Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 50

Childhood Play

This is the fiftieth installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here

My Thoughts:

I came across this Friedrich Nietzsche quotation when I was a teenager and I held on to it tightly: “Man’s maturity: to regain the seriousness he had as a child at play.” At the time, it was a reminder to stay young and playful, to hold off on “adulting.” Nowadays, as a writer, I often think of creativity as a harkening back to the state of childhood play. As Nietzsche pointed out, play was neither half-hearted nor frivolous; it had intensity and focus perhaps unrivaled in adulthood. When in the flow of creating something, it’s that same dichotomy of intensity and playfulness that often leads me to an inspired piece of art. For this week’s Curious Creative, we’ll do a simple listing exercise to bring us back to our childhood worlds of play.

Your Turn!

  1. Open your notebook to two empty pages side by side. Create seven columns and label them: BOOKS, OBJECTS, FICTIONAL CHARACTERS, TEACHERS, GAMES, ACTIVITIES, and OBSERVATIONS. 
  1. Spent 10 minutes filling in each column with as many examples from your childhood as possible. My own example: 
BOOKS
OBJECTS
FICTIONAL CHARACTERS
TEACHERS
GAMES
ACTIVITIES
OBSERVATIONS
-Anne of Green Gables
-Little House on the Prairie
-Forever
-Where the Wild Things Are
-rock collection
-butterfly net
-pogo stick
-stilts
-Barbies
-Cabbage Patch Kids
-Jem
-Ariel
-Belle
-Anne

-Mrs. Donohue
-Mrs. Brandt
-Mrs. Hofgesang
-Mrs. Polio
-Kick the Can
-Capture the Flag
-Super Mario Brothers
-Tetris
-Man Hunt
-Candyland
-I made clothes out of paper and tape for crickets I collected from the garage.
-I raised Painted Lady Butterflies from eggs my mom ordered.
-People liked hanging out with you if you were funny.
-Playing video games for a couple hours was fun, and then all of a sudden it wasn’t.
-I was the fastest girl runner I knew.

How did you do? Did you enjoy reminiscing about your childhood? Did it feel playful to remember? Did remembering remind you to be more playful?

To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing!


Inspired by: Linda Barry’s Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor (Drawn & Quarterly, 2014)

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 49

Four-Panel Diary

This is the forty-ninth installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here

My Thoughts:

In Lynda Barry’s cartooning class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “What It Is,” about halfway through the semester, she assigns her students “the four-panel diary.” On each diary page, students illustrate four scenes from that day, including “daily things” and “things that stand out.”

I very much like what Barry writes about the purpose of this activity: “Both writing and drawing lean on a certain kind of picturing—not the kind that is already finished in your head and just needs to be put to words or reproduced on paper. It’s a kind of picturing that is formed by our own activity, one line suggesting the next. We have a general direction but can’t see where we are until we let ourselves take a step, and then another, and then we move on to the third… You don't know what your drawings will be like until you draw them with this kind of picturing in your mind that moves your hand. The trick is just that: Let it move your hand.”

Her directive to “let it move your hand” is very apropos to the generative stages of writing. You must surrender to not knowing what the finished product will be until it appears at the end. This surrender is central to the creative process (and addictively fun!). For this week’s Curious Creative exercise, we will adapt Barry’s activity to writing.

Your Turn!

  1. Divide a piece of paper into four equal quadrants.
  1. If you are an early morning creative, think about the day before. If you are doing this in the evening, reflect on the day you’ve just had. For this particular activity, it’s better to do the latter.
  1. In each panel, time yourself to write a 2-minute description of a scene or image from your day. Do not tell a chronological narrative of something that happened. Simply imagine a scene, a flashbulb memory if you will, and use words to describe what you see. 
  1. These scenes don’t have to be the most exciting moments of your life; you can even focus on “pouring milk on your cereal,” as Lynda Barry suggests. The important thing is that you capture a scene in your mind’s eye, even if the picture is terribly fuzzy, and for two minutes, describe it with words on the page. 
How did you do? Did you let the process sweep you away, not knowing what you’d write until the description appeared in each panel? Were you able to actually imagine a visual picture in your mind’s eye for each panel? Did you notice interplay between image and word?

To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing!


Inspired by: Linda Barry’s Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor (Drawn & Quarterly, 2014)

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 48

Time Constraints

This is the forty-eighth installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here

My Thoughts:

In his book, Cartooning Philosophy and Practice, Ivan Brunetti leads budding cartoonists through a drawing exercise in which students are constrained by time limits. The exercise goes as follows. Fold a piece of paper into quarters. In the top left quarter, first draw a castle for two minutes; next, in the top right quarter, draw one for one minute; in the bottom left, draw one for 30 seconds; and in the bottom right, end by drawing a castle for 15 seconds.

Through this exercise, Brunetti shows that somehow, in each of these time constraints, one figures out how to fit what’s necessary into his/her drawing. He also demonstrates that a lot of thinking and planning ahead of time is not necessary or helpful. Whereas beginning artists might stare at a blank page with unlimited time feeling like they don’t know how to draw a castle, a ticking clock pushes them to do it without thinking (and discover they can!).

If you are a visual artist, this is a great exercise to try for your Curious Creative exercise this week. If you are a writer, you can adapt this activity to the written word by following the steps below.

Your Turn!

  1. Choose a family photograph. 
  1. Fold a piece of paper into quarters.
  1. Set your timer to 5 minutes. In the top left quarter, write a description of the photo for 5 minutes.
  1. In the top right quarter, describe the same photo in 2 minutes.
  1. In the bottom left, describe it in 30 seconds. 
  1. In the bottom right quarter, describe the photo in 15 seconds. 
How did you do? Were you able to keep your hand moving the whole time, without pausing too much to think? Did your descriptions, as they got shorter, narrow in on a certain aspect of the photo, such as a specific person, what people were thinking, or the emotional relationship(s) between family members? Did your final 15-second description consist of the most important “lines and shapes” of that photograph? In other words, did it boil down that moment to its essence?

To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing!


Inspired by: Ivan Brunetti’s Cartooning Philosophy and Practice (Yale University Press, 2011).

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The Curious Creative: Week 47

Index Card Portraits

This is the forty-seventh installment of The Curious Creative, weekly 10-minute writing exercises for busy individuals interested in exploring their creativity. For the complete rationale, click here

My Thoughts:

One of the best ways to get into the writing mindset for me is to draw. It quiets and calms my mind-chatter, but it also centers me into my physical body and presence. It’s possible that engaging in any right-brained activity would help one access another creative activity- dancing to write, drawing to dance, etc. Personally, I drew a lot as a little kid and am not sure which came first – writing or drawing. But to this day, I place a lot of importance on the act of physically holding a pencil and channeling images or words through my arm, that this physical act is a completely necessary first step in anything I create.

Lynda Barry, cartoonist and creativity teacher, swears on this as well. In her book, Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor, she writes “The trick seems to be this: Consider the drawing as a side effect of something else: a certain state of mind that come about when we gaze with open attention.” In the course she teaches at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, “What It Is: manually shifting the image,” her students write, draw, paint and cartoon entirely by hand. In this week’s exercise, we are going to try an assignment she gives her students a few times each semester.

Your Turn!

  1. Take a stack of index cards and a drawing pencil. Go to a public place.
  1. With whatever time you have, whether it is 10 or 45 minutes, draw people, one on each index card. 
  1. Try not to get caught up on perfection, details, or verisimilitude. Rather than spending 45 minutes drawing one perfect portrait, it’s better to draw a handful of portraits, rudimentary ones like those you drew as a child. Draw characters out of simple shapes (circles, triangles, squares) with minimal features. Barry calls them “quick and workable alternative[s] to stick figures with a lot more soul.”
  1. Later, ink them in with a black pen. You can also fill them in with watercolor or colored pencils.
  1. The purpose of this exercise is purely to exercise your creative muscles, but something surprising might appear on your paper. You might end up using one of these images as inspiration for a future art or writing project.
How did you do? Did you keep your hand in motion the whole time? Were you able to turn your language-brain off and not think too much as you drew? Did anything original appear? Could any of these characters be inspiration for a story?

To encourage each other and grow a community of Curious Creatives, sign in from a google account so you can share your creation in the comment box below. Also, if you subscribe to this blog (submit your email address in the "Follow this Site by Email" box to the right), you will get an email update whenever a new exercise is added. Thanks for playing!


Inspired by: Linda Barry’s Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor (Drawn & Quarterly, 2014)