Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Read and Write about a Dinner.

The Dinner by Herman Koch takes place in and around a restaurant in Amsterdam. In cinematic views, the story's structure follows five courses, starting with an aperitif and ending with a tip. During each chapter/course,  readers learn the backstory of the four diners. 

The narrator, Paul expresses disdain for his brother and the trendy restaurant he managed to book so fast. Readers charmed by Paul's account of the dinner will develop chills that all's not right with him. 

What Paul does in life remains unclear. His past issues have placed him in limbo. Older brother Serge serves as the opposition leader in Parliament. With elections on the horizon, likely to become the nexty Prime Minister.  

Prompted by Serge, the two brothers and their wives Claire and Babette meet to discuss an issue regarding their children. A brutal killing in Paul's neighborhood, recorded on a cellphone, landed on YouTube. Even though the pictures shown look grainy, Serge feels convinced of their sons' involvement.

Page by page, The Dinner draws the reader with twists, turns and intrigue. Decisions have to be made.

Creative Write:  Do read the book. Then try a writing excursion placed at a restaurant with its distractions. Decide what you might do as a parent who knows too much about a child's misbehavior.  If the tables were turned, what might a child do if he or she discovered parents had committed a heinous crime?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Paint a picture.

"How astonishing it is that language can almost mean
and frightening that it does not quite.  Love, we say, God, we say.  
 . . . we write and the words get it wrong. We say bread and it means according 
to which nation.  French has no word for home, and we have no word for strict pleasure." 
- Jack Gilbert from the poem, "The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart."

"A poem should not mean
 but be." 
 - Archibald Macleish

Write without pounding the reader with meaning in a poem or story. Focus on staying in the action of the moment.

Paint an event in light and dark imagery. Let the reader discover its essence.

Show an emotion or state of mind avoiding the use of its word: frustration, joy, despair, satisfaction.

How would you define home?

Do you believe in "strict pleasure"?  Show it in visual and sensual images.

Observe the contrast of colors. Try for a rainbow's taste.

Hear the music of leaves and respond.

Write into a "why"?

Jump into the middle of a situation and write yourself out of it.

Avoid judgment. Let the words shriek.

Notice empty spaces.  Fill them with words.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Write to Amaze and Blaze

Igor Stravingsky, a 20th century composer experimented with styles of music.  This included the avant-garde work, "The Rite of Spring.  He said, "My music is best understood by children and animals."

How will you go wild and free in writing today to appeal to children and animals?  Translate spontaneity and innocence into metaphors.

Write to amaze and blaze!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

How to reject unwelcome gifts.

A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study. ~Chinese Proverb

A story tells of a Samurai who had many students. One afternoon, an impatient warrior arrived. He had never lost a fight. Hearing of the Samurai’s reputation, he came to defeat him, and increase his own fame. 

His students appealed his decision, but the old man accepted the challenges. 

As his students gathered to observe, the young man started insulting the old master. He threw rocks, spat in his face, and shouted insults. 

Provoked for hours, the old man remained impassive. At the end of the afternoon, feeling exhausted and humiliated, the warrior walked away. 

Disappointed by the fact that the master had received so many insults and provocations, the students asked, “How could you bear such indignity? Why didn’t you use your sword, instead of displaying your cowardice in front of us all?” 

The old master bowed and smiled, “If someone comes to you with a gift, and you do not accept it, to whom does the gift belong?” asked the old Samurai. 

“He who tried to deliver it,” replied a student. 

“The same goes for envy, anger and insults,” said the master. “When they are not accepted, they continue to belong to the one who carried them.”

Creative Write:  Write a story about how to reject unwelcome gifts.  Or, write about how you manage anger.  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Recipe for the Write Life

Trout Town Joe's coffee shop in June Lake, California sports the above message.  The owner's smile, wider than the lake, brightens the day as her coffee adds energy.

Staying balanced involves leveling off from daily dips; up to down to up again. A smile activates a positive attitude, improves mood and helps us benefit from the day's challenges.

Smile and motivate your writing into action.

l.   Set a writing intention. Choose a subject daily and write regardless of a need for outcome.

2.  Exercise your body with a walk, run, weight training, or yoga.  Get that motor running for at least 30 minutes each day and power the endorphins. Imprint the energy.

3.  Choose your quality of the day: grace, courage, persistence, self-acceptance. Use it as a focus if you have a meditation practice.  Or, write about it to begin the day.

4.  Feel gratitude for all your gifts. Give thanks for waking up with a healthy body and mind clear enough to do this exercise. Last thing at night: Review all the good things that happened during the day. Build your gratitude muscle and train your mind to focus on the good. (Are you alive? Do you have clean water? Do you live in harmony with the land?)

5.  Avoid taking in negative news. Choose nutritious brain food by choosing what works in life.

6.  Drink lots of water and fresh juices during the day.

7.  Listen to uplifting music, sing and dance. Open the heart. Change your mood.

8.  Choose wisely what you read, listen to and the people with whom you associate. Avoid letting negative individuals populate your world. You cannot change them.  Move on.

9.   Learn to listen with both ears. Evaluate before disrespecting another's opinion.

10.  Call a loved one or friend just to say hello or catch up.

Creative Write: Plan your Top Ten Happy Day Recipe. Write about what elevates your spirit!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Reverie on the Road

Travel on the road for three weeks provided views and responses to moments.  I discovered the sentence above in Sisters, Oregon. Time found no hold when veering to off-the-way places.

Messages from the land populated the landscape as Oregon sported azure and emerald lakes. Air freshened with scents of pine. Cool refreshment calmed during spelunking in a cave.

Central California beckoned with its rolls of gold and road that stretched ahead without traffic.

Suddenly, scenes changed as highways became populated. Re-adjustments and focus became necessary for a return to the fast lane.

I cringed at the chessboard of chaos in narrow lanes and speed freaks that traverse them.  Drivers expected those around them to deflect their poor judgments.

Some drove up to a foot from a bumper or changed lanes with a right turn to the farthest lane.

Speeders prevailed.

One woman stopped in the carpool lane to text. (really? yep!) As the cars zoomed toward her, she looked up and surged to change lanes.

No one used turn indicators. Did drivers assume that others around them had NASCAR or formula-1 training?

With the wave of a magic wand and the finances, I would build a bridge on the sea from Ventura to San Diego. This would reward responsible drivers who wished to avoid the Los Angeles basin. One would have to take extensive physical and mental tests to travel my exclusive byway.  If along the course of bridge travel, a driver became erratic, ejection into the sea would result.

For the next trip through Los Angeles,  I plan to make signs to flash at the drivers around us.

Student Driver.  Stay Back. Way back.

Beware: 90 year old deaf driver. Don't cut me off.

Don't Tailgate, I have no brakes.

Stop Texting. I'm texting your license plate to Highway Patrol.

If you can read this sign, you're nearsighted and shouldn't drive this close.

As long as you're this close will you wash my rear window?

Did you know that stalk on your steering wheel activates the turn indicators?

You're drafting so close? Are you practicing for NASCAR? 

Don't drive so close.  When I sneeze I brake without warning.

Could I issue "citizen citations"?   Maybe the Highway Patrol would hire me as a revenue-maker? I would convince them to donate my funds to build the bridge from Ventura.

In any case, I will engage my child's mind, stick out my tongue and waggle fingers from my ears as I post the signs from the back window.

Creative Write:  What solutions do you have to encourage safety on the road of frantic drivers?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Dragonfly's Tale of Collaboration

The sky, river and land quarreled over colors to represent them. The sky claimed blue, but the river roared in disagreement.

Land demanded multicolors: greens, yellows and browns. That decision angered both the sky and river.

Then sky shouted also about needing ambers, crimsons and gold.

They quibbled daily. Only darkness ended the fighting. With the next dawn, the arguments surged anew.

One day the dragonfly interceded. "Why not collaborate and exchange colors throughout the day," she said.

To encourage their alternation of colors, her clan of dragonflies wove a variety of darks and lights into a collage to present for their view.

They also invited birds, ladybugs, bees, and other insects to add hues.

Members of the animal and plant kingdom arrived to convince land, river and sky about the intermingling and sharing of color.

Finally, land, river and sky agreed to trade and mix. The dragonfly danced in triumph.

Creative Write:  Write a story of conflict that results in collaboration.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Stay Present and Write

After three weeks of nature's guidance, I discovered how life slowed and communication flowed in present tense. Moments brought their attractions and challenges. The scents revolved among pine trees. Sounds bounded from the caves and sky. Rivers, rivulets and ponds reflected their messages.

In his poem, "Ode to the Present," Pablo Neruda advises us how to slip free and clear into the opportunity of the present moment.  The here and now appears so ripe and willing, so malleable.  

Ode to the Present
       by Pablo Neruda

present moment,
as a wooden slab,
immaculate hour,
this day
as a new cup
from the past–
no spider web
with our fingers,
we caress
the present;
we cut it
according to our magnitude
we guide
the unfolding of its blossoms.
It is living,
it contains
from the unrepairable past,
from the lost past,
it is our
growing at
this very moment, adorned with
sand, eating from
our hands.
Grab it.
Don’t let it slip away.
Don’t lose it in dreams
or words.
Clutch it.
Tie it,
and order it
to obey you.
Make it a road,
a bell,
a machine,
a kiss, a book,
a caress.
Take a saw to its delicious
And make a chair;
braid its
test it.
Or then, build
a staircase!
Yes, a
the present,
by step,
press your feet
onto the resinous wood
of this moment,
going up,
going up,
not very high,
just so
you repair
the leaky roof.
Don’t go all the way to heaven.
for apples,
not the clouds.
Let them
fluff through the sky,
skimming passage,
into the past.
your present,
your own apple.
Pick it from
your tree.
Raise it
in your hand.
It’s gleaming,
rich with stars.
Claim it.
Take a luxurious bite
out of the present,
and whistle along the road
of your destiny.

Creative Write: Write about the present moment with Neruda's verve. Build a staircase. Climb into the present, step by step.  Seize the magic and free yourself.  Take a bite, another and another.  Fill your page with imagery and playfulness.

Monday, July 22, 2013

For my blog followers . . . .

My writing blog launched in June, 2009.  I have posted my thoughts and philosophies on a variety of subjects and writing, including "Creative Writes" to stimulate ideas for writers.

At first I posted once or twice a week. By 2011, I moved into a daily groove and have posted each day since then.  Posts now total over 1300 essays and ideas.

Mornings when my eyes pop open, I move to my computer and complete an entry. Then I feel energized for my morning run or yoga class.

This sparks my day and I hope yours also.

For the next two days I will be exploring Oregon caves where (they tell me) no internet access exists. In the past I have found ways to post my entries when challenged by a lack of technology. I plan to discover a way to post the day's blog. Although it might arrive later than usual.

If you do not view entires for two days, they will resume.

I shall return with secrets of sky, water, and rock.

In the meantime, if you have suggestions for future posts, please include them below, send me a Tweet @Duckscribe or email message at

Today, search for new vistas in writing.  Dig in and delve into the caverns of possibility.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Into the Terror-itory of Perplexity

Writing into uninhabited territory of the mind provides insights, unleashes creativity, and enables problem solving. It may feel uncomfortable at first but anxiety dissolves as one word moves into another and sentences propel the forward progress of ideas.

Do you recall a time in your life where you had a choice of turning right or left?

Did the path you moved on stop at a place with too many choices in all directions?

Did you choose to say Yes or No?

Did you make the easy decision when a more challenging solution would have provided more growth?

How do you feel about your choice-making abilities?  When you scan your life choices,which decision points come to mind?

Make a list of five perplexities and write about what your life would reveal today if you had made another choice.

Do not judge or flavor the writing with right or wrong. Just detail the different scenario and the person you might view today.

Follow images that feel confusing or ambiguous. Expand upon troubling thoughts as you dwell in the "terror-itory." Permit distaste or disaster to percolate into new vistas.  They will reveal areas you need to write through to provide clarity for future decisions.

After your initial freewriting, set your ego aside. Choose one of your perplexities. Create a name and assume a persona with different eyes. Dig into this alternate psyche and see which road he or she might choose.

You may discover a character for a story.

Feel the freedom as your writing meanders beyond the terror-itory.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Kaleidoscope of Laughter

At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of possibilities. - Jean Houston

The Latin phrase, a posse ad esse means, "from possible to actual." The translation of insights into action takes desire, creativity and motivation.

What mysterious and exotic motto would you create as an incantation to move you from possible to action?  How will it help you break through into new insights?

Find Laughter's kaleidoscope.

Twist and turn to write about three events and the humor they evoke.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Write about a town.


When you set sail for Ithaca,
wish for the road to be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
an angry Poseidon -- do not fear.
You will never find such on your path,
if your thoughts remain lofty, and your spirit
and body are touched by a fine emotion.
The Lestrygonians and the Cyclops,
a savage Poseidon you will not encounter,
if you do not carry them within your spirit,
if your spirit does not place them before you.
Wish for the road to be long.
Many the summer mornings to be which with
pleasure, with joy
you will enter ports seen for the first time;
stop at Phoenician markets,
and purchase the fine goods,
nacre and coral, amber and ebony,
and exquisite perfumes of all sorts,
the most delicate fragances you can find,
to many Egyptian cities you must go,
to learn and learn from the cultivated.
Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your final destination.
But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better for it to last many years,
and when old to rest in the island,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to offer you wealth.
Ithaca has given you the beautiful journey.
Without her you would not have set out on the road
Nothing more has she got to give you.
And if you find her threadbare, Ithaca has not deceived you.
Wise as you have become, with so much experience 
you must already have understood what Ithaca means.                
                           -   Constantine P. Cavafy

Realtors say, "Location. Location. Location."  Writers should also take advantage of a sense of place to enrich writing.  The environment can serve as a character, reflect a character or add texture to a piece of writing.  Ithaca for Ulysses meant hope and a place to return. The poet, Cavafy, defines life's journey with a sense of place.

Creative Write:  Choose a town you've lived in, passed through in travels, or always wanted to visit.  Begin with a real or imagined journey.  Avoid judgment and telling the reader what to feel.  

Make the reader know what this town means to you by use of details and sensory imagery.  Show yourself reflected there.  Reveal connections and bring emotion into the story.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Take Notice

Every morning
the world
is created. 
under the orange 

sticks of the sun
the heaped
ashes of the night
turn into leaves again 

and fasten themselves to the high branches ---
and the ponds appear
like black cloth
on which are painted islands    - Mary Oliver

Poet, Mary Oliver believes in an "attitude of noticing." When she opens her senses, nature reveals its details.

Writing-as-mindfulness requires presence in every moment. An act of curiosity results in learning details.

Take a walk. Focus on attention, awareness and an attitude of noticing.

Imagine a story in shapes and contours.

Turn the corner

Find a dolphin in a rose.

Search for crinkles and wrinkles in green
Find a heart or mouse ears in stones

Become a bee-liever.

Reveal nature's wonder in your writing today.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

If you don't win, you learn.

Fortitude is the guard and support of the other virtues. ~John Locke

Expectations along with disappointments flavor life. Self-esteem reigns supreme from the inside out when attempting anything. Often courage takes us beyond where we thought we could go.

We learn from disappointment that winning does not mean everything. We might gain from losing the game, the contest, even the object of desire.

I took me until my freshman year in college to begin to focus on understanding the process. As a competitive athlete throughout high school, I won in a variety of sports. It provided confidence and encouraged expectations. My ability to outlast most opponents served me well. Losing always felt strange but never defeated my inner resolve. The sun would shine and I'd win again.

When I did not make the make the l00 select women for a Honors Group my freshman year of college,  it jolted me. I checked the list in wonder. Then scanned it again. Why didn't my name appear?

Moving through the next weeks and trying to understand my loss, I began to realize the results did not depend upon my performance in the interview. My achievements spoke for themselves. A committee made a judgment from its perspective.

Gradually, beyond the disappointment, I learned about the whim of the audience. Time had arrived to  give my best and let the results go.

My credibility intact, I continued to benefit from that lesson. Rejections from editors went to my, "Their Missed Opportunity File." I felt the disappointment, got over it and benefitted from the experience regardless of outcome. Humor always won the day.

In speaking competitions with Toastmasters, speeches I felt confident about landed upon an unresponsive audience. Those I struggled through enchanted others. Once again, learning about others' opinions put their responses in the right perspective. Laughter energized.

Although losing can cloud a day, I smile, search for the positive and believe, If you don't win, you learn. This helps to develop resilience. Different approaches or choices the next time may provide another outcome.

Creative Write: What does it take to accomplish a goal of writing?  Can you outlast your fears, frustrations and blank page?  Recall a time you felt confident and things did not work out because of the audience's opinion. Write about what you gained from not winning.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Super-Power Your Writing

When the comic book hero Superman first appeared on the scene in 1938 he had the power to jump over tall buildings, but he could not fly.  By 1941, Superman hovered in mid-air and moved around while floating.  Eventually, he attained the ability to soar distances, even between stars.

Discover ways to super-power your writing. Take a draft that does not fly for you. Circle excess words like adverbs and adjectives to notice if they stall the movement of ideas. Repopulate sentences with active verbs.  Swing the words and sentences around. 

Go for short and long sentences for variety. Search for details. How might a question to tease the reader? Add musicality and read lines out loud. Color a line or two.

Expand your wings from taking big leaps to hovering in mid-air.  When you work to increase writing skills you will progress to full flight.