Identifying your book's audience photo: the word audience on a dry erase board with arrows pointing to it.

Play 2 Games to Jumpstart Your Creativity

Something’s wrong and I don’t know what to do.

So many of last week’s conversations with students, colleagues, and even mentors started this way. Most were followed by stories about not wanting to write or feeling like everything they’d written was total crap. Things outside their writing lives weren’t much better. Projects languished. Old feelings of the shit, this again? variety crept in. Life felt pretty sludgy.

Sound familiar?

Guest what? I felt it too.

By Thursday, I realized it wasn’t me—or you.

Sometimes, the world is in a galactic funk, and all we can do is have faith that our writing will flow again.

But getting past the slump is just the first hurdle. Then, you have to rebuild your momentum.

The easiest way to jumpstart your creativity is through play.

When you play, you throw out the rules, let go of your goals, and do something just for fun.
Non-structured play rife with novelty—or new ways of looking at things—is often the kind of play you need.
Here are two ways to use novelty and play to revamp your writing life.

Jumpstart Your Creativity with The Writers Toolbox

Young Adult/Fantasy author Amelie Corner introduced me to this game during the James River Writers Springboard! Retreat. 

The Toolbox, which costs around $25, includes an instruction manual, deck of cards, spinners, and popsicle sticks with prompts designed to help you stave off writer’s block by guiding you through the most common story problems.

In one game, you choose a First Line stick, write for a few minutes, then randomly choose a Non Sequitur stick, which is designed to “get your story or poem moving through time and space.” After more writing, you choose a Last Straw stick, which helps you build an arc.

Totally fun, right?

After completing this exercise, you can use the sixth sense cards to infuse your writing with more sensory details.

Use the spinners to play the Protagonist’s Game, which creator Jamie Cat Callan says, “is great for writers who struggle with plot.”
You’ll find detailed instructions and additional information on how stories are built inside the Toolbox’s instruction manual.

I found this to be pure genius in a 21st century world that often dismisses non-tech entry points for our stories. I know first hand that staring at a screen won’t solve most story problems. You need to activate other parts of your brain—something touch helps you do.

Amelie introduced me to this game after working through a low-tech exercise I designed called the Perpetual Prompt Generator.
I created this customizable game for writers who saw general prompts as a distraction from their primary projects.

Jumpstart Your Creativity with The Perpetual Prompt Generator Game

Here’s how to play:

  • Step One: Create three columns on a sheet of paper. At the top of the first column, write one of the following: scenes to be written, topics to write about, or story ideas. At the top of the second column, write one of the following: important objects, types of conflict, or settings. At the top of the third column, write emotions.
  • Step Two: Set a timer for three minutes and jot down a list of items for column one. Repeat this exercise for columns two and three. If you get stuck on types of emotions, you can find a comprehensive list by clicking here.
  • Step Three: Gather three sets of different colored notecards (for example, yellow, pink, and blue) then deal out three stacks of ten.
  • Step Four: Star ten items from each column. For the emotions, make sure you have a balance of dark and light emotions.
  • Step Five: Place one starred item from column one on each of the ten cards from your first colored stack. Repeat this process for columns two and three.
  • Step Six: Shuffle the cards and place them face down on a table.
  • Step Seven: Draw one card from each color.
  • Step Eight: Set a timer for twenty minutes, then write something that incorporates all three cards.

Over the years, writers have told me this seemingly random game has revitalized stuck or flagging projects by helping them see their work in a new way.

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