The Happiness Project

Fun, Quick Exercises To Boost Your Creativity

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too ! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in – no need to catch up, just jump in right now. Each Friday’s post will help you think about your own happiness project.

One of my favorite resolutions, because it’s so much fun to keep, is Read at whim . Instead of trying to be very targeted about my reading, as I once tried to be, I let myself read whatever I want to read.

The other day, at coffee with my blogpals Caren and Leah from the great site, Drinking Diaries , Leah highly recommended Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting That You’ll Ever Need . She wasn’t writing a screenplay, but she said that the book was extremely helpful for writing any kind of story.

I’m not writing a screenplay, or a novel either, but it sounded intriguing, so I picked up a copy. And she’s right, it’s a fascinating look at storytelling.

Save the Cat also included a terrific exercise to foster creative thinking. Doing these types of games can boost happiness – even for people who don’t consider themselves to be particularly “creative.”

This kind of playful thinking is – fun! It’s fun to mess around with ideas, to have new thoughts, to come up with a great idea. It’s stimulating. It might even inspire you to write a screenplay or start a novel. (Shameless teaser: in my forthcoming book , I talk about my experience of writing a novel in a month, inspired by the book, No Plot? No Problem! , written by Chris Batyk, also the founder of National Novel Writing Month. Yes, I wrote a novel as long as The Great Gatsby in thirty days.)

Sometimes creativity exercises are a bit boring – what’s the one with the candle, the cup, the matches? – but these exercises by Snyder, meant to jump-start ideas for movies, are very amusing:

1. Funny _____
Pick a drama, thriller, or horror film and turn it into a comedy.

2. Serious _____
Likewise, pick a comedy and make it into a drama. Serious Animal House – Drama about cheating scandal at a small university ends in A Few Good Men -like showdown.

3. FBI out of water.
This works for comedy or drama. Name five places that a FBI agent in the movies has never been sent to solve a crime. Example: “Stop or I’ll Baste!”: Slob FI agent is sent undercover to a Provence Cooking School.


_____ School

Works for both drama and comedy. Name five examples of an unusual type of school, camp, or classroom. Example: “Wife School.”

5. Versus!!
Drama or comedy. Name several pairs of people to be on opposite sides of a burning issue. Example: A hooker and a preacher fall in love when a new massage parlor divides the resident of a small town.

6. My ______ Is a Serial Killer
Drama or comedy. Name an unusual person, animal, or thing that a paranoid can suspect of being a murderer.

Feeling creative helps boost happiness, and it’s also true that while people often associate brooding melancholy as the spirit most appropriate to creative outpourings, research shows that people are more creative when they’re feeling happy. If this sort of thing appeals to you, check out Blake Snyder’s website . It has great information and exercises for screenwriters.

* I love this video of a pebble frog. Ah, nature! It looks like CGI, but it’s real .

* Ah, that teaser caught your interest, and you want to pre-order The Happiness Project ! Great! Here’s the link to all your favorite bookstores.