How Adding Limits can Supercharge Creativity: the 3-Marker Challenge

How Adding Limits can Supercharge Creativity: the 3-Marker Challenge

I love watching kids create. They naturally come up with these little tricks to supercharge creativity, and they don’t even know they’re doing it.

We just returned from a Washington Coast getaway with family, and as usual, the kids taught me a thing or two about creativity. Really, I think we can learn a lot about creativity from kids.

I get creatively challenged all the time. You know how it goes…

You’re sitting there staring at a blank piece of paper or computer screen, and your mind goes blank. nothing. zip. How on earth are you supposed to be creative when your head is empty?

It sucks.
I’ve been there.
I still find myself in that place all the time.

But, maybe that’s not really the problem. Is your mind really blank? Or is it so full of so much everything that your brain throws up a blank, white wall in a self-protective measure?

When you sit down to create, and you’re faced with a blank screen or paper, the possibilities are infinite, and that’s hard to process.

The way to deal with too-much-everything is to narrow things down. Add some limits and boundaries and see what happens. Narrow the focus.

What happens in your brain when you go from “I’m going to write a blog post,” to “I’m going to write a blog post about apples”? I don’t think I’ve ever written a post about apples, but I’ve got to say, I felt a shift when the focus narrowed from the infinite to specifically apples when thinking about this example.

The boundaries help.

The specificity helps.

Now narrow it down some more. Keep narrowing and getting more specific until you have something you can work with.

The 3-Marker Challenge

On a recent vacation, my daughter and my niece spent hours with their noses in their sketchbooks playing what they call, “the 3-marker challenge.”

two young girls sitting at a table and drawing in sketchbooks

They pick a subject (cat, dog, dragon, whatever they think up) and then they each grab 3 markers with their eyes closed. Then they set a timer.

The challenge is to create the coolest looking image of the selected subject, in the specified amount of time, using only the 3 colors they grabbed from the bucket. They draw, compare notes, compliment each other, encourage each other, and then pick another subject and trio of markers to do it again.

They spend hours playing this game, and I’ve got to say it’s the most ridiculously wholesome way I can imagine a couple of 12-year-olds would think of to spend their time.

It inspired me, too.

The real trick of this challenge is in limiting the colors. Just three markers in random colors. That can really limit your options, and it’s precisely those limits that get your brain spinning in different ways. Limitations require you to think differently to get around them, and thinking differently is where your creativity starts to kick in.

This little game works as a warm-up before diving into your creative project, even if you can’t draw and your project has nothing to do with art. It’s about getting your brain to think differently.

If you’re hitting a wall, creatively, maybe your options are too wide open. Try adding some limits. Maybe the scope of your essay is too wide. Maybe you need to narrow your intended audience. Maybe you need to dial in on the focal point of your painting; you can’t focus on everything.

15 Journaling and Writing Prompts about Friendship

15 Journaling and Writing Prompts about Friendship

Friends are the family we choose. Just like our families, their influence on our lives, and how we perceive and interact with the world is vast. It could even be argued that because we choose each other, who we befriend may influence us and say something about us even more than our families.

I really believe you are the company you keep and you have to surround yourself with people who lift you up because the world knocks you down.

– Maria Shriver

I always learn so much about myself when I write about my friends. What traits do all my friends have in common? Why do I (subconsciously) seek out those traits in my friendships? There is so much self-knowledge to mine in considering friendships. What kind of friend am I?

Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you; spend a lot of time with them and it will change your life.

– Amy Poehler

Writing helps us understand concepts and even our own motivations on a deeper level. Prompts help us focus the writing. These journaling and writing prompts about friendship will help you delve deeper into the nature of your friendships, and why those relationships, and those people, are so important to you.

A friend is someone who give you total freedom to be yourself.

– Jim Morrison

15 Journaling / Writing Prompts about Friendship

1. Write about a group of people that leave you feeling happy and at ease after you’ve spend time with them.

2. If you were having a rotten day, who is the first person you would want to talk to? And why?

3. Describe some traditions you’ve had with your friends.

4. Are you comfortable asking your friends for help when you need it? Would they ask you for help?

5. Do you have a friend you haven’t seen in years, but you’re sure if you saw them, you’d pick right up where you left off?

6. What is something nice a friend said to you that meant the world to you?

7. Is there someone you’ve been missing, but you haven’t reached out to contact them? What keeps you from reaching out?

8. How would you like to be described to others by your friends?

9. Have you ever lost a friend? Been unfriended? What happened?

10. Who has always been there for you, no matter what, through thick and thin?

11. Describe in detail someone who means the world to you. Include appearance, mannerisms, personality, quirks… everything that makes them who they are.

12. What do you believe are the most important qualities in a friend?

13. Have you made any new friends in recent years? How does the process of making friends feel different from when you were younger?

14. who are the people in my life with whom I feel the most like myself?

15. Make a list of all the people who have helped you in your life. Keep adding to this list as you think of more.


What other prompts or questions would you add to this list? I’d love to hear your suggestions, and I’m always trying to improve on my lists of prompts.

If you enjoyed this list of journaling / writing prompts, check out my Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter feeds for daily prompts and other inspiration.

A Fresh Start for the New Year: Are You Ready to Turn the Page on 2020?

A Fresh Start for the New Year: Are You Ready to Turn the Page on 2020?

I am so ready for the new year. I spent much of 2020 hidden away. Like many of you, my days and weeks and months were consumed with coping. At the end of each year, we often slide into the tail end of December a bit worn out, but 2020 took this to a whole new level. This year challenged us, all of us, in ways we weren’t prepared for. It’s become cliche to say this was a hard year, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true.

But the year is almost over. It’s time for a new year. A new page. We will still have the same problems once the bell tolls us into 2021, but we can stop, take a breath, hit reset, and then tackle the new year with a plan. Let’s take a moment to reevaluate, to consider what’s working, what’s not, and look at our challenges with new eyes to find new solutions.

Journals are a tool

My friends know that journaling is important to me. They know that it’s an important part of how I cope and how I process what’s happening in my life. What they may not know, is that I drop the habit of journaling from time to time, too. I don’t journal every day, and I don’t believe everyone needs to.

Your journal is not an obligation; it's a tool. Use it when you need it.

RESET: A Fresh Start for a New Year

People often think that journaling is not for them because they don’t do it every day or they keep forgetting about it, but I have a secret for you. Your journal is not an obligation; it’s a tool. Use it when you need it. If you turn journaling into a chore, it loses its magic. Journaling does not need to be an everyday endeavor to be a robust tool for you.

Taking pen to paper is a powerful way to figure things out. Like a math problem that gets too complex to figure in your head, our lives are complex, and taking the problem to paper can make it easier to see solutions. Writing it down also helps us track changes and measure progress. If you really want to change something in your life, write it down. If you know something in your life needs to change, but you don’t know what, or how, write that down, too. And then keep writing. Ask your self questions, and then after you write all the bullshit answers, keep writing. That’s where you find the good stuff, after you get the bullshit out of the way.

If you really want to change something in your life, write it down.

Reset: A Fresh Start for a New Year

Sometimes, having a guide can help: a workbook or class with questions and writing prompts and encouragement to help you figure out what you want, how you’re going to make it better, and how you’re going to manage each step.

Reset: A Fresh Start for a New Year Journaling and Planning Workshop

I’ve been teaching these classes for years, but this year I decided to present them online. I’m starting with a free, 4-day workshop to help you plan the year ahead. What coping skills did you need last year? How did they work? How can you improve them? What new tactics can you employ this year to help make it better? How will you find the flexibility to bend with circumstances and still do what you need to do? And most importantly, what do you really want? You don’t need to know the answers to get started, we’ll find them along the way.

During the Workshop, we will gather in a Facebook Group for a live session each day, with workbooks and challenges, and plenty of encouragement. The workshop will run from December 28 through December 31, 2020, with a Facebook Live session each morning at 11am Pacific Time. In addition, I will record my presentations in case the scheduled time doesn’t work for you.

Join Us

Click the button below to join our workshop. Let’s plan our way to a better 2021.

RESET: A Fresh Start for a New Year free 4-day journaling and planning workshop.
A Note to Mom | Listen to Your Mother

A Note to Mom | Listen to Your Mother

The day before Mother’s Day, thirteen Seattle area writers came together to share their thoughts and observations on motherhood at Seattle’s inaugural production of the Listen to Your Mother show.

I was one of those writers.

Today, videos of each segment of the show were released.

What an amazing experience. I’m so honored to be included with this amazing group of writers.

Grasping at Bubbles

Grasping at Bubbles

Writing has been difficult lately. I feel like I’m chasing soap bubbles, and the moment I grasp a nugget, a train of thought, an approach, an angle, it disappears into nothingness before I can pin it to paper.

Grasping at Bubbles

It’s so very much like my daughter chasing these bubbles around the park – yet so different.

Grasping at Bubbles

First, I’m not having as much fun (I need to do something about that).

Grasping at Bubbles

Second, my failure to grasp these bubbles, and manipulate them into a cohesive thesis, has consequenses.

Grasping at Bubbles

Just a few more days, I can count it in hours now, till this semester is done. The last paper and final are friday; then I can exhale.

Grasping at Bubbles

And then I can chase the bubbles just for fun.

Grasping at Bubbles

 

WW linky on page 2