Belmont professor Dr. Bonnie Smith Whitehouse aims to foster inventiveness with “Kickstart Creativity”
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Belmont professor Dr. Bonnie Smith Whitehouse aims to foster inventiveness with “Kickstart Creativity”

Dr. Bonnie Smith Whitehouse calls herself a pilgrim—someone who crosses the boundaries of knowledge and creativity. 

Her new project “Kickstart Creativity” is designed to foster this curiosity in others.

“I’m interested in giving people tools they can play with that help them experience things they might not be experiencing if they’re just sitting at home, or just sitting in front of a computer at work,” Smith Whitehouse, a professor of English at Belmont University, said.

“Kickstart Creativity” is a deck of 50 prompt cards intended to encourage inventiveness in its users through writing prompts and thoughtful consideration. It will be released on Feb. 2, 2021, and will be sold at Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, as well as other bookstores and Amazon.

The package looks like a normal deck of cards with a colorful design. When opened, the cards have tabs on them to separate each type—action, perspective and intention. 

Action cards help the user learn something new, perspective cards shift individuals’ viewpoints and intention cards produce more conscious decisions.

Users can draw from each type of card and use this unique lens to promote outside-the-box thinking.

Each card has a concept on the front, and on the back Smith Whitehouse has included her own writing on the concept as well as three writing or action prompts. 

You can follow the prompts or just consider the concept. By drawing one of each card before your day or an event, you can use the spread of cards to adjust your mindset, similar to tarot cards.

“Kickstart Creativity” was designed to give users creative freedom, using old concepts to bring about the new, according to Smith Whitehouse’s website. 

For example, the card enliven delves into the ancient Greek practice ekphrasis—using detailed description to “take the visual and translate it into the word,” Smith Whitehouse said. This prompt inspires users to describe an image with words and expand on that idea.

“It takes these literally thousands of years old ideas and kind of remixes them in a way that is modern and useful,” Dr. Sarah Blomeley, a colleague of Smith Whitehouse, said.

Smith Whitehouse intended “Kickstart Creativity” for both individual and group use.

Individuals can pick a card to set an intention for the day or look at a situation from a new viewpoint. Groups can use the deck as a point of inspiration during a class or collaborative work meeting, she said. 

And although “Kickstart Creativity” is not technically a game—more of a creativity toolkit—it also has a gaming element that can be used by groups of friends.

Leigh Hitchcock, a colleague of Smith Whitehouse, found the cards to be “like a visual reminder to think about something from a different perspective.”

Smith Whitehouse was inspired to make “Kickstart Creativity” after finding a gap in the industry of books on creativity.

“There’s so much out there on the why of creativity. And so I was interested in the what,” Smith Whitehouse said.

After attempting to write “Kickstart Creativity” as a book, Smith Whitehouse pivoted to the more interactive medium of a deck of cards, which combines different sectors of creativity into one project and offers a hands-on option for ingenuity. 

This is similar to her previous work, “Afoot and Lighthearted,” which is an interactive journal for walkers designed to promote inspiration through mindfulness.

Smith Whitehouse’s friend and singer-songwriter Ben Rector’s song “Make Something Beautiful” explains Smith Whitehouse’s mission with this project—she wanted to create something to help people see the beautiful in their lives, a theme this song encapsulates.

She was also influenced by tarot cards, something she became interested in during college. 

She saw the simple and quick nature of pulling a tarot card and applied it to her own project.

Smith Whitehouse uses the cards in her life. She found that she could make connections between her cards and her family and spiritual lives, using the rest card for example to carve out intentional stress-free time.

“So much behind everything about this project was helping people make something beautiful. And something that reminds us there’s something good in the world,” Smith Whitehouse said.

This article written by Emma Sherk.

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