games, experiments and exercises

  photo: corey fischer

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Make Your Own Art!

A growing list of "recipes"  from Musing on the Muse to enjoy.

These games, experiements and exercises are forms I've learned or invented. I claim no "ownership" of them. Rather, I see them as part of a commonly held cultural resource. Over the years, uncountable practioners  have cultivated this fertile mess by adding, altering, transposing and elaborating its components.  Many of the underlying principles come from the work of Viola Spolin who first used the term "theatre games" in her monumental book Improvisation for the Theatre or in the writing work from Natalie Goldberg and Deena Metzger. Other important contributors  I've known include Nina Wise, Del Close, Naomi Newman among others.
[see r. sidebar for some of their books]

try this:

one word story

Sitting comfortably with a friend, spouse or date, start speaking one word at a time, in turn, letting the words form sentences and, eventually, become a story.


Often what’s needed is a very simple, “boring” word like “the” or “was” so you don’t have  to be clever or inventive. Listen to what’s unfolding and supply a word that can easily keep the sentence unfolding.  If your partner starts with “Once”  the next word could be “upon” or “there” but probably not “elephant” or “zucchini”  lovely as those words might be. Don’t anticipate or try to control  how the story is going to unfold. The fun is in the surprises that happen when both players surrender to the third thing that’s unfolding between the two of you. Click here for more ways of playing creatively with others.

voice tuning

(You can do this seated or standing)
Start by tuning your voices. One person starts a tone on an “ah” or “om” syllable held for the length of a deep breath slowly released. While the first tone is going, the partner  starts another tone.  It may or may not be the same pitch as the first one, but whatever it is, bring it into unison with the first. Find the unison by trial and error, letting your voice move up and down while the first person holds steady.  Try this a few times, taking turns starting the first tone.  Once you can easily find the unison, with both tones on the same pitch, experiment with one of you moving our voice just a tiny bit up and down. Feel the vibration that Western music considers a discord. Then move further up or down passing through tones that are considered harmonious. Trade off holding the unmoving tone.

vocal duet

One person starts a simple, repeatable sound pattern. Something like “Duh boom bing bam. Duh boom bing bam. Duh boom bing bam…” and keeps it going while your partner joins in with a new pattern (which should complement the original. Maybe “Bud – da blam”)   Then the first person changes their pattern while the second keeps theirs going and so on.  Again, the fun is in the listening to your partner and to the third, unknown sound that is created by the combination of your two patterns. One partner is always holding a pattern while the other is finding a new one.  When you start really grooving together, try letting go of the structure one at a time while the other keeps a pattern going, like a Jazz soloist riffing over a rhythm section. You can also try moving with the sounds you’re making

Free Write

Do a ten minute timed writing experiment.  Alternate beginning each sentence with “Once I was….” and “Now I am…”  Complete each sentence as you go, writing as quickly as you can, not allowing your hand to ever stop moving on the page until the 10 minutes is up.


Let go of any need to “make sense.”  When I tried the exercise just now, some of the paired sentences that came up were complete surprises like:

“…Once I was hungry all day / Now I feed wolves… Once I barked in confusion, circling the city / Now I know how to breathe…” 1

Imaginary Correspondence

Sit down some place comfortable. Take your shoes off.  Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.  Without making any effort, allow an image to bubble up into your awareness of some “artist” – singer, composer, writer, painter, dancer, actor or a teacher in any creative area.  It might be a “great” artist or an “unknown,“ someone from the past or present, living or dead.  If a number of figures arise, just pick one, it doesn’t matter which.

When you're ready, open your eyes and write, non-stop for 10 minutes, a letter to the person who came to mind while you had your eyes closed.  Tell them what their work or their life has done for/to you, how it affected you, your work, your beliefs, your goals and/or anything thing else you want them to know.

If writing the letter energizes you, try writing, in the voice of this person, a response to the first letter.

At different times in my life, I’ve carried on dialogues in the form of correspondence with historical or imaginary figures over a period of months. It's a process I first learned from writer and teacher Deena Metzger

For more explorations, click here



I'm continuing to experiment with language and rhythm in a form I don't have a name for.
Not quite rap, not songs or poems... I've just uploaded my first attempt to add a visual component, a video to one of them,  Bobby Z.,  an homage to Bob Dylan.

Click here to watch





click here if you'd like to find out more about working with corey



  photo: corey fischer

Here are some books that I find helpful and inspiring
[click any title to buy]

A Big New Free Happy Unusual Life:
Self Expression and Spiritual Practice for Those Who Have Time for Neither

Nina Wise's unique guidebook is

full of delightful enticements to live artfully and bring play into all your relationships, drawn from Nina's years as a boundary-breaking improviser, performance artist and teacher of art and Dharma.


Writing down the Bones

Natalie Goldberg's classic guide to the original "timed writing" practice, the inspiration behind many of the exercises I pass along.


Writing for Your Life

It was in one of  Deena Metzger's workshops sometime in the seventies that I first started writing with any understanding of why and what I was doing. She's a visionary and someone we are lucky to have on the planet right now. Her book on writing (above) is one of her many genre-busting works that I recommend to anyone interested in creativity in all its permutations.

 click on the book to purchase or on Deena's photo to go to her site.

photo by ayelet berman cohen