I want to write, but…

Recently, a friend sincerely expressed how she wanted to write.  However, she didn’t want to write about what isn’t working in her life.  She was fearful of creating “more of the same” by putting it on the page.  I suggested that she give herself permission to have the rant in order to get to the good stuff.

Anyone, including me, can give themselves “reasons not to write today.”  A good way to address this is to take a reason not to write and write about it.  For example, I don’t want to write todaybecause I don’t want to put on the page how upset I am about my daughter’s choice of boyfriend.  I feel fierce and want to steal her out of this relationship and magically make her life better… 

Giving yourself permission to feel and say what you feel in the moment is important to your writing process.  You could write your rant on a piece of scrap paper which you later toss rather than including it in your journal.    Give your rant a time limit, five or ten minutes. Then, shake it off.

Once you’ve done your rant, what does your passion want you to write?  Can you return to the book, the poem, the prose or the painting and immerse yourself in what you’re here to do?

Yes, you can!

Writing Prompt:
If something is “up” for you, write a rant giving yourself about ten minutes to express it.  How did that work for you?
Or, do you have another ingenious way to creatively handle what is distressing you and then to get on with the writing you deeply desire to do?mermaid8

Pablo Neruda’s Book of Questions

In an earlier blog, I quoted an excerpt from the Chilean poet and writer, Pablo Neruda’s essay on “The Word.”

One of Neruda’s books, The Book of Questions, was translated by William O’Daly, in 1991.


Following is one of his poetic questions:

When I see the sea once more
will the sea have seen or not seen me?

Why do the waves ask me
the same questions I ask them?

And why do they strike the rock
with so much wasted passion?

Don’t they get tired of repeating
their declaration to the sand?

I’ve read this little nugget of a poem several times.  It’s comparable to a Koan–“a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment.” Wikipedia

I read that Neruda began writing poetry when he was ten years old.  I’m imagining that everything became a poem to him.  As children, we are full of our questions wanting answers.  Frequently, we befuddled the adults around us as there are so many unanswerable questions.  Yet, we must ask them.  It feels to me like Neruda gave himself permission to ask his questions, our questions, universal questions and then to answer them by furthering his own interrogative reasoning within the bounds of a poem.

His offered questions provoke our own questions and contemplation.

Have you considered your own questions?  What questions would you like answers to?  Might you find some answers as you write your own poetry?  Or at least a place to safely log the questions?


Caged Freedom

Animal dung smells
hang heavy in thick air of suspense.
The stink of carnivore dung
is quite different than the
oddly sweet scent of herbivore dung.
I’ve become expert on such things
as I feverishly stride
through long afternoons of dejection.
They feed me plenty and often~~
raw, red horsemeat, scent of blood.
My cage is hosed down three times-a-day
watering away wild odors.
My trainer—we are faithful to each other
~~he sweats profusely—mustily
as he trains away fierceness
and retrains fierce pretense.
I cooperate
growling and scowling as we rehearse.

Performance night a collage of smells
–clowns acrid greasepaint
–tightrope walkers
reeking of cheap perfumes
–concession foods
popcorn and hotdogs vie for supremacy.
All the people blend into one
odoriferous stench
of fear, excitement and their daily dramas.

between cage and circus tent,
I catch it…
a whisper of deep forest fragrance
wrought with imagination
of strange stalking beasts
of birds with multi-syllabic calls
olfactory descent into wild ways.
And I stop
–right there–

in that wild breeze pause.
I tug at the rope that collars me
and rear up slightly
on cramped hind legs.
I groan a roar that crawls deeper
than any loneliness.
Then, it’s gone
–the smells of today snap me back
camouflaging uncivilized dreams.


Everyone has a nose.  They come in all shapes and sizes;  their purpose is universal. Though we don’t rely on them in the same ways that animals do, we do count on them to warn us of smoke or beckon when our favorite pie has come out of the oven.  Besides being great for breathing and filtering the air, noses are olfactory memory generators!

Several years ago, I attended a Writer’s Conference in Ashland, Oregon.  I chose to work with poet and author, Kim Addonizio, over the five days of the conference.  I am so grateful to have had this experience.  One of the final assignments was to write a poem based in the sense of smell.

I returned to my room and sat there for awhile, tallying the possible directions I could  go with this theme.  Suddenly, it fell into place.  Being an empath, I never really liked circuses.  One brother is an animal right’s activist.  I’ve taken my kids to a few circuses, but we felt unease.

In the poem above, I became the circus tiger in the cage and wrote from that perspective.

Writing Prompt:
The invitation is yours to write a poem or prose with the sense of smell as your prompt.  Follow your nose and see where it takes you.


Putting it Together

We’ve practiced working with descriptive image detail and the figurative language of simile and metaphor. We’ve played with writing in third person. Let’s put it together.

For your prop, find a photo of yourself at a younger age.

One way to approach this exercise is to begin by making a list of nouns naming the facial features. i.e., hair, face, nose, eyes, ears, chin, cheeks, jaw, forehead, neck, lips, skin, etc.

Beside each noun, write an adjective or two that describe the noun. i.e., for jaw, a few adjectives could be strong, weak, tense or what?; for lips–full, pouting, stern, etc.

Then, look for something that really is a “dissonant detail”–something that jumps out and makes you take notice.  Is your smile crooked, your front tooth chipped, are you frowning, squinting into the sun, anything? What is your demeanor or countenance? How old are you?  What is your hairstyle, style of dress?

Next, using the third person perspective, write a paragraph incorporating the nouns, adjectives and the dissonant detail(s) as you fully describe yourself in the photo. Dare to further expand on a few of the nouns using the imagery of  original simile or metaphor in your word illustration of the photo. i.e., his jaw was as determined as a base runner; her eyes were misty like that indeterminate rainy April day.

Finally, what is something you might have said or wanted to say…give yourself one spoken line.


Writing Tip:
If  you are writing a memoir, looking at old photos and re-collecting in this way can help you to connect with yourself or someone else in another time and place. 

Tuning In

When I write in my journal, I am usually trying to get to something deeper than “life on the surface.”  I’m expressing while questing.


According to author, Angeles Arrien, “The muses call us to live our lives with integrity and devotion to their chorus of inspiration.  Above, all, the symbol of the muse invites us to be resourceful in daily life.”



Writing Prompt:
Think of one area of your artist’s life which seems dry, non-productive or unsatisfying in some way.  In your journal, write about this in detail.  Create a written dialogue between yourself and  your muse inquiring as to how you can be more creative in response to this particular issue.  Ask your muse what resources are available to assist you now.  Listen and write down the response.  Take as much time as you need for this exercise.  Sometimes, you ask the question, walk away from it and the answers come over the course of the day or week.  In your journal, note the replies. Is this something you can easily implement in your creative life?  If an action is called for, do you see a way to proceed?  If not, inquire into that. How do I proceed?  Pay attention to see if something shifts for you in your creative awareness as you bring your sincere attention to your question.

Take good care.


Imagination and Fabrication



Excuse me, but is that a PURPLE ELEPHANT?

Why yes, it is.

Where in the world would you find a purple elephant?

In the realm of imagination, of course.

Artists love to paint elephants.  Some artists choose realism and create elephants that look like they have walked out of an African forest.  Other artists are inspired to paint whimsical elephants (like me).  There is room for both, of course.


Writers of fiction are great fabricators–they take an idea for a story and let their imagination run with it.  And, if  permitted, the imagination can take you on a ride into the great unknown!  In a sense, fiction writers might begin their story with “I wonder what would happen if…”  and then take off into a flight of fancy.

When you write from the place of imagination, you typically want to have your story grounded in some “facts”.  Your reader appreciates some plausibility or credibility in order to hinge his/her mind onto something recognizable.

Years ago, I remember watching the film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with the actor, Danny Kaye.  There was a remake in 2013 with Ben Stiller…I haven’t seen it yet…I think I’ll rent that one tonight.  This story is based on author James Thurber’s classic story of a daydreamer who drifts off into an imaginary world, escaping his mundane life.  He is, of course, the hero of his daydreams.

Writing Prompt:
In your writing, do you dare to enter the wild and unpredictable territory of imagination? Have you written from this place?  What story can you create out of thin air?  Even if you are a non-fiction writer, can you allow yourself the play that imagination steals one into?  Do you want to give it a try?  It might feel like you have veered off course, but why not?  Don’t new inventions rise from someone’s untethered imagination?  The questions being “How can I do this better or make this easier or what if I do this or try that, then what?”


Words that conjure or impassion

Following is a list of only a few of the many words that I like:




















Words have power.  We know this as writers.  They move us to action; they stir desire; they incite; they rally; they quiet; they infuse; they placate; they calm and comfort and so on.  Some words we love for their meaning.  Other times the sound of an isolated word…the way it trips across the tongue, tickles us.  Sometimes it’s the look of the written word–the spelling, the way the letters cluster that interests us.  Who can say what word fascination is really about?

What are your words…the ones that when you hear them you are moved in some way. Make your own list of evocative words.

Something to ponder:

  • Do you think that antiquated words frame a belief system?
  • Do new words invoke something new?

It seems to me that each word is its own inspiration–that is, a word can take the writer on a journey into their own experience in some peculiar and unique way.

Try it:  Choose a word from your word list and let it be your writing prompt…write a paragraph, a page or a poem.  Have fun with this wordplay.