Creativity Exercise
By Kathy Berklund-Pagé

It’s mid-March and I’m in the waiting room of the Hockey Quebec office. There’s no one behind the reception desk, so I sit down and pull out my book. With any luck, I’ll have the next hour to myself.

My luck runs out quickly.

“Have you been helped?” asks a man.

“Yes,” I say with a bright smile. “Thank you.”

He smiles, too, and walks away.

I return to my book—and read a whole page before I’m interrupted again.

“May I help you?” It’s a woman this time.

“Oh no,” I say, shaking my head. “I’m good.”

She smiles and leaves.

Two more people come by. Same question. Same smile.

As fascinating as it is,(1) I obviously won’t be able to read my book. What else could I do?

Then I remember. I have homework. My creativity assignment (2) this week is to observe an event and then imagine as many possible explanations for it as I can. I look around for inspiration… then notice my shoes. I grab my notebook and begin:

Why is this woman wearing such crappy shoes?

1. She has no others. Her feet have inexplicably grown from eating a magic bean. Or maybe it’s a curse of some sort.
2. Someone stole all her shoes… and replaced them with these.
3. The airline lost her suitcase. She was wearing slippers on the plane. In desperation, she dug these out of the trash can.
4. It’s therapy. She’s addicted to fashion and her therapist gave her homework: to wear something old. Her stomach is twisted in knots. What will people think of her?
5. She’s sick of winter. Sick of wearing boots. But there are still piles of snow and slush everywhere, so she wears her oldest shoes.
6. She’s actually a bazillionaire, but doesn’t want people to know it, so she dresses down. Way down.
7. She’s homeless and has no other shoes. She has snuck in to stay warm.
8. She’s R.E.D. (Retired and Extremely Dangerous) and in hiding. In this get-up, no one will ever recognize her.

I continue on until I have a dozen possibilities, then I close my notebook. That was fun. And unlike other events I could have chosen, I know the real reason the woman is wearing those crappy shoes. Number 5 is the truth. I keep those shoes for this time of year. It’s officially spring, but there’s still snow and slush and ice where I live. I’m sick of winter. Sick of winter boots. I refuse to wear them. So I keep this pair of tennis shoes for this time of year. I don’t care (much) what people will think.

Things could be worse. Mid-March, we visited Quebec City and drove past the house we lived in for 20 years… This is the usual amount of snow left that time of year. Neighbours used to chop up the snowbanks with chain saws to help them melt.

(1) The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success by Albert-Lászió Barabási in case you’re interested.

(2) Hat Tip to The Creativity Book by Eric Maisel for this creativity assignment.

About this Contributor:

Kathy Berklund-Pagé was born in the United States, which—as her Canadian husband loves to point out—is not her fault. She spent several years in France as a teen and young adult. While there, she learned French double-quick (no one her age spoke English) and met a handsome Canadian. Despite their best efforts, they fell in love, so they opened an atlas and said, “Where do we want to live?” The beautiful Quebec City won. Two decades and three children later, they moved to Montreal, where they still live.

Visit her website by clicking here.

Leave a comment