Sunday, 24 October 2010

Creative stimulus

So I have been talking about cross-discipline (cross-media) as a help in creative writing. And I promised some in-the-classroom ideas.

- Feel Free Joy, exercise 86 in Creative Writing: the Matrix, is about getting loads of felt-tip pens, crayons, chalks, and horizontal blank A4 paper (the better for lateral non-thinking) and telling people to just make marks on paper. Just let go, choose whatever colours appeal, change colours and textures, don't make pictures or specifics... It is fantastically fun and freeing... which is how we wish we felt more often when writing.

And if you have the sour-puss student who insists on a reason for doing this (usually because he/she feels inhibited or threatened?): even just doing this is loosening and stimulating. Sometimes we forget to have fun.

- Creativity Doll, from Julia Cameron's The Vein of Gold (1997 ed, Pan Books) pp 127-135. A colleague of mine had a hugely successful Saturday class doing this. She brought, and had students bring in, all sorts of oddments of fabric, buttons, trimmings, wire, string, nuts & bolts, shells, sticks, rocks, wood, old jewellery, magazines et cetera. The idea is to make a 'doll' (or thing) about the lack or the wish or the missing piece or frustration or ideal or hope of creativity (Cameron also suggests a Creativity Monster, about all the negatives). People get engaged, relaxed, have fun, find new energies... and usually discover some new aspect of themselves.

- Instant Productive Crumpled Chaos, requires absolutely no props, except a half-sheet of blank paper (or two). This isn't crossing media actually, but it gives an element of anarchy and urgency that gets results, and fun. Each person writes a word on the blank piece of paper, an object. Crumple up the paper and chuck it onto the floor in the middle of the room (if an open square), or into a basket/bin/bag. [but the tossing onto the floor is the anarchic, loosening part]. Everyone gets up and draws one out. You can repeats this: on another piece of paper, write a first name. Crumple and retrieve again. [If you have two different colours of paper to distribute, then you can do this all in one go.]

Then everyone has a word, or a word and a name and -- write for 5-10 minutes on it! See what you get. Forcing together a name and an object usually brings about the start of a story. Or try two objects. Or... well, you get it.


blogaboutwriting said...

I will definitely try some of these exercises - thank you. Talking of 'sour puss' students, I was at a workshop a few weeks ago (as a 'student' myself this time), when, for one exercise, the tutor gave us each a piece of paper with a room in a house written on it, then an object (all outdoor objects, eg: birdbath) - and asked us to close our eyes and imagine the room with the object - and then, finally, a character's name. We then had to write for five minutes or so, a scene involving the room, the object and the character. You know the kind of thing. At that point, one of the delegates pushed her chair back and announced that she was leaving, as this 'wasn't what I had expected!' The poor tutor offered to talk to her in private but the offer was rejected and off she stomped. Very strange. I think this was 'fear' rather than a misunderstanding of what the workshop was going to involve. It was a shame, because she missed a great workshop! I wondered if this had ever happened to you?! And if so, how you handled it?
Helen Yendall

Susan Lee said...

Helen -- thanks for your response and hope you don't mind if for next week I include and enlarge upon it... as, probably, most people do not tune in to all the comments. But, so, yes, no -- I have not had direct tutor-experience but have, as a student, multiply witnessed the phenomenon you saw... rest of the story to be continued next week. SLK