Monday Moments: Childlike Genius
Introduced By Holly King
We’re already two weeks into 2022 and the second year of Write On! Extra, which, I must say, has grown exponentially for such a young project. When we are young, though; that’s when the most creative ideas come about and we write with the most freedom. So, what better way to start the new year than continuing our theme of ‘Writing With Wonder – The World Through Children’s Eyes’ and exploring ways to get back to unrestrained creativity?
We all know what it feels like to be ‘in the zone’. When we lose sense of time, space and anything outside of the project we’re working on. Children call this play, and can spend hours in this state.
Every child displays valuable qualities, including: curiosity, imaginativeness, playfulness, open-mindedness, willingness to experiment, flexibility, humour, energy, receptiveness to new ideas and honesty. We can learn a lot from these, which are quashed or frowned upon in adulthood (e.g., curiosity is disparaged: “Curiosity killed the cat”), and bring them back into our own writing and art.
There are many prompts: from free-association to Dada poems (where you construct a poem using words randomly drawn from a bag), to tag-team writing. As adults, we already have a running narrative in our head, and are all too aware of the ‘rules’ for creating. We may be preoccupied with whether our writing is ‘good enough’ or if it is ‘marketable’ and we’re afraid of failing and suffer from Imposter Syndrome. On-top of that, we have our daily chores and responsibilities: a life full of rules and order, commitments and compromises. Yet we need balance, and perhaps a little dose of pure creativity, without boundaries, will honour the child that lives in all of us still. Who knows, the exercises below might even turn something into a completed project by 2023!
Firstly, we have deputy editor, Claire Buss, sharing her experience of a poetry workshop run by The Poetry Takeaway – the world’s first mobile poetry emporium.
I recently attended a really fun poetry workshop run by poet Ella Frears, using The Poetry Takeaway Van. We were given some creative exercises to do, which included writing a ten-line poem with ten rules:
1. Must have an explosion
2. Must have a half-rhyme
3. Must have a proper noun
4. Must have an animal
5. Must have a nonsense word
6. Must have a colour
7. Must reference the animal, nervous
8. Must have a word repeated three times that begins with the letter of your first name
9. Must have an exclamation
10. Must finish with three adjectives
At first, I panicked. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I gave it a go and this is what I came up with:
Boom ba da boom ba da boom bing bing!
All the words are fighting over everything
They’ve decided to leave the English language
And dive down into the ocean to meet the starfish
But they get entangled in a splodgy mess
In shades of inky blackness as they sink
The starfish are scared, they can’t punctuate
But they’re curious of shapes, curious of sounds, curious at all the moving parts
Ye Gads! What is that?
It’s a fishing net made of children’s tears, hopes and fears as they fish for wonderful, witty, wacky words.
© Claire Buss, 2021
So, there you have it: starfish and words under the sea. Can’t tell I have kids, can you? Ha-ha!
Read more blogs from Claire: www.butidontlikesalad.blogspot.com
Connect with The Poetry Takeaway: thepoetrytakeaway.co.uk
Eithne Cullen also created a free-association poem based on her Poetry Takeaway workshop experience. Look out for Eithne’s next ‘Thoughtful Tuesday’ post, as I’ll be passing the baton to her to carry on our ‘Writing With Wonder’ theme, bringing you more fun and frivolity.
Eithne tells us:
“It’s quite amazing what can flow out of your pen, or emerge from your keyboard, when you do that crazy thing called ‘free writing.’ Back in the summer, a few of us at Pen to Print attended a workshop with The Poetry Takeaway: a converted burger van where visitors can commission poems to order. I had the chance to be in the van at a London Borough of Barking and Dagenham festival, so it made sense to me. However, the piece that emerged from the workshop when we were given prompts to do a ‘free write’, takes me on a journey which has a dream-like quality and a few hidden messages.”
So the journey was uneventful and the motorway challenged me somewhat, it’s the overtaking that can be tedious, thought-provoking and sucks me into a challenge that puts me on the edge at times. Personally, seeing the cars whizz by as if they’re more important than the other road users but we’re all in the same boat, the same speed, the same rush. Then to meet Annie, who is such a force of nature who, while I tried to peddle my woeful tale of why I don’t want a birthday this year, knocks me back, keen as mustard, reminds me of the joy of looking for the good in things and grasping any chance of being up-beat and positive.
Meanwhile, I’ll be looking forward to having a massage this week and letting myself be me, feel free and if I need a shoulder to cry on and I hope the tears don’t spill out. It’s a bit like that man who sang a song today about not wanting to see a single tear in the eye of someone he loves or maybe he’s speaking to a child. That’s the thing about tears – they can just creep up and make everyone feel tearful. On the other hand, a smile or laughter can do the very same, they’re as infectious as a yawn.
© Eithne Cullen, 2021
Connect with Eithne on Twitter: @eithne_cullen
The next exercise is used as a form of art therapy and one to do privately. Don’t worry, it’s incredibly simple and is something anyone can fit into their day, requiring nothing more than some coloured pens/pencils, a blank sheet of paper and 15-30 minutes.
In short, what you do is sit at a table, spread the pens/pencils in front of you and whichever colour you want, you immediately take and begin drawing with. Don’t try to think of what to draw, and try not to associate something with the colour (i.e., we might associate green with grass or blue with sky): just draw. Remember what a child’s drawing looks like? It’s very abstract, and yet they draw with such intensity, assured that this is exactly what they want to create. That’s what we’re trying to do here, so just draw!
As soon as the colour bores you, put it down and pick the next one that pulls you towards it, and begin drawing with it. Do that until it bores you, and you want another colour. Repeat these two steps until no colour calls to you anymore, or you feel a sense of completion. Then, look at the drawing.
This is a representation of your unconscious. As it cannot speak to us in words, it speaks to us in images and symbols. While we won’t consciously understand the drawing, the unconscious will recognise itself being represented externally, and it will allow whatever is blocking you to shift. That’s the idea, anyway! I’ve done it a few times and I always feel lighter afterwards; as though my creativity can be more fluid.
Don’t try to interpret the drawing (i.e., “Oh, these pink squiggles are flowers, these purple dots are stars”). It’s important that throughout the exercise – and afterwards – you don’t attempt to do what adults do best: categorise and rationalise. If nothing else, it’s a great exercise for someone with a busy mind (such as myself), to train yourself to just do something, and allows you to just create.
Now, you may have heard this well-known quote from Picasso that “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Write On! regular Michelle Sutton talks to us about how that child artist never leaves, and how she still uses doodles – something we’ve all done as a child – to keep the creativity flowing:
Keep Calm And Doodle
I doodle a lot and always have. Many of the margins in my schoolbooks were littered with them, and my teachers were forever circling them with the dreaded red pen to try and get me to stop. Clearly, that didn’t work, if my notebooks, sketchpads or any scrap of paper that happens to be near me, and a pen or pencil, are anything to go by!
I doodle for a variety of reasons:
- To work creative ideas out – whether this be art- or writing-related, I do mini doodles as ideas form in my mind. I have many of these; one in particular is a specific symbol from mine and Lauren’s (L.M. Towton’s) WIP.
- To stop my brain – I’m a terrible over-thinker, to the point of being unhealthy. When I feel it getting too bad, I pick up a pen and just let go. These are my most scruffy, furious and common doodles, that eventually peter out once my mind relaxes.
- When my anxiety flares – which is frequently. These doodles are the ones I’m most reluctant for anyone to see.
- To relieve boredom – I hate being bored and will either find something productive to do, read or doodle. Which is why, while working at events, my clipboards are often covered with doodles: if I’m on a break, or waiting for a show to end, I’ll draw something. Hence, a red T-Rex and King Kong during an ‘Adult Snores’ (adult sleepover event at the Natural History Museum- official name: ‘Dinosnores For Grown Ups’), doodled in between the overnight movie marathon.
As an artist, I doodle to try out ideas and practise techniques, such as trying to work out a composition, the best pose for an animal, or which direction light is coming from, so I know where to add shadows. Doodles are quick, simple and less stressful. They differ from a sketch or design, as, for me at least, they are the moment that initial thought moves out of my brain. They’re the ‘draft zero’; not meant to be seen by other people until refined into a proper idea. They’re not meant to look good, or show off your talent. If someone asked me to draw a doodle to purposely be shown or sold, it would actually be a detailed sketch, and I’d work longer on it; not the minutes or seconds they’d usually take.
You definitely don’t have to be an artist to doodle. Personally, I think everyone should, for the therapeutic nature of it. Even, if like me, you sometimes just play Noughts And Crosses with yourself!
© Michelle Sutton, 2021
Connect with Michelle on Twitter: @MSuttonArt and on her blog: lmtowton.wordpress.com
I hope this Monday we’ve given you some new ways to get those creative juices flowing, and ‘Write With Wonder’ in this new year. Don’t forget to submit your work to us via firstname.lastname@example.org and that you can read our latest issue of WriteOn! Magazine here.
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We all know what it feels like to be ‘in the zone’. When we lose sense of time, space and anything outside of the project we’re working on.