Monday, December 28, 2009

Nine Years of Vocabulary Additions

I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions – James Mitchener

The Shoebill, Balaeniceps rex, also known as Whalehead, is a very large stork-like bird. It derives its name from its massive shoe-shaped bill.

On the cusp of the New Year, I've included nine years of additions to our vocabulary.  What emotions have you experienced as you bumped into these words?

2000 - The Millennium began. Remember when you wondered if the Y2K would disintegrate all your electronic equipment?  They deciphered two-thirds of the human genome.

2001 - We will never forget the numerals 9 and 11 in all their formations . What good happened for you this year?

2002 - We would hear on and on about  Enron. What else would you do with those letters?

2003 - “Shock and Awe” entered our vocabulary.  What's a better usage? 

2004 - Abu Ghraib, a prison in Baghdad, provided photographs that made us question.  How would you unscramble the letters?

2005 - Star Trek ended after 18 years but would remain in the vocabulary. Laonastidae, the first new family of mammala since 1974 announced.  Check it out.

2006-  Wii added animation and movement for coach potatoes.  Did you play?

2007 - Pixar came out with Ratatouille a cartoon about a rat with culinary talents. Did you write about food?

2008 - 
November 4, 2008 Barack Obama added to our vocabulary.  What's your write?

2009 -   I'm leaving this open for suggestions.

Creative Write:   As you go through the years, what do these words mean to you?  Play with them and add emotions.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

An Armed Patrol of Daisies

'There is no use trying," said Alice, "one can't believe impossible things."

"I dare say you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was your age I always did it for half an hour a day. Why sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
                                      from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis G. Carroll.

Every writer facing the blank screen or white page needs to stretch in that first effort.  Fingers reach and tickle the keys or the hand selects a pen to send words across the page.  Why wait for a notion to arise?  Ideas sprout when we jump right in.

Ellen Gilchrist feels every writer faces two questions when she begins to write: can it be done and can I do it?  She believes those questions precede all risk-taking.  

I suggest - Why ask those questions at all?  They get in the way of the adventure that awaits!

Imagine an Armed Patrol of blue daisies protecting your writing skills, encouraging creativity and word flow.  Now, there's nothing to fear.  Write in and out of an image that feels perplexing. 

If the daisies begin to twirl and whirl off their stems, they will arrange themselves at your writing pad or keyboard.  Each settles right in, does a dance or jabbers with a smile and provides whispers and mysteries.  Will you follow along?

Creative Write: Consider the photograph above. Write for fifteen minutes about impossible things.

Friday, December 18, 2009

21 Questions

Do you need a map or a nap? 

Is today a "dip" day where  the energy of wings or fleet feet  would help?

To push beyond your ennui, try a list of pairs.  Ask a question. See what happens when you pair two items. 

Just permit free association to take over and don't judge or edit.  Go as fast as you can and let your inspiration take you away.  Move until you have hit number 21.

Here's a start:

What do I need -

1     frosting or the cake
2     leaves or stays
3     trinkets or trades
4     bows or whens
5     bravery or a kite
6     milk or pencils
7     magic or  mocha
8     salmon or a scream
9     tirades or tennis balls
10   singing or flames
11   doilies or disgrace
12   monkeyshines or darkness
13   fright or sherbert
14   bubbles or incubation
15   spindrift or tin foil
16   honey or pintos
17   radiance or a gum drop
18   clutter or a stun gun
19   meringue or perpetuity
20   bongo drums or a secret
21   yogurt or merriment

Then begin again with another question. Break away from ordinary with the questions also. Try rhyming.

What happens at twilight -

l       bluebirds or howling
2      thirst or the worst
3      blood or floods
4      maybes or fleas
5      locks or kiddie blocks
6      freedom or kingdom
7      icicles or tricycles
8      harmony or charm
9      ridicules or barnacles
10    moonsbunnies or  funny money
11    highways or one act plays
12    nickles or pickles
13    clay pots or knots
14    crowds or clouds
15    soup or droop
16    arrangements or endangerments
17    puddles or cuddles
18    rice or thrice
19    playmates or paperweights
20    mushrooms or classrooms
21    free will or a duck's bill

Creative Write:  Try several questions for your 21 pairs. What does Friday sound like?  Then try a freewrite mixing all the words.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Alphabet View of Collaborative Thinking

Why does it become difficult for individuals with opposing views to share a common understanding? 

Do we need to take time away from our ego needs to consider a perspective different from our own?

Often when tempers flare, patience marches out the door.

If you draw a W on a sheet of paper and place it on a table between two people who face each other, it will look different to each person. 

One person will see it as an M and argue that position while the person on the opposite side sees it as a W and challenges the other's view. Each view feels reasonable for the person facing the letter.

Before spending energy trying to convince people they're wrong, mentally get up and move around to try to see from the other person's perspective. This view may finally make sense to you if you're at his or her shoulder, even if you don't agree fully. Invite the individual to stand next to you also.

The expression, "walk a mile in my mocassins" never gets another's ear. Compromise does not satisfy anyone, either. If you switch the perspective away from what each person's ego believes, you may discover a third way of viewing the situation.

Consider trying the alphabet way. Collaborative thinking creates a new perspective. Try a sideways view and get an E for energy and excitement and move into exotic.

The next time you discover yourself in a situation with two views in conflict, consider how to turn the situation on its side view that neither of you have considered.

If everyone shares the view from an O
Tries to connect with the power of 
Ah! life would become much less of a mess
Then X negates a question of Y
Connects in friendship with an H and I
Agreement on N goes silly with Z
As perception changes its view in C
Just notice how different all life would B

Creative Write:   Consider an issue you have not resolved with someone because of differing views.  Write about a new way of turning it around. Explore the alphabet too!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Portals to Adventure

A picture
lives by companionship.  - Mark Rothko

"There are things known and things unknown and between them, the doors." - Jim Morrison

Time stands still for my writer's mind. I snag a snapshot of attention. Ideas leap in. I become a companion with the frame and wonder where my imagination will extend the image.

What happens beyond the gate?

Words in response to pictures help me reflect and interpret the world and form a relationship with others.  Sentences search a world of paradox and mystery. Barriers invite my curiosity as portals to adventure.

What natural entrances invite story or poem?  Do you see the man of the sea hiding?
Creative Write:  Take a walk and capture a collage of portals. Or, use the three above. Do a freewite to investigate their connections.  Do stories and poems arise from one side of the entrance to the other?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Discover a Memory House

Simonides of Ceos. a 6th century Greek poet-philosopher, spoke at a banquet to celebrate Scopas' victory in a chariot race.  His oration focused on the Gods, Castor and Pollux instead of the victor.  Scopas, in irritation, told Simonides he would only pay half the poet's fee. He should ask his two Gods to pay the rest. 

At this point, two men called Simonides out of the room.  When he left,  the palace collapsed and killed everyone. In amazement and relief, he thanked the Gods for "paying half his fee" and saving his life.

During the search for survivors, they asked Simonides to identify guests because of his exceptional memory. He did this by recalling their positions seated at the banquet table.  Later, Simonides expanded upon this ability to remember by designing what he called a "memory theatre." 

He created loci (plural of the Latin locus meaning place) in each room of his building. When he walked through the rooms mentally, he associated an item with each room.  By forming an image between what he wanted to recall and a feature of the locus, he created a linkage.  In retrieval, loci determined the desired memory.

The ability to map items and memories provides a way to discover ideas for poetry. When considering what to write about,  I travel back through houses experienced.  Then I begin with a freewrite and make sensory connections to my memory home. 

Here's a start:

 I  turn my key in the lock and hear the creak of the front door's opening. The door's strength reminds me of my father's hands who could break an apple in one twist.  I scurry up the stairs, feeling the nap of the maroon carpeting between my toes.  A scent of candle wax mingles with crackers to turn my head and bring memories of my mother's formal dinners. The Grandfather clock's chimes follow me up to the second floor.  My bedroom meets me with fresh ironing smells the sun brings through the curtains and horse sweat from my riding boots. My jacaranda tree blooms in lavender and teases me through the window.

Once I have created a map to connect rooms from the freewrite, I go back in and make additional notations to add  thoughts and feelings.  Additional freewrites will spur me in a variety of directions.  Several poems will results from the connections.

Creative Write:  Choose a home you have lived in for memory retrieval.  Make a chart of each room and select objects.  Then wander through each room and create a line of text that hitchhikes off the items. See where your memory takes you in sights, sound and scents.  After the initial freewrite, go in and make additional connections.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Using Stillness

Imagine a hummingbird as a statue on a branch, its flurry of activity at rest.  Identify each color and feather in detail.

Tis the season to feel the rush of chaos everywhere. The frenzy for many appears endless.  How would it feel to quiet your day? 

Take time to sit and breathe in six breaths, then breathe out six.  Continue until you can extend your exhalation to ten.

Consider this time of silence when you slow the breath, feel stillness and relax. Sounds may arise around you but they represent energy when you put yourself into a focused state. 
Notice that the space around you opens.  Nothing will overwhelm you when you pay attention to the rhythm of your breath.  Give this feeling of rest a name as you search for balance.  Use the name and revisit its calming effect from time to time each day.

Creative Write:  Choose a name for your tranquility and sense of peacefulness. Dialogue with this new friend.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Openings and Curiosities

I just finished Barbara Kingsolver's novel, The Lacuna. Her symbol intrigues throughout the story.  The word 'lacuna' encompasses a variety of meanings in the book: a cave, a missing text, a gap, a cenote, even the growth of a writer.  The reader's Individual curiosities add to the mix.

Discovering the lacuna imagery within the pages, I became fascinated with these lines:

"Frieda, you always said the most important thing about any person is what you don't know.  Likewise, then, the most important part of any story is the missing piece."

As I turned the last page of  Barbara Kingsolver's novel, notions of what we don't know and openings stayed with me. I wondered about what I'd missed and what had gone missing.  

Moving through the next week,  I considered all the openings we need as writers. We write ourselves out of and into holes and spaces.

We learn to break open to our process and discover it's vital to, "Open all your pores and bathe in all the tides of nature,"  as Henry David Thoreau observed.

How do we also remain open to the changes and transitions in life and avoid the traps?  We need to observe nature's ways and watch the unfurling of a rose. The times of twilight intrigue when the sky opens to light and darkens at dusk. The trill of birdsong out of silence awakens us at dawn.  What occurs within the fissures where water sneaks and bubbles form?

Our awareness pushes our eyes, ears, noses and taste buds to the next curiosity.  Do we dare fall into an opening, like Alice? Will we permit our pens and fingers on keyboards to explore with courage and risk?

When we look for openings, we risk the chance to make mistakes.  If closed, we miss opportunities and all the wild and wide open places.

Creative Write: What does it mean to become open and receptive?

Choose a metaphor for how you might express openness. Explore possibilities in freewrites. Consider what represents an opening of awareness: Write about a missing piece.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

View of the Storm

Before the storm, the sea flaunts its multiple personalities as it builds force. During their flights of defiance against the wind, seagulls ripple on the currents like kites. They evade the force as long as possible, wielding magic in the thrust of wings. Pigeons circle in formations catching the drafts. Subtle changes alert the birds' radar to seek shelter before intensity could whip them from the sky. 

Pelicans and seagulls find protection on the edges of cliffs as winds broil. Cormorants rise into the branches of pine trees and preen. A winter sea and sky toy with the color wheel and capture a view that defies a camera's eye.

In India, darshan means getting a view. The clouds escape to reveal a panorama of the Himalayas from the foothills.  It's said that the Himalayas give up their darshan.  They're letting you have their view. 

The Pacific ocean has provided a darshan on its day of wonder.  It doesn't show itself to you right away.  The tease encourages a search for your own words and imagery of discovery. 

The sky provides an opening.  Where does it lead?

As the storm passes, the sky returns to calm the sea and reflect the blue.  Seagulls ready their feathers for flight.

Creative Write:
Capture a view of a moment in nature. Discover a new way to view a familiar scene.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Art of Winter

"The creative act is courageous, an ancient gesture, a dynamic exploration of the dark mystery that is human existence."   - Adriana Diaz from The Soul of Creativity.

By December in Eugene, winter paints a structure of strength in trees and foliage.  Silence snuggles in its morning cloak and pads through the neighborhood.  Along the railings of bridges, spider webs sport their graffiti sparkled by frost. Leaves continue to fall and land with a crackle and cackle.

What's the fear of winter beyond the bite of cold air?

We should revel in this time of change that provides an opportunity to delve into the basics. The slower pace stimulates a search inward.

Nature reveals the landscape in an array of bare bones.  As auxins drain into the roots, squirrels scamper to store their cache of nuts. Everything moves into its simple form as a gesture for us to follow.

I bundle for a run and search my skeletal soul where ideas percolate and words wrap in layers. Nature's art swirls near me.  Creation continues in the silent exhalation of trees sculptured by the season's change .Creativity thrives in the spaces among branches.

I explore what it feels like to get to the basics of my art.  There's a need for moments in reverence and joy to celebrate the change a winter outlook provides.  How the words of winter entice with their requests for ways to adorn the emptiness.  This begins the search for mysteries in enrichment and growth that will blossom by spring.

Creative Write: Become courageous. Get to the basics of your writing as art. Use a winter theme to explore what weighs you down. What will it feel like to remove the excess and rest in silence.?What will listening accomplish?  Write about the skeletal beginnings of your art.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Permission to Rest

When rushing to create a product, writers often power from idea to solution and avoid the percolation process. Although they accomplish a result, they may have missed insights gained from the incubation period so vital to the creative process. An interval of rest and diversion from thoughts and brain noise helps everyone reach the "Aha" moment with more possibilities.

During a period of not writing, notions and ideas flicker the synapses in kaleidoscopic fashion. With deadlines approaching, it becomes difficult to let that "nothing" happen. Even a short break will prove valuable. After a respite, a feeling of freshness and invigoration pushes one into the final stage of writing.

The ancient Greeks and Romans believed the magic of brain swirl depended on channeling from the Muses. Unknowingly, while leaving it to the Gods, they permitted time for rest to take over. They also enjoyed bacchanalia for diversion.

Elias Howe, an adapter of the sewing machine, became frustrated with the notion of the sewing needle because he could not determine how to thread and mechanize it. One day he stopped and stared out the window. His mind spun in reverie.

Later he and told his wife he had a daydream of standing inside a black pot of boiling water in the jungle. A native came to him ready to thrust a spear. He looked up and noticed the spear had a hole in its tip. When he returned to his work, he decided to try a hole in the tip of the needle in his machine. Aha!

It takes courage and resolve to rest, try daydreaming, or do nothing during a writing project.  Just writing the word "rest" feels like procrastination or a retreat into laziness.

I have discovered naps and running plunge me into the "doing nothing" space. When my autonomic system takes over in both cases, I dwell in a cocoon of awareness. After working on a writing project with intensity this silent awareness opens my mind to break throughs. It becomes a diversion needed although many would not call it true "rest."

Each writer has a different way of accessing this place of rest as a springboard to illumination. Take time from a writing project to investigate your place of silent awareness. Does this work during the moments of tranquility before sleep or in moments upon awakening? Do you make discoveries in the flow during a run or walk? Will breathing exercises push you into a calm and tranquil state. Will meditation provide the rest needed?

Creative Write: Define in writing what a place of rest means to you.  During a time of frustration in writing, give yourself the permission to rest. Then write about the results.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Romp for Rhythm

What do laundry and flower pots bring to mind? 

I make lists of words with rhythm and sound qualities that hook into imagery. After deciding on diverse categories like clothing or food, I choose several words in each group that provide possibilities for my romp for rhythm.

This search for nuance frees the mind and tickles the synapses. Nothing has to make sense. I delve into wonder with a bounce of words and the ways they nudge one another.  Lines flow with syncopation along the way. When humor tags along, the exercise stimulates all the brain cells.

This romp challenges all expectations and spins my senses.  Regardless of life's hurdles, I wordle in all types of weather.

frills                                      persimmon
pinafore                                artichoke
lace                                      aubergine
satin                                     grapefruit
gaberdine                             asparagus
rain coat                               broccoli
overalls                                 tomato
sash                                      apricot


Let the play begin with a frill of persimmon.  Aubergine in gaberdine discovers a taste of lemon by an artichoke hidden in a pinafore's pocket.  What sprocket of surprise would arise in the ruffles of grapefruit at sunrise?  A rain coat awaits a tomato that pouts but never doubts sounds of laughter.  Sally wears overalls as her fingers nudge into the forest of broccoli.  If apricot dons a sash of geen and lace who would make the mistake of sailing into an asparagus dream?

Creative Write:  Choose two unlikely combinations.  Try wild animals and state capitols.  Discover a Sacramento's dance with a wildcat or what a giraffe in Laramie will decree.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Chasing Wonder

I search daily for a "find" that stirs my curiosity and the opportunity for connections. Who enchants behind the blue door?

The pavement reveals patterns and shadows of design.

I notice two faces of elephant.  One nudges the other into balance.

Kidart appears on a bench around the corner. The frog demands that the pen is mightier!

Invite change!  Notice details.

Creative Write:  Once you have gathered your "finds" consider how to invite them into a writing adventure.

Notions to ponder:

What if . . .
How will I . . .
In what ways does this . . .
How will I alter a perception of the "find."
How will I go wilding?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Take your Readers on a Bus Ride

During days of algebra, my teacher advised me to "show my work." She wanted to follow my calculations to the answer.  So, I showed my ideas by writing all over the page. Chuckling at my comments that took the place of  numbers, she handed the paper back with a red C- and said, "You should be a writer."

Now I advise my writing students to "Show. Don't tell."  I ask them to drive the bus into an experience for the reader rather than acting as the tour guide and pointing everything out. This means don't go on and on about thoughts and feelings or share opinion.  Drive into the drama of the situation and reveal the story.

The reader needs a thread to follow in order to connect with a writer's weave.  Sensory imagery that involves sight, sound, scent and taste will interlace to deepen the texture of a story or poem.  Metaphors and similes provide images by referral or comparison.  

Detail the squint in a person's eye or the thump of a fist on the table. Show the frustration of a step into chewing gum.  Reveal the thunder of a friend's mood.  What does lightning in a bottle represent?

Creative Write:  What does stubborn look and sound like?  Search for sensory imagery and a metaphor to show it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Writer's Field Trip - Dialogue to Create Power Struggle

Writers need to take field trips to study human behavior. People watching provides story ideas and ways to describe personalities and conflict.

Read a short story by Ernest Hemingway, "Hills Like White Elephants"
and one by Irwin Shaw, "Girls in their Summer Dresses"

Take a notebook with you and spend an hour or two at a sports bar or restaurant.  Notice couples, their interactions on several levels and write their details in body language.

Watch and record:

l.   How do they walk in together?
2.  Notice their approaches to each other and the menu.
3.  Write how they address the wait persons. Use their choices of food to define them or create conflict.
4.  Examine the details of their body language and facial gestures.
5.  Can you imagine what's going on in their conversation just by observing their silent language?

Creative Write:  Design a story or poem entirely in dialogue that involves a power struggle set at a restaurant. Use gestures of hands and arms to show emotions and action. What unpursued current runs underneath your dialogue (see "Elephants")? What relationshp is not spoken?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Healing Power of Poetry

Louise Bishop's work, Words, Stones and Herbs (2007) focuses on the healing power of literature. She discovered a 15th-century manuscript which provides treatment for everything from a flesh wound to mental ailments. In medieval times, medicine involved the study of language related to the seasons and the power of  nature.

A doctor often placed a written charm on a broken leg to speed the recovery process.  What we today consider, the placebo effect, became a vital part of medicine back then. Bishop mentions that people would memorize 150 lines of poetry to assist healing.

Fighting a sore throat and sniffles, I decided to delve into poetry and produce my own literary curatives. I cajoled and begged my body to cure itself during a day of self-healing that involved reading and writing.

Years ago I learned from Dr. Norman Cousins that humor heals. A day of silliness and naps would get the job done. I wrote and re-discovered a poem on the human body that added to my cure. 

Today, I am buoyant and back!

The Heart of the Matter

Why does the heart always get credit
when pleasure or pain take the breath away?
“We do the work,” say the lungs.
“Breathe. Breathe. We fix it.”
The heart claims it never breaks,
“I don’t even wrinkle.”
Fingers create fists, “We feel, really feel.”
"Well, we run from distress,” the feet say.
Liver and kidneys shout that they
deal with all bodily evils first.
The eyes edge in,
“Tears wash away the chaos.”
“Hey, don’t forget us adenoids and tonsils,
if you still have them."
“Anyone home?" asks the spleen"  The appendix
can’t even pronounce vestigial.”
The navel chuckles, “Don’t ask the colon for its opinion.”
The brain has remained complacent
“Have fun without me,” it sings
as it flits out an ear.
                          - Penny Wilkes

Creative Write:  Take a day for self-healing. Create a poem about the human body.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Word Playground

Words tug at me like magnets.  They greet me from signage, menus, and roar from upside down. They tantalize by association with scents, sounds and tastes.

Yesterday I noticed "Stop Rust" at an automotive shop.  I thought, Good Luck. My mind began to twirl  - Arrest Rust!  Can't keep up with rust so dust it.  I thought of the music group from the eighties - Rust Never Sleeps and extended it to Rust Never Rests. Rust has power.

Then a sign nailed my attention because of the framing possibilities that would add more to its dynamic. 

                                                            Jump your wires to possible.

Playing with words stretches my mind. As they gambol about, connections occur. They surge and become available when I need them.

Set up for a Word Playground

I choose a word that has more than one meaning. Also, it must bring in sound, scent, texture and even taste.

Here's a chart of early connections.  I've started with KNOT which could exist in a tree, a muscle, or a ship's speed.  I can tie a knot to make it SECURE.  Then it could unravel and smell like creosote used to protect it.   Imagine the sound of a knot rubbing against sails of a ship. A freewrite from the scent to the ship might develop into a story or poem.  Also, I might add a wild notion or two.

LIGHT also provides delight in play. She lights fires beyond the radiance of a son. Candles sputter as a scent wafts throughout the attic.  ENLIGHTEN takes her to another level. She does not want to feel left in the dark.  Drip. Drip. Drip.  Is that the candle or. . . a nuisance in the night?

Writing to communicate an idea requires word choices. If we play with words on a daily basis, they will travel our synapses and appear in a variety of wonders during the writing of a story or poem.

Creative Write: Start with ball and think bawl also.  Then search the dictionary for less familiar words to play with. Go wilding!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Upside Down, Inside and Out

Nudging into creativity today, I ran in a pattering of rain. Puddles and reflections encouraged ways to view nature upside down. What fun to notice leaves relaxed in their morning spa.

Spokes of spider webs draped from the bridge railing.  Dappled with beads of dew, they refracted rain from the droplets. Fir trees stood on their heads as squirrels twisted down oak trees in search of breakfast.  In the ponds, ducks ventured upside down to feed beneath the surface, tails wriggling in the breeze. Even the herons appeared to search for a reversal.

When we take the opportunity to break from the ordinary and move out of a mind set, it clicks our imagination into a fresh gear. Ideas and ways to view our life's challenges appear from the inside out with a variety of connections.

Notice the leaves in communal hugs on a park bench. What a better world we'd have if everyone shared a morning upside down and inside out. 

Creative Write:  Approach the day upside down.  What do you have hiding inside that wants to come out.  Write about it!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Wander and Zipper of Possibilities

Curiosity leads my eyes and ears on adventures each day.  I search for connections and revelations around corners and behind buildings.  Yesterday, this tree intrigued.  From underneath, across the street, and at all angles, it provided questions.

The click of a camera captured an essence of elephant that Dr. Seuss could appreciate.  I felt the texture of its leaves, so alive and ready to explore with me. Maple leaves crunched under my feet and sent me to another level of experience as I searched in a holly bush for finches.  The next turn of pavement revealed that my Volkswagen Beetle, Blue Stu, does follow the path of evolution.

We take everyday items for granted.  Just imagine the creative minds behind them.  Think zipper.  Did Mr. Zipper, consider a solution to keep the wind away more a button could?  Did he happen upon railroad tracks?   Then an "Aha" moment struck?  The paper clip could have evolved from an orthodontist tired of bending one more wire. He twisted, turned it and tossed it on his desk.  Then he uncluttered papers instead of straightening teeth. 

Feathers inspired the notion of Velcro. How did the key or safety pin arrive for use?  Imagine the person who became frustrated with burned fingers and designed the coffee collar. Discomfort has produced an intrigue with problem solving.  The creativity of the human spirit amazes. 

Creative Write:  See where your senses take you as you move through the day.  Consider life's conveniences as a result of connections and revelations.Write stories or poems with questions. 

Monday, November 2, 2009

Write like a camera in motion

Writing that communicates like a movie camera eliminates telling the reader what to think.  It records the situation in sights, sounds, scents and tastes.  This camera has no adjectives to clutter nouns and adverbs to rob verbs of their intensity.  It pans the landscape of ideas with angles and occasionally flips upside down for perspectives.

When writing, notice the space beyond and between objects you describe.  How can you bring in more texture and connections?  Let nature inform your writing and fire your curiosity.

Creative Write:  Explore your complexities against a backdrop of  the natural world.  Avoid using abstractions like hope and love and beautiful.  Dive into your mental landscape and show it to the reader.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Moment of Awe

In Japanese, the term, “yugen” approaches an appreciation for the subtle and profound. It can exist in a suggestion such as a few brush strokes or through images in words. Something arouses an awakening of inner thoughts and feelings.

A moment of awe may arouse a reverence for nature. The next level requires an expression in words.

During a morning run by the Willamette river, I heard a rustle in the bushes followed by a splash behind me. An osprey lifted from the water with a trout in its talons. It flew so near I felt the air stirred by wings, then a reflection from its eyes.

When the bird sailed by, my eyes caught the attention of a woman riding her bicycle toward me. We connected in the next exchange of a series we knew no camera could capture.

Creative Write: Write about a moment of awe and all its connections.

Questions for the Learning Process

Does the ginkgo exclaim how hard it works during autumn?  Do you hear shrieks of exasperation?  Of course not.  It goes about its business of treeness and pushes its auxins. The yellow floods its leaves, then they drop and illustrate the street. 

Why does the notion exist among human beings that effort equals result?  It reminds me of the "Little League" mentality that everyone gets a trophy for hard work.  What happens when a batter swings at the third pitch and misses?  He's out!  It doesn't matter how hard he tried.  The effort did not produce a result.

As a professor of writing, I receive many comments from students concerning effort. When a student's "hard work" does not translate into a satisfying grade, a variety of concerns follow.  "I've always received A's," becomes a mantra at the end of a grading period.  "I've worked so hard my brains feel like scrambled eggs," another student claims. 

I read the product. It either shows a result or it doesn't.

In the publishing world, editors cannot observe the effort put into a piece of writing.  They judge the words that bounce upon the page. The black squiggles either hold their attention or they don't.  In the construction business, if a carpenter works all day measuring, cutting, hammering and at the end of the day looks up to see the windows sag, corners don't match up and in one rain the roof will leak, does he say, "I worked so hard?"  No!  He can see that he needed to focus on the details.

Why do students not want to make mistakes when learning a new skill?  Failure assists the process if learning occurs. Success comes from feeling comfortable with risk and error.

Imagine the man who loves to work with his hands. He carves boxes designed with robins and roses. Purchasers love his work. One day he decides to take a ceramics class to learn how to throw pots. He spends four weeks throwing clay and the pots lean right and left. Some have thin sides and heavy bases. The wheel races, his fingers slipping in the water. Drippings cover him with gray. He's worked so hard with his hands but this new procedure defies his understanding. The result does not represent his accomplishments of the past. What has he learned from the process?  He thought he could just crank it out as an artist but did not realize the nuances and techniques necessary to learn a new skill.  Does he keep trying?

Hard work has value as it improved discipline and provides the opportunity for results.  Many times one must fail in order to succeed.

Creative Write:  Write about learning a new skill.  How did "hard work" translate into result. . .or not? Did failure assist the process?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Indian summer

After the tourists have left and children return to school, beach life slows a notch. October sneaks into La Jolla. Locals appreciate  Indian summer and no longer need to share beaches and sidewalks with visitors. Waves break into multiple personalities without concern.

Cool air sleeves each arm as I turn into a neighborhood of trees in transition. The sidewalk's display of  orange, scarlet and yellow leaves crisp under my feet. I breathe in morning fires that spiral from chimneys and tint the breeze with the aroma of wood smoke.  Sun plays hide and seek with shadows on the pavement.

It's time to carve pumpkins and add to the decorations neighborhoods sport in anticipation of Halloween.  Goblins and witches accompany skeletons. Tombstones, black cats and ghosts appear. I'm partial to the spiders. 

Creative Write:  Write about a time of transition.  Notice all the sensory details.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Writing about Objects

What are boxes and what can you put inside? What needs to move outside? If you hide something inside, an opportunity to discover magic and mystery waits. How long can it wait?

Boxes also mean limitation but Jack-in-the-Boxes permit "out springing," Then discovery occurs.

From East of Eden by John Steinbeck:

You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said,
"Why don't you make something for me."
I asked what you wanted, and you said,
"A box.'
"What for?"
"To put things in"
"What things?"
"Whatever you have," you said.
"Well, here's your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts - the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation. And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you and it's still not full."

Creative Write:   Write about an object that has meaning for you.  Describe it in all its dimensions and see where the freewriting takes you.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Ten Percent Solution

I have always felt a fascination to explore my upper limits.  This involves determination to delve into what I consider my ten percent zone. The highest level of my capability exists in a fragile space. My self-knowledge increases while spending time and energy to examine this area.

Does this appear abstract and mysterious?

When I trained to run marathons, I discovered ways to access the ten percent zone that frightened and unnerved me.  At first, fear surrounded any notions of dashing into the red blinking lights of exhaustion or into a space that could cause injury.

How could I balance the extension of my ability and not break down as a result?

I explored in small increments, attempting each time to push my spirit of discovery and monitor both mind and body. It felt like entering a room of steel without air. The space loomed dark and cluttered with pricks of exhaustion. Fear clogged my throat. Dizziness and chills often spread throughout my body. At the limit, my hearing heightened and vision diminished. I moved out of the feeling as fast as I moved in.

Gradually, I learned my territory beyond "terrority" and befriended my discomfort zone. It teased with its sense of purpose and wilderness. Each time, I gained information for the next excursion. My performance improved if I did not quit or allow my pride to push. Rewards became apparent, measurable and kept me returning. I learned not to stop before it felt relatively good.

What does it feel like to break open, break out and push beyond self-imposed limits? Each person will encounter a different process. Once discovered, the end result includes possession of a skill to translate into all areas of life.  True confidence develops beyond the fear. Learning the self and making discoveries translates into a new understanding.

It requires more than daring. The result occurs in the doing. Wisdom arrives from a balance of experiencing what the body can endure before harm occurs.

Developing skill and trust in the writing process also involves that discomfort zone. During a time of frustration, to write one more word, one more sentence, another paragraph and page creates a positive habit. When we quit during frustration, we train ourselves to do it. When we push on, the synapses and sinew learn what to use for the next attempt.

As I did in exploring the physical ten percent zone, I never stop writing until achieving confidence within a thrill of words. In this way I have conditioned myself and achieved a balance as I did in running. I will always know the feeling that quitting when frustrated or tired will never permit.

Creative Write: Have you pushed to your limits of achievement in an area? How did you get into the ten percent zone? What did it feel like, smell and sound like?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Fish Story

Several years ago we lived in an apartment awaiting our house remodel.  During a writing project with a looming deadline, I took a break for distraction.  Maybe a fish companion might help me maintain focus?  A Siamese Fighting Fish (Beta), with its fierce nature would energize me toward the deadline.

I named him Phineas or Finny for short.

My new Best Friend didn't appear aggressive or puff his gill covers.  He just floated. At times his fins seemed plastered to his sides. His eyes had no gleam. For environmental enrichment I added a rock and a plant.

I placed his bowl on the top of my rolltop desk away from mirror or windows.  The literature indicated Bettas could respond to their reflection and hurt themselves by bumping into the sides of their bowl. Wandering by often, I smiled and wriggled my fingers above the bowl to gain his attention. 

Nothing happened.  He moved like a bloated blueberry. I believe in keeping friendships going.  He would not return to the pet store.

I selected a Siamese Fighting Fish after watching one for several years at a furniture store. Eric swam in a bowl at the front desk. His response to customers included a swaying dance.  He blew bubble rafts in hopes of female companionship.  Curiosity and a sensual personality entertained everyone who walked up to the desk.  I felt encouraged about his longevity for all those years. By now we had a lasting friendship.

During my week's project, Finny grew weaker as my words grew stronger. I became vigilant, changed his water and moved him to other locations.   Unfortunately, I had to bury him in a daisy plant.

Seven years later, the daisies bloom with an added cerulean shine. He has found his callilng.

I wrote a poem in his memory but it focused more Eric.

Fin Mesmer

Two Erics sell teak
at the Scan furniture store.
One's a Siamese Fighting fish,
bachelor-in-a bowl, robed
in lacy magenta.  He burbles
from satiny lips. lays bubbles
along the surface as I watch.
Land Eric, the salesman
says this attracts a female.

I feel the draw to his blue edges.
Watery eyes beg, as he slithers,
with fins that feather skyward.

A teak desk hovers, beyond
his horizon. I feel my hands
unzip my purse where
my Visa card shimmers.

Creative Write:  Write a fish story of your own.  Or, write about any experience with a pet.