Friday, October 29, 2010

Consider the Harvest


I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
                      - Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903 in Letters to a Young Poet

Autumn brings a time of vibrance and change. Glimmers of orange, crimson, magenta, and flashes of gold permeate the days. As shades of blue search for a turn, gray flannel consumes the clouds. Landscapes arouse with lightning, thunder and showers. Scents of cinnamon and cider fill the air along with aromas of wood smoke from chimneys. The breeze tastes of woodsmoke and promise.

Nature’s multiple personality during the fall season reminds us to consider possible changes and pursue, rather than judge, our writing.

It becomes a time to explore and pile questions upon questions instead of a search for answers. A pondering of  “…and then what” provides possibilities. We mine for more understanding if we permit the questions to climb upon one another. They will wrestle for opportunities we have not considered.

Consider these ten questions. They will spark others as you write to them. Respond only with more questions. See what happens.

l.  How would you answer Rilke’s question:

"...ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write?"

2.  How are you with your writing?

3.  What biases affect your writing? The best way to combat biases involves recognizing their existence.
     Will you list and write to them?

4.  What amuses you about your writing?

5.  How do you write about what feels wrong?

6.  Do you celebrate your strengths in writing?  In what ways?

7.  How do you provide constructive feedback for your writing? If not, who does?

8.  If you considered your heart’s desire about your writing, what would it involve?

9.  What do you write away from? How can you bring it closer to you?

10. What’s the greatest question your writing nudges in you?

Take time to involve yourself with the questioning process. If it inspires an insight you would like to share, include it here for everyone to read.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Write to Discover!

Denise Leverton knew from childhood that she wanted to be a writer. When she was 17, she had her first poem published in Poetry Quarterly. She wrote, "One is in despair over the current manifestation of malevolent imbecility and the seemingly invincible power of rapacity, yet find oneself writing a poem about the trout lilies in the spring woods." She discovered ways to get beyond abstract words and share emotions metaphorically.

Leverton claimed, "I'm not very good at praying, but what I experience when I'm writing a poem is close to prayer. I feel it in different degrees and not with every poem. But in certain ways writing is a form of prayer."

Do you ever feel that your writing provides a way to release frustrations and reach a higher level of understanding of yourself and life? Today find a metaphor that gets beyond words like: despair, malevolent imbecility and rapacity. See what your writing will help you discover in a field of crimson!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

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 process and results.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Write for Resilience

"Anxiety is the interest paid on trouble before it is due." Dean W.R.Inge

Human beings are the only creatures in nature who complain and feel anguish about a situation before it happens. When met with obstaclea, other animals, insects, and plants just keep doing what needs to be done; staying in their process toward progress. They move beyond what gets in the way.  No whining!

Consider aspects of resilience. Check out eggs hatching, roses unfurling, or seeds sprouting. Imagine if they wasted time with anxious thoughts. Nothing would hatch or bloom. Maybe they're just fortunate that they don't have the brain cells necessary for worry?

Many researchers argue that pessimism has its place. That it offers a more realistic way to positive results. Barbara Held, psychologist at Bowdoin College, believes healthy doses of pessimism (defensive pessimism) become crucial in overcoming obstacles and achieving goals. If we accept the fact that things can go wrong, we can prepare for them. It’s the best offense for a positive outcome.

Become a balanced Optimist. Rather than thinking like the defensive pessimist, use your writer’s imagination to work for you in creating the best and worse cases. Ask, “In what five ways can I achieve success.” Write about it. Scribble notions as you consider all pathways and rocks in the road to your desired destination.

Preparation enables you to have a variety of responses ready. You have choices and do not need to persist with unsuccessful routes. These ideas will move you beyond the emotional reactions of the moment. You will develop healthy resilience as a result of your writing process.

Creative Write:  Write five ways to achieve resilience today.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Drive the Bus!

Take your readers for a bus ride through the scenery of your story. Don't tell about the experience. Let the reader observe and make decisions 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 road to follow in order to connect with a writer's intent. 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. Drive your bus into the forests of situations. Ramble along rutty roads. Detail the squint in a person's eye or the thump of a fist on the back of a seat. Show the frustration of a bus window that's stuck. Reveal the color of moods.

Keep in mind a highway experience and drive your readers into the unusual.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Do you Worry?

It’s part of our human psyche to worry. Maybe it worked at one time to enhance our survival skills. Most often it provokes mind chatter that goes nowhere.

I’ve noticed that birds never worry. They just fly and feast and fertilize to create more birds. Worms don't worry, they just need to sleep later, Sol Silverstein advises. Why don't we try to do the same: act or sleep? Why do we worry about the upcoming stop light and if it will turn red before we reach it? If it turns green, we’re relieved. If it stays red we have time to write. No worries.

How do we get beyond the worrisome condition? The tendency to spend time worrying could transfer into writing. What’s in a day’s worries? Don’t think the worries, write about them. Begin upon awakening. Go to your notepad and write down the first worry that flits into your mind. Keep going throughout the day. At a designated time, write down the list of worries. See if you can get to 20.

Then try these creative writes:

l. Write the first worry across the top of the page. Write to the end of the page as much as you can think of about this worry. Then take the next worry and do the same. See how many worries you can write about.
2. Give names to each worry. Create a dialogue for a page questioning and responding to these characters. Respond as a friend or foe.

Save your list of worries for a month. Revisit them. Have any of these worries come true? What a creative thinker you’ve become. Now write these worries into a story or poem. Worries keep our mind moving in aimless directions. If we can harness them and make them workhorses for our writing, consider the ideas they will generate.

Go worry and write about it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Write Change

Change evokes visions of coins or the challenge of behavior alterations.  What's difficult about it? 

Our minds and bodies never remain the same.  We change our clothes, hair styles, life styles, cars, housing, friends and underwear . . .  

What doesn't change?  So, why do we fight it?

Write about your notions of change.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Peel the Orange

How often do you react to a situation you perceive as conflict rather than consider it a two-sided conversation?  No one likes to compromise because it feels like a defeat when each person involved must relinguish something. Consider a flow of the three C’s – Conflict. Calm. Conversation. Creativity. Collaboration..

In order to achieve collaboration, a calm must precede conversation and negotiation. Consider a simple scenario. With one orange and two individuals, one wants a drink, the other wants to make orange cake. If they split the orange in half, they will not have a desired result.

Moving to the next level of thinking – creativity and compromise, they need to take time to consider what each person actually needs from the orange. One person needs the juice, the other needs the pulp and rind. If they compromise in this way, both will have something not considered before; not half of what’s needed.

The next time you find yourself in a conflict situation, consider the other C’s.

l. Move away from the heat and emotion of the conflict. Discuss a subject far removed; even the weather.

2. In calm conversation, discuss what each person needs. Take notes, do not talk, just listen to the other person’s viewpoint.

3. Take time away and write what you heard. Make two columns.  In the first write what you heard.   In the second, respond with your needs and views.

4. Consider how a third situation will move beyond compromise and into collaboration.

5. Return to conversation. Develop a metaphor to represent the idea of collaboration. How can you peel the orange?

This technique requires creativity, patience, time and thought.  You will benefit from the results and wisdom gained. Try peeling the orange today.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Feel, Unthink, Write

Approach a writing idea with all your emotions. List feelings just the opposite to those that drive you to write the piece. If you're sad, feel glad.  If you feel happy, write about frustration. If anger colors your mood, consider what a  moment of pure joy might feel like.  Laugh! Add sounds, scents, tastes and textures.  Really feel the words as they cascade or float onto the page or screen. Chase the imagery!

Then, stop any thinking process.  Unthink and write.  Let your ideas play and streak into several directions.  Avoid evaluations! Go scattergun with seriousness and silliness. Check all the niches and corners of your brain power for possibilities.  Just write and keep writing until you do not want to stop.
Take a break and walk around the block or watch for activity outside your window.  Then, return, go in and circle ideas and sentences that prance with your energy. 

You're ready to write!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Recipes and Writing

Each autumn, my creativity dabbles in the kitchen devising recipes for soup. Experimentation with taste and ingredients stretches beyond recipes. I cook to sight, scent, taste and texture.

A recipe for sweet potato banana bake arrived in the mail as promotion for a cooking book.

2 c mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 egg
1/2c reduced-fat sour cream
¾ tsp curry power
½ tsp salt

Combine all ingredients until smooth. Transfer to one quart baking dish and bake covered at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

I substituted for what I did not have – or want. I used yogurt for the sour cream, omitted the egg and salt, used pumpkin and then added texture. A small box of granola had arrived as a promotion with the newspaper that morning. Along with cranberries, this completed my texture component. I try it on my husband . . . and if Mikey likes it, that means success.

My recipe advice works to help writing students also. Once the elements of short story are learned and understood, substitutions and eliminations become possible and necessary. They discover by experimentation what to add or leave out. Alteration requires creativity and risk. Dexterity with craft flavors the basic
Writers need to try items never considered and develop an experimental mix.

Learn the elements of cooking and writing. Then, cook and write to taste!

Creative Write
: Take a look at a variety of stories, essays and poems. Ask what the writer left out. Why do the stories work with or without those elements? Would you define the "short short" story as a slice of life or a snapshot view? Also, consider if the elements occur in another, less obvious way. Then experiment with your own story or poem.