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 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 Reader’s Sandbox.  I’ve left some starter items there, or you can come up with your own.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World,


19 Responses to “Sandbox Challenge #1: A Camel is a Walking Sand Dune”

  1. 1 Susan @ 2KoP August 15, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    I should take this challenge since my metaphors are … just bad. Hmm, I’ll challenge myself to create a metaphor for my bad metaphors. I’ll get back to you.

  2. 3 Jenine July 2, 2010 at 7:53 am

    I hope I put the first post in the right place (I did the six word story for the penguin picture, “Tiny Packages” I wrote “Every body here looks like ME!”
    Okay, now I am going to try the metaphor exercise. Great idea, by the way!

    • 4 stranglingmymuse July 2, 2010 at 10:28 am

      Yes, you put your story in the right place, Jenine — but I’m not very hardcore about where things go, anyway. Creativity is messy, and I don’t mind if this blog is a little messy, too!

      I’m glad you like the metaphor idea. I’d love to see what you come up with, if you feel like sharing.

      Good luck with your writing!


  3. 5 Jenine July 2, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Okay here’s my attempt at the metaphors.
    NOT sure if I did this right. Keep in mind it’s my first try….at least it got me thinking…got me writing. This is a great thing. Thank you!

    Baby pictures of my sons
    American flag blowing in the breeze
    A cold pitcher of lemonade
    A circling seagull

    Baby pictures of my sons: Time travel trips back to innocence
    American flag blowing in the breeze: Mother holding onto her soldier child in an eternal embrace.
    Cold pitcher of lemonade: Jumping into a churning frothy wave at the beach
    Circling seagulls: Homeless people searching for food

    • 6 stranglingmymuse July 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm

      Jenine, I love these! You’ve created some powerful images here. Thanks so much for sharing them. I’m glad you like the metaphor exercise. Personally, I find coming up with metaphors to be fun, creatively fulfilling and emotionally satisfying. I can tell you feel the same way. Keep at it, and good luck with your writing!


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