Friday, February 26, 2010

Rolling rocks

After making his selection at the quarry, Michelangelo pushed a slab of stone down the road for miles to his studio. A passerby asked why he worked so hard over a piece of rock. He replied that he knew an angel in the rock wanted to come out during a laborious process.

Rollo May in Courage to Create wrote that creative people need big hearts to take the risks necessary to creativity. He called it an “active battle with the Gods.”

Why do writers suffer so much in process?  Why not relent to the passages of turbulence and keep paddling?

Writers need patience to discover their angels and angles through the stages of creativity.

Preparation: In the beginning of a writing project, an idea arrives followed by a search for possible ways to discover its elaboration.  Spark fly.  Everyone has fun until . . .

Frustration arrives:  
 No one can avoid this phase. Count on it!  Make friends with it.  The creative process includes periods of confusion, chaos and especially ambiguity. The distress of living with ambiguity fuels the creative process. Believe it!  Every writer feels a temptation to give up or feel satisfied with a piece of writing prematurely just to have it done. Outlast the feelings of frustration, fear and intimidation. Dialogue with it. Soldier on!

Incubation. This stage helps a writer develop tolerance for the mystery and the continuous flow of ambiguity. It involves patience and active playfulness.  Gain trust that process will solve the problem.  Move into this stage by diversion.  Get away from thinking about the direct issue.  Romping with a child's mind will help.

Writers with patience and the ability to play and divert from frustration feel the satisfaction of an “AHA” moment.  Perspiration rains until the skies clear. The writing flows and ideas spark in rainbow colors.

Now the words harnass paragraphs to race into pages. Sharing the idea in a form that becomes understandable becomes the finishing line.

Rest, re-creation and play become the building blocks and fundamental to the writing process . Carl Jung encouraged, “Every creative individual owes all that is greatest in his life to fantasy. The dynamic principle of fantasy involves play. This characteristic feels childlike. Without playing with fantasy no creative work has accomplished.

When stalled, place the pen aside and play!

Creative Write: Return to a piece of writing that has become a rock in your road.  Play with it.  See it upside down. Discover ways you haven't considered before to roll it aad discover its angel.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Alan Alda, the actor, discussed dramatic action with an auditorium filled with writing students at Southampton College in New York.  He walked on stage and immediately asked for a volunteer.

When a young man came up, Alda poured him a glass of water from a pitcher. He asked him to walk to the other side of the stage with the glass. Then Alda crossed over to him and filled his glass to the brim. No millimeter of space remained between the water and the rim of the glass. He instructed the man to walk to the table on the other side of the stage and put the glass down but not to spill a drop.

Then Alda upped the imaginary ante: “If you spill anything your entire village will die.” The man and the audience chuckled at the melodrama but he moved forward to accomplish his task. The auditorium sat silent as everyone focused on the rim. A small bead of water started down the side of the glass met by gasps from the audience. The tension increased in the house. Finally the volunteer made it to the table and put down the glass of water. Thunderous applause erupted.

Alda asked the audience to decide which trip across the stage had involved them the most. He explained if a play does not root itself in dramatic action, no one will watch it. One also must do this on the page.

Then he ended, “Before you bring your characters into a scene, ask what you will do with them. How will you have them strive for what they want?”

Consider what David Mamet says about plays. He feels they should start late and finish early. Get in after the exposition and leave before the neat wrapping up. Alan Alda suggested letting the opening scene in “Othello” guide you. Roderigo and Iago fight about money. Roderigo has tired of paying him to plead his case with Othello. In the course of their fight to prove his point and keep the money, Iago reveals the difficulties working on and manipulating Othello. We know all we need to know about Othello and Iago revealed in action.

Creative Write:   \Take time to consider how action moves your poem or story and characters. Where do you tell the audience too much?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Gathering words

It zings the page and rises,
curls like waves dashed into foam.

To grasp a first line that
leads to the vanishing point.

Where sun at the horizon
mystifies and dips behind
the sea.

How to paddle out to discover
the shape of story.

It's hidden and teases,
waiting for notions to collide.
A mythology of merriment,
bubbled by the waves.
It exists beneath
foam left for discovery.
Anenomes bloom pink
with purpled tentacles
soothed by flow
then fingers or prey
get sucked right in.

Creative Write:   Gather flavors, colors of earth, scents of stones.  Begin to arrive to speak, to tell stories.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Nature Luv

"There was a child went forth every day,
and the first object he'd looked upon, he became.
And that object became part of him for the day
or for many years or stretching cycles of years."
   - Walt Whitman
Apercu  (A`per`cu´)
A first view or glance, or the perception obtained; an immediate insight, appreciative rather than analytic.

Finishing my morning run up the hill,  I noticed nature's notes for Valentine's Weekend. 

As time takes its toll on our psyches, we forget to enjoy the immediacy of nature. We need to defy apprehension concerning what's around the next bend and move into curiosity and insight with each step.

If we travel in our "child's mind" a button flashes and sounds Astonishment! at every turn in the road.

Creative Write: Today take time to discover nature's messages.  Search for shapes and enjoy!  Then write about the connections.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Between the Bars

When you write do you anticipate too much and try to make things happen?  Do you become too eager for results?

Writers do not have to become trapeze artists and focus on reaching the next bar, then landing on the platform to avoid a fall.  The space between the swings matters more than reaching the safety of the other side. 

Do not become so programmed in a search for perfection that result means everything.  This does not engage the purpose of the writing process. That dreaded feeling of block will arise if the eyes focus too long on the other side. 

Creative Write:  Today fly through the air without thought of catching the bar and reaching the platform.  Write in that space between the bars.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Writing the Odyssey

Dorianne Laux writes, "I am still hard at work on this project of the self. The solitary self, as well as the self in relation to the world and the unknown universe we swirl around in, uncertain of our purpose or future. Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going? What is beauty? Why is there suffering? Where is truth? I tried to arrange them in a shape, find a path for them to travel to make clearer those questions. I write to know the questions."

I pursue experiences as an odyssey into words, leaving the comfort of understanding to delve into ways to discover a wisdom of well-being. This happens by thrashing about in the wilderness and forests of the unknown.  I've stayed bouyant in boats; slashed at the sea with oars. I've waited in the lighthouse, shining lights to discover what resides in the currents.

What vehicle will I take today?  If I go on foot, by car, boat or train, amusements spring on every sensory level.

Each time I decide on the destination first, I become surpised and distracted by attractions along the way.  Should I stop for a carnival?  Sticky my face with cotton candy and a candy apple?  Where will the merry-go-round take me as I change to a different lion, tiger or horse to ride?  I never feel satisfied and want another round.

I taste a notion like a lozenge. My tongue flicks it about until it melts. It dissolves and words arise.  They flutter and flicker at my lips and beg for release.  I taste the flavor of their feathers and sigh.  They baffle, energize, and frighten.  Some hide as ink soaks into a finger. 

Tomorrow I'll ride the train with my face pressed against the window ready to hop off at the first astonishment.

Creative Write: Write about how you travel into words.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Dredle a Dynado

Nursery rhymes, fairy tales and animal stories keep children's eyes and ears open to language and its textures.  Writing benefits from exercises in playfulness where words collide in a variety of ways.

Whatever is a runcible spoon created by Edward Lear?

"The owl and the pussycat dined on mince and slices of  quince which they ate with a runcible spoon."

A polomphious duck caught spotted frogs with one. 

Ogden Nash played with animal one liners.  "If called by a panther. Don't antler."  His pun-like rhymes added humor.

It energizes the brain to play with language and logic percolated with humor.  Imaginative characters arise with whimsy and rhyme. I like to tinker with words to encourage curiosity and tickle my creativity.  Lewis Carroll inspires me to create my own words.

Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

Animals                        Verbs                            Objects
arteal                              trerump                          crunge
drave                              fliggle                             snudera
glosh                              dredle                             jedyrie

The arteal terumped into the crunge.  Not far away a drave figgled a snudera.  Several gloshes dredle each jedryie. How many arteals could figgle into a crunge with a snudera?

Creative Write:  Play with words.  Add to my list and hrumple on!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Triangulating Ideas

During my morning run, I noticed junk in the gutters.  Bushes sprouted litter.  When words tease and tingle, I wonder where they will take me as the thrill of curiosity and suspense inspires.  Today I pondered,  "What's left behind?" 

I wanted to discover a change in my approach to the poetry process. What could open new patterns to gain access and make connections?

After a freewrite to push each line into the wild, I decided a structure might assist with the poem's development. 

Freewrite:  Begin to move the pen where it flows.  Where you have no clue about the weather. Whether or not ink takes to the wind until clouds bump against blue.  The sea submerged in its comforter.  Seagulls trucked (sic) into following a rhythm.  They don't need solving.  Some things in life don't.  It takes movement to stay still and absorb the mysteries.  The trash clutters under bushes from the inconsiderate.  Ticket stubs, jetsom of joviality, wrappers, forgotten relationships, cigarette butts, a lover or four.Discards like skin and tonsils.  Hang nails release to pink flesh. A curiosity of crows ambles by, perceives it can't.  Shiny gum wrapper in beak and off it flies.

After the freewrite that added details and abstract ideas to pursue, I circled words that intrigued. 

Here's what the triangulation looked like.  I chose nouns and put them on the left side of the triangle.  I will add to them later.  Verbs went to the right.  In the middle, I wrote the essence of what I wanted to say.

In the rectangle I added three notions for the poem. The first two dealt with my initial thoughts and what the freewrite revealed.  The third I grabbed from the air.

What's left behind?
Something we can't comprehend.
Don't wear a watch for a day.

A second freewrite will involve concrete items that might arrange to include one of the three ideas above.  I will continue to travel to where my pen takes me. 

Creative Write:  Try this exercise and see what results. Become playful and write away from your ideas.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Lost in a Ramble

Today as I ran by the sea, I heard a fellow talking on his cell phone about his loss.  As the wind blew the man's words into waves, my mind rambled on lost. 

During childhood we lose our primary teeth and receive rewards from the tooth fairy. Our parents complain of our hearing loss when we make our own choices.  We lose eye lashes and grow new ones along with toe and finger nails.  The body sheds skin and rebuilds. 

Nature's cycles focus on loss and renewal. Why does loss feel negative rather than natural? What's found as a result?  We find pennies on the street. Sea birds drop feathers for our safe keeping. We misplace keys and jackets then find them.  Our socks get lost in the wash.  Some return, some don't.  We discover them later hiding in a pillow case. Reciprocity surrounds us.

Other loses challenge us.  We lose athletic events or card games.  A pet gets lost and never returns or it dies.  We deal with inklings of impermanence when puppy love ends.  Friends may get lost or don't write and call. Our relationships alter and we reinvent them. Often we think we've lost our minds or marbles but usually it's just a metaphor for human nature.

Parents and family members age and pass away; words that indicate a "floating" to soften the blow. We think about what they've left behind and dwell in memories.  People tell us they're sorry for our loss and use more euphemisms. When calamties strike others, we feel grateful for our well-bring.

At these times of  frustration, it helps to become lost in writing or reading. Pushing the keys or pen helps us lose our fears or shunt them away for awhile.  Our imaginations permit us to let loose and  re-arrange words to bring up a better way to think about lost - Turn it into lots.  Re-arranged letters of lose create sole. Our soul requires nurture.

How do we move into those areas of wildness and live at the edges of the mysterious? How do we extend the boundaries of the self? Creativity and the resulting writing require the permission to be lost. 

In A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit writes, "One does not get lost but loses oneself, with the implication that it is a conscious choice, chosen surrender, a psychic state achievable through geography." She continues, "That thing the nature of which is totally unknown is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost."

If we let our inner rhythm take over and feel the flow of nature's way, we will sustain ourselves and discover survival skills to turn loss into the next stage for renewal.  We need to collect coins and bird feathers. 

Mysteries remain when we happen upon the loss of one shoe. Did these single soles find a connection?
Creative Write: Ponder the many meanings of lost in your life.  Do a freewrite and see where the word takes you.