Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy Write Year!

On New Year's Eve many sing a Scottish folk song written by Robert Burns, They sing, “we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne" at Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year’s Eve. Hogmanay derives from a French word for a gift given at the New Year.

Just after midnight, someone scrambles into the house of a neighbor or friend with gifts. This is called "first footing" or becoming the first person to bring good fortune for the new year. The first-footer is a tall dark-haired male.

Customs vary by region within Scotland and include, decorated herrings, fireballs, pipe bands, fruit cakes, song and whiskey.

Have a safe New Year's Eve. Get to sleep early,  Then you will have a clear head to write your way into the New Year on January 1, 2013.

When you awaken in 2013 give yourself a gift. Stay under the covers a few minutes to think about your writing. 

Place a sheet of paper where you'll see it every day. Over the next weeks, make notes of what you expect to play with, discover and accomplish in your 2013 writing.  Add wild expectations.

Along the way, add in several daring goals to push yourself beyond limits.

In the last two weeks of January, lock in your goals and determine three actions for each. 

l. What you will do (specifically) to accomplish your goals given your current writing climate and resources.
2. Who might be able to help you. Contact that person with specific requests. 
3. Write a scene of what to expect when you meet your goal. 

Happy Write Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Revolutionize your Writing

Have you started thinking about your 2013 Writing Resolutions? Consider a writing focus and revolution instead.

Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, describes resolutions as an effort to reinvent oneself. People make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves, he says. Pychyl argues that people aren't ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, and that accounts for the high failure rate of resolutions. Another reason for the high failure rate involves unrealistic goals and expectations.

When you make positive affirmations about yourself that you don't really believe, the positive affirmations not only don't work, they can damage your self-esteem.

The other aspect of failed resolutions lies in the cause and effect relationship. You may think that if you have a writing plan this year your entire life will change. When it doesn't, you may get discouraged and then revert to former behaviors.

Take a look at realistic ways to focus and begin your 2013 writing year.

Don't wait till New Year's Eve to make writing resolutions. Make it a year long process. Plan every day to focus on an aspect of writing.

Set realistic, specific goals. You will write a set number of pages each day, each week or by a set date.

Take small steps. Many people quit writing because their goal requires too big a step all at once. Write three lines and stop.  Write for ten minutes and stop.

Create a support system. Make a pact with a writing accountability buddy.

Celebrate your success between goals. If you write today; you're a writer today. Applaud yourself!

Be mindful. Stay physically, emotionally and mentally aware of your inner state as you write moment by moment. Avoid living in the past or future.

Don't take yourself so seriously. Have fun and laugh when you feel cranky and don't want to write.  Write about cranky.  Write even more.

Revolutionize your writing instead of writing resolutions.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Just an Ordinary Day

"Writers live twice. They go along with their regular life, are as fast as anyone in the grocery store, crossing the street, getting dressed for work in the morning. But there's another part of them that lives everything a second time. That sits down and sees their life again and goes over it. Looks at the texture and details." 
~ Natalie Goldberg

Take notes during the day.  Detail the mundane. Elevate the simple in sounds, scents, colors, and textures.  

Collate your collection and then . . . 

For each line in your list, add mystery, intrigue, conflict and twist the day into a story or poem.  

What did not happen that could have?  How might turning the corner cause you to trip into an amusing situation?  

If you met someone at the car wash who seemed shady where could you follow him or her in words?  

Maybe you found a lost dog and received more than a reward?   What are they burying beneath the cliff?

Playful write:  Come on, have fun and live the day twice. Discover imaginary friends. Make up details, add emotions and fascinations to just an ordinary day.    


Friday, December 28, 2012

Unwanted Gifts

"People come into our lives without our bidding, and stay without our invitation.  They  give us knowledge we do not seek; gifts we do not want. But we need them all the same." 
- said by Mrs. Sparrow in The Stockholm Octavo
by Karen Engelman

With a major holiday completed, unwanted gifts create the possibility for story.  Did you receive packages, relatives, acquaintances or friends that fit that category?

Examine gifts brought to you in a variety of ways. Include negative influences that caused positive results.  Gifts can include knowledge gained of yourself through the tribulations of a relationship's needs.

People change and needs change.  How have you met changes and needs?

Creative Write: Detail the gains from unwanted gifts.  Discover a treasure or two.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Play with Structure

Play with another poet's work to seek ideas and nuances for an exploration of 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 nurishes the creative process. 

Take a look at Pablo Neruda's poem.  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?

Try it also with prose.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A View of Uncertainty

“The most precious thing in life is its uncertainty.”  Kenko

In the 14th century, a poet and Buddhist monk named Yoshido Kenko wrote thoughts on life, death, nature, manners, humility and simplicity.  He lived in exile at a cottage where he composed his essays.

Kenko believed in 'zuihitsu' - follow the brush - as a method of composition.  He painted thoughts as they came to him on scraps of paper, then attached them to his cottage walls.  They survived through the centuries by chance.  A poet friend collected them from the walls and Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness) became a part of Japanese literature.

He felt leaving something incomplete gives room for growth. Kenko disliked perfection, believing asymmetry and irregularity became better goals in life.  His imagery included moons in the clouds, cherry blossoms strewn and faded on the earth.  He admired the uncertainty of a branch about to blossom.

Creative Write:

Here are three of Kenko's views.
                     How will you follow the brush today and write about them?

A certain recluse, I know not who, once said that no bonds attached him to this life, and the only thing he would regret leaving was the sky.

Are we only to look at flowers in full bloom, at the moon when it is clear?

To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations—such is a pleasure beyond compare.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Memories

‎"One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six." 
              ~ A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas*

The season stimulates memories in the form of anecdotes, conversations, and relationships.  Events turn over and over in the heart and mind. Will the memory fulfill itself in the events of the moment?  Will those who have left return home to celebrate?

Creative Write:  What do you wish for to complete your holiday celebration?  Would you request a return from a deceased relative for the day?  Will you return to a childlike self for the festivities?  Do you require a day of youthful pleasures?  Do you recall when someone told you about Santa Claus? How might you transport yourself in words over the miles and years?  

Bring memories to the fireside and write.

"Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home!" ~ Charles Dickens.

*Full Dylan Thomas text:

Monday, December 24, 2012

Writing Opposites

Mark Helprin bounds between dark and light into his novel, In Sunlight and in Shadow. His threads of plot interweave New York of the 1940s and splices of World War II with imagery that captures all the senses. Often over-the-top in emotion and love, he does return to earth, as a paratrooper in the story. Idealized love, city rhythms, weather, and the changing colors of sky and water provide a spell in lyrical writing.  

Creative Write:  Create a seesaw effect between two opposites: light and dark, good and evil, love and despair.  Begin by listing images that represent the opposites. Add sounds, scents, tastes and textures as you combine your ideas in a freewrite.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Becoming a Writer

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, "I name you three metamorphoses of the spirit: how the spirit shall become a camel, and the camel a lion, and the lion at last a child."

These metaphors describe various stages in the transformation of human consciousness. For Nietzsche, nothing is static; all is in flux and becoming.

A camel is a beast of burden. It accepts a load and goes days through the desert without water. The camel-image seems to refer to the human tendency to confront the difficult out of a sense of duty.

We are constantly becoming writers.

Writers learn grammar and technique from others. We gain the tradition and culture of literature. At this stage we do not have the freedom to make our own decisions because we give our will over to what we believe, "we ought to do." By following the rules we move on a path for further refinement.

Then the lion-like spirit takes over. The creative freedom arises as a writer discovers confidence and rebels.

The lion becomes a child.  A return to innocence energizes. Now the writer can engage in original ideas without restraint. 

We may need to shuttle back and forth in the progression to gain the most in our writing.

Creative Write:  Have you gone through this process as a writer from obedience through reaction to a child's wonder?  Where are you in the process? Do you risk and struggle with uncertainty?  

Develop a metaphor to describe your trip through camel and lion to child.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Delve into your Decades

"I don't think you can be a writer unless you feel things not just for the moment but they live in you."
- Eric Bledsoe
Writers have an opportunity to mine for stories when considering five topics during life's decades. What memories fit into these A categories for you? 

l. An Amazement   2. An Achievement  3. An Amusement  4. An Absurdity  5. An Amiable friend

Begin with a child's eyes and respond from 10 years and under.
Then, move into adolescence.
What memories come to mind from years 20-30?
Delve into the 30-40 era.
From 40-50 will provide additional insights
If you respond from 50 and above, notice how your wisdom reigns!

Creative Write: Write one line responses at first.  Then you can go back to detail the decades.

Friday, December 21, 2012

You're still here! Write About Time

Time is free, but it's priceless.  You can't own it, but you can use it.  You can't keep it, but you can spend it.  Once you've lost it you can never get it back. 
- Harvey Mackay

Time involves a sequence of events moving forward. Irreversible, it flows from past through present to future. We measure it in segments and seasons. A variety of instruments reveal it: clocks, wrist watches, computer monitors, cell phones. 

We learn time is of the essence. It waits for no one. We're admonished not to waste time.  Staying on time becomes a challenge. Wisdom arrives when we learn about life's timing. 

Writers expel ideas in the moment. We can speed or slow sentences and paragraphs to create mood and provide intensity to capture the reader. Decades can exist in pages. In a chapter, time shrinks, expands or gets pruned as irrelevant. Poems and stories jump forward, backwards, even sideways. Characters might move in parallel time exploring worlds beyond the present.

How do animals relate to time?

Creative Write: How would you write about time? Let the above concerns spark your notions. 

Write to make the reader lose track of time.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Get ready for 12-21-12

The 5,000 year-era, known as the b'ak'tun cycle, ends on Friday. This Mayan long count calendar completes the 13th b'ak'tun, a benchmark that means a full cycle of creation..

Stories abound concerning the end of the world on 12-21-12. 

One claims that a Mayan ruler left the prophecy as a monument in Tortuguero, Mexico. After defeat on the battlefield, he declared that the military setback launched a larger cycle of time that would end in 2012. Many scholars believe the prophecy was misinterpreted.The Mayans had a cyclical view of time. They would not have seen the end of their calendar cycle as the world's end. They restarted a new era.

Mexican leaders in Mexico have convened a Mayan Peoples Council to focus on the cultural significance of the new era. "Like native cultures throughout the world, we want to maintain our cultural identity and preserve our ways of speaking, thinking and seeing the cosmos," said Mary Coba, a tribal council representative.

NASA published a web video (posted below) explaining why the world did not come to an end on Dec. 21, 2012.The date of its release, December 11, was no mistake, even if doomsayers would likely call it one last act of earthly hubris. NASA uploaded the four-minute “ScienceCasts” - “Why the World Didn’t End Yesterday,” in an effort to answer  daily questions and concerns.

The world might end on a Friday, but it won’t happen tomorrow or the one after. Most scientists agree we have about five billion years of battery life, in the form of the sun, to go before the time comes to get nervous.
Use Friday to re-evaluate your writing.

Creative Write:  Choose a letter and write all the words that flow to mind. Rethink. Relive. Respect. Respond. Take time to restart, reshuffle, revel in humor. Rally in relief.

Renew expectations to welcome the launch of your next writing era. 

Write a creation story.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wanting and Risking

To have everything you ever wanted, would you risk everything you ever had? 
 - Cliff Harris

Stories and poems often flow from a writer's confusion, chaos and frustration with what he or she wants and believes is needed from life. 

Ponder the quotation above.  Do you know what you want? How does it coincide with what you truly need? 

What would it mean to have everything you ever wanted? 

What would it look and feel like to risk everything you ever had?

Creative Write:  Put yourself into a scenario either realistic or imagined where you believe you can gain everything by risking everything gained to this point in your life.  Wander and wonder in writing and see what develops.  You may attract surprises and insights. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fun for a Winter Day!

Do you feel a bit weary today?  Has inclement weather sent clouds to your brain?  Have Holiday preps started to take their toll? Break from today's inner tsunami with word play.

Write responses as fast as you can.

l.      One sound like - groak or  kachung
2.     Use a different name for a color - like persimmon
3.     A memory of. . .
4.     A city name that's unusual
5.     A flower
6.     Song title
7.     Tell a secret
8.     Add a taste
9.     An animal's scent
10.    Material texture - like corduroy

Read what you have written.  Write the notions one after the other. Take another quick glance. Close your eyes and count to ten.  Then turn your sheet over and freewrite for a page.

Don't you feel better?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Write Your Identities

Sail forth - steer for the deep waters only,
Reckless O soul, exploring, I with thee and thee with me.
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.     
                            -Walt Whitman
A few of the characters we inhabit during our life experience might include: sibling, friend, spouse, parent, employer, employee. As a result, our true self may stay hidden. 

Have we taken the time to study the authenticity of ourselves because of myriad role responsibilities? Do we travel away from our real selves because of the many roles we play?

A writer's quest involves the process of discovering an authentic self. It takes a lifetime to explore and delve into the depths of one's inner world in writing beyond the chaos of daily life.

Take time to mine your curiosity. Investigate beyond your mistaken identities for an inner voice.                   

Describe with concrete details what this voice sounds like. 
Where do you come from?
Where do you belong?

What is your contentment?

What questions do you have about the real you?
As you write into your depths of discovery, listen for a haunting voice of your true self. Which "other self" keeps you company as you dive deeper into your self-enlightenment process?
Start a dialogue and respond to it when frustrated, angry, needy and happy. Return to ask and answer questions.

Creative Write: Write about a risk taken that might define you.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Shape of Personal Narrative

"We must create and find our own stories, our own myths with symbols that will bind us to the world as we see it today."  - Terry Tempest Williams

A personal narrative includes a desire, struggle and realization. More than an accounting of events, it includes emotional, moral and psychological tones which give meaning to the events.

Story shape:

You have a desire that starts the story.

You struggle to gain it through an action or actions.

You feel challenges past interrelated events that you made happen or happened to you.

Because of what happened, you became a different person. You realized something as a result of the struggle.  You may see things differently with resulting wisdom.  Or, you do not gain insight.

Change from an event is a moral change.  You had a realization or a series of realizations and a shift in values or perception. Possibly you learned nothing from the life lesson and continue to make similar choices that end in negative results.

Creative write: Tell your story by describing  a desire and challenges to reach a result. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Writing Gathas

When birdsong is loud in the trees
I vow with all beings
to put down my work and to listen,
recreated as song.
     - Robert Aiken  from The Dragon Who Never Sleeps

A gatha is a vow that expresses the interconnectedness and interdependence of an individual with nature.  The first line sets up a situation in nature beginning with the word when or whenever.

When planting lilies in my garden
When I hear the sparrows sing
When I smell sea spray

The second line, "I vow with all beings" represents the basic commitment of the gatha. You might substitute another commitment or promise.

I promise to myself
I make a commitment to the earth
I pledge myself

The last two lines tell of the promise and begin with to.

to put aside worries
to stay focused
to engage with . . .

Gathas focus on everyday aspects of life and express how all beings and things connect.  The gatha form becomes meaningful way to express the interdependence felt when observing nature.

When I hear the Black Phoebe's call
I promise to us both
to remain in the moment
and sing of love

Creative Write:  Arrange your gathas today to connect and express your interdependence with nature.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Try on a Super Power

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. 
-Marianne Williamson
The meaning of life is to find your gift, the purpose of life is to give it away. 
~ Pablo Picasso

Which ability would you choose for your Super Power?  

Write about getting used to it.  How will you fit it into your life?  

Describe your first action.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Eating Habits to Reveal Character

The next time you visit a restaurant, watch a table of four to five diners. Make notes on their visual cues and eating behavior. You'll gather material for use to reveal characters and for building scenes in stories.

Check out animal behavior:  Do they eat like Canada Geese,  mice, squirrels, sparrows, lions, birds of prey . . . or?

Watch their gestures:  
Clappers, snappers
Hand waves from elbows on table
Clutch fisters
Palms up side wavers
Nose scratchers
Ear tweakers

What they do with their plates and utensils:
Spooners versus fork users
Knife stabs food item then goes straight to mouth.
Food arrangers: move items around the plate for correct positions.
Napkin usage: folders, ballers, scrunchers

Eating habits:
Pushers away and then up to mouth
Finger eaters
Dainties and little finger wavers

Communal Behavior:
Food sharers, sneakers and stealers

Head postures:
Side to side wags
Cocked one way, then another
Head lean on hand or arm
Lean on another's shoulder

Creative Write: Watch for relationships, insights and interactions. Write a story in gestures and details of body language related to communication and food.  Show the reader what the situation involves. Reveal the individual intentions and results.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

For 12-12-12

"The utility of living consists not in the length of days, but in the use of time; a man may have lived long, and yet lived but a little. Make use of time while it is present with you." 
~ Michel de Montaigne

The Mayan calendar ended on 12-21-12. Consider 12-12-12 the beginning of  your write life's expansion.  Discover a new outlook and determination to search for ways to enrich your writing .

Write about a contribution you could make to the world if you had no limitations. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

What to write?

Do you feel stuck?

Begin with what irritates you. Probe a  frustration - impolite people, crazy drivers, lost keys.

Unfinished business might propel you.  What do you need to do that you started but never followed to its completion?

Think about a dream that needs expansion into reality.

Start writing and let it take you to unexplored places.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Verb it

Experiment with verb tenses in present and past.

Start in simple present, locating yourself in action.  

If you need a start try:  I hear drips from my house eaves.  I walk to the corner.

Shift to simple past tense bringing the present moment into a relationship with a single past moment or an event ongoing until the present.  Show emotions: fear, joy, anger.

Shift back to present tense.

Write about the verb shifts and what you gained from one or the other.  

Did one tense attract more ideas?  

How did one tense feel more appropriate for use?

Try the same sequence shifting from first person to third person.  How does this expand your opportunities?  

Sunday, December 9, 2012


"This is the moment I call epiphany . . . when the relation of the parts is exquisite . . . its soul, its whatness leaps to use from the vestment of its appearance.  The soul of the commonest object . . . the structure of which is so adjusted, seems to us radiant.  The object achieves its epiphany." -  James Joyce

The typical story requires a conflict.  Two men are rivals for a girl, a treasure or a corporation.  They are evenly matched and only the author's deceptive clues will tell you who is the good guy and who is the bad. The action can seesaw until eventually someone wins.

James Joyce dispensed with this formula and created short stories to reach a moment of revelation or epiphany.  In place of winnings and losings his stories dealt in nuances, illuminations, and sudden spiritual manifestations.

Joyce used epiphanies as both a way of seeing or hearing and a way of showing and writing.  Some are fragments of overhead conversations of strangers.  Some are accounts of dreams and others are brief dialogues betweeen Joyce and individuals he knew.  Some are uncategorizable.  They are poetic-prose statements or transcriptions of actual life.  He defines epiphany as the quididtas the whatness of a thing.

Life fades into the sunset or a silence prevails.  Often no one wins or loses and many characters do not reach self-knowlege in the moment.  They do not even realize how hopeless they are.  The stories reach their conclusions only in the minds of the reader,  Or, the whatness of a character is revealed like a light bulb over his head.

After Joyce introduced the concept, the meaning has become elastic.  Writers have attempted to use subtle effects of this technique to reveal character, attitude and emotion.

Epiphanies are used for short mood pieces because there's not enough action to sustain them.  The realization story may include urgency and a sense of something or the pain of discovery and self-realization.


Late in the afternoon, a married woman hurries to meet her lover. The breeze shakes flowers from the cherry trees that bloom in the garden.  He is waiting for her and they make love with frightened haste.  With a gesture reserved for women who know that they are beautiful, she tugs her dress over her head and tosses it behind her like unwanted memory   -  Shulamith Wechter Caine

Creative Write:

1. Create an epiphany based on a quiet encounter with something that has always been out of reach.  Something always seems to have just turned its corner as you have turned your own.  This could be a moment in memory or pieces of a scene which needs dream and imagination to make whole.

2.  Build an epiphany for a character leading to an emotional realization.  Begin with fragments of overhead conversations, a ringing bell, or an emotional incident.

3.  Create an epiphany within a prose poem like the example above.