Saturday, November 30, 2013

Flying Lessons

"If I'd been told as a child what the life of an adult is like, I wouldn't have believed it.  I'd never have believed it could be so unfinished. 
 - John Berger, Once in Europa

I believed I could fly. If the blue jays hopped from the railing to sail into the sky and sparrows fluttered from branches, it could happen for me. Launching from trees and second floor hotel rooms did not send me soaring but taught a marvel for gravity. My curiosity prevailed and flight exploration continued.

Adulthood seemed too far to reach. Not many grownups had humor and gleams in their eyes like my father.  My mother used her creativity for piano tunes, embroidery and copper work. Her activities felt too tame. Adventure called from tree branches.

Watching butterflies turn into flying creatures also gave me hope for flight. I searched the sky to learn the sequence in flaps of wings.

Adulthood continues to perplex and never gets in the way of fun regardless of life's realities.

Creative Write: What did you believe as a child that you had to relinquish?  Would you like to return to that state again?  How would you write about it?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Play in the Dictionary

“The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work.”   
- Vince Lombardi 

Vince Lombardi’s quote inspires dictionary play to notice where words might travel. Open the dictionary at FUN. 

Discover that Fun comes after fumble and fumigate and before function. This reveals you need to have fun to function.

Turning another page at random, find grave. Now that word has several meanings. Notice that it comes after gratitude but before gravy train. The dictionary defines gravy train as a situation where someone can make a lot of money for little effort. That goes against Lombardi’s philosophy.

Continue to let your eyes take you on the dictionary wander. 

Humerus comes before humorous and could tickle the funny bone of the hummingbird. Perseverance arrives ahead of persimmon with persistence up ahead.

Doofuss and doohickey wait before doorway with doorsteps and doorstops ahead.

Make Gratitude hold more power than gravity as you recall how you grazed your Thanksgiving feast. Hope you did not forget the gravy.

Creative Write: Take a diversion into the dictionary. Play with words discovered there.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Writing

"My thanksgiving is perpetual…O how I laugh when I think of my vague indefinite riches. No run on my bank can drain it, for my wealth is not possession but enjoyment.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Thanks by W.S. Merwin 

with the night falling we are saying thank you 
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings 
we are running out of the glass rooms 
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky 
and say thank you 
we are standing by the water thanking it 
smiling by the windows looking out 
in our directions . . .

Celebrate the Best Holiday of the year in writing!

What's your Gratitude about? Where will it take you? 

Write several lines about Thanksgiving.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Write About Timing

One of the Butterflies

The trouble with pleasure is the timing
it can overtake me without warning
and be gone before I know it is here
it can stand facing me unrecognized
while I am remembering somewhere else
in another age or someone not seen
for years and never to be seen again
in this world and it seems that I cherish
only now a joy I was not aware of
when it was here although it remains
out of reach and will not be caught or named
or called back and if I could make it stay
as I want to it would turn into pain
                              -W.S. Merwin

Photographers and poets play with timing. We try to catch movement and attract connections.  The challenges arise to set amazement in focus or squint to revel in nuances of sensory details that swirl. Memories shuffle emotions. 

W.S. Merwin contemplates pleasure, memory, and what remains out of reach.  

Creative Write: Think about what remains out of reach.  What will you call back and ask to stay? Write about the results.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Write into Pausitivity

Pausitivity - The feeling of joy and optimism that comes when you stop to take a moment to restore and nurture yourself. - M.H.Clark

Frustrated with life's details, we often avoid "pausitivity" and  reflection in our daily lives. Our culture has created an avoidance behavior because the media irritates with negativity. 

Awareness becomes the first step to alter the apathy. It has to start with each individual taking responsibility and extending it. Then communication will headline positive people who make a difference.

A positive attitude does not mean sign waving. Thought patterns require reorganization to consider, "What can I do? What are five ways today and then tomorrow?" Shout out what works!

Start with family and friends. Focus on success from the past in order to motivate for the future.

Why point out what's wrong with politicians or use "shoulds" in conversation?  Strive for ways to instigate change in yourself first.

We need more life coaches and less critics. If one person can reach just one, it makes a difference. Alter your kaleidoscope and put thought into five ways you notice greatness in daily life. Show how you have used opportunities to gain positive results.

Share positive solutions with your family and friends and urge them to pass ideas forward.

Creative Write: Each morning begin breathing with gratitude and awareness. Think of five ways to make each moment count. How will you make your presence felt in the world today?  Write about optimism and "pausitivity."

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving Week

Thanksgiving provides time to celebrate gratitude for life's gifts: family, friendships, and discoveries in each moment. We live in a world of chaos but have the ability to bring balance through writing. Give thanks for each challenge as it turns into an exploration.

Celebrate your creativity this week. Write into a thankful mood for all the happenings that get you down.

Grow buoyant, float and fly. A bit of humor conquers all.

Appreciate what's offered regardless of the form. Share your attention to detail and have a grateful day.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Write Two Lines

Fredric Brown's "Knock" is the world's shortest horror story. Thrilling Wonder Stories published it in December, 1948. 

"The last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door. . ."

Write a story in two lines.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ask for Writing Assistance

When stuck, poet Charles Baudelaire asked for help from writer Edgar Allan Poe.  Malcolm Lowry sometimes pleaded with God to give him insight. He also asked for writing advice from Franz Kafka.

For writing assistance, do you have someone to call upon for insights?

What character from a novel might bring you inspiration?

Let the spirits of writing buoy you.  Write a plea today!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Write into Emotional Tastes

Consider the tastes of saltiness, sourness, bitterness, and savoriness.

Salty fries.
   Sour lemons.
           Bitter tastes of coffee, beer and olives.

Savory tastes include mushrooms, spinach, cheese, and green tea.

How would you define their emotional equivalents?  Confident as coffee?  Befuddled like too much beer? Mad as a mushroom?  Determined as spinach with cheese? Easy as green tea?

Design emotional tastes. Weave them into a story or poem.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Write About Superstitions

"I would far rather be ignorant than wise in the foreboding of evil." - Aeschylus

The bird pardoner said, "The freed bird says a prayer on behalf of the one who has bought its freedom. He explained that he rode through town with the cage full of birds and people paid him to release one or more of them, the act of compassion gaining the customer forgiveness for some sins."  
                        - from  The Blind Man's Garden, Nadeem Aslam

Some individuals believe that superstitious behaviors may keep away the perceptions of negative outcomes.  People knock on wood, throw salt, use phrases or rituals to avoid bad luck.

According to the Journal of Experimental Psychology, scientists from the University of Chicago conducted experiments looking at behaviors that undo bad luck. They recorded how these actions affect individuals' perceptions of their luck.

First, the participants tempted fate by creating phrases with outcomes. They stated and filled in the blank, “no one I know will ever . . .” Participants knocked on wood because they believed the action would prevent that statement from coming true. Some threw or held onto a ball which did not have superstitious connotations for avoiding back luck.

The researchers discovered a pattern in the behaviors that people believed could undo a jinx. Actions such as knocking on wood or throwing a ball away from themselves helped volunteers to believe that they had avoided bad luck to come.

Those who knocked on themselves or held onto a ball were less likely to think that the jinx had been successfully avoided.

“Our results suggest that the effectiveness results, at least in part, to the avoidant nature of the act and its impact on mental simulation,” the authors concluded.

While every culture has rituals for getting rid of misfortune, the study’s authors feel that most involve physically moving something away from the body.

Creative Write:  Write a story or poem about rituals.  Describe how you avoid bad luck with a charm or a chant.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Memory Retrieval

"You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again," said painter Joan Miro. "You can look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life,"  he added.

Do you remember a scene of beauty that enchanted you?

Does a sudden encounter continue to nudge in memory?

Which mysteries stimulated your sense of wonder and lingered?

Write those experiences back to life.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Winter's Challenge

"The creative act is courageous, an ancient gesture, a dynamic exploration of the dark mystery that is human existence."   
- Adriana Diaz from The Soul of Creativity.

Winter paints a structure of strength in trees and foliage.  Silence snuggles in its morning cloak and pads through the neighborhood.  Along the railings of bridges, spider webs sport their graffiti sparkled by frost. Leaves continue to fall and land with a crackle and cackle.

This time of change provides an opportunity to delve into the basics. The slower pace stimulates a search inward.

Nature reveals the landscape in an array of bare bones.  As auxins drain into the roots, squirrels scamper to store their cache of nuts. Everything moves into its simple form as a gesture for us to follow.

Nature's art swirls.  Creation continues in the silent exhalation of trees sculptured by the season's change. Creativity thrives in the spaces among branches.

A need arises for moments in reverence and joy to celebrate the change a winter outlook provides. The words of winter entice with their requests for ways to adorn the emptiness.  This begins the search for mysteries in enrichment and growth that will blossom by spring.

Creative Write: Become courageous. Get to the basics of your writing as art. Use a winter theme to explore what weighs you down. What will it feel like to remove the excess and rest in silence?

What will listening accomplish?  Write about the skeletal beginnings of your art.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Social Media and Poetry

Billy Collins, people's poet, teacher, and poet laureate of the United States from 2001-3, does not participate in social media. Collins says, "I am a nonparticipant of social media. I'm not much attracted to anything that involves the willing forfeiture of privacy and the foregrounding of insignificance."

Collins also does not tweet.  He feels, "I am struck by the apparent coincidence of the 140 characters - sounds like a Balzac novel - and the 140 syllables in the Elizabethan sonnet.  Instead of tweeting that you had great pizza tonight, why not read some haiku by Buson? Doesn't poetry seem just right for our ever shrinking attention span?"

Billy Collins is the everyday poet. He appeals to the masses with his takes on life and creativity. Will his attitude change as social media grows and affects his outreach?

Consider what he says about the "foregrounding of insignificance."  When individuals share their moments and emotions on Facebook or via Twitter, how can those details of life become viewed as "insignificant"?  Does communication of incidentals help us?

Writers need to remain open to all forms of communication or get left behind.

Creative Write:  How would you use 140 characters to support or disclaim his view?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Write Moments in Nature

Before the storm, the sea flaunts multiple personalities as it builds force. During flights of defiance against the wind, seagulls ripple on the currents like kites. They evade the force as long as possible, wielding magic in the thrust of wings. 

Pigeons circle in formations catching the drafts. Subtle changes alert the birds' radar to seek shelter before intensity could whip them from the sky. 

Pelicans and seagulls find protection on the edges of cliffs as winds broil. Cormorants rise into the branches of pine trees and preen. A winter sea and sky toy with the color wheel and capture a view that defies a camera's eye.

In India, darshan means getting a view. The clouds escape to reveal a panorama of the Himalayas from the foothills.  It's said that the Himalayas give up their darshan.  They're letting you have their view. 

The Pacific ocean has provided a darshan on its day of wonder.  It doesn't show itself to you right away.  The tease encourages a search for your own words and imagery of discovery. 

The sky provides an opening.  Where does it lead?

As the storm passes, the sky returns to calm the sea and reflect the blue.  

Seagulls ready their feathers for flight.

Creative Write: Capture a view of a moment in nature. Discover a new way to view a familiar scene.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Write about Openings

"Open all your pores and breathe in the tides of nature."  
- Henry David Thoreau

Discover an image in nature that defines opening for you.

Return to a time when you opened to a new experience. Write about this opening until another image appears.

Continue writing to magnetize more imagery. 

Bring in scents, sounds, and textures. Let your emotions weave into the narrative.

Break open to wonders of experience with words.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Ways to Tame Your Prickly Side

Do you become baffled by the behavior of your "other self" - the prickly side?  This personality procrastinates, arrives late at appointments, leaves dirty dishes in the sink, and clothes cluttered about?

Often this character feels disorganized, devastated by clutter and frustrated by deadlines. Writing projects stay in the computer or hide in the writing journal.

Writing helps to keep you in the moment. Push your Positive self to write a vision of accomplishments. Begin by writing objectives in a special journal and set time limits.

Examples: Take fifteen minutes for clearing your desk. Use fifteen minutes to write your goals. Stop at the time limit, do not go over or under. You may need to begin with ten minutes to avoid frustration.

Identify the messages your prickly side sends. Name this persona. Write three to five items you wish to confront and begin a dialogue.

Add what you will do with clutter, unused items, and overstuffed shelves or closets. What will you do about files of ancient paperwork?

Demand: Stow or throw. When you grab an item make an immediate decision. If you must, store items of questionable need in a box. In two months, if you haven't needed the item, toss the box without peeking.

Learn how the prickly self stops you from doing what you really want. Write about it.

Live in the moment to allow your conscious mind to set the agenda. When you focus on the now, you avoid your prickly side. It can't lead you astray or back to unfocused patterns.

Celebrate tiny steps. Applaud yourself for beginning the changes you wish to pursue.

Try this for a week and write your observations.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

When did you begin?

Rather than thinking about the stopping, focus on the beginnings of joy and wonder.

Respond to the following:

Recall when you first learned how to dance and sing. Describe it with all your senses.

Who told you stories?  Write a scene with you and the storyteller.

How did you respond to the silence?  Did you discover its comfort?

Write the ways you overcome despondency.

Creative Write: After you respond to the above situations, do a freewrite to see how the ideas coalesce.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Write About Laughter

Life is way better when you're laughing. - Oprah Winfrey

I looked out the window and saw an owl perched on the wire behind our neighbor's house. I crept closer to see it move its head.  

"Wow. Get your camera," I urged my husband. "You won't believe the size of this creature."

"I don't see an owl. How could an owl be out there?" he responded.

"Just look," I pointed beyond tree branches. "Open the sliding door slowly so you don't scare him."

I raced ahead of him to another window's view. Then broke into laughter. One of those plastic owls swung in the breeze. Someone had thrown it up to dangle on the wire. It sure looked lifelike from
a distance.

"Owlright! At least I'm observant." I flapped my arms, hopped around the room, and chuckled. 

My husband shook his head, "It's not even funny."

I just kept laughing; a rolling on the floor episode.

"Owlright!" I flapped away.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

What makes you laugh?  

It could be circumstances, misfortunes regarded in retrospect, or just the events of everyday life. The ability to poke fun at oneself after a strange situation provides material.

What tickles one person's funny bone may not inspire laughter for another. It's all about perception and possibility.

Creative Write: Write about an "owl" experience where two people don't connect about a humorous situation.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Edges of the Unknown

"It was always a joy to play with Miles. It was full of risks, full of mystery. We weren't afraid of the unknown. We relished the unknown. We loved getting lost and making something happen almost out of thin air . . . we were more like magicians maybe. That was what Miles paid us to do. To reach down deep, to really concentrate, really focus. And not on what we were doing as individuals but what we were doing collectively." 
                         - Herbie Hancock, pianist for Miles Davi

Miles Davis explored territory with his trumpet in a freeflow manner. He attracted musicians for his group who had a desire to discover the magic of improvisation. Davis provided sketches of scales and melody lines and told everyone to improvise. He called for almost no rehearsal time before a recording. 

Even if this is not your type of music, let it knock you around and push you to the edge.  Inspire improvisation in your writing.  Just go with it.

Visit youtube and listen: 

Absorb the intensity of notes. Start writing with nowhere to go except a translation of the energy. Take risks, mine for mystery, and get lost in a rhythm of words. 

Go down deep and explore as your fingers play the computer keys as a pianist might, inspired by the other musicians. 

Creative Write:  Fly free to feel the jangle and write. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Write Your Philosophies

"We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but 
connected in the deep." ~ William James

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” ~Albert Einstein

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.”~Dr. Seuss 

“Life is like photography. You need the negatives to develop.”       ~Unknown

“Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ~George Bernard Shaw

Creative Write:  Choose five quotations and pair them with photographs. Let the quotations and visual connections spark your philosophies. Respond and write to them with your points of view. Write beyond them. Notice how the notions lead you into new discoveries.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Make Your Writing Selves Behave!

As much as I love to write, my octopus mind does take over at times. When it whirs on a variety of levels at once, I multi-task with all tentacles in play. I can spend hours free writing but often it takes creative diversion and determination to dig out the gems I wish to shine.

Then I read an article in The Atlantic entitled “First Person Plural” by Paul Bloom that provided an Aha moment.

In their pursuit of what happiness means, psychologists have discovered it has a lot to do with the definition of “I.”  Many believe each of us exists in a community of competing selves where the happiness of one often causes the misery of another. Paul Bloom, a professor of psychology at Yale, feels that within each brain several selves continually pop in and out of existence.  He says, “They have different desires, and they fight for control – plotting against, deceiving and plotting against one another.”

Yes, I’ve held conversations with another me at times.  I’ve even argued.  Okay Okay. I will. I will.  No. No. No.  Stop it. Stop it right now! Oh, Come on. Come on. Also, I’ve used more emphatic words not appropriate here, but you get the idea.

Bloom goes on to say if these selves worked as a team, they could create the perfect life. Because they clash, compulsions and addictions arise.

His concerns remind me of the self-talk that goes into my writing life. One of my selves just wants to go outside and play, not sit at the computer and face a deadline or follow as an idea ravels out. Another follows a disciplined daily routine. Yet another wants to read and eat words. I have used trickery many times.  Now I realize I have tamed my selves . . . or not, according to Bloom.

A division of labor could become a solution. Maybe if some of my selves write poetry, some grade papers, others focus on new projects, then I’d have more freedom?  If they have fun and discover happiness in their own separate pursuits, I could have polite and rational conversations with them.

The first step in any addiction requires naming it. I'll call the selves: Huey, Dewey and Louie, for Duck's sake. They need to get into a row.  I'll give them separate clipboards.  They can work on an illusive poem, finish the essay or leap up and grade student work.  The Tom Sawyer technique works.

I can see their heads bobbing, feathers awriggle and eyes flashing with creativity. Although the site of pens clutched in web feet feels like a stretch. I could design an opposable thumb or two for the ends of wings. 

Then I will sneak away as I hear them chattering between writing notions.  They will find security and happiness with their own projects and feel no competition or alienation. 

Now, wind in my hair as I run by the ocean, my octopus mind twirls without the interruption of the duck conversations. They stay and write at home.

Creative Write: How do you make your writing selves obey?