MANW Week 2: Check-In and Making Art at Conventions

darkwing duck avatar

It’s hard to believe we’re already in the second week of Make Art Not War 2017, but here we are. So far, I’ve been focusing on jewelry design, in part because there is a mathematical component to this art form. Math, which is also present in art forms such as music, graphic design, kirigami/origami, and gaming, is an amazing discipline that is often overlooked in artistic endeavors, and I enjoy this component. When I’m stressed out, it also helps to ground me since I deal with words all day. Yesterday, for example, I was stressed out–especially with a convention on my horizon this weekend–so I made time and opted out of reading or watching TV to design something small but original.

This MANW challenge may inspire me to make art, but it’s up to me to ensure that it remains a priority. In Week 2, it feels as if my creations are a security blanket I’m slowly wrapping around myself. Every stitch is weaving part of that fabric, and as the year continues that feeling of being surrounded by art will only grow stronger. The biggest impact it’s having, is that I do feel there’s an emotional and mental buffer between politics and my identity as an artist. Instead of feeling hopeless or pushed upon, I’m using my art to reaffirm that “Yes, I am here and making art is what I do.” From there, once that foundation is in place (Ergo, why January’s MANW 2017 theme is PLAY!), then I’ll build off of that to funnel and channel my efforts into something more specific.

Of note, if you’re still on the fence or aren’t fully grasping how politics and a tense atmosphere impacts artists, John Scalzi wrote an article for the LA Times sharing a 10-Point Artist’s Plan for Getting Things Done. It’s a different perspective related to what I’m talking about, and I think it’s valuable to read if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Links and Reminders

For those of you who are following my work, I have a smattering of news and reminders for you today.

  • Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in StorytellingUpside Down is now available on NetGalley through January 31st. It is available to purchase in digital and print formats wherever books are sold, and it does qualify for 2016 award nominations if you’re so inclined. Our authors would love reviews, so if you have a copy please consider leaving one on Amazon, GoodReads, Barnes & Noble, DriveThruFiction.com, etc. Thank you!
  • My 2016 Releases – My 2016 releases in non-fiction and fiction are also eligible for award nominations; the cut off for gaming awards tends to vary, so you’ll have to check the publications date if you’re including games designed/written/edited by me or other designers. In most cases, games are submitted for consideration by the publisher, so our involvement tends to be hands off and less PR-related than it is in SF&F and other publishing channels. Thanks for your consideration.
  • Writing the Other: Sans Fail – Registration is now available! You can read the class description, and find out more information to register at this link. As part of the class, I will discuss some process-related techniques, Tempest will be lending her talents in a lecture, and you get to create characters and have them critiqued. It’ll be fun and informative!

Creative Challenge: Making Art While at Conventions

One of the aspects of my job is traveling to conventions, speaking on panels, and interacting with fans. I do well knowing there’s a larger audience of people to see me; performances are my jam, and I treat them as such. When there’s fewer people, or if it’s super chill, I tend to get distracted and not have as much fun. I’ve learned the hard way that when it’s busy, it’s important to book down time for myself and ensure I’m not spending too much time with one person even if that’s my SO.

It’s easier to make art when it’s not busy. I often wander, recharge my batteries, and write or make art when I can. This time, I find myself wondering what type of art can I make that will serve me during both busy and quiet moments?

I have written before at conventions, and I used to take pictures. Writing at conventions is hit-or-miss, and it really depends upon the con. With social media being what it is, it was easy to take pictures and post them. To me, though, staging photos or drinking in the scenery is not my preferred form of making art on the road. To resolve this, I asked about this on social media to drum up some ideas. Thanks to the feedback of many congoers like Emily Care Boss, the solution I’ve come up with is to assign a notebook for my travels this year and dive into sketches, doodles, and bad poetry(1).

One nice thing about a notebook and some funky pens is that I can carry that with me wherever I go, so it’s not size-prohibitive. The other thing, is that as I travel this year I’m essentially creating a fun journal of my trips. It’s an elegant solution, and I’m looking forward to filling its pages and keeping my creative mind active on the road.

Another option, is to set aside a time and invite other people to join me for writing, drawing, etc. This feels like a good mix of social-and-creative time, though mileages will vary since everyone’s process is so different. Some people can only write in isolation. I’m sensitive to sound, so I can write if there’s a lot of white noise or instrumental music, but not if there’s performers present. As this is a huge topic and a major creative challenge for a lot of folks, I’m going to follow up with some tips as I experiment this weekend and explore some possibilities.

That’s enough about me. How are y’all doing this week? Time to check in!

(1) I haven’t studied poetry very much, and I view different forms of writing to require specialization. So, I consider my poems to be bad, bad, b-b-b-b-b-b-bad.

    Mood: ALL THE CLEANING
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Had to back off yesterday, and went for the herbal tea. Oh, my head!
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Does typing my ass off count?
    In My Ears: Boromir
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Book Last Read: Research materials for work.
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Lord of the Rings Trilogy
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: Read my end-of-the-year list of releases for an overview of what I’ve put out for 2016. Check out Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling and, if you like it, consider leaving a review.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update.



On Not Making Art

Spike and Giles... Together at Last

After talking to some artists who haven’t started producing anything yet, I wanted to write this post for those of you who are stuck. I’m going to tell you a secret. You already know why you’re not writing or drawing or painting or making music or whatever your flavor of art is. You really, really do. Discipline is required, but to sit down and actually make art? There’s a reason why you’re not doing it, and you know what that is. If you don’t, you’re having a hard time admitting that horrifying and terrible truth to yourself.

Often, the reason why you’re not making art is grounded in what you’re feeling. Most of the time, it’s because you’re afraid. I’m not talking fire-and-brimstone fear, I’m talking about the kind of skepticism, anxiety, and existential dread that evolves out of knowing what you want to do, picturing it clear in your mind, and not being able to draw/paint/write like you do in your head. Consider these types of artists:

    SCENARIO A: THIS SHOULD BE EASIER THAN IT ACTUALLY IS – Some artists feel inept, broken, disconnected. So, they run to the bookstore or visit websites where they’re promised “the secret of…” and a hundred tips to hone and perfect their art–all things they are grateful to learn, of course–and they sit back down apply tips here and there expecting their unformed work will match their imagined masterpiece. They bought the secret, after all. Only, their finished work doesn’t match their vision no matter how hard they try. They feel defeated, they set their art aside, and rinse/repeat at a later date.

    SCENARIO B: I SUCK, BECAUSE I KNOW WHAT I CAN’T DO – Other artists are so painfully aware of what they don’t know, and they constantly berate themselves for it. They might even know a bunch of artists, and hang with them hoping some of their talent will rub off. They try as time allows, but have so little confidence in the process of learning how to make the art they want they never finish what they’re working on. Unfocused and lost, they flip to many different mediums or constantly change what it is they want to do.

    SCENARIO C: EVERYTHING I DO IS FINISHED AND READY TO SELL – Some artists either don’t care about what they don’t know or doesn’t care about what they can’t/shouldn’t do. As soon as their work is finished, they offer it for sale or for public review. Friends, family, reviewers, and folks within a community of artists like this could be encouraging them to publish or share the art before its ready, because they think they’re helping and it feels good. But, because nothing is held back these artists are not protecting the work they do, and their ability to improve is hampered. It’s exactly the opposite: they’re sharing it at every stage and use other people’s opinions as a guide instead of trusting that learning is a process we all go through.

There are many, many different scenarios of artists like these who are trying to connect what they want to do, with what they think they’re doing, and what they actually know how to do. Most of us make up our careers as we go along, because there are many things outside of our control. A career happens, however, after artists have the ability to continually produce art to sell. When you’re just starting out, you’re not there quite yet–and that’s okay. That’s normal. The vehicle of commercialism, social media, and other means of sharing, selling, and getting feedback on your art exacerbates feelings and adds an extra layer of fuckery and/or angst as well. Only, selling and promoting your art is a process, and it’s not the same process required to make it.

Again, I want to reinforce that you know why you’re not making art, and that reason is usually connected to your emotions. Do your circumstances affect your ability to make art? Absolutely, and I’m not writing this post to diminish your situation because only you know what that is. Discipline is what has helped me to work past my own issues, and it’s part of making art. That discipline came from the years I practiced and performed as a musician, and it’s something I applied to writing and jewelry making. It’s not the same process as selling your art, revising it, reviewing it, promoting it, etc. but it’s the most crucial–because there is no secret to becoming an artist. First, you have to get in the habit of making art before you can do anything else.

If you don’t know how to make art you want to make, be kind to yourself. Give yourself the time and the ability to learn. Make mistakes. Study. Ask questions. By all means, take risks and screw up–but do it on your terms. Without that piece, without the crucial processes and methods you internalize by making art and finishing what you’ve started, then all you’re left with is hopes and dreams which, if you’re not careful, can leave you bitter. You’re also not alone, however, and I hope that this post encourages you to face up to your feelings, push past them, and start making art because it’s what you really want to do.



My Dragon Talk Appearance and a D&D-inspired Creative Prompt

D&D Ampersand

“Heeeeeeeeyyyyyy yoooooooouuuuuuu guuuuuuuuyyyyyyssssss!” to quote Goonies. Greg Tito and Shelly Mazzanoble, two fine and upstanding individuals over at Dungeons & Dragons, invited me to speak on Dragon Talk, the official D&D podcast.

“Shelly Mazzanoble and Greg Tito speak to Monica Valentinelli, a prolific creative writer with heavy involvement in all forms of D&D from adventure writing to running and playing games with new players. In Lore You Should Know – Matt Sernett and Chris Perkins jump into the Yawning Portal.” — SOURCE: Monica Valentinelli on D&D

The article has three different ways you can listen to me babble on excitedly. I hope you find my talk valuable!

D&D-Inspired Creative Prompt

One of the things we talked about in the podcast, was that character motivations help to make adventures stronger. Sure, your players might want a MacGuffin. Why do they want that loot beyond re-selling it or using it to have more power?

Often, a MacGuffin in a D&D adventure translates into a kick-ass piece of loot the party earns after slaying monsters, that is then used by the characters to increase their effectiveness. The conversation about MacGuffins, however, evolves when applied to fiction. “In fiction, a MacGuffin (sometimes McGuffin or maguffin) is a plot device in the form of some goal, desired object, or other motivator that the protagonist pursues, often with little or no narrative explanation. The specific nature of a MacGuffin is typically unimportant to the overall plot,” as defined by Wikipedia.

TVTropes.org has a slightly different (and a little more blunt) definition for MacGuffin: “A plot device which nobody actually uses, and whose nature and identity are basically irrelevant.”

Creative Prompt: Why Would You Use a MacGuffin?

With this in mind, my creative prompt today is a step-by-step process to examine the MacGuffin and put it to good use in an adventure or a story. *rim crash*.

(1) In 300 words or less, create a unique MacGuffin that has an interesting history.
(2) Figure out ten reasons why someone (or some thing) would want to use that MacGuffin. Don’t be afraid to think creatively about this; avoid the obvious!
(3) Identify the location of the MacGuffin and decide if that loot is protected.

For Dungeon Masters:

(4) Tie each reason from Step 2 to a character in the adventuring party or an NPC. Consider using NPCs from factions as well, to flesh out monsters, townsfolk, and other types of antagonists.
(5) Determine who (or what) could be affected by using the MacGuffin. This can be a list tying back to your NPC motivations, but it can also be towns filled with innocents, etc. This serves to ground you, as the DM, to understand the cost of using the MacGuffin for better or for ill.
(6) Write a one-paragraph summary of an adventure based on using that MacGuffin. Think “big picture”. This is what your adventure will be about; it also means that finding the MacGuffin should happen early on, and using the MacGuffin causes interesting problems the party will have to resolve.
(7) Now, break up that adventure into an outline of sessions and scenes–as many as it takes. This’ll give you the foundation for a campaign, but will also tie motivations together for your party, their allies, and their rivals to give it a little oomph.
(8) Play!

For authors:

(4) Assign motivations to use the MacGuffin for three characters: a hero, a sidekick/love interest, and a villain. Use the goals that are the most at odds with each other, to increase conflict.
(5) Steps 5-8 are all about brainstorming! Write down a list of obstacles preventing your characters from using the MacGuffin, and ways they might overcome them or fail. For example, say the MacGuffin is a magical item, but your hero doesn’t/can’t perform magic. As another, the MacGuffin could only be used by the descendant of its original owner; that character is either the villain or they’ve already passed on. What creative solutions can you figure out to resolve those issues and get your characters using the MacGuffin in your story?
(6) What happens when the MacGuffin is used? Who stands to be helped by it? Hurt?
(7) What needs to happen in order to “turn off” the MacGuffin’s power?
(8) What do the characters involved stand to lose/gain by the loss of the MacGuffin? (Like Step 6, this is another way of helping you determine the stakes for your story.)
(9) Write a one-to-two paragraph summary of your plot. Don’t forget to figure out a few possible endings ahead of time! These will probably come out of brainstorming for Step 7.
(10) Cue… Writing to form! (e.g. short story or flash fiction)

If using a MacGuffin doesn’t sound interesting to you as a plot device, you can always figure out what else you’d want to do with it. You could destroy or create a powerful object that has evolved from its MacGuffin-esque roots, instead. Keep in mind that destroying, creating, designing, and piecing together objects also run the risk of turning them into MacGuffins if your characters either don’t use them, or you don’t have a reason for doing so for your plot. In other words: it shouldn’t simply be an object everybody’s after. Even in Lord of the Rings, Frodo’s goal might be to destroy the One Ring to save the world, but he does use it for different reasons and that creates problems for him. Though your opinions might vary on this, to me the One Ring is a fantastic example of a MacGuffin-turned-plot device because it a) is unique, b) is used by Sauron (past), Isildur (past), Frodo, Bilbo, and Gollum, and c) matters to the overall story. Arguably, I could take that a step further and say that the One Ring is its own character, too, since it represents the will of Sauron–but that’s a nerdtastic discussion for another day.

Happy writing!

    Mood: Critical hit! Heh, heh.
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Four… Five? Cups of coffee. Hey, it’s cold.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Vacuuming counts. Right?
    In My Ears: The heater, because it is freakishly cold.
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Book Last Read: Research materials for work.
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: Read my end-of-the-year list of releases for an overview of what I’ve put out for 2016. Check out Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling and, if you like it, consider leaving a review.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update.



MANW Check-In, Making Art as an Act of Protest, and Two Prompts

Cthulhu Scribe by Drew Pocza

Welcome! Today’s the first weekly check-in for my Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge. Many of my fellow challengers are using the hashtags on Twitter and Facebook (#makeartnotwar2017 #manw2017) and posting works in progress or art they’ve made. As the visibility for this challenge continues to grow, I want to remind you that you can join at any time. There’s no sign up, and the rules are designed to help you stick with it and keep making art.

How are you doing? I don’t know about you, but my creativity is exploding. I feel the enthusiasm and creative energy you all have, and I’m feeding off of it to experiment and channel it into every aspect of my life to focus on doing, doing, doing. I’ve made three pies so far (Ahem. I LOVE pie!), I’ve designed, torn apart, and am restitching a MANW bracelet, I’m neck deep in character creation, and I feel little pops of “Oooo… I could do…” all over the damn place. In other words, I am embracing this month’s theme–PLAY–fully and in every sense of the word.

The last tatters of whatever filter I had are burning away, and what I’m left with is (my Italian/musical friends will understand this) a feeling of “il più forte”. I am loud, and I am getting louder. It is reflected in my prose, it’s mirrored in this blog, and it’s definitely impacting the way I feel. The passion that burns within me wants to come out, and that’s definitely resonating.

I’d love to hear from you, so feel free to post your thoughts in the comments below.

Tracking and Adjusting for Missed Days

To keep track of my challenge efforts, right now I’m using a super simple system to ensure I’m sticking (Hah! Hah!) with this. I picked up some gold star stickers, and for every day I fulfill the challenge I add one to that date on my calendar. The cost is less than $5 for stickers like these, and you can find them at Michael’s, Amazon.com, Staples, Oriental Trading Company, etc. If you can’t pick up stickers (or don’t want to use them), drawing stars or smiley faces in a bright (e.g. non-black) color works just as well. The result? You’ll keep adding stars, hearts, etc. and have a visual, clear picture of the days you’ve made art so far. Awesome, right? So far, so good for me!

Please remember: what you get out of this challenge will be what you put into it. There is NO judgement happening on my end, because for many of you it’s difficult to make art every day. The challenge is here to help you be your best! If you miss a day, try writing down the reason why you missed it. To get back up to speed, take your allotted time and split it in half. Then, figure out what you are giving up: maybe it’s a half an hour of TV or gaming, maybe it’s chatting on Twitter, maybe it’s reading the news. It’s amazing where that time goes, and figuring that out will help you long-term.

Making Art as an Act of Protest

Following the election, I’ve seen a lot of discussions about what it means to make art when the pendulum swings toward extremism or fascist regimes. Regardless of your thoughts on the subject of our current political climate, the idea that there is “one way” to be is incredibly dangerous for many, many reasons. If “man” and “woman” wind up putting a single image in people’s heads, it sets an impossible standard for hundreds of millions of people who don’t live up to that. When impossible standards fall down, that’s when people get hurt because bullies become emboldened. Victims say: “You’re hurting me. I’m me, I can’t be that perfect image. Please don’t do (or say) that again.” A bully says: “I don’t believe you. It’s your fault if you don’t measure up. You’re imagining the pain I caused. You’re weak. You’re making it up for attention. Trust me, I know what’s best for you.” And so on, and so forth. It becomes “us vs. them” because the “us” doesn’t accept that the “them” will step into line and follow their lead no matter what. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as “us”, because there’s no such thing as the ideal or perfect human being.

Because the truth of who we are as individuals is far more complex than an idyllic image, I feel that making art is one way to attest to our true selves and our identities. Your art, whether you intend it to be or not, is a statement. Being present in who you are and sharing your art with the world–even in the face of rejection and hatred or through the vehicle of commercialism–that is an act of defiance. That is you saying: “Here I am. This is the art I made. I hope it makes you laugh, cry, dream, hope, wonder, think differently about me, recognize my humanity, empathize, etc.” How far you draw out that innermost part of yourself in your art, either consciously or unconsciously, is always up to you. Regardless, at the bare minimum, anything you make–from knitted socks to a painting of the statue of liberty crying–shows that you were here.

Lastly, I want to mention that fighting for the right to exist is not a privilege and it’s not exciting to me. It’s necessary. This struggle is not new, and unfortunately artists don’t have the power to stop wars on the battlefield. We do, however, have the ability to affect hearts and minds of survivors and victims, and that is what we’re often called to do in times of spiritual, moral, and physical conflict. Now that a fresh round of conversations about worker’s rights, health care rights, refugee rights, LGBTQA+ rights, and women’s rights are in the public eye again along with talks about ethnocentrism and patriotism, it suddenly feels as if the apathetic masses (a.k.a. the proverbial zombies) are waking up to fight. The reality, however, is that some people have been fighting all along, and this is especially true for people who hail from traditionally marginalized or underrepresented groups.

Creative Prompts: Personify Your Rage & Envision a Futuristic Habitat

What we’re experiencing as artists is a hot mess of feelings stemming from a cultural zeitgeist that many of us cannot ignore. This spirit of the times will influence our art to varying degrees; it could result in characters yelling, a sub-plot about oppression, a bleak landscape or photograph, etc. It could, if we’re not careful, also result in inaction and an unwillingness to make art. Why bother? What power does an artist have? How can we, the small and the unknown, make a difference? For all these reasons and more, this is why I mentioned how important it is to protect the work–especially if you cannot allow anger and fear to seep its way in. By protecting the work, you wind up doing something else: you protect your heart, too.

In light of this, I have two creative prompts for you today that tackle both ends of the emotional spectrum. The first helps those of you who are angry to embrace that feeling, to get it out of your system, and to attest and affirm your emotions.

Creative Prompt: Personify Your Anger

Anger is often viewed as a negative feeling, especially if we allow it to go too far (e.g. Pyrrhic victory), but it is also transformative. Often, anger and rage are attributed to the masculine and the strong; if you’re not the Hulk, for example, you cannot be angry. Anger, however, is a human emotion that every last one of us has the capacity to feel. Our personification of this emotion, is what informs our comfort level with it. It is the fire elemental that dances on a field of flowers turning beauty into ash; it is the phoenix that destroys itself in an endless cycle of destruction and renewal. When we douse the flames, we feel empty, hollow, and full of guilt. And yet, our anger pushed something out of the way so a seed can sprout in its place. That seed, fragile and precious and full of life, could not exist if it weren’t for our anger.

For this prompt, personify your rage and turn it into a character. You could:

  • Draw fan art of Phoenix, Ghost Rider, the Human Torch. Don’t be afraid to gender-bend or play with costumes!
  • Sketch a political cartoon
  • Cross-stitch a phoenix
  • Knit or crochet a dragon
  • Write-up a new character
  • Paint yourself in the heart of a volcano
  • Write a heavy metal/industrial song

What does your rage look like? For me, that personification turned into a modern version of the Greek Furies. I developed internet furies who survive off of ‘net rage for Gods, Memes, and Monsters to channel my feelings into monsters. Yours could be completely different. It could be a terrifying beast, a mutant, or a force of nature. By personifying it, you’ll identify what your anger looks like and have a visual of this personal aspect of yourself.

For those of you who aren’t feeling angry right now, my second creative prompt is to create art that taps into your hope and forces you to imagine a better future.

Creative Prompt: Envision an Ideal Habitat

Post-apocalyptic and dystopian futures are all too common when the cultural zeitgeist carries doom and gloom, and that can influence the stories we tell. I suspect that the creation and demand for horror, dark science fiction, post-apoc, etc. will begin to swell again, because dark futures are a means of exploring our deepest fears to show us how we can survive. For others, especially myself, the exact opposite is true: we need messages of hope to understand that a brighter, better future is possible.

This prompt explores your vision, and draws upon your hope. Even if you have just a tiny bit of it, as long as you have the desire to tap into that positive emotion, this prompt could be a lot of fun for you.

To envision a futuristic habitat, think about what an ideal home might look like in five hundred years. Then, use your talent to bring that vision forth. Here’s some suggestions! You might:

  • Design a Rube-Goldberg house
  • Use LegosTM to build a futuristic space habitat
  • Be inspired by NASA’s work and create a deep space habitat
  • Pick your favorite flower or vegetable and use that as the inspiration for a totally green, non-synthetic home.
  • Choose your favorite animal. Instead of a habitat for humans, what would a futuristic home look like for them?
  • Challenge yourself by writing a few restrictions down before you start. For example, you might note that your habitat has to be completely self-sustaining, made only of synthetic, recycled, or organic materials, or has a low manufacturing cost.

Whether you use whimsy or utility, designing a futuristic habitat forces you to reach outside of yourself and place your faith in a better tomorrow. It still utilizes your emotions, but in a different way to problem solve and create a pie-in-the-sky scenario.

That’s it for today, dear readers. Don’t forget to check in if you’re taking this challenge!

    Mood: Out of f*cks
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Four cups of coffee.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: Pissed I haven’t gotten to the gym.
    In My Ears: “Let It Go” by Idina Menzel for Frozen
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Book Last Read: Research materials for work.
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: Read my end-of-the-year list of releases for an overview of what I’ve put out for 2016. Check out Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling and, if you like it, consider leaving a review.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update.



Creative Prompt: Make Your Own Survival Guide!

Marvel Thor

I discovered artist Colin Matthes after reading an article about his work. He’s a community-based artist whose survivalist-based pieces have been featured in the Wisconsin Triennial at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Colin is obsessed with survivalism, and his illustrations answer a question about how to survive in extreme conditions like urban warfare. He also runs a workshop that invites participants to channel their essential knowledge, to illustrate what they know in a survival guide.

I love Matthes’ awesome idea! As a creative prompt, creating a survival guide is easy enough to apply across most mediums. Take the expert knowledge you have learned and record that information for posterity’s sake! You might know how to operate an espresso machine (which is clearly needed in times of duress), or you might know how to knit a hat when you don’t have any needles, or survive if you’re stranded in the cold, rain, or hot conditions.

Your knowledge could be relayed by:

  • Drawing a comic
  • Embroidering panels
  • Creating a storyboard
  • Writing a catchy tune
  • Filming a how-to commercial

For writers, this prompt can also help you learn word conservation(1) to help tidy up your prose. To do that, pick an area of expertise you have and write down each step. Then, put that first draft away for a couple of days. When you revisit it, read it out loud. Did you get everything? Then, pare down any unnecessary or overly complicated words and phrases. Set it aside, then revise again.

This exercise is, as Colin intended, also great for groups and community organizations, because there’s a lot of value in critiquing and getting feedback in this environment. If you are thinking of a group activity, I encourage you to reach out to Colin Matthes, the artist who inspired this creative prompt.

(1) Apparently, this is a phrase I’ve concocted per Google, so let me define it. Word conservation is a technique used to write prose using as few words as possible while retaining the meaning. Often, but not always, this means the vocabulary is at the high school reading level, too.

    Mood: Energetic
    Caffeinated Beverages Consumed: Yeah, definitely not managed.
    Work-Out Minutes Logged Yesterday: I felt a great disturbance in my wobbily bits.
    In My Ears: A snoring cat.
    Game Last Played: Dragon Age: Inquisition
    Book Last Read: Research materials for work.
    Movie/TV Show Last Viewed: Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
    Latest Artistic Project: Make Art Not War 2017 Challenge and Rules
    Latest Releases: Read my end-of-the-year list of releases for an overview of what I’ve put out for 2016. Check out Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling and, if you like it, consider leaving a review.
    Current State of Projects: Read my latest project update.



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