Archive for the 'Sandbox Challenges' Category

Only Have Five Minutes for Creativity? Try This Metaphor Exercise

January can be a tough month: recovering from holiday overwhelm; dealing with sniffles, flu, and cold weather; trying to get back into the swing of things. Sometimes it feels impossible to be creative. So it seems like the perfect time to rerun this post about one of my favorite quick creative exercises. Even when you’re not feeling well and have no time, you CAN nourish your creative soul with this five-minute play break.

If you’d like to try your hand at the metaphor exercise, check out the starter items in the Tiny Packages section of the Readers’ Sandbox—or come up with your own. And, as always, I love it when you share your creative endeavors here!

Sandbox Challenge #1: A Camel is a Walking Sand Dune:

I’ve been engaged in several rounds of  a grueling match with the Human Head Pounder, the Vicious Throat Scratcher, the Phlegmy Cough Monster and a few of their other unpleasant pals. Now that I’ve gotten them halfway back into their caves, I’ve started thinking about how to stay creative when I’m sick. When deadlines start moaning because it looks like I may not meet them. When unpaid bills and undone chores begin growing horns and making increasingly scary noises. When the words in my brain stick together like swollen, overcooked pasta.

Then I remembered that a camel is a walking sand dune.

camel shadow

It’s a metaphor exercise I developed for myself during a period of intense busy-ness that had me nearly crying with my inability to find time for creativity. In order to calm myself down, I decided I could take FIVE MINUTES before bed every night for creativity.

Here’s what I did: I carried a small notebook with me, and during the day, I would jot down a few items, like “music blasting from a passing car,” “ocean waves,” “a black cat,” “a waterfall.”

Then, in those five minutes before bed, I would create metaphors for some of the things I’d written:

Music blasting from a passing car is a 30-second parade.

Waves are arpeggios on the ocean.black cat in garden

A black cat is a soft shadow.

A waterfall is long hair falling down a woman’s back.

I find this a wonderful exercise, because it sparks my creative imagination even when I have only a couple of tired minutes. And some of the metaphors I’ve created in these stolen moments have found their way into my stories and essays. I still keep a small notebook with starter items always ready to be turned into metaphors.

I’m going to begin issuing small writing challenges here. These will be geared toward the concept of this blog—that creativity can take place in tiny found moments—so none of them should take very long.

For this first challenge, write a metaphor/metaphors like the ones I’ve discussed here.  Post your answers in the Tiny Packages section of the Readers’ Sandbox.  I’ve left some starter items there, or you can come up with your own.


DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Sandbox Challenge #36: Neruda Writing Prompt

The Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda, contains poems made up entirely of questions. I’ve pulled out one of these for today’s writing prompt:

Does a word sometimes slither like a serpent?

Write a poem, essay, story, memory, freewrite, description…whatever this question evokes in you.

I’d love to see your creations in the comments if you feel like sharing!


DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Armed and Dangerous

This is one of my favorite exercises, so I’m posting it again: Choose something that blocks you from creating and visualize it as a character. Then write something about him or her. It can be a description of the character, a poem, a metaphor, an action scene, a dialogue, a haiku, a 1-sentence memoir or anything else. Get creative!

Here’s one of mine:

The minute she walked into my office I knew she was trouble. She had a pair of To Do lists that just wouldn’t quit. Longfemme fatale and persuasive like I like them. She leaned against the wall and pulled a tapered black pen out of her clutch.

I acted surprised, but she could tell I was expecting her. Ms. Always-Too-Busy was no stranger to me. She had obstruction written all over her, written as clearly as the words she was adding to the bottom of the second list: “Groceries. Vacuum. Pay bills. Work!”

I knew I should walk away, but there was something about this dame that always made me stay. I’d stay until she seduced me into crossing every item off her lists. I’d stay until my Muse stormed away, pouting. I’d stay until she left me spent and lying in a pool of my own neglected words.

Like I said, the dame was trouble. Trouble with a never-ending To Do List.


DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Sandbox Challenge #35: Neruda Writing Prompt

The Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda, contains poems made up entirely of questions. I’ve pulled out one of these for today’s writing prompt:

Why does the hat of night fly so full of holes?

Write a poem, essay, story, memory, freewrite, description…whatever this question evokes in you.

I’d love to see your creations in the comments if you feel like sharing!


DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Only Have Five Minutes for Creativity? Try This Metaphor Exercise

I’ve been under the weather and trying not to be overwhelmed by life. Having one of those weeks when it seems impossible to be creative. So it feels like a perfect time to rerun this post about one of my favorite quick creative exercises. Even when you’re not feeling well and have no time, you CAN nourish your creative soul with this five-minute play break.

Okay, I’m going to go drink some hot tea and write a couple of metaphors before I get back to work…if you’d like to try your hand at the metaphor exercise, check out the starter items in the Tiny Packages section of the Readers’ Sandbox—or come up with your own. And, as always, I love it when you share your creative endeavors here!

Sandbox Challenge #1: A Camel is a Walking Sand Dune:

I’ve been engaged in several rounds of  a grueling match with the Human Head Pounder, the Vicious Throat Scratcher, the Phlegmy Cough Monster and a few of their other unpleasant pals. Now that I’ve gotten them halfway back into their caves, I’ve started thinking about how to stay creative when I’m sick. When deadlines start moaning because it looks like I may not meet them. When unpaid bills and undone chores begin growing horns and making increasingly scary noises. When the words in my brain stick together like swollen, overcooked pasta.

Then I remembered that a camel is a walking sand dune.

camel shadow

It’s a metaphor exercise I developed for myself during a period of intense busy-ness that had me nearly crying with my inability to find time for creativity. In order to calm myself down, I decided I could take FIVE MINUTES before bed every night for creativity.

Here’s what I did: I carried a small notebook with me, and during the day, I would jot down a few items, like “music blasting from a passing car,” “ocean waves,” “a black cat,” “a waterfall.”

Then, in those five minutes before bed, I would create metaphors for some of the things I’d written:

Music blasting from a passing car is a 30-second parade.

Waves are arpeggios on the ocean.black cat in garden

A black cat is a soft shadow.

A waterfall is long hair falling down a woman’s back.

I find this a wonderful exercise, because it sparks my creative imagination even when I have only a couple of tired minutes. And some of the metaphors I’ve created in these stolen moments have found their way into my stories and essays. I still keep a small notebook with starter items always ready to be turned into metaphors.

I’m going to begin issuing small writing challenges here. These will be geared toward the concept of this blog—that creativity can take place in tiny found moments—so none of them should take very long.

For this first challenge, write a metaphor/metaphors like the ones I’ve discussed here.  Post your answers in the Tiny Packages section of the Readers’ Sandbox.  I’ve left some starter items there, or you can come up with your own.


DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Sandbox Challenge #34: Neruda Writing Prompt

The Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda, contains poems made up entirely of questions. I’ve pulled out one of these for today’s writing prompt:

Is it true they scatter transparent letters across the sky?

Write a poem, essay, story, memory, freewrite, description…whatever this question evokes in you.

I’d love to see your creations in the comments if you feel like sharing!


DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Sandbox Challenge #33: Neruda Writing Prompt

The Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda, contains poems made up entirely of questions. I’ve pulled out one of these for today’s writing prompt:

Is the sun the same as yesterday’s, or is this fire different from that fire?

Write a poem, essay, story, memory, freewrite, description…whatever this question evokes in you.

I’d love to see your creations in the comments if you feel like sharing!


DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
To learn more, click here!

Sandbox Challenge #32: Neruda Writing Prompt

The Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda, contains poems made up entirely of questions. I’ve pulled out one of these for today’s writing prompt:

What is the name of the cocktail that mixes vodka and lightning bolts?

Write a poem, essay, story, memory, freewrite, description…whatever this question evokes in you.

I’d love to see your creations in the comments if you feel like sharing!

STOP STRANGLING YOUR MUSE!
I’ll help you slay your Perfectionism Dragon,
Herd your Inner Critics into a soundproof room,
Send your Procrastination Monster whimpering back to his cave,
And defuse all your creative blocks.

To schedule a free 30-minute telephone creativity coaching session with me, or for more information, click here.

Sandbox Challenge #31: Neruda Writing Prompt

The Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda, contains poems made up entirely of questions. I’ve pulled out one of these for today’s writing prompt:

Do we learn kindness or the mask of kindness?

Write a poem, essay, story, memory, freewrite, description…whatever this question evokes in you.

I’d love to see your creations in the comments if you feel like sharing!

STOP STRANGLING YOUR MUSE!
I’ll help you slay your Perfectionism Dragon,
Herd your Inner Critics into a soundproof room,
Send your Procrastination Monster whimpering back to his cave,
And defuse all your creative blocks.

To schedule a free 30-minute telephone creativity coaching session with me, or for more information, click here.

Sandbox Challenge #30: Neruda Writing Prompt

The Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda, contains poems made up entirely of questions. I’ve pulled out one of these for today’s writing prompt:

What do they call a flower that flies from bird to bird?

Write a poem, essay, story, memory, freewrite, description…whatever this question evokes in you.

I’d love to see your creations in the comments if you feel like sharing!

Sandbox Challenge #28: Neruda Writing Prompt

The Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda, contains poems made up entirely of questions. I’ve pulled out two of these for today’s writing prompt:

Where do the things in dreams go?  Do they pass to the dreams of others?

Write a poem, essay, story, memory, freewrite, description…whatever these questions evoke in you.

I’d love to see your creations in the comments if you feel like sharing!


Sandbox Challenge #27: Where Have You Been?

Here’s a fun little 3-part creative exercise* — do one, two or all three parts depending on your time and inclination:

ONE:

Write the alphabet down the left side of your page. Then list “places” you’ve been in your life (real, literal, metaphorical and imaginative) for each letter. Here are some of mine:

  • B:  Burning the midnight creative fuel
  • C:  Catching fireflies
  • I:  Imagination Island
  • P:  Paris
  • V:  Virginia
  • W:  Wild West Dodge City
  • X:  X-Raying my heart

TWO:

Choose one of your places and write a haiku about it. Here’s mine:

I dream myself to
Imagination Island
Here I am at peace

THREE:

Illustrate your haiku in any way that pleases you. (I’ve included my illustration above.)

I’d love to hear some of your places or haikus in the comments!

*Exercise courtesy of Jill Badonsky

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Sandbox Challenge #26: Neruda Writing Prompt

The Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda, contains poems made up entirely of questions. I’ve pulled out one of these for today’s writing prompt:

How do the seasons know they must change their shirt?

Write a poem, essay, story, memory, freewrite, description…whatever this question evokes in you.

I’d love to see your creations in the comments if you feel like sharing!

Sandbox Challenge #25: Neruda Writing Prompt

The Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda, contains poems made up entirely of questions. I’ve pulled out one of these for today’s writing prompt:

When does the butterfly read what flies written on its wings?

Write a poem, essay, story, memory, freewrite, description…whatever this question evokes in you.

I’d love to see your creations in the comments if you feel like sharing!

Sandbox Challenge #24: Neruda Writing Prompt

The Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda, contains poems made up entirely of questions. I’ve pulled out one of these for today’s writing prompt:

At dawn, which smooth syllables does the ocean air repeat?

Write a poem, essay, story, memory, freewrite, description…whatever this question evokes in you.

I’d love to see your creations in the comments if you feel like sharing!

Sandbox Challenge #23: Who Is Your Muse?

Here’s the challenge:

Write “My muse is…” and quickly finish the thought with the first thing that comes to your mind. Continue writing “My muse is…” and completing the sentence at least 15 or 20 times. Keep your pen moving. Don’t pause; don’t think too much about it; don’t censor yourself! Allow yourself to write things that are silly, stupid, profound, nonsensical…just keep going and see what you come up with. Most of all, have fun with this!

Then post your favorites in the comments below — I love it when you share your creativity!

Here are some of mine:

My muse is an anteater sniffing around to find the perfect anthill full of crunchy little creative ideas.

My muse is a banana peel waiting for someone to slip on it.

My muse is a ballerina with three legs, creating new dances that only she can dance.

My muse is a little girl with tights that won’t stay up and a pencil box full of stars.

My muse is a guitar made out of cardboard and rubber bands.

My muse is a crumpled piece of paper with the formula for happiness written on it in hieroglyphics.

My muse is a conversation between two people who don’t yet know their hearts have begun to intertwine.

My muse is a moonbeam grinning down at me from the dark night sky.


Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Sandbox Challenge #22: Jump Into My Word Pool

Write something using some (or all) of these words:

fish, jump, friend, love, together,

orange, imagination, eyes, random, water,

pool, bowl, reality, wise, tail, tale, anticipation

Don’t think too hard about this exercise. Don’t take too long. Don’t be too serious. Feel free to write something very silly. Enjoy the feeling of the words rolling through your mind. Play with the phrases that arise. And as always, I love it when you share in the comments!

Here’s mine:

In my imagination, my fish friend and I love to jump together through the water.

In reality, our eyes sometimes randomly meet through the glass of his bowl.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Sandbox Challenge #21: Neruda Writing Prompt

The Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda, contains poems made up entirely of questions. I’ve pulled out one of these for today’s writing prompt:

Is it true that autumn seems to wait for something to happen?

Write a poem, essay, story, memory, freewrite, description…whatever this question evokes in you.

I’d love to see your creations in the comments if you feel like sharing!

Sandbox Challenge #20: Create Some Alter Egos

Write about three different characters’ trips to the same location: a grocery store, the beach, their mother’s home, a bookstore…

  • Exaggerate your own childlike qualities, making them the primary traits of your first character.
  • Exaggerate the things you hide about yourself to create the second character.
  • For the third character, create someone who is the “opposite” of you in some or all ways.

These scenes can be just a couple of sentences each. Or make them longer if you have more time.

I’d love to see your creations in the comments if you feel like sharing!

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Sandbox Challenge #19: Neruda Writing Prompt

photo by Anna Cervova

The Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda, contains poems made up entirely of questions. I’ve pulled out one of these for today’s writing prompt:

Where does the rainbow end, in your soul or on the horizon?

Write a poem, essay, story, memory, freewrite, description…whatever this question evokes in you.

I’d love to see your creations in the comments if you feel like sharing!

Sandbox Challenge #18: Neruda Writing Prompt

The Book of Questions, by Pablo Neruda, contains poems made up entirely of questions. I’ve pulled out one of these for today’s writing prompt:

Do tears not yet spilled wait in small lakes?

Write a poem, essay, story, memory, freewrite, description…whatever this question evokes in you.

I’d love to see your creations in the comments if you feel like sharing!

Sandbox Challenge #17: Write a Poem of Elimination

Also called Sharpie poems and blackout poems, these can be created by ripping a page from a newspaper or magazine and blacking out the words you don’t need. I used an old Vanity Fair interview with Johnny Depp for this one.

Her Birth Song

The colors of the sea,
serenity and golden love,
sliding toward a swirl
of deep blue words.

I crafted a few of these poems and had a lot of fun with this technique! I hope you do too. Feel free to share your creations in the comments or in the Wax Poetic section of the Readers’ Sandbox.

Source: Lisa Romeo’s blog via Drew Myron’s blog via Austin Kleon’s blog. (Check out the last two for more examples of elimination poems.)

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Weekend Writing Flow

As we head into the weekend, I’m offering a round-up of the writing exercises I’ve created for this blog. Most of them can be done in 15 minutes—or take longer if you’re inspired!

Use a word pile to create something tasty

Combine a random image and a line of text to create a new writing prompt

Turn your life into a movie, a bubblegum card, a fortune cookie…

Use a clincher detail to create a vivid character in just one sentence

Gather words you find sprinkled throughout your day and turn them into something new

Try one of these five exercises to shake up your muse

Get creative with lists

Turn something old into a new piece of writing

Use the environment to reflect a significant change in a character’s life

Craft compelling first and last sentences

Create a sensory collage

Try one of these 10 ideas to get your muse out of neutral

Dream up some metaphors

Use this prompt as a launching pad into creativity

Compile a thesaurus of the senses

Create a thesaurus of memories

Turn found words and phrases into something new

Embrace your bad writing

Transform a creative block into a character (with another example here)

Write a haiku about creativity

Create a faux-history for a random item

Dive into this word pool to write about a physical, emotional or creative journey

For bloggers—create a poem using search engine terms

You’ll also find photo prompts here, herehere, here and here, and some 5-minute creative quickies here.

And, if you want to work on something larger, write the story of your life with a series of 6-word memoirs.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Sandbox Challenge #16: Create a Thesaurus of Memories

This exercise riffs on Sandbox Challenge #15, and is inspired by Kristen’s comment on that challenge. (By the way, it’s well worth checking out Kristen’s wonderful blog, Journaling Saves.)

Write about a memory related to any or all of the items listed below. Write just a phrase, a paragraph, a poem, an entire essay…whatever comes up for you:

the color of the sky
the taste of sugar
the smell of rain
the feel of air
the sound of laughter
the shape of eyes

If you like, continue finding memories related to the sight, sound, taste, feel and smell of various items to gradually compile your own Thesaurus of Memories—little moments you can use to enhance your fiction, essays, poems or other projects.

As always, I’d love it if you share some of your writing in the comments below!

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Sandbox Challenge #15: Create a Thesaurus of the Senses

How many words or phrases can you come up with to describe the color of the sky? How about faded denim? Or pumpkin, at sunset? Iron, before a storm?

For this challenge, see how many words or phrases you can produce for each of these:

  • the color of the sky
  • the taste of sugar
  • the smell of rain
  • the feel of air
  • the sound of laughter
  • the shape of eyes

This is a great exercise when you don’t have much time. And if you keep thinking up words to describe the sight, sound, taste, feel and smell of various items, you can compile your own thesaurus of the senses—a wonderful reference when you need interesting words for your fiction, essays, poems or other projects.

As always, I’d love it if you share some of your sensory words in the comments below!

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com


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About Sandy Ackers

Sandy

Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and Writer.

To learn more about Sandy, click here: About Sandy

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Click here to read the post discussing my relationship with my somewhat pesky male muse.

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