Saturday, August 31, 2013

Play with Oxymorons.

"There are some enterprises in which a careful disorderliness is the true method." 
- Ishmael in Moby Dick  by Herman Melville.

Oxymoron (from Greek ὀξύμωρον, "sharp dull") means a contradiction of terms. 
Ishmael refers to whale hunting and he also means the art of storytelling. 

Do you have your own ideas about "careful disorderliness"?  

Play by creating a meaningful chaos,  planned messiness, directed improvisation. 

Write to challenge your fun with playful experiments.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Write Boxes

"I keep my doubts in a box with the things I know." - Virgil Russell from Percival Everett

What can you put inside boxes? What needs to move outside? If you hide something inside, an opportunity to discover magic and mystery waits. How long will it wait?

Boxes also mean limitation but Jack-in-the-Boxes permit "out springing." Then discovery occurs.

From East of Eden by John Steinbeck:

You came upon me carving some kind of little figure out of wood and you said,
"Why don't you make something for me."
I asked what you wanted, and you said,
"A box.'
"What for?"
"To put things in"
"What things?"
"Whatever you have," you said.
"Well, here's your box. Nearly everything I have is in it, and it is not full. Pain and excitement are in it, and feeling good or bad and evil thoughts and good thoughts - the pleasure of design and some despair and the indescribable joy of creation. And on top of these are all the gratitude and love I have for you and it's still not full."

Creative Write:   Write about an object that has meaning for you.  Describe it in all its dimensions and see where the freewriting takes you.  Would you keep doubts in a box with the things you know?

Thursday, August 29, 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.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Typewriters to Laptops

Do you remember plunking away on a Remington, Royal or Smith-Corona? Did you take a typing class to learn the QWERTY keyboard?  Or did and do you still muddle along with fingers in hunt and peck?

Jammed keys and carbon paper once ruled the day.  Writing progressed from draft to draft by rolling pages out of the platen.  After a sigh, one inserted another white page and soldiered on: musing, typing, correcting, and typing again. It required hours of focused thought.  

Back then, cutting and pasting meant cutting pages into paragraphs and taping the choices in new order. This also involved pencil or pen corrections in the margins. A bottle of white fluid corrected small errors.

Then the electric typewriter arrived which had tape that corrected by removing lines of type. 

With the word processor, paragraphs could be re-arranged by a new form of cut and paste. Lines moved around right on the screen.

Now with laptop computers, one can go anywhere to patter away at the keyboard.  Freedom to write!

Creative Write:  During the progress from the manual typewriter to the laptop what have you discovered along the way?  If you have only experienced writing on a computer, begin with your first experience using technology to write.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Nature's Ways

“The next time you’re faced with something that’s unexpected, unwanted, and uncertain, consider that it may be a gift.”—Stacy Kramer

A father took his son to a creek to teach him to fish.  They sat in the sun watching clouds move above them. The breeze kept them comfortable and cool. Fish jumped from the water but evaded their attempts to hook them. 

Near his fishing line, the father saw a scorpion drowning and reached to pull it from the water. The scorpion stung him. The man let go and the creature fell back into the water. He tried again to rescue it. Again it stung and he had to release it.

His young son said, "Dad, you hurt yourself trying to save that vicious thing.  Why do you keep trying? Scorpions do not stop stinging."

The father replied, "My nature is to help just as the scorpion's nature is to sting."

As they waited for the fish to bite, the man thought about another solution. He used a leaf to pull the scorpion out from the water and saved its life. It scrambled away.

After several hours, the son felt a tug on his line. A small trout sparkled from the water as he reeled it in. It seemed so small and full of life, the boy unhooked it and threw it back.  

As they decided to leave without a fish to take home for dinner, the son saw a sunflower.  "I'll take this home to mother, " he said. When he reached in to break the stalk, a bee stung him on the hand. The bee crumpled to the ground, losing its stinger and life. 

The man shook his head as he removed the stinger and comforted the young boy. "You told me to beware of the scorpion and now a bee has died while you wished to pick a flower for your mother."

The son wiped his tears away, 
"I think we learned more than just about fishing today."

The father smiled and hugged his son.

Creative Write:  Has nature revealed itself and taught you a lesson of value?  Write about the situation.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Verb Play

Experiment with verb tenses in present and past.

Start in simple present, locating yourself in action.  

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

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

Shift back to present tense. Does it feel more immediate?

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

Did one tense attract more ideas?  

How did one tense feel more appropriate for use?

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

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Creativity Assists Bereavement

In honor of Sidney J. Parnes 1922-2013.

I wonder what would happen if we all reacted to a tragedy with imagination instead of with habit or convention as is so typically the case. - Sidney J. Parnes

Over thirty years ago I enjoyed the opportunity to study with Dr. Sidney J. Parnes. Along wtih Alex Osborne, he developed the Creative Problem Solving Process (CPSP). Their method generated a variety of solutions to problems. They taught at the International Center for Studies in Creativity, the Creative Problem Solving Institute and the CREA Conference in Europe.

Sidney Parnes taught optimism regardless of circumstance. Parnes addressed ways to draw on resources to develop ideas to provide positive life changes. He also focused on how to take an optimistic stance when facing bereavement.  

I recall how he chuckled as he wrote on the chalkboard and encouraged students to ask, "In what ways . . . " He urged us to provide at least five ideas to solve a situation. He pushed for five more and onward until silliness teased our creativity into action. Sid helped us break boundaries in thinking.

When he discussed death and bereavement, he also used his technique. 

l.  In what ways might I take advantage of my unexpected or undesired freedom?
2. In what ways might I honor his or her death in a constructive way?
3. In what ways might I make his or her memory bring me happiness in future activities?
4. In what ways might I set up a new goals not possible before the person's death?
5. In what ways might I use the memory of peak experiences I had with the person to buoy me up in times of depression in my own life?
6.  In what ways might I turn this loss to advantage in my life?
7.  In what ways might I use travel or reading as a means of launching into the future?
8.  In what ways might I commemorate the person through pleasant experiences rather than the traditional "mourning" experiences.
9.   In what ways might I channel all of my grief into constructive energies?
10. In what ways might I use future thinking instead of past-oriented thinking to explore life?

In addition, here are a few of the questions he urged the bereaved to consider:
l. What might I like to do, have or accomplish in the next phase of my life?
2. What do I wish would happen (other than having the person come back to life)?
3. What would I like to do better?
4. What are my unfulfilled goals?
5. What changes might I like to introduce?

Sid Parnes urged students to use distress of high intensity or long duration as an impetus to the formation of strategies and opportunities. One can transferred these for use in future crises and broaden the problem solving capacity.

Parnes' programs in creative problem solving nurture personal creativity and opportunity to practice challenges of any type. Attitude development means everything.  Sid told us the story of several soldiers in a dugout with bullets flying above them in all directions.  The first soldier says to the other, "So what if we're surrounded; now we can shoot at them in any direction."

In gratitude to Sidney J. Parnes for the spark he flamed in my life, I salute him with a toss of green jello from the past! 

Creative Write: Write a tribute to someone who became an energizer in your life. In what ways did this individual focus on solving life's challenges?  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pen a Pasquinade

Laughter is action.  I am a very human believer that the only way to change the world is to affect the emotions of the human beings in it. If you want the people in power to see themselves as ridiculous, you must laugh at them. - Amy Lane

In 1501 they unearthed a marble statue in Rome near the city's Pizza Novona. A male torso, called "Pasquino" by the Romans, began a tradition on St. Mark's Day.  In its honor, professors and students would dress the statue and write Latin verses to post on it.

Satires replaced the verses and the Pasquino statue became the location for posting anonymous, critical lampoons.

In the mid-17th century, these postings were known in English as "pasquinades." The term has since expanded in usage to refer to any satirical writing.

Creative Write: Write to make fun of a foible of yours or of a public figure. Focus on the weakness, not on yourself or the person.  Let laughter cause change.

Friday, August 23, 2013


A Blessing

  by James Wright

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

A mere friend will agree with you, but a real friend will argue. ~Assyrian Proverb

Friendship celebrates conversations, controversies, memories, and fun. Friends often have a distinct language and private jokes. 

Write about the levels of friendship. Trace the growth. Follow its moods; ups and downs. Use a metaphor to delve into the communication.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Write and Win the Day

Coach Mark Helfrich of the Oregon Ducks football team, advises his players that a team can only control its preparation, its effort and its attitude. Everything else - the venue, an opponent’s record, kickoff time, ranking, the media, or weather on game day - falls into the category of things even he can’t control. 

Areas that coaches or players cannot control do not concern him. Practices always focus on fundamentals. His philosophy of Win the Day means dealing with the moments in movement.  

Fast. Hard. Finish.

"It's all X's and O's,"  said Vince Lombardi coach of The Green Bay Packers in the '60s. Lombardi didn't mean hugs and kisses. He stressed the fundamentals.  

Like football players, writers need to comprehend the rules of writing and know how to move around them for effect. One never gets beyond the need to practice remedial skills and beginner steps. A focus on fundamentals and Win the Day philosophy makes writing FUNdamental. 

Creative Write:  Consider your fundamental writing skills. How do you prepare for writing?  How do you energize effort and attitude toward words?  Write your one or two line writing philosophy.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Opportunities to practice letting go

We should value our enemies because they provide us with unique opportunities to practice patience, tolerance and forbearance. 
- Dalai Lama

Individuals who do not agree with us reflect with mirrors and shout as energizers. Rather than calling them "enemies," I prefer to think of them as stimulators. If everyone agreed with our thinking and ways of living, we would learn nothing. 

Those who have varied opinions provide the opportunity for us to take off blinders and revitalize our mind sets. If we choose to do so. That's the challenge.

Tolerance forces us to open our minds to a neutral space. Never easy but enlightening, it helps us grow.

When the Dalai Lama speaks of "forbearance," he means refrain and patient endurance. Self-control always creates another opportunity to think and gain insights.

Why do we detest the idea of being "wrong" ? We risk ending relationships, cause stress and pain for ourselves and others when we take on the terrier mentality and ferocity of holding on to our notions. Our perceptions or preferences, like worrying a stuffed toy without relenting, stop the wisdom process and life's progress. 

If we must fight for right and wrong, we need to stop the mind chatter to ask what difference it makes. Whose ego gets in the way and what for?

What if we avoid trying to control everything: situations, events, people and . . . things.  We only have the ability to control our decisions, not those of others. What if we allow everything to unfold and watch the process from bud to flower? Observation provides insights and opportunities to practice letting go.

When a situation triggers, we have the power to respond with positive thinking.

Creative Write: Write about why you have to be right, or not. How would you respond to this quotation? “By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond winning.” - Lao Tzu

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Family for Fiction

“Ideas are everywhere. Lift up a big rock and look under it, stare into a window of a house you drive past and dream about what’s going on inside. Read the newspaper, ask your father about his sister, think of something that happened to you or someone you know and then think about it turning out an entirely different way.” ~ Ann Patchett

Family members provide fodder for fiction. Choose a family member with colorful adventures or an ancestor you're heard stories about.  Begin with a character description and let your creativity soar with details.

Switch from the ordinary to extraordinary and extend all possibilities.

If you had a great aunt who ran a restaurant in a small town, turn it into a rowdy bar.  Spice up the drama with a secret shared.  If you had a relative with pioneer history, write a fifteen minute character sketch about travel across Indian country.  Do you have any mail order brides in your history?  Expand their stories.

Bring an ancestor to the present day.  How would Wild Uncle Will from the old west deal with tweeting in the modern world?  Did cousin Annette really design shoes for the Rockettes?  What if she worked for Nike today?

Stretch your imagination when delving into family members.  Combine characteristics of one or two individuals into a character with a story to tell.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Indescribable


I live my life in big circles
that surround all things,
that circle around all that is.
Maybe i will not complete the last circle,
But i will attempt it.
I circle around God
that ancient tower,
and I have been circling
for centuries and millennia,
And i do still not know:  am i a falcon, 
a storm, or the Great Song.

- Rainer Maria Rilke

How often we hear, "Just can't put it into words."  A call to action for 
a writer, we discover ways to put ideas into words.

ž Šalamun writes,
"The very fact that we can't describe it now, searching as we are with various metaphors and 
similies, shows us what a powerful thing it is, what attraction it has."

Šalamun feels, "The inexpressible is like the beast in the woods that the hunter always knows
only by its tracks."


I am a mason, a priest of dust
foritfied like a monster, a crust of bread
I am a water lily, a soldier of holy trees
holy dreams, with the angels I shout

I am a castle, a dead rock wall
I carry the boats, a ferryman
O wood! wood!
come here, little herons, a seed

come, gardeners! light, appear!
come, spread hands, pane of glass
blue whirls, come, smooth plain
the wind, of the sliding, of creatures 

on different levels

the pastures are burnt, lava seething
shepherds are waiting, restless, trampling with 
their wings

dogs, smelling themselves, the wolf-dogs
here the memory stands, the order, the signs of the 

—from The Selected Poems of 
Tomaž Šalamun

Creative Write:  How do you define yourself?  Write your secrets; what's unsayable? 
Unearth the unknowable. Follow the tracks. Probe the indescribable.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Always be ready.

" . . . the first sun fledged his wings of fame." - James Weldon Johnson

Always be ready when the morning comes
Always be ready when the morning comes with its bright warm sun horizon red. Know that moment when the birds begin to sing and the shadows huddle together for their last goodbyes. Walk in the morning wind, let your face feel the coming delight, the day which awaits you. Walk the trail the earth has given you, the trail that leads you along in light and dark and then finally to the lighted water's edge. Where the wind, the sun, the water, and the earth meet, at that very special spot set down your feet bare. Feel your body's acceptance of where you are and who you are and realize you are part of, and are yourself, the four elements of the universe that surround you, that you are now immersed in. Now sing your own song, the one only you can sing truthfully. -- Lee Pennington

I returned from a yoga class feeling refreshed and ready for the day. When my computer flickered open, a message flared into view from dear friend and Poet Laureate, Lee Pennington.

Reading the words of wisdom from Lee assured me of my philosophy of semper paratus. How each morning I delve into my own song first with all my senses open. As I move through nature's delights during the day, I gain the strength and ability to send light, possibiities and positivity to share with others. 

I cannot fix their concerns but I can toss my energy toward their efforts.

I asked Lee about the conception of his prose poem and he replied,

"I've done these kinds of things--blessings, prayers, whatever they are, for a long time. Just recently, I've started sharing them with people I think might enjoy the journey, the thought. I've started keeping them, that is, keeping a file of them. Previously, I simply sent them out when one was done, usually to one person, and then forgot about it, keeping no copy for myself. Then people started asking me if they could share, and I thought perhaps, just perhaps, they might be of some value to others. This one came this morning"

Thank you Lee! You reminded me of why I post my ideas on this blog each day and the POW.

Power of Words!

Creative Write: Take time today to delve into the song only you can sing. 

Let nature assist you. 

Write your bright to share with others.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Discoveries of the Day

A gray day provides the best light. - Leonardo da Vinci

Search for writing possibilities in everyday items.  Find elephants in clouds.

Turn a corner and catch a flash of something.  Watch the changing tides of day.

Experience the warm and cool. Write about textures.

Discover novelty and stories erupt.

Where will the red ball lead?

Move into the heart of the day.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Tracking Sensory Imagery

Charles J. Wysocki, behavioral scientist at the Monelle Chemical Senses Center says the nose can identify ten thousand scents.  The nose knows more than the tongue which only tastes: sour, sweet, bitter and savory.  Another researcher, Danielle Reed, claims the issue becomes linguistic rather than biological when describing whta one smells or tastes.

Expert sentologists have a brain map of odors yet limited vocabulary to describe them or make associations.Wine experts go creative in their descriptions of the "notes" when scenting and tasting fine wine. They describe a scent/taste of braised saddle leather, salted butter, blanced almonds, fig paste, even hoisin sauce. It appears the more they sip, the greater the desire for extended description. They begin to describe raw oysters and goose liver along with dead leaves.

Novelist Evelyn Waugh's son, Auberon, used his sense of humor to observe wine writing had to push exaggeration. He felt no one could convey the true flavor any other way except by suggesting exotic connections. He conjured improbable side tastes like rotting wood or burned pencils. Sour milk and French railway station "notes" added to his tongue-in-cheek approach. Depending upon the extent of sippage, imagine skunk notes and the sooty scent of wet dog,

We have power, as writers, to describe individual chemistry. Those who enjoy a glass of wine can create connections beyond: red tastes red and white tastes white. With our linguistic sensitivities we heighten our ability to move into questioning what really describes: tangy, flowery and fresh.

Creative write: Consider connections you can discover describing tastes, scents and textures. Begin with a favorite food or glass of wine. How far out can you extend your observations?

Malty with a hint of . . . Donuty texture with the essence of wet brick. . . Sea pebbles and burning rubber . . . 

You do not have to make sense, just make up scents. You will enrich your writing.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Getting into shadows

Philipstal, an early 19th-century Parisian showman presented a special-effects light show of optical illusions in London. To encourage the audience feel phantoms and phantasms he dubbed it a "phantasmagoria"; a term that sounded creepy and impressive.

He anglicised the French word, phantasmagorie, which had been used for entertainment in Paris a few years before.

The word "phantasmagoria" traces back to the Latin, phantasma (a product of fantasy) and Greek, phantazein which means "to present to the mind."

Phantasmagoria evolved into a form of theatre that used a magic lantern to project frightening images such as skeletons, demons or ghosts onto walls.  Using smoke and semi-transparent screens, the projector moved allowing images to change size on the screen.  Multiple projectors allowed switching of images.

Creative Write:  Write into a state of creepiness. Bring in ghosts and phantoms and let them play.