Develop Creative Thinking Skills with the Writerly Play Kit

Develop Creative Thinking Skills with the Writerly Play Kit

Psst! If you haven’t yet subscribed to the Writerly Play Kit, you’re missing out! Issued monthly, the WP Kit is a collection of activities, book recommendations, and other inspiration to help you develop creative thinking by focusing on a single skill.

Why one specific skill?

As is true for building physical muscles, you can develop creative thinking mastery much more efficiently when you’re intentional. When you focus on one skill, you:

  • progress more quickly with less friction
  • build momentum and the confidence that comes with success
  • make that skill a habit so that you can turn your focus elsewhere without losing ground

Wait … Creativity is a skill?

Yep, actually creative thinking is a collection of skills. A commonly held misbelief is that people are either creative or not. If I had a penny for every time someone has told me they’re “just not a creative person,” I’m pretty sure I could buy a private jet. One reason this myth is so prevalent, in my opinion, is that people focus on one aspect of creativity when they measure their capacity. So, they might think of creativity as the ability to generate a giant collection of ideas, or to craft a well-told story, or think quickly on the spot.

This narrow thinking often creates one of two problems.

First, a person might not be good at that thing. Maybe they struggle to come up with even three ideas, or they always figure out what they should have said hours after the moment has passed. Thus, they conclude that they aren’t a creative person without noticing other skills they DO have that are also key to creative thinking.

Second, a person may have a strength in one of these areas. When they’re asked to be creative, they play only this one note. When the process moves on to another stage, they may not have the next skill needed, and they get stuck. They may undervalue the importance of developing their creativity because they don’t realize that they are actually bumping repeatedly into a weakness in their overall skill set.

The way to develop creative thinking is through marginal gains.

In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear shares the concept of marginal gains. Basically, when you improve through marginal gains, you make tiny changes, changes that might seem insignificant on their own. However, taken together, the collection of changes lead to overwhelming transformation. Becoming better at asking questions may not feel significant at first, but taken together with an improved ability to identify problems and generate ideas about possible solutions, soon you start to see fresh, exciting creativity coming to life in your world.

What are your strengths when it comes to creativity? How about areas that get in your way? What if you had clear, step-by-step strategies and a bookshelf of tools to overcome those challenges?

That’s exactly what the Writerly Play Kit is here to do for you.

So what are you waiting for?

Writerly Play Activity Collection – Storyboard Your Manuscript Your Way

Writerly Play Activity Collection – Storyboard Your Manuscript Your Way

No matter your creativity style, a storyboard will give you perspective.

If you’re an Inventor, you might struggle with a storyboard because it feels too structured. If you’re a Special Agent, you might feel like it’s a waste of time. If you’re an Architect, it might feel too “artsy.” Collaborators tend to love storyboards because they are visual, playful, and a helpful tool when creatives are working together.

Even if a storyboard isn’t your normal approach, I encourage you to take a look at these four different approaches to structuring your story idea visually. Use them, adapt them, experiment, and ultimately, save yourself tons of time by stepping back from your project and getting the perspective you need.

Structuring ideas is one of the cornerstone skills developed in the Writerly Play Workshop.

The Writerly Play Workshop, like the other Writerly Play rooms, is designed to help creatives separate their thinking into distinct steps. By knowing the purpose of a thinking task, we can utilize activities toward stronger results.

Here is a collection of Writerly Play approaches to storyboarding. Choose the activity that best fits your creativity style. Not sure what your style is? Take the quick quiz and find out.

ACTIVITIES

Storyboard Like a Detective

FOR INVENTORS

Define the scenario, collect clues, and ultimately, resolve your questions. Capture your thinking on your storyboard.

Try This

Storyboard Like an Animator

FOR COLLABORATORS

Use the Hero’s Journey to structure your storyboard discussion with a collaborator.

Try This

Storyboard Like a Reporter

FOR ARCHITECTS

Structure your thinking about a project with a reporter’s questions. Use your discoveries to shape your storyboard.

Try This

Storyboard Like a Coach

FOR SPECIAL AGENTS

Run a few quick scenarios for your idea and then choose a game plan for your storyboard.

Try This

How to Improvise: A Book Flight

How to Improvise: A Book Flight

For a long time, I didn’t understand improvisation. I thought it was the art of being hilarious on the spot, and the thought terrified me. When I (finally) dared to learn more about improv, I learned that improvisation was, in fact, terrifying, but not for the reasons I first believed. To improvise well, a player must let go and step into the unknown. In improv, we must listen to our fellow players, say yes to their ideas and add our own.

Improv taught me that play invites us to see past our masks and defenses to the truth of who we are. In spontaneous flashes, we tap into our intuition and discover that we know a lot more about the human experience than we might at first believe. Once I saw the transformative power of improvisation, I was hooked. I’ve been studying the art of improv ever since. 

This book flight offers a variety of perspectives on the art of improv. The four titles include activities, games, stories, and of course, wisdom from master teachers on the art of saying, “Yes, and …” While I love each of these books individually, I love the four together even more, because of the ways they spark up against and illuminate one another.

How to Improvise: A Book Flight

Improvisation for the Theatre by Viola Spolin

When I encountered Viola Spolin’s thinking, and then put those principles into practice while training at Piven Theatre Workshop, my trajectory as an artist transformed. Spolin taught me to stop trying and to start experiencing. She taught me the value of opening my hands and letting go, rather than insisting on controlling the creative process. Through her instruction, I learned that developing a player’s mindset takes practice, and that the time invested is entirely worthwhile. Improvisation for the Theatre contains a wealth of wisdom on the craft of creativity and the art of wholehearted living. No matter your art form, this book is a must-read (and re-read!)

Learn more here.

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life by Twyla Tharp

When I think of improvisation, my thoughts first go to acting games or quick-drafting exercises. Twyla Tharp offers an entirely different vantage point as she describes improvisation from a choreographer’s point of view. So much is the same, and yet, the slightly different perspective helps me see my own work in new light.

Learn more here.

How to Draw a Clam by Joy Sikorski

Filled with drawing prompts, adventure prompts, and games, this book is entirely unlike any book you’ve seen before. What struck me is how Joy Sikorski teaches the reader, without ever explicitly saying so, how to improvise your way through life. Flipping through this small book infuses my day with spontaneity and joy.

Learn more here.

Pippi in the South Seas by Astrid Lindgren

Remember Pippi? When I thought about what fiction I wanted to include in the improvisation book flight, Pippi and her red braids came immediately to mind. This book is an excellent example of what it might look life to live a life filled with “yes, and …” thinking. When I find myself in need of a reminder to lighten up and be a little more adventurous, I tap into my inner Pippi Longstocking and dive exuberantly into my day.

Learn more here.

If you pick up the books in this flight, I’d love to hear what you think. Try out some of the improv activities, and let me know how they go. And please share your ideas for other titles that ought to be part of this flight. I’m always on the hunt for an excellent read. Tag me on Twitter or Instagram, and let’s chat. Happy reading!

Writerly Play Activity Collection: Improvise Your Way to the Page

Writerly Play Activity Collection: Improvise Your Way to the Page

Improvisation saves writers time.

Many writers are actually improvising when they write their first drafts. They following their spontaneity and intuition where it leads as they make their way from scene to scene. However, writing scenes takes a lot longer than playing through them in a visualization, or moving through them in a quick improv game. 

Plus, when playing an improv game, players are more likely to tap into a playful state of mind. Play can be elusive when working with words on a page. When drafting, it’s easy to listen to our inner critic and begin to re-read and revise as we go. That critical mindset blocks the intuitive flow that is so essential in a first draft. Thus, improvising not only saves you time by helping you experiment with options faster, but also by helping you avoid the mental wrestling match between your critical and creative mindsets.

The art of improvisation is one of the cornerstone skills developed in the Writerly Play Studio.

The Writerly Play Studio, like the other Writerly Play rooms, is designed to help creatives separate their thinking into distinct steps. By knowing the purpose of a thinking task, we can utilize activities toward stronger results.

In this set of Writerly Play activities, we’ll look at four ways creative thinkers of different styles might tap into the power of improvisation, while also playing to their strengths.

Choose the activity that best fits your creativity style. Not sure what your style is? Take the quick quiz and find out.

ACTIVITIES

The Who, What, & Where Experiment

FOR ARCHITECTS

Use this structured improv game to experiment with options for your next scene.

Try This

Step Into Your Character's Shoes

FOR INVENTORS

Take on your character’s mindset and play through a scene in a variety of ways in this improv game for writers.

Try This

Improvised Storytelling

FOR COLLABORATORS

Create a collaborative scene with a partner, using their questions to help you better understand your main character’s point of view.

Try This

Improvise the Highlights

FOR SPECIAL AGENTS

Use this quick-thinking improv game to identify key moments in your scene and shortcut the experimentation process.

Try This

Journey to Your Writer’s Heart: A Book Flight

Journey to Your Writer’s Heart: A Book Flight

From my MFA residencies and decades of SCBWI conferences, the largest takeaway has always been to write from my heart. Like most wisdom, this advice is simple but not easy. Sometimes, my subconscious battles me when I try to dip into a story that holds rich meaning for me. Other times, I think I’m writing from my heart, but I discover that I’ve been playing a game of smoke and mirrors. I’ve skirted around my heart, but I haven’t deeply connected.

The journey to find our artist’s heart is not a one-time ordeal. It’s a life journey, one that is traveled in multiple parts. The three titles I’ve chosen for this flight have served as companions to me on that journey, urging me on toward courage, and lighting my way in the dark. I highly recommend each individually. I also encourage you: consider reading the three as a flight, allowing their ideas and insights to illuminate one another.

Journey to Your Writer’s Heart: A Book Flight

 

The Wanderer by Sharon Creech

 The fun in a book flight is not only each book on its own, but the way the books spark against one another, creating unexpected insights and urging your thinking “farther up and further in,” as C.S. Lewis might say.

Like many books, The Wanderer is a Hero’s Journey, which is part of what I love about it. Beyond that, I love how this coming-of-age story taps into the role memories play in our lives. It’s a lens that encourages me to look at my own life and the meaning I give to my own memories. When read back-to-back in this flight, the book becomes an even more illuminating metaphor, a map that guides me toward my writer’s heart. Learn more here.

The Hero is You by Kendra Levin

Longtime readers of the Writerly Play blog know that Joseph Campbell’s concept of the Hero’s Journey has been a key lens to help me see my writing and also my writerly development. In The Hero is You, Levin looks at Campbell’s work in a different, but complementary way. She considers eight archetypes in the Hero’s Journey, and how these personas inform our work and lives.

It will likely not surprise you that I love this book. I love the big ideas explored, the questions asked, and the playful activities that invite my imagination to play. For me, play is the best way to head into the dark and face my fears. Surrounded by story, I tap into courage and momentum. This book will take you on a journey that will transform your writing and life. Learn more here.

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

Of the three titles in this flight, The Writer’s Life is the most dense. That said, it’s packed with insight that informs the writing craft and life. Once again, the subject is the Hero’s Journey. Vogler’s initial goal with the book was to “create a writer’s guide” to the Hero’s Journey. Along the way, he found the Hero’s Journey to be “nothing less than a handbook for life, a complete instruction manual into the art of being human.”

In this flight, the book provides a wider-angle view of what the Hero’s Journey is, how it works, and why it’s such a powerful tool in helping us craft our stories and our lives. Learn more here.

Cheers!

If you pick up the books in this flight, I’d love to hear what you think! Let me know what questions they bring to mind for you. And please share your ideas for other titles that ought to be part of this flight. I’m always on the hunt for an excellent read, particularly about the Hero’s Journey. Tag me on Twitter or Instagram, and let’s chat. Happy reading!

Writerly Play Activity Collection: Finding Your Artist’s Heart

Writerly Play Activity Collection: Finding Your Artist’s Heart

How do you create meaningful work?

Putting our hearts on the page sounds simple, but it is one of the most difficult tasks artists face. In order to make powerful work, we must brave vulnerability and ask ourselves tough questions.

After a lifetime of improv, I’ve learned the best way into tricky emotional spaces often involves playing a game. Where I might craftily evade a pointed question, or truly believe I don’t know the answer, a playful approach can surprise the truth right out of me. Now, before you worry that I’m asking you to hop onto a stage under bright lights, let me assure you that game, in this case, is a loosely defined word. To awake your intuition, all a game requires is a clear goal and a bit of a challenge.

The art of finding our artist’s heart is one of the cornerstone skills developed in the Writerly Play Attic.

The Writerly Play Attic, like the other Writerly Play rooms, is designed to help creatives separate their thinking into distinct steps. By knowing the purpose of a thinking task, we can utilize activities toward stronger results.

Here is a collection of Writerly Play activities, designed to help you find your artist’s heart.

Choose the activity that best fits your creativity style. Not sure what your style is? Take the quick quiz and find out.

ACTIVITIES

Freewrite Your Heart

FOR INVENTORS

Move your hand across the page speedily to bypass your critic and discover your heart.

Try This

Zoom In On the Heart

FOR ARCHITECTS

Answer three key questions to focus your attention on the core of this project, and its importance to you.

Try This

Frame Your Heart in Three

FOR SPECIAL AGENTS

Choose three adjectives that focus your attention on the core of this project, and its importance to you.

Try This

Share Your Heart with a Loved One

FOR COLLABORATORS

Choose a confidant and write a letter about your project. What is most important to you about creating this artwork?

Try This

Grit, Empathy, and Vision: What I’m Learning about Creative Writing

Grit, Empathy, and Vision: What I’m Learning about Creative Writing

I woke up in the middle of the night before our most recent Inklings Book launch with these three words bouncing around my mind – grit, empathy, and vision. Sometimes the answer to a question I’ve been wrestling shows up this way. The question? Why is creative writing important, in a world filled with opportunities and responsibilities? The answer:

Creative writing is one of the best ways I know to build grit, empathy, and vision.

 

Creative writing builds grit in a number of ways. First, and possibly foremost, as Brene Brown eloquently states: “There is nothing more vulnerable than creativity. . . It’s not about winning, it’s not about losing, it’s about showing up and being seen.” She has a number of other important things to say about creativity, some of which you can read on her Facebook page.

For now, let’s stick with creativity requiring us to show up and be seen. Is there anything that requires more resilience than putting our thoughts – and our hearts – into the world, regardless of the response? In addition, if we want to write well, we must work and rework each passage, weighing not only what we mean to say, but also how our words communicate with our intended reader. Add to that the fact that sitting down to write regularly, especially when there’s no deadline or true consequences should we choose to skip a session, and we can easily see the sum results.

 

Regular creative writing builds grit through requiring us to face our fears, developing our patience and stamina, and pushing us to stick with a challenge in spite of how we feel.

 

Entering a character’s thoughts, asking why they act as they act, delving into their backstory to pinpoint where mistaken beliefs come from, and tapping into their thoughts and emotions is always an act of empathy. This kind of questioning and reflecting is at the core of writing any story. Writers can’t help but transfer the fine-tuned skill to their own lives, asking “Why do I do what I do?” and also to friends, family, and other relationships, “Why do THEY do what they do?”

 

Writing creatively is a way to actively practice empathy with ourselves, and with those around us.

 

And vision? For me, vision is the ability to see a future possibility, and then, to create a plan to make that possibility real. How can we build our ability to set and achieve goals? The crux issue is our confidence – do we believe we can achieve the goal we set for ourselves? Brooke Castillo talks about the concept of “believing hard,” and if you haven’t heard her discuss this powerful thinking tool, by all means check out that podcast link. While it would be lovely if we could use sheer will power to create confidence, the truth is that building confidence is a process. We must prove to ourselves that we are trustworthy. And if we’ve broken our word to ourselves in the past, we have to work doubly hard to convince our inner skeptic.

With vision, as with grit and empathy, creative writing is a deceptively simple, but powerful tool. As writers, we have full ownership over the creative process. We don’t need fancy equipment, a huge budget, or a crew of people to write a book, as we might need in other art forms. Writers have ownership over setting their expectations and meeting them. In other words, creative writing is the perfect place to prove to yourself that you can keep your own word. Over time, confidence grows. Your success multiplies, and you gain the ability to set even bigger writing (or any other) kind of goal.

 Writing creatively gives us a landscape in which to build our confidence around goal-setting, and thus, can convince us to believe in our own vision.

 

 Here’s what has surprised me as I’ve started to talk about grit, empathy, and vision with my clients. The connection between these core skills and creative writing is a surprise. The reason I woke up in the middle of the night with those words rattling around my brain is because I’d never thought to express the importance of creative writing in this way. And if I hadn’t thought to do so, as someone who spends all day every day thinking about creative writing–my own and that of my clients, why should I expect others to make the connection?

Make no mistake. When you take time to write creatively, you are not wasting time. Publication may be your ultimate goal, and if public or financial success comes for your project, fantastic! However, I’d say that your investment in your own heart, in YOU, is the true value of those hours spent typing or scribbling away. When you wonder whether it’s worth the trade-off to spend a Saturday morning writing, publication someday may feel like a flimsy result. But how about more grit, empathy and vision today? For me, the clarity of knowing what I’m really doing when I’m writing changes the game. My sincere hope is that this language, these three simple words, will do the same for you.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how creative writing builds your grit, empathy, and vision. Share your insights, and tag me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. I can’t wait to hear all that you have to say.

What I Learned from Madeleine – A Book Flight

What I Learned from Madeleine – A Book Flight

Speak with me for more than twenty minutes, and you’ll likely hear me quote Madeleine L’Engle. Sometimes you find that author, thinker, or artist that challenges and inspires you in all the right ways. For me, that person is Madeleine.

I’ve chosen four titles for this flight: a collection of quotes from Madeleine’s many speeches and books, a memoir, a work of literary fiction for adults, and a Newbery Honor book for youth readers. While I’ll be delighted if this collection sends you straight to the library to pick up a L’Engle title, I hope it also inspires you to read a flight of books by one of your author-mentors. Examining an artist’s work over a range of genres offers a rich thinking experience, and provides insight into that ever-elusive question: What makes up a writer’s voice?  As always, I wish you inspiration and joy as you savor your reading exploration.

What I Learned from Madeleine: A Book Flight

Herself by Madeleine L’Engle

“In real play, which is real concentration, the child is not only outside time, he is outside himself… A child playing a game, building a sand castle, painting a picture, is completely in what he is doing… So, when we wholly concentrate, like a child in play, or an artist at work, then we share in the act of creating.”

Herself is my go-to book for words of wisdom about writing craft, and a writer’s life. Madeleine L’Engle said many times that she doesn’t teach writers to write. However, as Carole Chase writes in her introduction to the book, “As thousands of individuals who have say in her writing workshops and read her books over the past five decades will tell you, Madeleine may not teach people how to write but she certainly inspires them to unearth the writer within.” Whenever I need to dig deeper, stretch my courage, or be reminded why I write, I return to this book. Learn more here.

 

Two Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle

“What I must learn is to love with all of me, giving all of me, and yet remain whole in myself. Any other kind of love is too demanding of the other; it takes, rather than gives. To love so completely that you lose yourself in another person is not good. You are giving a weight, not the sense of lightness and light that loving someone should give.” 

As an artist, it can be easy to focus so much on a creation that I forget the most beautiful creation I’m making … my creative life. Two-Part Invention reminds me that our responsibility–and privilege–as artists is to live life meaningfully and with intention. While this book always makes me cry, it also brings me great joy. I read it regularly, because each time, it helps me become a better wife, friend, mentor, and writer.  Learn more here.

 

Certain Women by Madeleine L’Engle

 “We human beings grow through our failures, not our virtues.” 

While I loved reading this book the first time through as a reader, I have returned to it multiple times as a writer. It’s a masterclass in crafting complex relationships on the page through dialogue, backstory, and action. As with everything else Madeleine L’Engle wrote, this book strikes a resonant chord with me, waking me up to a more fully present way of moving through each day. With each scene, she reminds me of how valuable each moment of our lives are. Live as an artist, live with intention, live with laughter and joy. Learn more here.

 

A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle

“If I’m confused, or upset, or angry, if I can go out and look at the stars I’ll almost always get back a sense of proportion. It’s not that they make me feel insignificant; it’s the very opposite; they make me feel that everything matters, be it ever so small, and that there’s meaning to life even when it seems most meaningless.” 

Madeleine L’Engle often spoke and wrote about her characters as though they weren’t made of imagination, ink, and paper, but as though they’d arrived in her life as living, breathing people. Her characters are complicated, creative, and dealing with life’s highs and lows. I love how L’Engle blends light with darkness, joy with pain, making each more distinct in her work. In this, as in all of her other books, I find myself feeling life more deeply when I view it through the lens of her words. Learn more here.

 

Share Your Favorites, Too!

If you pick up the books in this flight – whether for the first or (like me) the thirtieth time – I’d love to hear what thoughts they spark for you. If you have a favorite author who writes across genres, and who inspires you, please don’t hesitate to introduce me and the entire Writerly Play community! Tag me on Twitter or Instagram, and let’s chat. Happy reading!

Writerly Play Activity Collection: How To Find Your Dream Mentor

Writerly Play Activity Collection: How To Find Your Dream Mentor

Do you have unexplored creative potential?

A mentor can help you identify and explore new territory.

When people ask me about the value of grad school, I always say that working with mentors saved me years of trial and error. In-person mentors are invaluable, and if you have the opportunity to work with one, I say go for it!

There is also much to gain from mentoring with master artists and thinkers who may not be accessable without a time machine or millions of dollars. Books, podcasts, videos, online courses … in this information age, we have a vast landscape to explore. So vast, that sometimes it’s overwhelming. That’s why I put together a collection of activities for thinkers of all varieties, all focused on choosing the best expert mentor for YOU.

Mentoring with master artists and thinkers is one of the core skills developed in the Writerly Play Library.

The Writerly Play Library, like the other Writerly Play rooms, is designed to help creatives separate their thinking into distinct steps. By knowing the purpose of a thinking task, we can make any activity more productive and achieve stronger results.

Here is a collection of Writerly Play activities designed to help you choose your dream mentor.

Choose the activity that best fits your creativity style. Not sure what your style is? Take the quick quiz and find out.

Activities

Profile Three Experts

FOR ARCHITECTS

Use insight from three experts to lead you to the perfect-fit mentor.

Try This

Choose One Expert

FOR SPECIAL AGENTS

Focus on one expert in this strategic learning exercise.

Try This

Create a Learner's Book Club

FOR COLLABORATORS

Explore what’s important to you in your idea by digging deep with a friend.

Try This

Assemble a Think Tank of Mentors

FOR INVENTORS

Identify one-of-a-kind insights by connecting wisdom from an eclectic group of experts.

Try This

The 2018 Writerly Play Gift Guide for Writers

The 2018 Writerly Play Gift Guide for Writers

Gifts get a bad rap sometimes. We lament the hurry-scurry feel of the holiday season, and in order to settle our hearts and minds, decide gifts are off-limits. Perhaps because gifts are my love language, or because I’ve both seen and felt the heart-swelling joy of a perfectly chosen (or created) present, I’m putting my foot down. I’m taking a stand in defense of gifts.

A gift can tell a loved one that you see their heart. A gift can inspire fresh curiosity, support emerging creativity, and remind a person of who she is – and who she has the potential to be. A gift can be a point of connection, a reminder of a shared memory, an invitation to play.

Gifts don’t have to be giant to be meaningful. Here’s a list of 25 small Writerly Play inspired gifts sure to encourage the creative person in your life.

The Writerly Play Attic

Inspire your favorite creative to reflect, dig deep, and find where their heart is showing up in their work.

1. The Hero is You by Kendra Levin

Every creative process is a hero’s journey. This thought-provoking book is a wealth of creative coaching disguised as a simple paperback, and serves as Yoda to any creative ready to take their work and courage to the next level.

2. Personalized Journal

A thoughtful quote chosen by you will be a burst of positive energy every time your creative friend takes out the journal to reflect.

3. Colorful Fountain Pen Set

Elevate the journaling process, and add a little eighteenth century (ish) flair, with a fun set of fountain pens in a rainbow of colors.

4. Present Not Perfect by Aimee Chase

Subtitled “A Journal for Slowing Down, Letting Go, and Loving Who You Are,” this beautifully illustrated journal is filled with engaging questions and prompts, and feels like a breath of fresh air in the midst of a busy day.

5. Every Day is Epic by Mary Kate McDevitt

End your day with this invitation to playful reflection from the ever-whimsical Workman Press. Every colorful page offers a slightly different format for thinking over the day, determining its highs and lows, and pinpointing insights to carry forward to tomorrow.

The Writerly Play Studio

Encourage whimsy in every creative work session with these colorful, playful tools.

6. Sketchbook Dares by Laura Lee Gulledge

Dare greatly with this guided sketchbook. Laura Lee Gulledge’s art is rich with metaphor and yet easily accessible. Artists of every medium will enjoy this collection of creative challenges which will push their thinking in new directions.

7. Niji Roll

No one can resist the magic of unrolling this toolkit and revealing a rainbow of colored pens and pencils. It’s an instant call to adventure for your inner artist.

8. Pentel Felt Tip Markers

Wondering what ought to fill your Niji Roll? Try these high-quality, vivid pens that last for many months of creativity.

9. Rory’s Story Cubes

I often wonder how to stimulate the kind of thinking I might do in an acting class when the group offers a person, place and problem. Here’s an excellent solution! Warm up your drafting muscles by rolling the dice and then telling a story to fit what you roll.

10. Apples to Apples

While this card set is usually a party game for seeing how well you know your friends, it can also be played solo. Creatives can take on a character and play with that person’s preferences in mind. Whether they’re exploring a main character, a villain, or an ideal customer, your creative friend will come away with tons of new insight.

The Writerly Play Workshop

Add a sense of optimism to the critical thinking and revision process.

11. The Emotion Thesaurus by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman

When it’s time to revise, it always feels cozy to stack a few friendly reference books on your desk for SOS moments. This one is an excellent guide for any kind of storytelling artist, full of inspiration for those days when all your characters want to do is roll their eyes and sigh.

12. Index Cards

Yes, I promise! A three-pack of index cards will put a smile on any creative person’s face. Revision is a puzzle, but with a fresh deck of cards for plotting, planning, and strategic thinking, your friend will have all the tools needed to face down any creative tangle. Want to give a problem-solving kit? Add black sharpies and a collection of post-its. Wha-la!

13. The Art of Game Design (A Deck of Lenses)

 While these questions were designed with game creators in mind, so many of the angles they present are perfect for storytellers of all genres. This deck is a fantastic revision companion, offering over a hundred lenses with which to see and reconsider creative work. 

14. How to Tell a Story by Daniel Nayeri

A game AND a book, this hands-on experience is fantastic for warming up  revision muscles. The game, as designed, guides the players to think about motivation, dialogue, character, plot and theme. However, this book goes far beyond being a game for young writers. Creatives can adapt many of the games included, and apply the same kinds of critical thinking to their own projects. 

15. Dictionary of Word Origins by John Ayto

 A book of stories about words? Better still, like the other Workshop tools, this book isn’t only amusing … it’s a hearty tool that will help creatives find the just-right word and refine their work.

The Writerly Play Library

All creatives need mentors. Whether they’re people we meet with in person, or experts we meet through their work, we deepen our work when we stand on the shoulders of giants.

16. Little Women Book Scarf

One can’t help but feel writerly while snuggled in this literary scarf.

17. Scripturient Necklace

For writers, finding the perfect word is a moment of pure joy. This necklace celebrates the art of the exquisitely chosen word, and describes that feeling of flow that writers can’t help but crave. 

18. What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund

How do we visualize what we read? This book is a fascinating lens through which storytellers can take a look at their work from a completely different angle.

19. Read Harder (A Reading Log from Book Riot)

When we’re looking for a literary mentor or two, it’s a great idea to wander outside of our comfort zone. This reading log stretches readers to be adventurous, and also to take time to reflect on what they read.

20. Book Darts

These book darts not only mark your page, but the exact line where you left off. Better still, this adorable tin is from Anne Bogel of What Should I Read Next podcast fame. If your creative friend hasn’t yet discovered this beloved literary podcast, your gift will be a double-whammy: book darts AND a new favorite weekly listen.

The Writerly Play Cafe

Creative works are meant to be shared, but that reality doesn’t make sharing any less daring. These final five gifts acknowledge courage and encourage collaboration.

21. Butterbeer Tea

Aside from YUM, this tea will chase away any muggle doldrums and is sure to spark creative conversations.

22. What Would You Do Table Topics

Would You Rather is one of my favorite storytelling games. This deck of cards will spark thousands of What-If conversations, and help creatives warm up for a collaboration session, or even find that next not-to-be-ignored idea.

23. Courage Starts with Showing Up Poster

 Simple words, but true. Brene Brown’s words will look beautiful in a frame hanging over a desk, and will be a helpful reminder that showing up in the arena is worthwhile.

24. Courage, dear heart Mug

 A set of two of these mugs will remind your friend and their critique partner that feedback requires vulnerability on both sides.

25. Feedback Printables

Yes, these printables are free, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable. Download the set, print a few copies, and tuck them in a colorful folder. Your friend will be delighted with their new set of tools for giving and receiving feedback at the beginning, middle and end of the creative process.

OR, give the gift of creative momentum!

It’s no fun to feel as though you’re rowing while dragging a thousand pound anchor behind you as you develop a novel. Writerly Play Lab: Design a Novel is a course that sparks both joy and depth in your creative process.

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