Between the Lines

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. ― Sylvia Plath

Kathy Steffen

Does your life feel too busy to set aside time to write? Do you tell yourself you can’t write, that you aren’t creative? Have no ideas? Consider this: Creativity is important in every walk of life, every job, and every undertaking. Creative writing helps build confidence, increases communication skills, and studies show emotional and physical health benefits to creativity — including lowering stress levels, which in turn decreases the chance and severity of illnesses and helps prolong a healthy life. So what are you waiting for? You have no idea where to start?
What if you make it a game — an activity for you and your family/friends? Storytelling and writing games and books are a terrific fallback when your muse goes on vacation or has moved away with no forwarding address. I often need to trick myself into the writing zone, and I’ve recently pulled out some of my favorite inspirations to “play” and rediscover the joy of putting words to paper.
The Storymatic storytelling game: Not only an excellent game to have during camping trips, parties, vacation or weekend getaways, this deck has begun many stories and characters for me. It has also kicked me into creative high-gear if a scene or story has stalled. There are different options on how to use the box of cards, but my favorite creative exercise is to choose three cards (one theme card and two people cards). For instance, I randomly drew “first day of marriage” for the theme, and “flirt” and “ghost” for people. I’m thinking “ghost” can be literal or mean a memory or secret from the past. Already the wheels are turning!
Interested in journaling but don’t know where to start? “Start Where You Are” by Meera Lee Patel is a beautiful book full of visuals and writing prompts to start your journaling journey. Throughout the book, the left side provides an inspirational message rendered in watercolor and the right page gives a prompt to further explore the concept. I just opened a page to a watercolor of stars and a lens with a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” On the corresponding pages the prompt is: “Think of an issue you’ve been approaching logically. Can you consider this issue through your heart’s lens instead?” What a wonderful exercise, and only one of an entire book!
From the Oldie but Goodie department — I’ve mentioned this before, but still, my all-time favorite creative writing exercise is to open the dictionary, close my eyes and point. I do this several times until I start getting ideas. Today I chose “Dakar” (the capital of Senegal in West Africa), “money” and “citizenship.” No kidding. I’m off to write! I hope you are too.

Kathy Steffen is an award-winning novelist and author of the “Spirit of the River Series:” “First, There is a River,” “Jasper Mountain,” and “Theater of Illusion.” She writes from her home in Spring Green she shares with her husband and cats. Find out more at www.kathysteffen.com.