence, paragraph or scene.

For more information on creative doodling, check out Sunni Brown’s book, Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers.

3 Levels of Drafting A New Piece of Writing

j0439466Several years ago I attended a weekend spiritual retreat organized by the Omega Institute in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  Some of the notable headliners included Wayne Dyer, Joan Borysenko, James Van Praagh, Loretta Laroche, and  Dr. Brian Weiss.  I enjoyed the presentations by these wonderful teachers, but I’d come for one thing:  to sit at the feet of author Anne Lamott and lap up everything she had to say.

Anyone who has read her bestselling writing how-to book  Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life knows she has a wonderful way with metaphor, and a grand sense of humor.

She tickled her audience that day with her wry wit while teaching us about her recommended 3 stages for writing drafts:

1.  Start with a “down draft.”  Just get it all down.  Write, write, write.  Don’t worry where things might fit in.  Just get it all down before the muse runs away.  Think of the “down draft” as your parking place for ideas, experiences, and memories.

2.  Next, continue with “up drafts.”  Raise your  “down draft” from bare essentials to workable material.  That might mean adding new material, taking things out, moving elements around, shaping the piece of writing toward its publishable form.  Think of the “up drafts” as prettying things up.  This stage of drafting is truly where “writing” takes place and will mean you spend the bulk of your writing time at this stage.  Be okay with “up drafting” 5, 10, 20, even 40 times until you’ve refined your prose.

3.  Finally, attack your prose for the “dental draft”  as you polish and final hone.  During this stage, go deep inside your draft, review every word, every sentence, every paragraph for polishing.

If you’re not 100% certain of your doctoring (or dental) skills, now might be the time to have an experienced editor take a final look.  You’ll want your prose to be bright, shiny and smiling. 🙂