Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Brake for Humor

"Seven days without laughter make one weak."   -  Joel Goodman

The use of humor in writing helps redeem moments lost to pain, fear, despair and loneliness.Scientific studies have determined that humor makes an impact on degenerative changes associated with neurocognitive decline as we age.  Random acts of comedy activate regions of the brain. This neural stimulation changes brain function to improve memory and promote neural plasticity.

Each individual has a unique funny bone.  What appeals to one person may not cause a giggle in another.  Regardless of your tickle sensation for laughter, develop what feels humorous to you. Adding comic relief to stressful situations will add to your talent for observing silliness in all situations.

Begin with a series of mishaps. Target negative situations. Give them a twist and add a spark of hope with humor.

Here's a start:   What if you awaken ten minutes later than planned?  Then toothpaste lands on your shirt. You trip on a rug, landing on your funny bone on your way to the car. There's a maintenance vehicle in the middle of the street with someone pushing wires into the sewer. What is going on down there?  The technician looks suspicious.

By now you're not going to make it to work on time.  Then what?  Keep progressing through the chaos and add lines of humor.  What if you decide to alter your day and skip work?  What funnyness for an excuse will you devise?

Create random acts of comedy as you alter the details. Brake for humor and laugh out loud at a stop light with your window down.  Daily practice will enrich your brain power. Take a day to rejuvenate with laughter and play.

Define Yourself

"What myth am I living by?" - Joseph Campbell

In the history of the Universe, there is only one you. You share aspects of ancestors in remarkable combinations. 

Who are you?  Which stories, ancestors or heroes impress you? Describe objects and colors that surround and greet you from walls and surfaces of your home. Does music define your space?  

Which aspirations motivate? Do fantasies and adventures call?

How would you revision yourself?

Today, spend your freewrite rediscovering all about You.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Dictionary Play

‎"Words are the raw material of our craft. The greater your vocabulary the more ­effective your writing. We who write in English are fortunate to have the richest and most versatile language in the world. Respect it." ~ PD James

Inspiration in word exploration begins with the dicionary.  Open it at random and write down five words whose meaning is unfamiliar to you.

Write a paragraph using your new words.

Open to another page.  Find a word that intrigues you with its rhythm.  Begin the first line of a poem.

Play in the dictionary daily to enrich your writing.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Seeking Contentment

The eternal search for Happiness might disappoint. Often negative situations produce satisfying results depending upon one's attitude and perspective. In the choice to search for Balance rather than Happiness, feelings of contentment enliven the process and result.

Contentment equates to feeling comfortable amidst the seesawing between the fun and frustrations of life. It becomes a way of wisdom to stay satisfied regardless of the situation.

Creative Write: Write about what works for you when faced with choices. Do you require Happiness as a goal? How does writing assist the process?

Revisit. Recycle. Be Amused

Re-visit three stories or myths.  Try re-reading GOLDILOCKS AND THE THREE BEARS, CINDERELLA, or THE WIZARD OF OZ.  Take a look at the Persephone myth, the story of Icarus or  Shakespeare's  ROMEO AND JULIET.

Read to discover another viewpoint character.  What if you told the story from Mama Bear's perspective? A step-sister had a secret desire to become a secret agent. What if Toto ran away and joined the circus?

Do the same creative musing for your chosen stories or myths.

Write a sequel from the different point of view.  Add humor to change the mood of the story.

Reading inspires ways to revisit, recycle, and amuse yourself with ideas from literature. During a freewrite, discover inspiration for a story or poem.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Creativity at work

Great minds discuss ideas.  Average minds discuss events.  Small minds discuss people.   – Eleanor Roosevelt.

Develop three characters having lunch at a restaurant.  
One brings an idea.  Another shares an event.  A third gossips.  
Create a three way conversation.  How does the idea person make progress?  
Who holds court the longest?  Does someone become angry and leave?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Time Travel

A common theme in science fiction, time travel has been explored in wide-ranging works of fiction from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine to Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife.  Scientists at Cornell University invented a time cloak. They hid an event for 40 trillionths of a second and tinkered with the speed of light. Many feel time travell's call.

Do you feel a fascination for time travel?  If you returned to a time in history, where would you go?  If you could observe a past event, in the moment, which one would you view?  

Choose a specific time and place in history and invent a character who observes it with today's knowledge.  Does the character want to change anything or could he or she adapt to crossing the country in a covered wagon and meeting the challenges of nature?  What would happen by adding today's conveniences?  

Have fun writing about time travel.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Happening Place

The Pantai Inn attracts a variety of residents.  Each one arrives to go into hiding, assume a new identity, or change his or her life in some intriguing way.  The full staff protects individuals from something or creates possibiiities for the future.

Whatever they need - if they can pay - the clients arrive for consultations.  If they cannot pay by cash or credit card, other means are available by individual treaty.

What would you request at the Pantai Inn?  Or, create a persona who would pay a visit to this happening place.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Smell the Flowers

Stand close to a variety of flowers.  Discover the arrangement of petals, scent and color.  Note outlines inside that create faces or other images. Shape words to give your reader a picture of what you observe with all the senses.

Take two steps backward.  Observe again and travel where the details take you. Squint and notice from a side angle.  Focus attention to frame flowers with branches or leaves. Notice insects and their activities.

Finally, observe the flowers and how they fit into the landcape as a whole.  What else exists in the background?  Add sounds.

Do a freewrite and add emotions.  Let connections come to mind as you observe.  Lead into subjects and details from other aspects of life.

Combine the imagery with thoughts to connect to an event in your life.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Reverence Potential

"Wherever people try to act together, they hedge themselves around with some form of ceremony or good manners, and the observance of this can be an act of reverence. Reverence lies behind civility and all of the graces that make life in society bearable and pleasant." - Paul Woodruff

Create a personal essay around the word, "reverence."  Do not use the word in your writing.  Write about what you feel, think and reflect about its meaning and necessity in our society.

Use a unifying metaphor or tell a fable that reveals the essence of reverence.  Create a ritual or ceremony that enhances the virtues of reverence.

Keep in mind a sense of Awe.  Begin by considering something greater that yourself.  You might begin your thinking and feeling by examining the virtues of respect, humility and charity revealed in concrete terms.

Where does reverence extend beyond spiritual associations?

Show an aspect of respect in a conversation between two individuals with disparate views.

What do humility and charity sound like?

How does one show the power of graciousness?

Does our culture often celebrate irreverence?

Push your writing to revive an ideal of reverence.

Beyond Familiarity

Think about someone you have known a long time. Select your spouse, a friend,  co-worker,  parent, or a child.  Take time to delve into your familiarity with this person.  

Write everything you perceive and believe.

Examine characteristics of the individual's personality: what he or she wears, says, loves, enjoys eating, doing and playing. Mine the details and add sensory aspects. 

Step back from your familiarity. Discover this person with innocent eyes to gain a fresh perspective. Forget biases and relationship issues. Write as if you were seeing them for the first in all the details.

Does a poem, essay or story evolve from this new view?  You might also have a Birthday gift to present.    

Monday, January 23, 2012


Deal only with the moment and not the possible consequences of your action.  - Mother Teresa

How many times have you focused so much on the end result of writing that you missed the opportunities and idea shifts?   You straight-lined it and rushed to the finish.  Speed didn't show the results expected did it?

In the initial stages of creativity, the writing process has no destination. It is right here, right now, one word after another. Speed and time do not matter. The focus moves beyond the obsession of getting something out that's perfect.

Writing should not become a struggle.  If it is you miss the moments in movement.

Don't fight barriers.  Get past any barrier.  Jump over or push it away.  Feel the victory of words that slide from fingers across the keyboard or when a pen flows on paper.

Let process and goal stay fluid.  You need to know what to accomplish and then you need to get rid of expectations.  Get out of the way of writing, take a detour, turn a different corner and play!

Creative Write:  Focus on a writing project that stumps you. Let detours assist your process. Move in directions beyond the barriers.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Word Flexing

Words have the power to assume many roles. Different meanings of one word enrich the text and enhance the reader's experience. Flexing your word power adds spice to writing practice.

Take a look at meanings for:


Use each in a sentence or two and include all combinations.

Here's a start:  After you play the last set of tennis, set the table before at the time set following sunset.  Why settle for less?

Add words to the list and use your imagination. Flex those words.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


A man is pursued by a tiger and crawls into a tree at the edge of an abyss.  Two mice, one black and one white gnaw at the roots of the tree. At the bottom of the abyss sits a dragon with parted jaws.

The man looks above and sees honey trickling down the tree, and he begins to lick it and forget his perilous situation.  But the mice gnaw through the tree and the man falls. The tiger seizes him and hurls him over to the dragon.

Joy Williams feels writers need to capture and describe those terrifyng small mice.  She sees the mice as time, shifting, transforming time which alters everything we love.

I suggest writing about the honey.

Creative Write:  Struggle defines a story. It speaks to the human resolve to triumph despite the obstacles, whether physical or psychological. Struggle suggests an effort to endure adversity, to push one's goals forward, and ways to confront counterforces.

Struggle also implies a sustained effort to overcome opposition.  A struggle too easily resolved will disappoint readers.  To sustain a struggle, conflict must appear formidable and overwhelming at first.

The more arduous the struggle, the sweeter the reward.

Outline a story idea in terms of a struggle for a significant reward.  Use animal characters at first and then turn them into people.  Notice how the change in name affects the attributes of the characters.

Don't forget to include the honey!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Food Memories

Does a particular food recall memories? Where were you the first time you had a pizza, Chinese take out, or sushi?

Think about your ancestors.  How did someone discover the edible parts of an artichoke?  Who decided to peel a banana, crack a walnut, or cut into a melon?  Imagine the surprises discovering taste and texture.

Do you remember a romantic encounter and a meal?

What associations come to mind when you think about cotton candy, mushrooms,  omelets, chocolate, or blueberry pie?

Write about different foods you like and dislike.

Write your food in details.  See where the writing takes you.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Living in Exile

"I am in exile.  Like everybody else, I live in a world that is given to me - I am thankful for it. "
                                               -  Paul Goodman

Language reveals who we are.  We do not think we're different until someone makes our difference known to us.

How have individuals mislabeled you?  Make a list of words that you do not feel "at home with."

Think about how you use words to take charge of your life.

Creative Writes:

L.  How do we remain "ourselves" once we're defined as "other"?
2.  Recall a moment of difference when you felt like "other" and write about it.
3.  Write about the kind of exile you feel.
4.  Consider the way you are "at home" or not at home in words

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Try a Haibun

Japanese poet Basho popularized the haibun form in the seventeenth century. 
The haibun presents a scene or moment caught in prose.  A haiku follows as a climax or epiphany.   

A defining moment occurs between the prose and the haiku.  The connection between the two offers a springboard to a variety of thoughts and unexpected meanings. One does not define or explain the other but both add to the whole experience.

Choose an emotional moment or a nature scene.  It could also be an exchange with another person.  Write 20 to 118 words in the prose segment.
Make every word expressive. Include nouns of description, active verbs, sensory imagery and rhythm. 
Add a haiku.  First line of five syllables, follow with seven syllables then end with five syllables.
Or, alternate between prose paragraphs and haikus. You can create a single haiku sandwiched between two paragraphs of prose poetry, or continue the process as long as you like.

Around the neighborhood, the breeze brings scents of morning: muffins, bacon and coffee.  Sparrows awaken in song and share sound waves with mockingbirds.  Dew drips from morning glories and daisies that shine in the sun. The ocean lazes and folds in egg white that scramble to shore. Pelicans, cormorants and seagulls begin their day of flying and feeding.  Around each corner a day breaks fresh with discovery.

Children chalk sidewalk
Red, yellow combine with blue
Give sunshine to passersby

Into the Silence

How does one write about silence? What occurs in the spaces between words?  

Make discoveries into collections  and clashes of sounds.  Start with the beginning and the ends of sounds.  Give shape to rhythm.  

Become intent on listening for distant barking, hammering, the sound of breathing, and all steady sound.  

Pause to listen.  Then write about the lack of sound.  

Embark of a journey moving from the silence and back again.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What if . . .

What if

gravity took the day off
why turned to now
never felt amused
annoyed by forever
until everyone laughed
as some hovered
others slide away
frosted with day light

if you search for answers
in the holes of donuts
anything and everything
will change
                     - Penny Wilkes

Take time today to write - "what ifs."  Just let them flow across the page until you feel an ending.  Then begin again.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Airplane Personalities

All types of individuals sit next to you on the airplane. They provide fodder for fiction.  See if any of these appeal to you for story.

Develop a character to interact with one of these individuals.  Create narrative and dialogue and see where it takes you.  Include humor.

Or, if you have met one of these characters on a plane, write your own story sprinkled with a few embellishments.  Show interactions with flight attendants also.

the wriggler
the fearful flyer
the incessant chatterbox
the passenger with luggage to fill two seats
the cigar chomper, "Oh, I'm not smoking it."
the overimbiber

Have fun playing with airplane personalities!

Windows to Story

Where will these buildings lead your story mind?  Notice a variety of windows.  Drama or humor stirs and struts behind them.  Begin with the open windows and ease into those below.

Who inhabits these places?  Create an argument in one window.  Find a friendship in another.  Open a third window and show what is seen, heard and smelled in the air.

Bring the inhabitants, startled by sirens, into the street.

. . . and then what?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Know Yourself

Do you know what you are?
You are a manuscript of a divine letter.
You are a mirror reflecting a noble face.
This Universe is not outside of you.
Look inside yourself:
everything that you want,
you are already that.    - Rumi

Many traditions describe the spiritual journey as moving toward your true self.

Find a quiet location.  Then, read the above poem slowly.

Sit comfortably, clear your mind and focus on your breath. Take in six deep breaths and left out six.  Do this four times.  Notice if any phrase of the above poem jumps out at you.

Who are you?  Discover a metaphor to define you.  Write!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Heart of the Matter

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.

Years ago I learned from Dr. Norman Cousins that humor heals. A day of silliness, writing and naps gets the job done when the mind and body have challenges.

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. Write about the human body.

One liners

What does speed bump?

Play with one lines today.  See what unlikely words you can bounce together.   Try for an image, metaphor, or an abstract idea connected with a concrete image.  Collect them throughout the day and see where they take you.

Here are a few to get you started:

shadow caught in cobwebs
                                                day swallows night

Time talks to a pillow
                                  hope written on clouds

tears growing wings

Friday, January 13, 2012

Time Travel

Write about your favorite age of life and how you experienced it. Return to it for a day and write a scene in detail.

If you could advance to an age, why would you?  Add the benefits and drawbacks of this time travel.

Then, write about an age you do not wish to visit again.  Write deeply into the reason why.  Then turn it around and relive the experience that troubled you with a positive spin.  What worked about that age of your life?

During your writing, notice how your current life's wisdom creeps in and weaves around your narrative.

A Better World Because of . . .

“Don't spend your precious time asking "Why isn't the world a better place?" It will only be time wasted. The question to ask is "How can I make it better?"  To that there is an answer.”   -  Leo Buscaglia

Write about five ways you can make the world the Best.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hunting and Gathering

Leap into a primal mind of awareness and observation of the world around you.  Be still, listen, hunt and gather.

Notice.  Stories revolve around all of our life's activities.

Hunt for ideas behind doors.  What rustles in the bushes?

Clip photographs from magazines to gather items that add texture to your writing.

Sift incidents overheard from friends' talk or in restaurants.

Write fragments of conversations in the aisles of supermarkets.

Eavesdrop for names and nicknames.

Cut out fragments of color, material you happen upon.  Add scents and sounds.

Take nature walks and choose rocks in perculiar shapes, twigs, and feathers.

Observe empty spaces and what occurs in the silence.

Discover quotations, good leads to stories and surprise endings.

Watch for everything to enrich your creativity.

Then what?   Tape or paste your clues on pages to fit into a loose leaf binder to become your sketchbook.

Divide by sections for ease in filing collections of story sparkers.

As you collect clues, you will begin to notice patterns forming to assist you with ideas for use in plotting, character development, scenery and mood.

Where will you begin today?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Memory Ticklers

Describe an early experience with as much detail as possible from your child's mind and in reflection as an adult.

Sift through favorite possessions.  What stories run through them to you?

How did a certain period of history affect you, friends and family?

Describe your most memorable childhood pet.

Write your relationship with a teacher.  Did he or she make a lasting contribution on your life?

Music is a trigger for stories.  Did you take music lessons?  Describe a humorous incident.  List tunes that elicit memories and write about them.

List firsts as fast as you can in a page of writing: childhood trip, date, kiss, circus, dance, bicycle, job, accomplishment.

Describe all of the above from someone else's point of view: parents, siblings, best friend.

Don't forget to include sights, sounds, scents and flavors.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Wanna Being

"Adults are always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up because they are looking for ideas." 
                                                     - Paula Poundstone

Recall your first answer to that question.  Who asked and where were you? 

How did you let yourself dream and plan?  

What other choices did you make along the way to where you are today? 

Make a list of all the "what I wanna be when I grow up"  ideas and ways you experimented and explored.

If you're still discovering yourself and not planning to grow up, write about that also.

Creative Write: Have fun writing about "wanna being" by detailing the choices that led you to today!  Where else do you plan to go?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fun with Anachronism

"Oh, what I'd give for aMacBook Air."

Caspar Netscher, a painter of the Dutch Masters tradition, created a portrail of someone pensive about writing.

Who is this?  What happened just before this pose?  What's going on to the left of the painting?  Who will read what's written?  Where will the fellow go when the writing is finished?

Roll forward to the present time:

Imagine a situation with a laptop in front and a cell phone on the side table. Then - what and why . . .?

Have fun creating and writing with anachronism.

Taking to the Road

"It's no accident our stories so often turn on hitting the road, riding into the sunset, lighting out for the territories, going to sea, leaving loved ones by sitting off to find a new self, while at the same time shouldering the sadness of never getting back, aging all the while. "  from The Nature of Generosity by William Kittridge

Write about your self-reliant individualism in a story or poem about hitting the road.  What has called to you?   Where have you traveled in mind and time?  

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Artichoke Hearts

"You develop a style from writing a lot."  
Kurt Vonnegut

The writer's individual style becomes the center of his or her writing.  Each person expresses an internal rhythm, a harmony of language , imagery, and perception. Everything layers around this inner heart like artichoke leaves.

Take time today to explore your writing style.  Search for your style as you contact your mysteries;  what's to laugh about or cry about.  Learn the wildness in yourself.

Spend time reading and understanding writers who appeal to your sense of flow.  Choose five authors and write out their sentences.  Experience the nuances.  They will assist you to modify and extend your unique writing style.

Become free to explore the truth inside.  What's your take on life?  Peel the layers.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Fives

Write responses in fives today and discover how they spark your writing.

l.  Five individuals who have made an impact on your life.

2.  Five situations that provided a negative influence but pushed you onward inspite of it.

3.  Five major thrills.

4.  Five accomplishments you did not believe you could do.

5.  Five sentences summing up the above.


If writing days feel like elephants coming at you, hold out those arms and take in the challenges.

O   Stay Open to Opportunities in your writing.

P    Note the Possibilities that exist around every corner.

T    Take breaks to let your mind discover connections.

I     Investigate with sights, sounds, scents and tastes.

M   Keep the Momentum going. One word, then another.  Bounce those words.

I     Imagination works wonders. Play with ideas.

S    Silliness stimulates the brain.  Giggle as you write.

M   Call your Muse.  Give him or her a name and write a conversation.

Create your own suggestions for each letter.  Optimism !

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Create a story


Use the painting above to stimulate story ideas.

Begin with a mood:  Develop joy, frustration, intrigue or humor.

Set the stage:   What has happened?  What is about to happen?  What results?

Notice details in the environment to include:  What does the color red mean.  Name the birds and their situation.  What are the three men about to discover?

What happens at the end of the street?

What is going on behind the third window in the second story?  What does the person with the glasses say to intimidate the fellow across the table?

Why and where are the couple on the scooter going?

Add sounds, scents and tastes.

Energize your writing with questions:  "what if"  "and then what."

Natural Encounters

"Hold out your hands to feel the luxury of the sunbeams."  - Helen Keller

Each day you breathe in and out about five hundred cubic feet of air without even noticing.  Daily the sun rises and sets and weather patterns abound.  Seasons move on and constellations revolve around the sky. Tides ebb and flow.

Nature can entertain, stimulate and enlighten.  The doors and windows of wonder open to you daily.  

What will you notice today?  

Recall a moment you had an "encounter" with nature.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Oyster Stew

"All art is autobiographical. The pearl is the oyster's autobiography." ~Federico Fellini

Write about the ways you overcome obstacles.  

Show how you crash through adversity.  Reveal how you craft life's gritty circumstances into pearls.

Create your own oyster metaphor.