Saturday, November 25, 2023

Creative Games and Exercises

 Good morning, Creative Friends--

We're entering gift-giving season and so I would like to recommend my creation, The Writers Toolbox: Creative Games and Exercises for Inspiring the "Write" Side of your Brain.

The Writers Toolbox is a box filled with all sorts of creative prompts—sentence sticks, nonsequiturs, cards, spiny dials, a little instruction booklet and an egg timer. It’s excellent for jumpstarting your writing. But I know many people who use it for playing Dungeons and Dragons and for party games for creative types.

Here’s a little history. Back in the late 1970's, I taught creative writing in New York City’s Payne Whitney Psychiatric Hospital. I taught adolescents who were in a state of trauma. They were shy and confused, deeply wounded and scared. I arrived at the hospital on Monday nights, carrying a basket filled with little pieces of paper on which I had written random words. The teenagers in the Creative Arts Therapy Room looked at me with wary eyes and I quickly realized that my first job was to simply give them some respite from all their trauma. And so, we talked, and we played silly writing games involving Dadaist-inspired stream-of-consciousness stories and poems. We stopped making sense. And if someone wanted to just draw a picture and not write at all, that was fine with me. 

I learned that before you can teach anything serious, you need to make your students feel safe and this comes from having a little fun.

I went on to teach at many places, including the Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven, Connecticut and as a Yale University Teaching Fellow. But, I will tell you this--I learned the most from those sad-faced teenagers at Payne Whitney.

When I turned toward thoughts of retirement, I knew I wanted to leave a record of all those creative games I I had invented over the years. And so, The Writers Toolbox was born. The Writers Toolbox was released by Chronicle Books in 2007 and since then, it's never been out of print. It continues to sell well (both here and in the United Kingdom). It can be found in museum gift shops, independent bookstores and of course, on-line. 

The Writers Toolbox is my gift to you. The prompts are provocative and funny and sometimes weird. True, this magical box is not for children—although precocious young adults will enjoy it. You will enjoy the surrealism and the silliness and how it sparks your imagination. But, I will let you in on a little secret—behind the fun, I offer you something serious—a place where you can unleash your your wild, untamed and untamable imagination.

And so, for this season--I give you not only a gift idea, but the possibility of healing, laughter and creative freedom.



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