Priming The Pump #1: True Colors


Ta da! Here’s the first installment of Priming The Pump, a new feature on creative writing exercises:


Two of my writer’s notebooks for my English classes. We read the Seuss book, looked at the O’Neill poems, chose paint chips and labeled them with our “many colored days.”

This is all about using color to inspire you or enhance your current piece.  I learned this technique from a very gifted teacher, Carol Engleman, in a graduate class on writer’s notebooks.

1) Go to your favorite home improvement store and grab some free paint chip cards.

2) Read Dr. Seuss’ My Many Colored Days and/or Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill.  The illustrations are as bright and  vivid as the language.

3) Choose a paint chip and let it guide you.  You can:

  • Pick one of your “many colored days” and label the paint chip with that day (happy day, sad day, morning, afternoon, a holiday, etc.).  Create a web around it with details and then get writing.
  • Peruse the color names.  What could you write inspired by Forward Fuschia or Blue Click?
  • Name a character after a color name.  What kind of character would be named Inkwell or Mauve Finery?
  • What colors would match your characters?  Why?  For example, Marina would totally go between Feverish Pink and Daisy; Arman would always be a steady Samovar Silver.


    My personal writer’s notebook with the paint chip activity that inspired this post. We had to identify, describe and rename colors of how we felt in the morning, afternoon and evening. I miss my Summer Evenings…

Let us know what you did with your paint chips in the comments below.  If you’d like, show us what you wrote. Write on!

Do you have a writing exercise you’d like to share?  Here’s information on how to get it to me. 

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