Saturday, March 31, 2012

Poetry Month in April


If  I’m hiding
search for me
in a spider’s dream
or web of twilight.
You might find me
in shadows gone
ladybug on a lemony
sway of eucalpytus.
Consider me in
the moon’s crackle
above the pines.
I’m there just before
stars prickle dusk
with the promise
of what we
most need.

You do not need to like poetry or write poetry to enjoy a play of words. Concentrate on flavoring your writing with sensory word choices this month.

Fill your sentences with imagery.  Take a raw experience and shape words into a rhythm.
Explore a mystery.  Bring in wild joy and ache of sorrow.  Dab in confusion and magic.

Let the reader realize a connection.

Write with a Feather Today!

There was a child went forth every day,
And the first object he'd look'd  upon,
that object he became,
And that object became part of him
for the day or a certain part of the day,
or for many years or stretching cycles of years.
                                  - Walt Whitman

Tree Swallows have a game of their own. During migration to their winter habitat, they entertain themselves by feather tosses. One will drop a feather while flying and the others compete to see who can snatch it. The winner climbs higher and drops it again.

Growing up minus iPod, computer or cell phone, I had playmates that wriggled from under rocks and crawled on sycamore branches.  I named the bluejays, sparrows and mourning doves that visited the back porch.  My curiosity investigated the tastes of sweet clover and crab apples.

Running to feel the breeze like birds, I tried to catch squirrels who disappeared in oak trees.  The fragrance of  roses, daisies and geraniums pressed into my palms and translated their colors.  Thankfully I did not suffer from what Richard Louv has named Nature Deficit Disorder.

Dr. Claude Arnett, a psychiatrist in Sacramento works with nature to cure children with mental health issues. Their nervous system and ability to handle stress require natural experiences in order to develop.  He explains how at first children must learn to scan the landscape, then target something specific such as a moving beetle or butterfly.  In this way children learn to move fluidly between the two skills of field and target focus. Television and video games only teach target-oriented attention and ignore the process. 

When troubled children spend time in natural environments, their mental world brightens and they develop a greater elasticity and come to him more flexible and adaptive, he says.

If children watch animals at play, they also learn ways to enjoy simple toys. Feathers provide a variety of ways to play and write.

Creative Write:  Write about discovering a simple pleasure in nature. Did you collect rocks for a particular shape or color?  How many ways could you use a feather?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Playing with Numbers

Do you coast in 4 5 7 beats?

Make mathematical magic excite your writing.  Follow numbers.  To begin your arithmetic awarensss of the day, write about your first experience with numbers as a child.  What's the first house number you recall?  Did you keep time to the music by counting?

observe shapes and images
Follow the digits.  Collect house numbers. Discover numbers and word connections. Notice signage. Search for numbers written out like two instead of 2. 

What mysteries await above the 9s?

Count  groupings of flowers,  the number of individuals in a crowd, or combinations of seagulls and cormorants.

Pursue numbers to uncover secrets and make discoveries.  Add, subtract, multiply and divide.
Do these numbers make you feel like running?

Count petals, tendrils and lines.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Enter the Darkness

Creative work is never easy.  It becomes  unpredictable with its own surpises. It teaches us what we did not know and pushes our unfolding.

Once having traversed the threshold, the artist moves in a dream landscape of curiosity, where fluid, ambiguous forms arise. He or she must survive a succession of trials.

Joseph Campbell described the artist as a hero.  He meant the person of myth who embarks on a journey of discovery — including self-discovery. A hero is the mythological figure who risks in the pursuit of a full life.

Campbell wrote:

You enter the forest

at the darkest point,

where there is no path.

Where there is a way or path,

it is someone else's path.

You are not on your own path.

If you follow someone else's way,

you are not going to realize

your potential.

- from A Joseph Campbell Companion

Writers must dive into an interior world and then find the courage to reveal the discoveries in their art.

Creative Write:  Visit the darkness, channels, and textures of the unexplored mind.  Avoid trails previously taken. Move within discomfort to seek something entirely new and refreshing. Sparkle and revel in discovery. Write with curiosity and courage.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Write an Encounter


We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.
And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.
That was long ago. Today neither of them is alive,
Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.
O my love, where are they, where are they going?
The flash of a hand, streak of movement,rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.
~ Czeslaw Milosz ~

Notice the series of action-packed words. The six lines contain everything needed to stir your emotions.  Hope arrives in the last three lines.

Creative write:  Write of an encounter.  Begin in the middle with action. Show emotion and reveal the intensity of experience by writing:   Suddenly . . .

End with an image that lets the reader feel the effects of a flash, streak, and rustle.

A Writing Ceremony

The Japanese tea ceremony honors four guiding principles of discipline: to seek harmony (wa) with nature and other human beings; to show respect (kei) for all things and people; to revere the purity (sei) of a clean and orderly environment; and to enter a state of tranquility (jau) amid the chaotic world in which we live.

In the environment of the tearoom, the unadorned beauty of natural materials reveals itself in utensils and furnishings.  Within a calm and orderly atmosphere, guests show respect for their host and objects used to prepare and serve the tea.

Careful attention paid to the craftsmanship in the objects creates appreciation.  A poetic message inscribed on a hanging scroll sets the theme and refers to the season.

The host pays attention to the needs of his guests.  Nothing extraneous is present in the room nor in the conversation.  No unkind words are spoken.  Tragedies and turmoil of the outside world are left outside the garden gates.

For the moment, host and guest reflect upon the time given together - ichigo, ichie - each moment only once.

Creative Write:  Consider how the above ceremony might apply to your daily writing practice.

Do you seek harmony with nature and other human beings in your choice of subject matter?  In what ways does your writing show respect?  How will you bring order to your writing environment?

When you write, what helps to bring you a state of tranquility so you leave the chaotic world behind? As author, how do you pay attention to the needs of your audience of readers?  Will you make the most of each moment the pen flows on paper or fingers push keys?

Write your own principles of writing practice.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Amuse Yourself with Endings

Take a look at the endings of three stories or poems you have written.  Rewrite the endings in five different ways listed below.  Begin the stories or poems again from those perspectives.

Twist the last paragraph into a surprise.
Have an abrupt end with no reason.
Let the story ravel out.
End with a question.
Leave it to the reader to decide.

Have fun and amuse yourself with new possibilities.

Write Beyond Cages

I feel frustration and remorse when viewing panthers, lions and tigers at the zoo.  How can one cage an animal of such ferocity and determination?  I design ways to rescue these creatures during each visit.  Off we'd go.  But then what?

I decided to look deeper and observe their magnificence with wonder.  Who is caged and who is not?  Who is looking out and who is looking in?  I delve deeper into myself and write my inner thoughts to avoid caged feelings.

How will you write beyond cages and ride life's storms in search for wisdom?  Create a metaphor and pursue it.

Creative Write:  Consider who is looking out, looking in and write from within.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Writer's "B" Word

"Sometimes the words come freely; sometimes we sit in silence gnawing on a brush."  
                                        from Wen Fu by Lu Chi

Too many words have flown across the page about . . . "writer's block."  Even Lu Chi, who wrote in the third century about the use of language, discovered frustration when writing. In his work on the art of writing in ancient Chinese, he discussed the joys and problems that faced both writer and reader.

Sam Hamill's translation expresses, "It is like following a branch to find the trembling leaf.  Like following a stream to find the spring.  With writing often the travel is level and sometimes rocky and steep.  The struggle and course lead the mind into mysteries."

Lu Chi follows nature's ways. He reasons that, "perhaps only a single blossom from a whole bouquet will bloom."

Would a bird feel nature block?  Would water flow not seek its own level?

The struggle and course lead the mind into mysteries.  If the pen does not leave the page, there's no stopping point.

I don't believe in the "b" word.  Timing might cause feelings of frustration.  The story is not ready.  Taking time for incubation and using distraction will uncover additional ideas.  Wax the refrigerator.

Instead of trying to plan everything, free the pen to write whatever comes. You can always write something once out of the pen's way.

Moving from one writing project to another teases the mind.  Always have one or two pieces going so you can transfer attention among them.  You'll amaze yourself at the results.

Silliness and laughter assist also. Play tricks on yourself for diversion and laugh in words.

According to Lu Chi, "Know when to lift your eyes and when to scrutinize."

Promise yourself not to believe in the "b" word.  Copy paragraphs from your favorite writers.

Creative Write:   How do you trick yourself to write beyond anxiety? What do patience and persistence sound and look like?  Share one solution to the "b" word.

Migration into I am

We began as a mineral.
We emerged into plant life and into
the animal state, and then to being human.

And always we have forgotten our former states
except in early spring
when we dimly recall being green again.
. . .
So humankind is being led along
an evolving course through his migration
of intelligences, and though we seem
to be sleeping, there is an inner wakefulness
that directs the dream.

It will eventually startle us back
to the truth of who we are.
                          - Rumi

Read through the selected stanzas of Rumi's poem.

Add to it: I am  -   two words to lead you into writing your "migration of intelligence."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Perceptions of Change

A Sufi story tells of an elder gentleman reflecting upon his life.  He recalls, "When a young man I had fire and courage.  I wanted to shake everyone awake.  I planned to change the world."

He then recalls that in mid-life he awakened one day and recognized that half of his life remained.  So far, he had changed no one.  He felt now he needed enough strength to change those close around him who needed changing.

Returning to the present he realized all he had only the strength to change himself and his reactions to others.  That acknowledgment brought a smile to his face.

Creative Write:  Write your own story about change.  How do you deal with unanticipated events?  Do you try to affect others who don't want to change?  Write your perceptions for a change.

Forgotten Places and Friends

Let souvenirs become a springboard for stories or poems.  They encapsulate experience.

Stir imaginative juices today by selecting three souvenirs to write about.

Place the mementos near your writing area.  Touch them. Move them around to spark moments of memory.  Why did you select them?  What location do they bring to mind?

Souvenirs also recall friendships.  Write about individuals whose memories inhabit your selections.

Do reflections on the items invite longing for a return to their source?  Did you keep one as a symbol of a negative experience to remind you never to return?

Is an unfulfilled desire part of the story?  Add sensory details to enrich the narrative and bring the reader into the moment.

Let writing travel to forgotten places and friends.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

My Father's Birthday Celebration

When my father's birthday on March 23 rolls around each year, I write him a letter. I honor his birthday by wondering what he would think of the current year.  This year marks his 122 Birthday. He moved on to another dimension on November 22, 1977.

Last evening on March 23, we attended a celebration of butterflies at the San Diego Zoo's Safari Park.  Butterflies teach us the vitality of a short life and to live in the moment.  One must become patient to photograph their quickness.  After the amazement of following fluttering vibrance and the challenges of photography, we moved to a pavilion by the lagoon for dinner. Bats flew in the rafters, whistling ducks and white pelicans cavorted in the water for our entertainment.

We dined with three generations of nature lovers.  The gentleman seated next to me celebrated his birthday. His mother (93 years young), sister and son with their spouses rounded out our table.  Enthusiasm circulated in conversation around the table with a variety of topics and discussions.

Butterfly hearts
My father would have loved the intergenerational exchanges with various perspectives. Eight individuals who had grown up in Connecticut, Idaho, Los Angeles, and spent time in San Diego united on a common theme of a birthday celebration.  We didn't agree on all topics but offered creative ideas and solutions when an issue didn't meet a personal view.

The evening reminded me of many gatherings where my father had interacted to quell stormy conversations using humor and possibilities.  He could light up a room without calling attention to himself or listen to a cab driver and by the end of the trip know his life story.  My father loved to tease out the best in those he moved among. He would shine their strengths back to them.

The internet, i-pads, tweets, and cellphones would have held my father's fascination. Yet, one evening spent conversing with diverse individuals who truly wanted to explore life would have amused him more. The difficult part of missing those who have died involves a sadness because they cannot share with us simple experiences they would have loved the most.

I write to my father today not of the chaos of the world nor the presidential race ahead.  I don't focus on world affairs gone sour.  All would intrigue and he'd have solutions.

With a fountain pen he treasured, I write in peacock blue ink details of the family we met after our butterfly encounter.  I can hear his chuckle and see the dimples as he smiles.

Happy 122!

Creative Write:  Write to a relative or friend no longer with you. Share an experience that would make them smile and laugh.

Investigate a Mystery

"Mystery is the itch you can't scratch, the driving force of spiritual and creative journeys."  
- John Loori

Mystery sets in motion the basic questions of our existence.  It invites us to peek around the next corner and move into the darkness.

What are you curious about?  Do you have a creative problem to solve or journey of discovery to take?  Investigate aspects of the mysterious in writing today.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Springing into Words

Spring activities whirl on wings and feet. Sprouting magenta, gold and crimson, flowers arouse bees.  While birds float notes on the breeze, lizards scoot and shimmy into crevices.

Writers may discover opportunities around each sycamore and tendril if all the senses remain poised.

Take your notepad on a hike around the block.  Look up for nests and cloud arrangements. Listen and take in scents.

Capture activity and spring into words.

Where's the lizard?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Reason, Will and Desire Meet in a Bar . . .

Plato said the human soul is composed of reason, will and desire.

Imagine these three as characters. Give them names. How does reason dress?  What does will do for a profession?  Describe desire's car of choice.  What would each order if they met in a bar?

Create a scene.  Show how they interact during a confrontation.

What happens when temptation teases?

"Drop a Critter into a Poem."

Happy Birthday Billy Collins!  

The poet Stephen Dunn writes, "We seem to always know where we are in a Billy Collins poem, but not necessarily where he is going. I love to arrive with him at his arrivals. He doesn't hide things from us, as I think lesser poets do. He allows us to overhear, clearly, what he himself has discovered."

Billy takes the ordinary and adds humor or gives it a twist.  Enjoy his take on how to encourage students nudge a poem into creation.

Introduction to Poetry
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
               by Billy Colllins

Creative Write:    Take a tip from Billy and drop a critter into your writing today.  Try a squirrel or a songbird. Choose an insect . GIve it a name, let it speak and probe its way out.  Don't worry about producing poetry, just follow your creature's lead.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

One Liners into Story

Overheard conversations and one liners often lead to story possibilities. Collect fragments of dialogue, sentences from advertising, and signs.

Practice with these:

fear circles inside her testing its . . .

. . . written on his body in scars . . .

. . . wearing anger like a flame. . .

He descended the stairs, memories creaking with each board . . .

Living within the illusion of . . .

Write a Who Dun It

By the sea on a blustery spring day, someone is missing.

Dctective H. E Ron called to the scene
A message on the water

Unreliable witnesses

Tackle the above photos or take your own four without planning ahead.  Notice what's going on around you.  Snap them. 

Creative Write:  Include a crime scene to set a mood.  Show a situation from a character's point of view.  Add a twist to the action. Resolve it or let the reader decide.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring Sprints

Dior Mathis, sprinter from University of Oregon

Happy Spring!   Spring spells track season.  Sprinters position themselves in the blocks.  When the gun sounds, they run. No thought - energy and determination push them onward.  

Position yourself as a word sprinter and don't think about writing.  Sprint across the keyboard or with your best flow pen.  Let your words race ahead of your mind.

Try shorter sprints first.  Start in the middle of an idea and write to the end of the page.  Try . . . and then the car swerved.

Begin again by writing an emotion you'd like to train.  Get into a rhythm and write with it for two pages.  Stop when you do not want your words to end.

Return to the starting line; this time no blocks.  Write about momentum and freedom for four pages. Hit the finish line with your arms in the air!

Celebrations and Ceremonies

Ceremonies become central events and punctuate our lives from birth onward.

During your life you have observed or participated in numerous initiations, weddings, and memorial services.  Maybe you have experienced housewarmings, divorce celebrations, and even ghost banishings?

Write about a ritual you celebrated. Bring in other participants.  Alter the facts and create a scene with drama and humor.

Monday, March 19, 2012


"He thought of the hour in that other southern garden (Capri) when the call of a bird did not, so to speak, break off at the edge of his body, but was simultaneously outside and in his innermost being, uniting both into one uninterrupted space in which, mysteriously protected, only one single piece of purest deepest consciousness remained."  Rainer Maria Rilke

Write about your perception of boundaries.  Do you feel an intimacy with what's around you?  Does a space exist between you and something or someone else?  What does that feel like?

Consider surfaces and hands grasping items.  Explore the borders of presence and a hug.  Where do you notice disharmony and the shimmer of heat or cold air?  Delive into body sensations and music. Taste in textures.

Examine the border experience in writing.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


Where will you travel with these words in writing practice today?





Grilled cheese and cranberry sandwich




Jasmine tea



Create your own list with NOUNS and VERBS.  Remember Mark Twain's advice about killing adjectives.  Avoid adverbs also.  The noun provides the driver. Let the verb excelerate the sentence into motion.

In My Shoes

Between saying and doing many a pair of shoes is worn out. ~Italian Proverb

A Tibetan teacher describes practice as the wearing out of a old pair of shoes. With the soles worn thin, ego and delusion leave. The more time spent in writing practice, the more insights gained. 

Revelations arrive by pushing words into one another.  When we risk and attempt new ideas, confidence increases. Like a comfortable pair of shoes with mileage, the words will begin to energize us to keep moving.

Creative write:  Choose a pair of shoes: running shoes, strappy heels, construction boots, sandals or a pair of your choice.  What adventures will you walk into today?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Word Nourishment

When you think of word nourishment, what comes to mind?  Does your writing involve all your senses and include the richness of imagery?  If so, you nurture others with this style of writing.  They become fed by having the ability to move into the sensory world you have created. 

Readers will recall the great chef you became and the food of words you offered.  Their stomachs will fill as taste buds tingle.

Consider meals you have spent with family and friends.  Focus on the details of outdoor cooking time in the summer. Recall the sizzle of meat upon the grill, tang in the air that floated barbecue sauce and sweet scents to the table.  Have you tried to prepare ethnic dishes from around the world? Many experiences nourish a life of words and food.

Recipes inspire word usage in condensed forms.  If you read and follow the directions, cooking flows easily.  Similar to writing, you can ad lib and add to taste also.  That's the fun of a free flow of words and fixing a meal.

Write about cooking and spice it up.


Love !   What other word shouts such intensity of feelings?  The word alone captures a serious tone for some and devastating dread for others.  Humor abounds in the varieties of love.  Enchantment moves through creativity for love to exist in all art forms. Writing, painting, sculpture and music present love's metaphors.  

Everyone has experienced one or several colors of love's kaleidoscopic views.  

Stage a writing Love In today and explore.  If you begin by writing the letters  L O V E  where will they scurry on a writing excursion? 

Let these one-liners intrigue with humor and possibilities:
"Love: The most fun you can have without laughing."

"If you want me to fall for you, you got to give me something worth tripping over."

"Think of love as a card game: first, get rid of the jokers, throw away the hearts, keep the diamonds... then try to get a king"

"If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?"

"If you're not willing to sound stupid, you're not worthy of falling in love."

Search for L O V E in today's writing!

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Nurturing Process

"At some fundamental level this tree and I are made of the same rhythms.  We share a common understanding, available in the meeting place of touch.  Reaching out, I find a simple way to begin a conversation.  Coming close, I offer my hands in greeting."  - Stephanie Kaza

Plants, in their patience, their rootedness, their reach toward the sun, have much to teach us about how to live.  We communicate and commune with plants in subtle ways.  They provide the oxygen we breathe.  Then take the carbon dioxide from our lungs into their cells.

What can a plant form tell you about your own life? Consider ways you drink water and the ways you drink in light.   Can you find any parallels to photosynthesis within your body?

Creative write:   Write of the ways you have cared for a plant.  Did it thrive?  What did you learn?  How is this like nurturing friendship or caring for a family member?  Where will a focus on nurturing lead your writing today?


Make a list of "what was I thinkings."  Then write how you benefitted from the experiences.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Experience An Odyssey

"Our finest moments most likely occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy or unfulfilled.  For it is only then propelled by our discomfort that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers."   - M. Scott Peck

Ulysses ventured from his island home of Ithaka after his role in the Trojan War.  He tackled exhaustion, monsters, magic, and adventures during his journey.  Self-discoveries abounded that changed him.

Set out on a writing adventure that delves into unfulfilled aspects of your life. What metaphor will launch you on a search for undiscovered regions in writing?  Where will you travel for challenges and experiences?

Will you trek up mountains and hike into forests?  Does a jungle adventure provide the backdrop for unusual?  Would an island filled with distractions and hallucinations create stimulation?   What would you discover in the Icelandic region?

Develop your own region with monsters and magic.  Set a scene of discomfort and write into and beyond it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Three C's

"Chaos is the beginning, simplicity is the end."  - M.C. Escher

Three C's to consider in your writing today - Creativity. Chaos. Control.  Let creativity play at the meeting place of control and chaos.   Provide a cafe setting with tables and yellow umbrellas. Let the breeze and bird song mingle with dappled sunlight.

Chaos rages in. Control sips coffee and breathes in the shine of day.  Where will Creativity sneak in?  What if you gave each a name and had them interact during breakfast?

Let your imagination play!

Writing about Cars

Describe your favorite car with all its details.  What personality does your car represent? How does its 'emotions' impact your day?  If it's named for an animal, does it act like one?

Based on your description, create a dialogue in the front seat observed from passengers in the back.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Covering up

"You can't get away from yourself by going to a booze-bazaar."  - Elbert Hubbard

Your characters can do a great job of covering.  They can avoid, drink, gamble, or run away from their frustrations and fears.  Covers are endless: from avoidance behaviors to self-righteousness.

Developing a character demands more creative diversions than painkillers like television, the internet, a hobby or group.

Create a character who loves to cover.  How does he or she run away and join a "booze bazaar"?

Maybe your character rides a train into a fantasy world?
                         Becomes a standup comic in a nursing home?
                                                   Takes a voyage to a foreign land?

Write a few paragraphs with imagery to support the covering behavior.

Write about Difficulties

"Somebody gets into trouble, gets out if it again.  People love that story. They never get tired of it."
                                                      - Kurt Vonnegut

Get your character in trouble.  Create challenges and struggles.  Bring up the difficult.

What if your character has:

Difficulty understanding something.

Difficulty listening.

Difficulty communicating with someone.

Difficulty making informed choices.

Make your own list of troubles to write about.  Explore difficulties.

Life Story Writing

"To write memoir is to understand and make sense of experience, to give a life an organization, to discover the metaphors of one’s narrative. It’s not simply to say, 'this happened to me, then this happened to me, then this next thing happened to me.' " ~ Sue William Silverman

Begin your life story with an intense experience, a unifying metaphor, and sounds from nature. Write from your sense of the situation, beyond the chronological order.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Choose Three Authors

Select three authors. Choose a poet, an essayist, and a novelist. Copy in handwriting a paragraph or stanza from each.

Take a break after copying the three.  Do a freewrite and see what arrives through the flow of the pen.

Did their styles flow into your insights?