Thursday, April 30, 2015

Into Immediacy

"When I write, I author the present, and in authoring the present, I create myself.  I disappear when I write"  - Bob Hicok

Author, Bob Hicok feels, "A poem is that focusing activity, an opportunity to give flesh to my mind, to make it actual, to give the internal a physical, external existence."

Hicok promotes writing as performative. Writers need to move. He advises students to, "Step into the moment that's coming into existence, rather than insist the moment take on a predetermined shape."

"There's a delay between you doing a thing or thinking a thing and your awareness of said doing or thinking but I still have the desire to live and write without hesitation, and from that immediacy, surprise myself away from the known patterns of my mind," Hicok says.

The creative stage of the writing process provides the opportunity to energize and disappear in each moment. Move into the mind's flow. Without judgment, let the words flicker and fly. Surprises arise with each bounce of words.

Disappear into the immediacy of the moment. Amaze and amuse yourself. Let the words spread, splay, and sprout from your fingers.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Anguish to Awareness

Our minds can create strings of thoughts that move from anguish to armageddon within minutes.  We move deeper into despair by thinking about the next . . . and the next possible disaster.

What if the next time the chain begins we stop and re-arrange the lines to develop creative solutions, absurd or awesome?

Instead of asking, "What if this happens?" Flip the chatter.  Ask - "In what ways will I prepare for all situations."

Begin in awareness.

First describe the internal feelings when the anguish begins.  Notice how they circulate in the abdomen or tighten the chest.

Breathing becomes shallow.

Find a word to stop your train of thoughts.  Write or yell:  Halt!  Gizmo! Never!

Begin to consider your breathing patterns and find a rhythm of five counts in through the nose and six counts out through the nose.

Think of how nature deals with timing. Imagine the challenge of a seed breaking the covering to develop shoots and roots.

Where does dark go at dawn? Create imagery to remove yourself from the anxiety of the situation.

Focus on a scent like lemon or your favorite aroma.  Chase it to all components and tastes. Let it transport you to a time of tranquility.

Focus on a bird song, waves, wind in tree branches.

Listen for the click click of a hummingbird or a gull's cry.

Get into the details of the shapes and depths inside flowers.

Bring in the Ha Ha Ha of humor. Laugh out loud. Make fun of the situation.

By using awareness and delving into distraction, laughter and creativity, watch the fragments of worry disappear.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Imaginate and Make Mistakes

“I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”  
Thomas Edison

Use of the imagination stimulates travel into a wilderness of mind and movement where connections and cross-overs exist.  Mistakes happen as one careens in search of mysteries.

Often a stumble on the path leads to a butterfly hidden in a tree's root system. Foraging into the density of undergrowth uncovers beetles and ladybugs.

Dragonflies chased with a camera might defeat a photographer. When a song sparrow's call excites, its wings move faster than the shutter on a cell phone.

Missed photographs do not discourage. Determination energizes the stalking mind and eye. 

A step forward. A head's turn. A sit and wait. All lead to success.

Photos that blur still provide clues and insights. Patience and perseverance outlast creatures' antics.

Forged with determination and patience, a photographer occasionally turns away in despair.  Then captures an osprey as it arrives with dinner and takes time to munch. 

A true believer in failure as motivation, Thomas Edison welcomed mistakes and challenged rules. As a result he probed the unknown and experimented with the unseen. He recast the idea of failure as a learning opportunity. Edison claimed, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” 

With a diary that had over 5 million pages, Edison felt writing ideas expanded his creativity. This helped him discover an awareness of patterns in thinking and actions. He claimed he liked, "to find out what the world needs. Then I go ahead and try to invent it.”

Edison bragged, “I make more mistakes than anyone else I know, and sooner or later, I patent most of them.”  

If writers and photographers risk with mistakes, challenge rules and move beyond them, they can make discoveries about themselves and their art. What a way to applaud the fearless persistence, positivity and perspective that Thomas Edison maintained.

Edison's thoughts spark creativity, “There are no rules here — we’re trying to accomplish something.”  

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Portuguese Rooster

The Portuguese tell the tale of a humble pilgrim taking his journey on the Camino de Santiago (Way of Saint James).  A murder occurred while he had stopped along the road and he was arrested.

The pilgrim said he could never kill anyone, not even an ant.  The man pleaded and pleaded with the court that he was a devout person of God but they found him guilty and sentenced him to hang.  He continued to plead his case. They finally agreed to let him speak with the judge at his noon meal.

The man ventured to the judge’s home where an elaborate meal of foods spread on a table.  Pastries, wines, cheeses, roasted delicacies included a plate that featured a rooster simmering in sauces. The man was overhwhelmed by the scents.  As the judge began to eat, the pilgrim told his tale.

The judge just laughed and claimed the evidence was convincing.  The pilgrim closed his eyes, sat down and prayed and prayed.

His one last request, “If I can make the rooster rise and crow will you save me?”  Again the judge laughed but nodded his head, rooster juice dripping from his chin.

The man prayed and prayed once more.  Suddenly crows sounded. The rooster's voice resounded and wings fluttered as the bird rose from the table.

From then on the Portuguese have considered the rooster good luck and an item to keep as souvenirs.  Rooster caricatures appear everywhere as souvenirs.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

When Situations Trigger

We should value our enemies because they provide us with unique opportunities to practice patience, tolerance and forbearance. 
- Dalai Lama

Individuals who do not agree with us reflect with mirrors and shout as energizers. Rather than calling them "enemies," I prefer to think of them as stimulators. If everyone agreed with our thinking and ways of living, we would learn nothing. 

Those who have varied opinions provide the opportunity for us to take off blinders and revitalize our mind sets. If we choose to do so. That's the challenge.

Tolerance forces us to open our minds to a neutral space. Never easy but enlightening, it helps us grow.

When the Dalai Lama speaks of "forbearance," he means refrain and patient endurance. Self-control always creates another opportunity to think and gain insights.

Why do we detest the idea of being "wrong" ? We risk ending relationships, cause stress and pain for ourselves and others when we take on the terrier mentality and ferocity of holding on to our notions. Our perceptions or preferences, like worrying a stuffed toy without relenting, stop the wisdom process and life's progress. 

If we must fight for right and wrong, we need to stop the mind chatter to ask what difference it makes. Whose ego gets in the way and what for?

What if we avoid trying to control everything: situations, events, people and . . . things.  We only have the ability to control our decisions, not those of others. What if we allow everything to unfold and watch the process from bud to flower? Observation provides insights and opportunities to practice letting go.

When a situation triggers, we have the power to respond with positive thinking.

“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond winning.” - Lao Tzu

The Dazzle of Words

Photography stimulates my initial stages of idea formation. During travel, I notice how a tourist snaps pictures, trying to capture experience and not getting anything beyond the lens. It takes the senses to explore the layered history or the emotions of the moment.

My camera helps me capture details to accompany with words. The images engage my spirit and blend with the swirling notions in my head.

I appreciate the poetics of Federico Garcia Lorca, the gypsy poet of Southern Spain. Lorca wrote an essay, “Theory and Play of Duende” suggesting most artists search for perfection at the cost of a need for struggle - duende.

This force, not an angel or Muse, becomes more of an “energetic instinct.” A writer may have the voice, the style, and the ability but will never triumph unless duende resides within. All through Andalucia, people speak of duende and recognize it when it happens. It is a spirit that is more than one’s spirit.

Lorca does not want to confuse the duende with demons or devils, or as a destructive force. He says, “I mean, secret and shuddering… Where the angel dazzles and the Muse dictates, surges from outside of us. The duende has “to be roused from the furthest habitations of the blood. Seeking the duende, there is neither map nor discipline. We only know it burns the blood like powdered glass, that it exhausts, rejects all sweet geometry we understand, that it shatters styles.”

Emotion is impossible without the arrival of the duende.

Lorca told about a singer who had to send away her muse and become helpless. And how she sang! "She was able to kill all the scaffolding of the song and leave way for a furious, enslaving duende, friend of the sand winds who made the listeners rip their clothes off.”

It is the marrow of forms, the pure music. Duende also means a radical change to all the old kinds of form, “totally unknown and fresh sensations with the qualities of a newly created rose.” Each person finds something new that no one had seen before, that could give life and knowledge.

He ends his essay discussing three arches, which have within them the Muse, the angel and the duende. “Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents: a wind with the odor of a child’s saliva, crushed grass, and medusa’s veil, announcing the endless baptism of freshly created things.”

When asked why he wrote, “A thousand tambourines of crystal wounded the light of day break,” he replied, “I will tell you I save them in the hands of trees and angels, but I cannot say more. I cannot explain their meaning and that is how it should be. Through poetry a man quickly reaches the cutting edge that the philosopher and mathematician silently turn away from.”

I have experienced a thrill that transported me beyond my understanding and expectation. When the mind becomes fueled by uneasiness on the edge of discovery or the rowdiness of creation, the writing takes flight. Once one has felt the rush a sense remains that it will return. In this state, all senses expand and melody flows through the body.

Not knowing its next visitation will provoke the search for a variety of ways to coax it back. If the timing is not right and it tries to escape, one grasps only air. Yet, having it for a moment engages the highest form of communion with the self.

I seek the edge of helplessness in order to write with my greatest force. Often I cannot explain the meaning. For me, and I hope the reader, the feelings of wonder remain beyond the language and the story.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

It's About Time

Time is free, but it's priceless.  You can't own it, but you can use it.  You can't keep it, but you can spend it.  Once you've lost it you can never get it back. 
- Harvey Mackay

Time involves a sequence of events moving forward. Irreversible, it flows from past through present to future. We measure it in segments and seasons. A variety of instruments reveal it: clocks, wrist watches, computer monitors, cell phones. 

We learn time is of the essence. It waits for no one. We're admonished not to waste time.  Staying on time becomes a challenge. Wisdom arrives when we learn about life's timing. 

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.

Other views of time: 

Time is what we want most, but...what we use worst.  ~Willaim Penn

Time is the longest distance between two places.  ~Tennessee Williams

For centuries, man believed that the sun revolves around the earth.  Centuries later, he still thinks that time moves clockwise.  ~Robert Brault

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

The Present is a Point just passed.  ~David Russell

Methinks I see the wanton hours flee,
And as they pass, turn back and laugh at me.
                          ~George Villiers

Much may be done in those little shreds and patches of time which every day produces, and which most men throw away.  ~Charles Caleb Colton

How would you write about time? Let the above concerns spark your notions. Write to make the reader lose track of time.

Friday, April 24, 2015

No Worries

It’s part of our human psyche to worry. Maybe it worked at one time to enhance our survival skills. Most often it provokes mind chatter that goes nowhere. 

Birds never worry. They just fly and feast and fertilize to create more birds. Worms don't worry, they just need to sleep later, Sol Silverstein advises. Why don't we try to do the same: act or sleep? 

Why do we worry about the upcoming stop light and if it will turn red before we reach it? If it turns green, we’re relieved. If it stays red we have time to write. No worries.

How do we get beyond the worrisome condition? The tendency to spend time worrying could transfer into writing. What’s in a day’s worries? Don’t think the worries, write about them. Begin upon awakening. Go to your notepad and write down the first worry that flits into your mind. Keep going throughout the day. At a designated time, write down the list of worries. See if you can get to 20.

Then try these creative writes:

l. Write the first worry across the top of the page. Write to the end of the page as much as you can think of about this worry. Then take the next worry and do the same. See how many worries you can write about.
2. Give names to each worry. Create a dialogue for a page questioning and responding to these characters. Respond as a friend or foe.

Save your list of worries for a month. Revisit them. Have any of these worries come true? What a creative thinker you’ve become. Now write these worries into a story or poem. Worries keep our mind moving in aimless directions. If we can harness them and make them workhorses for our writing, consider the ideas they will generate.

Go worry and write about it.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Life's Journey

“Life is an experimental journey undertaken involuntarily. It is a journey of the spirit through the material world and, since it is the spirit that travels, it is the spirit that is experienced. That is why there exist contemplative souls who have lived more intensely, more widely, more tumultuously than others who have lived their lives purely externally.”

“I feel as if I'm always on the verge of waking up.”
                                ― Fernando PessoaThe Book of Disquiet

Awakening in a different country provides curiosity amidst the jet lag. Surrounded by opportunities, each experience enlightens those who stay lively and open to the nuances.

Where will the adventures lead the wanderer in wonder?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Travel Wonder

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have begun our real journey.  
- Wendell Berry

 ". . . wanderer, there is no path, the path is made by walking. By walking one makes the road, and upon glancing behind one sees the path that never will be trod again."
- Antonio Machado

Travel in an unfamiliar venue leads to the secrets and mysteries inside oneself. Experiences with fellow travelers and inviting scenery reveal opportunities in a foreign port. Around the next corner or deep inside one's own cavern, new ways of understanding await. 

Robert Frost felt, "poetry takes you to a place you have been and thought you'd never return to."

During a travel experience, light a lantern for revitalization. Illuminate sensitivities.  

Travel in wonder. Take on the night!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Let Travel Include the Write Life

When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. Things will happen to us so that we don't know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in. 
 - D.H.  Lawrence

Travel adventures stimulate a trip into discovery about the self. A mountain path entices with turns to arouse wonder. The way provides challenges of rocks and ruts. A traveler uses all the senses and never forgets to look up beyond leaves and branches.

A voyage into international paths awakens an awareness of the joys and challenges individuals encounter. The journey brings us into connection with different personalities to understand our similarities and perceptions.

At times, we become set in our ways and dwell in automatic when our purpose, as Eleanor Roosevelt said, is "to taste experience to the utmost."

Including a Write Life during a travel adventure energizes experience, wonder and astonishment. 
Travel in writing breaks outmoded ways of thinking. 

Ways to Travel into the Write life:

Write into what you search for. Ask what mystifies and thrills about a new location. Let your fingers escort you with a pen or computer keys.

Discover your true self. Delve into the discomfort caused by boredom and boundaries.

Express the textures of language and delights of food.

Wander into the wilderness of adventure to connect with your Write Life. Vary your speed and distance covered without a focus on the destination.

Write to escape and let the "unlying life" rush in.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Write with the Weather

How do we nourish and sustain relationships with family and friends? Often we attempt to provide a lighthouse for those we care about.

If frustrated with their choices, we rush into the turbulence with lifeboats.

Too many buoys thrown in the water conk some strugglers in the head. Canoes require collaboration and tip easily. We have learned not to send a sailboat into a tsunami.

Exhausted, we climb back into the lighthouse and dust the lens. Sometimes we call for a tugboat to get everyone past the harbor. We breathe and hope for a change in the weather.

Reciprocity rules in relationships that last. We also thrive in a reciprocity with writing. For writing to nurture us, we desire the thrills and rhythm to sustain our sense of direction. Writing must provide support as we struggle through the fog. Often this relationship feels unrequited. We push and push clutching for words that drown beyond our reach.

Similar to our relationships with others, we must figure out for ourselves what Aristotle meant by, “Know thyself.” What do we know about our individual strengths and challenges when churning in a wordless maelstrom? We need to re-create our self-assurance and find a Positive to remind us what works. A “learn thyself” process keeps us going.

Nine Preparations for inclement weather:

1. Stock your own life raft while the sun shines. What are your best resources? During the times of flow, write down what works for you. What have you done “this time” to push beyond?

2. Challenge yourself to discover ways to return to the page or screen. Turn up the music. Sit there and let fingers fly without worry about the result. Don’t become anxious to create a finished piece.

3. Learn your rhythm. Chart your mind’s peaks and valleys by week. Give yourself a day of rest and read a variety of words. Choose words that amuse or amaze. Write one word or one sentence on colored cards.

4. As you begin to learn about yourself, consider: Does creativity increase the closer you get to the deadline? Can you count on this? What other ways could you manage your creativity? Consider setting an earlier deadline to trick the “procrastinating creative.”

5. When frustration floods, return to research and information gathering. Write a letter to your writing as a friend. Ask this pal for help.

6. Most breakthroughs occur when you move away from the project. Take a walk. Write about forces of nature deal with weather.

7. Consider improbable connections. Let your ideas rearrange in kaleidoscopic fashion.

8. Write your process for all writing projects. Notice it does not progress in a linear fashion. This will become your Best Friend.

9. Create your own metaphor for struggle. Consider your greatest accomplishment and how you achieved it. Use all your senses to recall it in detail.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Discover the Stillpoint

Except for the point, the stillpoint,
There would be no dance
And there is only the dance. - T.S. Eliot

What does the stillpoint mean in your writing practice? Is it a stop to change direction? Is it a resting place before the next surge of momentum? Can you move from the frenzy of worrying about your writing to the place of stillness? Will you bow to your ego and laugh?

For high energy individuals, progress requires intensity in writing.  You also need stillness, a form of meditation and ways to trick sprinter minds into observation and silence.  Then, intuitive juices will feel free to come out and dance.

You may need to cancel a day of rigid appointments and even end writing time to stare at the clouds.  Notice what percolates in without forcing anything.

Don't let exhaustion or frustration set in before you take a break.  That's not the best time to stop because of its conditioning effect.  

Next time you're in the flow of words. Stop. Even if you  believe you will lose the train of throught. Stop. Look around. Move away from the pen or keyboard. 

Permit solitude to arrive in a variety of forms from silence in sounds, an absence of tastes and textures to a bombardment of newness in sensations. A change of direction helps to enable the momentum to arise anew.

You will return to the dance of words revived.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Eliminate Excuses

Knowledge is learning something new every day. Wisdom is letting go of something every day.  Zen Proverb

After I ... As soon as I ... Tomorrow I will ... If only I had ...

At times we limit ourselves and fall into excuses instead of growing and working on improving a situation. 

Just do it, as Nike says. It takes as much time to think of ways not to do something.

If you must design excuses, make use of them in writing. 

Develop a dialogue and argue, chat with and defy the excuses. Let writing take over to win the discussion. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Do you know about Enheduanna?

Enheduanna lived in Mesopotamia around 2300 BCE.  Her hymns and writings are regarded as the first existing account of an individual human's inner life. She was also the first person to sign her name to a piece of writing.

Daughter of King Sargon the Great, Enheduanna served as the high priestess of the temple of Nana, the Akkadian moon god in Ur. She wrote poems, psalms and prayers with themes showing Inanna as a warrior goddess who defeats a mountain without help from the other Gods. Another hymn celebrates Inanna's role in ruling civilization and caring for home and children. The third features a plea for help to regain her position as priestess against a male contender.

A plea for help to the goddess Inanna.

Funeral offerings were brought, as if I had never lived there.

 I approached the light, but the light scorched me.
 I approached the shade, but I was covered with a storm.
 My honeyed mouth became scummed. 
Tell An about Lugal-Ane and my fate!
 May An undo it for me!
As soon as you tell An about it, An will release me. 

Her book, "Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart," is available from University of Texas Press.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Try Alphabeting

Do you need a break from the ordinary?  See what happens when you let a freewrite flow through the alphabet.

Begin with A and let each letter lead into the next word all the way to Z.  Form sentences or collect phrases.  Then try it from Z to A.

Avoid thinking too much as you choose the next word. Let the synapses fire in glee. Don't stop, just write any word for the next letter.   Have fun, play and laugh.

Here's a start:

Afternoons the Babble of Creatures Directs Effervescence. Fortunately, Gratitude Harvests International Jurisdiction.  Kindness Levitates Monkeys Negotiating Opinionated Poets Quickly. Residents Select Total Understanding.  Victory Waddles on Xylophones to a yellow Zeith.

You'll feel renewed and ready for your next challenge of the day!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Moods and Emotions

We own a variety of emotions and moods that have the ability to teach us about ourselves and how we relate to others. A message resides in every emotion. 

Emotions reflect like mirrors and challenge us to discover ways to watch the many sides of our personalities.

Our moods create a spectrum. As writers we can use the bands of light to examine our writing process. They will provide insights and information for character development and add texture to our prose and poetry.

In her book, Upheavals of Thought,  Martha Nussbaum writes, "There's no firewall between emotion and intellect.” 

Nussbaum discusses how we fear or flee from our moods. We try to rationalize them rather than attempting to swim in the murky waters with them. When we attempt to repress them with the force of will they will crest again.

Our intellect doesn't overcome anger. It's the quickest emotion to arise and needs acknowledgment. If we develop ways to examine and even appreciate it, then it will roll in and dissipate like waves to shore.

Emotional states have no hierarchy. Awareness and acceptance ebb and flow through awakening to suffering. All elements of consciousness must do this in order for us to become fully feeling individuals. Avoidance through a variety of means only delays the ability to harmonize within ourselves.

If we face our emotions with honesty and develop an inner wisdom filled with ways to accommodate them, their full range will provide a balanced life experience.

Writers have the opportunity to probe moods. Rather than avoid what's going on, ask questions of moods.

What do words like sad and melancholy mean? How do they percolate through your body? Get into the details and stretch toward the discovery of other ways to describe them beyond their word symbol. What other words can you discover that go along with them?

Eliminate the use of words to describe moods. Create metaphors to discuss frustrated, angry or confused.

In what ways can concerned, playful, fierce or attentive reveal themselves?

If we become stuck in various states of despair. How can we move this experience?

Spend a day following the ebb and flow of your moods. Take notes and allow the freeflow of all emotions.

Don't judge or censor them; try not to become reactive.

Remain fully present. Experience what they feel like in all parts of the body.

What can you learn as they guide you?

Let your notes sit for a day, then return and write about what you discovered.