Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


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Turning Over an Old Leaf

A friend of mine gave me a wonderful present before I left for China. A beautiful black journal with intricate floral patterns. But it was the second part of the present that meant even more.

She also gave me a dark blue, hand stitched cloth pocket with a pink plastic flower to button it closed. Inside the pocket were pieces of blue and purple cardboard, each with an inspirational phrase to be used as a heading for a journal entry. I smile every time I see the gorgeous packet.

I’ve taken the contents out several times, laying out the cardboard pieces and reading each carefully. Then I gently tuck them back into the pocket and button it up.

I had the pouch a whole month before one day I happened to turn it over. There, on the other side of the pocket, was a heart-shaped piece of floral material appliquéd to the other side. I was pleasantly surprised to find yet another instance of my friend’s thoughtful handicraft, and yet thoroughly flabbergasted that I’d used the pocket multiple times without ever seeing it.

This occasion brought a saying to mind. We’re always being told to ‘turn over a new leaf,’ but how often do we remember that old leaves are sometimes just as interesting on the underside?

Discoveries in the Familiar

Having given this more thought, it occurs to me that there are so many opportunities to discover new things in the familiar and ordinary.

Have you ever uncovered a new fact about an old friend? Perhaps you never knew they played the flute, spoke French or taken the Trans-Siberian Railway. Why not ask to look through your friend’s photo albums or old school trophies? A friend of mine once leant me a story she’d written during school. Both myself and my friend made discoveries during that read through which lead to many more writing adventures.

What about the history of where you live? Ever wondered about the name of your street? What did the area look like ten years ago? Twenty years ago? Fifty years ago? I kid you not, there are things to discover about your little corner of the world – no matter where you are. And often those discoveries result in a new appreciation of your surroundings. Can’t move house? Why not move perspective instead?

And how about the words you use every day? Try using an etymology dictionary (for example the Online Etymology Dictionary)  to look up common words. I guarantee the results will be surprising. Here are some words to get you started: demonstration, hazard and quarantine. I warn you though, the study of etymology is addictive! If you feel you’ve got a pretty good idea of the origins of words, try playing this game.

Remember the books you used to read and movies you used to watch when you were young? Dust off your personal copies or pop into your local library and find familiar titles. You’ll discover meanings and connections your younger self completely missed.

So, how does this all work in with being creative? Well, Creativity feeds on discovery. The more curious you are, the more fodder you provide. Train yourself to see possibilities everywhere and you’ll never run out of discoveries.

Have you turned over any old leaves lately? I’d love to hear about what you’ve found.

Image credit: Microsoft Clip Art