Creative Prompt (Lost shoe series #3): A Tiny Rainbow

There is something equally charming and forlorn for me in seeing a lost child’s shoe. This one in particular caught my eye because of the little rainbow on the side of it. I took the photo in gloomy weather on a shabby part of a main road, and the little flash of colour caught my eye.

The shoe remained there for a few days after I took the photo, moving up and down the pavement a little bit, perhapse being moved to more prominent locations by a pair of helpful hands, before it eventually dissapeared. Perhaps it was finally reclaimed by it’s owner.

Like the other two prompts in this series (you can see them here and here), this photo makes me think of crime thrillers or police procedural TV shows. A child’s shoe on the pavement could be a good opening scene to a story in these genres.

How could it have got there? What could have happened?

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these so please do link to blog posts or comment below.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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I’ve started using a planner and I really like it

This post contains quite a few affiliate links to things I have found helpful. If you buy any of these things using these links Amazon will send me a small amount of money as a referral fee. But there’s no pressure on anyone to do that, I just wanted to write about a few things that I personally have found helpful.

Over the last year and a bit I’ve been engaged in an ‘on again, off again’ project to try to become more organised. I wouldn’t claim to be a particularly organised person, mostly because in the past I had plenty of spare time and was able to waste quite a lot of it without feeling too bad. That isn’t to say that I was actually productive, but I did do some things, so I guess I didn’t notice how unproductive I was when I had acres of time to waste.

Now I have a toddler things are very different, and I want to make the most of the little time I do have and complete some artistic things in it. In the last year I made a lot of effort to make sure I sat down to do something everytime I had a patch of time (and wasn’t in desperate need of a nap), and for a while felt quite productive. I think just establishing the habit in the first place was helpful at the start. But over time I began to realise that while I was doing things, I still didn’t seem to be able to actually finishing projects.

So then I went off and listened to some of those productivity podcasts and read some books about productivity systems. While most of them were helpful, they seemed to be aimed at people who did a different kind of work, the kind of work that can easily be split up into discrete tasks. In contrast I find that with a lot of my creative work, particularly my writing, how I would split it up into tasks like that is often a bit unclear. Then I stumbled across the book ‘From Chaos to Creativity’ by Jessie L Kwak (affiliate link) which is a book about productivity and creativity written by someone who is a working writer and who understands the sometimes nebulous nature of creative work. Personally, this is the book on productivity that made sense to me (indeed I’m planning on re-reading it this year), but after a good start I will say I have struggled to implement some of the advice that I thought was most helpful about actually planning work.

In January last year someone reccomended a planner that was specifically designed for writers and creatives by Audrey Ann Hughey. So I bought the 2021 version of the planner at the beginning of 2021, but am so disorganised that didn’t start using it until January 2022, and have been revising the dates as I go. In the past I have been one of those people who were very skeptical of planners, and a few years ago would probably have dismissed it. I think I was quite attached to the idea of creativity being this organic, fluid process that needed as few boundaries as possible, and the idea that you would actually plan that was difficult for me. This just goes to show how sometimes the stories we tell ourselves about the things we want to do can get in the way of actually doing the things we want to do.

For some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, I feel differently this year. There are things I want not only to work on, but to actually finish, and when I finish those things I want to actually get them to an audience. So I have picked up that planner and really tried to engage with it, and so far I’m finding it has made a real difference to my creative work.

What I really liked about the 2021 Author’s Planner (the 2022 version is available here, and an undated version is available here – affiliate links) is that it has sections that are designed to help you think about different aspects of your work, including (but not limited to); what your big picture ambitions are; how you want to use social media; what your expenses and income are; what your general plan is; and sections that give you more granular space to plan what you are going to do over the next year, three months, month and coming week.

I’ve been using the planner for about two weeks and I have already finished something! This week I’ve submitted a short story to a magazine. I had stopped working on it when there wasn’t a huge amount of work left to do (which seems to be the point at which I abandon a lot of projects). At the beginning of the year I set myself the focus of submitting that story in January, and by the end of the first week I had done that.

As we are only a few weeks into January, it remains to be seen if I can manage to be organised enough to continue using the planner, or if I fall of the productivity wagon again. But I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon page here.

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Creative Prompts (Lost shoe series #2): A Missing Step

For reasons that I don’t fully understand, I see a lot of lost or abandoned shoes about. So many that I only stop to take a photograph these days if there is something particularly odd or interesting about them or the way they are positioned.

When I spotted these shoes the other morning in the car park of a super market my first thought was ‘huh, that’s odd’. There is something about the way they are positioned which invokes movement of a person in my mind, or perhapse a journey. It’s a bit like someone, for an unknown reason, has kicked off their shoes as they were rushing away from something, or rushing towards somthing.

Why would somone discard their shoes like this? What do you think that thing was?

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these so please do link to blog posts or comment below.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Curiosity, creativity and an encounter with an oven

Just before Christmas I was out in the morning doing the nursery run, when I spotted this oven and stopped to take a photo. I liked the way that it was peaking out from behind the tree. I was thinking to myself I wonder who left that there? Why leave it there, although the poor thing has probably been fly tipped and is destined for the dump.

On my way back from my encounter with the oven my mind followed a tangled strand of thought into the area of curiosity and creativty. At the moment I don’t have a huge amount of time to spend on my creative projects, most of my time is spent either working on the day job, or looking after Toddler Magpie. Sometimes this is frustrating, but I am not sorry. Time spent with him has been it’s own eduction is creativity.

That morning I was thinking about how if you are a toddler, expressing curiosity and giving something a try, even when you can’t really do it yet, is cause for celebration and encouragment from people around them. Somehow by the time we reach adulthood, for many of us this exact same process has earned us ridicule and sometimes even rejection. I began to wonder if the fear of being seen to get something wrong, or to not to already know the answer, stifles the natural curious instincts we are born with in many adults. Maybe adulthood trains it out of us, as we are busy struggling through other things?

During this last year and a bit of creative prompts (for all the links see this post) I have found myself re-claiming that sense of curiosity. Perhaps I am now known locally as that eccentric lady with a pram who stops to take photos of rubbish. I think I can take that. These days I’m too busy asking myself questions that often lead to other ideas and other creative projects.

I wonder who?

I wonder what?

I wonder why?

I wonder how?

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you are interested in the process of creativity and want to get a copy of my free short book of creative prompts, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Creative Prompt (Lost shoe series #1): ‘Was there a body nearby?’

It doesn’t happen to me very often, but now and again you see something and a blog post almost writes itself. That’s what happened with this creative prompt. I was out walking with my son on New Year’s Day, having taken him to the park to burn off some of that Christmas energy, and we were on our way home via the train station so that he could look at some trains.

Just outside our local station is a set of railings that fence off the embankment for the tracks leading inot the platforms. Over time the space between the slope of the embankment and the fencing has become full of stuff. Rubbish, brambles (both dead and alive), and odd bits of clothing. I saw this shoe poking out near the bottom of the rails and stopped to take a photo.

Later in the week I posted the photo on instagram (you can follow me here, should you want to) and someone made a comment along the lines of ‘was there a body nearby?’ which I found kind of funny. But it did get me thinking – given the build up of stuff behind those railings, who knows what is burried at the bottom of it? It feels like it could be the beginning of a good thriller or police procedural story for someone.

Who do you think the shoe could have belonged to? How do you think it got there?

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these so please do link to blog posts or comment below.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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A year and more in creative prompts: all the links

Happy New Year!

It’s been a little bit over a year since I began posting regular (sometimes weekly) creative prompts for anyone who may find them useful. My normal format now is to post a photograph of something I find interesting or quirky, and to add some thoughts or observations of my own. This is a format that had developed over time – as you’ll see the prompts in 2020 posts were quite minimal, with a photo and a very simple caption. Over time the written parts of the posts have developed into longer, slightly more complicated thoughts or questions. This culminated earlier in the year in the production of a little book of prompts and thoughts about creativity, which you can get here for free if you sign up to my mailing list.

When I started writing this post I had an idea that I would wrap up the year by posting all of the creative prompts from 2021, but as I began going back through my posts I realised that I had actually been posting these for a little bit longer than a year, and that there were patches of time earlier in 2021 when I didn’t post at all. I had wanted to write a post that bought them all together in one place, as thank you for anyone who has been following along with these posts. So, here they are, all 49 of them, in one place. I hope this year proves to be a little kinder to the world than the last two have been.

Prompts from 2020:

Prompts from 2021:

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Creative Prompt: The Chariot (to take us into the new year)

We had a cold snap about a week ago, and while I was walking towards my home one morning I noticed this little car, dusted with frost, sitting on the wall. As we were approaching the end of another strange year, it bought to mind the idea of a chariot to carry us into the next one.

In normal times, for many people the turn of the year is a time to reflect on what has happened over the months that have past, and think about what they may want to do in the months to come. It is a time for resolutions. But these have not been normal times, and making any concrete plans for the next few months may feel premature to many.

I’m not a fan of New Year resolutions in any kind of time, as my ideas seem to shift frequently enough to make them feel outdated quite quickly. I have a list of projects that I have been working on for a while, and I’ll continue to inch towards the finish lines with those, but this doesnt feel like a new ‘resolution’, just a continuation of what I’ve been doing over the last few years. However I do think it’s quite a good time to stop and take stock, creatively speaking, of how things have been developing and to think about what may come next.

While this wasn’t part of the plan when I started them (like there was a plan!), these creative prompt posts are becoming quite in interesting space to explore ideas in a short form way that won’t necessarily make it into bigger projects. A few weeks ago I published a series about neighbourhood intrigues (here, here and here) that diverged a little from my usual format, and detailed strange little incidents or behaviours I had observed in my local area. I had begun to feel like I was writing the same thing over and over, so to do something a bit different was refreshing and enjoyable. I’m hoping to do a bit more of this, and to also explore some other sources of inspiration. I have wanted to take a deeper look into the idea of psychological archetypes for some time, and these posts may lend themselves quite well to this. So, look out for a few new approaches from me next year. I hope that this time provides you a similar moment of pause, that allows new ideas to flow.

Do you have new creative ideas that you would like to pursue next year? Where may this chariot carry you?

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Creative Prompt: Red Riding Hood

I was out and about with Baby Magpie in the park this week when I saw this coat hanging from the wire guard on this tree. The contrast of the red against the green grass was quite striking at the time although the photo doesn’t quite do that justice.

For me the time around Christmas and New Year has always been steeped in story, and is a time for indulging in fairy tales, magic and myth. The coat bought to mind the story of Red Riding Hood, of the little girl in a bright coat who has a close en. However there is a bit of a twist. Hanging next to the coat were another set of lost keys, again slightly tarnished and old looking.

It made me wonder who a modern day Red Riding Hood may be off to see, what door would those keys unlock?

I’m not a huge fan of creative exercises, so it’s not my habit to tell people what to do with these prompts. There are lots of options – a scene, some flash fiction, a short story, an idea for a short film or a physical piece of art. If you do have a go with this one and would like to drop the result in the comments please do so. I would be very interested to see what people make of these.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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The Heroine’s Journey is the narrative template we all need right now.

I’ve been sitting on this post for quite a while now, having first drafted it when I was listening to the audiobook of The Heroine’s Journey by Gail Carriger (affiliate link) back in the summer on Audible (affiliate link). I’m not really sure why I’ve held on to it for so long, other than I wasn’t quite clear on what I wanted to say. But a few weeks before the holiday season begins feels like an appropriate time to put this put there, so I’ve tried to pull those thoughts together a bit more coherently.

Anyone who has tried to write long form fiction will have heard about The Hero’s Journey, which was described by Joseph Cambell in his book The Hero With a Thousand Faces (affiliate link), which is a kind of narrative template that forms the backbone of many, many books and films and describes the archetypal ‘journey’ which will take a hero from the start, to the end of the story.

I had come across this template when I was completing my PhD in the psychology of stories and how they influence us, and found it an interesting and useful tool in helping to shape a story in progress. However, over time I have become increasingly troubled. I’m not going to go into the specifics of the template, as this has been done many, many times before, but the main point of the journey is that while a hero may pick up many comrades along the way, to eventually save the day he must face the major challenges alone. When he returns home, he is so deeply changed by his journey that he may not be able to find his place there again.

My main beef with this, apart from being such a poor representation of so many of the real life major human triumphs, is that is sends such a troubling message. The kind of individualism glorified by the Hero’s Journey implies that anyone who needs help, who can’t defeat their deamons on their own, is essentially weak. I’m thinking specifically through a mental health lense when I say this (I have worked in mental health research for almost ten years). This is not the first time that I have said that we need better stories about mental health, and I really think that the focus on doing it alone, or failing alone, is part of the problem here. But my thinking hasn’t got very far on how we do that. As we all know, it is easy to point out a problem, but not nearly as easy to point to a solution.

Luckily for me, Gail Carriger has written a really great book about the alternative narrative framework, The Heroine’s Journey. If you have not read it, and you are interested in telling stories that offer an alternative to the ‘going it alone’ narrative, I strongly suggest that you read (or listen to) this book.

I’m not going to do a thorough summary this complex and rich book here, as that wasn’t my intention when I wrote this post. The headline is that Carriger carefully unpicks the Hero’s Journey, and explains exactly how the Heroine’s Journey is different. The main point that I am attracted to, both for my own work and for the more general message it sends, is that strength comes from building and working with a community of like minded people. The heroine will collect together a group of trusted co-travellers, seek collaboration, compromise and peace rather than revenge, and will prioritise protecting the people she loves over the glory of a victory. Through this process the heroine will get to know each one of her co-travellers, undertand their talents, and when the time comes, give them their moment to shine.

As Carriger states, to the heroine, ‘Asking for help is not seen as a weakness, it is the very definition of her strength,’ (I’m really sorry, I don’t know the page number for this) which for me is an essentially positive message with particular relevance to mental health.

In these difficult, and isolating times, we need to move past narratives that further promote the kind of individualism that can be toxic to mental health and look to something that helps us reclaim the value that can be found in connection and in community.

The Heroine’s Journey is the narrative template we all need right now.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you creative prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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Weekend work in progress: Paper-cut Fox

Hi Magpies! A little bonus blog this weekend to give you a sneaky peak at one of my works in progress. It’s a paper cut art work snapped about half way through the process. After this point I normally use the white cut out as a template for coloured paper and add in some other materials like beads and cloth to enrich the image.

This particular piece is for a short story I have been writing around some of the creative prompts I have been posting every Friday. I’m not sure if I’ll finish in time for Christmas but that’s the vague plan.

If you are interested in seeing some of my finished pieces, and want to throw some Christmas shopping into the mix too, you can have a look at my work on my Redbubble shop here. For the next five days (Nov 26 – Nov 30 2021) you can get between 20 and 60% off if you use the discount code CYBER5.

I hope you are all having a great weekend 🙂.

Thank you for reading. I also write, make art and films. If you like these prompts and want to get a copy of a free short book of them I wrote, and to hear more about my writing projects please join my mailing list here. You can see my films at my YouTube channel here. You can see things with my designs on at my shop here. Could even treat yourself if you wanted to. Just saying. If buying art is not your thing, but you would like to support what you see I also have a Patreon Page here.

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