Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Personality of Travel

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes you. 
- from Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck.

After an adventure in Southern Spain, I thought of writing a book called, It's Not About Speaking the Language. On the way from Granada to Cordoba, we had to change trains in a little town called Boabadilla.  Forget the notion of whistle stop, how about blink and you´re stuck until the next stop? 

We waited in the aisle, ready to get off the train when an elderly couple brought suitcases, sacks and flowers. When they plunked them down in front of us, they blocked our exit route. Swish, they're out; door closed. Onward went the train with us banging on the escape door's window. 

After locating the conductor, we communicated in Spanish regarding our situation. He nodded and called ahead for the station attendant to arrange for a taxi when we arrived. How proud we felt of our Spanish skills.

Arriving in Boabadilla reminded me of a film noir set. Rain and shadows darkened the area. The wind picked up and stirred leaves along the train tracks. A scent of foreboding filled the air. Dun. Dun. Dun. Dun. Dun. We huddled alone on the station's platlform until the attendant greeted with news that a taxi would arrive soon. The scene brightened.

The taxi driver's accent seemed filtered through applesauce. The taxi smelled like he had swilled another type of sauce. We may have ruined his wine siesta time. In any case, he did get us back to Boabadilla with race car speed.  There we obtained new tickets with our language skills and only had an hour delay.  

Language skills - A.  Jumping over obstacles - zero.  I don´t know how people get on and off the trains at those tiny towns.

Creative Write:  How has a trip taken you?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Good novels are not written, they are rewritten. Great novels are diamonds mined from layers of rewrites. ~ Andre Jute

During the initial stages of a writing project creativity abounds. The process invites freedom with words racing to express, reach and react without limits. When words have flared upon the page, the time to re-vision arrives.

Test your writing with these five lines.

l.   Read your writing aloud. How's the rhythm? Have you created a beat with long and short sentences? 
 Develop structure and style.
2.  Circle adverbs and adjectives. Search and replace modifiers that drag at the sentences. Replace passive tense with active verbs to drive ideas.
3.  Begin at the ending to re-start your story, poem or essay. What insights does this provide?
4.  Add a dash of sound, scents and texture. Color sentences.
5.  Read your re-vision aloud again.    
Poliish those gems.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chase Curiosity

I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious. 
- Albert Einstein. 
“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice.

Curiosity sparks awareness, nudges a nose for observation, and a desire to explore. Learning about yourself and the world results. Each individual has an unlimited capacity for curiosity. It bubbles inside and thrills the senses. Audacity spirits the soul.

Discoveries explode around each corner. In the silence moments present wonder. 

Questions tumble upon mysteries and roar for more. 

Clouds in a puddle arouse the adventure of an upside down scene. 

Where will the palm trees lead with a scent of jasmine in the air? 

A seabird distracts to divert attention where the sea and sky provide their playground.

How could anyone feel bored with such a swirl of life calling for play? 

Creative Write:  How do you define curiosity? Does it involve a need to solve a problem? Do you feel a devious desire, a compulsion?  

What colors drive your curiosity?  

Detail your search for a curious thing.  Become curiouser and curiouser.

How has curiosity expanded your write life?

Monday, January 28, 2013

Gathering Words

It zings the page and rises,
curls like waves dashed into foam.

To grasp a first line that
leads to the vanishing point.

Where sun at the horizon
mystifies and dips behind
the sea.

How to paddle out to discover
the shape of story.

It's hidden and teases,
waiting for notions to collide.

A mythology of merriment,
bubbled by the waves.

It exists beneath
foam left for discovery.

Anenomes bloom pink
with purpled tentacles
soothed by flow
then fingers or prey
get sucked right in.

Creative Write:   Gather flavors, colors of earth, scents and sounds of stones.  Discover an adventure. Move in to nudge the shape of story.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Flourish of Cursive Writing

"Machines (referring to a typewriter) have no grace.  It cannot make a flourish, vary the thickness of a line, or tantalize the reader with a lapse into an in decipherable but lovely style.  A good penman can make rivers that race to the sea, rivers as wild and dizzy as a flume in the Alps, as choppy as the Isarco, as wide and smooth as the Tiber at Ostia, or as deep as the Po where it rolls into the Adriatic."                                   - from A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin.

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

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

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

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

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

Cursive writing adds a magical quality to the writing process. 

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

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

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Life with Books

My parents relished a variety of books that arrived from "The Book of the Month Club."  When the brown package appeared in our mail box, I'd rip it open for a peek at the cover.  I fluttered the pages to absorb the scent, then launched into the words to discover adventures. Our library held the oldest, latest and the best.

During childhood, my father read to me before bedtime each evening. He would ask me to close my eyes and imagine the sounds, scents and sights as he read. Of course I'd peek. The squiggles of words attracted me even more than the fairies, dragons and creatures illustrated in the childrens' books.

Now I collect my library in a Kindle. I miss the scents of books but the squiggles that bounce the lines still attract me the most.

Creative Write:  Write about your childhood experiences with the magic of a book. Have you moved into the e-book age?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Write about Trees

"When the eye is not set on one leaf and you face the tree with nothing at all in mind, any number of leaves are visible to the eye." ~Takuan Soto

Winter whispers through branches.
Wind twirls, swirls down trunks.
Roots sleep into night.
Trees assist our breathing, create structures that house us and 
furniture for our comfort. 
They provide shade, homes for hummingbirds and bees.
Trees natural art bridges the earth and sky. 
Trees filter and clean air from pollution. 
The Forest Service put a
3.8 billion dollar value on the pollution removed annually by urban trees.
In Washington D.C., trees remove nitrogen dioxide to an equivalent of
taking 274 cars off the beltway, saving $51 million in annual 
pollution-related health-care costs.
Creative Write:  Write into treeness.
Describe your first experiences with trees 
as a child. 
Can you name those in your yard and neighborhood?
Write to discover a relationship with trees in your daily life.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Failure's Potential

". . .for he knew that the beauty of climbing is that at times the failure of things to go exactly right subjects even ordinary men to saintly tests that elevate them far beyond what they have expected."  
- from  A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin.

Write about "the best laid plans" you detailed and began to implement.  As you set forth, chaos moved in, something went wrong and . . . you journeyed into a different view of the situation.

As you write the experience, detail scent, sound, and textures of the moment.

Which emotions arise about the changes in that journey?  Do you meet "the failure of things" with a new perspective as a result?

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Word Glide

Glide into a stream of words without stopping.  Write the first word and let it take you trolling for more.  Be surprised, amused, free.

Try not to think as you write the next word that flows to mind.  Here's a first example:

Shield:   trap, gourd, greyhound, twilight, tendril

Write as fast as you can across the page:







When you're finished, look at your strings. Take a break, then write for fifteen minutes and see what percolates.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Write with Waves

"Here is a man who is turning the emptiness of space into a sheet of paper, the waves of the ocean into an inkwell and Mount Sumeru into a brush."       
   - Hoyen of Gosozen,       12th century

"The shot will go most smoothly when it takes the archer himself by surprise." Eugen Herrigel, Zen in the Art of Archery.

A Zen view of  how to write advises that our "artless art" must flow out of the subconscious. Doing is not doing. Technical knowledge does not provide enough.  Practice and relenting to the process make it happen.  

We write and write until we've created our own rules  If we move out of our own way, writing spurts and splashes in the stream of rain or water.

Like a muscle, the more we write, the more we gain strength and momentum.  Fortunately, with age our writing muscles become stronger regardless of the aging process on other body parts.  

If we pay attention to our "every day mind" and moments in movement,  we will happen upon ways to express our emotions and thoughts.  Awareness makes us alert to all possibilities.  What just zoomed by?  How does that connect to the aroma of coffee in the morning?  What does sleep feel like when tired?  How does satisfaction taste?  What if. . . and then what?

How can the write art become purposeless?   Aimless?  If we attempt to intellectualize it, we've lost the moment. We need to write.  It's that simple. 

The highest motive in life is to be like water. It fights nothing or no one. It flows from and back to its source and in the flowing smooths and wears away all resistance.  - Lao Tzu

The Taoist water metaphor fits the writer's life.  Go with the flow. Trickle or rush around obstacles. Gush! Exert and deluge. Yielding will overwhelm all.

Writers need the surprise that delights when swimming in words.  Let it happen. . .just write.

Creative Write:  Take a day without a goal.  Write to float, swim or splash about in words without a destination.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Jump in!

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase.” 
                         ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

Write about faith in your writing self.  Do you believe you can complete a piece of writing because you have done it before? 

What drives your writing engine?  Is it a speed boat, jet plane, Maserati? 

Jump in with faith, speed and endurance into a writing experience today.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Human Behavior

Edward O. Wilson, famous for his studies of ants wrote, "Let me tell you, ants are the dominant insects. They make up as much as a quarter of the biomass of all insects in the world. They are the principal predators. They're the cemetery workers."

Wilson continues, "Ants are the leading removers of dead creatures on the land. And the rest of life is substantially dependent upon them. In many environments, take away the ants and there would be partial collapses in many of the land ecosystems. Take away humans, and everything would come back and flourish."

While driving I think of  Wilson's notion that if we take away humans everything would flourish. An individual with a coffee in one hand, cell phone in the other, makes a U-turn in the middle of a busy boulevard. The car stops in front of me. I stop, honk and block her to avoid hitting a pedestrian.  Does this person drive with her knees?  

A man roars into the middle of the street from a driveway. His wheels screech to a stop while a poodle bounces from his lap to the windshield.  The scent of coffee and irresponsibility fill the air.

Then there's the fellow with the beer bottle taking gulps as he drives past me. Maybe just a beer bottle filled with water or Red Bull at 8 am? 

All incidents occurred within a week including the woman turning left from a parking lot. She had a coffee in her hand and a baby in her lap.  

What's up, people?  Cars can become deadly weapons.

Ants appear more logical to take over the world and leave humans in their despair. Ants understand symbiosis.

Creative Write:  Write about human behavior you notice today.  

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Moments in Movement

"If your journal consists of the best moments of your life and reading, then rereading it will be like walking a high mountain trail that goes from peak to peak without the intervening descent into the trough of routine. Just reading in such a journal of high points will tighten your strings and raise your pitch." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson kept what he called "commonplace books." These bound volumes recorded his ideas, observed images, turns of phrase, high points from his life and reading. He relished words and language and used his notebooks to capture everything for his future writing.

I still write with pens, in addition to a reliance on technology.

Often I can't decide just where to write my notions so they begin life when and where the ink falls. I record observations and eavesdrops, collect words or phrases from readings, feelings and frustrations. Charts and doodles fill pages. I write on and on then return to these pages to mine ideas and develop thoughts more fully.

Emerson prized the process and advised writers to try anything to keep it going with determination. He called it a "casting moment" when you see it and keep the writing in its original form, uncontaminated by later improvements.

I appreciate the process more than the product because of the feelings of freedom and exhilaration gained pushing the pen.

Creative Write: Determine your best way to document what attracts you. Experiment with journals in a variety of sizes and shapes. Use colored pens to engage with words. Don't worry about results. Stay in your casting stage as long as possible.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Revel Past Routine

In his 1934 book, BEYOND THE MEXICAN BAY, Aldous Huxley observed that, "The natural rhythm of human life is routine punctuated by orgies."

He did not mean wild sex parties. Huxley referred to cathartic eruptions of passion, uninhibited indulgence in revelry, and spirited rituals of relief and release.

What does it feel like to punctuate your writing routine with passion and indulgence? How will you revel today by writing in an alphabet of orgies!

Today, write way past routine.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Visual to Words

The word, ekphrasis derives from Greek meaning description. It combines the prefix ex (out) with verb phrazein (to point out or explain).

Ekphrasis uses words to comment on a piece of visual art.  This ancient practice and one of the most commonly cited forms occurs in the Illiad.  Homer provides a long account of the elaborate scenes on Achilles' shield.

Photography encourages the form.  Take a walk and use your cell phone to capture opportunities to write about. Dig into details of the moment in view. Add sounds, scents and textures.

Practice with the above photograph.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Write a Rant

Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, kept a pet scorpion in an empty glass on the desk.  "Now and again," he said, "when the creature was wilting, I would drop a piece of fruit, which it would seize upon in a frenzy and inject with its poison. It would then revive. Are not we poets like that?"

Do you have venom you need to expel?  Write a rant. Begin with a frustration, an anger or an unmet need and develop a frenzy.

Bluster, fulminate, scold, huff, rave, and spout. Write it out. Discover how the poison evaporates the longer you write. Stop in a flow of words that search on and on. You may develop a solution through the process.

Creative Write:  Begin writing again with the last three sentences.  Have your subject and emotion changed?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Attention to Language

How do you pay attention to language as a presence in your life? Do you re-arrange menus or redesign road signs? Do overhead conversations stick in your thoughts for later use?

Will scenes around signage provide ideas for story?  When you read do you feel the verbal music of words and phrases?  Do words evoke colors or scents?

Take notes on your daily language.  Words surround you from texting to email to notes left around the house.

How do words reveal aspects of your life  in ways that differ from a sport or video game? Do you speak or write in more than one language?

Connect with your particular writing strengths. What do you do well? What hinders your progress?

What can you overcome with writing?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Make Art from the Inside Out

Don't think about making art, just get it done.  
Andy Warhol

Warhol talks about the audience and how they love or hate your work. He said while they're deciding, make even more art.

Pursue a view from the inside out. Explore one of the following areas in your write experience for the day.

Investigate a relationship.

Push into a travel exploration.

Delve into a cause: environmental, political, social.

Determine your relationship to money.

Describe an avocation or secret desire.

Write about what drives your quest for meaning. Don't worry about the audience.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Write the Questions!

We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself - Lloyd Alexander

Ponder questions to assist your writing.  Rather than asking, "why do I write?" ask how, when, what, where, and for whom you write.  

How do you get yourself ready to write?  

Do you find a time of day that suits your rhythm the best?

What does it take to go from an idea's roll to the avalanche of word after word?  

Do you jump into words and not worry about their direction?

Where you write also affects your choices. Stimulation of all the senses can occur in a natural setting or by placing a writing desk near a window with a view. How does location affect your writing?

Do you have a reader in mind or do you write for yourself first?

Creative Write:  Make a run at the questions.  Let them lead you to additional queries about the direction and intensity of your work.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


"No man is free who is not master of himself." ~Epictetus 

What does it mean to live from the inside out and pursue contentment?  Self-mastery goes beyond discipline. It takes a search for balance of mind, body and spirit in creative and risking ways. One does not have to live a narrow life to enjoy it to the fullest. 

Living and learning through each mood that arrives promotes growth and self-worth. Happiness does not have to prevail at all times. Developing strategies to benefit from life's moments adds richness to life.

Mindfulness of how to teeter, push to the edges of possibility, make errors, and return to tranquility takes a lifetime of attempts and miscues for progress to occur. Discovering peace within the mind's disarray promotes freedom.

Everyone has the power to make changes.

Begin a list of what works in your life as a reminder. What gives you satisfaction? Go deep into the details and sensory imagery concerning your potential.

Consider one action you can do as soon as your eyes spring open each morning that pushes you beyond inertia.

Focus on breathing techniques to calm you during stressful times. Take a yoga class.

Exercise the mind and body each day.  Walk instead of drive.

Schedule play activities for a part of each day.

What can you do for the environment or a loved one to express your responsibility?

Each day expand your list with creative solutions whenever you confront or learn of a difficulty or problem.

Make friends with unwelcome moods.

Attract and invent ideas for possible ways to balance negativity.

Let humor alter tough situations.

Become O Positive in your donation of energy to others around you.

You can outlast any challenge!

Creative Write:  How do you define self-mastery?  Write your way to freedom.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Write Short.

"Bobs, tempers, collection rejection letters, kinds of love, postcards, nicknames, baby carots, myopia, life flashing before eyes, gummy bears, the loser's straw, Capri pants, charge on this phone battery, a moment on the lips (forever on the hips), capri pants, velvet chokers, six months to live, penne, some dog-tails . . . "   from the Introduction to Life is Short, Art is Shorter by David Shields and Elizabeth Cooperman

The partial list above begins the authors' treatise on how short writing makes more impact than longer work. They quote samples from many authors. Here are a few:

The fascinating questions of Art.  What is between A and B - David Mamet
A simple hair across a scoop of ice cream will do much to repel people - Gordon Lish
What the detail is to the world of facts, the moment is to the flow of time. - Charles Baxter
Dissect, disassemble, break the short-short down. - David Shields
Your mind can encompass a very short story in a way it can't grasp a novella or a novel - like a hand closing over a stone with the word sadness painted on it. - Jay Ponteri

It is my ambition to say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a whole book - what everyone else does not say in a whole book - Nietzsche

Creative Write:  Make a list similar to the one above. Use this inspiration to write ten sentences.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Capture the Light

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.  We think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within.  Albert Schweitzer

Reflect upon a time in your life when you felt dim and needed enlightenment.  What did you to do pursue and capture the flame within?  

How did the spark rekindle?  Who assisted with the process?

Did you have to descend into the darkness before you became awakened with light?

Creative Write:  Investigate a metaphor to capture your escape route from frustration into progress.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bird Stories

Do you have a bird story?  Did you raise a bird during childhood?

Are you a bird watcher?

Search for a bird story in these photos or outside your window and write on.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Write One-liners

A bird on the wire is safe but is that a bird's life?

Miguel de Cervantes wrote, "A proverb is a short sentence based on long experience."

How will you define yourself in a proverb today?  Reflect on an experience that provided challenge and insight.  First, write the circumstances and details, then turn them into a one-liner or two. Don't forget to add humor.

He is strong who conquers others; he who conquers himself is mighty.  Lao-Tsu

Monday, January 7, 2013

Possessions and Attributes

You only possess that which cannot be lost in a shipwreck. -Al Ghazali

Make a list of ten of your cherished possessions. 

Make another list of your qualities and characteristics like talent, imagination, knowledge, problem solving skills, loyalty, and inner strength. How you have benefited from each?  

Creative Write:  Write about how your attributes will help you survive a major geological challenge.  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Untold Story

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” ― Maya Angelou

Saturday, January 5, 2013

How do you spell Attitude?

A healthy attitude is contagious but don't wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier. - Anonymous

How do you write about attitude?  If you used a word for each letter, will they inspire your thoughts?



Spell attitude in your write life.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Take what you need

Use three to five lines to describe each word you see above.  Show the words with sounds, scents, and tastes. Add colors.

After you've created your responses, which appeals the most?  Develop it.

Take what you need.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Tasteful Writing

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 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: Write with creative tastes to make readers drool.