Sunday, August 31, 2014

Train to Write

At just four years old, I attended a football game at the  Rose Bowl with my father. We settled into seats with hot dogs, peanuts and Delaware punch. Excitement filled the stadium and rippled throughout my body. 

My father's first advice, "Watch reactions. Don't just follow the ball." During warm ups, he pointed out ways coaches related to the players and how they responded. He talked a lot about the intensity of training that went into the game. He also encouraged my writing training in similar ways.

Training to write begins way before pen meets paper or fingers tickle keys. Making a friend of curiosity initiates a first step of preparation.Writers need to become omnivores of experience. Nourishing wonder involves all the senses to receive transmissions from life's stimuli.

How do you train to write? 

Investigate ways to stretch and train before writing.  Squint and notice how it changes your perspective.  

Delve into discoveries by doing what you don't usually do. Try different points of view.

Listen to music of all types.

Practice imaginative thinking by searching for nuances and connections.

Notice reactions to situations. Investigate cause and effect. 
When watching sports like a football game, go beyond a focus on the ball. 
Observe the body language, reactions and responses of players. In what ways do they anticipate way before a play unravels?

Nurture awareness by seeking adventure with a child's eyes. Let go with no agenda or time keeping for a set period each day.

Questions add another dimension to training. What amuses? What confuses?  Which mysteries need investigation? Let self-discovery push to the edges. Remain open to possibilities.

Choose another art form to cross-train your writing. Draw or paint. Don't forget to dance to enhance movement and rhythm. 
Develop a yoga practice for breathing and balance.

Take advantage of life's disruptions. Use them for story.

Become restless and relentless. Then write about it.

Writing goes way beyond the basics of grammar and syntax. Football season might inspire new approaches. Start your training today! 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Punctuation and Life

Play with punctuation.  After you've responded to each of the ten choices, do a freewrite to combine them.  Let your life sentences emerge.

Observing your life:

l.    Describe a comma (a pause) you've experienced.
2.   What felt life an ending (a period).
3.   Include a parenthesis ( ).
4.   Use an action verb to push the punctuation.
5.   What connection has a semi-colon made for you?
6.   Add a dash of -
7.   Entertain ellipses to begin or end . . . .
8.   What does a colon offer your list of fun or fantasy?
9.   Question the question mark that appeared before a choice.
10.  In what situations do you feel possessive like an apostrophe?

Live your life as an exclamation point!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Fiction for Family

“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 Nordstrom today?

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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Write about Attachments

As human beings, we want aspects of our lives to turn out a certain way. When we cling to a strict outlook, we can often stifle the outcome.

We attach to:  material possessions, relationships, money, and outcomes. Often, frustration results from these attachments. When individuals do not act according to our expectations or we do not gain material possessions, we feel anxious and sad. 

The desire for an outcome hampers the energy of writing projects.

Practicing non-attachment with a writing project takes time. If, during the creative stage, we focus on a flow of words and ignore the result, more ideas percolate. 

This also assists to release attachments in other areas of life.

Do you ever feel like you’re holding on to something for the wrong reason? Are you too attached to the outcome of a situation or a result during writing practice? 

Live in moments of movement. Stay aware of "now" activities to avoid judgments and expectations of outcomes.

Let go! 

Flow to notice how to grow. Write about attachments in a freeflow style. 

Notice how staying in the writing moments expands your thoughts.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Attention and Writing

“At its heart, mindfulness is an uncovering process of noticing what has 
always been there.” - Michael Baime 

Do you recall when you first learned a sport, how to dance, sing. or play an instrument? Gaining the skills involved developing techniques and ways to position the body. You had to pay attention. If you became too tense, you lost control or balance.

All activities cultivated the capacity for presence. Mind and body cooperated to develop harmony.

Linda Stone, a Microsoft researcher, uses "continuous partial attention" to describe a state of attention attuned to everything without concentrating on anything. It refers to our current technological state of staying in hyper-connectivity.

She feels we need various attention strategies in different contexts. Writing a story, driving a car, riding a bicycle all require an attention strategy that serves the moment.

"Relaxed presence," assists the ability to learn to write, drive a car or ride a bike. She asked individuals in her studies, "How did you play as a child?"

Stone learned that if people did things on their own without the stress of someone giving an assignment and evaluating it, they played for pleasure and joy. As a result, individuals developed the capacity for attention and a type of curiosity and experimentation that only happened when they played. When they stayed in the moment, it unfolded in a natural way.

When you explore words in freeflow writing, you move in a state of relaxed presence. Sentences wander with curiosity and wonder as ideas fall upon words without effort.

When no one guides or judges, freedom and the ferocity to write result.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mine for Memories

Remember a flower that brings a story.

Add a view with colors.

                          Include a time of year.

Weave scents, sounds and tastes into your memory.

Recall an animal or two.

Bring in a beverage enjoyed at a cafe.

                What happened in the shade and shadows?

Taste the textures.

Add body language
and dialogue.

Select a favorite tune.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Probe Possibilities

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

Probe the possibilities we need as writers. We write ourselves out of and into holes and spaces. Openings appear.

How do we also remain open to the changes and transitions in life and avoid the traps? We need to observe nature's ways and watch the unfurling of a rose. The times of twilight intrigue when the sky opens to light and darkens at dusk. The trill of birdsong awakens us at dawn. 

What occurs within the fissures where water sneaks and bubbles form?

Awareness pushes our eyes, ears, noses and taste buds to the next curiosity. 

Do we dare fall into an opening, like Alice? 

Will we permit our pens and fingers on keyboards to explore with courage and risk?

When we look for openings, we risk the chance to make mistakes. 

If we remain closed, we miss opportunities and the wild in wide open places.

What does it mean to become open and receptive to possibilities?

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Write About Friendship

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.” - C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves 

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything.” - Muhammad Ali

Photographs and cute sayings abound in the search for an explanation of friendship. Writers often delve into friendship's concept using abstract descriptions. What does C.S. Lewis mean by, "value to survival"? To communicate, a writer must show instances of emotion and affection.

Write to reveal how a friendship looks, feels, and sounds. Do taste and scent have meaning in a relationship? Will humor and play energize friends?

Examine a situation of friendship to demonstrate its intensity and meaning in a scene that shows how individuals connect.

Friends surprise one another with the unexpected. When have you felt the strength of caring from a friend?

Describe a time of need, beyond expectation, when a friend came through for you.

What behavior didn't you anticipate?

Add a time of disappointment and how it affected the relationship. Did expectation get in the way of necessity?

Do you ever feel like a one-way street?  How do you request reciprocity?

Consider a situation when you could have asked more of friendship.

Have you lost a friendship?  Why?  How might you rediscover that friend with a new perspective?

Take a break.

Write about ways you can become a better friend to yourself. How does self-talk assist your daily process? In what ways do you consider yourself your Best Friend?

Delve into all aspects of friendship.

Write a note or an email to a friend to express gratitude. Add what causes frustration in the relationship. In your note, recall your ideas of a simple act of friendship.

Begin with, "I remember when you . . . "

Reveal details to make it real.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Write about Heroes and Villains

Recall a hero from childhood.  Why did you want to become like this person?  Choose another hero from early adult years.
Can you discover one now? Make a list of admirable traits.

Choose a villain from these periods of life. List undesirable characteristics that you wish to avoid.

Use these attributes or negative traits for inspiration to develop two characters. Mingle good and bad qualities in each. Seat them next to one another on an airplane and create a conflict.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Interview roses

A character in Anne Carson's, The autobiography of Red says, "You should be interviewing roses not people."

How would you gather information from life sources that do not communicate with words?

Imagine a child's way in.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Search for Simplicity

A woman who called herself Peace Pilgrim began a walk across America in the 1950s.  She had reduced her possessions to what she believed necessary and essential.  Her clothes and a few items in her pockets served her.  Living at the need rather than want level made her feel liberated and empowered. She said, "a persistent simplification will create an inner and outer well-being that places harmony in one's life."

Seek simplicity for yourself by writing responses and see where they take you:

How might you return to simplicity?  In what ways will it assist with contentment?

On what scale do you rank possessions and endless striving?  How necessary are these aspects of your life?

Does technology add to or reduce complexity in your life?

What would you do to reduce daily clutter in physical items and mental issues?

Describe emotional crutches that provide illusions of security?

Which rituals do you use to start the day?

In what ways do you silence sensory overload daily?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Capture Moments

"If your journal consists of the best moments of your life and reading, then rereading it will be like walking a high mountain trail that goes from peak to peak without the intervening descent into the trough of routine. Just reading in such a journal of high points will tighten your strings and raise your pitch." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ralph Waldo Emerson kept what he called "commonplace books." These bound volumes recorded his ideas, observed images, turns of phrase, high points from his life and reading. He relished words and language and used his notebooks to capture everything for his future writing.

During childhood, I started writing in a blue diary that closed with a lock. Many secrets inked the pages, along with treasures pasted beside entries. Over the years, I have kept a variety of notebooks.

Because of my curiosity for change, black bound books moved aside for spiral notebooks. I tried hand-sized books to carry and exchanged them for covers of colorful design.

Often I can't decide just where to write my notions so they begin life when and where the ink falls. I record observations and eavesdrops, collect words or phrases from readings, feelings and frustrations. I have written on my hands and arms during morning runs so notions do not escape.

Charts and doodles fill pages. I write on and on then return to these pages to mine ideas and develop thoughts more fully. My search continues for ways to capture moments.

Emerson prized the process and advised writers to try anything to keep it going with determination. He called it a "casting moment" when you see it and keep the writing in its original form, uncontaminated by later improvements.

I appreciate the process more than the product because of the feelings of freedom and exhilaration gained pushing the pen.

Determine your best way to document what attracts you. Experiment with journals in a variety of sizes and shapes. Use colored pens to engage with words.

Don't worry about results. Stay in your casting stage as long as possible

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Laughter Calls

Laugh at yourself and at life. Not in the spirit of derision or whining self-pity, but as a remedy, a miracle drug, that will ease your pain, cure your depression, and help you to put in perspective that seemingly terrible defeat and worry with laughter at your predicaments, thus freeing your mind to think clearly toward the solution that is certain to come. Never take yourself too seriously.”- Og Mandino

Use writing about laughter to conquer life's
situations. Maintain a list of all possibilities for humor.  

How could you turn a mistake into a first scene in a sit com? Prepare a dialogue between two people where both laugh every three lines.  Write about a humorous connection between a duck and a ladybug.

Laugh your fingers across the keyboard and don't take life seriously today.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Moments in Movement

Poets spend a lifetime hunting 
for the magic that will make the moment stay.  
- Stanley Kunitz

Images drive the lines. A metaphor might permeate the message to gain attention. Rhythm and feelings weave throughout and a message results.

Writers hunt, gather and relay word-by-well-chosen-word to communicate observations and notions.

Poetry flows in thoughts and ideas. Beyond line breaks a tune floats through to send a weary world insights, feelings and concerns.

With wings spread, a moment captures sounds, sights, colors, scents, tastes, and feelings.

Uncertainties abound.

Words spark and splay
across the page.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Live from the Inside Out

How do you live from the inside out?

Here's a place to start.

Grow yourself each day.

Exercise the mind and body.

Add healthy food for fuel.

Spend time alone and with others.

Keep a Positive attitude regardless of the situation.

Permit your emotions to cycle.

Give. Give. Give.

Express gratitude.

Learn from making mistakes.

Explore nature's wonders each day.


Help others help themselves.

Discover a spiritual practice. 

Make sleep count. Take naps.

Let laughter conquer fear and frustration.

Make FUN the most important discipline of all.

Write rather than worry. Live from the inside out!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

At Twilight

A treasure
A trifle
A tickle
A tear

How to tear
gravity’s pull
for balance

Choose a time.
Add a treasure, a trifle, a tickle and a tear.  
Reveal them in concrete terms.  
How does a treasure sound?  
                How does a trifle annoy?  
                      Where does a tickle lead?  
                              What causes tears to flow. 

How will you show their connections to circle for balance?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Write to Change

Do you have a habit you would like to change?  It could involve nail biting, procrastination or chronic worrying. On the positive side, you may wish to develop a write habit and spend time playing with words.

Rather than shaking a finger at yourself, go for thumbs up. You can do it!

Writing around, into and through thoughts and feelings about habits may assist you to discover ways to motivate change.

Write in response to the questions listed. Let them roll out in a flow without judgment or direction.

If you feel overwhelmed at any point, stop and rest. Take several deep breaths. 

1. Begin writing by experiencing the desire that motivates your habit. Imagine a place or time where the habit exists. Breathe into what it feels like. Write about the benefits of the habit. Let the sentences unravel your need.  

Keep writing until a different subject emerges.

When you are finished, write down some of the sentences that held the most meaning for you.

2. Continue to explore the desire. What if you never experienced it again? What would its opposite look like? Keep pushing words.

Copy sentences that feel important.

3. Name and dialogue with the desire. Ask why it needs you? How does it serve you? What could replace it?

What have you learned?

4. Focus on a positive habit. What does it feel like to want to accomplish it? How will it help you complete a goal?  

By writing into the depths of the four questions you may discover aspects of your personality you have not delved into.  

Make friends with yourself from the inside out.

Write to change.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Write the Bafflement

“It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. 
The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
 ~ Wendell Berry

Write about a time you felt baffled. Use a metaphor, like a stream to explain the details.  

Add sounds, scents, tastes, and textures. 

Show the reader your predicament without telling the feelings.  

Dive into it.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What occurs to me . . .

During my morning run, thoughts unravel. Songs arrive to match the pace.

I look up and around, to settle in nature. Air circulates with breeze or scents of someone's breakfast: eggs, coffee, cinnamon rolls.  The chill of morning air raises hair on my arms.

The sea coast brings another turn in the road and my tune changes. If a sadness or situation of concern populate my path,  I wander through them in search of a different view.

Staying in the moment arrives from evaluating my body's mood.  How do my toes feel as they hit the pavement.  I check on knees, ankles, neck, shoulders for details.

Sea birds and squirrels provide details in the landscape.  Flowers flash their hues.

My hearing increases.

A shift in breathing occurs as the pace increases. Rhythm changes and a flow sets in that clears the mind.

Ideas pop into focus and creativity soars. 

The run ends only after reaching this state in the movement's flow where I want to run forever. That conditioning sets an eagerness to return.

I never stop in discomfort. Just one more step . . . .

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Life is a Pen

Life is a pen. Search for adventures in words.

Where will curiosity lead?

When you cross out words,  always leave enough visible to use for future reference.

What will you rewrite?  How did the choice teach you resilience?

Flow into a new experience. Don't cross out from now on, let the flow take you into the wilderness of experience.

Move away from the keyboard. Dip into inks of red, blue, magenta, turquoise to energize ideas.

Color the page with feelings and textures.

Always remember the strength of words will make a difference in this world. 

Raise your pen for action.