Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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August 5, 2019

5 Ways to Boost Your Creativity with Color Walks

by Colleen M. Story

If you’re looking for a way to get yourself out of a creative rut, refresh your viewpoint, and bring new life to your writing, you may want to try going on a color walk. 

What is a Color Walk? 

American writer and artist William S. Burroughs came up with the idea of the color walk to inspire his students. 

It’s really easy to do. Simply pick a color before you head out on a walk, and then let that color lead you on your route. 

Follow that yellow bicycle until it goes out of sight or until another yellow object catches your fancy. Maybe it’s a yellow Labrador taking a walk with its owner, so you go the same direction for a while until you see a yellow car turning left at the next block. 

You turn left, too. 

Little by little, let the color lead you on a route you wouldn’t normally take, all while keeping your eyes peeled for new things containing that color. 

Here are some other helpful tips: 

  • Give yourself an hour of uninterrupted time. Take your watch with you. Once thirty minutes have passed, turn around and head back, or arrange for a friend to pick you up wherever you end up at the end of the hour.
  • Use your intuition to pick your color. Which one speaks to you today?
  • Try not to talk or interact with others on your walk. Use it solely to observe your surroundings and allow your imagination to play.
  • When you return from your walk, sit down immediately and record your observations, including any ideas that occurred to you while you were out.

5 Ways Writers Can Benefit from Color Walks

Anyone can benefit from a color walk, but they can hold some special creativity-boosting benefits for writers.

1. Spices Up Your Exercise

Writing and walking go well together. (Check out our post, “What Famous Writers Know About Walking.”) But let’s face it—sometimes those daily walks can get boring, especially if you’re treading the same old route all the time. 

Focusing your mind on a particular color forces you to pay closer attention to your surroundings and creates new interest for your brain. Suddenly what’s old looks new, and that’s all it takes to make the walk more fun. 

2. Adds Unpredictability

The fact that you need to follow the color takes all the routine out of your walk and plunges you into the unknown. You don’t know where you’re going to go or how you’re going to get there, and that simple change causes your mind to wake up and pay attention.

Don’t be surprised if after a color walk your writing descriptions become a lot more detailed and rich!

3. Gets You Out in Nature

Nature inspires creativity. Several studies have shown that walking, by itself, boosts creativity (by 60 percent in a Stanford University study!), and when you add in greenery and plant life, the effects are even greater. 

If you think you don’t have time for a walk, reframe it in your mind—this is part of your creative work. You need to do what’s necessary to inspire the muse, and walking in nature is one of the easiest, least expensive, and most enjoyable ways to accommodate that need.

4. Gives You Another Way to Craft a Story 

One of the fun things you can do while on a color walk is to take the items you see and bring them together into a story. Weave together the yellow bike, the yellow dog, and the yellow car into a series of events involving a character—perhaps one you see on your walk.

Allow your imagination to play. This story doesn’t have to become anything important. Use your color walk as simply a way to exercise your imagination, then see what you can come up with for a story, essay, or poem. 

5. Livens Up Your Descriptions

We writers love to spice up our descriptions, and a color walk can help you do that. Try “interviewing” your color when you return from your walk. What did it have to say to you? What did it teach you? What do you think the color represented to you that day? 

Write down the impressions you received regarding this color in general, and then see how you might use your findings the next time you need to describe a setting or a character.

Have you tried a color walk? If you haven't, are you willing to try one?

About Colleen

Colleen M. Story inspires writers to overcome modern-day challenges and find creative fulfillment in their work. Her first non-fiction book, Overwhelmed Writer Rescue, was named Book by Book Publicity’s Best Writing/Publishing Book in 2018, and her novel, Loreena’s Gift, was a Foreword Reviews' INDIES Book of the Year Awards winner, among others. 

Her latest release, Writer Get Noticed!, is a strengths-based guide to help writers break the spell of invisibility and discover unique author platforms that will draw readers their way. With over 20 years in the creative industry, Colleen is the founder of Writing and Wellness and Writer CEO. Please see her author website or follow her on Twitter.

27 comments on “5 Ways to Boost Your Creativity with Color Walks”

  1. Fascinating, although it wouldn't work well where I live. Very rural, very few routes to take, very little traffic or other people outside. I can do my entire route and not see a car or a soul most days. Maybe a deer. Magpies and squirrels. Rough, hilly terrain, too. However, were I a "city" dweller I can see how this would be fun.

    1. Sounds like where I live, Terry! And it does work for me. So many colors in the natural landscape. And you could follow that deer for awhile! :O)

      1. Follow a deer? No, I'd fall down a mountainside. They feel no compunction to stick to trails humans can traverse. I have to stick to what "roads" and trails exist or I'd be dead. On occasion, I've taken my camera and selected a color of wildflower to photograph, but that season is short. Mostly we have greens and browns. Pines and aspens. Decomposed granite terrain.

  2. Yes, Terry, as a suburban "city" walker, I'm going to try this on my next walk. It should be fun, even if I'm not worried about creativity much these days. It would be great to see deer and magpies, but I do see squirrels, lizards and rabbits, as well as ducks and the occasional egret.

    Thanks for a creative way to make my walks more fun, Colleen!

  3. I take the dogs for a walk every day, and if nothing else they'd be thrilled by the variety. I'm going to give it a try. Thanks!

  4. I will store this away for a day when I have an hour to myself. In the meantime, I'll let the almost three-year-old pick the color, and off we'll go! Not very likely that we'll stay on track for an hour, but it will still be a great practice. Noticing, naming, exploring....

    1. Ha ha. I can imagine the creative outcomes of a three-year-old color walk! :O) Actually I've seen this method used with children a lot--for various school-based projects, so it should be fun.

    1. Good point, Pauline. Rarer colors could be harder to find in rural areas! Small towns could have some cool possibilities though...

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