Making Something from Nothing

Trying to spark some creative juices recently, I used diyMFA’s Writer Igniter to generate a writing prompt. Here’s what it gave me:

  • character- curator at a posh gallery
  • situation – returns to his or her hometown
  • prop – frying pan
  • setting – an urban waterfront area (or at least that was my interpretation of the picture)

Here’s what I came up with:

It made me laugh. Maybe it was because I discovered it on a visit to the town I grew up in and it reminded me of playing pretend as a child. Or perhaps it was simply because it was unexpected, hanging there amongst the dark and overly angst-y pieces rendered by the artist’s contemporaries. Or maybe it was simply because I had needed that moment of pure, simple, unguarded laughter. Whatever the reason, I made that young artist’s evening when I approached her in the small college’s gallery and offered her a solo show at my large well known one in the city.

Five weeks later, her crates arrived and I sat there in my gallery unwrapping box after box of iron skillets imbued with painted images of fried eggs, bacon, pancakes and potato hash. While she had only included breakfast on her wall at the joint exhibition, the full collection had included lunch, dinner and a few unidentifiables (cornbread? paella? peach cobbler?). I shook my head, what was I thinking?

Today, I sit in the office in the back of my gallery, sipping coffee and alternating my gaze between the stack of ugly reviews piled up on the desk in front of me and the beautiful, still, calm canal waters outside the window. “Millie Deschnel Has Lost Her Eye for Art.” “Is Bacon the New Black?” “What is Art? Certainly Not This.” “Blue Plate Un-Special.” They certainly weren’t the first critical reviews I had received as curator, but they might have set the record for being the most unanimous. I pushed them aside and wandered back into the gallery.

It was mid-morning. Quiet. There was only one visitor. A middle-aged woman, dressed in a perfect pant suit. A badge from one of the larger companies in town clipped to a side belt loop. She had been in several times before at about the same time. I imagined she was stopping in on her way to get coffee at the shop just down the block on the corner, but I had never asked. She never offered. There was something far away about her.

This morning she was standing in front of the bacon and fried egg. I watched as the corner of her lips turned up ever so slightly, and then a little more, until finally the corners of her eyes wrinkled and she laughed. She glanced over at me, “It’s just really sort of ridiculous, right?” she said. “How can you not laugh?” I smiled and agreed.

“It’s nice not to take things so seriously sometimes, I think,” she continued and I nodded.

She toured the rest of the exhibit quickly, no doubt needing to move on with her day. She was still smiling as she left.

Hers was the only review that mattered.

I’ve been given similar writing exercises in workshops before. Every time, my first instinct is: impossible, there is no way I can connect these crazy, random things. Inevitably, however, if I can silence that voice and sit with the randomness for a while, something comes to me — and I am reminded of the magic of it all.

What do you do to ignite your creativity? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “Making Something from Nothing

    • Thank you! Once I thought of how to use the frying pan, it came together pretty easily. I had a hard time figuring out how to work in the canal-like setting and almost left it out, but I was determined not to cheat!

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