Day 15 of Build Your Creative Confidence – Journaling for Creativity

journaling for creativity

journaling for creativity

Day 15 of Build Your Creative Confidence – Journaling for Creativity

I am getting on a plane today to return to my home in sunny Santa Barbara, California after two weeks in the Rocky Mountains. I love to fly and always find it a quiet, creative space to get some writing or reading done. Today I will be focusing on the fun mind training game below from writer Andy Shackworth. Andy and I “met” on Twitter and I love his series of articles on journaling for creativity, as well as his different mind games for building creative confidence. This activity is a perfect addition to my Ultimate Blog Challenge series on how to build your creative confidence.

Mind training games: Ten quirky thoughts

by Andy Shackworth

The Game

This one is a mind game at its simplest; just answer a question in ten quirky ways.

How to play

Find a clean page in your creative journal (a pair is best) and write down a simple question. The game works best if the question you choose isn’t complex. Next, answer it in ten quirky ways. The answers do not have to make sense or follow sound reasoning. In fact, the more tenuous the logic involved, the more ludicrous the reasoning, the more you will get out of doing the exercise.

When you are finished, draw circles around the one(s) you like the most, think are interesting or maybe the one(s) which are the funniest.

Finally, make an entry in your creative journal about the words you circled.

This exercise doesn’t have to be completed in one sitting and it makes for an ideal mental exercise when waiting or doing non-taxing activities.

For example:

Why do leaves fall in the autumn? Our ten quirky answers could be:

  • The sap has headed south for the winter.
  • It’s nature’s traffic light on the seasons.
  • Because they are browned off.
  • Like birds, leaves migrate south for the winter.
  • It took them all summer to figure out how to let go.
  • Because they are fed up with hanging around.
  • Because they have been working all summer long and want to have a lie down.
  • They wait until the sap has gone, then, since they are lighter, they don’t hurt themselves when they drop to the ground.
  • Once the weather changes, the trees drop their leaves to keep their toes warm.
  • Winter winds are very strong; trees drop all their leaves to stop the leaves acting like sails and the trees being blown over.

That’s ten, shall we carry on?

  • The leaves watched the seeds jump down to the ground and thought they would give it a try.
  • It’s the end of the trees’ autumn fashion show.
  • It’s an annual competition to see which leaf can fly the farthest. The big leaves always win, which is why the pine needles never join in.
  • With the sap on strike, they are forced to look for work elsewhere.
  • Because the leaves have become dry, brittle, crusty old codgers, they no longer want to hang around in crowds.
  • The trees like to wear their new twiggy hair styles for the winter balls.
  • In the weak, winter sun the trees no longer need and so can put down, their parasols of leaves.
  • The trees need to disrobe in order to wash their trunks in the winter rains.
  • Now the leaves have matured, they leave home to find their own place on the earth.
  • They shiver so much in the cold that they lose their footing and slip off the twigs.

Ok, now it is time for me to stop. We now have an additional ten quirky thoughts and once you are in the groove there is no need to stop at ten but always consider ten answers to be the absolute minimum. The above examples are written in the order they occurred to me. Have you noticed that as we progress down the list, there is a tendency for the answers to increase both in length and complexity? They also start to bring in ideas that are working by association with other ideas, but ideas which are in themselves illogical, for example, leaves are not adolescents, they don’t need their own place; but the creative-mind can easily accept this and as you may have reasoned already, it is the creative-mind that is providing the later answers.

Combating resistance with visual thinking

If your logical-mind resists the flow of illogical, creative ideas then you can move more of your mental focus on to your creative-mind by thinking visually. In engineering we call it ‘thinking with a pencil’; it is an old term, not yet superseded by silicon technology.

Quite simply, in the centre of a blank area on your page, sketch an illustration that represents the question. This sketch will form the beginnings of a mind map. Then around the sketch place more sketches or words that you associate with the central sketch. Group these where they group naturally and link things to each other with lines, arrows, clouds etc. By drawing and grouping your answers around the central image, you force the visual, associative right-side of the brain, your creative-mind, to become more involved in the processing of the question. Additionally, since the question is now mostly visual, the left-side, the logical-mind steps away from the task since it is not best suited to and has trouble with processing graphical and associative thoughts.

For the above question I drew the following mind map, as you can see it is no work of art. With this game, you are not looking for publication standard graphics; instead quick, messy and complex works best. The more you draw, the more you keep your logical-mind from interfering.

visual thinking for building creative confidence

The purpose of the game

The main purpose of this mind training game is to exercise getting in contact with your creative-mind and develop the ability to freely associate diverse ideas together.

The secondary purpose is to help you become more aware of the point when the mind switches from the logical-mind over to the creative-mind; to learn how to hear yourself. When you start writing; your initial answers will tend to be short and mostly logical. However, after a short while these answers start to dry up and you find yourself struggling to pluck the next one from your mind. After further fruitless mental exertion, you will notice a tendency to visualise the question in your mind rather than just trying to think of an answer. Hopefully at this point you will also notice more ideas beginning to enter your mind.

This is the point when the powerful and illogical associative abilities of your creative-brain can be heard, don’t think too hard; instead learn to listen quietly and patiently to your artistic voice.


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  1. Nicki Sanders on July 15, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    Great post. Very creative and just plain fun!!

    • minette on July 15, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      I agree Nicki, and one you can play over and over!

  2. I love this post Minette. What an awesome game to stimulate and activate the ideas that are there but sometimes so hard for us to discover or bring forth to our consciousness. This is definitely a tool to keep and implement. Thank you.

    Hi, I am a fellow Ultimate Blogger,so nice to meet you.

    • minette on July 15, 2013 at 5:16 pm

      Nice to meet you, too, Wendy! Yes, this is a super fun game that Andy created!

  3. Andy Shackcloth on July 16, 2013 at 3:53 am

    Hi Nicki and Wendy,
    Thank you both for your kind words.
    You have both made me very happy that you liked this game.

    Although it does have a serious side Nicki is spot-on with her assessment; “and just plain fun!!”. You can also play it with your children or grand children during car journeys.
    However, they will always dream up more quirky ideas than you will.

    Minette, and thanks to you, dear lady, for including one of my posts in your brilliant 31 day building creativity challenge. I’m honoured.

  4. […] you today from writer Andy Shackloth. If you missed his first post on Ten Quirky Thoughts, read it here. I asked Andy to talk about working with our inner critic as he had several great articles related […]

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