As children we are naturally creative, but the disciplines we face as we progress through school, college and career often put constraints on that creativity. I get people coming to my groups who haven’t written since school and are surprised, once they free themselves up to write, at how creative they actually are. In this exercise we look at ways of unlocking creativity and move on to an exercise involving keys as prompts.
Ways to unlock the words within
- Do something you enjoyed as a child. When I was little and I learnt to ride my first bike, I would cycle round and round on the patch of concrete behind our house. I’d do this for hours, lost in my own little world. So whether it’s bouncing on a trampoline, getting messy with paints, or curling up with an old favourite children’s story – indulge yourself and rediscover your inner child
- Spend time with creative people: Einstein said ‘Creativity is contagious – pass it on.’ In the groups I run I enjoy watching people spark off each other. There’s an energy in the room which is a joy to observe. Hearing what each person has created from an identical writing prompt, listening to the broad diversity of material that emerges, is inspirational.
- Take yourself on an ‘artist’s date’. This is an idea pioneered by Julia Cameron, who wrote The Artist’s Way and it’s about immersing yourself in a cultural experience.Treat yourself to a trip to the theatre or a concert, browse an exhibition or museum. It doesn’t have to be expensive – there’s lots of free events out there.
- Go for a walk! I love walking in a natural environment. The sounds, smells and sights of the countryside spark the senses which is good for any writer. It doesn’t have to be a rural walk. A city park or built up environment can be just as good. The important thing is to be in the moment and stay in tune to your senses.
- Do something out of your usual routine or comfort zone. It can be difficult to feel creative when you’re stuck in the nine-to-five grind of daily life. Experiencing something different can awaken the senses and let the ideas flow in. Bizarrely, when I was going through cancer treatment a few years ago, I experienced a surge of creativity. Taken out of my usual routine, I was exposed to a myriad of different experience and immersed in a new world – that of the NHS! Many of the people who come to my Maggie’s group have had similar experiences. Their change in circumstances inspires them to write.
The writing exercises
•Pick an image, or an actual key.
•Who has the key?
•Where does it lead them?
•How do they feel unlocking the door?
•What do they find inside?
•Find or remember a key that was important to you in the past (door/cupboard/chest/car/jewellery box)
•Imagine holding the key in your hand as you are about to open the lock
•What emotion dominates? Fear/dread/excitement/expectation/sadness/joy
•In your imagination, turn the key. What’s inside? Write a short descriptive passage describing the moment you turn the key and what you are unlocking.