Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Shine up the Winter

"In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer." - Albert Camus

Our life paths jumble us with ups and downs, turns to navigate and corners to investigate.  Seesaw effects and roller coaster anguish confront us. We must advance toward blind alleys and dark spaces regardless of how we try to avoid them.  Often jubilation greets us in the darkest moments.

Write about the good and challenging aspects of a winter day.  Do you need to play in the shadows of sunshine more than the sunshine itself? Move your imagination into both places.  Balance the seesaw and get into the thrills of a roller coaster on a summer day.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Messages and Myths

The Bini people of West Africa tell a story about a time when the sky came down so close everyone could reach up and touch it with their hands.  The sky provided food and nobody worked in those days. Everyone just had to stretch their hands when hungry and break off a piece of the sky.

The sky demanded that individuals should only take whatever they needed for one meal, no more.  No one could store food.  Everybody obeyed this rule except for one greedy man who broke off a large piece.  Unable to finish this piece, he tried to store it but the food rotted.

The sky became so angry about this waste it shot up so far away where no one could reach it.  Since then people have had to work to get food.

Creative Write:   Recall the first story with a moral or message told to you during childhood.  Why does this message stick with you?

Does your family tell a story based on a family happening that has become a myth everyone tells in a variety of versions?

If you cannot recall a story or are unaware of a family myth, create one today.

Child's Play

Children delight in the play of noticing, choosing, and re-arranging.  

Choose five books on a variety of topics. Open them randomly to a page. Choose a sentence that attracts you from each page.  Re-arrange the sentences in a sequence that suggests a progression. 

Embellish and push the sentences around. Do words jump out at you? Select the hoppers and arrange them in random order.

What do you discover by playing this way?  

Monday, February 27, 2012

Do or Do Not. There is no Try

Does the  cherry tree exclaim how hard it works during spring?  Do you hear shrieks of exasperation?  Of course not.  It goes about its business of treeness and pushes auxins. The pink floods out the petals. They drop and illustrate the street. 

Why does the notion exist among human beings that effort equals result?  It reminds me of the "Little League" mentality that everyone gets a trophy for hard work.  What happens when a batter swings at the third pitch and misses?  He's out!  It doesn't matter how hard he tried.  The effort did not produce a result.

In the publishing world, editors cannot observe the effort put into a piece of writing.  They judge the words that bounce upon the page. The black squiggles either hold their attention or they don't.  In the construction business, if a carpenter works all day measuring, cutting, hammering and at the end of the day looks up to see the windows sag, corners don't match up and in one rain the roof will leak, does he say, "I worked so hard?"  No!  He can see that he needed to focus on the details.

Why do some writers fear making mistakes when learning a new aspect of the process?  Failure assists the process when learning occurs. Success comes from feeling comfortable with risk and error.

Imagine the man who loves to work with his hands. He carves boxes designed with robins and roses. Purchasers love his work. One day he decides to take a ceramics class to learn how to throw pots. He spends four weeks throwing clay and the pots lean right and left. Some have thin sides and heavy bases. 

The wheel races, his fingers slipping in the water. Drippings cover him with gray. He's worked so hard with his hands but this new procedure defies his understanding. The result does not represent his accomplishments of the past. What has he learned from the process?  He thought he could just crank it out as an artist but did not realize the nuances and techniques necessary to learn a new skill.  Does he keep doing?

Hard work has value as it improved discipline and provides the opportunity for results.  Many times one must fail in order to succeed.

Creative Write:  Write about learning a new skill.  Show how  "hard work" translated into result or did just the opposite.  Show how the failure inspired.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


About 12,000 years ago, wolves with friendly natures wandered into Native American camps.  Soon they became protectors, hunters and pack animals.  Later dogs became children's playmates and family members.  Animals have provided physical and mental needs of human beings throughout history.

In Native American culture, animals assumed spiritual roles through shamanism, as power animals or totems.  People believed the animals became helpers and healers to anyone who sought them out.

Shamanism explains that everyone is thought to have a power animal or animal spirits that live in the soul to protect and imbue them with wisdom.  Horses and owls were the earliest used by the Shaman.

Creative Write:  Choose two animals, give them a desire to have traits or special powers and write a story.

Try a turtle who has the desire to fly.  He meets a bird who wishes to speak a human language.  What if a bear wants to become huggable instead of fierce?  He meets a snail who begs for the power of an eagle.

Play with the notion of animals and their needs.  Keep asking . . . and then what happens?

Nurture Risk in Revision

If you feel frustrated with a writing project, try a radical revision. Nurture risk today and make connections you have not considered.  Jump into the wild.

Take a look at characters in mythology. How would they do in today's world?  Imagine Pandora shopping on Rodeo Drive.  What if Atlas decided to play professional football?  Would Athena make the Olympic archery team? Would Zeus use his powers to run for President of the United States?

What if Socrates met Shakespeare and helped him rewrite "The Tempest"?

Take characters from your favorite books and have them play together.

Experiment with sounds of words on the page. Sing your writing.

Try writing in two languages at once - one word at a time. Does one language add to the other?

Write a story this way. Dialogue with an emotion. Create a character from an emotion and develop a persona.

Make up words and see how far you can take them.

Experiment with conflicting ideas.Try for color sounds and sights that taste a certain way.

Find humor in mysterious places.

If you do a freewrite, your mind will carry you into a variety of experiences. Start by writing an emotion across the top of the page. Then let your mind go. After 15 minutes, begin with the ending and write a story.

Play. Play. Play. If you find your internal editor invading your playground, write yourself out of the judgment.

Creative Write: Nurture your freedom to risk and choose one of the above for a fun write.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fingerpaint with words of color

Search for unusual names for colors to add a layer of meaning to your writing. Choose teal, magenta, chartreuse, tangerine, or persimmon.   Discover names from house paint colors or fingernail polish.

After you have collected ten names, invent five of your own.

Brilgeen expresses green with a sheen.  Try for wrigglepink, or silvurple.

Fingerpaint with words and add musicality.  Sing them like a warblblue.

Use colors to define trust, joy, siliness and remembrance. Lead the reader into a narrative of discovery of each emotion without writing its name.

Bird Wisdom

A legend tells of a man walking in his garden who noticed a hummingbird struggling in a spider web.  The bird spoke his language and begged for release from the web.  She said, "I cannot feed you or provide song in a cage.  My feathers are too small to be of use.  If you set me free, I will tell you three rules to guide your life.

Shocked to hear the bird speak, the man said he would release her if she told him the three rules.

She said:

l.  Never believe everything you are told.
2. Do not have regrets in life.
3. Do not go after the unattainable.

She then reminded the man of his word.  He removed the web from her feathers and thanked her for the advice.

The hummingbird flew to the top of the nearest tree and laughed.
"Silly man. You allowed me to fly away when I carry a diamond larger than a hen's egg.

The man looked up and said, "You think you are happy because I gave you freedom.  Summer will end and winter storms will arrive.  Who will give you a warm place where you can fly freely and have food and water as much as you want?  Come down and I'll show you are better off with me than with your freedom.

The bird laughed louder than before.

"Why are you still laughing?"  asked the man.

"You gave me freedom in exchange for my teachings.  Now you are so foolish that you do not take the teachings to heart?  I earned my freedom fairly but you forgot your lessons.  You should not wish for things that you can't have and yet you want me.  Freedom is my whole life and you want  me to enter a prison?  You should not believe the impossible and yet you believe that I can carry in my body a diamond as large as a hen's egg?  I myself am only the size of a wren's egg."

With that the bird flew away.

Creative Write:  Respond to the bird's three rules. Where will they lead you in a story?

Friday, February 24, 2012


On the way to my Tai Chi class I noticed writings in chalk along the sidewalk.  They reminded me of the old Burma Shave slogans on wooden signs by the highway.  They provided entertainment for me as a child when we took car trips.  My father would challenge me to create my own versions.  We competed and laughed at the results as time passed to our destination.

If you are not familiar with the signs, learn more about them here:

Take a walk around your block and plan writings with a beginning, middle and end to inspire walkers.

What will you write in rhyme or simple one liners to spark curiosity and provide a smile for passersby?

Letter in Space

"I lived on the third planet circling an ordinary star at the edge of a spiral galaxy two million light years from the Andromeda nebula. We called it earth."  Rachel Kadish.

Send a letter into space.  What three ideas or concerns would you write about the planet earth and its variety of inhabitants?

What attributes of earth would you include?
What warning would you need to add?
What's absolutely necessary?

Write your perceptions and suggestions.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Work Ahead


During morning runs, I scan my body.  What aches and niggles will I have to work through today?  I breathe into the discomfort and enjoy nature's distractions.  

What promises will help me move around the corner?  A raven's call pushes me beyond a twinge.  The scent of the sea calms frustration.

Will speed work inspire energy?  I can catch up to that runner ahead or outlast a squirrel.  Can pelicans fly faster than I run?

I'll convince my mind to push for more repeats up the flight of stairs at the end of the workout.  

Along the way my mind plays games with my body.  It becomes a tug-of-war. Who will win today?  I will not stop when I want to -  just one more block.

Writing attracts those mind games also.  What issues do you deal with in your writing process?  Do you quit too soon if frustrated?  Do you make deals with yourself?  What rewards await at the end of a writing session?  What if you wrote just one more word would it spark another and yet another?  

Get beyond your mind games today and do your road work.  What does it feel like to trick your mind into production?

A Funambulist

Become a funambulist - acrobat or tight rope walker

In addition to rope dancing, funambulist also refers to a person with mental agility and skill - a writer. As writers, we struggle from concept to expression along lines that quiver with illusion and reality.

Begin rope dancing with a thought, add a feeling, and a difficult aspect of life.  See where ability and skill move you.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Just Do It

David Kirby writes, "a good poem, like a sound legal argument, puts the right materials in the best order to convince an audience. A lawyer doesn't want his listeners to say, I wonder what he meant?  any more than a poet does."

Simple language with concrete imagery works  to communicate a concept or idea.  One should not ask the reader to dive into subterranean territory and deal with obscurity.

Writing can benefit from Nike's message - "Just do it."   Take a look at magazine advertisements.  Notice the copy that attracts you.  Why does it work?  What advertisements do not work for you?  Do the words get in the way of the message?

How would you express a need or desire in several lines?  They do not have to break into poetry. Create a message in a metaphorical way.  Intrigue the reader into the writing like good advertising copy.  See where it leads.

Dreams of Youth

Keep true to the dreams of thy youth. - Friedrich Von Schiller

Write about the dreams of your youth. 

Did you act out these fantasies in writing?  Do they offer insight into places you did not travel? Would you return to try them on for size now? Do any aspects of those dreams offer new potentials for your life? 

Do they provide clues to a new you?  Are you pleased that you moved on from their tug?

As you write, let yourself flow into deeper levels of consciousness to access insights. Avoid judgments as you push into uncomfortable areas. 

Seek to clarify a version of your dream and how to develop it fully. Or, celebrate a dream that evolved instead. 

Experiment and push your energy in ways for new discoveries. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Face the F word

F E A R    What is it about that F word ?  

Writers have the ability to turn words around to add perspectives and different slants.  

Get "fearocious" and eliminate the "a" to go ferocious in your writing.

Write out your fears today.  Get into it.  Every detail.  Move into every 'f' you can think of.

Turn fears into friends instead of foes. What can they teach you?

Do your notions of fears involve risk or insecurity?  What faculties do you use to make decisions when you feel the fear?  

How do false perceptions get in the way and balloon into distortions of reality?

In what ways do your writing skills help you conquer the F word?

F  Fight your illusions
E  Evaluate reality
A  Accentuate the positive
R  Release your avoidance of risk

Write a story or poem about overcoming obstacles and anxieties. Name fear as a friend and dialogue with him or her.

Fly beyond the fear and write on!

Dictionary Diversion

“The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work.”   Vince Lombardi 

Vince Lombardi’s quote inspired me to think about dictionary play to notice where words might take me. I opened the dictionary at FUN. 

Did you know that Fun comes after fumble and fumigate and before function? This reveals you need to have fun to function.

Turning another page at random, my eyes found grave. Now that word has several meanings so I looked to see that it comes after Gratitude but before Gravy Train. The dictionary defines Gravy Train as a situation where someone can make a lot of money for little effort. That goes against Lombardi’s philosophy.

See where your eyes take you in the dictionary wander. Humerus comes before humorous and could tickle the funny bone of the hummingbird. Perseverance arrives ahead of persimmon who still finds persistence up ahead.

Doofuss and doohickey wait before doorway with doorsteps and doorstops ahead.

I found a photo of a pontoon already landed and waited for a pony to arrive with a woman in a poodle skirt whose hair was in a poof. She wanted to meet the Pooh Bah as he walked off the plane to a plateau of possibility. A possibility played possum and licked a postage stamp.

Make Gratitude hold more power than gravity as you graze your Thanksgiving feast. Don't forget the gravy.

See where the dictionary diversion takes you!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Presidents' Day

Think about all the Presidents who have been in office during your lifetime.

Who was the President of the United States you recall as a child?

Does one stand out as more productive to you?

Did you ever want to become President of the United States of America?

Celebrate Presidents' Day by writing your perspective on the highest office in America.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Using Symbols

A symbol stands for something else.  It takes the place of descriptive words as a shortcut to meaning. Symbolism carries the theme and significance of a piece of writing.

Aspects of a symbol:

l.   Creates an image that stands for a moment in the story  (blinking light or ringing bell).
2.  Fits into the action and story's movement.
3.  Implies rather than intrudes upon the story.
4.  Creates mood. A raging storm implies violence.  A wolf howling in the wilderness suggests loneliness or foreshadows and intensifies danger.
5.  Can be used to resolve the story.  Through the symbol the main character achieves new insight which changes attitude and brings a decision.

When writing, employ symbols early as part of  the background.  In some stories the symbol parallels the story action.  What happens to the symbols happens to the character (plane crashes, character crashes).

A man retreats to the lake to contemplate his life after a divorce and alienation from his children.  During the afternoon he watches a sailboat struggle against a rising storm.  It mirrors his own struggle.  The story could take several turns.

He could get caught up with the boat's struggle, race out to save the crew and avoid his own problems.  The boat could be battered and sink but the man could see he can call upon his strength of will to fight for his joy in life.  In either case the man's conflict is made dramatic by the boat's struggle.

Creative Write:

l.   Create a story around the sound of a train whistle, signifying escape.

2.  The rainbow is a symbol of immortality.  Use this with a twist.  A fighter pilot is followed and protected by a rainbow in battle.  What happens when he returns home and jaywalks in the rain?

The Miraculous

To be looking elsewhere for miracles is a sure sign of ignorance that everything is miraculous.  
                                                      Abraham H. Maslow

The search for the strange,  exotic, unusual and uncommon has often taken the form of a pilgrimage. Individuals have thought that by turning away from the world by a journey to another country or to a different religion, they will discover the miraculous.

The great lesson learned from true mystics,  Zen monks and from humanistic and transpersonal psychologists shows us one needs not travel far.  Sacred exists in the ordinary.  Amazement occurs in one's daily life, in one's own backyard.  Flight might become a distraction from confronting the simple joys of life.

Take time today to ponder the ordinary.  Move into the details.  Look, listen and feel. Write about the miraculous and how it relates to your everyday experience.  Don't miss the obvious.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Did curiosity tempt you as a child?  In what ways did you explore nature beyond the technological world?

How did teachers applaud your creativity or dampen your spirit?

Did you want to run away and join the circus?  What trouble did you get into?   Did you write about a world without adults?

Capture a few memories and see where they lead.

Ask the Right Questions

In school they expected me to color
inside squares, circles, or triangles.
When I tinted mountains turquoise,
they tested my hearing.

My head swiveled to Stellar jays
gone raucous.  Mother called
me indoors for dinner,
my ears stayed numb,
fingers alert to crushed lavender.
As honeysuckle slipped
along my tongue.

Why didn't they ask about
wrigglings under stones,
whir of squirrel whiskers
or the sound of dew?
I found answers
in wet dawn
where tadpoles glisten.
                       - Penny Wilkes                          

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Write Order

What if your doctor asked, "What's going well for you today?" "What good order are you in?" Then, after the doctor smiled and patted you on the back, he or she said, "Now tell me what you could change that's feeling a bit off?"

We'd almost feel good about a medical appointment that focused on our strengths rather our dis-order.

What if you focused on the same questions when thinking about your writing?

Here's a start:

What's working that thrills you about what you wrote today?

What's your top writing strength?  Add another and and yet another.

If you could change an aspect of your writing what would you do?

Write on the positive side of life.  Let that order reign.  Answer the above.  Add three more positive statements about your writing.

Advice Columns

How would you write an advice column from a mountain's perspective?
    - Get to the point     - Rise above it all    - Savor peak experiences

Or from a river's tenacity?  
    - go with the flow  - circle obstacles  - dissolve troubles

Choose your advice symbol and write many suggestions for those who need direction.

Fly like a peregrine falcon beyond the storm.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Writing Frontiers

"The principle mark of genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new frontiers."
                                                                    -  Arthur Koestler.

Imagine the life of those who traveled by covered wagon from the East to the West Coast.  Would you ride alongside on a horse?  Would you walk?

How would you write yourself into the landscape of travel to a frontier?

Aphorism Play

Aphorism  n.

A tersely phrased statement of a truth or opinion; an adage.
A brief statement of a principle.

Developing aphorisms helps the mind focus on each word and its message. Slogans of your own help you stay positive through the day.

Write a few one or two liners to define how to turn sadness to glee, the search for perfection, or the need for friendship.

Life's a treasure.  Dig it!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Unlikely Combinations

"Behind the cotton wool of daily life is hidden a pattern; all human beings are connected with this.  The whole world is a work of art."    - Virginia Woolf

Try three unlikely combinations and see where they lead in your writing.

Use an automobile, a force of nature, and a cookbook   Let a telephone,  baby pillow, and emerald collaborate.  What will you do with a radio, a chess piece, and pumpkin pie?  Combine a tuba, swimming pool, and Snoopy.

Choose three other items that might trigger unlikely reactions.  What story will result?

Cavort for Contentment

Write about what it takes for contentment.  Extend beyond happiness to a place where you can balance the challenges. How do you tickle creativity, laugh past frustrations, and find ways to win your day?

Peace of Mind and Harmony shout in abstract ways. How would you define them with examples of ways they look, feel, taste and sound?  Illustrate them with the power of imagery.

Show hate transformed to kindness as animals cavort.  Why do worries wriggle?  What simple steps lead to a thrill?  Where do expectations jump and jingle?

Write your rules without defining them. Show the gleam.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Time Capsule

Select a home you inhabited as a child or choose a favorite house lived in later. You have decided to prepare a time capsule for your home. Indicate items you would include to hide in the wall for someone to discover in a future year. 

What will you write to send across time to another person who will live in your house? 

Describe five items you plan to place in the time capsule. Include a description of your house's personality.

What expectations do you have for the future occupant of your home? How do you wish this person will care for it?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day Brain

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. - Lao Tzu  

When you love someone, you love the whole person, just as he or she is, and not as you would like them to be.

                                                                            -Leo Tolstoy  

Love looks not with eyes, but with the mind.   -
William Shakespeare  

Researchers indicate the desire for a romantic connection results from the flow of oxytoxin in the brain. Levels of this chemical rise when couples watch romantic movies, hug, or hold hands.  This leads to even more loving behavior.

Relatives of the mouse, prairie voles injected with oxytocin pair much faster than usual.  In human behavior, couples bond to certain characteristics in each other. For this reason some individuals become attracted to the same type of man or woman repeatedly. 

Those in love become entwined in each other's emotional (limbic) center of the brain.  As a result, each one physically exists in the nerve-cell pathways and brain synapses of the other. 

On February 14 celebrate your Valentine's Day brain.

Use sensory imagery to describe the feelings of being in love.  Is infatuation a drawing done in chalk but true love an oil painting of vibrance and colors?

How do you react to sound, scent, and visual cues sent by your romantic connection?

What are three characteristics you require beyond the chemistry?

Writing Seasonal Strengths

The green in every tree is you.
The beauty of every garden is you.
My wealth, my work, my master is you.
Solitude, purity, pretense is you.
There is no reality but you.   ~ Rumi

In winter, the plum, pine and bamboo continue to thrive in frigid weather when most trees and plants wither.

If the concepts of fortitude and perseverance against adversity appeal to your writing today, write about your winter strengths.

Does another season represent your personality and tenacity?

Write your seasonal strengths.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Art of Cursive Writing

Some elementary schools plan to eliminate cursive writing from the curriculum. Classroom teachers say that lack of time in the school day — and too much to teach — contributes to the desire to drop penmanship lessons.  This does not make much sense to me.

During my life, this functional art form has helped my writing bloom.  Each artful loop, whirl, tie and tail I learned from a patient father with a perfectionist's eye.  I observed the writing of teachers and friends to adapt my style.  It continues to blossom.

For writers, cursive writing inspires both a meditative state and a way to access both sides of the brain for productive results.  The hand moves to stimulate the brain's logical side. Letters form words in artful flow from the right side's intuitive cells.  Integration of both sides occurs as a result.

Writers need to feel the elegance of writing with a fountain pen and see its splash of color.

Since childhood, I've considered fountain pens my ponies.  My mind has ridden bareback.  Without use of a bridle or saddle, a variety of pens behave with finger pressure.  Turquoise, emerald, magenta and sunshine flow from my thoroughbreds, morgans, quarters and an Arabian or trail pony.  The mustangs and stallions often buck the surface for new ideas.  Lippizans dance their air ballet.

These fountain pony pens combine with textured paper to push a progression of ideas. Ink on both rough and slick surfaces increases in speed for creativity capture. It slows to corral emotions and thoughts to ponder. Movement to cross a T or dot an i stays fluid without breaking the spell of rhythm and progress.

Cursive writing adds a magical quality to the writing process. Imagine in a few generations not having the ability to read our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, or Bill of Rights  -  all written in cursive writing.

Creative Write:  Recall how you first learned cursive writing.  If you handwrite in a journal or prepare initial drafts by handwriting first, consider in what ways it differs from composing on a keyboard. Have you transitioned from creating in handwriting to keyboard creating?  Do you go back and forth?

Handwrite a favorite passage or poem with a rollerball or fountain pen. Take time to form the letters, find a rhythm and feel the flow.  Write about this process.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Spelunking to the Core

Writing creates a way of exploring notions hidden deep inside.

Think of the process as spelunking to the soul of matters.  Progress moves the climber past rock by rock. Water flows or trickles alongside as a sound of inspiration. Light bounces from space to space. Shadows shimmy.

One can journey to the true self through the physical and mental movement of writing.  Deeper and deeper the seeker travels until a cavern opens with possibility.  Gems and formations of nature gleam from the darkness for further exploration.  Mysteries abound.

Follow this metaphor in your writing.  Or, create imagery of a journey into your depths.  What do you discover in the wilderness?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Ten Ways to Get through the Day

If you could list the Top Ten ways to get through the day, what would you write?

Take a look at Albert's Life Lessons.  Here's a starter list also:

l.  Awaken with a stretch and several deep breaths.  Feel the source of a new day with smiles of energy. Applaud for one more day's gift of life.

2.  Continue awareness of what moves around you throughout the day.  Observe and absorb life with your senses.  Notice details of color and texture.  What sounds melt into one another?  Chew your food throughtfully and drink lots of water to hydrate your mind.

3.  Take time to write each day.  Capture 15-30 minutes to write in a journal.  Make it a habit.

4.  Exercise daily by choosing a type you can enjoy consistently and stick to it.  Walking is the easiest.    Walk instead of driving the car.

5.  Promise yourself to avoid judging everything.  Observe moments and move on.

6.  Replace worry with a positive solution or funny idea to fix an issue.

7.  Give away a smile or two.

8.  Praise everyone you meet during the day.

9.  Applaud yourself.  You're your best audience from the inside out.

10.  Laugh lots and lots at intervals during the day

Creative Write:  Prepare your list then respond to each suggestion and stay on schedule each day!

Obsession to Inspiration

Writers need obsessions that lead to inspiration.  Preoccupations feed creativity with energy.  If Melville hadn't felt the draw of whales, we wouldn't have "Moby-Dick."  The Mississippi River attitude gave Twain notions for "Huckleberry Finn."

A scent of money and its drive inspired Fitzgerald's, "The Great Gatsby."  Wallace Stegner's focus on western expansion provided his many publications and sparked his "Angle of Repose."

Make a list of your favorite authors and determine what might have driven them to write.

Creative Write: Write your statement of an obsession and see where it leads.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

From Happenings to Story

What's happening at the Point Cafe?

Describe the attitude of someone who walked into the cafe.

She threw her hands in the air and yelled, "You idiot."

Something happened just outside the cafe to cause this feeling.

Tires screeching, the car swerved to miss her and kept going.  A head bobbed from the driver's window and laughed.

What does the character do after what happened?

Is something about to happen at the end of the street?

When's the next happening?

Focusing on action helps a story evolve.  Begin with a character who happens upon a situation.

Asking . . . and then what  moves the narrative along from happening to happening.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Create-a-Presidential Candidate

We have the challenge of making choices in voting for a President in the 2012 election.  Because of the media hype, we become blasted with misinformation.  Our candidates focus more on character flaws than solutions, it seems.  How do we make informed choices?

If you listed basic characteristics for a Presidential candidate, what would you list?


A visionary who can unite various interest groups with a common purpose.
A negotiator and collaborator who can advance American interests throughout the world.
A creative mind who can negotiate with lobbyists and congressional opponents.
A decisive leader who can shepherd the country during crises.
An economist who understands the fiscal needs of America.
A decision-maker who can weigh all possibilities.
A master manager who can keep his staff of experts operating smoothly.

Creative Write:  Disregarding current politicians running for the highest office, select individuals from history, those in fiction, or from other professions you would consider to have the skills to run for office.  Design your perfect candidates and have a debate.

Tickle your history skills and abilities to think "outside the box."  How would you seek solutions to our country's issues utilizing the characters from your list?

If you feel stuck, try a humorous approach.  Create-a-Presidential Candidate on your terms.

Roundup Rage in Writing

"The poet writes his poems out of his rage." - Stanley Kunitz

Let frustrations and rage ignite passion in your writing. What really irritates you right now? What gets the Grrrr going?

Set the stage with frustration. Add aspects of life that annoy you. Then pursue them with flamelike insights. Add colors, scents and sounds. 

Once you have written detail upon detail, take a break. Take a walk and let your mind mingle in movement away from your angst for fifteen minutes.

Return to writing. Charge onward with creative ideas for positive solutions. End with ecstacy.

Through writing about your anger and despair, become a witness to the possibility of revelation. 

Words conquer all. Roundup your rage in writing.  Go get 'em!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Take a Risk

 "I write of the wish that comes true - for some reason, a terrifying thought." 
James M. Caine

Tennessee Williams began his play,"A Streetcar Named Desire," from a mental image of a woman sitting alone by a window and looking sad from having been stood up by the man she was supposed to marry.

Recall an unfulfilled wish of your own.  How would your life have changed if the wish had come true?

What risk do you regret not taking?  Take a chance in writing about a wish and a risk.  What happens?

The Sea

I need the sea because it teaches me.
I don't know if I learn music of awareness,
if it's a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move
in the University of the waves.
- Pablo Neruda from On the Blue Shore of Silence

Until thirteen years of age, I spent months at a time living on a variety of steamships. My father attended meetings around the world and ship cabins became our home. Thankfully, we docked at ports of call often because seasickness taunted as my beast to conquer.I spent days dizzy and nauseated.

After a month on board, I usually had gained sea legs and began my discovery of what Neruda calls, "the University of the waves." I studied movements of flying fish and sea creatures we happened upon. The line of the horizon where nothing existed but blue penetrating into green-blue sparked my curiosity.

Sea spray redolent with fishiness accompanied my walks on deck. A mixture of ship oil, paint and wooden deck preservative return in memory. The sea sounded with swishes and thunks depending on its mood. Bells on board signaled activities starting and ending.Evenings spread darkness in velvet until the silver of starlight penetrated.

I learned the constellations from vantage points around the world. Storms provided whitecaps and cloud formations that amazed me from my queasiness. The rain ran salty on my tongue.

Now the sea remains a constant companion on my morning runs. I marvel at the tenacity of waves as they reveal their daily moods.

Creative Write: Share an experience you have had with the sea or another body of water. Bring in sensory imagery.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Vegetable Meditation

Choose a vegetable to meditate upon.  Compare it to something.  Use it to express an emotion or an abstract idea:  love, frustration, friendship.    Then try using a fruit.

Peel the Artichoke

Friendship is an artichoke
all layered in secrets.

Hear the cricket snap of leaves
petals tipped in silky maroon.

White whiskers protect
the heart.

Cook warm,
squirt a tang of sweet lemon.

Push your tongue to savor the green, 
see how the leaves fall away.

Once at the heart, 
ah the tingle, the sheen.
                      - Penny Wilkes