Monday Muse – Masked


Masked. (Photo credit: .Andi.)

I start the second part of my writing course today. For each of my papers we start each day, or week, depending on the paper, with a freehand exercise to get our creative minds and writing flowing. Like the Monday Muse the exercise is designed to get us writing regardless of our inner critic (more on the critic in a later post), and to limber our writing muscles for our weekly assignments.

Todays exercise was a photo of three masks. I enjoyed it because I found myself writing something quite different to what I usually write.

So, I decided to use a similar idea here today. The best thing is it can be used across disciplines – art, sculpture, writing, film, as a kids activity, as a party theme. There are no limits to what you can imagine.

Aztec mask of Xiuhtecuhtli, c. 1500, of Mixtec...

Aztec mask of Xiuhtecuhtli, c. 1500, of Mixtec-Aztec provenance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Masks have been around for centuries and used in many if not all cultures. They have been used as disguises, in ceremonies, by actors in shows, at celebrations and more.

Today I encourage you to choose at least 2 activities from the list. Don’t just write about a masked character, make a mask. Don’t just paint a picture of a mask, wear one for a day.

  • Make a mask – This can be as simple as using a paper plate, cutting eyeholes and drawing a design or can be as complex as making a mould of your face and creating a papier mache piece of art.

  • Wear your mask – If you are really brave try wearing it to the supermarket or at least down the street – Remember, it is a disguise – no-one will know who you are! Take on the characteristics of your mask. If it is a tiger, behave like a tiger, if it is a superhero, behave like a superhero.

  • Sculpt a mask – Use playdough, clay, plasticene or any other mouldable substance. For long lasting creations use salt dough and then you and the kids can paint and cook your creations before mounting them on your walls.

  • Paint a picture with  a mask/s featuring somewhere.

  • Attend a masked ball

  • Write, stage and film a play with a mask as a central theme.

  • Write a poem or story with a mask as a central theme.

    English: A Beijing opera mask

    English: A Beijing opera mask (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



Happy creating






Monday Muse – Short and Sweet

First of all – apologies for being late. I was unwell yesterday and unable to think straight let alone write a post that could inspire, prompt or prod you in any direction (let alone the right direction).

I am recovering but trying to limit my computer time so as not to aggravate my headache so this will be short and sweet.

Todays Prompt

Sweets, Candy, Lollipops, Chocolate drops…

Write, draw, or make something that is all about sweet things.

Avoiding sweet things for whatever reason? Make them anyway and give to a friend – doubly sweet!

Description unavailable

Description unavailable (Photo credit: square eyes)

Monday Muse – Winter Wonderland

Way down under in New Zealand we have been experiencing winter wonderland weather.  Even the fast flowing Shotover River in the South Island has been icing up.  Now that shows you how amazingly cold it is!  Here’s a pic of it when it’s not iced over. Needless to say, the Shotover Jet is not operating because it is too dangerous.

Shotover Jet is the only company permitted to ...

Shotover Jet is the only company permitted to operate in the spectacular Shotover River Canyons. It’s a thrilling ride – skimming past rocky outcrops at close range in your Shotover Jet ‘Big Red’, as you twist and turn through the narrow canyons at breath taking speeds. View On Black (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lucky for me, I’m in the North Island.  We’ve still been having our share of hard frosts and I even had frozen pipes – no running water for me yesterday morning.

But, the point I’m taking so long to get to is, that winter with its icy landscapes and frozen sculptures offers rich and varied inspiration for all of us. Poets, writers, artists and even those who would call themselves none of the former, can admire the beauty and marvel at the delicate intricacies that a winter landscape provides.

Todays Muse?

Get up early, put on lots of warm clothes, go outside and be inspired!

Living in a country where it is spring or summer or autumn? I have added a winter pic below for you.

Winter Snow - Landscape

Winter Snow – Landscape (Photo credit: blmiers2)

Happy Creating


Monday Muse – The Lost Art of Letter Writing


Letters (Photo credit:

Dear Readers,

How are you?  I hope this letter (post) finds you well. The weather has been beautiful here.  The glorious sunny days are worth the cold and chilly nights spent huddled around the fire clasping a hot water bottle, before diving into a bed where the blankets weigh more than the bed frame itself.

Unfortunately, despite the warmer days there is still no sign of my pea seeds sprouting.  I fear that last weeks rain may have caused them to rot in the ground. How is your garden?

More importantly, how is your creative life? If it has been languishing a little, now is the time to resurrect it AND, with todays exercise we are also going to resurrect the lost art of letter writing.

How many of us write letters regularly anymore?  Not emails or formal letters, but good old fashioned, long letters written on nice paper to friends or family? I remember the joy of receiving a letter in the mailbox. Immediately the handwritten address made the envelope stand out from the bills and official letters.

Depending on my mood I would rip it open and read it immediately, like a kid on Christmas morning who can’t wait to open the presents. Sometimes, I would draw out the moment and make a cup of tea first. Waiting for the jug to boil I would turn the envelope over and over studying the stamps and the sender address (if there was one) and wondering what the contents contained.

There was also as much pleasure in taking the time to sit down and write a reply. I mean, who doesn’t love getting mail? Being the one to bring happiness and joy to a loved one brings as much joy to the sender as the receiver.

So, find some nice paper, your favourite pen, a cup of tea or coffee and sit down and write a letter to someone. Take the time to write at least a page or two. Add doodles, sketches and stickers if you feel the urge. When you have finished put it in an envelope, address and post as soon as you can. If you’re lucky you may even get a reply.

Even if you don’t get a reply you will still get something out of writing the letter.  Writing a letter forces you to write for someone in particular, a specific audience. This affects how and what you say. Use this focus to take a piece of writing you have been stuck on and look at it from the point of view of your ideal audience. You can’t please everyone. Write for one person and you will find your work will gain focus, become tighter and flow better.

I will leave you with one more thought. Most of the great writers, artists, musicians wrote letters to their friends and family. Who knows, maybe letter writing is one of the keys to great work and art.

I look forward to hearing how your letters went and whether it changed your day, art, writing or life. Leave me a comment and let me know.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,


Letter and envelope from Emily Dickinson to Th...

Letter and envelope from Emily Dickinson to Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What is it? A jellyfish or a ??? A leaf or a ???

How often do you take a really close look at things?  What do you think this image is?  Think of three things you think it is likely to be before you continue reading.  No cheating!!  Consider it a bit of mental exercise.

What about this one.  It’s a leaf right?

Take another look.  Are you sure?

You must choose ONLY one answer for this one before you keep reading.

Practicing the art of observation and taking a closer look at everyday things and the world around us requires us to step beyond ourselves and really take the time to notice the details. This exercise helps us in many aspects of both our creative and everyday  lives.

Enhanced Awareness

When you begin to practice close observation you will become more aware of details and you will find yourself living more fully in the moment.  Time will slow down as you watch the butterfly hatch, the path of the bird across the sky.  You will see beauty in everyday objects, like the curve of the candlestick, the intricate details on a drawer handle.

This heightened sense of awareness will increase your sense of enjoyment and wonder in your daily life and the world around you.

Art and Writing

Close observation will also lead to more ideas for your art and writing and improve your work itself.

The more you observe people and and the world, the more information you will receive. This will in turn lead to more ideas for your creative outlets.

Another way noticing details will help is in your writing itself. We all know the show don’t tell principle. Being aware of details will make it easier to do this. Instead of saying; ‘James was angry. He glared at me and…’  You will be able to show this based on your observations of real life situations; ‘The tic at the corner of James’ eye started to twitch. I could see the vein in his neck pulsing as he ground his teeth.  He narrowed his eyes and…’

Activity 1

Take a walk around the block or down the street. (Or go into your garden and look at the world from the height of a 5 year old). Take note of the details you see. When you get home look at your details and come up with 3 story ideas based on one of the details you noticed.

Activity 2

Take your camera and take photos of 3 things you can see in your garden or in your house.  Put them on the computer and zoom them in on one section. Choose one of your zoomed images and use it as a starter for a piece of writing.

Activity 3

Go somewhere where there are lots of people – library, bus station, supermarket, playground and observe just one person.  Write down as many details as you can. At home create a short story based around the character you have observed. Use your details to bring the piece alive.
With all of these activities the most important thing is to have fun…and make sure you be subtle when observing in public otherwise you might get some funny looks or be asked to move on.
And finally to reveal what the pictures are…

Photo 1:

 taken by me.


Photo 2:

taken by my daughter


Have fun everyone,




Why Not?

Before deciding to do anything lots of us think about why we want to do it, why it will be a good idea, why we should, why

Then, we tell our friends we’re going to try new foods (maybe snails), change careers,  have dancing lessons, learn to play the cello… and our friends say “why?”  This starts the cycle all over again and we come up with reasons to justify our decisions and choices (especially if their voice has that tone…)

Now, I’m not saying this is a bad thing, it’s always good to know why you might want to do something.  But…

…sometimes I think we should try new things just because we want to – without all the why’s.  You never know what will happen or how it might change your life.

Next time you want to do something, or someone suggests trying something a little different, strange or even scary, instead of saying why?


As a writer trying new things is essential to keeping new ideas flowing in, our writing fresh and stopping us from becoming too isolated.  Our brains thrive on new experiences and challenges.

New experiences don’t always have to be big and momentous like climbing Everest, jumping out of a plane, quitting your job, or cutting your hair in a radical new ‘do’.

Start small.  As long as it is a new experience – you, your brain and your creative life will all benefit.

I have included some suggestions below.  Choose something off the list (that you haven’t already done before) or come up with your own experience and try it sometime this week.  Leave a comment and let us know what you did.

Why Not Experience Ideas

  • Make gloop and play with it.  (You can do this alone or with your kids.)  Click here for recipe and suggestions on what to do with it.
  • Go to a belly dancing class.
  • Grab some friends and play laser tag.
  • Listen to music that is not your style or genre.  Try dancing to it.
  • Get up early and watch the sun rise.
  • Try a new food or dish – Indian, Thai, Chinese…
  • Try a new herbal tea.
  • Visit a museum or art gallery.
  • Go mountain biking.
  • Volunteer to read a book to a local playgroup or at the library and put on voices for all the characters.
  • Wear an outfit that you wouldn’t usually.
  • Have a crazy hair day.
  • Learn to play an instrument.
  • Try not talking for a whole day. (This works best if you don’t need to go out.  Better yet, try it as a family).
  • Paint ballooning – get a blank canvas or wall.  Fill water balloons with paint and throw at canvas to make them explode.  (or use darts like on Princess Diaries.)
  • Meditate.
  • Dress up as your favourite childhood book character and go to the supermarket.
  • Fly a kite.
  • Go up in a hot air balloon.
  • Jump in puddles and dance in the rain. (If you’re really brave do it in a public place and sing ‘Dancing in the Rain’.)
  • Go to a poetry reading…

The world is your oyster. If you have some ideas you want added to this list, leave me a comment and I will add them.

Have Fun!


Photos courtesy of