Monday, April 30, 2012

A Lunatic, a Lover, and a Poet

"The lunatic, the lover and the poet are of imagination all compact." 
 - William Shakespeare

We view these characters in Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream,"  from which the line is taken.  

What is the world of the imagination for you?    Where does it nurture and take you?

In a lunatic's mind a dance occurs among demons, daring and dread.  The lover's heart and soul fill with sensory wonder.  Sounds, sights, scents and tastes become heightened.  The poem imagines beyond his or her reality and uses it to write about the world.

Writers require this multiple personality to achieve a jounce of words into sentences that propel into paragraphs and pages.

Pulls of extremes, spells of things, passion, courage and persistence define a writer's life.  To live life on one's own terms requires intensity and perseverance. Once patience settles in, we write on and on.

Creative Write:  Consider stories that have shaped your life.  How can you explore them from the perspective of a lunatic, lover and poet?

Wrangle with Troubles

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've 
brought a big bat. I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”  
- Dr.  Seuss

What troubles will you knock down with words today?   Challenge your weaknesses; expand strengths. Pick a fight with troubles. Spark, joust, wrangle with words.  Jump into the fray.  

Become a cowboy, Ninja or Samauri.   Move into action.

Tangle with troubles and downplay any weaknesses you feel. 

Engage with words and blow a few bubbles,
Write until you have conquered your troubles.
Smash 'em, slice and swarm until you agree,
When writing with vigor, troubles will flee.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What's waiting to come out in writing?

Do you have a tickling inside that wants to come out in words?   Is a subject or theme rattling around in your brain?  Maybe you have written bits and pieces of the story, essay or poem?

Let those feelings, thoughts and meanings express themselves in an outline or freewrite.

Have you ever wondered what time travel might involve?  Create a situation and delve into it.

Do you wonder about life on another planet?

What if you became a character from your favorite novel and went beyond the book's ending?

Mine for new ideas.  Discover what's waiting to come out in writing.

Writing About Gifts

The way we give and receive gifts indicates a great deal about ourselves. It takes time, thoughtfulness, and creativity to select a present for someone we care about. Often the present becomes a symbol of friendship or involves an item to fill a specific need.  

On other occasions, the gift selection feels mandatory and takes less effort.  The gift of our presence for someone in need also requires thought and skill.  

Receiving a gift that has no meaning requires a delicate response. Self-awarensss and empathy run through the exchange process.

Write about gift giving and receiving.  Begin with a present you did not appreciate at first.  Why did it gain in meaning?  Or did it represent something you're still attempting to resolve?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Taking a Detour

If I have given my all and still do not win, I haven't lost. Others might remember winning or losing; I remember the journey. 
- Apolo Anton Ohno

Recall a time when you did not meet your own expectations.   Consider a relationship, sport or any life event that had an end result.  

Don't think win or lose. Consider the journey.

When you probe your memories, write about the details of the process you took to where you wanted to go. 

If you didn't get where you planned, where did you arrive?  In reflection, what did it do for you to take a detour?

Human Nature

Does human behavior fascinate you?  Do you feel confused by individuals who reveal unpredictability?  Does the complexity of someone's inability to change annoy or amuse?

Delve into human nature.  Search your mental bookshelves for five of your favorite characters.  What makes them memorable?  Do their strengths or flaws intrigue?  How do they experience powerful emotions or overcome tragedies?

Choose five aspects of your favorite characters to combine in one.  Now place that character in a scene sitting on a bench at a park.  Your character observes a thief stealing an elderly lady's purse across the lawn.  How does your character react?  What if your character sees the thief at a coffee shop the next day?

Play with character behavior!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Find Your Funny Bone

Defining humor and how to write about it creates the first challenge. Humor relates directly to the sensitivity of one’s funny bone for the nuances in life. The discovery of humor in unlikely situations takes talent.

What makes me laugh might not do the same for someone else. I don’t give up a chance to make a humorous connection in my search for silly because laughter’s my buddy. I humor on.

Humor must have evolved as a survival skill. Imagine primal humans hunting all day and suddenly a
sabre-toothed tiger charged from behind a bush. One hunter said to the other, “Distract him while I run back to the fire and get help.”   Almost any situation can lead to a twinge of humor . . . for someone.

Dave Barry, a universally appealing humor writer, feels humor relates to fear and despair. The series, M*A*S*H, delved into these stressors of life and played with dark humor. Having the ability to add a humorous twist to any tragic situation, Shakespeare must have had strong stomach muscles from chuckling as he wrote. Even scientific research has shown the benefits of laughter in the healing process.

If we didn’t have laughter to keep us buoyant in a world that twirls way beyond our control, gravity certainly would keep us grounded. We need to stimulate our funny bones to release fears and anxieties. As Dave Barry says about humor writing, “A, keep it moving, and B, spend a lot of time writing it. And C, after you're done, show it to somebody.” I’d add, show it to someone who likes to laugh.

Creative Write: Find humor in a serious situation. Lewis Grizzard said when you write humor, you only have to look at the world from the front of your eyelids forward and soon you’ll see something funny to write about.

Writing Beyond Despair

She was cleaning - there is always that to do - when she found, at the top of the closet,
his old silk vest.  She called me to look at it, unrolling it carefully like something live might fall out. 
. . .    from the poem, Black Silk by Tess Gallagher

Living with grief once it has entered in its irreversible way presents challenges for an upbeat writer.  How do we show a moment of grief to grasp its emotional tug and resist entanglement in despair?

Choose a piece of clothing.  Write about what is present to show what never leaves.  Stay in a buoyant mood to reveal the joy of recall.

Let something live fall out onto the page.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Capture the Unknown

Anne Lamott writes, "If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must.  Otherwise you'll just rearrange furniture in rooms you've already been in."

What does it mean to break into the unknown in writing? Consider the biggest risk you can take and  possibility of losing a fear to which you've grown accustomed.

Seek out and capture the unknown in your writing today.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Moment of Awe

In Japanese, the term, “yugen” approaches an appreciation for the subtle and profound. It can exist in a suggestion such as a few brush strokes or through images in words. Something arouses an awakening of inner thoughts and feelings. 

A moment of awe may arouse a reverence for nature. The next level requires an expression in words.

During a morning run by the Willamette river, I heard a rustle in the bushes followed by a splash behind me. An osprey lifted from the water with a trout in its talons. It flew so near I felt the air stirred by wings, then a reflection from its eyes. 

When the bird sailed by, my eyes caught the attention of a woman riding her bicycle toward me. We connected in the next exchange of a series we knew no camera could capture.

Creative Write: Write about a moment of awe with all its connections.

Benchs of Story

Choose benches as a writing theme today.

Include an experience that features a bench or benches.

Create a conflict.
Discover a left item.
Write a note for discovery.

Enjoy benches of possibility for storytelling.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Write in a Flow

What happens in the writer’s mind to prevent the word flow? Most of the time it centers around frustration and fear. Finishing a piece appears more important than getting there. All of a sudden nothing happens. Anxiety takes over.  

In Taoist literature a concept exists called wei wu wei. It translates “doing without doing.” With writing a conscious need to achieve presents at every moment. It often interrupts the process. When one relents and flows into the doing the anxiety clears and a deeper wisdom takes over. The mind and body create together without the angst about outcome.

Spend time watching bees or hummingbirds. They move from flower to flower. There’s no finish line, just moving, doing, and gathering.

Writers need a form of exercise to release frustration and train the mind, spirit and body. Runners, bicyclists or those who practice yoga, understand the “flow” that occurs when mind and body dissolve into movement. One step at a time, one pose into another, one revolution of the pedals and process takes over. The breath assists to create a rhythm and the brain releases chemicals to drown the frustration and fear.

Translate this to writing.

Regardless of your mood, pick up the pen or tap the keys. Explore your relationship to writing. Discover what to say while writing to say it.  Mental uncertainties will clear and you will move deeper into the experience. Suspense energizes and will reveal meaning. 

Create Write: What troubles you the most about writing? Spend time in exercise, then return to the paper or keyboard. Write for 15 minutes without stopping. Suspend judgments and feel the freedom.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Explore Without Modifiers

Writing that communicates like a movie camera eliminates telling the reader what to think.  It records the situation in sights, sounds, scents and tastes.  This camera has no adjectives to clutter nouns and adverbs to rob verbs of their intensity.  It pans the landscape of ideas with angles and occasionally flips upside down for perspectives.

When writing, notice the space beyond and between objects you describe.  How can you bring in more texture and connections?  Let nature inform your writing and fire your curiosity.

Creative Write:  Explore your feelings against a backdrop of the natural world.  Avoid using abstractions like hope and love and beautiful.  Dive into your mental landscape and show it to the reader.

Celebrate Earth Day in Writing

Nature always wears the colors of the spirit. 
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

The celebration of Earth Day began 42 years ago to encourage respect for life on earth and highlight concerns about pollution of the soil, air, and water.  Now 140 countries observe Earth Day with outdoor activities, street fairs, and television programs that focus on environmental issues.

Immerse, amuse and amaze yourself with nature today. Do you take our planet for granite?   How can you make a difference in support of Mother Earth?  
Write the colors of the spirit you feel around you.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Impossible Things

"There is no use trying," said Alice, "one can't believe impossible things."
"I dare say you haven't had much practice, said the Queen. "When I was your age I always did it for half an hour a day.  Why sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."     From Alice in Wonderland by Lewis G. Carroll

Every writer facing the blank screen or white page needs to stretch in that first effort.  Fingers reach and tickle the keys or the hand selects a pen to send words across the page.  Why wait for a notion to arise?  Ideas sprout when we jump right in.

Ellen Gilchrist feels every writer faces two questions in the beginning: can it be done and can I do it?  She believes those questions precede all risk-taking.   

I suggest - Why ask those questions at all?  They get in the way of the adventure that awaits!

Imagine an Armed Patrol of blue daisies protecting your writing skills, encouraging creativity and word flow.  Now, there's nothing to fear.  Write in and out of an image that feels perplexing.  

If the daisies begin to twirl and whirl off their stems, they will arrange themselves at your writing pad or keyboard.  Each settles right in, does a dance or jabbers with a smile and provides whispers and mysteries.  Will you follow along?

Creative Write: Consider the photograph above. Write for fifteen minutes about impossible things.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Optimism and Well-Being

Robert Louis Stephenson wrote, "There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. Happiness does not need to become the goal. We need a variety of experiences and moods to write about."

In the 1980’s  Martin E.P. Seligman adopted the term, “positive psychology.”  After years of studying the “learned helplessness” that characterized depression he began to study how individuals could learn optimism. Seligman felt a search for “authentic happiness” made more sense than  relying on psychology’s one-sided focus on illness and disorders.

Why not study optimism, courage and perseverance rooted in well-being? Consider how to gather simple pleasures. The process itself will attract feelings of exultation.

When nature provides a feast, take time to savor all the flavors. Everyone needs to awaken to the positivity that explodes in blossom and sky. Take a pleasure interlude from your busy life to revel in the marvels around you. Squeeze out joy and appreciation for the living, growing creatures, plants, and trees.

Creative Write:
  Write about  "learned helplessness," optimism or courage. Move through a variety of moods to search for well-being.

Write about Objects

What are boxes and what can you put inside? What needs to move outside? If you hide something inside, an opportunity to discover magic and mystery waits. How long can it wait?

Boxes also mean limitation but Jack-in-the-Boxes permit "out springing," Then discovery occurs.

From East of Eden by John Steinbeck:

You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said,
"Why don't you make something for me."
I asked what you wanted, and you said,
"A box.'
"What for?"
"To put things in"
"What things?"
"Whatever you have," you said.
"Well, here's your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts - the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation. And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you and it's still not full."

Creative Write:   Write about an object that has meaning for you.  Describe it in all its dimensions and see where the freewriting takes you.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Playing in Poetry

Playing with another poet's work inspires possibilities.  Type a favorite poem to feel the rhythm and pay attention to line breaks. Delving into a poem's structure and replacing nouns and verbs assists the  process. 

Take a look at Pablo Neruda's poem. Write his line followed by your idea for a line.  Change the meaning with different nouns and verbs. Use repetition in varying ways. Follow the rhythm or change the sequences to fit as your mind takes over.


          by Pablo Neruda

Poetry is white 
Poetry smells green

it comes dripping out of the water 
it rises flying into the sky

it gets wrinkled and piles up 
it moves winged and floats up

We have to stretch out the skin of this planet 
We try to reach into the clouds of the universe

We have to iron the sea in its whiteness 
We need to unwrap the sky in its blueness

The hands go on and on 
The feet kick higher and highr

and so things are made 
and fins erupt

the hands make the world every day
The feet continue to awaken the world

fire unites with steel 
ice creates unity

linen, canvas and calico come back
iris, daisy and geranium bloom

from combat in the laundry
from combustion in the clouds

and from the light a dove is born 
after twilight a seagull snickers

purity comes back from the soap suds. 
Intuition surges on a wave's bubbles 
Creative Write:
 After interacting and replacing the essence in the lines with your ideas, combine what you have written and do a freewrite to each of your own lines.  What evolves?

Make us Drool

Spend a day writing with taste as your focus. See what you can develop using only the sense of taste and texture.

List emotions and feelings and see what might correspond in tastes to go with them.

Have you tasted the cranberry of curiosity?
Did you bite into the mushy apple of apathy?
With the grief of grapefruit, the tang races to the back of the tongue.
Consider a vanilla afternoon where you add malt to perk up the flavor.

How does your morning taste? Like pear juice with spritzes of almond?

What do rum-flavored buttercream frosting and meringue inspire?

Creative Write: Share your creative tastes below. Make us drool!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Write a Situation

"A personal narrative is a mental journey and meditation of the mind.  It moves through thoughts and feelings to a small, subtle realization.  It is structured by the progression forward of personal truth." 
Phillip Lopate

Choose a situation you have experienced that provokes emotion and questioning.  How might you make visible this emotional a "slice of life" and combine experience with opinion?  Begin in the middle of the situation and see where it takes you.  Provide a different slant on the experience.

Write in first person, present tense.

Set the stage:

   Where is this happening?
   What's going to happen?
   Why is this happening?
   Add insights and a new perspective.

Bring events into sharp focus and color them with emotion.

Hook the reader with a beginning sentence. Leave with the reader savoring the ending and wondering beyond it. Discover your personal truth.

Organizing Memory

"How is it possible to bring order out of memory?  I should like to begin at the beginning, patiently, like a weaver at his loom.  This is remembrance, revisitation; and names are keys that open corridors no longer fresh in the mind, but nonetheless familiar in the heart." - Beryl Markham, West with the Night

Recall three individuals who flow through your life and memories. Write their names and their influence on your creativity and writing.  Consider one person whose negative influence provided positive results.

Remember a line or two from each and write from there.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Get Ready to Artify Your Day

Before you fall asleep tonight prepare for an artful day. Write five ways you will turn your life into an art form the following day.  Keep a notepad by your bedside for ideas if you awaken during the night.

Begin the day by awakening from sleep with slow movements. Keep your eyes closed and encourage your other senses to awareness. Breathe in and bring to mind your favorite aroma. Open your eyes and smile.  Listen for bird song and pick up rhythm from the natural world.  

Make awareness of movement, connections in lines and shapes, and color a way to energize your writing time.  Focus on the details of everything around you.

Select a variety of colors and fabric textures to wear.  Go for layers.  

Greet the first person you see with joy and an artful comment.  

Spend your smile frequently throughout the day.

Choose your meals for health benefits and tastes.

When you focus on writing, select words that decorate your sentences with action and detail.

Discover additional ways to artify your day!

Connections to Story

What if you happened upon a bus stop and noticed a bouquet of flowers?  As you walked to the corner, your eye wandered toward three hearts painted on a mail collection box.  Where might your writing take you from there? 

Ask a few questions to propel a story or poem.  Did he leave the flowers for her and create a pathway to a surprise?  In anger, did she leave his flowers at the bus stop's bench?  Does someone leave the bouquet each day for a needy passenger?

Make connections of your own as you observe the events of the day.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spargle a Spreet

"The English language can be so funny.  Waffle looks like raffle but sounds like awful.  Plough sounds like plow, while slough can sound like sluff.  Stressed spelled backward is dessert; evil spelled backward is live."  - Gayle Brandeis from FRUITFLESH

Mess with sound, syntax, and spelling as you play with words.  Write nouns into verbs and if you must use an adjective, make it ridicule the noun.  Verb up and avoid adverbs at all costs.

Do not make sense.  Make typos.  Use numbers in place of vowels - v4w2ls.

Grab ideas from:     "One gust of wind and Santa becomes Satan. A slip of the pen and pears turn into pearls."  -  Lorrie Moore

What frills you garble in herbrithic time will tungle the brain cells to spreckle.  So, spargle a spreet.

Ponder Bridges

Bridges join separate pieces of land and enhance their separateness.  They invite individuals from here to there and back again. Bridges become thresholds and turning points.  Often symbolic of danger, mystery and enchantment, they shine with possibilities for story.  

Spiders teach ways to span locations. Many bridges reveal similar lines.

In times of transition, bridges provide a view of what life looks like from another side of a river.

Bridges intrigue. They invite one to linger during the crossing, stop in the middle to feel the sway, and notice where the water meet the sky. 

What bridges have you crossed recently?

Tap into your intuition.  What bridge do you require right now?

H.W. Longfellow combines a threshold with a point in time in his poem, The Bridge

I stood upon the bridge at midnight,
As the clocks were striking the hour.

What happens next?

Creative Write:  Focus your attention on bridges today figuratively and realistically. Write an intention to cross, swim or discover a different journey from one bank to another.  Use Longfellow's lines to launch your story or poem.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Jumble Jamboree

Take a look at the lines below and circle words that appeal at first glance.  Then mix and match.  Begin your freewrite with nouns and launch into verbs.  

See where you go in ten minutes on your jumble jamboree.


The Write Habit

Habits are fine cobwebs then cables -  Spanish proverb

A habit involves three components: a stimulus followed by a routine and then a reward.  You already have the stimulus to write. Next, a writing routine requires nurture. The reward varies from a finished piece of writing to a published work.

If you write at a specified time for a definite period of time, the routine becomes habitual. Writers develop almost as much pleasure from anticipation of the writing routine as from the reward.  Looking forward to writing motivates.

Joy arrives at the completion of a piece of writing.

If you feel discomfort thinking about writing, change the routine to create an anticipation of fun that leads to a reward.  Writing prompts help in this area.  Make it a free flow and write whatever comes to mind. Moods change within a few words if judgments and goals are avoided.  

Just write and let the words mingle and move into wild territory. Soon, the "terroritory" parts of your brain will release and you can write forever.

Make your spring resolution to write for ten minutes a day. You'll become amazed at the results.

Promise yourself one day, then two.  Soon you'll be up to a week. Keep going for 21 days and don't stop until way into November. The writing habit will keep you going.

Like developing a muscle, you strengthen writing by exercising with words. 

Make an appointment each day and promise to show up and write.  Early morning writing works for some.  Try writing just before you snuggle into bed.  Vary your times and locations to notice how flexibility works for you.  Soon you will find your best writing time. 

Vary the location, engage your imagination and ability to link all your senses.  

Doodling with words liberates your writing zest. Wordling, when practiced daily, will energize the power of your mind and push your ingenuity to new heights. You will disappear into your deepest source of creativity and return refreshed with power renewed in thoughts and words.

Do you prefer a notebook and pen?  Does the computer feel easier?  Tap into both ways to energize writing.

A spiral bound book without a rigid spine provides flow from page to page.  Discover a pen that flows across the page. Fountain pens or rollerball pens are the best choice. Colored ink will spark imagery.  

If you begin on the computer, save the writing in a folder on the desk top.

How to begin:

Find your location and take a few moments to relax with several gentle breaths.

Write the date in the upper right-hand corner on each page. Date each session in this manner.

Allow yourself to become unstructured, playful and free to flow in any direction. Freewheel with your creative spirit!

When you begin, write a word at the top of your page. You could begin with a command such as, Astonish! or an emotion such as Eager. Write to the end of the page without stopping. In your next session, continue for ten minutes. No crossing out! Attempt longer writing sequences changing your command or emotion at the top of each page.

If you find a vacant spot, ask yourself, I think . . .I feel . . .If you stop again consider the opposites, I am not thinking of, I don't feel.

Write Impossible. Turn it into I'm Possible. Write with colors, smells, tastes, textures, times of day, sounds, and sights. Return to the words you wrote at the top of the page to spark your flow.

Lose yourself within the momentum of words and phrases. Write what spills from your pen with awareness and thrill. Feel the freedom of movement and power as your mind moves in each moment.

Forget your internal editor who wants to change words. Keep comfortable with the process like a river flowing over all obstacles in its path. Notice how your pen progresses and trust it. This will provide a foundation for your writing habit.

Stop writing only when you are in the middle of a surge of words. Stop when you feel so full of words you cannot write fast enough. Please never end your wordling session when you are frustrated or stuck. Write just one more word.

Conditioning yourself to keep writing will reinforce your positive habit. If you stop when you want to write more you will always feel an excitement to return.

Think of writing students in Shakekspeare's time advised to, "tatter your quill." Keep that feather tickling the page.

Creative Write: Get into the write habit.  Let go of what you think you know.  Just Write - Today is the first day of the rest of my writing life because . . .