Friday, March 31, 2017

Write Your Weather

Reciprocity rules in relationships that endure.

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 have 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 writing 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.

In a write relationship, no one can supply what we have the ability to discover for ourselves. Learning our rhythms and styles will support us through any weather and become habit. With habit and resilience, we will always have two Best Friends and will benefit from the reciprocity.

Write about how you deal with all types of weather in your writing.

Thursday, March 30, 2017


If one word could act as a standard of conduct for one's entire  life, perhaps it would be thoughtfulness. - Confucius

Questions for thoughtfulness.

Where do we find thoughtfulness?

Does it arrive as our minds surge and focus?  

Will it help to stop and look and listen?

What if we act without expectation?

How does thoughtfulness reciprocate?

Where does marvel fit?

Elizabeth Gilbert references the poet, Jack Gilbert and writes, "He seemed to live in a state of uninterrupted marvel. He didn't teach how to write poetry but why: because of delight. Because of stubborn gladness. He told them they must live their most creative lives as means of fighting back against the ruthless furnace of this world."

Stay thoughtful, ask questions, and marvel at nature's reminders.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

La Jolla Nursery of Brandt's Cormorants in Action

Brandt's cormorants create their nests in colonies. The males choose the nest site and display to ward off rivals and attract a mate. 

Displays include drawing head back with blue throat pouch extended and bill pointed upward. They spread the tail and flutter wings. They also thrust head forward and downward in rapid repeated strokes. 

For the second year, the cormorants have created their colony on the steep slope at the La Jolla Cove. They form a nest in a mound shape made from seaweed, eelgrass and algae held together by droppings. 

The male collects the nest material from underwater. The female does most of building.

They lay two to three eggs. Hatching times vary in the colony.

Hatchlings are fed a variety of seafood by regurgitation.

As the hatchlings grow, the breezes carry their squawking.

Mom and Dad both play an active role in food gathering and nest protection.
Now the crowding begins as the nestlings grow and compete for food.
"Where's lunch," Momma asks.
"Coming. . . . Sea lion stole my fish."

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Spring into Journal Writing

“Frog calls and the sound of intermittent splashings drew me to cross the brook on stepping stones that seemed to have been set out for my passage.  A short push through tall, thick growth brought me to an opening at the edge of a pool where the lowering sun cast an otherworldly light across dark water.  It glimmered in dragonfly wings and sporadic silver-beaded sprays tossed up by leaping frogs.  Sweet songs from unseen birds drifted on the still air.  Everything was new to me, every sight, sound, and smell a new experience. “  David Carroll from Self-Portrait with Turtles

Start a spring Nature Journal. Let the subtlety of your landscape soak in. Choose several locations: a park bench, a rock ledge at the beach, a forest or any location where you can sit for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. 

Capture what the landscape sounds like. Touch and smell provide a visceral jolt to writing. 

Learn the names of plants, animals and natural forms you observe.  

Freewrite and let the words flow without direction. Enjoy the writing process.

Many questions will surface:  Who am I?  Why am I here?  What is my responsibility to nature?  

You will discover how nature teaches rhythms and reverence for change from the migrations of animals to the blossoms of spring.

Try these warm ups:

l. Listen for the sounds of the familiar in your garden: water running, a bird song, dog barks, and wind in trees.  What sounds do you identify with home?
2.  Imagine the scent of an orange grove in blossom or a peach tree in the sun.  What scents move around you?  What will the sound of rain add? Can you combine the senses in your writing?
3.  Gail Brandeis encourages writers to describe eating a blackberry recklessly. Bring a fruit or vegetable to eat during your journal keeping.  Can you add taste to your writing?
4.  Give flavor and texture to your writing with visual imagery that moves away from the ordinary. 

5.  Consider the mental senses: pain, fear, love, play, humor, psychic capacity, reason, time and intuition. Can you translate these with concrete descriptions?

Spring into journal writing.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Explorations into the Dewdrop World

This dewdrop world

Is but a dewdrop world
. . . and yet? 
    - Isso

A delve into roses inside out.
The petals fan and flair with the nurture of dew.


Shadows pose behind and beyond; shapes and curtains flow.

Harmony of upside down and turn around in traces and hearts unfurl.

What self-conversation stumbles among the shapes that reveal a secret core?

To peer, without haste and permit the eyes and nose to investigate. The hands and body bend to each shrine of nature. 

What musicality trails the leaves.  A taste of tart and surprise entreats.

. . . and yet?

Awake in the wild of impermanence, the temple draws an adventurer.

What do I know of secrets I don't understand?
Like dew, a phantom or the flare of sunset gone.  With hope revisited.

and  yet . . . to awaken and arrive again at dawn.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Resilient Living

"Make yourself so happy so that when others look at you they become happy too." -Yogi Bhajan

Here are three ideas to try for daily harmony:

Life requires acceptance and balance. We can feel bombarded by negativity while standing at the grocery store's check out line. Rows of magazines shriek at us with headlines of absurdity and sensationalism. Use your creativity to turn those headlines into the positive ones. Then, let someone with fewer items go ahead of you and share your smile.

Discover a life based on Gratitude for each moment and revel in your individual gifts. Find balance and energy with daily walks in nature. Focus on mind-body-spirit and breath. 

Slip into the self and benefit from all the sensations. Even the negative feelings will turn into teachers.

While driving, avoid anxiety when other drivers tailgate or inconvenience you. How do they drive with their knees while chugging coffee in one hand, cell phone in the other? At the next Stop, begin a Laughter Exercise. 

Start with HO HO HO. Add HEE HEE HEE. 
Move into a wilder HA HA HA. Repeat adding a tune. Roll the windows down. 
You will infect some cranky person in the car next to you or attract someone walking with his head down.

It wastes energy to feel anger or frustration. When you feel a "tremor of terrible" creeping up your body, acknowledge it! Then wave it away. Laugh and use that talent more often. 

Celebrate resilient living from the inside out.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Play with Laughter

"Seven days without laughter make one weak."   
-  Joel Goodman

The Use of humor helps to redeem moments lost to pain, fear, despair, and loneliness. Scientific studies have determined that humor makes an impact on degenerative changes associated with neurocognitive decline as we age.

Random acts of comedy activate the brain. The neural stimulation changes brain function to improve memory and promote neural plasticity.

Each individual has a unique funny bone. What appeals to one person may not cause a giggle in another. Regardless of your tickle sensation for laughter, develop what feels humorous to you. Adding comic relief to stressful situations will add to your talent for observing silliness in all situations. It helps you avoid frustrating thoughts and emotions.

Begin with a series of mishaps. Target negative situations. Give them a twist and add a spark of hope with humor.

Here's a start:   What if you awaken ten minutes later than planned?  Then toothpaste lands on your shirt. You trip on a rug, landing on your funny bone on your way to the car. There's a maintenance vehicle in the middle of the street with someone pushing wires into the sewer. What is going on down there? The technician looks suspicious with his frog hat tipped to the left.

By now you're not going to make it to work or an appointment on time. Then what? Keep progressing through the chaos and add lines of humor. What if you decide to alter your day and skip work or the appointment? What funnyness for an excuse will you devise? 

Create random acts of comedy as you alter the details. Brake for humor and laugh out loud at a stop light with your window down. Daily practice enriches your brain power. 

Take a day to rejuvenate with laughter and play. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Birthday Celebration!

My father would have celebrated his 127th birthday yesterday, March 23.

With his background in broadcasting and passion for international communication, he would be quite a fan of the internet. He'd revel in all the technological gadgets that abound. A cell phone with all its applications, super digital camera, and a huge screen for sports viewing would attract his attention. 

Inspite of the ease of access to news, he might feel frustrated by the sensationalism and inaccuracies of the media. Current politics would cause some frustration. I doubt he’d feel surprised at the state of international relations. Even though the world has war and troubles, he'd have faith in possibilities. He'd believe in ideas, advancements and the development of new institutions.

What fun it would be to bring him back for a day.

I’d take him to breakfast at my favorite café overlooking the Pacific Coast, so he could observe the sea and its creatures. We’d order a jelly and cheese omelette and have half grapefruits to start. Multi-grain toast and boysenberry jam would top it off.

I’d tour him on my computer and show him how a cell phone works. His eyes would grow large and he’d want to take over. I’d advise him - First a walk! He'd try to convince me otherwise but I've mastered his techniques in assertiveness.

"Let's go!" I'd lead the way.

He’d remark at the clear air, scents of the flowers and watch the pelicans and seagulls testing the currents. A pod of dolphins would delight him as they jumped and fished.

"Do they still make coca cola?" he'd ask and, "Wow, cameras without film so you can take shot after shot . . . Really?"

He'd turn, and chuckle, "Petsy, I miss hot dogs and Delaware Punch!"

I'd smell his Old Spice and watch the curling smile at the corner of his mouth.

"Now, show me that communication net?" he'd ask. "Stock market still around?"

We'd walk to another café where he could go WIFI, play all day and acquaint himself with world politics. Adjusting easily to the keys, within minutes he'd have mastered the world wide web.

He'd smile across at me, "Did I ever tell you about the time. . ." Then he'd look out at the clouds turning into animals and shapes. "Nature hasn't changed, has it?" he'd say. "It's still a marvel."

Just before sunset, we would return to sit on a bench by the sea and watch our “great ball of fire” ease past the horizon.

"I finally caught the green flash," I'd say.

"We'll see it together, Petsy. I'll just have to return next year."

Happy Birthday, Daddy. Same time, next year.

Unfurl Ideas. Try a Write-along

                  Good artists copy, great artists steal.
         - attributed to both Picasso and Steve Jobs 

Writers need to study the work of writers who came before and those currently publishing. Immersion with improvisation occurs when we copy out the rhythms of a favorite writer. 

Rather than "stealing" - which could cause trouble - move into the moods and words of great writers with a writing practice.

Take a few lines from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, Joyce, Joseph Conrad and Kerouac in order to try out their writing styles and various rhythms. 

Mix in Salinger, Stegner, Carver, Twain, Nabokov, Vonnegut, Amy Tan. Add work by Cisternos, Marquez and Kingsolver. 

Choose your favorites to have as write-alongs.

Also select a variety of poets and see how the lines feel under your fingers. After you have spent the time copying, do a freewrite. 

Do you notice a difference sentence variety and structure? Do words flow and change? Do you feel the presence of another voice? 

Writing is serious work in a playful realm. Nurture your possibilities by copying the best.

Use the writing of others to encourage your process and try this exercise.

Select a book of poetry, then take a sheet of paper and draw a line to make two columns. 

On the left write out words or one line phrases that attract you. On the right side respond to these glimpses. 

Go beyond them. Capture the sensory experiences
of the text in sound, taste, texture and scent.

What would you write instead? Where can you take these notions?

Peruse a novel, non-fiction selection, newspaper or magazine article and an essay. Use the two column approach to unfurl ideas.

Have fun and gain ideas to combine or enhance for your own writing.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Benefits of Word Choice

Tony Robbins advocates what he calls transformational vocabulary. He says, " . . . it gives you the power to change your experiences in life by taking the most negative feelings in your life and lowering their intensity to the point where they no longer control you. It also can be used to take positive experiences and increase them to even greater heights of pleasure."
Robbins tried a 10-day challenge where he first identified the most distressing emotions he experienced.  He found a new word to soften or add a ridiculous feeling.  Using them broke his pattern of thought and feeling.

He found a difference between saying you’re “mistaken” versus you’re “wrong.” The emotional volcano that kept building up inside of him instantly cooled. 

Shift your emotional patterns by choosing a different vocabulary when unwanted emotions arise.

Use a variety of word choices to avoid the negative. Change or adapt your habitual reactions and observe the  results. Give the bad emotion an outrageous or humorous tinge. 

When feeling sad change the thoughts to excite a chuckle. Let anger shift into moonbeams and frustrated turn into fadiddled. 

Use replacement words for negative emotions. Try for three words instead of the mood you're feeling. Let them flow without delay.  Rhyming will help to break a mood cycle.
Get beyond mood words with scents: lemon peel, cookies baking, favorite flowers. 

Add sound words. Get them to jingle, roar, and clang.

Think of exotic colors that brighten your mood: turquoise, aubergine, tangerine. 

Use expressive words to replace a feeling. If anxiety ambles into your mind, exchange it with a word like crinoline, magnolia, chocolate.

In conversations, try softening or questioning rather than condemning.

Collect words to use in frustrating circumstances.

Play with word selection and notice the benefits. 

The next time fear enters your word stream, just roar.