Planning A Creative Adventure On A Low To No Budget

Editor’s note: this is a guest post by writer’s coach Cynthia Morris of Original Impulse.

There you are, bent toward the computer screen, hands poised above the keyboard. Your writing stride has faltered, and you’re stumped for the next best words. Soon you give up, flitting around online instead of finishing that great article.

Even the best writers get stuck sometimes. We’ll often try to solve that by continuing to peck away, hoping things will come clear. I’ve found the opposite to be true. Extending your hours in front of the screen and shuffling words around endlessly doesn’t always help. I advocate slipping away for a little fun to refresh your writer’s spirit and solve common writing problems.

Creative excursions fuel your writing

Writers and artists need to continually access inspiration from the world around them–and not just the online world. We also need to unplug from the constant stream of information as well as the driving force that makes us work long hours without break.

Creative excursions help you hear your own creative pulse. These mini adventures refresh your perspective, need not to cost a lot, and pay back enormously. Some of my favorites include: walks in the Botanic Gardens, visits to art supply stores, to museums, bookstores, the library and time in nature.

They’ve helped me refresh my writing so much that I’ve created workshops that use the urban environment as classroom and inspiration. The curriculum for my Curious Excursions includes creative tools to point the way to inspiration–and to help you have more fun.

Whether we’re in Paris or Boulder, our mission is to fill a journal in one week–to drive past the inner critic and capture inspiration in one small journal. The results? Participants glow when they feel more connected to their own creative expression. Each notebook is filled with ideas, swatches of color, and inspiration to be tapped later.

When I’m journaling regularly, I relax, open to my surroundings, and make new, fresh connections. You’ve probably experienced this, too: when away from the computer, you find your best ideas.

Make time for play

Not everyone can pop over to Paris or Boulder for a week, but you can still glean inspiration from familiar surroundings. Set yourself up to make the most of time away from the computer to refresh your writer’s perspective. Here’s how.

1. Schedule your own excursion dates in advance. Book an hour or an afternoon for a getaway with your inner artist. Try one per week, or create your own week-long excursion using my methods during a seven-day period.

But getting out is just the first step. How to capture any inspiration you receive while out there? Develop your inspiration antennae to draw the juju–your unique creative frequency–in.

2. Carry a notebook with you at all times. (I know, I don’t need to tell you this. But I’ll remind you.) Use whatever notebook you want, but don’t get so fancy that you’re intimidated. Your journal is your place to be messy, to explore, to capture insights and to play.

So you’ve got your excursions planned, you’re armed with your journal, now it’s time to add some of my creative tools.

A handful of creative tools for your excursions

I’ve pulled three of my creative excursion tools from my e-book, The Creative Toolkit for the Traveler. You already know the writing exercises, so here I offer non-verbal ways to overcome common writing challenges.

1. Sensual Focusing. Choose a different sense for each of your excursions. Today, pay attention to all the smells. Tomorrow, sounds. Practice identifying and describing them in unique ways.

By honing the senses, you attune yourself to the impact your surroundings have on you. This makes you a better writer, and you become a person who feels and appreciates the nuances of life more.

Try it: This week, choose a different sense each day, ending with intuition. Spend each day focusing on how you register and describe that sense’s effects. Do a ten-minute free write riff on each one.

2. Color focusing is a great right-left brain exercise. Writers need the ability to shift back and forth between the brain’s two hemispheres: feeling and perceiving things, then bringing them into form through the cognitive process of writing.

Choosing a different color for each day is a fun way to isolate your focus. It’s cool to see how your mind will pinpoint colors simply by telling it to observe the world in a certain way.

Then, by naming the colors, you push your description skills to come up with fresh ways to specify a common color. It also feels good to saturate your vision with color after facing the black and white of writing.

Try it: Choose a color before heading out for the day. Notice and record every version of that color. Red: traffic light, convertible, brick, dress, scarf, stop sign, etc. See how this changes your perception even when not practicing it.

3. Doodling and drawing. I know, I hear you groaning now. Many among us like to claim, “I can’t draw a straight line.” But sketching is a “gateway skill.” Among its many benefits, drawing can help a writer stay focused when she can’t get away from the computer.

Often when we’re writing an article or a scene in our novel, we sit at the keyboard and don’t know where to go next. We sense there’s a critical piece missing, but we can’t see what it is.

We’re likely to start surfing–visit our Facebook page, swing by HootSuite, watch a couple short videos. But while this fosters connection with others, it rarely leads to our next writing move.

Have your notebook near the computer. When you’re stumped, either turn toward it or walk to another seat, or preferably, head outside. Doodle abstract designs or sketch the tree or shrub in the backyard.

I can almost guarantee an idea for your next step will arise as if by magic. You’re exercising the right hemisphere of your brain, and allowing your left hemisphere to relax. You’re not filling your mind with others’ thoughts; you’re giving space to your own.

Try it: Start a doodle journal, or just draw in your regular notebook. Keep it by your side and in spare moments–waiting at the post office, on public transport, while tea is brewing–get quiet and sketch something.

This is not about producing a sketch you’ll frame and hang on the wall; it’s about relaxing enough to allow new associations to arise.

Dead simple but powerful

These creative tools are simple, yet the results can be profound–new insights, new directions for your work, ideas for articles, series or marketing strategies.

And you may have noticed, they’re all designed to help you slow down, pay attention, and enjoy your world more. So if you’re saying, “I don’t have time for that!” guess what–it’s time to make time. Your creativity depends on these interstices where you have space to breathe.

Try them out, and make up your own. Bring a writing pal and remember, the more you can play and open your mind, the more inspired your writing will be.

What works for you on your creative excursions? Share your creative tools here, and let us know how often you embark on your own curious excursions.

Cynthia Morris plays in many media–illustrated journal, video, photography, dance – to keep her writing fresh. Author of Create Your Writer’s Life, Cynthia also publishes a blog and Impulses, a bi-weekly newsletter, and she’s putting the finishing touches on her historical novel set in Paris. Cynthia has been coaching writers and artists since 1999 through her company, Original Impulse. Join her for a Curious Excursion this year in Boulder or Paris. Tune in to your juju at www.originalimpulse.com.

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17 comments on “Planning A Creative Adventure On A Low To No Budget

  1. Ollin says:

    Thanks Cynthia! What great ideas. I tried the color exercise and it was really fun. I agree with you, writers need to remember that we need to play, and that play is serious business. Thank you for sharing your expertise with us today!

    • Ollin, I’m glad you tried the color focusing. Isn’t it wild how immediately it shifts your perspective? I think this is a great exercise for all artists.

      Thanks for inviting me to guest post; it’s a real pleasure!

  2. kaleba says:

    Great reminder, Cynthia. You implied that we need balance, which is one of my favorite topics. I think balance is very important, but really hard to achieve. I spend lots of time outside with my dog, but not much doing any other balancing activity. I I think I’ll try one of your suggestions today! 🙂

    • Kaleba,
      Please do try one – they’re meant to be easy to play with.

      I don’t generally use the word ‘balance’ simply because it’s really shifting. It’s being able to easily shift between tasks and modes that makes us feel good. The notion of balance implies a state you achieve; I think it’s constantly moving!

      So glad you liked the article. Thanks for commenting!

  3. Love this post. It really is SO hard sometimes to pull myself away from the virtual world so I can go out and experience the real one. I have to keep telling myself “Just because Facebook is there, doesn’t mean you have to keep checking it.” That rarely helps, so I’m a big supporter of walking away from the computer. (Do I practice what I preach? Very, very rarely. I’m working on that.)

    So, thank you, Ms. Morris, for a fantastic post and great ideas, and thank you, Ollin, for hosting them. =]

    • Goggles,

      I love your perspective on FB – just because it’s there doesn’t mean… That’s great.

      Try trusting your instincts. When you get that physical or mental nudge to step away from the screen, please do it and see what happens. I find that following my own rhythms works best – just listening, mostly to my body, helps me walk the talk. Literally.🙂

      Glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks for commenting.

      • I’ll definitely start giving that a shot. Just because I’m AT the computer, doesn’t mean I’m making progress. Lol. Thanks so much for the advice.

  4. Going outside to “refresh” myself is my favorite creative excursion. Even if the weather isn’t nice, it’s completely invigorating to get fresh air and stimulate the senses.

  5. As I read the beginning of Ollin’s post, my attention kept noticing this statement at the top of the blog site: “This is the story of me writing my first novel… and how life keeps getting in the way.”

    Then I succumbed to my attention, and now I am writing a simple offering to consider if it fits: Perhaps reality is when we say yes to creating anything, the universe shows up with all the resources, tools and inspiration we need? In other words, in my own experiences I believe I have discovered that I must live my way into what I expect to reach, in order to more fully understand what it is that I have actually asked for! And, just going for it in more spontaneous responses is equally valuable and has merit!

    • Ollin says:

      “I have discovered that I must live my way into what I expect to reach, in order to more fully understand what it is that I have actually asked for!”

      A very complicated paradigm shift you asks us to make here Kerrie. But it’s a good one. Reminds me of Julia Cameron, I’m betting you read it? She says that as soon as we start a creative endeavor that the universe responds in big ways. Is that what you mean?

      But what I quoted from you above seems more complicated. Are you saying that we need to live what we are asking the universe for, in order to understand what exactly we are asking for? Woah. Mind flip.

      Great thoughts!

  6. I’m with you, Marnie. Even a wee break in the back yard gives so much. Time in nature is a huge gift for our creativity.

  7. Dana says:

    Cynthia, I just signed up for Ollin’s blog (because of your liking it on FB) and here you are! I especially like your suggestion of choosing a color for the day and focusing on that. And I chose the aqua/teal that is on your website – a watercolor wash that is edible, delectable. Thanks for all your ideas here, too. You share so much beauty.

    • Thanks, Dana! Your comment that I share so much beauty made my day. It’s a real gift to see/hear how my work impacts others.

      Happy to introduce you to Ollin’s work here!

  8. Cynthia,
    I really enjoyed this post. I especially liked your suggestion that writers should turn to doodling in a sketchbook when they get stuck, instead of turning to social media or online distractions that won’t help with the problem. I’ve always believed that different types of creativity are connected and that sometimes working on one type of art can help propel you forward in another.

    Ollin,
    I like your blog name, Courage 2 Create, and the topic. My blog Inspiration for Creation has very similar role. I’m also a writer, and I’m always looking for new sources of inspiration. I also like what kaleba said about balance. That is an area of life that I’m constantly working to improve.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Thanks, Becca. Try the doodling and see what it does for you. I love experiencing how different forms of creative play combine to help me succeed as a writer. I can actually feel my brain relax when I doodle or sketch, and it’s almost instantaneous.

  10. I love the idea of these “mini-adventures.” Writers sometimes forget that they need to live life to write about life. Interesting post!

  11. […] Thursday I talked about Cynthia Morris’s great idea of doodling in the midst of a writing project. The goal? To spark imagination and creativity. To power through writer’s block. Over the […]

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