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Penny Delightful

A prompt to encourage your practice of creativity this week from Riversider and local author Larry Burns.

Photo by Elijah Mears / Unsplash

Do you need a low stress way to include seven minutes of creative contemplation into your week? Consider this your helpful nudge towards a slightly more creative life. If it helps, come back every week for a quick hit of creative contemplation. Each week I’ll share a new nudge. It will include a Thing (T), a Place (P), and a Sense(S) for your focus, a TPS creative nudge.

Last week, we reached for a can of soup to warm and replenish our creative energies. Did the solid dependability and symmetry of the can serve as a foundation for your creativity? Perhaps you loved the bright imagery and created a 2-D postcard collage to send to a friend. Did you dream up a new game to play with that empty can while you waited for your soup to heat up? Even if you just dusted your pantry shelves and restacked your cans based on expiration dates, I hope a few servings of creative play let you enjoy a healthier, balanced day.

This week, we shift our creative focus to an even smaller, often-overlooked object: the penny. For many of us, pennies are what’s left over after we’ve bought something.  Pennies are whispers of wealth, dropped in parking lots, buried beneath couch cushions, and tucked away in forgotten jars. Their make up has changed over the years just as drastically as their value, yet they maintain a constant presence in our lives. 

Every few decades a movement begins to remove the penny from our lives. Retailers invite us to “round up” on digital purchases and tossing a few coins in the tip jar seems easier than figuring out what to do with them yourself. Is there a more deserving object worthy of our attention as we give ourselves several minutes of creative contemplation?

Feel a penny in your hand, its lightweight, almost ethereal, presence. Consider the differences between an old, weathered penny and a shiny, new one. Each one carries a unique story, a witness to countless transactions and exchanges. The penny is a humble coin, the smallest of denominations. It’s also a different color than the others. In these ways and others, the penny is unique and special and worthy of our attention. Once you’ve found your penny, here are four creative activities to explore:

  1. Penny Challenge: Test your dexterity and patience by attempting to stack pennies as high as possible; space them out like dominos and enjoy the sound as they fall and scatter. Then enjoy the glares from the other customers in the coffee shop.
  2. Be The Penny: Write a poem from the point of view of a penny. What’s it like to be the penny left in the “leave a penny” tray? Would you try to escape or try to become ruler of this new empire? 
  3. Penny Promotor:  You’ve been hired by the US Mint and they want a new slogan to make the penny indispensable again. Can you do better than, “Find a penny pick it up and all day long you’ll have good luck”? Who’s face could sell a million pennies?
  4. Collage of Worth: Find other objects or photos of objects similar to a penny in value or size or make up and place them together in an interesting collage or sculptural assemblage. Glue five pennies together and call your creative work “The Nickel” and sell it for a dime. Cut one into tenths and try to buy gas.

It's often the smallest, most ordinary things that hold the power to inspire and ignite our imagination. The penny, an insignificant coin, is a reminder that creativity can be found in the everyday, in the details that often go unnoticed. Through these creative exercises, we don't just see a penny; we glimpse the stories it carries, the games it plays, and the possibilities it holds. It's a humble reminder that art and inspiration are all around us, waiting to be uncovered in the simplest of moments and objects.

Note: portions of this prompt created using the tool ChatGPT.