Thursday, 14 April 2016

Expanding your creative repertoire by Sue Irving 14th April 2016

My art courses are teaching me that a playful attitude and the willingness to experiment are some of the best ways to re-ignite that creative spark when I am lacking inspiration.
Did you know that there are at least eight different ways to hold a pencil? Neither did I until I went on a weekend drawing course. Just in case you are wondering: You can hold a pencil

1)      in the “normal” grip (however you would automatically hold a pencil, i.e. normal for you)

2)      like a dagger,

3)      like a Chinese brush artist,

4)      at the very top,

5)      right down at the bottom, so that your thumb, index and middle finger touch the paper,

6)      by sliding the thumb sideways along the pencil halfway up

7)      by sliding the thumb sideways along the pencil, but this time right down at the bottom, so that your thumb is on the paper

8)      between your index and middle or middle and ring finger so that it becomes at extension of your arm.

You can repeat all these grips with your non-dominant hand and also try different drawing and writing tools. Not only do all the grips feel very different, but they produce very different results. I have noticed that my attitude and mind-set changes with each grip, and this in turn affects the energy I put into making marks on the paper.

These exercises may also be useful when you are stuck in your writing. How about trying to consciously hold your pen in a different way or maybe typing straight into the computer if you usually do your draft by hand (and vice versa)?

I also remember being challenged in a creative writing course to explore my points of view on a subject by alternating between the right and left hand. I was surprised how my writing voice and my way of thinking changed when I wrote with my non-dominant hand. This exercise may also be interesting when you are struggling with writing a dialogue between two characters.

Here are some other challenges that have been set for me in my art courses that could be adapted when you feel stuck in your writing:

1)      Change scale – either drawing much bigger or much smaller than usual

2)      Change paper – both the colour of the paper and the smoothness of the surface will influence the results

3)      Set yourself limits – for example paint a picture using only blues or another colour of your choosing and/or only apply colour with your fingers, a stick, a rock or another implement you would normally not draw with.

You could write on an A3 page or then write about the same topic on A6 or smaller. Changing scale could also mean that you switch from an overview to a small detail.

 You may want to experiment what happens to your writing when you write on coloured paper (red, blue, yellow, green, even black) instead of white paper.

 There are numerous ways of setting limits: You could for example challenge yourself to write a Haiku if you usually write in free verse. You could write a piece of prose where every word starts with a specific letter. The possibilities are endless.

I am curious: What helps you to get unstuck? If you are trying out any of my suggestions, I would also love to know what happens...

About the author:
Sue Irving is the co-ordinator for the Creative Communicators in Petersfield. She enjoys helping others develop their creative potential. She has co-written a book with her husband John about their experiences when climbing Kilimanjaro. How to conquer a mountain: Kilimanjaro lessons is available as a paperback and an e-book on Amazon, with all proceeds going to charity.


  1. What an interesting post. I remember going to an art class where we were taught different exercises like this and it was very freeing. I had never thought of doing it with my writing. What a good idea. I've been struggling with my current work for a while so maybe I will try some of these things over the next few weeks.

  2. Dear Lynda, I would love to hear the results. :)

  3. I like the idea of trying to write with my opposing hand - I can see how it would make you focus in a different way.