Every time I go on social media, I see posts from someone pondering their next writing move. Maybe they are tapped out for inspiration or maybe they are considering a lot of ideas and don’t know which one will be best for them.
Every week, when I think about what to post here, I have my own question: what would be the best thing to write about this week? I don’t usually have trouble figuring out what that might be because there is so much right in front of me that is usable. But there are times when I feel completely empty, with nothing to offer. I usually take that as a sign that I need to go for a walk, read something new, take a break. And sometimes I try to spark an idea with tools I have laying around my office because taking a break isn’t always an option.
Maybe because I spend a lot of time digging around in my garden in the summer, I’ve been thinking about digging around in my office, too. Today, I’ve dug up some old creative tools that, in some cases, I forgot I had. These are fun things to shake up your thoughts for the day, to get you out of the nothing-to-say funk. And, by the way, I don’t stick to tools just for writers. Tools intended for visual artists or spiritual quests or for kids are all equally useful. Don’t limit your inspirations.
Here’s what I’ve excavated just to share with you:
1. Roger von Oech’s Creative Whack Pack.
The Creative Whack Pack was originally marketed as a portable personal workshop that would give users a “whack on the side of the head” to help shift their thinking, open up new ways of looking at whatever needed to be done. The deck of 64 cards has four suits (explorer, artist, judge, warrior) and can be used Tarot-style, sorted according to what the user has done in the past month, tossed into the air and cards chosen at random, or some other way that makes sense to the user in the moment. I used this deck when I was in graduate school to find new ways of looking at my thesis material.
The card shown in the image on the right is my favorite of the moment.
I can no longer remember where these decks came from. They’ve been on top of my bookshelf for forever. The deck shown on the right has stunning artwork that gives me plenty of ideas without flipping the cards over to see what’s on the back.
But, if you’re wondering, here’s what’s on the backs of the two cards shown on the right above:
Both cards decks are easy to pull cards from at random, just to see what you get. No rules.
3. Angel Cards.
I’m pretty sure these came from a writing friend a long time ago. I’ve done some blog posts on these cards in the past. I appreciate them as creative tools because sometimes I like just having a word tossed out to consider without much attached imagery. These cards are all big idea cards, ready to go anywhere you want, ripe for examples and stories that illustrate these ideas as you interpret them.
This deck was a gift from a friend who told me about them as a way to expand my photography. But they work for all kinds of creative endeavors and I’ve flipped over one of my favorites in the image above. One of the reasons I like this card so much is because of my work at Gyroscope Review; we receive a ton of poems about love and the majority stick to the traditional imagery and story around the idea of love. In other words, we get romantic love poems and parent/child love poems and not much beyond those parameters. For those of you who write love poems, take this card’s directions and run with them. Could be an amazing journey.
5. Art books.
I love flipping through art books of all kinds. I gravitate toward art that is abstract, modern, edgy, urban, and unsettling. Here’s one of the recent books I picked up from a bargain shelf at Barnes & Noble:
The fire hydrants shown in the image on the right amuse me and shake up my whole idea of what a fire hydrant is supposed to look like.
As an addendum to the art book idea, going out to find public art – murals, graffiti, sculpture – is another tool that gets me out of my chair. How about you? After all, sticking to card decks and books can be limiting, too.
6. And that brings me to my own list-making.
Lists are one of the best brainstorming tools around. They’re easy, they’re portable, they’re surprising if you don’t edit yourself. And they give you a plan to follow for the near future.
Now go forth and dig around in your life for ideas for your own work. Plant, fertilize, cultivate, harvest.
Then submit it.
Speaking of Submissions
Gyroscope Review will re-open for submissions of contemporary poetry on July 1. Visit the website for more information on guidelines and past issues. And, if you are a woman over the age of 50, you may be interested in the special themed submissions category that will also open on July 1. There will be more information on the themed category on July 1.