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Stuck? 5 Quick Creative Assignments!
Dispatch #19: Courting ordinary magic
Maybe you’re like me: you doom-scrolled for hours yesterday & have a WTFDTG (Where The Fuck Did the Time Go) hangover. Or maybe you’re having a difficult time balancing the fact that Congress just met to discuss the very real possibility of aliens surveying us, with the imminent need to get your laundry done. Or maybe you have a book project - poetry, a novel, sci-fi, memoir, or all four - & you’re deadlocked. Or uninspired. Or intimidated to keep working on it.
It happens to the best of us. I was heartened recently to read Toni Morrison’s words on writer’s block, primarily, that she “take[s] [it] very seriously.” It certainly feels serious. Debilitating, even. So what can we do? I would argue that even if you’re not currently blocked, there are things anyone can do to open the aperture on our creativity, to practice receptivity, & court ordinary magic. Out of my own noticing practice, I’ve crafted 5 quick creative assignments for you. Let me know how they go & what you discover.
On a walk, or while running an errand, take 5 photographs of discarded things. Focus on somehow finding loveliness in tossed away objects, or garbage. (BONUS ROUND: Text a friend, AKA “The Competition” to do the same thing by a certain time in the evening. Share with each other. EXTRA BONUS ROUND: Loop in a 3rd friend, “The Judge,” to your text thread. At said time in the evening, you & your friend will go toe-to-toe, one photo at a time. The Judge will pick their favorite, each time, doing so for all 5 photos. Based on their private, completely subjective criteria, they must dub “The Winner” in as decadent & royal a language as possible.)
Take a gander around your home – is it business as usual, or can you find any rebellious creatures? A being that newly catches your eye? Name them. Give them an astrological sign. Decide on their profession.
Introducing, left to right: Melanie, Sagittarius, hair stylist. Cooper, Scorpio, flight attendant. (Lastly, what you see here are curls from my wife’s beautiful head, which somehow made their way into a container of Tylenol): Cousins Althea & Alberta, Virgo & Gemini, both are teachers by day - kindergarten & 6th grade, respectively - poker masters by night).
On a walk, or while running an errand, find “The Secret Protagonist!” The Secret Protagonist is living a rich, full life, unnoticed. But you noticed them. Why? What made them stand out? What makes them unique? What are their concerns; what do they desire? You can simply notice them (which is a wonderful thing to do), or you can create a poem or story centering them. Below is my Secret Protagonist, spotted near Union Square on a Thursday in New York City around 4 p.m.
On a day in which you are feeling very big feelings, ask someone to take a photograph of you in which you are very small. What do you see when you look at this being? How do you feel toward them? What would you like to offer them? Here I am at Riis beach last week. Photo by Angel.
On a walk, or while running an errand, seek out-of-place-text, or any text that leaps out at you as odd or multivalent.
There you are, friends. Remember, it’s not about making Good Art TM. It’s not even about secretly wishing this will feed your project, unblock you, or erase all your doubts & make you a Real Writer TM. It’s about living creatively. It’s about relaxing, observing, being open, & being willing to be surprised. & Ain’t that just a wonderful state to conjure, in & of itself?
Let’s see what happens!
With ample maple syrup,
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