How to be Creative

Imogen Bond, TW’s expert on all things creative, sets a summer challenge to make your creativity soar…

Remember the feeling of a long summer holiday? Time seemed to stretch forever. What have the American satirical novelist Kurt Vonnegut and the summer holidays got in common? Read on for a surprising connection and five brilliant ways to get creative this summer.  

Back in 2006, students at Xavier High School in New York City were given an assignment by their English teacher, Ms. Lockwood. They were asked to write to their favourite author and ask him or her to visit the school. Five of the students chose Kurt Vonnegut, the author of Slaughterhouse-Five, amongst many others. Sadly, he never made the trip to visit the school, but he did write back. In fact, he was the only author to reply.

Here’s what he wrote:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances anymore because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

So how is this related to the summer holidays, I hear you cry? Well – in the style of Kurt Vonnegut –my challenge to you is to spend the summer trying these five creative tasks just for the joy they bring you. Don’t share it on social media, resist the temptation to place what you make on the mantlepiece, or even let a friend read it. It’s not about the end product – it’s about making your soul grow! 

Are you ready for the Vonnegut challenge?! 

1 Using the prompt ‘summer storms’ write a short story. 

2 Stop and listen for a few minutes. What can you hear? Do any of the sounds bring you happiness? Make a list of the sounds that you find joyful, and add more whenever you notice one. 

3 Take photos of light on water  – the sun on the river, the sea, or even a puddle! When you have a series of photos, try painting to capture what is mirrored, as well as what might be hiding beneath the surface. 

4 Select a memory involving food, and describe it concentrating on the smells, textures, colours and tastes. Write into your description as many unexpected metaphors as you can. 

Happy creating. I hope your soul does some excellent growing!

Imogen Bond

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