Creative Play: Weekly Strips and Monthly Challenges

Back in January, one of the three focuses I illuminated for the quarter was to put into practice some sort of container, such that I would regularly be playing creatively and challenging myself monthly.

Here’s a little peek at how that’s developed over the past three months.

1) Creative Play (Weekly)

For me, there are the “creative” things that I do regularly, which are woven into my “usual” without putting extra energy towards it. They’re comfortable and familiar. This includes my Sunday morning portrait painting, decorating and sending snail mail, painting quotes/postcards, or gluing ephemera into my day-marker art journal.

And then there are the “creative” things I think about doing, which remain on lists—both on paper and in my mind. Some of these things have lived in List Land for YEARS. (Like carving a rubber stamp out of an eraser!) They’re the cool ideas I’ll see somewhere and screenshot… which then live in a folder on my desktop that I’ve completely forgotten about. Over time such ideas have built up this bizarre wall, simply because they’ve gotten so cozy and comfortable living in List Land, even if the doing of the thing would really only take 10 minutes.

So, I wanted to create a way for these List Land Creative Things to become
a) visible,
b) accessible, and
c) built into my regular week.

I also wanted it to feel fun and light.

To get the ball rolling, I set a timer for 25 minutes and made a list of… the List Land Creative Ideas. I tried to keep each item accessible, ~10 minutes, because I needed the wall to be super low so I could break the spell and not be intimidated.

Then I wrote them out on little strips of paper—here’s a selection below

creative prompt slips

—and put them in a mug, which sits on my desk.

(I’d bought the mug to drink out of, and the handle broke—without falling, it just gently broke off—like a week after I’d bought it. Happy to give it another purpose, which requires no handle!)


Once a week—usually on Fridays, but not necessarily—I pull a slip and do it right then and there.

I like the surprise and randomness of the slip-pulling, and also that I have to put in zero thought (energy). Just pull the slip and do what it says.

The focus of this play, as it was with those mind maps years ago and my current portrait project, is the process, the doing. Not the product.

The pride (gold star) comes when I spend 10 minutes DOING the thing. The only expectation is to BE PLAYING for 10 minutes.

Just like playing house as a child. I did it for the playing, for the joy of the doing.

Whatever I make means nothing. It’s not me. It doesn’t mean anything about me. No one’s going to see it. Just play! This is light! Things can be this light and silly.

(Note: Freewriting with Molly Caro May is a new-ish tool of mine that’s gradually becoming more integrated into my usual, and it completely strengthens/affirms this free, light play. I’ve done many of her free offerings, as well as purchased monthly StoryLoops—check them out here! It is quite the experience to freewrite with a group of strangers, to speak your written words and not tie meaning/significance to them, to not be pinned down/defined by this random stuff that came to you in a random moment. But alas, where were we?)

To anyone interested in some creative play, I would suggest you share your creations with no one; tell no one of your play time. At least for now. Whatever it takes to keep a sacred container of just-for-fun creative play.

2) Creative Challenge (Monthly)

I also see the joy and benefit of a creative challenge. To me, this is shorter-term thing (a week?), which takes more energy than a 10-minute play. Perhaps it’s a full week of doing one small thing each day—like writing a poem each day, or a weekend challenge of writing four songs in two days.

Once again, I set a timer and brainstormed a list of possible challenges.


Each month I can choose one as best fits my mood/energy/surroundings.

For example, in February I took part in Molly Caro May’s “Tending Your Own Flame” daily 3-minute freewrite from Feb 7-27. It had been a long time since I’d done something daily for that amount of time (20 days), and I could definitely feel the length as I participated.

Afterwards, I reflected that I didn’t want to do another challenge of that length for a while (yet, funnily enough, I just realized I’m currently doing another daily freewrite challenge from Molly, this one THIRTY days, called In the Middle of It, to go for a full lunar cycle and slow down during corona time.)

In March, my challenge became to participate in the library’s “Un-bound Upcycle Book Art Contest,” where a book becomes your canvas.

I haven’t yet selected a challenge for April, but I think I’ll go the songwriting route, since I have the house to myself and plenty of time. Also, back in January I wrote that I’d be proud if I’d written three songs by the end of this first quarter. I have not written a single complete song—though I am celebrating all the moments when I felt anger/frustration or whatever, and improvised a song about it. Or free-played for ten minutes, without jotting down notes or chords. (In my tiny foray into songwriting, I find that the best lyrics and tunes come when I’m not recording! When I’m just playing around, and it flows too well. When I stop to write, or put a recorder in the background, the flow is stopped; it’s not the same.)


These creative practices will continue as long as they serve me and feel fun. At the moment, I plan to continue playing creatively, using this structure, into quarter 2 of the year.

Is creative play a part of your life?

Is there another area for which drawing from slips of paper could be a fun container?

Did this bring up anything for you?

Open to all thoughts in comments below. Thanks for being here!