Friday, November 30, 2012

Ode to Body Parts

. . . my feet were two fish made of wool,
two long sharks
sea blue, shot through
by one golden thread,
two immense blackbirds,
two cannons,
my feet were honored in this way
by these heavenly socks.
They were so handsome for the first time
my feet seemed to me unacceptable
like two decrepit firemen,
firemen unworthy of that woven fire,
of those glowing socks.
 - from Ode to my Socks by Pablo Neruda

An ode praises a person or object in ten lines. The Greeks used rhyme in irregular meter.  The English ode has 10-line stanzas that repeat and rhyme in the format of ABABCDECE.

Write to a body part that you take for granted.  An ear, a big toe, an elbow or knee might inspire a poem.  What do they need from you?

Choose a muscle with a musical quality like a rhomboid, intercostal, deltoid, or quadriceps.

Use the prompts below to generate ideas.  Play and make humor reign. Don't worry about format.

Ode to a body part:

l.    Salute it
2.   Describe its qualities.
3.   How does the part make you feel and why?
4.   Add a frustration
5.   What would you prefer in its place?
6.   Detail shape, color, texture
7.   What talent results from it?
8.   If it ran away how would you mourn?
9.   Would you exchange it for a different part?
10.  How would you write a want ad?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Finding Freedom

Freedom is actually a bigger game than power. Power is about what you can control. Freedom is about what you can unleash. 
- Harriet Rubin

Absolute liberty is absence of restraint. Responsibility is Restraint. Therefore, the ideally free individual is responsible to himself. - Henry Brooks Adams 

"This place will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth, wherever it may lead." - Thomas Jefferson's vision for the University of Virginia.

* * *

The above quotations do not reveal what it means to be free. The reader has no physical reference or way to connect to the ideas.

When writing about a concept, the challenge involves breaking free of a reliance on abstract words to define it.  What does power look and sound like?  How does one show restraint? What does it mean to be true to oneself? 

The collection of Aesop's fables written by a slave and storyteller from 6th century Greece shows incidents to teach truths. Aesop's fable of the dog and the wolf defines a situation without using the word,  freedom.  

 A Wolf, dying of hunger, happened upon a house-dog.

"Ah, Cousin," said the Dog."I knew how it would be; 
your irregular life will soon be the ruin of you. 
Why do you not work as I do and get 
your food given to you?

   "I would have no objection," said the Wolf, "if I could only
get a place."

  "I will easily arrange that for you," said the Dog; "come with
me to my master and you shall share my work."

So the Wolf and the Dog went towards the town together. 
On the way there the Wolf noticed that the hair on a certain 
part of the Dog's neck was very much worn away, 
so he asked him how that had come about.

  "Oh, it is nothing," said the Dog.  "That is only the place
where the collar is put on at night to keep me chained up; it
chafes a bit, but one soon gets used to it."

  "Is that all?" said the Wolf.  "Then good-bye to you, Master

Creative Write:  Develop a metaphor for self-responsibility in the search for freedom.

Reveal a trap or cage and how the mind moves beyond incarceration.

What happens with a leash, a muzzle, a bridle, a harness?  How does one break free?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Art of Winter

"The creative act is courageous, an ancient gesture, a dynamic exploration of the dark mystery that is human existence."   
- Adriana Diaz from The Soul of Creativity.

Winter paints a structure of strength in trees and foliage.  Silence snuggles in its morning cloak and pads through the neighborhood.  Along the railings of bridges, spider webs sport their graffiti sparkled by frost. Leaves continue to fall and land with a crackle and cackle.

This time of change provides an opportunity to delve into the basics. The slower pace stimulates a search inward.

Nature reveals the landscape in an array of bare bones.  As auxins drain into the roots, squirrels scamper to store their cache of nuts. Everything moves into its simple form as a gesture for us to follow.

Nature's art swirls.  Creation continues in the silent exhalation of trees sculptured by the season's change. Creativity thrives in the spaces among branches.

There's a need for moments in reverence and joy to celebrate the change a winter outlook provides. The words of winter entice with their requests for ways to adorn the emptiness.  This begins the search for mysteries in enrichment and growth that will blossom by spring.

Creative Write: Become courageous. Get to the basics of your writing as art. Use a winter theme to explore what weighs you down. What will it feel like to remove the excess and rest in silence.?

What will listening accomplish?  Write about the skeletal beginnings of your art.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Campus Eavesdrop

How does one get to know another culture?  A first step involves learning the language. Immersion and listening skills assist the acclimation process. 

A writing professor needs to know "what up" in order to comprehend students' concerns and delve into their culture. Eavesdropping on passersby provides insights when translating whims of the day. 

I sat on a bench, then moved around to observe and listen to student-speak as the campus variety wandered by.  

Try it at a coffee shop or your work place.  The DMV reveals wonders. 

Collage words and play!

A Morning of Student Speak

I didn't end up buying the purple one. Nah. Just no. no. no.
Been with him a year, that's not it.
I mean… woah ho

Rad. Couldn't be in a better position.
Whatever. Friends.

Mom. Mom Mom. Listen to me.  Will you?  It's nothing. Nothing.
Went on a fishing trip the second week after his baby was born. That's all.
Just because
Got to run out

Love the mildew smell of his tiger sheets.
We're too traumatic to each other.
But I don't know the name of the author
Eventually Sam and Amy are gonna move out.
Why you overwhelmed?
And you have to write the paper on it?
What yuck? 
Wanna gowanna bike ride or sumpin
Anyonje like know where I can live?

You owe me money - 
You owe me more than that money
She likes everything but he dropped the ball
Noooo   stupidy stupidy stupideee
Reasoning  -  terrible.
Great. Go home and start working
Anyways. Yet and still.  . .
He's stuck in his monologue.

I jus don ever get wuuhmen!
Oh Blah, I feel really, really great.
He went to school in a blue sheet today.

It's like, reeely
Oh I can do that

Pineapple.  No banana
Banana but I can't get it open
Have you met Bill?
I thought he was a card board cut out?
. . .He certainly wasn't last night
No problema.  Why is it that problema is feminine? Always?
Kinda round but not in bad shape
Man she's like Lucy holding the ball for Charlie Brown
Promises. Promises. No results.

What will take us where she wants to go?
Maybe you need a seasonal cleanse?
My sister…mumble.. pretty teacher…mumble

So the point… is?

It's just stupidity, stupidy, stupideee!

I am the son of an evangelist
and an alcoholic mother.

Que paso now?

Why don't you

Who do

and why?

Straight ahead into morning!

Three poems I didn’t write 

Que pasa?
        Have you met Bill?
        I thought he was a card board cut out?

        It’s like, Woooah!
        . . . He certainly wasn’t last night!

        Love the mildew smell of his tiger sheets.
        Que pasa now?

No Results
        Man she’s like Lucy holding the ball for Charlie Brown
        Promises. Promises.
        No results.
        Straight ahead into morning

        I’ve been with him a year, that’s not it
        Mom. Mom Mom. Listen to me.  Will you?
        Where’d you get it from?
        It’s nothing. Nothing!

        So the point is?
        oooo! that’s stupidy! stupidy! Stupideee!


Monday, November 26, 2012

Parenting Skills

"Parenting is no sport for perfectionists," - Andrew Solomon

What does it mean to be a parent?  If you have not become one, what type of parenting did you experience?  Or did you discover a different parenting assisting the children of friends or relatives?

Andrew Solomon, a lecturer in psychiatry at Cornell, has studied families with exceptional children. In his book, Far from the Tree, he uses, "horizontal identities" to describe recessive genes, randon mutations, prenatal influences, values, and preferences a child does not share with his or her parents.

These identities also include: dyslexia, Down syndrome, disabilities, and psychological disorders, to name a few. Solomon believes, "unhappy families who eject their variant children have much in common, while the happy ones who strive to accept them are happy in a multitude of ways."

Solomon has spent time with hundreds of families. Watching them interact with their children, he says he witnesses, "a shimmering humanity." His work studies exactly what happens when we try to make more of ourselves.

Most families he works with are grateful for experiences they would have sacrificed everything to avoid.

Creative Write: Write about how you differ from your parents in values, personality and motivation. Describe similarities in body language and feelings.  If you have children or individuals you have raised from childhood, how do their preferences reflect yours?  If you have raised an exceptional child, write about your benefits.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Write into Unfinished Efforts

"... readers of creative nonfiction are not so much interested in your life, but what you think of your life, the steps you have taken to understand it. It is what makes a book memorable; it is what sticks." 
-Ira Sukrungruang

Life story writing delves into a composite of strengths and struggles. It takes insight and courage to confront mistakes and failings with permission to let them trickle onto the page. Self-understanding results from acknowledging areas of vulnerability. 

How is it possible to provide a patchwork of self without gathering unpleasant choices to write about? Missteps lead to the joy of dance.

Everyone suffers from what Thomas Merton calls the "trembling self." Individuals are not always heroic and right.  Delving into troubling notions begins the eternal search for "how am I" in addition to the "who."

Write to discover ways beyond taking revenge, taking sides or sharing war stories. Artifacts of courage include unfinished efforts.

Creative Write:  Consider your unfinished efforts.  Write into, around and through an issue that causes a "trembling self." Take notice of how you get in the way of your self-discoveries in this situation. Write from another perspective you do not agree with. Make notes of insights that result.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Textures of Love

"Love calls us to do the things in this world."  - Richard Wilbur

". . .migratory musicians,/one last/ word before /I go back with wet shoes, thorns /and dry leaves/ to my home:/ vagabonds, I love you/free far from the shotgun and the cage." - Pablo Neruda from, "Ode to Bird Watching."

Pablo Neruda, one of the most loving poets, forms an authentic attachment to life. Calling on unlimited sources of inspiration, he writes odes to an elephant, a pair of socks or a bar of soap. He calls them all to life and reminds us of the interconnectedness of all things and beings. Compassion and humor populate his poetry.

At the end of, "Ode to Bird Watching," Neruda leaves in frustration at not getting close enough yet he makes peace with his love of the birds' wildness and inaccessibility, " . . .messengers of pollen/matchmakers/ of the flower, uncles/ of the seed/ I love you,/ingrates/ I'm going home,/ happy to have lived with you/ a moment/in the wind.

What is Love?  Poets and writers have nose-dived and bellyflopped into its lakes and caverns for years. Everyone has experiences and expectations. Which are real? Has the notion of Love become a distorted part of our imagination and desperation? How does it transfer beyond the human form?

Peel the Artichoke

Love 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 and pull to savor the green, 
see how the leaves fall away.

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

Creative Write:

What do you make of Love?  Does the word by itself send ripples and thrills. Do memories bring shudders?

Where does Love begin? How do we learn to Love from the inside out free from expectations and doubts?

Write an approach to Love you have not considered before. Examine layers and textures.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Write into Colors and Shapes

Let the effects of color inspire you to
delve into shapes and edges

Make discoveries in circles and squares.

What happens in the glow?

Write into the dark spaces.

Escape into the heart of the matter.

Swirl into words like hexagon, triangle and parallel.

Which moods reside on the edges?

What sits on a toadstool of green?

Find the lizard in white.

Does a story or poem tease?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving provides time to celebrate gratitude for life's gifts: family, friendships, and discoveries in each moment. We live in a world of chaos but have the ability to bring balance through writing. Give thanks for each challenge as it turns into an exploration.

Celebrate your creativity today. Write into a thankful mood for all the happenings that get you down. Grow buoyant, float and fly. A bit of humor conquers all.

Appreciate what's offered regardless of the form. Share your attention to detail and have a grateful day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Start the Writing Flames

"For the most part, creative writing, regardless of genre, is an art of words and ideas and that is the starting point for most authors: the generating image, vision, word play, or whatever gets the brain gears greased."  - Jessica Day

Examine your idea sparking process. What ignites your creative fire?

Do you notice an image that triggers an idea?

Will you doodle and play with words and sounds?

Does an overheard word or conversation strike the match?

During exercise or a walk, do the brain gears shift and shake?

Will a mood or frustration set off ideas?

Do questions start a search for kindling?

Creative Write:  Look at the above drawing. Do the details spark a fire?

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 with 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.

Creative Write: Take a diversion into the dictionary. Play with words discovered there.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Strangers For Fiction

Imagine a story about a lady and her tiger.

The actions of strangers provide fodder for fiction and poetry. When you stand in line or spend time in a restaurant, or while walking, observe those around you. Make notes on their body language and vocal varieties.

For each stranger you notice, imagine responses to these questions:

l.  What overwhelming situation has this person experienced?
2.  Describe his or her deepest desire.
3.  Detail the type of tattoo that seems appropriate.
4.  What profession or avocation suits the stranger's appearance?
5.  What would this individual never do?

After you've collected several characters, add facial characteristics and the details of clothing. Develop dialogue and add a spark of intrigue.

Try on strangers for fiction. Eavesdrop . . . then write.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Writing Off Kilter

Imagine a jet pilot running the teacups ride at Disneyland.  Can you picture Julia Child serving up burgers at MacDonalds? Secretariat giving rides at a child's birthday party seems unlikely. What if birds flew upside down in a rainbow sky?

Search for might upset your universe and make you feel slightly off kilter. Place yourself in a variety of teetering situations.  What do you discover from this unbalanced force?

Find humor in the unexpected. Delve into imagery.

How will you write yourself into an unconventional zone?

Try writing off kilter.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Energize Your Writing!

Choices. Chances. Changes.  If you make a choice to take a chance your life may change.

Write about  a choice you made.  The chance you took.  What changes occurred?

Now, come up with three As and three Bs and three Ds.

The awe. The amazement. The aura that resulted.

The battle fought. The baggage dumped. The best feeling.

The dare. The dream evaluated. The development.

Pursue threes till you reach past Z.

You're energized! Write a poem or develop a philosophy of life.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all.
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

Rumi captures an awareness of life's possibilities. We think of "arrivals" as negative.  Here he turns them into invitations for growth and delight.

A butterfly must struggle to break from its chrysalis. In this way it develops strong wings and legs. Without this persistence a butterfly's body does not form a complete unit.

Creative Write: Use a metaphor to describe your current challenges. Make a list of three and weave them into a tapestry of perspective, patience and persistence. Make friends with the struggle for strength.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sidewalk into Story

Take a walk with a cell phone.  Record five images. Observe items on the sidewalk. Look right. Look left. Look up. Look back. Add sounds and scents. Play with illusions.

Begin with the photos below to warm up.
Try one word descriptions. Notice word rhythms.
Add action verbs.

It is rope or a snake
that wraps your ankle
or slithers to your waist?

An illusion

Texture of paws
and retreat?

What's written in the note
or is it an elephant
about to trumpet?

Don't forget to look up.

Start your own and weave discoveries into poems or stories.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Retreat to the Past

Imagine living in 1890. By the light of an oil lamp you turn pages in a book, write a letter with pen and paper, or scribble in a diary. You might ride a bicycle or take a walk at sunset.

Do a Google search about writing in 1890 to set the stage. Collect details of that time period that amuse or amaze from your 2012 perspective. 

Abandon technology for an hour or two. 

Use a pen and paper to delve into your Google discovery. 

Write a letter describing your feelings about a day in 1890.  

Discover how a pen flowing across the expanse of paper leads to an emotion, thought or need. Let your mind wander and imagine. Permit words to fall where they will without crossing out.

Experience attention to detail by writing the old fashioned way.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Football and Kisses

"Every morning I awaken torn between the desire to save the earth and the inclination to savor it."                                                                                                                                           - E.B. White

Bridges intrigue me. I linger during the crossing of a bridge and stop in the middle to feel the sway. Looking down at the water, I wonder where it meets the sky. My senses search for connections in words. Spiders taught us how to span locations. Many bridges reveal similar lines.

Often with writing projects we want the finished product right now when deadlines loom or frustration nips at our fingers. Our emotions and impatience get in the way of the experience. We do not want to take the time to travel the bridge span from idea to result. Fun slithers into the darkness leaving us alone with a blank screen or page.

Consider football and kisses. With our favorite team, are we satisfied to learn about the win and final score without watching the game? If we receive a kiss without a hug or any build up, does it provide the same thrill? Does an unwrapped gift have the same meaning without the fun we have ripping at ribbon and paper as it crackles in our hands? These invite the bridge experience.

Writing requires fingers on the keys or the clutch of a pen to pursue the ink flow. How many times have we started a story or poem and the ending did not come out as planned? We discovered it came out better if we gave it space.

Our synapses make fresh connections. For this reason, we need to dwell on the bridge and notice each moment before we reach the other side.

Creative Write: Take time to discover and delve into a bridge experience. Then write about it.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Story in six words. Try it.

I came. I saw. I conquered. 
(Veni. Vidi. Vici.) 

Julius Caesar may have written the first six word story in 47 B.C.  He used the sentence as the full text of his message to the Roman senate. It describes his victory over Pharnaces II of Pontus in the battle of Zela (today’s Turkey).

Story has it that Ernest Hemingway ran out of money in a bar one night.  He called the owner over and said if he wrote a story in six words would that pay his bill?  He said if he signed it, the story would be more valuable than what his drinking cost that night.   

Hemingway wrote.  For sale: baby shoes. Never used.

Here are a few examples of six sentence stories:

Dad called. DNA back. He isn’t   - Helen Fielding

They awaited sunrise. It never came. - AS Byatt

The earth?  We ate it yesterday. - Yann Martel

Nessie discovered.  Bigfoot jealous. Press conference.  - Nate Brown

Nomad meets gypsy.  They both settle.  - Cameron Graham

Creative Write:  Try a few six word stories.  Maybe they will show you the way into additional development?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Swirl Your Imagination!

Play with colors, sounds, shapes and push the fantastic. Take a perspective you have not tried before and write to questions without a need for answers.

Imagine if

gravity took the day off
why turned into now
never felt amused
annoyed by forever
until everyone laughed
deep into magenta.
Lady bugs hovered,
Blue frogs flew away
frosted with noon.

Whirl with questions
eyes into twilight.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

FUNdamentals: Fast. Hard. Finish.

Chip Kelly, coach of the Oregon Ducks football team, advises his players that a team can only control its preparation, its effort and its attitude. Everything else - the venue, an opponent’s record, kickoff time, ranking, the media, or weather on game day - falls into the category of things even he can’t control. 

Areas that Coach Kelly cannot control do not concern him. Practices always focus on fundamentals. His philosophy of Win the Day means dealing with the moments in movement.  Fast. Hard. Finish.

"It's all X's and O's,"  said Vince Lombardi coach of The Green Bay Packers in the '60s. Lombardi didn't mean hugs and kisses. He stressed the fundamentals.  

Like football players, writers need to comprehend the rules of writing and know how to move around them for effect. One never gets beyond the need to practice remedial skills and beginner steps. A focus on fundamentals and Win the Day philosophy makes writing FUNdamental. 

Creative Write:  Consider your fundamental writing skills. How do you prepare for writing?  How do you energize effort and attitude toward words?  Write your one or two line writing philosophy.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Funky Music

Yes they were dancing and singing and movin' to the groovin' and just when it hit me somebody turned around and shouted -

Every time your sneakers met the street, the end of that summer, somebody was hurling it at your head, that song.  -  Jonathan Lethen

Lay down the boogie and play that funky music 'til you die.

When you hear "that" song do emotions flood about an event? Does one song take you to a specific place, time and individual?

Creative Write:  Play one of your "old songs" and write to the memories attached to the lyrics and sounds.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Search for Amazements

Nurture awareness and search for three Amazements. 

They might greet in the form of an unexpected card received in snail mail. House finches do provide entertainment while frolicking in the bird bath.

A great blue heron could land on a house roof as you pass. 

Once you have set your sights for Amazements, they will find you. 

Notes from nature will make you smile and help you relinquish the day's concerns.

Watch leaves fall in heart patterns and breathe as roses decant their scents. 

Those you love and greet daily will also provide messages that break the tension of your day.

Collect in threes and then go for fives.

Creative Write: Collate the amazements into a story or poem.