Saturday, May 31, 2014

Develop a Character

Select a fictional character from a favorite book or movie.  Place this individual in another stage of life.

How would Huck Finn act as an 70 year old English professor?  Could you write about Cinderella as a grandmother discovering her grandson has a problem?  

Follow Hamlet one day as a teenager whose girl friend has rejected him.  Imagine Juliet as an entrepereur on Wall Street.

Write about your favorite characters with their different age challenges and circumstances.

Continue experimenting with character traits.  Build a character with dimensions.  

Choose an uresolved relationship.  

Add a chat with a mysterious family member. 

Provide a frustrating situation.

Include a problematic love interest. 

Create irritation from a co-worker.  

Stir in some feelings of bliss.  

What do you have?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Find the Meaning

by Carl Dennis
If a life needn't be useful to be meaningful, 
Then maybe a life of sunbathing on a beach 
Can be thought of as meaningful for at least a few, 
The few, say, who view the sun as a god 
And consider basking a form of worship. 
As for those devoted to partnership with a surfboard 
Or a pair of ice skates or a bag of golf clubs, 
Though I can't argue their lives are useful, 
I'd be reluctant to claim they have no meaning 
Even if no one observes their display of mastery. 
No one is listening to the librarian 
I can call to mind as she practices, after work, 
In her flat on Hoover Street, the viola da gamba 
In the one hour of day that for her is golden. 
So what if she'll never be good enough 
To give a concert people will pay to hear? 
When I need to think of her with an audience, 
I can imagine the ghosts of composers dead for centuries,
Pleased to hear her doing her best with their music. 
And isn't it pleasing, as we walk at dusk to our cars 
Parked on Hoover Street, after a meeting 
On saving a shuttered hotel from the wrecking ball, 
To catch the sound of someone filling a room 
We won't be visiting with a haunting solo? 
And then the gifts we receive by imagining 
How down at the beach today surfers made sure 
The big waves we weren't there to appreciate 
Didn't go begging for attention. 
And think of the sunlight we failed to welcome, 
How others stepped forward to take it in.


Carl Dennis questions what it means to make a contribution by exploring different notions. He wants to believe that despite appearances everyone in the poem has a part to play. 

Watch simple situations, scenes and human interactions today that provide meaning.

Let them connect to develop a story or poem.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

When to Relent to Process

"The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it."  
~ Michelangelo

Writing projects require a target, aim and follow through to the goal. When energized in a flow, writers keep writing. Other times we stop inches from the finish line and feel the frustration of an incompletion. 

How do we learn the timing of when to push or relent?  Often distractions become vital to forward progress. Self-trickery may force solutions not considered if we're too focused on the task. 

All writers face times of struggle when the words move in slow motion. They defy us in a spurt, bubble or a trickle from the pen when we want Niagara Falls. We need to understand our process and give ourselves permission to aim lower at times. 

The lower aim might move us into a different direction of productivity. Often a barricade to an unreachable goal enables us to change aim and devise other creative means.  

To disagree with Michelangelo, the low accomplishment might keep us going in preparation for our shot to the moon.  W. Clement Stone wrote, "Aim for the moon, if you miss you may hit a star."

During a writing project, If you feel stuck, take a break and move into a boring area of life like laundry or refrigerator cleaning. Pay bills. Take a power nap. 

Playtime becomes necessary. Force the brain to escape. Walk in the garden and look for faces and figures in flowers. Soon, ideas will percolate and you'll find a way into the gush of words.

Write about aim. Ponder times you have set goals and discovered ways to reach them you never thought possible. 

How did you persevere beyond doubts?  

When you backed off and let your creative powers take over, what did you learn? 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

To Honor Maya Angelou

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Caged Bird

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom. 
-    Maya Angelou

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Freedom Flight

Body grounded by a virus,
my mind begs a break from

"Come for a ride," a peregrine falcon coaxes.

As I launch into the sky, 

"I'll be back," I say to my body.

Just a moment's 
ride, feathered
on the peregrine's

A chance to watch the mock battle of fledglings.

From a peregrine's view,
I marvel at my body
as it maintains 
the pace without me.

It continues to conquer
our challenge.

I slip back in
and off we go 
to breakfast.

Applause arises
from the sea.

Monday, May 26, 2014

In Gratitude on Memorial Day

Soldier, rest! Thy warfare o'er,
Sleep the sleep that knows not breaking,
Dream of battled fields no more.
Days of danger, nights of waking. 
-Sir Walter Scott

After the Civil War, the government created a holiday to honor the Union and Confederate soldiers who had died in battle. Union general John Logan chose May 30th because it did not honor the anniversary of any battle.

When World War I ended, they extended the idea to honor all United States soldiers who died in any war.

In 1968, Congress's Uniform Holidays Act severed the link between Memorial Day and the original date, changing it instead to "the last Monday in May" to allow for a three-day weekend.

Memorial Day has become a holiday for families to remember anyone they have lost (veteran or otherwise), to lay flowers at grave sites.

For those unable to travel to the graves of their loved ones, there are websites like, where one can create a cyber-monument and leave a "virtual" note or bouquet.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Write into Solitude

On a leafless branch
A crow's settling
autumn nightfall
               - Basho

Basho's Haiku investigates the value of a singular moment. In Japanese, the word sabi describes an alloy of beauty and sadness. Sabishi expresses loneliness and solitude. An essence of impermanence pervades his observation.

What does alone feel like?  Notice if sensations of impermanence percolate.  

Define words like loneliness, freedom, or solitude.

Develop metaphor and sensory imagery.

Invite the reader into a moment of solitude.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Questions Spark Imagery

How do the seasons know
They must change their shirt?

Why so slowly in winter
and later with such a rapid shudder?
- Pablo Neruda

Constructing a scene with sensory details permits the writer's spirit to percolate into writing. To define emotions, an image from nature assists.  

Clouds over the sea present a beginning. From there, shapes and sizes frolic into a variety of forms.

Asking questions of the senses increases details. 

What would clouds feel like on the arms and legs when someone passes through them?  

If clouds ran along the beach which sounds would accompany them?

Which questions evoke nuances?

What do clouds reflect in a puddle? 

Do they smell like carnations and taste like a vanilla and banana milkshake? 

Will the mood change by adding chocolate?

Once the imagery floats upon the page, it provides the possibility to add layers.

By asking questions to expand the image, the writer does not have to tell the reader what to feel. 

The message resides in the details. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Write the True Self

Sail forth - steer for the deep waters only,
Reckless O soul, exploring, 
I with thee and thee with me.
For we are bound where mariner 
has not yet dared to go,
And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.     
                 -Walt Whitman
Do we travel away from who we really are because of the many roles we play? A few of the characters we inhabit during our life experience might include: spouse, parent, sibling, friend, employer, employee. 

As a result, our true self may stay hidden. Or, we haven't taken the time to study the authenticity of ourselves because of the myriad role responsibilities.
A writer's quest involves the process of discovering an authentic self. It takes a lifetime to explore and delve into the depths of one's inner world in writing beyond the chaos of daily life.

Take time for curiosity. Investigate beyond your mistaken identities for an inner voice.

Describe with concrete details what this voice sounds like. 
Where do you come from?
Where do you belong?

What is your contentment?

What questions do you have about the real you?
As you write into your depths of discovery, listen for a haunting voice of your true self.  What "other self" keeps you company as you dive deeper into your self-enlightenment process?

Start a dialogue and respond to it when frustrated, angry, needy and happy.  

Return to ask and answer questions.

Write about something unimaginable that might define you.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Plant the Seeds

A Buddhist saying indicates that when you plant seeds, you don't dig them up every day to see if they have sprouted. You water them and clear away the weeds.

Plant metaphorical seeds in writing you will cultivate in the coming days.

Set a time to write for fifteen minutes a day without a goal. Let the notions and nuances scatter on the screen or page.

When you keep up with writing exercise,  ideas and projects will take root and bloom,word-by-word.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Rebel Against the Usual

"Sometimes breaking the rules is just extending the rules. Sometimes there are no rules." 

~ Mary Oliver

Consider the joy and power of rebellion. A determination to revolt against the usual may stimulate discoveries in writing. 

Rise and overthrow a stale notion, overworked idea or any status quo you've experienced. 

Vitality will soar as you shed numbing habits and traditions.

Blaze the page with a personal rebel call of nonviolent disobedience. Toss letters in the air and see where they land. 

Write one word sentences. Verbinate!

Extend the rules. Pursue a rebel's jubilee. 

Frolic. Flap those wings.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Stimulate Awareness and Creativity

Discover the duck.


Daily, respond to the letters of Creativity to see where they lead.

Think in opposites of your first responses.

Try something never attempted before.

Go for a walk on a different route than usual.

Search for images in pavement, water splots, clouds.

Change routines. Get up earlier. Sleep later.

For five bad experiences, substitute five great ones.

Ask children how to do something and observe their creativity.

Connect a sport to your work.

Try tasting food for its variety of texture.

Choose a color, sound and scent you do not like. Connect them.

Squint and find a different view.

Make a list of five impossible things.  How will you make each possible?

Think about five common items and how they were invented.  Do you have an invention?

Monday, May 19, 2014

What to Tell Time?

I'm late / I'm late / For a very important date. / No time to say "Hello, Goodbye". / I'm late, I'm late, I'm late. - The white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.  ~Henry David Thoreau

How do we deal with time as it surges, flaps and beats to engage us?

We measure it.  It marches on.

Some try to kill it. Stop it. Suspend it.

It is of the essence as we work around the clock.

Some have given up on circular time for digital. It's not ten to two; rather 1:50. It's not a quarter of anything anymore.

Watches have released from the wrist. We check a cell phone's notification. Or, borrow it from others.

Time's white rabbits rush on the rampage. We argue that we don't have time when we just need to "take" time.

Writers expel ideas in the moment. We can speed or slow sentences and paragraphs to create mood and provide intensity to capture the reader. Decades can exist in pages. In a chapter, time shrinks, expands or gets pruned as irrelevant. 

Poems and stories jump forward, backwards, even sideways. Characters might move in parallel time exploring worlds beyond the present.

Discover an afternoon free of time's relentless hold. For a suspended hour, nothing dictates but the imagination.

Take time to write about time!