Thursday, July 31, 2014


The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience." 
                             —Eleanor Roosevelt

What does it take for self-mastery?  Life provides opportunities for self-discoveries through errors made. Insights move into moments of enlightenment. Miles Davis says, "Do not fear mistakes. There aren't any. Only lessons."  

If we pay attention to our choices, we can make different mistakes and learn new skills. Life can be compared to a pencil with a point and an eraser. We're meant to use the eraser but not to let it erase so far down we forget to use the point.

It takes a lifetime to learn about ourselves as we commit experience.  We use and discard mental patterns and habits. Often we intercept choices before they turn into misfortunes. We learn to solve problems.

To evolve with self-mastery, we need to let go of what does not serve us and write about it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Probe Human Behavior

Zhuge Liang in Mastering the Art of War, reveals how difficult it becomes to delve into people’s natures and really know them. Although good and bad seem different, their conditions and appearances are not always uniform.

Some people appear nice enough but steal. Others reveal outward respect but inward distain for others. Often tenacious individuals feel insecure inside. On a team, players may have talents that help the team win but they do not show loyalty to their teammates.

Zhuge Liang uses seven questions to learn individual behavior:

l.    When questioning individuals about right and wrong, observe their ideas.

2.   Exhaust their arguments and discover if and how they change.

3.   Consult with them about strategy to notice their perceptiveness.

4.   Announce that there is trouble to test their courage.

5.   Get them drunk, to observe their nature.

6.   Present them with the prospect of gain to see how modest they are.

7.   Give them a task to do within a specific time, to see how trustworthy they are.

As difficult as it might become to know individuals, writers need this information to create well-rounded characters. Take a character you have created and present him or her with these questions. How does your character respond?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Awareness of Space

Do you see the heart or the wilting flower?

Examine the details. Consider today's choices.

Many discuss if the glass is half full or half empty. Writers describe the wonders of the glass itself.

Imagination relies on space. Painting and sculpture fill the emptiness. Stories and poems grow from the void. 

Writing notices the subtle and hidden, then adds to the blank page or screen.

Choose to make something happen in space.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Lunatic, The Lover and the Poet

"The lunatic, the lover and the poet are of imagination all compact."  - William Shakespeare

What does the world of the imagination reveal?  Where does it nurture and take you?

In a lunatic's mind a dance occurs among demons, daring and dread. The lover's heart and soul fill with sensory wonder. Sounds, sights, scents and tastes become heightened.  The poet imagines beyond his or her reality and uses it to write about the world.

Writers require this multiple personality to achieve a jounce of words into sentences that propel into paragraphs and pages.

Pulls of extremes, passion, courage and persistence define a writer's life.

To live life on one's own terms requires intensity and perseverance.

Once patience settles in, writing flows on and on.

Consider stories that have shaped your life. How can you explore them from the perspective of a lunatic, lover and poet?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What Bugs You?

Noise pollution bugs me.  Leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, party voices, car exhausts, and yelping dogs have increased in my neighborhood. They drown twitters of bird song. Even raucous crows cannot compete with the cacophony.

Whoever developed the leaf blower did that not realize it just sends the dust airborne and moves dirt to another location.  Eventually the debris needs picking up unless blown under bushes.  A broom takes arm strokes of efficiency. The operator does not have to breathe fumes.

Party voices increase with the alcohol content. Then they drive somewhere or into something.

Dogs bark for a variety of reasons that become difficult to control unless the owner takes charge.

Why do cell phone users increase their voice volume when speaking into the device?

I wonder how to bring sense and sounds of silence to a community?

What bugs you?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Keep a Dream Journal

Keeping a dream journal at your bedside helps find ideas for your writing practice.

Record dreams for a week or two as soon as you awaken from sleep.  Notice the details and themes. Write responses.

Write or draw the symbols in your dream.

Follow a dream in present tense.

Record colors and sounds that arise.

Do animals reoccur?

Notice connections from the day's experiences that appear.

Look for the form you take in dreams. Are you an observer or participant?

Write the first response that comes to mind about each symbol you encounter in a dream.

Begin an essay or poem with a dream image.

Developed a dialogue with a dream.

Make notes of dream characters you'd like to know better.  Write to your dream characters and notice if they are different facets of yourself.

Discover your own ways of investigating dream imagery. Delve into ways to use this focus in writing.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Try on Another Skin

Wallace Stegner, writer, professor and environmentalist, felt writers need to try on others' skins. He encouraged writing about a variety of characters with some feeling of identity.

Just for today become a movie star of your choice.  Try on a wild animal trainer.

How about living a day as the animal itself?

Imagine yourself as your best friend, parent, or child.  Develop traits of someone you would never want to become.

For the characters selected, make a detailed list of clothing, personality traits, and reactions. Then develop a situation.

See where writing leads in your chose of characters.  Does a story or poem result?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Write into Emptiness

Fully appreciate the emptiness of all. Then all minds are free, and dust evaporates in the original brilliance shining everywhere . . . Clear and without desire, the wind in the pines and the moon on the water are content in their original elements.  - Hong-Shi

Maybe when something stops, something lost in us can be heard."  
- Jack Gilbert from poem, A Ghost sings, a door opens.

Write sounds of dissonance and distress.  Stop. Write into the silence.

Follow as daylight blends into twilight. Write how darkness prevails.

Alter a memory to find what feels lost. Could you rediscover its essence?

Where do you go when the left lane ends?

Startle into an awakening and hear a becoming.

At the stops, discover your feral spirit.

Let lost develop so emptiness reveals itself. 

Write into renewal.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What if You Went Dreadful for a Day?

The Penny Dreadfuls began in the 19th century. Featuring serial stories that appeared over a number of weeks, each cost one penny. The term evolved to encompass publications that offered sensational fiction. 

Penny Dreadfuls were printed on cheap paper. The writing over-dramatized situations but drew attention of working class males. The stories became a less expensive alternative to fictional works, such as those by Charles Dickens, which cost 12 pennies.

What if you decided to spend one day writing about doing dreadful things? Where would you begin?

You could start in small ways. Run Stop signs?  Bully pedestrians in the cross walk?  Throw trash out your window?  Cut in line at your favorite coffee shop?  What would you write about your dreadfuls?

Try something that irritates a spouse, friend or relative.  Consider ways to develop your good behaviors into both devious and dreadful actions.

Could you do it?  For how long?  What does it feel like?

After consuming yourself with deviant thoughts, take a breath and a walk.

Turn your deviosities around and add delights to your days. Then, write about the feelings that accompany the change.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Storytelling in Flight

According to Walter Benjamin, storytelling reveals lived experience. He says, "Every story contains openly or covetly, something useful . . . a moral, practical advice, a proverb or maxim. In every case the storyteller has counsel for readers."

An act of storytelling arrives from the combination of what we know or perceive and what we add to it. 

It might begin with an observation then involve a query, wonderment or a concern. A transformation results from the addition of ingredients. Characters change or they remain the same.

Set a scene. Two individuals meet for dinner. One has a problem. Add a secret shared or previously unknown disclosure. Create conflict between them.

Pursue the story from a variety of angles.

Add more action. Something else happens.

A third party rushes in.

Create additional commotion.

Pause. Let the reader breathe and wonder.

Start in again.

Unnerve your characters.

Let it play out.

Alter the conclusion for variety. Begin at the ending and write forward. Let the words fly.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Insatiable Urge to Write

Cacoethes Scribendi (Insatiable Urge to Write)
by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

If all the trees in all the woods were men;
And each and every blade of grass a pen;
If every leaf on every shrub and tree
Turned to a sheet of foolscap; every sea
Were changed to ink, and all earth's living tribes
Had nothing else to do but act as scribes,
And for ten thousand ages, day and night,
The human race should write, and write, and write,
Till all the pens and paper were used up,
And the huge inkstand was an empty cup,
Still would the scribblers clustered round its brink
Call for more pens, more paper, and more ink.

What questions arise for the insatiable urge to write?

If the pen ruled and we wrote more, would we ever go to war?

What would we think if we never ran out of ink?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Write Challenge

"Life is full of obstacle illusions." - Grant Frazier 

Write about obstacles.  Express challenge and conquest about a step, about an hour and about a day. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Questions Stalk

"Literature stops life for the purpose of examining it." ~ William Faulkner

Writers have posed and pursued questions since Socrates who said, "The unexamined life is not worth living," 

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, ". . . and the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. 
Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." 

American naturalist, John Burroughs wrote as he traveled. He claimed, "I still find each day too short for all the thoughts I want to think. All the walks I want to take, all the books I want to read and all the friends I want to see."

Discover ways to stalk the questions in writing.

Let longing and curiosity serve as a rallying cry.  Consider how to define "examine"?

How might you be, see, and do everything you love to do in writing?

Choose a writing quest where you ask questions that push to the limits and beyond.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Creative Diversion

"Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer." - Barbara Kingsolver

Take time to divert from troubled work that doesn't respond. Free yourself from life's frustrations with a creative  break in writing. 

Avoid getting caught up by the "P" word . . . procrastination. Use action and creativity for diversion to jiggle the brain cells into patterns of possibility.

Take a break from a writing project.  

Here are a few ways to divert:

Read an article or story unrelated to your project.

Sing in the shower.
Eat something sweet and gooey with your fingers.
Do a task you don't enjoy: laundry, file sorting, bathroom cleaning.
Draw or doodle with lines, curves and colors.
Practice yoga and breathing.
Walk around the block and smell the breeze.
Read a fairytale.
Dig in the dirt and weed.
Take a walk with a notebook to write sounds and scents.
Write nonsense. Get silly and sillier. Fligerate and plesiate.
Pen a letter to a long lost friend.
Change direction and add humor. 

If still frustrated, wax the refrigerator.

These activities away from your stuck project will stimulate the brain to make connections. The diversity will enrich on many levels.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wander in Writing

Each person becomes a wanderer again and again in the course of life, as we find our true self by becoming lost. Each person carries a “story that could be true.” Each crossroad in life secretly asks the question: Who are you really? - Michael Meade, from The Water of Life

Writing into the true self begins in wonder. Each of us has experienced a time of loss.  We became lost on a hiking trail or in our frustration with an unresolved situation. Problems arise that beg for solutions.

Often we feel lost in creativity or while on a search for discoveries.

Running along a path by the sea or during a freewriting session, a flow takes over that enables breakthroughs in thoughts. Suddenly problems evaporate into the breeze. Enlightenment and joy carry us into nuances of potential never considered.

Experience the thrill of wandering and writing into questions beyond answers.  Let the water of life lead without a destination.

Wander and become lost in a reverie of possibility.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Write About Choices

Observe thoughts and choose words with care.

Choose words that dictate actions.

Monitor actions.

They turn into habits.

Study habits.

They develop character.

Develop character.
It enriches your life.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Write into White

White circulates in milk, snow, a cloud. It flows from a flower as a palate of possibility.  

Symbolically, white appears as innocence and honesty. It feels clean and a beginning of something.

A tinge of lightness shimmers because white never exists alone.

Colors shine as they circulate in and out of its canvas.

Buds encourage potential.
A collection of white revels in a reflection of its attraction.

Write into white!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Combine Styles of Writing

Intertwining three styles of writing on a common theme provides variety for the reader. A pause separates each style with enough blank space to give the reader time to absorb the writing.

For example, a focus on nature might begin with two friends discussing an environmental issue. After a pause the writing moves to an interview with a naturalist or comments on a quotation from a nature writer.

After another pause a poem reveals an emotional aspect of nature. Following more white space, the essay concludes with a personal reflection on the subject. The reader gains information about the subject with each strand of the weave.

Show your passion for an environmental issue.

Select three different styles of writing. Choose: journal entries, a poem, fable, personal narrative, dialogue, or anecdotes.

Approach the subject by using three writings in sequence with paragraph breaks.  

End with power and comments that will stay with the reader.