Tag Archives: Creativity

Teenager creativity: Poetry month

The public library where I work is attached to a high school. The students come and go around us every day.

Today’s teenagers are something else. They are open and honest about aspects of life I either didn’t understand when I was their age, or wouldn’t have talked about with anyone. Sometimes I need to hold on to something to regain my balance when I catch some of their conversations.

They’re also freely creative. For poetry month, we set up a poetry station.

I love the art they created—en anglais et en français in Ottawa, Canada.

This one is good advice for anyone, most days.

Poem: May you should chill out.

Beating the Odds

I swear I didn’t plan this.

Sometimes when words won’t flow, I use a writing prompt. One of those prompts involves finding a certain page, in a certain book, on a certain shelf.

“Top shelf, third book from the right, page 56.”

I went to my office and looked at the top shelf. Among other books were some that contain short stories of mine. “Huh, what are the odds that the third book to the right is one of those?” I asked myself.

I counted and the Blood Is Thicker anthology, which contains one of my short stories, was third from the right. “That’s pretty amazing,” I thought, “but what are the odds that my story is on page 56?”

I opened the book and flipped to the right page. Yep. My story was there.

The line that stood out: “NOTE TO SELF: Those are pretty good odds.”

The title of my story?

Beating the Odds

I guess I’m supposed to write that even if something seems unlikely, if you set yourself in motion, you might beat the oddsand have a laugh while you’re at it.

Title page of the short story "Beating the Odds"

Writing from the collective consciousness

I am at the Canadian Authors Association CanWrite! conference in Orillia, ON, surrounded by writers from every genre. We talk about the joys and trials of writerhood and our varied creative processes. Most of us share guardedly, wary of how others might judge the quirky things we do to get to the heart of our writing. This morning, a poet friend bravely shared the sketch book she uses every morning.


“I am spreading good news.” Jean Kay

First thing in the morning, before she eats or showers or does anything else, she sits down with her sketch book. She writes the date at the top of the left-hand page and then on the top of the right-side page, she writes, “I am . . .” and completes the phrase with how she’s feeling. From a box of coloured crayons, she randomly selects three colours and draws a picture, a symbol, a pattern, or anything that flows from the colours and the phrase. And then (this is the part that boggles) she returns to the left-hand page and writes a poem, from start to finish. Boom, just like that. No stroke-outs or re-considerations. No pondering or hovering of the hand. Just a poem on the page.

She never knows what’s going to happen when she picks up the sketch pad or the colours. She never knows what the poem is going to be when she starts to print the words. She just “tunes in,” lets go and writes.


She receives daily emails from inspirational sources, and in this poetry sample, she writes about how often the topic of her poem and the topic of the emails coincide. (She reads the emails after she writes the poems.)

She calls it “collective consciousness.”

Tuned In
©2015 Jean Kay poetrytoinspire.com

After writing my morning poem
I read ‘Daily Word’ & ‘Science of Mind’
And very often the messages
Are of a similar kind

I call that collective consciousness
Some will say it’s coincidence
But whatever power is at work here
The messages are intense

Those articles were written months ago
But thousands are reading today
And I’m on a similar wavelength
To receive what is coming my way

I don’t preconceive morning poetry
I just write what comes into my mind
And yet often a word I seldom use
Will be in ‘Daily Word’ and/or ‘Science of Mind’

It makes me feel the path I’m on
Is the right one for me
I’m on track & tuned in
And living my eternity.


Buckwheat, fallow ground and productivity

A few summers ago, a neighbour planted a crop of buckwheat on his front lawn. When it matured, he plowed it under and planted a new crop. When it matured, he plowed it under and planted again. Three times he plowed buckwheat into his front yard.

His house faces the high-traffic main road through a suburban neighbourhood, so his actions caused quite a stir. “What on earth is he doing?” people wondered.

What with earth would have been a better question, I suppose.

At the time, my mother reminded me that her father planted buckwheat in his fields every few years to replenish the soil with vital nutrients. Better even that letting the land go fallow for a year, the buckwheat rejuvenated the depleted cropland. My neighbour’s lawn benefited from three crops worth of buckwheat nutrients.

In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell proposed many thought-provoking theories. (The book contains the “10,000 hours of practice theory” that some dispute.) One particular intriguing notion caught my attention: the affect of agriculture on other aspects of society.

In North America, for example, corn and wheat fields need to go fallow every few years (or enjoy an infusion of buckwheat) or they get depleted of nutrients, so we grew to believe that productivity and creativity of all sorts required periods of rest. We adopted the idea that people need fallow periods too, hence our long summer and Christmas school vacations. (These also allowed farm children to help with the crops.) The Asian view evolved from a different agricultural crop: rice. Rice paddies produce two or three crops per year with no need for fallow rest periods. As a result, Asian society and their educational systems took the same shape.

This year, this month, we North Americans maintained the rhythm of the calendar year that agriculture brought us. We recently returned to our jobs, schools, projects after a short holiday period that was either “fallow” or “buckwheat”, or perhaps both. We enjoyed two weeks of restful reading and reflection—fallow replenishment. Or we busied ourselves with activities different from the usual—a buckwheat change for replenishment.

Either way, our productivity benefits from the rhythm of our calendar year. Restored through the rest, or change, or both, we get back to work, creating anew.


Time and space for creativity: John Cleese

“. . . it’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking, and it’s also easier to do little things  we know we can do than to start on big things that we’re not so sure about. —John Cleese

I’ll be taking a blog break for the next few weeks—time to refill my creative well. While I enjoy this breather, I will ponder the wisdom of the oh-so-creative John Cleese and his five keys to creativity:

1. Space – a playful a creative space away from demands, an “oasis of quiet”

2. Time – a specific period of time, because play must begin and end, otherwise it is not play

3. Time (No. That’s not a typo.) – all the time the creativity requires to turn a problem into an opportunity

4. Confidence – openness to anything that might happen

5. Humour –  silliness

When I return from playing on the open road, I will seek to play in his open mode.

Writing: Divinely inspired and humanly rendered

The story idea came to me in Shoppers Drug Mart.

I had dropped my kids at school and headed downtown to do some research at the Main branch of the Ottawa Public Library. I arrived there at 9:45 a.m. and pulled on the doors. Locked. The library didn’t open until 10:00 a.m.

I needed to kill 15 minutes so I headed to the nearby Shoppers Drug Mart and meandered around the aisles. In the cosmetics section, I picked up a tube of bright red sparkly lipstick. I read the name: Ruby Slippers.

Images flashed into my brain like snippets of inspirational lightning.

Standing there in the cosmetics aisle with a tube of lipstick in my hand, I knew the theme of the story, the basic scenes that would unfold, and the threads that would hold it together.

The story “Ruby Slippers” was shortlisted in several competitions and won one. It is the story that prompted my mother to say, “Whatever you do, don’t write any more about dead people.” It will be published tomorrow in the “Summer Subversions” edition of DESCANT.

For centuries, artists and writers have said the work comes through them, not from them: Divine Inspiration.

William Blake relied on a “poetic genius” to channel ideas through him. him. Stephen King, in On Writing, said that “. . . good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you out of the empty sky.”

Still, the artist or writer needs to do the work.

Blake could have daydreamed about the ideas that came to him without dipping his quill into ink. Stephen King could have lived his life without ever picking up pen and paper. The ideas come to us, but they only come through us if we actually do something with them—humanly render them. I’m proud of “Ruby Slippers” but not because I feel it’s “mine.” I’m proud because I received the gift and did the work to create the finished product.

The picture at the top of this post was taken during my Habitat for Humanity build in Bolivia.

The bright red sparkly nail polish on my toes was a gift from my friend, Lynn. Its name: Ruby Slippers. My trip leader took the picture at the end of a work day when the incongruity between my dirty boots and my bright red nail polish made everyone on my team laugh. The image sums up this theme perfectly: Divine inspiration as the driving force behind manual labour.

What ideas are coming to you? What are you doing with them. I’d love to see.