Monday, August 31, 2009

Two Days with Darth Vader

Technology advances faster than I can run or mind move. I do my best to keep up and recently acquired a Dell computer that's lightning fast and wireless. Named TyreceBlue, his relatives appear with jolly singers in those Dell "lollypop" advertisements on television.

In the attempt to multi-task after a visit at the dentist's office, I drove to Staples for printer paper. I also needed a refill for my 2010 "page at a glance" desk calendar that informs me - non technologically - of monthly bills and appointments. I am not paperless in my WIFI or computer-driven life because one cannot predict when those tech-helpers in our will fail. It's vital to have back up.

During my walk toward the calendar section, sleek, black printers captured my attention. They looked so ready for action and had WIFI accessibility. I had to ask the clerk about their capabilities. As a result, I decided to upgrade my printer. My current HP version serves me well but over time the ON button has scrunched into its cylinder. Now it takes a whack to get it started and a fingernail to get it stopped. I soldier on.

Taken in by the ebony sheen, I took a Jet Knight home. Saturday evening, my husband and I struggled to set it up. By Sunday I had given up on our abilities to load the software and called HP's 800 number for help.

After a patient technician spent three and one half hours on the phone with me, Darth Vader still would not print. During that time I watched a spider build its web outside the window. It captured a bee, wrapped it in silk and dragged it up to a tree branch for supper. I read a third of a novel. It helped to turn the phone to speaker. When " Hello, Madam .. . " crackled through the air, I had to assist the technician as he moved the arrow around my screen from somewhere in India.

He directed me to perform several tasks. I accomplished each with ease over the screams of the neighbors splashing in the pool behind our house. Once I pushed the stop button in error and the printer shut down. "Well, I won't make it as an air traffic controller, " I chuckled. No returned laughter.

Sam loaded and unloaded the software three times after my insertion of the CD failed. We could get printing to occur but no scanning. Then a Congratulations! printed out but he warned me not to take it seriously.

How I envied the spider's dinner. My stomach growling, I begged the technician to give up.

"Please don't hang up yet," his voice said. He put me on hold and the melody that stopped and started during that half hour sequence I hope never to hear again. Finally his supervisor introduced himself and wriggled the arrow through a series of commands that scrolled the screen. Still - No printing. No scanning.

I begged, "Please. May we stop, " The arrow moved faster and beyond my control with agitated voices in the HP background.

"If you will let us know the best time to reach you. . ."

"No. Please. Send me an e-mail. I'll call you back."

"We appreciate your patience." The arrow returned to my control. I hung up and shut down TyreceBlue.

My husband and I drove down the hill for nice rounds of Margueritas for medicinal purposes.

Today, I returned Darth Vader to Staples and will return to my stuck print button with a sigh of relief. HP never sent me email to request another "chat."

Creative Write: Describe a day of technological challege. Discover the humor and write about it.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Everyone C*A*N !

I love to day dream and explore; antennae ready for everything along the paths I travel. Fantasy and reality mesh and meet my attention. If I'm working on a project that feels one-dimensional, I'll take a break and see what a wandering will uncover.  I might not use the discoveries of the day in my current project but they will wriggle into future writing. They percolate in my brain while I'm helping students discover  their own "ways in." 

Through Curiosity, Awareness and Noticing (CAN!), new opportunities build focus during times of  "boredom" which all writers encounter.  I did not use the other B word (Block) because I refuse to believe in it.  We can always write something.

I Believe (a Positive B word!) writing has its own rhythm.  We need patience and word shuffle. Also, we must learn to distract ourselves at certain times and become demanding during other situations. Each writer's temperament requires a different carrot and stick. Learn yours.

I require lots of play  time and the engagement that nature offers my sensory perceptions.  Then I CAN gather experiences and interactions to use in a variety of ways.

My cell camera assists me to add another layer of creativity to the day.  Often an incident such as a Great Blue Heron landing on the water will happen far out of the camera's focus.  My notepad will provide the space for word pictures. I scribble and record the effects of atmosphere on my temperament of the moment.

What a discovery to experience an elephant who extended its trunk and smiled from the grass!

Creative Write:  What do you say to an asphalt elephant?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Write Beyond Sight

During a M*A*S*H sequence, Dr. Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) suffers from eye damage and must wear a bandage preventing him from seeing.  It's difficult for him to stop his natural instincts concerning patient care.  He learns to use his other senses to detect what needs doing around the complex. 

Just before they remove his bandages, he speaks about his experiences without sight.  He mentions the sounds of rain and connections to how steaks sizzle. His heightened awareness of scents assist with diagnosis.  He says, "I've never spent a more conscious day in my life."

A friend's letter today shares, "I can't get over how bliss can intrude even on a gloomy mood."  She had immersed herself in a natural setting to chase frustrations away.

I find an opportunity each day to tune into life beyond sight. Delving into sounds and scents of nature helps to bring more texture into my emotional state.  If I feel focused on an unsettling thought, it helps to pay attention beyond sight to a calliope of bird song and breathe what the breeze offers. 

Creative Write:
  Spend a conscious day writing without sight. Bring in textures, tastes, sounds and resulting changes in mood.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Writing Practice

Between saying and doing many a pair of shoes is worn out. ~Italian Proverb

A Tibetan teacher describes practice as the wearing out of a old pair of shoes. We need to wear the soles thin. By that time we have worn through ego and delusion. The more time we spend in writing practice, the more we gain insights we would not otherwise discover. 

If we stop too soon because we feel eager to complete a project, we lose the opportunities to delve into connections.  Insights wait for us with the next flow of sentences.

We seek revelations by pushing words into one another and permitting them to fall into new formations. If we risk and attempt new ideas, we may not feel confident until we push their limits by writing into them.  Like a comfortable pair of shoes with mileage, the words will begin to energize us to keep moving.

Creative write:  Which shoes will you wear today?

High Fives! Give me Five

Frustrated with the state of America, we often avoid deep reflection and thinking in our daily lives. Our culture has created an avoidance behavior since the media continues to irritate us with the doom and gloom in reporting the status of our country.

Individual Awareness becomes the first step to alter the apathy this country has fallen into. It has to start with each individual taking responsibility and then extending it. That's the reason to get effective communication out there with positive people who are making a difference headlined.

ODE magazine in print and online deals with optimistic action. Take a look -

It's not about sign waving, it's about reorganizing thought patterns to consider, "What can I do? What are five ways today and then tomorrow? Start with family and friends first. Our media needs to show us how we have succeeded in the past in order to motivate us for the future.

If it's easier to continue to point out what's wrong with the politicians or "shoulds" then we'll never see positive change.

We need more life coaches and less critics. If one person can reach one, it makes a difference. So, alter your kaleidoscope and put thought into five ways Americans have achieved greatness. Share them with your family and friends and urge them to pass it forward. Stop the bashing and stay O Positive to bridge the communication gap.

Creative Write: Each morning begin breathing with gratitude and awareness. Think of five ways to make each moment count. How will you make your presence felt in the world today?  Write about it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Life of the single polliwog - Using the Apostrophe

The apostrophe, a flying polliwog of punctuation, often challenges writers. It functions to show possession and becomes a place saver in other situations. It does not form plurals.

Rule 1: To form the possessive of a singular noun that does not end in s or an s sound, add an apostrophe plus s to the noun:

Examples: the writer's pen, John’s pencil, my friend’s book

Rule 2: To form the possessive of a singular noun that does end in s or an s sound, add an apostrophe plus s to the noun:

Examples: Jennifer Lopez's song, the witness's report, James's poetry

One exception to this rule involves using only an apostrophe when adding the apostrophe plus s makes the word difficult to pronounce:

Examples: Sophocles' plays, Mary Rogers' bouquet

Rule 3: To form the possessive of a plural noun that ends in s or es, add only an apostrophe to the noun:

Examples: the teachers' books, the writers' lessons, their friends' papers, the beaches' shells.

Rule 4: To form the possessive of a plural noun that does not end in s or es, add an apostrophe plus s to the noun:

Examples: children's toys, the women's dressing room

Rule 5: To indicate separate possession, add whichever possessive sign is appropriate (an apostrophe plus s or an apostrophe alone) to the name of each person:

Examples: Bill's and Tom's cars (two separate cars: Bill's car and Tom's car), James's and Olivia's houses (two separate houses: James's house and Olivia's house)

Rule 6: To indicate joint possession, add the appropriate possessive sign (an apostrophe plus s or an apostrophe alone) to the final name:

Examples: Mary and John's house (the house belongs to both Mary and John), Edward and Madeleine's books (the books belong to both Edward and Madeleine)

One exception to this rule occurs if one of the owners is identified by a pronoun (my, his, her, our, their). In this case, make each name and pronoun possessive:

Example: Erica's and my project (not Erica and my project); Mark's and our dinner (not Mark and our dinner); John's, Edgar's, Lisa's, and my party (not John, Edgar, Lisa, and my party)

Possessive pronouns: my, mine, your, yours, his, her, hers, its, our, ours, their, theirs, whose. These pronouns never require apostrophes.

Rule 7: To form the possessive of a singular abbreviation, add an apostrophe plus s.

Examples: the AMA's letter, the MD's diagnosis, USA's stand

Rule 8: To form the possessive of a plural abbreviation, add an s'.

Examples: the PhDs' dissertations, the RNs' orders, the CPAs' convention

A note about apostrophes that become place savers in contractions: Whenever a word or phrase becomes shortened by contraction, place an apostrophe at the point where the letters are omitted.

Examples: don't (do not), can't (cannot), rock 'n' roll (rock and roll), ma'am (madam). Confusion occurs when it is turns into it’s. Its color shows the possessive and means belong to it.

Joe parks his car in Terry and Jane's driveway with its blue color. He parks next to the Petersons' house and across the street from Edward's and Alfred's apartments. So, don’t worry, it’s apparent you know how to use the single polliwog of punctuation.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Playing with Structure

I like to play with another poet's work to seek ideas and nuances for my own creativity.  I type a favorite poem to feel the rhythm and pay attention to line breaks. I've also found that delving into a poem's structure and replacing nouns and verbs helps the creative process. 

Take a look at Pablo Neruda's poem.  Change the meaning with different nouns and verbs. Use repetition in varying ways. Follow the rhythm or change the sequences to fit as your mind takes over.


          by Pablo Neruda

Poetry is white
Poetry smells green

it comes dripping out of the water
it rises flying into the sky

it gets wrinkled and piles up
it moves winged and floats up

We have to stretch out the skin of this planet
We try to reach into the clouds of the universe

We have to iron the sea in its whiteness
We need to unwrap the sky in its blueness

The hands go on and on
The feet kick higher and highr

and so things are made
and fins erupt

the hands make the world every day
The feet continue to awaken the world

fire unites with steel
ice creates unity

linen, canvas and calico come back
iris, daisy and geranium bloom

from combat in the laundry
from combustion in the clouds

and from the light a dove is born
after twilight a seagull snickers

purity comes back from the soap suds.
Intuition surges on a wave's bubbles

Creative Write:
After interacting and replacing the essence in the lines with your ideas, combine what you have written and do a freewrite to each of your own lines.  What evolves?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What's Next?

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it will last forever.”

                                                                       - Lance Armstrong

The word, pain, can represent a variety of conditions from physical and emotional discomfort to frustration at not achieving a goal. What takes its place if we give up on something too soon? Do we tend to push for the result before examining all the possibilities of the process? Do we know when to stop doing what we’re doing that does not work and try something different? 

With writing, pain also exists. Some think of it as a “block” and give up. Others face the white space with angst and don’t permit the words to flow and not make any sense. They feel unhappy with a messy draft. Jumping into the writing process itself will always provide a lessening of the “pain” because we become active and moving toward something.

For me, the excitement of writing comes from wandering into a variety of meadows and forests away from my initial thoughts of reaching the mountain top. I know diverse paths will provide insights, engage creativity and push my possibilities.

Often, when I find myself in a discomfort zone, I let go of the result I started and dig into the “wilderness of my intuition” as Alan Alda terms it. Play becomes my diversion. I gather books and eat words, then write. My amazement results from what the subconscious feeds upon and pushes to the surface. I never cease to thrill from the experience free writing provides.

This week, let your fingers hit the keys or push the pen with new vigor. Become determined to outlast any feelings of “pain” in your process. Engage all your senses and write with abandon. Ask yourself what's next as you write, then write to the next in front of you. It doesn’t have to come out right if you just write!

Creative Write: Share a story of success pushing beyond the pain.

Friday, August 7, 2009

People Watching

Today at the completion of my morning run, I looked up to notice a man walking toward me.  He smiled, bent to pick a flower and extended it to me.  At first I wondered what he wanted?  Would he ask for money or food or?  I felt hesitant but took his offering. "Thank you. You enlivened my day, " I said.  He bowed, smiled and walked on.  I followed him with my eyes until he turned the corner. 

This gentle offering made me think of how we judge others because of the fear generated by the media and our weary world.  If everyone picked a flower and passed in on, how brightened our days would become on both sides of the offering.

Before my benefit of the day, I had wondered about the variety of people as I passed them on my running route. What did their lives entail?  What were their avocations or professions?  What gave them joy or concern?  As writers, we need to delve into the interactions of others to generate our own ideas for stories or poems. 

Creative Write:
When standing in line or waiting at a restaurant, watch those around you, ask questions about their behavior or what they do for a living and take notes. Go wild with your curiosity and come up with uncommon notions about those you observe.  Is this individual a spy? an elephant trainer? a magician? a runaway from a family vacation?  Have fun and spark connections.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Gathering pleasure rewards our psyches

Robert Louis Stephenson wrote, "There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. Happiness does not need to become the goal. We need a variety of experiences and moods to write about."

In the 1980’s  Martin E.P. Seligman adopted the term, “positive psychology.”  After years of studying the “learned helplessness” that characterized depression he began to study how individuals could learn optimism. Seligman felt a search for “authentic happiness” made more sense than  relying on psychology’s one-sided focus on illness and disorders.

Study optimism, courage and perseverance rooted in social and civil well-being?Consider how to gather simple pleasures. The process itself will attract feelings of exultation.

When nature provides a feast, take time to savor all the flavors. Everyone needs to awaken to the positivity that explodes in blossom and sky. Take a pleasure interlude from your busy life to revel in the marvelous around you. Squeeze out joy and appreciation for the living, growing creatures, plants and trees.

Creative Write:
  Write about  "learned helplessness," optimism or courage. Move through a variety of moods.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Writing Engages Neuroplasticity

Caterpillar explores a running shoe.

Following the routine of a writing practice assists us to shape thoughts, feelings and adjust behaviors in all aspects of our lives.  After a period of time and word enthusiasm, we learn about ourselves and how to excavate way into our lives with words.  This takes advantage of the brain's ability to form new habits. 

Scientists used to believe that after childhood development, the brain remained fixed. Nothing replaced brain cells as they aged or became damaged by substances.  Now we know from PET and MRI technology, that the brain can add neurons as a result of our activities.  It can reshape itself throughout life.  As we increase an activity, the more connections the neurons discover. The wiring strengthens.

Yogis have experienced this neuroplasticity in their practices. In the Yoga Sutra, Patanjali explains how steady practice without interruption builds habits over long periods of time.  Even though the way to remove bad habits by replacing them with good ones sounds too easy, the discipline of writing works to enable neural links.

As writing practice increases over time, it becomes a new habit that competes with old ways of thinking, doing and problem solving.  It systematically energizes the ability to feel what's happening in mind, body and emotions.  As writing probes into the psyche, it guides many areas of life.  When we write with our senses, we become involved with awareness and and even taste food in a different way.  Touch, scents and hearing heighten along with sight and perception.  We learn what gives us a thrill and what it takes to remove angst and frustration as we write from mood to mood.

If we reach for a pen when frustrations or other emotions set in, we will return to that habit. With just 15 minutes a day, writing will energize the brain into new wiring.

Creative Write:  Focus on a writing meditation today.  Begin with a frustration and write until it deepens your awareness or another idea emerges.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Writing the Moments

"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.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Unclutter for August

The Ginkgo Biloba Bonsai loses every leaf to become a stick. It unclutters in order for new foliage to emerge.

A new month encourages my need to unclutter in a ritual I call - throw or stow. A tug toward a turtle's simplicity pulls as I observe my office and closet. Ah, to have a paperless office, and a closet with minimal clothing and shoes. How to push past clutter to life's essentials?

I envision a wide-mouthed vacuum to suck until my surfaces shine in emptiness. After the purge, I'd add to my desk: one tall vase with a daisy and my Magician. As my desk charmer, he sits with hands in the air, eyes closed. His white beard reveals a sneaky smile. Light bounces from a crystal ball beneath his belt that rests on the robe. Of course, I'd have to keep my fountain pen stable.

Over the years I have perfected a clearing ritual to deal with clutter. I call it the Two Box Trick. If I have an article to re-read, letters or items I perceive might call to me later, I make notes on my calendar or in my Journal. I put all in a red box hidden in a corner of my office. Brochures from exhibits, play programs or items from writers' conferences, I stow in a green box.

In three months, if these objects haven't sneaked out or begged me for safekeeping, the two boxes deliver their contents to the black trash container outside. When I began this brutal ritual, I peeked into the boxes. Of course I discovered forgotten treasures. An hour later I had dispersed them around the room. Now I have the confidence to THROW! without a lift of the lid. I have trained myself not to look - just release relent let go! It feels like such a cleansing. My mind become lighter as well as the office.

These techniques apply also to writing. I've often searched in vain for the beginnings of a poem or essay. In angst, I have rewritten. What a difference the distance made. When later I discovered the original brainings about the poem, I learned that my ability to make the poem better resulted from its loss. Now I lose a poem or two on purpose.

Creative Write: Part 1: Take fifteen minutes today and open three drawers in your writing space. Take out the contents and put them in a box. Go without them for two months. If you do - Don't peek - throw them!
Part 2: Lose two pieces of writing today. Give them a month of hiding. Then - go ahead approach them from scratch. You'll discover a brilliance.