Monday, June 30, 2014

Combine Opposites

Herman Melville wrote that to create art, "unlike things must meet and mate."

He referred to "sad patience" and "joyous energies." Melville included instinct and study as ingredients along with humility and pride, audacity and reverence. He added a "flame to melt" and a "wind to freeze."
Combine opposites to shape a work of art in writing.  How would you describe your life?

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Truth or Perception

“The truth of our lives is always smoke and mirrors.” - William Giraldi

No one perceives events as they really unfold. Our ability to alter facts has enabled us to survive in this challenging world. In recall, creativity weaves in the details.

To understand how perception alters an event, consider three people who observe a car wreck from different corners of the street. Angles, moods and times of observation change recall and affect where each person places blame.

Are we storytellers by nature? Marcel Proust felt in order for it to be meaningful, we must change the truth a little to remember it. If we embellish for self-protection, will an event stay with us in meaningful ways?

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “A lie may be told by a truth, or a truth conveyed through a lie. Truth to facts is not always truth to sentiment.” Stevenson continued, “To tell truth is not to state the true facts, but to convey a true impression, truth in spirit, not truth to letter, is the true veracity.”

Emotional memory differs from factual memory because of the psychological colors added. Moving away as an observer helps to process an unfortunate or stressful situation.

Write about an emotional experience. Play the storyteller and add texture to the scene. How does emotional distance benefit the story?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Wobble and Wriggle

Lose your way.  Be willing to make mistakes. Wobble to one side, return to upright. Wobble to the other side, then return to upright.  This is a practice for human beings. When you lost your way and make mistakes try not to create harm for yourself or others. Ancient masters were not super-beings.  They were just people. Lose your way but then return. - Taigen Dan Leighton

Give up on reality today.  Take time for fun and play! 

Try something new.  

Wobble and Wriggle.  

Renew and return.

Let mistakes lead the day.

Go ahead and lose your way.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Detail the Decades

"I don't think you can be a writer unless you feel things not just for the moment but they live in you."
- Eric Bledsoe

Writers have an opportunity to mine for stories when considering five topics of memories.

l. An Amazement   2. An Achievement  3. An Amusement  4. An Absurdity  5. An Amiable friend

Begin with a child's eyes and respond from 10 years and under.
Then, move into adolescence.
What memories come to mind from years 20-30?
Delve into the 30-40 era.
From 40-50 will provide additional insights
If you respond from 50 and above, notice how your wisdom reigns.

Write one line responses at first.  Then you can go back to detail the decades.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Explore Nature

Wilderness is not an extravagance or a luxury, it is a place of original memory where we can witness and reflect on how the world is held together by natural laws. 
--Terry Tempest Williams

Nature writers discover themselves during the exploration of their relationships to the natural world. Nature writing requires awareness and observation of interconnections. Often founded in science, the focus always returns to the writer's personal observations. 

The writer's challenge involves bringing the reader into that world. Nature writing evokes all the senses and delves into the possibilities regardless of the tragedies in the world. This writing puts hope, faith and possibility into concrete words and imagery. 

For writers the unknown territory always looms. The idea or the story lurk somewhere in the desert, on the prairie, high on a mountain, or in the backyard of the mind.

How do individuals move into those areas of wildness and live at the edges of the mysterious? 

Where do writers learn to extend the boundaries of the self? 

Creativity and the resulting writing require the permission to be lost. In A Field Guide to Getting Lost, Rebecca Solnit explains, "One does not get lost but loses oneself, with the implication that it is a conscious choice, chosen surrender, a psychic state achievable through geography." She continues, "That thing the nature of which is totally unknown is usually what you need to find, and finding it is a matter of getting lost."

Awareness achieves results.

Annie Dillard advises - keep your "shutter" open.

Ask nature a question and write about it. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Take a Break for Word Play

Playing with words can ease tension, energize creativity and encourage relaxation.

Add or subtract letters in words to alter meanings.

Then write a sentence that describes an opinion or makes a statement to result in an aphorism.

To start:

Remove the "c" from charm and then run to get out of harm's way.

A little grrr for attitude develops gratitude.

Always arrange troubles into bubbles.

Re-verberate indicates the power of verbs to move a sentence.

Go beyond usual thinking to see possibilities.

Let opporknockity tune!  Find a riduckulous riddle or two.

Liberate to Literate!

Hit the keys to add black to the white. Replace the "h" for an "r" and write!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Saga of the Single Sock

Everyone has a lost sock story. Where do they wander from the washing machine to the dryer? How do they lose their way from the dryer to the drawer?

Imagine a spy thriller.  Mated for years, one sock goes on the lam when it receives the call to investigate the pockets of jeans and t-shirts.

What if a white sock has always wanted to be green?  How will it sneak from the wash and hide until the next load of colors arrives?

Always put down and stepped on its entire life, one sock dreams of rising and becoming a pant leg or beyond.

Let the saga of the single sock stimulate words today.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A Moment in Nature

Nothing exists from whose nature some effect does not follow. - Spinoza

Each day you breathe in and out about five hundred cubic feet of air without even noticing.  

Daily the sun rises and sets and weather patterns abound.  Seasons move on and constellations revolve around the sky. Tides ebb and flow.

Nature entertains, stimulates and enlightens.  The doors and windows of wonder open daily.

What will you notice today?

Write about a moment in nature.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Nurture of Writing and Nature

Perhaps one has to be very old before one learns to be amused rather than shocked. 
- Pearl S. Buck

Daily, I search for life's possibilities and what generates amusement and positivity. The absurdities of some individuals make it difficult. I yearn to feel amused when shock sets in. Where's my funny bone when needed?

During my morning run, I notice a man scaling sides of a sea cliff. He eventually tumbled into the water. I ask his observers what is going on with the dangerous venture?

"He's getting ready for a proposal."

Of what I wonder? They don't elaborate. He's a bounce short of quadriplegia.

Another fellow throws rocks at pelicans and cormorants. My vocabulary colors his day.

Do I need to become a porcupine when passing oncoming walkers who don't share the road? Tourists chatter, find me invisible and bump me with their entitlement.

After observing a child kicking at a seagull, I have had it. What is missing from these lives?

What does it mean to be human?  We desire rights but what about self-responsibility?

After my morning run, I need a pen to evacuate the frustration.  Then a dig in the garden helps. I add fresh blooms and ponder Pearl Buck's thoughts to search for amusement.

Ah! with the nurture of writing and nature, I gradually return to my ever-buoyant self.

I can't change the world but I can change my focus with creativity.

The words of Ann Patchett circulate through my brain, "Writing is a job, a talent, but it's also the place to go in your head.  It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon."

I retreat to my pen as the tea water burbles to a boil.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Celebrate Summer Solstice

Today, June 21, celebrate Summer Solstice when the sun reaches its zenith. It will provide the longest period of daylight in the northern hemisphere. Summer solstice derives from Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still).

Cultures around the world hold events to celebrate Solstice. The Celts & Slavs celebrated the fi
rst day of summer with dancing & bonfires. They feel it helps to increase the Sun's energy. The Chinese marked the day by honoring Li, the Chinese Goddess of Light.

The Pagan Festival of Litha, celebrated by Druids, venerates the Solstice as the "wedding of Heaven and Earth.” Druidism worships nature and believes in the spirits of mountains, and divine guides.

Stonehenge in southern England holds the largest festival. Here, more than 350 mounds surround a stone circle at the center. Dating back to 3100 BC, Neolithic people started the construction. Experts cannot agree on whether Stonehenge served as a temple, a burial ground or an astronomy site. Nobody can figure out for sure how the stones were erected. Mysteries abound in the region.

Starting at midnight on the eve of Summer Solstice, revelers, spiritualists and tourists gather to dance around the fire, star gaze and hug the stones at Stonehenge. They wear robes and flowers to celebrate the year’s longest day.

The summer solstice is one of the rare occasions in the year when open access to the stones is allowed by English Heritage, custodians of the monuments.

Enjoy a writing festival today in celebration of Summer Solstice. Imagine yourself reveling at Stonehenge near the fire.  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Writing Gathas

When birdsong is loud in the trees
I vow with all beings
to put down my work and to listen,
recreated as song.  - Robert Aiken  from The Dragon Who Never Sleeps

A gatha is a Buddhist vow that expresses the interconnectedness and interdependence of an individual with nature.  The first line sets up a situation in nature beginning with the word when or whenever.

When planting lilies in my garden
When I hear the sparrows sing
When I smell sea spray

The second line, "I vow with all beings" represents the basic commitment of the Buddhist gatha. You might substitute another commitment or promise.

I promise to myself
I make a commitment to the earth
I pledge myself

The last two lines tell of the promise and begin with to.

to put aside worries
to stay focused
to engage with . . .

Gathas focus on everyday aspects of life and express how all beings and things connect.  The gatha form becomes meaningful way to express the interdependence felt when observing nature.

When I hear the Black Phoebe's call
I promise to us both
to remain in the moment
and sing of love

Arrange gathas to connect and express your interdependence with nature.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Epistolary Style

The epistolary story consists of letters written from one character to another or moves between characters.  The convention of the story may also include that of a monologue spoken aloud by one character to another.

The variations include the narrator speaking in intimate confessional to a friend or lover.  Or, he may present his case to a jury or a mob.  The narrator could pour out his heart in a love letter that he knows
(and we know) he will never send.

This style is the opposite of what's employed in a story told to the reader.  The listener as well as the teller becomes involved in the action.  Readers become eavesdroppers with all the ambiguous intimacy that position entails.

With email, Twitter and blogs so popular these days, not many individuals exchange letters of length and substance.  Many novels have used the epistolary form. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner reveals the benefits.

When you write a sketch based on the epistolary form, choose either monologue or a series of letters between friends.

Select one idea or create your own.

 l.  The narrator is concerned about the choice he made to sell property that had been in the family for  years.

2.  Develop four letters among friends attempting to settle an argument.  First letter details the problem. The second responds to it. The third attempts reconciliation. The last letter puts it to rest or leaves it unresolved.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Write with Courage and Ferocity

"Don't shoot the messenger. Edit the message."  
- written on a wall.

Approach your day to notice where words and actions affect others in a positive way. Share a smile, a few sentences of gratitude and a compliment.  Those expressions become your high art.

Write with ferocity today.

Applaud everything around you.

Make peace with irritation.

Use words to burrow into frustration.

Irrigate the soul with positivity.

Change your attitude and watch how it soothes another.

Count how many judgments you can avoid. What would
their opposites sound like?  Write them!

Tell someone to expect an Amazement in an hour.

When a negative rattles toward you, twirl its pace and add a laugh.

Write one-liners and share them.

Win the world's attention word-by-word.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Write into Surprise

"The most difficult part of writing, I think, is contriving a way to be open to surprise. Not surprise in general, of course: that’s merely another kind of sameness. But the right surprise: the realignment of attention or the rip in consciousness that will advance the argument or the meditation." 
                                                          ~ Linda Gregerson

Study the sequence of paintings and write about surprise!

Ask questions.

What's unlikely?

Create the unexpected shift.

Add a tinge of adventure.

Develop worry into wonder.
Probe the playful.  Create dialogue to reveal and revel in 

Add a change of venue and develop new characters.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Write About Gifts

The way we give and receive gifts indicates a great deal about ourselves. It takes time, thoughtfulness, and creativity to select a present for someone we care about. Often the present becomes a symbol of friendship or involves an item to fill a specific need.

On other occasions, the gift selection feels mandatory and takes less effort.  The gift of our presence for someone in need also requires thought and skill.

Self-awarensss and empathy run through the process.

Write about gift giving and receiving.  Begin with a present you did not appreciate at first.  Why did it gain in meaning?  Or did it represent something you're still attempting to resolve?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Charles Wright

“Poetry is the dark side of the moon. It’s up there, and you can see the front of it. But what it is isn’t what you’re looking at. It’s behind what you’re looking at.”
- Charles Wright

Charles Wright will officially begin his role as the U.S. Poet Laureate with a reading of his work at the Library of Congress on September 25, 2014.

Wright says, “Most of my poems start with me looking out the window or sitting in the backyard as dusk comes down, and what that sort of translates into my thinking at the moment,” He continues, “We have more to say when we’re younger. We have better things to say when we’re older, not necessarily more.”

He published his latest collection, “Caribou” this year. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Write into Awakening

Measure your health by your sympathy with morning and spring. If there is no response in you to the awakening of nature—if the prospect of an early morning walk does not banish sleep, if the warble of the first bluebird does not thrill you— Thus may you feel your pulse. - Henry David Thoreau, from Journal entry, 1850

Dip into gratitude for

Delve into ways to enliven your day. 

Use all the senses to write about a morning's examination of nature's delights.

Let nature's way enrich your ability to shake off despair and frustration.

Develop balance word-by-word.

Discover ways to choose different approaches to life's challenges.

Notice what internal change reveals.

Write into awakening.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Moonstruck in June

When my Daddy pointed to summer’s full moon he said, “See the bunny?”  
"Where?" I squinted to find it.
"Imagine a clock. Look at the 1 and 2 for the ears. Find the tail at about 7 o’clock," he said.

I learned to tell time in circular before digital clocks.

The moon rabbit appears in fables, folklore and poetry around the world. Sansanka, the moon in Sanskrit translates, "having the marks of a hare."
In a Buddhist fable, a monkey, jackal and rabbit happened upon a beggar who needed food. While the monkey gathered fruits from trees, the jackal caught a lizard and stole a pot of milk-curd. The rabbit only ate grass and had nothing to offer the beggar. 

She flung herself into the fire the man had built. Suddenly, the man revealed himself as the god, Sakra. Touched by the rabbit's sacrifice, he designed her likeness on the moon for everyone to see.

The Han Dynasty poets referred to the "Jade Rabbit" or the "Gold Rabbit." These Chinese characters represented a word for the moon: 玉兔  金兔.

A Taoist fable revealed a hare, the gemmeous, who served the genii. The creature ground an elixir of immortality on the moon. Imperial Chinese robes of the 18th-century revealed the white hare making the elixir in embroidery.

Told in a Native American Cree legend, a rabbit wished to ride the moon. The crane agreed to fly him there.  As the rabbit's weight pulled during the trip, it stretched the bird's legs. They remained elongated from then on. When they reached the moon, the rabbit touched the crane's head leaving a red mark. The rabbit still rides the moon.

                               by Cyra R. Cancel
The Tezcucans of Mexico said the sun and moon started out equal in brightness until a god took a rabbit by its heels and flung it into the moon's face to dim its light.

Look for the bunny in tonight's strawberry moon.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

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.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Write About Habits

Individuals and their traits travel through us.  From Childhood onward, many of our behaviors become composites of watching and emulating others.  Preferences may arise from both positive and negative experiences that build character and personality.

During the day keep track of behaviors you attribute to influence from family members or friends.  Who taught you to roll socks into a ball or fold them over together to place in the sock drawer?  Did someone suggest you try catsup or vinegar on French fries?  

Did a sibling throw the baseball and football with you and show you form?  Did you ever skip a stone on a lake?  Who taught you to tie shoelaces and how do you tie them?  Who dared you to become courageous?

Does science appeal after watching the celery experiment revealing capillary action with blue ink that traveled up into the leaves?  Do you like jelly with scrambled eggs because your father ate them that way?  

Does mac and cheese not fit into the favorite foods category because you had to eat it when recovering from an illness?  Who read your first book to you or revealed the alphabet?  Do you count on your fingers?

Notice how you respond during the day.  Do you hear yourself say something a friend always repeated?  Do your slang words retreat many decades and you still say, "Cool" or "right on"?

After you complete your day's habit tracking, write about your impressions.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Write to Change a Mood

Serotonin, the brain's feel-good chemical, interacts with receptors to spread happiness, satisfaction and relaxation. How do we wrestle with shades of experience? We have the ability to move from intense moments then glide into realms of ease. At other times we just struggle, stuck in the middle of funk. The complexity of the human endocrine system toys with our balance.

All the advances in medicine and technology cannot provide a life of satisfaction. Only we can access that center of Wisdom above our necks and do what needs doing. 

We must engage with our highs, lows and middles by discovering ways to dislodge discomfort and energize the interactions in the brain for positive results.

With writing we have the ability to alter our moods or, at least, write about and through them.

Get several sheets of paper and a pen that flows across the page. Find a location where you can write undisturbed for a half hour. Write your current mood across the top of the page. Begin writing and do not cross out or feel concern about the words that flow. Let one drop, then another.

See where your mind takes you until the end of the page. Has your mood changed? Write the replacement mood across the top of the next page and begin again. 

Follow your moods for a half hour at first then extend the time. Try writing with a variety of colors. If cranky, use green. If tired, write with red or magenta. Use blue for its tranquil qualities.