Monday, July 27, 2009

Mood Altering

Search for ways to add conflicting emotions to your fictional characters or the personas used to write poetry. To mine for emotions and discover where words will take you, experiment with these mood sets:

grateful empathic playful admiring secretive jubiliant

anxious fearful angry remorseful lonely rejected

The first line includes upbeat feelings. The lower line delves into the frustrations and negative feelings. Add others.

Use a spiral notebook for this exercise so you may move with ease through the pages. Begin by writing the first word in the pair across the top of your page.

Write for at least two pages to express every thought or feeling that the word arouses. If you need more information on freewriting, scroll down to my post on Wordling. Then switch and write at the top of the next page the word that appears beneath your chosen word.

Write for two pages about the emotion listed beneath it. Don't forget to use all the senses. After the writing session take a break. When you return, write for a page about what the mind has churned up regarding these moods. Do you see a character developing that intrigues you?

Become willing to go into uncomfortable places. If you have secrets to tell, create a character to reveal them. Do this by writing a first name when the idea arises and use dialogue to push the idea forward or write in third person. Let the writing amuse and surprise you.

Don't analyze or critique the results. See if you can generate the mood you write about. During your writing, do not stop or re-read what you have written. If you become sidetracked, let the writing flow where it wants.

Creative Write: Begin a story or poem with a potential character you've Wordled into life.

Becoming Marco Polo

Becoming Marco Polo

Outside her childhood bedroom,
a jacaranda tree rubbed the porch railing
in squeals that led curiosity like a piper.
She sneaked out the window to climb it.

Thighs squeezed the bark; arms in hug.
She needed to touch the V formed by branches
near the ground. If only she could reach it,
then swing to the grass where adventures waited.

Night warbling continued from the tree. Muggens,
the cat, dug claws in the wood and scampered
the highway at will. Her tail spiraled in the breeze.
Finch chittering rose from limbs. Even they

flew in and out of branches or captured ants
on this Silk Road. A hummingbird made its nest
higher than her reach. When her father called,
she looked out the window, stuck in the middle.

Again she tried, clutched with her fingers
to find security in the roughness. Blood mingled
with gray bark in failed attempts to settle into the V.
Courage grew in welts on arms and legs.

In spring, an explosion of lavender blossoms
flew a fragrance of musk into the air. She took a breath
and tried once more. One shoe felt the wedge.
Another stretch and both feet arrived.

She balanced and looked upward
into an applause of leaves,
then jumped from the V
to explore the world and back before dinner.

Creative Write: Write about a childhood exploration in nature.

Bridges to Football to Kisses

Santiago Calatrava's Puente el Alamillo in Seville, Spain.

Bridges intrigue me. I linger during the crossing of a bridge and stop in the middle to feel the sway. Looking down at the water, I wonder where it meets the sky. My senses search for connections in words.

Spiders taught us how to span locations. Many bridges reveal similar lines. Often with writing projects we want the finished product right now when deadlines loom or frustration nips at our fingers. Our emotions and impatience often get in the way of the experience. We do not want to take the time to travel the bridge span from idea to result. Fun slithers into the darkness leaving us alone with a blank screen or page.

Consider football and kisses. With our favorite team, are we satisfied to learn about the win and final score without watching the game? If we receive a kiss without a hug or any build up, does it provide the same thrill? Does an unwrapped gift have the same meaning without the fun we have ripping at ribbon and paper as it crackles in our hands? These invite the bridge experience.

Writing requires fingers on the keys or the clutch of a pen to pursue the ink flow. How many times have we started a story or poem and the ending did not come out as planned? We discovered it came out better if we gave it space. Our synapses make fresh connections. For this reason, we need to dwell on the bridge and notice each moment before we reach the other side.

Creative Write: Take time to enjoy a bridge experience. Then write about it.

Dandelion Challenges Concrete

Gardeners have no appreciation for the dandelion. Its root tenacity makes it difficult to remove from lawns or flower beds. The dandelion thrives as an opportunist. It sneaks into tight spaces or wedges against concrete to show how nature dislikes a vacuum.

Dandelion evolved from the French word, dent de lion which refers to the tooth shaped leaves. Some Italians call it pisacan (dog pisses) referring to their prevalence near sidewalks. Northern Italians like the word, soffione (blowing). They refer to the stage where the flower turns wispy and creates seeds overnight. French fondly call it pissenlit, (piss in bed), apparently referring to its diuretic qualities.

Each seed has a parachute to twirl into position and add color to boring landscapes.

Creative write:
Research the name of a flower. How will you weave it into a poem?

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Oh, the power of the P word - Procrastination - Birds don't do it, bees don't do it. Even educated fleas don't do it. A squirrel would never do it. Yet, people find ways to do it all the time. Blame it on the prefrontal cortex that has the responsibility for complex cognitive behaviors and decision-making.

The word that causes stomachs to churn comes from Latin - procrastinatus. Pro - forward and crastinus - of tomorrow. Avoid today what you can defer until tomorrow.

For writers, the behavior becomes more complex in the initial stages of a writing project. If we push for the goal too soon (Goal-Tending), we miss the discoveries of ideas and new directions that weave into the ongoing process (Creative Meandering). Staying in the Doing of the project keeps motivation flowing and provides thrills we would not feel if we focused with linear vision on the result.

We need to understand more about our tendencies along the journey. Then we can develop techiques and ways to trick ourselves to push past reasons we avoid writing. This bring up the relationship between the P word and the B word (Writer's Block). Idealism and Perfectionism become untrustworthy partners. Know when to relent and strive for excellence instead.

Try a freewrite to examine your behaviors:

Take a look at your habits of delay in all areas of life when deadlines loom or undesireable tasks confront.

How do you deal with your inconsistencies?

In what ways do you defer actions to cope with anxiety of starting or completing a task?

Do deadline pressures and guilt increase your motivation?

What does apprehension feel like in the body?

How do you define failure and recognize its effectiveness in accomplishing a goal?

What benefits do you gain by delaying behaviors?

How does time management factor in your choices?

What reward system do you use to get the job done?

Creative Write:
When you feel like avoiding the next pressing confrontation in life, write about how you will accomplish it within a time limit. Right now!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tracking the Single Shoe

Do you even wonder about single shoes and socks along the side of the road? How did they escape their mates? Who left them lonely on the highway?

We develop comfort zones in our writing. Once in a while, we need to delve and take risks to push boundaries. Once I published a story about a typewriter who ran away with a skateboard because of his frustrations with the computer age. Marianne Wiggins has written a book, Shadow Chaser, that combines memoir with fiction. She uses her own name for a character in one chapter.

Writers today search desperately for the next "genre." Writing grows when everyone experiments. Go for it! If you feel frustrated with a writing project, try a radical revision.

Read, "Lost in the Fun House" by John Barth:

Take a look at characters in mythology. How would they do in today's world?

What if Socrates met Shakespeare and helped him rewrite "The Tempest"?

Take characters from your favorite books and have them play together.

Experiment with sounds of words on the page. Sing your writing.

Try writing in two languages at once - one word at a time. Does one language add to the other?

Write a story this way. Dialogue with an emotion. Create a character from an emotion and develop a persona.

Make up words and see how far you can take them.

Experiment with conflicting ideas.Try for color sounds and sights that taste a certain way.

Be silly!

Find humor in mysterious places.

If you do a freewrite, your mind will carry you into a variety of experiences. Start by writing an emotion across the top of the page. Then let your mind go. After 15 minutes, begin with the ending and write a story.

Play. Play. Play. If you find your internal editor invading your playground, write yourself out of the judgment.

Creative Write: Nurture your freedom to risk and choose one of the above for a fun write.

Anger and Cooked Carrots

Words act as symbols for a variety of emotional and intellectual connections. Everyone feels visceral responses from “color” words resulting from life experiences. Anger, love, war, and friendship stimulate mind pictures, sensory responses and complexities of mood.

During my early years when my father read to me at bedtime, he encouraged me to close my eyes and create mind images of the stories using my ears, sense of smell, taste and feelings. One evening I must have fallen asleep during his reading of Arabian Nights because I awakened suddenly out of a dream where I heard my father's voice say, "The villagers were angry."

I saw mashed carrots steaming from a bowl on a window ledge. I could smell them. Their cinnamon and clove flavor exploded into my mouth. From then on when I heard the word, angry, it elicited an association with carrots. It became a beneficial trigger to make me laugh and not get caught up in the emotion the word represented. What a benefit this has become in most of my life situations.

Creative Write: Think of the "color words" that stimulate your emotions. Do you have experiences with them from the vantage point of your other senses? Share a humorous story.

Imaginative Trial-and-Error for Characters

Some learn by commiting experience. The wise anticipate and use experience.

A probe into the memory of a meaningful event or situation provides possibilities for character development. Use a life experience to germinate from a story or poem viewed from a variety of angles.

Choose a significant event from your life you can use for a character. Name your character and place that person in your memory of a past event.

Write the details of an emotionally charged event to fill one page.
Why did the event occur? What importance did it have at the time?
What happened to your character before the situation?
After the situation did your character change? If not, why not?
What does your character observe in current time that he or she didn't perceive then?
What did the younger person not know then?
Did the event help your character understand him or herself?
In what ways did your character grow: intellectually, emotionally, socially?
What other forces were involved? What was hidden?
How did others react?
Reveal new insights about the event.

In life, we try not to translate all of our feelings into actions. In storytelling and poetry, they add to the intrigue. Picture your character before commiting the experience. What alternative modes of behavior and their consequences could provide additional ideas for story?

Use imaginative trial-and-error to try out different behaviors in the situation.

Creative Write: Use this exercise for both male and female characters. Use first and third person.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

It's About the Write Habit

“I’m a full-time believer in writing habits ... You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent . … Sometimes I work for months and have to throw everything away, but I don’t think any of that was time wasted ... And the fact is if you don’t sit every day, the day it would come well, you won’t be sitting there.” -- Flannery O'Connor

Young seagulls learn how to use their flight feathers by instinct and encouragement from parent birds. As writers, we need to develop our talents accompanied by good writing habits so it takes more skill on our part.

A writer's most necessary habit involves an appointment with the keyboard or writing tablet. It goes beyond the good intentions of: "today I will write." Regardless of demands on your time, set aside a time of day and time allotment. Sit there and work on a current project, begin a new one, or freewrite.

Over time you will discover the habit strengthens your desire to get to the writing.

As I've written in the "Wordling" article referenced to the right, reinforce yourself in positive ways. If you quit when you can't think of anything to write, you will always fall into that behavior. Write one more sentence and keep going even if it feels like gibberish. Only stop writing when you think you could write forever and do not want to end the feeling. This works with any human behavior to develop discipline to continue. You will want to return to that buoyant feeling of flow.

Become aware of your tendencies to procrastinate your writing. Write about them and develop tricks to ensure that you will write at your defined time. Surprise yourself and write when you don't feel like it.

Write a letter to a friend or your writing demon that prevents you from the page. Name the creature! It also might help to vary your environment. Take a notepad for a walk around the block and write as you go. No matter where you wander, the words will follow along.
No more excuses, just write!

Create Write:
I procrastinate in writing because________. Here's one idea that will break that tendency____________.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Steps to Positive Change

Design your daily journey with curiosity for each moment's potential. Focus on what works, not what's broken. When your dreams and ideals intersect with life's real journey, let your discontent energize your positive energy.

We open a newspaper or turn on the news and feel blasts of words detailing what does not work. How can we avoid the daily intimidation into negativity when inundated with the media's interpretation of a broken world?

My father told me, "Don't say can't. It doesn't exist in the dictionary." Defiantly, I ran to my dictionary to show him the word. I found cant but not the contraction can't that meant cannot, so I believed him. This reminds me of one of the best lines in from a movie, "Can't walks on won't street." When we say we can't, we really mean: we don't want to and won't.

Success comes in cans but it takes our will.

Creative thinking results from an innovative choice in the moment. This attitude adjustment pushes beyond the onslaught of impossibles. Negativity becomes a bad habit.

Everyone has the power to make changes!

Begin a list of what works in your life as a reminder. What gives you satisfaction? Go deep into the details and sensory imagery concerning your potential.

Consider one action you can do as soon as your eyes spring open each morning that pushes you beyond inertia.

What can you do for the environment or a loved one to express your responsibility?

Each day expand your list with creative solutions whenever you confront or learn of a difficulty or problem.

Attract and invent ideas for possible ways to balance the negativity around you.

Become O Positive in your donation of energy to others around you.

Creative think and write: Take the front page of the newspaper and circle the headlines that push "broken" at us. Revise the headlines and columns to reflect what works or write in new ideas.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I freewrote in diaries years before reading Anais Nin or Natalie Goldberg. I called it wordling because it felt like the words doodled along the page. They flowed from my pens in turquoise or magenta. The scent of ink aroused my senses as I eavesdropped on the amazements and amusements around me. Characters representing my emotions and ideas chased each other around the pages.

If you haven't adopted a writing habit, try wordling along with me. Writing requires a daily routine. Like developing a muscle, you strengthen writing by exercising with words. Find time each day to write. Vary the location, engage your imagination and ability to link all your senses.

Doodling with words liberates your writing zest. Wordling, if practiced daily, will energize the power of your mind and push your ingenuity to new heights. You will disappear into your deepest source of creativity and return refreshed with power renewed in thoughts and words.
Keep a notebook of your wordling. A spiral bound book without a rigid spine provides flow from page to page.

Please do not write with a pencil during your wordling. Discover a pen that flows across the page. Fountain pens or rollerball pens are the best choice. Colored ink will spark imagery.

How to begin:

Find your location and take a few moments to relax with several gentle breaths.

Write the date in the upper right-hand corner on each page of your wordle book. Date each session in this manner.

Allow yourself to become unstructured, playful and free to flow in any direction. Freewheel with your creative spirit!

When you begin, write a word at the top of your page. You could begin with a command such as, Astonish! or an emotion such as Eager. Write to the end of the page without stopping. In your next session, continue for ten minutes. No crossing out! Attempt longer writing sequences changing your command or emotion at the top of each page.

If you find a vacant spot, ask yourself, I think . . .I feel . . .If you stop again consider the opposites, I am not thinking of, I don't feel.

Write Impossible. Turn it into I'm Possible. Write with colors, smells, tastes, textures, times of day, sounds, and sights. Return to the words you wrote at the top of the page to spark your flow.
Lose yourself within the momentum of words and phrases. Write what spills from your pen with awareness and thrill. Feel the freedom of movement and power as your mind moves in each moment.

Forget your internal editor who wants to change words. Keep comfortable with the process like a river flowing over all obstacles in its path. Notice how your pen progresses and trust it. This will provide a foundation for your writing habit.

Stop writing only when you are in the middle of a surge of words. Stop when you feel so full of words you cannot write fast enough. Please never end your wordling session when you are frustrated or stuck. Write just one more word.

Conditioning yourself to keep writing will reinforce your positive habit. If you stop when you want to write more you will always feel an excitement to return.

Think of writing students in Shakekspeare's time advised to, "tatter your quill." Keep that feather tickling the page.

It's time to write! Astonish yourself with wordling.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Invite the Reader to Your World

Guy de Maupassant wrote, “The public as a whole is composed
of various groups, whose cry to us writers is:

Comfort me.
Amuse me.
Touch me.
Make me dream,
Make me laugh,
Make me shudder,
Make me weep,
Make me think.

And only a few chosen spirits say to the artist:
“Give me something fine in any form which may suit you best,
according to your temperament.”

This brings up an amusing, thought-provoking and realistic concern. As poets do we write for ourselves and hope for the reader’s connection? Or do we weave an experience filled with sensory imagery, rhythm and detail for a few readers who bring a similar understanding to the page?

Often when I wish to satisfy the reciprocity between poet and reader, I attempt to show the human experience in a fresh or comical way. If I tickle my own funny bone, I feel a sense of accomplishment.

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 doesn’t break,
“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 widen to say,
“Tears wash away the chaos.”

“Hey, don’t forget us adenoids and tonsils,
- if you still have them."
“Anyone home?" asks the spleen.
"Appendix can’t pronounce vestigial.”

The navel chuckles, “Don’t ask the colon's opinion.”
Throughout this discourse,
the brain has remained complacent.
“Have fun without me,”
it sings as it flits out an ear.

Writing Ponies

All writers experience various rhythms of writing's ebb and flow. I hesitate to mention the "B" word - writer's block - because we can always write . . . something. It becomes a vital part of the writing process to keep track of the times of peaks and lows in our writing life.

We can move beyond frustration and make peace with our unique style. Tricks help us survive and get more out of ourselves during slow times. Calendars serve to identify times of day, week sequences, and seasons that cause our writing auxins to move freely, or not.

What times of day do we have the highest creative energy? Are we sprinters, milers or marathon writers? As we approach the fallow ground of winter in writing mind set, we can discover strategies and techniques to tease ourselves into the writing flow again.

For me, a fountain pen provides pleasure more than fingers tapping on the keys. The scent and flow of a pen pony across the page creates rhythm and energy that equals meditation. Use of colored ink also enthuses my writer's mind.

I keep a full stable of fountain pens filled with green, turquoise, yellow and magenta inks.I also have red rose-scented ink. Some barrels feel feisty to my touch like Thoroughbreds. Others create the syncopated ride of a Missouri Fox Trotter. I have quarter horses and a Morgan or two that move my words with a pleasing gait. My Arabians kick up their heels on cold mornings. The scent of ink on a variety of papers stimulates my imagination.

Writing letters to friends and other writers encourages an action similar to freeflow but with a friendly recipient. To break old habits of frustration with our writing, we need variety and new points of view. Often it helps to write about when we have felt trapped by a thought or feeling before. How did we get out of the way of ourselves and reroute old pathways of feeling into positive possibilities?

Start a collection of writing ponies that feel good to your fingers. Gallop and hurdle any writing B words!

Sentence Bridges

A sentence creates a bridge from writer to reader. Every word moves the ideas and action. Add texture by naming the sparrow, hibiscus or magnolia tree. Stress key points with the details of color and sensory imagery.

If you break long sentences into short ones you will attract the reader's attention. Create a breathing stop. To achieve emphasis, reverse the usual word order. Read your sentences aloud to gain rhythm, emphasis and impact.

Active verbs intrigue and intensify sentences. Avoid the use of passive voice and the "to be" verb. The subject needs its verb near the front rather than separated by a clause and stuck at the end of the sentence.

Ask yourself what does an adjective or adverb add? Often they creep in like bandits and hitchhikers to rob your sentences of power. Make verbs your heroes to defeat them.

Creative Write: Select a paragraph from your current work. Circle the adjectives and adverbs first. Then use a green underliner to color your nouns and verbs. Begin to re-arrange the sentences to add texture and movement to the sentence. It helps to sing your sentences!

Snapshot of Relationships

Twelve legs remain.

As writers, with our awareness focus, we learn to project the elements of story on all situations. Our minds spin with ideas and notions of what happened in a location? How did it happen? Who became involved? Do we shift beyond the obvious to another point of view?

Consider the setting above. Potential for story teases the viewer with myriad sensations. Ask questions to formulate a story or poem.

What does the display of table and chairs reveal about who arrived and left?

What conversations attracted and distracted the individuals here?

Move into details to use: the dry grass, position of the chairs, the ash tray on the table. What else could you bring to this scene or take away?

Knock over the chairs and table or re-arrange them.

How would you populate the situation?

Add a dog or cat.

What clues could you give to reveal motives and repercussions of an event that unraveled?

What qualities of a relationship reside here without people?

Bring an Aha! moment to the attention of your reader by showing a relationship in sensory details.

Go beyond a predisposed notion of mood. How could you change it by adding or subtracting from the scene?

Creative Write: When you have collected details, do a freewrite to describe the experience. Avoid the tendency to skip the experience and go into the idea. Don't tell the reader what to think or feel. Communicate with imagery and sensory detail. . Start with the imagery and move into emotional connections. Use the power of suggestion to lead the reader.

Unfold a truth in a snapshot view.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Benches of Possibility

Benches seek relationships. Arrivals or departures fuel stories or poems. Emotions rise and fall.

Ask a few questions, then design scenarios to probe. Search for surprises and the unpredictable.

Consider the possibilities of this scene:

What happens right before or after arrival? Who walks in? Who rises to leave?

What dialogue follows if she dropped her words in haste? Should he retrieve them?

Who holds a breath or hums a tune?

Would a dog add to the scene? What breed and what behavior adds or distracts?

Let a father and daughter share a secret here. Show a mother's struggle with an adult son.

Who has a beginning or stages an abrupt ending?

How does the light affect them?

What happens in the empty spaces if love fell through?

Creative Write: Delve into this scene to inspire ideas for a story or poem. Follow one of the questions or create your own to reveal a relationship in progress.

University of the Sea

The Sea

I need the sea because it teaches me.
I don't know if I learn music of awareness,
if it's a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move
in the University of the waves.
- Pablo Neruda from On the Blue Shore of Silence

Until thirteen years of age, I spent months at a time living on a variety of steamships. My father attended meetings around the world and ship cabins became our home. Thankfully, we docked at ports of call often because seasickness taunted as my beast to conquer.I spent days dizzy and nauseated.

After a month on board, I usually had gained sea legs and began my discovery of what Neruda calls, "the University of the waves." I studied movements of flying fish and sea creatures we happened upon. The line of the horizon where nothing existed but blue penetrating into green-blue sparked my curiosity.

Sea spray redolent with fishiness accompanied my walks on deck. A mixture of ship oil, paint and wooden deck preservative return in memory. The sea sounded with swishes and thunks depending on its mood. Bells on board signaled activities starting and ending.Evenings spread darkness in velvet until the silver of starlight penetrated.

I learned the constellations from vantage points around the world. Storms provided whitecaps and cloud formations that amazed me from my queasiness. The rain ran salty on my tongue.

Now the sea remains a constant companion on my morning runs. I marvel at the tenacity of waves as they reveal their daily moods.

Creative Write: Share an experience you have had with the sea or another body of water. Bring in sensory imagery.

Use of Lie and Lay

Seals lie in the sun while sunbathers lay their towels on the sand.

Writers become frustrated deciding when to use lie and lay. An easy way to distinguish between them: lie means "to recline"; lay means "to place." As in, "I lay the blanket on the floor, then I lie on it." You may recall the saying: People lie, hens lay.

Trouble begins in past tense. Past tense of lie is lay: I lay on the bed. The past tense of lay is laid: She laid her basket on the ground.In the English language, we have regular and irregular verbs. With the regular word, play, principal parts include the simple present (play), the simple past (played), and the past participle (played). I play now. I played yesterday. I have played in the past.

Both lie and lay are irregular.
Lie: I lie on the beach today. I lay on the beach yesterday. I have lain on that beach with my dog.
Lay: I lay my hands on the keyboard today. I laid my hands on the keyboard yesterday. I have laid my hands on the keyboard many times to write stories.

The English language also contrains transitive and intransitive verbs.A transitive verb transfers the mean from the verb to a direct object. Verbs such as hit and beat almost always take an object. An intransitive verbs takes no object. Lie is intransitive. You have to lay something. You must lay the plate on the table, or the blanket in the closet or the shovel on the sand. Lie takes no object. If the verb takes an object, use some form of the verb to lay. Get it?

Lie means to recline and is intransitive. Lay means to place and takes an object. (Just remember that the past tense of lie happens to be lay.)Prepositions influence Lay: lay about, lay away, lay low, lay aside, lay into, lay off. Idioms include: lay it on thick and lay of the land.

I wouldn't lie about the use of lie and lay.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Writing like Bees

Students always ask about procrastination and writer's block. What happens in the writer's mind to prevent the word flow? Most of the time it centers around frustration and fear. The product appears more important than getting there. All of a sudden nothing happens. Anxiety takes over.
In Taoist literature a concept exists called wei wu wei. It translates "doing without doing." With writing a conscious need to achieve presents at every moment. It often interrupts the process. When one relents and flows into the doing the anxiety clears and a deeper wisdom takes over. The mind and body create together without the angst about outcome. How do we get there?

Spend time watching bees. They move from flower to flower. There's no finish line, just doing and gathering. Writers need a form of exercise to direct and train the mind, spirit and body. Runners, bicyclists or those who practice yoga, understand the "flow" that occurs when mind and body dissolve into movement.

One step at a time, one pose into another, one revolution of the pedals and process takes over. The breath assists to create a rhythm and the brain releases chemicals to drown the frustration and fear.

How to translate this to writing? Regardless of your mood, pick up the pen or tap the keys. Explore your relationship to writing. Discover what to say while writing to say it. The mental uncertainties will clear and you will move deeper into the experience. Suspense energizes and will reveal meaning.

Create Write: What troubles you the most about writing? Spend time in exercise, then return to the paper or keyboard. Write for 15 minutes without stopping. Suspend judgments and feel the freedom of a bee.

Beyond Abstractions

What does it mean to feel alone?

Abstract words get in the way of the reader's understanding. If you write about the dangers of love, show an example that will make the reader think, "Aha, I know that feeling." Or, "Wow, what a feeling."

Produce a fresh connection of meaning with metaphors and similies. Capture the reader's attention and emotions.

Rage - Milk boiling on a stove
Resentment - Buried fire inside a volcano
Fear - A turtle existence
Determination - She had the power of rust.

Create word portraits for the following: Grief - Joy - Worry - Anguish - Passion - Despair - Wisdom - Courage - Loyalty - Revenge - Nostalgia Dismay - Trust - Bewilderment - Sorrow - Greed - Destruction - Amusement - Monotony - Boredom

Take a Word Ramble

Imagine a hummingbird's energy. Did you know 60,000 thoughts pass through our brain a day? Set aside one hour to see where this internal chatter travels. Often wandering ideas and thoughts get in the way of focus. Now let them!

Find a place, preferably a natural setting for your hour's ramble. Write without stopping with a pen that flows across the page. Use colored ink and switch pens for texture. Let words bounce and brush against one another and keep it up (except to massage a hand cramp).

Try a variety of music every few pages. Ask yourself questions. Pave your way with mystery. Experiment and forget about making any sense. Use your senses to push the ideas from your pen.Rhyme words along the way to gain rhythm. Squeeze brain cells for the extraordinary and make up words. Explore and explode into a variety of orbits.

Here's an excerpt from one day's word ramble:

Today the wind has mumbled the clouds, burbled their shouts of blue. Electic sky shaved past noon and it did not nap till a loon moved. Blue can't be taken down or swept around. Parsley doesn't stay because watermelon seeds lose their power and shower everyone with kindness. Who holds the pickle with a trickle down past sounds like taffeta. All the green has sprouted krinkly. Bamboo chimes delight the breeze and even tease a word past bird. For water to reason it must find a season. A leaf in time saves all that's divine. Can an emory board forget all its silly grits of nails on the edge of steady. Eddy smiles but doesn't suppose he could dose. The trillium blooms for moles and spills incongruity before screams invented sherbet. All orange and gaudy but don't call it a whale's tale. Fido's whispers attract seahorse whiskers. Then the faun of courage erases a closet door, not even leaving the crystal knob behind. It reflected too soon for ghloom or the razor's benefit. They're just too on edge for Fun. Just such pure radiance all but shattered. It scattered, mad as if a pattern fell off the blotter and tasted sunlight. An otter chose a time to roll in grime. Saved time, a ridiculous notion in any case to perserve a potion clutched by ocean feet. Waves can't marry seed to sand. Dragons of daylight spewed their fire and never tire even though the friction of fingers could sustain their breaths past 2 pm. Fuschia fumbles such a great color to brag about and would look super as grout. Mind monkey that you host. Let the leaves curl among themselves with sparrow breath as a test.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Tracking Sensory Imagery

Charles J. Wysocki, behavioral scientist at the Monelle Chemical Senses Center, says the nose can identify ten thousand scents. This means the nose knows more than the tongue which only tastes: sour, bitter, savory and sweet. Another researcher, Danielle Reed, claims the issue becomes linguistic rather than biological when describing what one smells or tastes.

Expert sentologists have a brain map of odors yet limited vocabulary to describe them or make associations.Wine experts go creative in their descriptions of the "notes" when scenting and tasting fine wine. They describe a scent/taste of braised saddle leather, salted butter, blanced almonds, fig paste, even hoisin sauce. It appears the more they sip, the greater the desire for extended description. They begin to describe raw oysters and goose liver along with dead leaves.

Novelist Evelyn Waugh's son, Auberon, used his sense of humor to observe wine writing had to push exaggeration. He felt no one could convey the true flavor any other way except by suggesting exotic connections. He conjured improbable side tastes like rotting wood or burned pencils. Sour milk and French railway station "notes" added to his tongue-in-cheek approach. Depending upon the extent of sippage, imagine skunk notes and the sooty scent of wet dog,

Writers have power over their individual chemistry. Those who enjoy a glass of wine can create connections beyond : red tastes red and white tastes white. With our linguistic sensitivities we heighten our ability to move into questioning what really describes: tangy, flowery and fresh.

Creative write: Consider connections you can discover describing tastes, scents and textures. Begin with a glass of wine. How far out can you extend your observations? Malty with a hint of . . . Donuty texture with the essence of wet brick. . . Sea pebbles and burning rubber . . . You do not have to taste each item. You do not have to make sense, just make up scents. You will enrich your writing.

Teasing Daisies

Daisies tease beyond the chainlink.

Where is the poem?

Become a puppeteer and dangle observations on nature's stage, eavesdrop on human nature and add emotion. Search for surprises and how the man-made world and nature co-exist or conflict. A reciprocity develops in personal ideas and philosophy danced upon the outside world and then pulled back inside.

If it's hiding
search for it
in a spider's dream
or web of twilight.
You might find one
in lemony shadows
that attach to ladybugs
who sway near eucalyptus.
Consider it
in the moon's crackle
blinking past pines.
Discover moments
before stars sprinkle
dusk with a promise
of what we most need.

Where does a poem come from? It glistens at the crossroads of preparation and possibility, muscled from writing practice to the moment observed.

Creative Write:
Today search for a poem. You may need to dig in your garden and look under a few rocks.

How to Moodle

Serotonin, the brain's feel-good chemical, interacts with receptors to spread happiness, satisfaction and relaxation. How do we wrestle with shades of experience? We have the ability to move from intense moments then glide into realms of ease. At other times we just struggle, stuck in the middle of funk. The complexity of the human endocrine system toys with our balance.

All the advances in medicine and technology cannot provide a life of satisfaction. Only we can access that center of Wisdom above our necks and do what needs doing. We must engage with our highs, lows and middles by discovering ways to dislodge discomfort and energize the interactions in the brain for positive results.

With writing we have the ability to alter our moods or, at least, write about and through them.

Creative Write: Get several sheets of paper and a pen that flows across the page. Find a location where you can write undisturbed for an hour. Write your current mood across the top of the page. Begin writing and do not cross out or feel concern about the words that flow. Let one drop, then another.

See where your mind takes you until the end of the page. Has your mood changed? Write the replacement mood across the top of the next page and begin again. Follow your moods for an hour. Try writing with a variety of colors. If cranky, use green. If tired, write with red or magenta. Use blue for its tranquil qualities.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Awareness Triads




Create triads similar to those listed above. After you have created your own sets, draw arrows and play with words for fifteen to twenty minutes. Then take your lists for a walk around the block, to the beach or another natural setting.

Continue to observe the world around you and add to your triads. Find a place to sit, take a breath, read your list and write for fifteen minutes.Permit observations and distractions to take you beyond the obvious into new thought patterns.

You will discover a prose piece or a poem!

Two Birds with One Click

People comment with the worn phrase, "I'm gonna catch two birds with one stone." I don't like to think about dead birds. "Why not catch two birds with one seed. Then watch their antics?" I reply.

When I'm on my daily exercise routine of runnin' and ritin' I capture birds, flowers and the unexpected in photos and words. One morning, a woman ran out of her house yelling, "What are you doing in my flower bed?"

Kneeling near a lavendar rose dappled with dew, I had my cellphone camera inches away. I wondered about her observation skills? Did she think I dropped bugs on her roses? I'm allergic to cranky people and must search for an antidote to avoid a rash. So, I smiled, pointing to the sky, "Sun's almost out. What great care you take of your roses. I just wanted a photo."

With her head down, she had no reply and managed a weak smile.

I loved the movie, "Pay it Forward," and felt certain that philosophy would catch one. It didn't, unfortunately. Maybe we need a "Pay it Forward -2"? What if each day we share a simple kindness with someone? Just place a flower on a car window. Or write a sticky note, "Smile in the sun today."

Try doing something for a friend or spouse without having them ask. Anticipate! Make a habit of generosity without expectation and grin even if nobody notices. You'll feel bouyant.We're all in this together. Let's create a Positive and pass it forward.

Creative Write: Write about a situation you turned around from negative to positive with word choices.

Capture Words for Safekeeping

"If your journal consists of the best moments of your life and reading, then rereading it will be like walking a high mountain trail that goes from peak to peak without the intervening descent into the trough of routine. Just reading in such a journal of high points will tighten your strings and raise your pitch." Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Ralph Waldo Emerson kept what he called "commonplace books." These bound volumes recorded his ideas, observed images, turns of phrase, high points from his life and reading. He relished words and language and used his notebooks to capture everything for his future writing.

During childhood, I started writing in a blue diary that closed with a lock. Many secrets inked the pages, along with treasures pasted beside entries. Over the years, I have kept various notebooks. Because of my curiosity for change, black bound books moved aside for spiral notebooks. I tried hand-sized books to carry and exchanged them for covers of colorful design.

Often I can't decide just where to write my notions so they begin life when and where the ink falls. I record observations and eavesdrops, collect words or phrases from readings, feelings and frustrations. Charts and doodles fill pages. I write on and on then return to these pages to mine ideas and develop thoughts more fully.

Emerson prized the process and advised writers to try anything to keep it going with determination. He called it a "casting moment" when you see it and keep the writing in its original form, uncontaminated by later improvements.

I appreciate the process more than the product because of the feelings of freedom and exhilaration I gain pushing the pen.

Creative Write: Determine your best way to document what attracts you. Experiment with journals in a variety of sizes and shapes. Use colored pens to engage with words. Don't worry about results. Stay in your casting stage as long as possible.

Creating Characters

Search the Zodiac for character development, add a splash from the advice column. Go to the edge

Writers have experienced relatives and friends with chaotic collections of contradiction. Regardless of how intimately we know someone, he or she becomes too elusive, contradictory or shadowy for our story-cloning needs. If added to the quirky traits, humor and positive qualities create amusement and engagement for the reader.

What motivations and dimensions can we add to characters to ensure their intrigue?Read the horoscope page in the newspaper. How would you develop a character based on these traits and predictions? Mix and match. Then use a situation from reading an advice column.

Horoscope examples and a situation: Your ability to mix it up with all the right people means that you are drifting into a leadership role -- that is, if you aren't already filling it! Assume you can handle it and move on quickly. You're not in the best position to get people back on track -- your energy is building up now and you can't make them see what needs to be done. Wait for one more day before taking action. Someone new in your life is making you rethink quite a bit of your preconceptions -- and you think you like where you're headed! It's time for you to flip the switch and make a big change. Do not let a crisis go to waste. You have an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.

Ask yourself, "What would Rahm Emanuel, President Obama's chief of staff do?"

Question from an advice column: My husband has expressed a desire to quit work and sail to Hawaii and then on an extended trip. He has purchased a sailboat and is taking lessons with our kids. I tried it but become frightened of drowning and get deathly sea sick. I want to support his dream but don't have the stomach for it. He told me today he's found someone to crew: a recently divorced woman and her two kids. I don't feel good about this since the sailboat is only 37 feet long and they are planning their first two-week trip this summer. Should I start taking sailing lessons and hypnosis for my fear?

Creative Write: Play with the above examples. Or, do your horoscope research and read an advice column. Have fun developing characters to interact.

In search of words. . .

When you greet the morning and the song sparrows of inspiration have overslept, where do you turn? You whistle to get their attention. Nothing happens. Finally they arrive at the seed stations, fluff feathers or splash in the water fountain. Not even one beak turns in your direction.

Ignore them! They'll squawk when the seed cages are empty. Take fifteen minutes to prepare yourself by locating the advertising section of the newspaper or magazine. Flip through and find intrigue and mystique in a series of titles or phrases that inspire images. Turn to the movie section also. Consider what advertising executives go through to pique your interest.

How will you play with these words?

Moble window tinting

Mystery shopper

Typo patrol

Rommates Needed
Astound your friends

Rain Relief

The Week's Contender

Tint Your Windows

Free Eye Exam

A necessity of Luxury

Droopy Eyelids?

Restless Legs

Sprained Ankle Recently?

Is Waking up at night affecting your tomorrow

Fly Research Study

Hair Transplant for Spring

Magic Eyelash Extension


Stimulus Package


Eat More Sushi

Oyster Night

Free Yogurt ( or?)

The Filet Challenge

Cash for Cards

Bankruptsy - Divorce Fast

Friday Night Jazz

A Necessity of Luxury

Creative Write: Try word puppetry. Dangle and drop several phrases and see where they go.

Here's a start:

Friday Night Jazz
Oyster night, where
will the magic of eyelash
extension take you?

With droopy eyes and restless legs
let rain relief tint your windows.
Astound your friends
with a necessity of luxury.

You've taken the filet challenge
Now, mystery shopper,
Free yogurt - because you can.


Issues of life are not problems to be solved but mysteries to be entered. - Thomas Merton

I wonder about single socks or mittens alone on the sidewalk. What caused the one running shoe to land by itself in the street? Where's its mate? Is someone walking with a needy foot?

When I ran past this scene and it sent ripples through my mind. Did the shoes' occupant fly away? Why did he leave the shoes in this position? Is this a case for CSI or a writer's active imagination?

Creative Write: Enter the mystery and write what happened before this scene. What comes after?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Green Flash

I've always felt a fascination for the eyewink of sunrise and sunset. In a blink, darkness animates morning and day sneaks into night. My father and I watched my "big ball of fire" as it eased into the evening sea. We talked of mirages and light shimmers. He described a moment when the sun finds the sea and changes color in a "flash." A green sparks for a second or two.

We coddled our patience through myriad twilights to catch that perfect moment - the green flash. It never happened for us to share.Now, living on a hill with a view to the sea, I believe and continue to watch and wait. One day the mystery will unfold when I least expect it. The search means placing myself in a variety of circumstances to "get ready." An amazement awaits!

Writing also has its mysteries that we cannot perceive without the patience of the process. We feel awakenings daily as we wait and attend to our practice. The thrill keeps us eager until a flash will reveal itself. Believe it!

Create write: Think about a phenomenon in nature that intrigues. Also consider an aspect of your life that has not revealed itself to you. What remains illusive?

Write Out of Your Mind

We own a variety of emotions and moods that have the ability to teach us about ourselves and how we relate to others. A message resides in every emotion. Emotions reflect like mirrors and challenge us to discover ways to watch the many sides of our personalities. Our moods create a spectrum. As writers we can use the bands of light to examine our writing process. They will provide insights and information for character development and add texture to our prose and poetry.

Martha Nussbaum writes in her book, Upheavals of Thought, “ [There's] no firewall between emotion and intellect.” Often we fear or flee from our moods. We try to rationalize them rather than attempting to swim in the murky waters with them. We repress them with the force of will but discover they will crest again. Our intellect doesn't overcome anger. It's the quickest emotion to arise and needs acknowledgment. If we develop ways to examine and even appreciate it, then it will roll in and dissipate like waves to shore.

Buddhism teaches that emotional states have no hierarchy. Awareness and acceptance ebb and flow through awakening to suffering. All elements of consciousness must do this in order for us to become fully feeling individuals. Avoidance through a variety of means only delays the ability to harmonize within ourselves.

If we face our emotions with honesty and develop an inner wisdom filled with ways to accommodate them, their full range will provide a balanced life experience.Rather than avoidance of what's going on - probe your mood. What do words like sad and melancholy mean to you? How do they percolate through your body? Get into the details and stretch toward the discovery of other ways to describe them beyond their word symbol. What other words can you discover that go along with them?

Eliminate the usage of words to describe moods. Create metaphors to discuss frustrated, angry or confused. In what ways can concerned, playful, fierce or attentive reveal themselves? If we become stuck in various states of despair. How can we move this experience?

Creative Write: Spend a day following the ebb and flow of your moods. Take notes and allow the freeflow of all emotions. Don't judge or censor them; try not to become reactive. Remain fully present. Experience what they feel like in all parts of the body. What can you learn as they guide you? Let your notes sit for a day, then return and write about what you discovered.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Breath of Haiku

Cliff swallow near bridge
fills beak with mud for a nest
forgets its shadow
- Penny Wilkes

A Haiku captures our attention for a moment. It bounces a echo in poetic form.The first two lines capture the scene. The last line opens to an insight or thoughts left to vibrate with the reader.

These mosaics of art focus attention in a meditative way. Out of stillness, an amazement teases the mind. The poet becomes calm, alert and open. In a single breath, thrills from an everyday occurrence arrive for a poetic awakening.

Creative Write: Play with the Haiku form in 17 syllables (5-7-5). Use the photo above as a moment of meditation.

Bandits and Hitchhikers

Mark Twain advised, “When you catch an adjective, kill it.” Stephen King felt adverbs paved the road to Hell. He said he would shout it from the rooftops because, "The adjective is not your friend."

Adjectives, adverbs jump out like highwaymen to terrorize sentences and rob prose and poetry of direction and clarity. Adverbs clutter sentences and annoy the reader if they carry the same message as the verb: smiled happily, anguished totally frustrated, screamed loudly.

If you use a qualifier describe how. Show that he played badly. He squeaked the strings of his violin.

Adjectives hitchhike on nouns and restate known facts. The noun imparts the idea. The verb activates it. A verb propels a sentence, achieves pace, clarity and vigor.
flutter – dazzle- squash- swagger – pamper - roar

If one writes - She's a really beautiful woman. What does that show the reader?Describe a characteristic that reveals a concept of her beauty. Focus on the details of finger shape and grooming, how she plays the piano or uses her hands to caress a child. Follow her fingers through the day and choose details. As she laces her fingers around a coffee cup, the aroma and steam enliven her smile By describing her this way, physicality combines with an aspect of her personality.

Each time you find an adjective, ask why the noun needs enhancement. Could the noun by itself plus a verb energize the sentence? Do you need a metaphor or sensory image to capture the reader? Challenge your words.A comfortable chair - friendly chair? Chair hugs like a lover pushes the image. Delicate plant - Show the plant so the reader has an image.

An orchid withers without light and water. This might serve as a symbol to represent a character. What other plant name would provide the reader with an immediate connection?Bedazzled shadows – Shadows bedazzled by light. Shadows tinseled by light.

Chattering birds - Birds chatter (what less familiar verb could you use to give the reader another image?) Crows sound like castanets.Indian summer warmth - Indian summer means a warmth that interrupts the crisp in the air. What else can you write? Clumsy handwriting. Handwriting looks like a wren ran across the page.

The search for strong nouns and verbs never ends. Examine sentences and paragraphs for modifiers. Hunt and capture those highway robbers!

Send me your sentences with qualifiers you adore. I'll help you handcuff and convince them to creativity instead of crime.

Playing with Words

I have always felt the thrill of watching words spilled across the page. Even a menu attracts me with phrases like fresh squeezed orange juice and boysenberry compote. I love ellipses, quotation, question marks and the accent marks in other languages. Billboards and matchbook covers attract me. I cannot get enough contact with words.

When I search my memory for my first engagement with words, I recall two instances. I remember tracing the raised letters on a bathmat in a New York hotel - The Statler. Written in cursive writing, the texture of the "S" and "t" and "a" and "l" fascinated my fingers. Before that my father found me sprawled on the floor trying to copy out the squiggles from a big red book. I had watched my ballet teacher doing something similiar and it intrigued. When I asked, she said, "I'm writing."

Over the years I have collected a variety of words that attract me by their appearance, sound and meaning. I also have lists in French and Spanish. Pajaro will always feel more like a flyer than "bird." When I need a break, I return to the lists and play. Nothing has to make sense.

The jostling of words encourages my synapses to make amusing connections.

Creative Write: Begin your own list in four columns. Choose nouns and verbs. Avoid adjectives and adverbs. To start playing, circle a few and see what adventure they will take you in a freewrite. Draw lines in different colors to connect across, down or diagonally. Discover arrangements.


Use of Lie and Lay

Seals lie in the sun while sunbathers lay their towels on the sand.

Writers become frustrated deciding when to use lie and lay. An easy way to distinguish between them: lie means "to recline"; lay means "to place." As in, "I lay the blanket on the floor, then I lie on it." You may recall the saying: People lie, hens lay.

Trouble begins in past tense. Past tense of lie is lay: I lay on the bed. The past tense of lay is laid: She laid her basket on the ground.
In the English language, we have regular and irregular verbs. With the regular word, play, principal parts include the simple present (play), the simple past (played), and the past participle (played). I play now. I played yesterday. I have played in the past. Both lie and lay are irregular.

Lie: I lie on the beach today. I lay on the beach yesterday. I have lain on that beach with my dog.

Lay: I lay my hands on the keyboard today. I laid my hands on the keyboard yesterday. I have laid my hands on the keyboard many times to write stories.

The English language also contrains transitive and intransitive verbs. A transitive verb transfers the mean from the verb to a direct object. Verbs such as hit and beat almost always take an object. An intransitive verbs takes no object. Lie is intransitive. You have to lay something. You must lay the plate on the table, or the blanket in the closet or the shovel on the sand. Lie takes no object. If the verb takes an object, use some form of the verb to lay. Get it?

Lie means to recline and is intransitive. Lay means to place and takes an object. (Just remember that the past tense of lie happens to be lay.)Prepositions influence Lay: lay about, lay away, lay low, lay aside, lay into, lay off. Idioms include: lay it on thick and lay of the land.

I wouldn't lie about the use of lie and lay.

Bloom with Verbs

At the beginning of advanced creative writing class, I ask students to populate their sentences with muscular verbs. I suggest that they avoid overuse of the ‘to be’ verb.”

“Well, Shakespeare wrote ‘to be or not to be,’ a student responds.” So what’s wrong with using the ‘to be’ verb?”

“Find verbs to animate your ideas. Verb variety engages your reader. Choreograph sentences. Make verbs dance and tumble,” my reply.

I focus on breaking a habit all writers fall into. It feels natural to write sentences with is, am, was, and were, and contractions such as that’s or there’s. On a subconscious level, we move into the “to be” groove. Many students do not know how to use passive voice intentionally, but that becomes another issue.

I explain to students that just because Hemingway did it, or their favorite writer does it, they don’t need to. To assist them, I provide a Verb Bank and recommend frequent withdrawals and additions. We also create and combine our own action verbs.

“Make friends with verbs and play,” I say and offer suggestions. “Nike says, Just do it. Do you notice any ‘to be’ verb?” I provoke and energize awareness of verb usage.

I push on to outlast their protestations, “Consider verbs the work horses of your sentences. These power ponies add description, details, and action. If you alter the structure of the sentence, you can eliminate the use of the ‘to be’ verb.”

I suggest they return guilty sentences to: subject, verb, and object. At first the alteration in sentence structure will provoke frustration. Students claim their style becomes altered as a result of eliminating the “to be” verb. When they realize new possibilities, attitudes change.

Gradually, students relent and deconstruct sentences. They begin to realize that their verb awareness permits them also to select stronger subjects and add fewer adverbs and adjectives. They begin to believe also in the possibilities of metaphor.

My first exercise requires students to write 250-300 words without any “to be” verbs. They introduce themselves to the class in metaphor as a traveler, explorer, or a wanderer without the use of "to be."

When students return their responses, the next phase involves questioning how the exercise felt. After you write your Introduction, comment on how you felt about eliminating the “to be” verb. Did this enrich your writing after the initial struggle to eliminate all the "to be" verbs? Did you search for verbs from the Verb Bank to power your sentences? What difference did this make in your writing?

Most students find the results gained outweighed the frustrations. They discover new insights in their writing. Others struggle and still feel a need for “is.” I ask these students to consider the usage and why they need the “to be” verb in the sentence. Does the sentence tone require the passive voice?

I request that they circle all “to be” verbs and notice if a habit rather than a choice has developed. I also turn sentences around for them and share additional versions. We work to find other ways to enrich the sentence’s meaning. Humor hovers to discourage frustration.

With this focus on awareness and the process of verb choice, students learn more than the elimination of the “to be” verb. They move away from overusing modifiers and select stronger subjects. When they read work aloud, they notice the difference in rhythm. With more practice, they feel less irritation and restriction.

Creative Write: Do you notice too many "is" and "was" repetitions in your work? See if you can catch those gremlins and search for muscular verbs. Try writing the exercise I describe above without using the "to be" verb. How did it feel?

Nurture Attention

In her new book, RAPT, Winifred Gallagher writes about attention and the focused life. What we attend to creates our experience. The mind becomes shaped by what it imposes on itself. Rapt means: engrossed, absorbed, fascinated and "carried away."

When we concentrate, we affect the brain. This increases our chances of having an experience we want rather than enduring a negative one. Researchers have discovered that focus on positive emotions regulates our emotional states. When confronted with a negative situation, if we switch thoughts and dwell on compassion, joy and gratitude, this may strengthen neurons in the left prefrontal cortex.

As a result, we interrupt disturbing messages from the fear-oriented amygdala.Writers benefit from living a focused life. We can choose to avoid a fragmented, distracted state of mind.If we reach out and explore positivity in each moment, more ideas arise for prose and poetry.

Creative Write: For a day notice negative thoughts that travel in your mind. Choose two positive thoughts to replace each. Write them down. At the end of the day write about the experience.

Angel wing disease in waterfowl

Children love to feed bread and crackers to waterfowl. They do not know the harm created from adding these ingredients to the diet of ducks and geese.

Poor diet results in a disease known as "Angel Wing" (slipped wing). The last joint of the wing twists causing wing feathers to point out instead of resting against the body. Males develop it more than females.

Because of uneducated human kindness, both wrist joints become retarded in their development. When the wing twists outward, it cannot perform its usual function. In extreme cases, the stripped feathers resemble blue straw protruding from wings. Incurable in adult birds, the disease leads to an early death.

Birds rendered flightless cannot migrate with their flocks.They cannot even fly to protect themselves from predators. In young birds wrapping the wing and binding it against the bird's flank, together with feeding the bird a natural diet, might reverse the damage.

Only wild populations fed by man suffer this disability.We need to educate adults and children that all wildlife suffers from unnatural feeding practices. Most animals forage to provide for themselves and will do just fine without additives.

If you must feed, at least pick grass or bring lettuce. Cameras and polite observation at parks become the best ways to interact and learn about wildlife.The Canada geese often let children mingle with their young. If someone gets too close, the mother will hiss and extend her neck. Watch out for bitten fingers.

Plea for Wildlife: Please make copies of this page. If you notice people feeding waterfowl, please share this information. Ask that they pass it on.