Jar of Ideas


Jar of Ideas

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ways to increase your creativity. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will share posts that focus on caregiving. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is J is for Jar of Ideas.

As a teenager, I attended The Perpich Center for Art Education as a Literary Art student. Nearly every day in our Literary Arts classes, the teacher would pull a slip of paper from a jar of ideas. It might be a question or a quote. It could even be a single word.

Then, she would start a timer.

The timer might go for as little as a minute, but that was rare. More often it would be set for 5, 10, or 15 minutes. Once in a great while, we could write for 20 minutes. Using a timer as we write from the jar of ideas forced us to shape what we wrote to the confines of the timer. We had to begin, build, and wrap up our piece within the time limit. Over and over we wrote from the jar of ideas and learned how to structure our pieces by instinct, through practice.

No grammar needed

When we wrote is was free-write style. We didn’t worry about grammar or punctuation or even about the right words. We were more concerned with getting our thoughts and ideas down on the page within the allotted time period. I think the time limit helped those of us who habitually corrected those details to let go. We didn’t have time to worry about the details.

We would read aloud.

Around the table we went, each student reading aloud what they wrote from the jar of ideas. It was interesting to see what popped into each person’s mind when they heard the writing prompt. Two people sitting side by side could write completely different pieces from the same idea. Structure varied a lot from writer to writer. One might write a 3-page poem, while another reminisced about his past.

A jar of ideas can help you discover who you are.

During these exercises, which we did daily, we began to figure out who we were as writers and as people. When I married my husband, I was given a gift by my sister-in-law. It was a jar of ideas and a journal. This jar was filled with questions designed to tickle my memory and pass along to my children stories of my life—of our family’s life. I was so thankful to have my creativity kindled in the way it had been in my youth.

There’s an app for that.

More recently, I was introduced to a fun app called Writelight. I’ve been using this app for the past year and have fallen in love with it. If you don’t already have a regular writing routine, using this FREE app is a great way to start one. It’s a perfect compliment to Morning Pages, if you do them (and I recommend them). If you ever have writer’s block, this digital jar of ideas will unblock you. Writelight is available online or you can download it free on Apple’s App Store or at Google Play Store. Note: I am not receiving anything in exchange for this recommendation. I just believe in the app and the theory behind it.

While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage your creativity.

What are YOUR thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather Erickson

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.

My books The Memory Maker’s Journal and Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, are available at Amazon.com.

I also blog about living with cancer at, Facing Cancer with Grace.

Have any questions or comments? I would love to hear from you! By commenting, you agree to the terms of my privacy policy.

8 comments on “Jar of Ideas

I have a multi, multi page list of writing prompts I’ve gathered from everywhere. It’s just waiting to be sliced into strips and put in a jar. Well actually, it has been waiting for about eight months. Thanks for the reminder, Heather. I’ll get on it tonight! And I’ll also check out Writelight. Never heard of it.

Hi Karen, I think you will love this. Doing timed free-writes with these ideas or with writelight is a great way to flex your creative muscles. Have a wonderful day!

I have a few writing buddies that like to write by timers. I have never been able to do that. I get too focused on how much time I have left and my creativity stops right up.

~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
My A to Z’s of Dining with IC
Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

What a great exercise.

Hi Patricia, It definitely does change how you write. Sometimes writing to fit within a time constraint or word count limit is a skill unto itself. I remember having a terrible time doing that in the beginning, but soon, I knew just how to pace it to fit the required time limit. Of course, many people struggle to get writing in the first place, so I think this was meant to create a sense of urgency in participants and to force you to ignore mistakes that often bog us down as we write. You can always skip timing it and just use the jar of ideas if that works better for you. 🙂

Hi Liz, It was very helpful at causing us to change our focus from grammar and spelling to creative flow. And if one topic didn’t work out so well, we simply gave it another shot on the next topic. Have a great day!

It’s a great idea – the only jar I have going atm is my gratitude jar – I put a new slip of paper in each week with what I’m grateful for – at the end of the year it’ll be lovely to read (and may spark a few blog post ideas!)

Leanne | http://www.crestingthehill.com.au
K for Keep Trying

Hi Leanne, I loved having a gratitude jar. We did it one year and read them on New Year’s Eve. I’ve tried to do one since, but participation has been sparse. One year I kept a gratitude journal It was the year my ex-husband left us and I had to force myself to focus on the things I was thankful for to keep from becoming an angry person. That was a wise move. Have a great day!

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