Superpowers

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Bubbles floated up and settled around the side of the thick edged coffee mug. John watched the steam float up and dissipate.

“Thanks,” he said.

“And I was beginning to think I wouldn’t see you today,” the waitress replied before making rounds to fill coffee at her other tables.

John slipped his superhero comic from beneath the menu where he had shoved it before Maggie took his order.

As he flipped to his place in the comic he mentally made his 1,819th mark on his attendance list and his 763rd mark on Maggie’s witty retort list. He was getting close to his five year anniversary. Sitting in the same booth, drinking the same coffee and enjoying his brief and repetitive conversations with the only waitress he ever had. Only the comic was different each day.

He promised himself he’d splurge and get eggs and a muffin on his quinquennial. John dreamed of Maggie bringing it to him with a candle, but she probably had no clue of the approaching day’s significance.

He gazed back at the few remaining bubbles and watched them pop leaving a perfect black mirror in an off-white frame.

The mirror rippled first before the thin metal silverware and his empty muffin plate bounced around the speckled Formica table. John grabbed the shiny metal edge expecting to stop the shaking but it had no affect. His eyes darted about the diner. The trays of mugs behind the counter rattled toward a destructive fall. The pendant lights swayed above the other surprised patrons. Even the glass in the front picture windows shimmered with the increasing vibrations.

With a boom the front door disintegrated and the shaking stopped. A whoosh pulled all sound from the room which was replaced by slow and deliberate boot steps, each one ending with a distinct “ting” of a metal toe tapping the tile floor.

Black cargo pants stretched tight against the intruder’s powerful legs. His white t-shirt revealed every upper body muscle including some John didn’t know existed.

He tossed a duffle on the counter.

“Valuables and cash!”

No one moved.

“Now!”

Maggie reached the cash register first, but couldn’t seem to get it to open. John could see other patrons fumbling for their wallets and removing jewelry.

John wrapped his hand around his mug and drained it in one swig.

He breathed in expanding his chest to twice its size. The muscles on his arms bulged with veins throbbing.

The intruder tore one of the counter stools from its bolts in the floor and tossed it into the kitchen. He stepped forward and slammed his fist through the counter breaking it in two. He snatched the duffle before the counter collapsed and flung it to a nearby table of four.

“You don’t want me to ask again!”

John slid from his booth and rose.

The intruder pointed at John and said, “Now, there’s a smart guy.”

John rose to full height and still breathing in grew another foot. He strode toward the intruder.

The intruder flipped an empty four-top over his shoulder like a piece of trash where it smashed against the men’s room door.

John stopped within arm’s reach of the monstrous figure who still towered over him. He sucked in one more breath growing enough to look him eye to eye.

“I think I’ve been more than patient,” the intruder bellowed.

Behind him, the few patrons still capable to moving began tossing their cash, jewelry and electronics toward the duffle bag. The intruder ignored the noise of most items bouncing off the table and skidding across the floor. Straightening his posture, the intruder rose an inch above John’s eye line.

John sucked in air through his nose and grew to meet the intruder’s change in height.
The intruder dropped his open hand on John’s shoulder and squeezed the skin and muscles into his fist. He stared deep into John’s eyes. “We don’t want any trouble, now, do we?”

With a sweep of his arm, John lobbed the enormous man across the room where he landed where the counter once had been. In the blink of an eye, John sped to where the intruder lay, grabbed him by the collar and dumped him outside on the sidewalk against a “No Parking” sign. He twisted the pole around the intruder like the stripe on a barber pole.

“Here ya go.” Maggie slipped the check onto the table.

John jerked his head up, snapping him away from his hard stare into the coffee.
“See you tomorrow? Enjoy your superhero comic.” She winked and moved on to her next table.

John flipped over the paper and considered the $7.50 check. He pulled out three twenties, tucked them and the check beneath his mug.

Maggie wiped off the pristine counter as John strolled past. He half raised his hand to wave but Maggie didn’t see him.
Outside, John could see Maggie clearing the booth he had just left. He watched her pick up the two twenties and a huge smile crossed her face. She looked up in time to see John looking in and mouthed “thank you”.

John smiled back. Everyone has a superpower, maybe this was his.

Journaling – What Your Creativity Needs

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Photo by Jessica Lewis on Pexels.com

I always thought journaling would be a waste of time. I never understood when I should, could or would want to go back and read prior entries. I resigned myself that journaling longhand would be useless since you would have to have an incredible memory or some intricate method of indexing entries if you ever wanted to find and reread something specific. When I decided to journal it would be on a computer using searchable software.

I am not one who journals daily, going days or even weeks without making an entry, but I have found a love for journaling and this love stems from the complete opposite reasons I listed at the start of this post.

After a while, I realized journaling isn’t about researching past entries. It’s not about finding something specific. Revisiting old entries should be an unplanned journey, albeit one into previously visited territories. These trips back in time can have so many unexpected affects. I’ve reread pieces that have forced me to figure out what the hell I was thinking or feeling at the time. I recalled things that had since slipped my mind. Rereading allowed me to vividly remember the emotions I replicated in words. At times I sparked new ideas for projects where I was stuck or needed a push in the right direction.

When I do write in my journal, the entry kickstarts my creative process. Whether I hit my full 500 word a day goal in an entry or only scribble out a hundred or so words, the act of journaling revs me up enough to continue using my creative juices.

It doesn’t happen for me everyday, but I don’t feel like I need to journal everyday either. Journaling cannot be defined, scheduled, structured. What it can be is useful as an enticement, and a tool for creativity.

Do you journal? What is your journaling goal or process? I’d love to hear more about you in the comments below.

Creative Exercise: Making Your Own Rules

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Each week I will offer some ideas on how to exercise your creativity.  If you missed my first post, you can find it here.  This week I turn to the monotony in our lives.  Chores!  I have found a way to make chores more fun.  Don’t misunderstand, if your chores are a 1 on the fun scale where 1 is misery and 10 is jubilation, then these ideas may push your 1 all the way to a 2 or maybe even a 3!

For your creative development, creating games out of common tasks will help you develop a set of logical rules designed to be fair.  You don’t want to set up your game so you always win.  Although it may be great to always win for a time, soon the game won’t be much fun to play.  Rules are important in your creative projects, too.  All writers must come up with a set of rules for the worlds they build.  One such rule may be that our sun gives some aliens superpowers while normal humans have none.  In most cases these rules, especially when different from our own world, need to be much more complex.  The same need for rules applies for art and music.  The rules help your audience make sense of the piece.  Making up games requires making up rules which will help you do the same in your creative projects.

Turn Your Chores into Games

Personally, my mind thinks of things numerically so I turn many of my chores into games relating to numbers and time.  Perhaps you are more artistically or musically inclined, so your games may consist of creating patterns, images or rhythms.

Emptying the Dishwasher

I’m not a fan of this tedious chore.  Since it is such a small project it shouldn’t be an issue, yet I feel the need to make it just a bit more entertaining by turning it into a game.  If the dishwasher is clean in the morning, I start the coffee maker and challenge myself to have it emptied and any dirty dishes waiting in the sink loaded before the coffee maker drips the last drop of hot water through the filter.  If I’m not making a pot, I choose another timing method to time my emptying prowess such as the microwave countdown while my lunch warms, or guessing the number of steps I need to take to finish the job.  Sometimes I make this more challenging by requiring that I empty each cupboard or drawer’s residents in order.  Feel free to change the rules each time you play the game.  Sometimes you need to make it easier if you need a “win” that day, while other days you may revel in winning a more difficult challenge.

Mowing the lawn

For me, this chore is simply a counting game but for others creating a work of lawn art may be a more ambitious, creative option.

The simplest game I play is guessing the number of rows I need to mow before I reach an object like a tree, drain or flowerbed which requires a course change.  If I am feeling bold, I may even guess how many rows the entire backyard will take, allowing for two guess adjustments before I reach the halfway point.  (Yes, I have thought about this way too much, but the rules I come up with need to be creative and logical to make the game worth playing).  If I gave myself a single guess the game would be over immediately other than the monotony of counting rows.  By giving myself guess adjustments I keep my mind in the game as I am continuously reassessing my row overlap, pattern and remaining distance while still counting each row.

To create lawn art you will need to think of your lawn like a giant Etch-A-Sketch, planning out your image, realistic or abstract from the beginning.  If I am feeling creative I end up with a different mowing pattern than rows or diagonals, but based on my childhood experiences with the Etch-A-Sketch, I think it is best for me to stick with patterns rather than attempt an actual picture.  If you do play this version of the game, I would love to see a picture.

Using these games keeps my mind focused on the task at hand.  Without the games, my mind wanders to worries and to do items putting me in an anxious mood when the task is complete.  There is plenty of time in the day for worries and other tasks, so taking this break and playing the game relaxes me.  Sure, the pressure is on to beat that coffee maker to the finish, but we could all use a little challenge to keep ourselves sharp.  Who knows, perhaps the portrait of your dog that you have expertly mowed into the front lawn will be the hit of the neighborhood!

These are just two of the regular chores I have turned into games.  What ideas do you have for making your chores more entertaining.

This exercise helps with: Creative Thinking, Creative Solutions, Problem Solving, Logic

Creative Exercise: Building Creative Stamina

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Motivating myself to pursue creative passions and projects after a long day of non-creative work can be a struggle.  The feelings go hand in hand with my desire to exercise, which is probably why so many people suggest exercising before you start your day rather than when you are mentally exhausted after work.  This led me to thinking about the number of author interviews I have read where they reveal that before doing anything, except perhaps making coffee, they start their day writing.  No e-mails. No finances. No news. Nothing!

With a number of daily responsibilities for both home and work, sometimes starting my day for myself is simply not possible.  No matter how much I try to set aside an hour first thing in the morning for writing or other creative endeavors, sometimes life gets in the way.

What I need is a way to keep that creative energy up throughout the day, or at least put it on reserve, so I can be inspired and energized once my work, chores and treasured family time has been safely tucked into bed for the night.

I amassed a list of activities that can be done throughout the day or during specific activities on weekdays and weekends.  I will present my creative exercises, and even some from my readers, in regular weekly post to build creative muscles and strengthen creative stamina.  If you have any exercises you use to build your creative muscles, please let me know if the comments below.

This week we will start off with a fairly easy one to get you going.

Reading

Reading is one of my favorite creative exercises.  Not the type of reading I do for pleasure, this is a more active form of this pastime that I use to enhance my imagination.

I set aside time each day to read.  It doesn’t need to be for long, even fifteen minutes can be effective, but ideally you should choose a highly descriptive section of a book.  If you are an author, step away from analyzing the characters, plot, structure and style, and simply absorb the words.  Let the characters and locations come alive in your mind.  Visualize the characters’ features and clothing adding what you think the author may have missed.  Explore the location described in the passage and expand to areas outside of the authors words.

If the character is in a room, explore the tables, cabinets and bookshelves for items even the author did not mention.  Feel the plush carpet or hard wood floor.  Run your hands through the soft fur of the purring cat and spilled coffee on the table that left a sticky residue on the table.  Hear the birds and wind rustling through the leaves just outside an open window.  You can do the same with any location.  Let your senses run free.

If you are so inclined, leave the characters and current location behind and head off to explore the author’s world on your own.  You are creative, you don’t need the author holding your hand.

When you return to practicing your own creative endeavors, remember this experience.  You can then reverse engineer your experience for your own work by imagining in detail before your hand begins to sketch or type the words on the screen.  Who knows maybe that slightest detail of you painting, the smallest feature in your sculpture or a passing description in your novel will make all the difference in the end.

This exercise helps with: Imagination, Visualization, Description