Category Archives: Creative Life

Creative Juice #241

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Creative Juice #241

Mentally stimulating. Inspiring. Lovely to look at.

Creative Juice #240

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Creative Juice #240

Interesting. Informative. Funny. Lovely. Artistic. Strange. It’s all here:

The Power of “What If. . .”

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I always have ideas for new writing projects—especially when I’m up to my elbows rewriting. My brain would much rather be working on the next shiny thing than polishing up my works-in-progress.

How do I generate ideas?

Most of my fiction ideas come from wondering “what if. . .” Like, what if a teenager discovers a unicorn living in the woods behind her house? What if a woman recognizes a missing girl as someone she’d seen in a recurring dream? What if the new girl in school decides to make friends by running for class president?

Please don’t steal my ideas—I’m working on all of these right now.

Instead, think what if. . .

Sometimes it helps to start with random elements: a setting, a character, a situation. Make lists of these things. Mix them up and see what happens.

Or here. I’ll make it easy for you.

Pick one item from column one, one from column two, one from column three and one from column four and see what happens. You may have to finagle a little.

What if . . .

1234
a carbuysa peanutbut it’s illegal.
a bearspanksa gloveand it catches fire.
a doctoreatsan atombut there’s an earthquake.
a garbage collectormakesan unknown virusand turns it into an empire.
a life guardformsa corporationand becomes very popular.
an insurance salesmanfollowsa hospitalbut an evil twin ruins it.
a horsebreaksa mermaidand it turns into gold.
a dogstealsa cellphoneand the same day keeps repeating.
a teacherinventsa cityand starts a trend.
a computer programmercooksa homeless personbut forgets where it is.
an astronautdrawsa calendarin the midst of a snowstorm.
a helicopterpretends to bean elevatorbut there’s a snake in the basement.
a zombiemortifiesgasolinejust as World War III begins.
a rabbilosesa joggerand falls in love.
a pregnant womanbuildsmoneyand becomes the next internet sensation.
a teenaged boylovesbooksand gets transported into a parallel universe.
my left shoefindsa rock bandand stumbles into a robbery in progress.
an armysellsa clarinetbut the warranty expired.
an elephantruns intoa backpackwhile acting as a Russian spy.
the presidentalienatesa nunwho turns out to be their birth mother.

Now it’s your turn. Use this idea generator to come up with a story line. It doesn’t have to adhere strictly to the four items you chose; let your imagination take you where it will. Write a piece of flash fiction or a short story. Post it on your blog or on social media, and include a link below. Or, better yet, submit it to a contest from the Poets and Writers database and tell us about it. (Good luck!)

Creative Juice #239

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Creative Juice #239

Things that are pretty. Things that are funny. Things that took work.

Creative Juice #238

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Creative Juice #238

Some practical tips. Some laughs. Some nostalgia. Some beauty.

Creative Juice #237

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Creative Juice #237

Beauty and fun.

Video of the Week #300: African Architects Creating in Context

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Creative Juice #236

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Creative Juice #236

Some of these links will improve your creativity; some will improve your life.

Creative Juice #235

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Creative Juice #235

Things to try. Things to remember.

Review of The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

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I have seen this book more than once on lists of best books about creativity.

Now that I’ve read it, I can confirm that it is. In fact, it’s delightful.

Tharp is one of America’s best loved choreographers, with a long and illustrious career. If you don’t know her, take a peek at this short interview with her from a couple of years ago, in which she discusses a newer book she’s written on the importance of movement:

Yay! I get to read another book by her.

In The Creative Habit (subtitled Learn it and Use it for Life), she offers tools that will help the creative artist keep coming up with fresh ideas. She believes in rituals, and has processes by which she frees up her brain to come up with new things.

The book is beautifully formatted. It uses different colored inks and different sizes of type to keep the eye and the mind from getting lulled into inattention (at least, it did for me). At the end of each chapter is a group of exercises, printed on gray paper. I didn’t do every exercise, but I did mull them over and I can see how beneficial each would be to enhance a person’s creativity.

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

Tharp uses anecdotes from her own life and from those of creative geniuses throughout history, recent and long past, to illustrate happy (and not-so-happy) accidents that led to creative breakthroughs.        

If I were teaching a college-level class on creativity, The Creative Habit would be my textbook. It’s that good. In fact, I wish I had read this when I was still teaching elementary general music, although I did do some similar activities with my students.

Tharp cowrote the book with Mark Reiter, whose bio reads, “Mark Reiter has collaborated on eleven previous books. He is also a literary agent in Bronxville, New York.” I did not find much more about him online. (Apparently, he is quite humble.) I don’t know how much of The Creative Habit is actually his. I’d like to think the content is 99.9% Tharp’s, and that Reiter contributed some of the sparkle. I also suspect he’s a great agent for nonfiction authors.

The Creative Habit has earned a permanent spot on my bookshelf. I intend to reread it every couple of years.