Monday, February 2, 2015

Why You Should Think Inside the Box

For the last month I’ve been spending my laundry-folding time watching Ted Talks. it possible for my life to sound any less exciting?

Well...anyway. I came across this one by Phil Hansen, an artist who faced a challenge when a tremor in his hand began to interfere with his art. One day a neurologist suggested that he just “embrace the shake.”

Watch below to see what magic unfolded...

You know that saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention”? Well, I think it’s the same way with creativity- limitation is the mother of creation. It sounds counterintuitive, but I think it’s true.

In fact, just a few days ago I needed to have some quiet in my home while my toddler was napping, so I created 3 “stations” for my older 3 kids to rotate through, 30 minutes at a time. One of the stations was crafting, and the only rules for my kids was that they could make whatever they wanted but they could only use the items I’d set out for them: paper, scissors, glue, tape, string, markers, and stickers. No asking Mom for more stuff!

It was interesting to see what they created- my daughter made a really cute “Thank You” card and my son made a gigantic (about 2 and a half feet long) paper airplane. Not sure what my 5-year-old made...I think it had something to do with an American flag...but anyway. They each worked within the restrictions I had set and I believe that the materials they had in front of them were what inspired their creations.

Personally, this is the reason I’m a big fan of writing prompts and specific writing contests. I love the focus that it gives me with my writing, and I love the challenge of staying within set parameters.

For example, I am currently writing a short story in which the main characters are two inanimate objects, and I LOVE this story. I began writing it as part of a contest in which the rules specified that you must write a story based on a photograph they provided. This story would never have existed without that limitation.

Time for you to embrace your shake- ask yourself:

1. What are my limitations when it comes to my writing?
2. How can I embrace those limitations and use them to expand my creativity?

Let me get you started: One of my limitations when it comes to my writing is a lack of TIME! I think we can all relate to that, so here’s my challenge, should you choose to accept it:

The next 10 minutes you have (waiting in the car, just before bed, right after kids go down for a nap, riding a bus, whatever), write a story about any two objects you see. 

You must finish it within TEN minutes! That’s not much time for a beginning, middle, and end, so work quickly!

You never know, this may just spark an idea for something bigger...EMBRACE THE SHAKE!

(I’d love to read about your story. Leave a comment below and tell me how it goes. ;-))


  1. What a great exercise! I think this is a situation I get myself into all the time.. too much thinking outside the box that I run into a creative block. Thanks for bringing up TED talks, I've been watching a bunch since reading this, and I'm loving it!



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