Get your writing into shape. Quick creative writing tasks to experiment with every day.

Triangles. Diamonds. Squares. Get your writing into shape.

Writing should be fun. It should be a source of creative enjoyment. But sometimes you can hit a rut. Writer’s block. Stagnation. So it’s important to have a few tools at your disposal to help you break through the wall and knock your writing back into shape.

These quick writing exercises will do just that.

Shape your writing!

Syllable Symbolism

Writers have always imposed constraints on their work to inspire creativity. And the use of syllables to impose a structure or limitation on your writing is a firm favourite.

There are many established forms based around syllable length: Iambic Pentameter, Haiku, Tanka.

These are some of the more easily identifiable verse forms. There are, of course many more. It just goes to show the importance of imposing restrictions on your work in order to develop creative responses.

So, borrowing from traditions of syllabic structures in writing, I’d like to propose the following three techniques to help you whip your words into shape, and have fun doing it:

1) It’s hip to be square

Turn  your  words   into   a  square.
Set      a      syllable      length     per
line  and  stick  to  it  as  best   you
can. Going down you should then
use   the   same  number   of   lines
as     you     have     used    syllables.
In      this      case     it      is      seven.

Ok, so this example might not look like a square, but that’s not the point.

It IS a square.

A 7-syllable by 7-line square.

Restrict yourself to a set number of syllables per line. Whatever the number you determine is, make that the number of lines of writing you will allow yourself in order to create your text.

2) Now try angles

There’s a pattern emerging here (excuse the puns).

I
will try
to show you
exactly    how
this writing technique
works, demonstrating how
you    can    use    syllables   to
shape      a      text.      Continually
add one more syllable to each new
line  of  text   so  it  forms   a   triangle.
Narrow   at   the   top   and   ever   widening
as you progress towards the bottom of the text.

Again, this is not an exact visual science. But we’re not looking for exact visuals.

This is just another way you can inject some fun and creativity into your writing by using syllable structures.

The objective is to work within the constraints of the form and challenge yourself to think of creative ways to harness the restrictions of the form.

3) Diamonds are forever

                                                          Just
                                                       like the
                                                      previous
                                             form, this writing
                                           technique relies on
                                          adding syllables per
                                      line of text up to a point,
                                           before beginning to
                                             remove syllables
                                              all the way back
                                                     down to a
                                                          single
                                                            one.

It’s silly. I know. But it’s a different way of thinking. A different way of writing. And, more importantly, it’s a way of refocusing your mind.

The shape of things to come

If you are stuck for ideas. When you hit a wall and find yourself struggling to get words down on the page. Break away and play with words for a bit.

Get your writing back into shape.

Figuratively.

Literally.

Creatively.

 

Gareth

 

 

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3 Creative Tasks To Help You Break Free From Your Fear Of Failure

Hear no failure. See no failure. Speak no failure.

Fear of failure is the reason you’re not succeeding. Whether you think so or not, you are afraid to fail. Now’s the time to break free of the psychological preconditioning preventing you from maximising your potential.

“I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work.” ~ Thomas Edison

Rules Schmules!

Children are inherently creative. Why?

More heart, less head. No fear of failure. No self-editing. They are still learning and figuring out the world and what they are capable of. They aren’t afraid of what other people think.

Adults are more resistant. Afraid of not knowing. We fear failure. More importantly, we’re afraid of the way our failures are perceived by others – colleagues and superiors.

Appearances matter. And they hold us back.

Find Your Inner Child

Everyone has an inner child (the creative free spirit) but as we grow older and take on responsibilities we bury this deeper and ignore it.

Giving your inner child a chance to express itself and have fun helps the adult ‘you’ become more creative.

Creativity is play.

Creativity is exploring the world around you. Discover your limitations. Find ways of solving the problems you face. Experiment. Fail. And don’t worry about it.

“If you obey all the rules you miss all the fun.” ~ Katharine Hepburn

Would you stop your kid learning how to walk after they fell over once? Twice? Five times?”

You learn more through failure. Embrace it. Learn what doesn’t work. Get one step closer to discovering what does.

Quantity Is The Route To Quality

Quality is what we all strive for and are pressured to achieve immediately – deadlines!

You can only get true quality by going through a process of generating QUANTITY.

“In 1953, a fledgling company called Rocket Chemical Company and its staff of three set out to create a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for use in the aerospace industry. Working in a small lab in San Diego, California, it took them 40 attempts to get the water displacing formula worked out… WD-40® [was] perfected on the 40th try.”

(Source: https://www.wd40.com/cool-stuff/history)

 

Get ALL your ideas down.

No matter how childish, insane or improbable they may seem, DON’T SELF-EDIT. One of those ideas, or a combination of those ideas, could be the killer creative solution to your problem.

Unschool Yourself

Traditional approaches to education group and classify students depending on their age, background and perceived ability, based on standardised testing.

In school we are judged against static criteria. We are standardised. Everyone has their progress mapped out. We become part of an educational conveyor belt.

This model tells us what we are supposed to achieve by certain points in our life. When we should be able to read. What we should be able to read. How we should write. When we should be able to demonstrate these skills.

There’s one problem.

We don’t learn in a linear fashion.

What people think learning looks like vs. What learning really looks like

(Adapted from an original image by Demetri Martin. Source: https://georgecouros.ca/blog/archives/5935)

 

This is the major flaw in the system. We learn and develop at different rates, in different ways. Yet we have to conform.

Creativity is beaten out of us.

Independent thought is nothing more than an aspiration; spoon-feeding is the reality because failure is not an option.

Failure is the best option.

Resilience is key.

Prepare To Love Failure!

The following tasks and activities are designed to help you break free from the fear of failure. Shifting the importance away from the end product, they focus on the process. They encourage creative silliness and remove the pressure of how ideas will be received and perceived.

Because the outcomes don’t matter, we are freed to express ourselves with the same reckless abandon that children have. It’s playful.

You can’t fail. But you can learn from the process.

1. The Alternative Uses Test

Our brains are conditioned to protect us from risk and err on the side of caution, preferring things that have worked previously – the Comfort Zone. This is why we end up generating the same ideas. You need to trick your brain into thinking differently.

J.P. Guilford developed the Alternative Uses Test to stretch our creativity. You have two minutes to think of as many possible alternative uses for an everyday object – like a phone, a blob of sticky tack, or a chair.

For example, “paper clips” could move beyond simply keeping your papers together to become: cufflinks, earrings, imitation mini-trombones, something you use to push the emergency restart button on your router, a way of keeping headphones from getting tangled up, a bookmark.

Try it yourself and see:

  • how many different uses you can come up with,
  • how uncommon or original the uses are,
  • how many different categories your answers cover (cufflinks and earrings are both accessories – one category )
  • how detailed and elaborate your responses are.

2. Torrance’s ‘Incomplete Figure’

Ellis Paul Torrance developed the Incomplete Figure test. This drawing challenge formed part of the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking (TTCT), a creativity-oriented alternative to traditional IQ tests. The result is a game similar to exquisite corpse.

You’re given a shape (like the one below, courtesy of What I See When I Look At), and then asked to complete the image.

 What I See When Spiral

(Click on the image to see some examples)

3. A Beautiful Constraint

Try imposing limits and restrictions on your work.

Hang on a minute. You’ve been going on about breaking free from constraints and self-imposed limits. What gives?”

At the risk of sounding contradictory, limiting yourself can actually help you be more creative.

“Adopting a ‘Transformer Mindset’ means viewing our constraint positively and possibly increasing the ambition along the way.”

(Source: http://www.abeautifulconstraint.com/the-process)

 

It is surprisingly easy to spend a lot of time doing very little.

Do more with less time! Force yourself to complete tasks quicker and with fewer resources.

 

 For example:

Write a story in 50 words. Then halve it. Reduce it further to 10 words. Or 6 words.

 

Creative constraints are the premise behind the One Minute Briefs I regularly enter (One Rule. One Minute. Create an Ad). Or the lipograms I write (no ‘a’ and no ‘e’).

If you impose restrictions you force creative thinking and problem solving. But most importantly you build resilience and you get over the fear of failure.

Because you don’t allow yourself time to be afraid of the outcome.

All you are focused on is getting the task done. Who cares what anyone thinks? Just get something done.

This can be transferred to any number of creative scenarios. Take the Status Quo approach to music and only use a small handful of chords in your song. Or limit the amount of colours you use in your designs.

These restrictions can bring out your most creative side.

Take Away Thoughts

Free your inner child.

Be childlike in your approach to tasks. We are all always learning.

Have fun. Create without restraint. Don’t self-edit. Don’t worry about what anyone thinks of your ideas. This will be liberating.

Ideas are a process, not the end product.

Make mistakes. Learn from them.

Keep up to date with my regular creative challenges on Twitter and via my blog. Join me as I explore more ways to help you break free from the fear of failure.

 

Gareth

 

 

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I stopped using ‘e’ and it was hard!

Proud as a peacock with my lipogram efforts

Look! It’s a lipogram minus that fifth symbol in our Anglo-Saxon syllabary!

My last post about not using ‘a’ in my writing was fairly fruitful. But now a similar trial has found its way onto my lap(top). My task? To draft a lipogram without using that fifth symbol in our Anglo-Saxon syllabary at any point in my post.

I told you so!

Why am I doing this ridiculously tricky task? A pal said that I should.

That’s it…

To his mind my prior post was too straightforward and had nothing to it.

Don’t assign any “A’s” to your writing? No probs! Any fool with a modicum of insight and imagination can do that!

But that fifth symbol. That sign that is customarily found in our writing. Omitting that is a fitting confirmation of skill (and impulsivity).

Prior to this I thought I was foolhardy. Now I know that I am just a stubborn ass in my pursuit of lipogrammatic triumph.

I want to say to my old amigo “I told you so! I told you I could do it!”

So it’s onwards and upwards from this point forward.

Sitting on top of a building looking down at the world beneath your feet.

THIS is strikingly difficult.

But still a fantastic brain workout.

As with my last post of this kind, I truly savour how writing drills of this sort focus your mind. By imposing limitations and constraints on your work you ask that your brain think in distinct ways to find solutions.

It boosts your vocabulary too!

Any author or artistic individual will find this kind of activity fulfilling and possibly a bit hooking.

I know I do!

Mostly to confirm that I can actually accomplish such a tortuous task.

This is why YOU should try it.

Lipograms afford you an opportunity to amplify your capacity with words.

If you blog, you must try this task.

If you find joy in writing, you will fancy giving this a go.

If nothing, it’s a fantastic distraction from doing actual work! I think that is a major contributing factor to my frolics with lipograms.

As with anything you do, it’s a bit of a thrill to find triumph in any taxing task.

Writing this lipogram was fun.

And that’s most important.

I found I was grinning on many occasions during my writing. Such silly actions can add fun to a working day, and possibly stop it from spiralling down into banality.

It’s a way of splitting up that long list of tasks you must finish, with original and unusual thinking. It might aid you in accomplishing your goals by providing you with a surprisingly vanguard approach to your work.

In summary…

Writing should thrill you.

So add fun to it!

Assist and boost your brain into thinking in distinct ways. If your writing is stagnant you will find this kind of activity handy. It’s a practical way out of mind rot.

Why not play along? Do your own lipogram.

Push your mind and your words to work for you.

So, in conclusion…

I want to proclaim this as a linguistic victory.

I’m as proud as a bird with ridiculously long tail quills!


Gar’th

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Is it possible to write a blog post without using the letter ‘a’?

Man writing a letter in his journal

OR, “Is it possible to write without using the first morpheme in the English linguistic system?”

This is difficult. Every other word I wish to use includes the forbidden letter! I don’t know why I set myself this test.

Never mind. Here goes.

I’m proving nothing, except being one dogged, determined moron, striving to justify this ludicrous blog.

It’s completely impulsive; needless even. But there you go. Up to this point it’s been shown to be possible.

How long will I keep it up?

Who knows! I guess it depends on the following five things:

1) My sheer bloody-mindedness. The demented willingness to continue with this buffoonery.

b) The need to hit the prerequisite word count for blog posts. You know, for SEO purposes of course.

c) It gives me more time to think of which keywords to include… Which ones get reproduced often enough throughout this post? Plus, more words will help hike up my word count.

d) People like lists! Or so I’m told.

e) The childish joy I derived from contriving this list without using the letter in question.

Lightbulb

Letter could be the keyword I’m looking for!

Come to think of it.

It does seem the most likely. So I’ve included it in the sub. Then it becomes obvious to everyone. It is definitely the subject of the blog.

Envision the Google query: blogs touching on the subject of letters.

Completely nuts!

But honestly, this isn’t so difficult, now I consider it.

I think I’ve proved the point I set out to prove.

It is entirely possible to write enough semi-coherent content without using the letter I set out not to use.

I think I’ve done pretty well to get to this point. Even though it’s not my best piece of written work – quite repetitive I feel – I hope it will get me noticed!

It’s been childish, frivolous, idiotic, but downright good fun! If you enjoy writing, of course.

But now I think I’m done. So I’m going to sign off.

Why don’t you try it?

Go on. Test yourself!

Let me know how it goes! Comment below or Tweet me.

G’reth

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It’s Been An OMBelievable Start to 2018: January in Summary

Cheeky monkey smiling at the camera. Just like me this January!

It’s been a whirlwind start to 2018. January has been a month full of exciting developments. Here’s my OMBelievable summary of the year so far.

January: Out With The Old, In With The New

The bubbly had barely left the bottle and things were already afoot. There was no hanging about. By the end of the first week of the new year I had re-launched my website with a fresh new template.

There was a new blog with the promise of regular new content and a determination to make things happen.

Straight into fifth gear!

Welcome OMBoard!

January 15th, and the days were about to get a lot brighter.

This was the day I became an OMBassador and member of the OMBoard. A real honour. It was an epic email to wake up to from Nick Entwistle (so much scrolling!) and a powerful end to the second week in January.

This is INKredible!

The dust had barely settled on the OMBoard announcement. But there was more big news to be had in January.

Only seven days had passed since becoming an OMBassador when I officially joined the Social Ink team, January 22nd, as Content Marketing Manager.

I’d previously worked with Chris and the team back when they were Just Consulting Ltd. as a copywriter and editor. I love what they do and I admire their work ethic. This was something I wanted to be a part of.

A total no-brainer!

Time to make an imPACT

I cut my teeth with Social Ink pretty quickly. My first blog post went live January 24th – The Value of Social Media for Business: Where’s the ROI?

This was quickly followed by a piece for #NationalStorytellingWeek – Social Media is Storytelling: Build Your Brand and Boost Engagement on Social Media Through Narrative.

Since then the content has been coming thick and fast, with further blogs, podcasts, Facebook Live discussions and infographics amongst the ideas already in the pipeline.

Keep checking the Social Ink Blog and Facebook Page or join our All About Digital Marketing discussion group on Facebook for updates.

Jan in 60 seconds! (43s actually)

To crown it all off, I set myself the challenge of completing at least one OMB for every brief set in January. Just to keep the creative juices flowing.

And here they all are. Edited together in celebration of one helluva month!

So, here’s to February!

(And every month after that)

Gareth

 

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