So Who are the Creatives?

I have a coffee group for creatives and one question newcomers bring is "so who counts as a creative?"

Creatives All Around Us

Everyone has some type of creativity but it might not be recognised as such. From making food to the way we dress and the media we consume.

Conversations, social media, or hopes and dreams all have creative elements to them

We all start with creativity in our play and imagination when young, but this doesn't magically leave us. It's still in everyone, worn brightly or buried down a little.

The Creative Type

There is a perception that "Creativity" belongs to "artistic types". That maybe creativity is something you have or don't have.

The writers, dancers, actors, film directors all have that "spark" that lets them make things and others don't have that ability.

But its not uncommon for classify people as "left-brained" or "right brained". Perceieved as creative or not-creative.

Boxes of Logic and Technology

For years I thought of myself as someone good at maths and science and thus I wasn't particularly creative. I had the same belief as I made a living as a coder for many years. That because I worked with numbers and logic it was far apart from creativity.

A few years ago I realised I'd been creative all my life. I'd played roleplaying games for decades, making up worlds, games and shared stories with friends. And that software developers are paid to be creative, creating code to solve problems.

You are that Creative

In truth humanity is creative by it's nature. Solving the problems little and large is how we've evolved.

You are creative every day. Its a question of mindset.

From how to market a product, arrange your garden, fit things around your kids' schedule or make time to see friends. All these use a creative part of our brain.

Not only artists, coders and dancers. Parents, cleaners, farmers, politicians and builders too.

Finishing Up

Everyone is a creative by being human. Some of us taught to hide it or to think otherwise.

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What do you think of as creative others might not?

Plant-Based Instant Soups - A Practical Side Project

Homemade food to take with you, add hot water to finish. One practical creative side project.

This was almost named Vegan Cup-a-Soups. But cup-a-soup sounds cheap and too English.

The "vegan" tag has a lot of other baggage with it. And while the soups are vegan, I'm don't follow a strict diet. So plant-based is the trendy alternative!

Practical Creativity

I like projects and hobbies to be practical in some way. Dance gives me social contact and active. Games exercise my mind and let me try out work-related ideas. If I try to make a pure creative project it still has learning at its core.

But that's not the same as trying to monetize all projects. Making instants soups isn't that.

It's a way to play around with ingredients, try different tastes, give options while travelling. Saving money would be a bonus.

Travel Soup

So when I travel I prefer to don't do luxury. I'm happy spending some money but I also like a backup plan. And money saved in one place is spent in another.

Instant soups are an easy option in a hostel or late at night where nowhere near is open. When camping or as a general backup. Often you'll have access to a kettle. It has served as a breakfast, snack and emergency meal

I haven't had to try them with cold water yet...

[Image of Homemade Instant Soup- made]

Homemade Soup

I started with branded instant soups which can taste ok. But they carry undesirable extras finding vegan ones is challenging. So being curious I searched for ways of making it myself.

There's good advice out there for homemade instant soups and veggie soup recipes. But I couldn't find much for vegan instant soups.

But I decided to go with one to fit a vegan diet. We get more creative with boundaries in place.

So the creative cobbling together of something edible began

Sourcing Ingredients

The local supermarkets had some options but the first main obstacle was vegetables. Dried vegetables. There was advice for dehydrating with a special machine or in the oven.

But that looked like hassle so I found some helpful folk who did large packets of dried veg online. [Link]. It was a good place to start.

I keep an eye out whenever I'm in new food shops. Since moving to Exmouth I've discovered a local shop [Mother Earth Liknk] which stocks a few more options.

Instant Mush

The first attempt was terrible. Using pasta that needed longer to be ready and combining ingredients that don't go well. It lacked flavor and needed more bulk.

But I can eat most things and the next one was a slight improvement. Ingredients were added and others removed. Experiments performed with quick-cooking pasta, stock cubes added and more online articles found.

Persistance paid off.

Plant-Based Instant Soup

The lastest one I made was edible, and next stage is to take them on travels. Which is handy as I'm planning new trips.

I'm working on a tomato based one, I spicy version and mushroom and veg based. If I get happy with them a follow up article will have recipes.

The ultimate test is getting others to try them!

Finishing Up

So this is a creative side project. There's no art and nothing to sell. No life-changing lessons.

But it's practical, useful and a chance to experiment.

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What are your practical side projects?

Story Icons Project. Part 1 - Starting with Chartopia

This is the first part of a series covering one of my occasional side projects.

A Small Beginning

Some side projects you work on in small bursts. Story Icons is one of those for me. In early 2019 I was flailing around looking for ways to move forward in making a living.

One experiment was creating random tools for roleplaying games. A way of combining creativity and a hobby with coding skills. I would later settle on making Pdfs on DM's Guild.

Story Icons started as a project which others can use to inspire story or adventure ideas and for writing prompts. It takes free icons from the games icons sites and showing them off.

The Concept

Inspired by Rory's Story Cubes, I wanted a way to use something similar online. A collection of images that would help others build stories.

What I loved about them was

  • They are visual. No words mean they communicate in a different fashion. That they are language independent
  • Different feels with different images. Using the right images you can easily over different genres and utilities. You could have a space themed one, or a horror themed one or one around a particular film if you chose to do so.
  • They scratch a different itch to text-based generators. They provide a different way of thinking.

Game Icons and Chartopia

I found games icons without any trouble and looked for other implementations. There are versions that show all the icons but have no filtering by genre or icon type.

The Game Icons are plentiful, free and cover different genres. They also come in a file format that is small and easily modified

I sorted the icons into Fantasy and then I grouped the icons. I chose items, adversaries, locations, animals and a few more. Honestly I find a lot of creating random generators to be sorting lists into categories!

Then I turned to Chartopia which is a neutral site for creating random generators. I had used the site before but this was the first time using images.

I used the generator to return one five images from specific categories. They 1-3 from random categories for 6-8 in total.

That was it.


There were some who loved the icons and found them quite mesmerising. There was interest from a Russian site at one point.

I still find myself returning and clicking through the icons.

Most important, I got started with a working version others could see.

For a side project how you feel about it is also important. I found it liberating as I was using free resources of Chartopia and games icons. It's also something to play around with independent of other tools.


While others found it interesting it hasn't been as popular as other generators. Gamers haven't found it so useful but more to story folks as writing prompts.

I put it down as a project that was fun to play around with but not to make money on.

And that's a good thing. To have a side project to play around with is important to me.

Recurring Projects

For me this is a project I come back to. It scratched an itch and gave a satisfaction that is different to others ones I've had.

It was enough to test the waters and decide I would take it forward. but I could put it aside and wait until another opportunity presented itself.

What's your recurring project?

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Audiobooks for Creativity

Like Podcasts for Creativity this looks at Audiobooks for creativity. Also available in book or e-book format but I find non-fiction books much easier to listen to than read.

I haven't linked to the audiobooks as I have no way of knowing your preferred platform or medium!

1. Reflections on the Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron wrote the renowned The Artist's Way, recommended by creative friends. The Artist's Way is a step-by-step process of opening up or reawakening your creative self. It concentrates on overcoming self-limiting beliefs through exercises and self-reflection.

Reflections is a recording of the Author's thoughts on the content in the Artist's Way. It includes a lecture and live questions and answers session.

2. On Writing by Stephen King

This is a mix of autobiography and writing tips from horror writer Stephen King.

Read by the author, the audiobook's content is practical and to the point. There is advice about managing your writing, getting published and coping with life's trials.

An absorbing book mixing the story of a successful creative with learning opportunities. I got something more as I've read several of King's books and got to view them from another angle.

3. Dreams of Awakening by Charley Morley

This book explains the fascinating world of lucid dreams and ways to access them. The main principle of lucid dreaming being the dreamer is aware that they are dreaming. A place where the barriers and realities of the waking world fall away.

An engaging listen, it offers an easy to grasp introduction to the world of lucid dreamings. It explained several techniques for paying attention to your dreams and entering a lucid dreaming state.

It opened up a new world for me in an non-scary manner.

4. 100 Side Hustles by Chris Guillebeau

Out of place at first glance, this book is about how to make money while continuing with your regular life.

But it's packed with ideas and stories. One hundred stories of people trying interesting projects and making money from them.

From selling hammocks to sending crickets by post. It's a blend of pragmatism and creativity. Adapting skills and opportunities to their current lifestyle.

I hope something can give you an idea for a project or a new direction for an existing one. Or even a way to make money from creativity.

5. The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

I didn't know who Amanda Palmer was before listening to the book. A singer, songwriter, musician and performance artist who made headlines using Kickstarter.

A fascinating story of her career. An example of a creative engaged with fants and pushing the boundaries of their craft.

For me someone who give insights into something I'm not great at. That's asking others for help, advice or support. And a bonus for me was the inclusion of Neil Gaiman in the story.

Finishing Up

So those are my five. What would be your five? Or one or three?

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Questions when Considering a new Side Project

Coming up with ideas for side projects is fun. Before that are some questions to consider.

When Can You Fit In a Side Project?

An important question is where can you fit a project into your life.

You may know exactly the time you have to spend on a project. But there is a shift in modern times to always being busy and wearning it like a badge. You may not think you have time for anything new.

You may have an orderly routine or a schedule that changes day to day. You may not know where your time goes.

You may want a project which reclaims some of your time. Such as experimenting with being on screens for less hours of the day.

Is this a project you want to put a few hours a week into? Is it something you want to spend a few minutes a day on? Is there a day every month you would love to spend focused on it? Would you like project that focuses on reclaiming some of that time? Is it worth tracking what you spend your time on for a week? Do you have any periods (such as a train commute) which you could use?

How Long Will Your Project Be?

What period you want the project to run for is worth considering.

You might have a few weeks before a new job starts or be looking to make long term changes in your life.

It might be that it doesn't matter to you how long it takes. You might be someone who gets fully immersed in a new interest for a few weeks or months before moving on

Is this a project to play around with and it doesn't matter how long it lasts? Is there a event coming up that determines when you start or finish? Are you someone who gets into a project for a short time before moving onto something new? Is there a particular goal or achievement you want to work towards?

What Might Get In Your Way?

The restrictions and boundaries that make things harder or that need to be respected need thought .

You may know that you have a year abroad coming up. Or that Covid restrictions have just been placed and you can't get away from home. You might have budget restrictions.

Restrictions and boundaries can also be positive. Limitations often force us to look for new ideas and reconsider beliefs to get past them. With unlimited freedom comes unlimited opportunities to get distracted.

Do you have any budget restrictions for the project? Are there other factors that affect what sort of project you can do? Are there people around you that might make it hard to follow some ideas? Are you expecing to make money from the project? Do you require a particular location or piece of equipment for the project?

Other Questions

Finally are a few other questions to be considered.

Do you have lots of interests already and want another? Do you want to deepen an existing skill or hobby? Do you prefer to dive into a project or spend a short while doing some research before starting?

Answering these Questions Myself

When Can You Fit In a Side Project?

I'm about to start a period of travel so I will have a few minutes each day or a couple of hours a week to spend on it.

How Long Will Your Project Be?

Initially I thought it should be open-ended but it would make more sense to restrict it to a month. That way I have some time pressure and can always make it into a larger project.

What Might Get In Your Way?

It should be something which doesn't require many extra tools or only light ones. It has minimal costs and I have no expectation of making any money from it.

Other Questions

I want to try something new and unrelated to a main skill or hobby. I'm happy to start a project straight away once I find something.

So something that doesn't take up much time or money and I will try it for a month. I want something new and easy to take with me on travels.

Finishing Up

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What results did you get? Is this an exercise you find useful? Are there other questions you would add?

A Side Project Blog on Creativity (and Side Projects)

A New Blog. A New Side Project.

Do you have a random side project?

This blog "Dice Song" is my new side project, focused on creativity. That's a broad subject on purpose.

Random Side Projects

A random side project should be fun and an outlet for other energies in your life. I found a list of 51 side projects from SquareSpace as examples.

It is a place to play and experiment. To follow ideas, to nurture or and discard them. There is no expectation of making money. There is no long term plan. It is a random side project.

A blog called Pie and Dragon was another random side project. I used it to explore what I wanted to create for roleplaying games (rpgs).

It fulfilled its task leading to a blog on rpg tools, then a site of rpg tools and publishing pdfs on Dungeon Master's Guild.

Then I deleted it.


I've always blended many interests and gone deep on a few of those. This is a "T-shaped" skillset, as opposed to being good at one thing "I-shaped" or a generalist.

I would like to create things beyond tools for roleplaying games. I might even find other ways to provide income from other forms of creativity.

This blog is to find the more interests I want to go deep into. The next might weeks or years away, and I might not know until neck-deep into it.

Along the way I hope I can help others with random side projects and creative ideas.

As of writing the site is basic. There are three articles, no images, a layout that needs improving and other things to sort.

But I'm on the way and aiming for an article a fortnight to start.

Building for Others

I deleted my first blog because it had served it's purpose. Pie and Dragon was a mish-mash of articles with few visitors. I had created it for myself with no direction or long-term plan.

Since then my tools and writing have been for others to use and read. To help them run better games and give ideas for interesting stories.

But this blog I intend to be around for some time. An experiment of story prompts, meetup ideas, foraging, learning, improv, drawing, dance and writing.

And I'm hoping for your input. Through polls, guest writers, article suggestions and stories of random side projects.

Finishing Up

There are already a couple of articles - "5 Creative Podcasts" and "Making use of your environment".

Find me on Twitter. On Ko-Fi. On Instagram.

What's your current or next random side project?

Adapting to New Environments

The world is in flux in this time of Covid, with uncertainty in the present and the future. Ekhart Tolle talks of living in the "now" and to me this includes taking in where you are and using that.

Environmental Inspiration

You've all used your environment for inspiration. When young that might have been a floor becoming the sea or a bed a car. We can create from whatever is around us. Since childhood everyone has used their surroundings for inspiration.

This is in turn affected by what are surroudings are and where they take the imagination. A piano becomes a bar or a child's table a park bench.

I like the idea of using where we are to inspire and create. Our environs will affects us if we want them to or not.

And sometimes our environs change without warning.

A Change in Environment.

Lockdown is strange, with time spent at home when instead we would be outside, at work or socialising. Home working has become the norm. Video calls often the way to contact others. Even trips to a supermarket a challenging experience

Environments have shrunk, but many have found things they like in more time at home. A chance to make repairs and clear out junk. A chance to slow down and reconsider things. To notice the world around in quieter streets and all the activities once taken for granted.

I've heard several say

"I don't want to go back to how it was before"

What's Your Environment?

I was lucky to move twice since the start of March. And in the UK we could go out to exercise. So I've found quiet bridleways, covered paths and patches of greenery in Devon towns. Which led to questions about what plants are edible and how I 'd missed these places in years of living near them. And a few drawings of them.

What are the 2 things that define your current environment?

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Podcasts for Creativity

So I'm starting the new blog with something easy. Something I know.

I'm already writing on a new blog platform (nikola) in a very open field (creativity).

This is how I start most new things. With something easy and a low bar to cross for a success.

So here are 5 Podcasts for Creativity

Why Podcasts?

They are easy to consume as I walk, housework or travel. I can choose my inputs and learn about things I have an interest in or know nothing about.

1. No Such Thing as a Fish

Ideas is an important thing for creatives, and this is where this podcast comes in. No Such Thing as a Fish is half interesting facts and half comedy as most of the facts are bizarre, comical or surreal.

The 4 presenters each present a main fact and then there is a meandering presentation of related stories and facts added by all and sundry.

It's great for insteresting and funny up trivia from the real world .

2. Seth Godin

Yes appears to be a marketing podcast. But it's by someone who things for the long term and speaks sense. It's more about the spread of ideas than anything else. And selling themselves seems to be somewhere where creatives have trouble with

Episodes are around half an hour, it's just Seth although there are lots of replies to listener questions.

3. A History Podcast (Tres Cuentos)

Human problems are doomed to repeat and nowhere is this more prominent than in history. A history culture is a great mix of ideas and stories. Tres Cuentos in particular is stories from Latin America, published in both Spanish and English. You can easily find others on Ancient Egypt, England or China.

4) By the Book

This one is more for a mix and options for lifestyles. Two US women take a different self-help book each week and live throught it This give ideas for lifestyle changes and alterations from many different sources without having to go through all of them ourselves.

5) Something from another culture. (SynTalk)

Like the history one this one is a suggestion to find one from a culture different to you. If you are reading this then you can find english-speaking podcasts from many different cultures outside of the Anglo-centric ones My featured one is SynTalk from India. Each week a group of academics digs into a deep topic such as Death, Poverty or Dreams For a couple of hours they discuss it but also coming at it from a viewpoint I wouldn't get from British or American speakers.

Find me on Twitter. On Ko-Fi. On Instagram.

What audiobooks would you recommend?

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