Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bunny Ears to You

Did you know that etiquette requires individuals to eat the ears first when munching a chocolate bunny? A survey conducted by the Chocolate Manufacturers Association (CMA) and National Confectioners Association (NCA) reveals this information. It also noted that chocolate bunnies are the number one “must have” item in an Easter basket.

I have always wondered about the bunny bringing chicken eggs. Where did this start?  

A myth reveals that the German Goddess of springtime, Ostara, evolved into an egg-toting Easter bunny. According an Anglo-Saxon myth, Ostara personifies the rising sun. A friend to all children, she amuses them by changing her pet bird into a rabbit. The rabbit brings colored eggs which she gives to the children as gifts.

I believe the bunny clan and the chicken clan played tricks on one another. They had their territories to defend above and below the ground.  One dark night, the bunnies climbed up from their depths and stole all the chickens' eggs. The bunnies rolled the eggs to their tunnels underground. 

All night long, the bunnies painted the eggs a variety of colors made from chewing spring flowers such as daisies, geraniums, and nasturtiums. They popped them up into the chickens' land and hid them behind bushes. The next morning feathers flew as the chickens ran around trying to find their eggs.

What do you think the chickens did when they discovered their eggs had turned a variety of colors? What did they do to get even with the bunnies?

Saturday, March 30, 2013


At first light, three men 
entered the forest.

The axeman downed a tree
riddled by insects
seeing it worth only fire wood.

The logger brought a chainsaw 
with greed in his smile.
He would sell lumber 
to make his fortune.

The musician searched all day
playing fingers over bark and limbs.
His nostrils filled with scents of joy,
to discover material to make
instruments whose living notes
might please a weary world.

Creative Write:  Write about points of view that differ. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Spring Sprints

Dior Mathis, sprinter from University of Oregon

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Write about a day that changed you.

Think about national, international or political events during your lifetime.  Select one that made an impact. Interpret the details.

What did it make you realize?  Did you want to do something about it?  How did it affect your philosophy of life?

Creative Write: Let your writing take you on an adventure as as you re-experience an event.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Habit Tracking

Individuals and their traits travel through us. From childhood onward, many of our behaviors become composites of watching and emulating others.  Preferences may arise from both positive and negative experiences that build character and personality.

During the day keep track of behaviors you attribute to influence from family members or friends.  Who taught you to roll socks into a ball or fold them over together to place in the sock drawer?  Did someone suggest you try catsup or vinegar on French fries?  Did a sibling throw the baseball and football with you and show you form?  Did you ever skip a stone on a lake?  Who taught you to tie shoelaces and how do you?  Who dared you to become courageous?

Does science appeal after watching the celery experiment revealing capillary action with blue ink that traveled up into the leaves?  Do you like jelly with scrambled eggs because your father ate it?  Does mac and cheese not fit into the favorite foods category because you had to eat it when recovering from an illness?  Who read your first book to you or revealed the alphabet?  Do you count on your fingers?

Notice how you respond during the day.  Do you hear yourself say something a friend always repeated?  Do your slang words retreat many decades and you still say, "Cool" or "Right on"?

Creative write:  After you complete your day's habit tracking, write about your impressions.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Where do I . . .? Your Question Engine

Do you have ideas but feel challenged about where to begin, what to place in the middle and how to finish a piece of writing?

Alter your typical approach. Avoid writing an outline. Outlines often restrict ideas if prepared in desperation or too soon in your process. Instead of thinking in terms of structure, develop a series of questions. Don’t respond, just continue with the questions for a full page. They perpetuate forward movement.

A journey with questions will open possibilities you have not considered. You will discover what you’re trying to say while questioning. Questions will help you write beyond frustrations and chronology which both get in the way of creativity.

Here are a few to start your question engine. Remember, write for a page and don't answer them.
What’s beyond the focus of this piece of writing?

What’s necessary to this writing?

What’s troubling about it?

How and where will the reader become most curious ?

What happens next? Then what?

In what ways could I become outrageous with this writing?

Will humor help?

What would the writing say to me in dialogue?

What if I begin with the conclusion?

Would the middle provide a different beginning?

Do I want the reader to follow along, feel frustrated or satisfied with my ending?

What if I leave the ending open to a variety of interpretations?

How will my sentence structure help with the tempo of the writing?

Creative Write:
Take a piece of writing that has not performed for you. Ask questions. Ask more. Let them sit for several hours while you’re doing different things. Then return and ask questions of the questions.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Absorption and Play

In the "Legend of Bagger Vance," Bagger Vance claims that life is a game that can't be won, only played.  The writing life becomes similiar. In the initial stages of creativity, writing should not pursue a goal.

We play with words, become immersed in our writing action and discover what we never expected. Play becomes serious and disciplined as well as liberating. An absorption takes over that removes us from structure and our surroundingss.

If we free ourselves to write just what arrives, the writing serves itself.  It may not win prizes or become publishable but that's not the purpose.  The writing sets us free to move to another level of possibility.

Writing is a solitary practice.  Like meditation, no one can do it but the writer.

Creative Write: Set aside a block of time and permit yourself the stillness, and freedom to write with a pen across pages for at least an hour. If you can spend two or three, you will amaze yourself.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Write for Resilience

"Anxiety is the interest paid on trouble before it is due." Dean W.R.Inge

Human beings are the only creatures in nature who complain and feel anguish about a situation before it happens. When met with obstaclea, other animals, insects, and plants just keep doing what needs to be done; staying in their process toward progress. They move beyond what gets in the way.

Consider aspects of resilience. Check out eggs hatching, roses unfurling, or seeds sprouting. Imagine if they wasted time with anxious thoughts. Nothing would hatch or bloom. Maybe they're just fortunate that they don't have the brain cells necessary for worry?

Many researchers argue that pessimism has its place. That it offers a more realistic way to positive results. Barbara Held, psychologist at Bowdoin College, believes healthy doses of pessimism (defensive pessimism) become crucial in overcoming obstacles and achieving goals. If we accept the fact that things can go wrong, we can prepare for them. It’s the best offense for a positive outcome.

Become a balanced Optimist. Rather than thinking like the defensive pessimist, use your writer’s imagination to work for you in creating the best and worse cases. Ask, “In what five ways can I achieve success.” Write about it. Scribble notions as you consider all pathways and rocks in the road to your desired destination.

Preparation enables you to have a variety of responses ready. You have choices and do not need to persist with unsuccessful routes. These ideas will move you beyond the emotional reactions of the moment. You will develop healthy resilience as a result of your writing process.

Creative Write:  Write five ways to achieve resilience today.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Celebrating 123

Today I celebrate my father's 123rd Birthday. He taught me a fascination for life and to marvel at the eyewinks of sunrise and sunset. In a blink, darkness animates morning and day sneaks into night.

My father and I watched my "big ball of fire" as it eased into the horizon. He described a moment when the sun finds the sea and changes color in a "flash." Green sparks for a second or two. 

We coddled our patience through myriad twilights to catch that perfect moment - the green flash. It never happened for us to share.

Now, living on a hill with a view to the sea, I continue to watch and wait. One day the mystery will unfold when I least expect it. The search means placing myself in a variety of circumstances to "get ready." An amazement awaits in mirages and light shimmers. 

Writing also has its mysteries that I cannot perceive without the patience of the process. I feel awakenings daily as I attend to my practice. The thrill keeps me eager until a flash reveals itself. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Bubble for Ideas

A stack of bricks, a work shirt billowing on the line:
epics in the making. Each set of doubts a garden. - Lance Larsen from the poem, "Chancellor of Shadows"                       

How do you generate ideas for your prose or poetry? At times, inspiration may seem mysterious. Connection, collection and collation promote idea development.

Consider the stimuli received each day. Take time to use all your senses as antennas to locate and pick up bits of conversations, body language, scenes unfolding, and opportunities for further investigation.

If you keep a small notebook handy or use a recording device, ideas will land in a safe place. Later you can return to see how they dovetail or grow additional wings.

Stephane Mallarme said, "Poems are not made of ideas, they are made of words. An idea, a possibility, may be in my head - or in the world - for hours or years, with nothing coming of it. Then one day, maybe taking a shower or a walk or driving, into my mind or mouth come a few words in a certain order, or maybe not even words, maybe a shape of grammar, sentence-sound: And then a poem begins, I hope."

Always stay on an idea hunt. No matter where you find yourself you can attract them. Take an hour to visit  places where people gather. Watch body language, sounds and add scents and tastes. Observe the seasons and their subtleties. Notice the animals that populate your days. Don't worry about beginnings, middles or ends, just become a collector of life's mysteries and events that unfold around you.

Look up and observe details others miss. If you begin this observation, a habit will form and you'll always attract bubbles of ideas. Let your ideas-in-training percolate. They will arise when you least expect them.

How will you bubble for ideas today?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Writer's Field Trip - Dialogue to Create Power Struggle

Writers need to take field trips to study human behavior. People-watching provides story ideas and ways to describe personalities and conflict.

Take a notebook with you and spend an hour or two at a sports bar or restaurant.  Notice couples, their interactions on several levels and write their details in body language.

Watch and record:

l.   How do they walk in together?
2.  Notice their approaches to each other and the menu.
3.  Write how they address the wait persons. Use their choices of food to define them or create conflict. Do they share food?
4.  Examine the details of their body language and facial gestures.
5.  Can you imagine what's going on in their conversation just by observing their silent language?

Creative Write:  Design a story or poem entirely in dialogue that involves a power struggle set at a restaurant. Use gestures of hands and arms to show emotions and action. Create a current to run beneath your dialogue to reveal an aspect of their relationship?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Renewal for Spring

"That evening clinic of referred pain; the t.v. news"  - Ian McEwan from Enduring Love

The news displays and touts the tragic: what's broken, crashed, killed and hopeless. Advertisements appeal for medications that cause more problems than what they solve. Pills require additional pills to counter their effects.  

Even social media brings out the cranky in people. Why does anyone buy into this negativity that swirls?  Take a break from the onslaught and absorb the sensory effects of nature.  

During my morning run on Sunday, I noticed a young man and his son sitting together. They settled in watching passersby and the sky. Smiles energized their faces.  

"Do you have a cell phone?" I asked.  
"No, not today. I shut down all my technological devices each Sunday to spend time with my son."  
"Will I ruin the plans if I take your photo?"

His grin increased as I took their photograph and emailed it to him.

I felt good to know that someone had resisted technology's pull for one day a week to enjoy life and energize a relationship.

March 20 signals the first day of spring.  The vernal equinox enlivens growth. Take time to renew and revitalize. Review your diet and exercise. Avoid negative influences. 

Sport laughter and creative thoughts. Expand the mind through reading quality literature. Invite a friend to play. 

Explore the natural world and write the sensory details. Focus on what works for you. 

Give yourself a day's retreat to evaluate how you want to spend time.  If you can't avoid technoloogy for a day, do it for an hour at a time. 

You will notice how joy enlivens the air.

Breathe in spring's messages and write.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Imaginate and Make Mistakes

“I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”  
Thomas Edison
Use of the imagination stimulates travel into a wilderness of mind and movement where connections and cross-overs exist.  Mistakes happen as one careens in search of mysteries.

Often a stumble on the path leads to a butterfly hidden in a tree's root system. Foraging into the density of undergrowth uncovers beetles and ladybugs.

Dragonflies chased with a camera might defeat a photographer. When a song sparrow's call excites, its wings move faster than the shutter on a cell phone.

Missed photographs do not discourage. Determination energizes the stalking mind and eye. 

A step forward. A head's turn. A sit and wait. All lead to success.

Photos that blur still provide clues and insights. Patience and perseverance outlast creatures' antics.

Forged with determination and patience, a photographer occasionally turns away in despair.  Then an osprey arrives with dinner and takes time to munch. 

A true believer in failure as motivation, Thomas Edison welcomed mistakes and challenged rules. As a result he probed the unknown and experimented with the unseen. He recast the idea of failure as a learning opportunity. Edison claimed, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” 

With a diary that had over 5 million pages, Edison felt writing ideas expanded his creativity. This helped him discover an awareness of patterns in thinking and actions. He claimed he liked, "to find out what the world needs. Then I go ahead and try to invent it.”

Edison bragged, “I make more mistakes than anyone else I know, and sooner or later, I patent most of them.”  

If writers and photographers risk with mistakes, challenge rules and move beyond them, they can make discoveries about themselves and their art. What a way to applaud the fearless persistence, positivity and perspective that Thomas Edison maintained. 

Creative Write:  What would you do with Edison's thoughts, “There are no rules here — we’re trying to accomplish something.”  How would that affect your creativity and writing today?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Write the Marks

"It is rare that the summer lets an apple go without streaking or spotting it on some part of its sphere.  It will have some red stains, commemorating the mornings and evenings it has witnessed; some dark and rusty blotches, in memory of the clouds and foggy, mildewy days that have passed over it; and a spacious field of green reflecting the general face of nature - green even as the fields, or a yellow ground, which implies a milder flower - yellow as the harvest or russet as the hills"
                                                      - Henry David Thoreau

Life leaves marks on us. Scars pucker and glisten on our skins. Wrinkles, freckles and life challenges punctuate our expressions. They provide insight to what we've experienced and where we've traveled.  If we alter our skins with tattoos, they also have stories to reveal. Everyone has scars that lead to stories.

Creative Write:

1.  Tell a story your "marks" reveal. Choose a scar and explain how it decorates you.
2   How did you choose a tattoo and what does it tell about you?
3.  Recall time you first recognized freckles.  Did you connect the dots?
4.  Do the wrinkles of your knuckles crinkle into faces? What do they tell you?
5.  How has laughter carved commas on your cheeks?

Explore the textures of your skin. Let the blank skin of the page reflect the shade and grain of your skin.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

 "When you cease to fear your solitude, a new creativity awakens in you. Your forgotten or neglected wealth begins to reveal itself. You come home to yourself and learn to rest within. Thoughts are our inner senses. Infused with silence and solitude, they bring out the mystery of inner landscape." 
Anam Cara by John O'Donohue

John O’Donohue, author of Anam Cara, celebrates the soul that shines like a cloud around the body. He feels that when you become open, appreciative and trusting with another, your souls flow together.  

O'Donohue writes, "Friendship is the sweet grace that liberates us to approach, recognize and inhabit this adventure."

In Celtic spirituality, the anam cara friendship stimulates the richness and mystery of life. The Irish believe an individual blessed with anam cara, has arrived at a sacred place.  Friendship becomes an act of recognition and belonging.

Creative Write:  Write about a friendship that brought you out of solitude. Craft a story about a pet that contributed to your richness and mystery of life.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Write to reconstruct your world.

"Gaining access to that interior life is a kind of . . . archaeology: on the basis of some informtion and a little bit of guesswork, you journey to a site to see what remains where left behind and you reconstruct the world."   - Toni Morrison

Life Patterns for Reconstruction

What matters the most in your life?

Answers to that question change as you grow and mature with experience when thinking about choices.  During a lifetime, we return to aspects of life that matter the most.  Writing about and through these experiences provides insight for future choices.

Think of an incident that shaped the way you view your life?  Was a hidden gift there, or a lesson you've carried forward? 

Did you make a choice in the moment that benefitted your future?  Could you have gone a different direction and altered where you reside in life today?

Recall an incident where you felt a real or perceived disadvantage of life.  In reflection, would you change the results?

Consider a choice you did not make or one that was made for you because of procrastination or indecision. How would you rewrite it from a third person perspective?

Remember a choice you did not make or one that was made for you because of procrastination or indecision. How would you rewrite it from a third person perspective?

Do you have unfinished business in an area of life?

What's your life's greatest decision?

Creative Write:  Freewrite to one or all of the above concerns.  See what the writing uncovers in the archaeology of your interior life.  Then, as Morrison suggests, "reconstruct the world."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Discover Gleams

Desire does not bring poems. The hunted can only abide how opportune the killer's lunge is and how deftly sharpened its blade.  
Richardo Pau-Llosa

Poet, Ricardo Pau-Llosa, writes of the inspirational moment as a "hunger of the stalking mind."  He feels creativity requires a hunt for the moment it cannot grasp, let alone pity. Pau-Llosa likes to use parables as metaphors in his poems.

What obsesses a writer in the moment that jars from the onslaught of every day thoughts and feelings?  Can we hunt for topics or stalk them until they relent?  Will they behave if trapped or captured this way?

Beyond becoming a stalker of experience, stay ready for gleams that beckon. Notions might not connect immediately. Become the collector and collator of their sparkle rather tracking them like a hunter.

Save experience, surprise wonder in a kaleidoscope to twist, turn and view the assimilation of color and shine. Eventually a series of clicks will shift and sort.  

A progression of gleams arrive and dovetail or flee. Why?  They relish the freedom of flight.

Keep a notebook for moments. Let them sort and combine at a later date.

Create Write:  Go through your journal or notebook for words that gleam.  Will a poem result?  Try writing a myth or parable.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How to shake out a poem.

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.

You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.

People are going back and forth across the doorsill
where the two worlds touch.

The door is round and open.
Don't go back to sleep.

From Essential Rumi
by Coleman Barks

Consider a poem that troubles you. It evades completion and will not behave. Go after it. Worry it and shake it out.

Ask questions:

How do you bring the reader into the beginning of the poem?

Where and how do you locate yourself in the poem? Or do you?

What word choices make the poem?

Do you use abstract words? Replace them with concrete imagery.

Have you read it aloud to test its rhythm?

In what ways do you make the poem intrigue the reader?

Have you made the heart of the poem clear?

Would a sound, a scent or a color help?

Does it need a sense of place?

Do you have a message to convey?

How do you end it?

After you've answered the questions, toss it in the air. Let the lines fall where they may.  Begin again with renewed vigor.

Revisit. Rethink. Revision.   Go get it!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Notice a Snail's Way

I awakened like a bee ready to begin the day circling projects. Snuggling under the covers for another minute or two, I concentrated on the moment with gratitude for another day.

During my morning run, my mind kept circling, organizing, thinking, planning. It wanted to complete projects, grade papers, and get things done.

My brain began to race like a cheetah. I reined that brain into the moment to notice a cloud parade had punctuated the sky.  A chipmunk and two bunnies grazed clover, their jaws synchronized in slow motion, Seagulls on the side of the cliff teased the wind. Waves nudged bubbles to shore.

A snail crossed ahead of me, leaving its reminder. To savor moments takes determination.

The breeze etched my cheeks with spring notions. As the pace slowed, I took time; time did not overtake me.

On the way home, a snail on a leaf rose like a Cheshire cat as I passed. Nearby, a bee circled the way I had started the morning. A feeling of snail settled in. 

Creative Write: Write about spending an afternoon at a snail's pace.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Write into Shadows, Shapes and Silliness

Give yourself a creative break.  

Turn your head. Cross those eyes. Find upside down. 

Gain insights and connections by delving into shadows and shapes. Add a slant of silly. Notice how newness entices.

Do you find a heart or hoofprint? 

Let pebbles excite a feeling.

Who laughs beneath the grain?

Write the roots into a metaphor.

What story could you tell about
the trunk that transforms into an
iguana at sunset?

Color its eyes.

What do these clouds talk about besides the weather?  Do they laugh or discuss their children?

What's inside an alien brain?

I told him, "Turn left . . . Left!"   Karplunk.  "Why did you make me do that?"

Creative Write:  Bounce words and notions from these photographs.  Add your own and write into shadows, shapes and sharpen the silliness.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Your Writing Weather

Reciprocity rules in relationships that endure.

We also thrive in a reciprocity with writing. For writing to nurture us, we desire the thrills and rhythm to sustain our sense of direction. Writing must provide support as we struggle through the fog. Often this relationship feels unrequited. We rush and push, clutching for words that drown beyond our reach.

Similar to our relationships with others, we must figure out for ourselves what Aristotle meant by, “Know Thyself.”  What do we know about our individual strengths and challenges when churning in a wordless maelstrom ? We have to re-create our self-assurance and find a Positive to remind us what works . A "learn thyself" process keeps us going.

Nine Preparations for inclement writing weather:

1. Stock your own life raft while the sun shines. What are your best resources? During the times of flow, write down what works for you. What have you done "this time" to push beyond?

2. Challenge yourself to discover ways to return to the page or screen. Turn up the music. Sit there and let fingers fly without worry about the result. Don’t become anxious to create a finished piece.

3. Learn your rhythm. Chart your mind's peaks and valleys by week.  Give yourself a day of rest and read a variety of words. Choose words that amuse or amaze. Write one word or one sentence on colored cards.

4. As you begin to learn about yourself, consider: does creativity increase the closer you get to the deadline? Can you count on this? What other ways could you manage your creativity? Consider setting an earlier deadline to trick the "procrastinating creative."

5. When frustration floods, return to research and information gathering. Write a letter to your writing as a friend. Ask this pal for help.

6. Most breakthroughs occur when you move away from the project. Take a walk. Write about how forces of nature deal with weather.

7. Consider improbable connections. Let your ideas rearrange in kaleidoscopic fashion

8. Write your process for all writing projects. Notice it does not progress in a linear fashion. This will become your Best Friend.

9. Create your own metaphor for struggle. Consider your greatest accomplishment and how you achieved it. Use all your senses to recall it in detail.

In a write relationship, no one can supply what we have the ability to discover for ourselves. Learning our rhythms and styles will support us through any weather and become habit. With habit and resilience, we will always have two Best Friends and will benefit from the reciprocity.

Creative Write:  Write about how you deal with all types of weather in your writing.