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.