Friday, May 31, 2013

Read to Write

People I read bleed into my own writing. I'm contsantly trying on voices 
and practicing a range of forms. 
- Sue Wootton, author of  By Birdlight

Reading like an omnivore helps a writer develop. Writers need to study fiction, poetry and essays to learn ways to select words, understand structure and rhythm. Reading in all genres helps to develop your voice. Think about the books you read and why. How do they affect your writing style?

Delve into these questions about your reading life:

Describe memories of individuals who read to you as a child?  List five favorite stories.

Did books you were forced to read in school have a different effect if you re-read them later?

Name books you re-read every few years.

What book did you feel you were supposed to like, and didn’t?

Do you read a variety of genres?

Recall the last book you put down without finishing and why.

Which book has had the greatest impact on you as a writer? List several if relevant.

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how):

What if you could meet any writer, dead or alive. What would you want to ask?

Have you adjusted to e-books?  Why or why not?

What are you reading and planning to read next?

Creative Write: After responding to the questions, write about reading.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Writing to Stay Upright

Blaga Dimitrova, Bulgaria's celebrated poet, novelist and playwright wrote:

As Long as You're Upright
Don't forget to rejoice.
The wise trees whisper
as they crash on failing knees
under the ax.
Don't forget to rejoice!
As long as you're upright,
as long as you encounter the wind.
As long as you breathe the heights.
As long as the ax slumbers.

Daily, the media throws "news" at us in the form of disasters, disorders and disarray. Rarely do we see headlines that inspire.

How do we survive each day with a positive attitude in this culture of negativity?  How do we remain upright?

Poetry leads us to search for our center and travel outward from it to make connections  We can do this in a tone of whininess or search for what works in our lives and in the world. 

Nature provides endless possibilities from dawn to dusk with marvels for our enrichment.

Inhaling life with all our senses gives perspective.

Blaga presented her Ars Poetica as a challenge to writers:

Write each of your poems
as if it were your last.
death comes with terrifying suddenness
You have no right to lie,
no right to play pretty little games.
You simply won't have time
to correct your mistakes.
Write each of your poems,
tersely, mercilessly,
with blood - as if it were your last.

Creative Write:   Today consider life from a Positive perspective.  Write your Ars Poetica from a place in nature.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Writer's Metamorphosis

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.

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 the process.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Trolling for Truth

"A writer's knowledge of himself, realistic and unromantic, is like a store of energy on which he must draw for a lifetime."  
- Graham Greene

What are central questions to living as a human doing?


Life's misunderstandings
Moments with friends
Family feuds and fun
Tests of courage
Defeat and redemption
Pleasures expressed and thwarted
Chances taken

What aspect of your life has baffled you?  Which experiences won't digest and go away? How many treasured moments do you value? What do you know about yourself in a way that is realistic and unromantic?  Test these questions for meaning in writing.

Creative Write:  Write about turns in life's road: u-turns, left turns, right turns, dead ends, changing vehicles.Imagine driving a different vehicle and an alternate way to go.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Play Like a Synesthete

Surprising as it may seem, some people can smell sounds, see smells or hear colors.  Synesthesia - from the Greek "syn" (with) and "aisthesis" (sensation) - consists of the pairing of two bodily senses. The perception of a determined stimulus activates a different perception with no external stimulus. 

In the Department of Experimental Psychology and Physiology at the University of Granada, Spain, a research group works on the systematic study of synesthesia and its relation to perception and emotions. 
Professor Juan Lupiáñez Castillo and Alicia Callejas Sevilla have devoted many years to the study of this phenomenon which affects approximately one person out of every thousand. Some claim it occurs in newborns.

Arthur Rimbaud, in one of his most famous poems, assigns colors to each vowel: 
A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,
I shall tell, one day, of your mysterious origins:
A, black velvety jacket of brilliant flies
which buzz around cruel smells

Creative Write:

Play with the notion of synesthesia. Add three senses.


Give each a sound, a scent and a taste.  Then see where the writing takes you.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Write into Positive Emotions

Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out. 
-John Wooden

Michael A. Cohn, PhD, a postdoctoral researcher with the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco studies emotions. He believes in what he terms, the broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions.

Cohn recently conducted a study with 86 college students who submitted daily emotion reports. He measured the students' ability to respond with flexibility to challenging and shifting circumstances and used a scale to assess life satisfaction.

The study showed that positive emotions increased resilience. This included skills for identifying opportunities and bouncing back from adversity as well as life satisfaction.

"We found that as positive emotions go up, there comes a point where negative emotions no longer have a significant negative impact on building resources or changing life satisfaction," Cohn says. He continues, "Positive emotions won't protect you from feeling bad about things, nor should they. But over time, they can protect you from the consequences of negative emotions."

Life throws a variety of challenges at us each day. We can choose to see them as flat lines of negativity or take action to draw a vertical line through the horizontals and create a plus sign. Taking action always makes something happen to keep us moving, regardless of mood. Humor colors life with vibrancy.

These exercises will help you create more Positivity in your life:

1. Focus on your sense of humor to provide buoyancy in all types of weather. Laughter strengthens the stomach muscles and releases chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, to elevate the mood.

2. To practice laughter, begin with a breathing exercise. Take five breaths in and five out through the nose. After five repetitions, let the out breath go with: ha ha ha ha ha. Notice how energized you feel. Remember this exercise the next time you feel stressed.

3. When a negative emotion crosses your mind, write it down. When you write: frustration, anger, worry or fear, include emotions to counteract them. Give them names and write a dialogue between the opposites.

4. Make three columns and list your three greatest accomplishments. In each column, write ways you accomplished these Feats of Fantastic. Keep the list with you and add to it. If you feel frustrated during a challenge, refer to the list to see how you succeeded in the past.

5. Who is a Hero in your area of expertise or life in general? How does this person achieve success? How do you suppose this person greets failure?

If you spend time working on the above five areas, you will develop Positive habits that will grow into your Best Friends during times of need. 

Creative Write:  When you find yourself in a negative mood, write the mood across the top of a page.  Then begin writing about feelings that arouse satisfaction. What really makes your day and gives you buoyancy?  Include sounds, scents, tastes and sensations. Don't forget to include humor. Notice what happens as you write two or three pages.  Do you feel an emotional alteration?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Write With Exuberance

Within a few years, poppies create millions of plants that enliven hillsides and valleys. Spring’s exuberance for life pulses in every niche. Nature teaches us about outbursts of joy replenished. It takes over after wars destroy landscapes and fires darken meadows. Innate and eager, landscapes blooms in recovery.

Spring’s messages of growth remind us not to dwell in negativity. We need to move beyond life’s sadness and frustrations. A twirl of focus develops curiosity for the marvelous in green, yellows and reds.

Contagions of purple and blue enliven the vistas.

This attitude does not mean a constant search for happiness. Rather, a state of buoyancy carries and spreads positive energy. Fragilities will always surround us. Resilience results from enthusiasm as we approach daily life.

Creative Write: Jump into the exuberance of spring. Take a walk and give emotions to flowers and plants. How would you enthuse a petulent petunia? Argue with a depressed dahlia and encourage it to bloom. Rant with eagerness to turn frustration into fun.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hummingbird Tales

I saw it all from my green sky.
I had no more alphabet
that the swallows in their courses,
the tiny shining water
of the small bird on fire
which dances out of the pollen. 
- Pablo Neruda

If we consider possibility that dinosaurs evolved into birds, imagine Brontosaurus Rex shrink into a hummingbird body. What a change had to occur from a bulky creature who walked on thick legs and shook the earth with each step? 

An amazement of technology, a hummingbird can fly upside down and backwards while dipping its beak and tongue into flower nectar.

Where did the jewel of glitter first open its eyes? In Peru and other South American countries a variety of hummingbirds exist. They went to the rain forest and the high peaks of the Andes. They arrived in Argentina and Mexico. One species even made it to Alaska.

The Quechan people of present-day Ecuador tell stories of how the hummingbird represents a variety of attributes such as wisdom, optimism and agility. One story tells of a fire in a forest where many animals live. The hummingbird carries single drops of water back and forth from the pond to try to put out the firs. When the other animals ask why, the bird replies, "I am doing what I can."

Creative Write: What story could you craft today about an animal "doing what it can?"

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Story in Five Lines

Have fun creating a story in five lines.  Who knows, you might become inspired to expand it.  Try one each morning for a week.

First line           Title   (Make it intrigue the reader)
Second line     Two words to provide conflict
Third line          Three-words showing action taken
Fourth line        Four-word sentence describing a feeling about the title
Fifth line           Renames or describes the first line

Morning Challenge

Heron hunger
Time to fish
Search for a meal
No fin in sight

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

One Way Change

We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves, otherwise we harden. ~ Goethe

What could you change today to avoid a "one way" habit?  Think about renewal as spring moves into summer.


Take different routes to places all day.

Wear a forgotten piece of clothing.

Thank people for sharing their smiles.

See an old problem with rewewed solutions.

Think in couplets.

Eat with your fingers.

Sing your conversations.

Write like you mean it.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Write into YOU.

To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting. ~ e.e. cummings

Three methods to learn wisdom: reflection, which is noblest; imitation, which is easiest; experience, which is the bitterest. 

Recall a ten year old self.  What did you believe?  How far have you grown from then? What do you take with you from that self?  What surprised you that you leaned?  Describe a growth experience that resulted from a disappointment.

Reflect upon events in your life where wisdom appeared after a struggle. If you returned to the scene of the event, how might you adjust your actions?

How often have you used imitation to add dimensions to your personality?

Write to explore yourself today.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Stimulate Your Curiosity

"There are things known and things unknown and between them, the doors." - Jim Morrison

Eleanor Roosevelt believed curiosity became a child's most useful gift. For Dorothy Parker curiosity cured boredom. She felt curiosity had no cure - thankfully. Albert Einstein claimed he had no talents. Life turned him "passionately curious."

Curiosity begins in wonder. It travels like sparks once the fire ignites. Even looking up the word will reveal something else along the way. Mysteries surround that we take for granted. While the media conjures negativity; our minds can search for positivity from the ruins.

By snagging a snapshot of attention, ideas leap in. I become a companion with the frame and wonder where it will lead. Playfulness and imagination extend the image.

What happens beyond the gate?

Words in response to pictures help reflect and interpret the world. They form a relationship. Sentences search a world of paradox and investigate mystery.

Barriers reveal portals to adventure.
Do you see the man of the sea hiding?

Creative Write: Take a walk and capture your curiosity with a collage of portals. Or, use the three above. Do a freewite to investigate their connections. Let stories and poems arise from one side of the entrance to the other.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Verb Your Nouns

Frolic with creativity and verb your nouns. Choose a beakful of nouns and propel them into action.
Exaggerate. Play. Propagate.

Energize with these.

sparrow   Sparrow your worries to sleep.

nasturtium:  Did you ever nasturtium an idea into story?

sunshine  Sunshine your shoes.

purple:  Purple an idea into a poem.

beetle:    Beetle for fun. What happens if you beedeedle?

falcon:    Just falcon an adventure.
poppy:  Poppy around the town!

wing:  Wing the day!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

What arrives . . . instead.

The deer they said would be there at dawn
never appeared
but the dawn mist instead.
Always something instead
like the little brown pebble on the porch
that turned out to be a frog.
Things that arrive on their own . . .
                  -  Tony Hoagland

How often do we chase somethings then others appear instead? They lead us to a greater adventure. Recognize the fun of impulses, opportunities and insteads.

Ask questions instead of searching for answers. Delve into the unexplored. Make friends with uncertainty instead of the usual.

Stay in the moment.

Find nuances in ordinary.

What's in an eye gleam?

Don't miss the obvious in shapes, scents and sounds. 
Notice what flutters in unexpected places. 

Experience the shadows.

Squint, alter and go wild into colorness.

Creative Write: Write about what arrived . . . instead of what you expected.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Write Your Self-knowledge

Do you realize you have all you need in your mind and body to make life memorable and amazing?

The seven sages of ancient Greece, philosophers, statesmen, and law-givers who laid the foundation for western culture, gathered at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi to inscribe ‘Know Thyself’ at the entry. 

When asked what was the most difficult thing, Thales replied, “To know thyself.” When asked what was easiest, he replied, “To give advice.”

Mining one's own background and possibility works better than living by someone else's experience and understanding.  While examples help, it's easier to question what has worked in the past and try a new approach yourself.

Self-knowledge learned by self-experience surpasses all other knowledge. 

What's gained in adverse situations turns into armor for future struggles if one pays attention and relive those experiences.  When facing a challenge, use knowledge from a different but challenging experience. Ask: In what ways will this problem be solved.
Live from the inside out. Take responsibility for yourself. Share kindness. Express gratitude. Exercise mind and body. Give all you have each day. 

Creative Write: Write what you know about yourself. Then consider five ways to get the most from your day.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Circus Comes to Town

The train has rolled to a stop. Occupants disembark. Elephants, tigers, lions, and a variety of birds emerge. Then the clowns, a strong man, trapeze artists, a bearded lady, tattooed man, and self-styled oddballs descend.  

The circus sets up tents. Scents of onions and corn dogs fill the air.  Cotton candy and popcorn with butter tease.
When spectators enter the gates, barkers yell for their dollars. 

Spectators emerge wide-eyed from a small tent where the fortune teller fuels their desires.

Creative Write: Imagine your role in the circus. Which act would you perform?  Write into your fantasy.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Write About Judgment

"We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit."
          - e.e. cummings
Before naturalist Charles Darwin sailed on the Beagle, his father tried to talk him out of embarking on the journey. Calling it a "wild scheme" and "useless undertaking," Darwin's father urged him to give up his adventure. At this time Darwin already had established his reputation as an author of note. He paid no attention to his father's words and sailed to discoveries.

Do you recall someone who tried to dissuade you from an adventure? How did it affect an event in your life? Did the negative influence motivate you to go beyond and "show them"?

Reflect upon how someone else provided a positive impact: a coach, parent, mentor or friend. Did you feel a surge of self-esteem?  What did it feel like?

Creative Write: Recall a time when someone responded to your project or prospects with an attitude.  Write about how you disproved their judgment.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Into the Sounds and Silence

"Silence is where you were when you first lifted your pen and listened for the words in your head.  Silence is where you are sovereign, where you write what you are drawn 
to write .  .  . " - Daphne Kalotay

How do words emerge from their captivity? In what ways do these words attract attention?

Notice words in different places. How do they arrive there? What occurs in the spaces between them? 

Make discoveries into collections and clashes of sounds.  Start with the beginnings and the ends of sounds.  Give shape to rhythm.  

Become intent on listening for distant barking, hammering, the sound of breathing, bird twitters, tweets and all steady sound.  

Creative Write: Pause to listen.  Write about the lack of sound.  Embark of a journey moving from the silence and back again.

Monday, May 13, 2013

A Worthy Life

What does it mean to lead a "worthy" life?  Is it important to "do" something to benefit society as opposed to trying to "be" someone?  Do we need more focus on stewardship?

Consider what a healthy society needs from all its participants.  How well do we use the power of money?  Do we need more Heroes and Thinkers?  Do you believe in returning to another time in history when contentment and reciprocity occurred?

Creative Write: If you had to choose a philosophy to promote positive living, what three things would you write about?

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hunt and Gather Words

Poets spend a lifetime hunting 
for the magic that will make the moment stay.  
- Stanley Kunitz

Writing poetry means making word choices. Images drive the lines and fill out the structure. A metaphor might permeate the message to gain attention. Rhythm and feelings weave throughout and a message results.

Writers hunt, gather and relay word by well-chosen word to communicate observations and notions.

Go for the poetry in your thoughts and ideas. Forget about line breaks. Just write the tune that floats through you to send a weary world your insights, feelings and concerns.

Spread your wings. Present the moment in all its glory with sounds, sights, colors, scents, tastes, and feelings.

Creative Write: Capture a situation or emotion. Add something discovered and expand its wonder. What do you feel certain about? Move into what you do not understand. End with an image in nature.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Do a Mental Shampoo

"Everyday, give yourself a good mental shampoo." - Dr. Sara Jordan

The mind requires swishing and swirling for revitalization. This removes old patterns and habits. 

Try altering your mindset and point of view.

Let eyes, ears and fingers search for renewal.

Release emotions that clutter. 

Turn a corner and a bee diner appears.

Catch an elegant tern in flight.

Notice how nature colors and texturizes to fill cracks in the man-made world.  

Life sprouts with determination.

Mental bathing invites a search for what isn't seen, heard, smelled, or tasted.

Mysteries surround and energize the day.

Nurture. Wonder. Thrive.  Alive!

Creative Write:  Delve into a place familiar but unexpected. Alter perspective to view the world in a slant or a shift not considered before. Try a view into the crevices.