A Thoughtfully-Short Creative Writing Exercise
By Chris Dunmire | Posted 9/15/09 | Updated 6/22/23
After I had the unique opportunity to participate in a fund-raising Celebration Garden in my community, which allowed citizens to purchase a classic-red brick engraved with a personalized message to lay into a brickwork patio, I wondered how challenging it might be for others to craft a memorable message of their own with the same limitations the brick engraving company had for our bricks.
And that's how the idea for this Brickstorming prompt was cemented!
Want to try? Let's do some brickstorming! Your unique message will be contained within 3 lines with 14 characters each (spaces and punctuation count). Look familiar? Now you know where Twitter got its inspiration! (Actually, it's rumored that Twitter "borrowed" its ideas from The World's Oldest Microblogging Platform.)
See what I wrote on my brick:
I've had a few tons of idiom bricks come down around me over the decades and have grown to learn that bricks can certainly build patios and buildings, and have made a niche market for chimney sweeps, but they also can build character. How's that for a twist?
What will you write on your legacy brick? Let's make this a fun with the following scenario. Get ready to brainstorm, er, brickstorm!
A prestigious museum is building an entirely new wing with 21st Century "wisdom bricks" featuring unique quotes and bits of wisdom from citizens the world over.
You're one of thousands selected to participate in this legacy-making exhibit with the opportunity to make your mark! What will you state for the cause and impart to future generations?
The brick engraving company has a few parameters: Your message must be contained within 3 lines with 14 characters (counting spaces and punctuation. Print the Brickstorming template (PDF) and write your legacy message.
What did you learn? That less is more? More is less? Did you have to use all the spaces? Or did you limit yourself to one or two lines instead of three? Can you do something fun with the type or your initials like I did in my "1 BRICK FROM THE TON THAT HIT ME C:D" example above? (I made a two-way emoticon smiley face by putting a colon in between the C and D.)
Sometimes set parameters and limitations in our projects can provide us with some surprising results. What did you notice about yourself when you worked with the challenge of crafting a meaningful message with limited characters and spaces? How can this translate into a writing project with a specific word count? An art project on a small canvas? A craft project for tiny hands? What else can you do with engraved messages on bricks? With emoticons and letters?
If you liked this activity, you'll love my online Fortune Cookie Message Maker where you can play with type in a similar, limited fashion and print sheets of your creative ideas.
Speaking of inspiring others, Dawn Goldberg, chief writing officer at Write Well U liked this activity so much that she asked me permission to use it in her coaching practice. She says:
"I'm a long-time fan of Chris Dunmire and Creativity Portal. As a writer, coach, and trainer, I've been researching creativity and how people process information for years. There isn't just one way to be creative; there are countless ways. And that's what Chris and Creativity Portal bring to the world.
"When I saw the Brickstorming creative strategy, I knew it would be perfect for my Ready, Set, Write Toolbox, an 87-page manual covering creativity and 46-and-counting strategies to help people create, whether it's for writing, art, or any creative pursuit.
"I'm so thrilled to add Chris's Brickstorming strategy to the Ready, Set, Write class and manual. We're all better off for it!"
Hey, thanks, Dawn, for this opportunity to help inspire more people toward creative thinking in their writing activities. I'm honored!
(Do you see the ripple effect at work here? Creativity is contagious. Let's spread more around! )
© Chris Dunmire 2009-2023. All rights reserved.
Chris Dunmire (@funmire) is a deeply engaged creative spirit, imaginary being, lover of wit, words, wisdom, and the driving force behind the original award-winning Creativity Portal™ Web site launched in 2000. …