Songwriter Laura Veirs has made a number of engaging albums over the years, including last year's Found Light, tracked at my Jackpot! Recording Studio where Veirs co-produced the album (with composer/instrumentalist Shahzad Ismaily [Tape Op #151], Kendra Lynn engineering, and mixing by Phil Weinrobe). Upon finishing her sessions, Laura generously left us a set of her Kaleidoscope Creativity Cards. Intended to help with sparking creativity when writing poetry, prose, or music, this 9-inch wide boxed set features three decks; organized into word (red), structure (purple), and inspiration (orange) categories, each containing 48 cards, plus an important "Directions" card (look for it first!). Shuffle the three decks (keep colors separate), grab a card from each deck, use the collected prompts to do your piece "in that sitting," and then place used cards at the bottoms of the three decks. Next time, pull the three cards on top and start work on a new piece. Note that the structure cards have three prompts geared either towards music, prose, or writing, to best fit your focus. As Laura describes, "A couple of years ago I was struggling to write songs for a new album. I found I couldn’t surprise myself very easily anymore. I wanted to add an element of randomness to my process while also knowing that I thrive on structure."

My first draw was: "Write as if you are drowning (in water, in love, in darkness, in whatever you like)." – "Use your voice as your only instrument." – "Feel the boundlessness of your own creativity." My second was: "Look at a map of a place that's meaningful to you. Use place names." – "Use an alternate tuning." – "Push yourself to grow." The inspiration cards all feature quotes from notable writers, such as Ursula K. Le Guin or Maya Angelou, that reinforce the prompts. I cannot imagine these cards not pushing anyone out of a rut and into something interesting. The cards' geometrical, quilt-inspired artwork is by Jessica Poundstone, and with W Mac Wood's design and layout, it's all clean and fits the tone. For any of us, Kaleidoscope Creativity Cards might just be what we need!

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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