Personally, I Ponder Personification

I mean, does a tree really desire to have human qualities attributed to it?  Then, does a tree even have desire?  Can’t a tree stand alone, sovereign, without humans endowing it with our virtues, vices, qualities or behaviors?

Maybe not!  Maybe writers and poets use personification as a means to comprehend what is termed “other”.  By comparing something to ourselves, perhaps we think we have an understanding of what it is or isn’t.

According to poet and writer, Mary Oliver, “Personification is the term used when one gives a physical characteristic or innate quality of animation to something that is inanimate…”  She gives an example from poet, James Wright–

“I bowed my head, and heard the sea far off
Washing its hands.”

A second definition for personification is from poet and writer, Frances Mayes:  “An emotion or something inhuman, such as a mountain or love or a tree, is given human qualities.”

A few more examples:

  • from Stephen Spender, “…whispers of wind in the listening sky…”
  • from William Sharp, “…the sleeping sea…” OR “…And in the soft ear of Spring, light voices sing.”
  • from creative soul and nature sprite, Opal Whiteley, “I danced on a log…as the wind does play the harps in the forest.”

WRITING PROMPT:  Choose something in nature with which you feel a connection.  Animate it with human qualities. Use poetry or prose, whatever makes you feel more at ease.  Does this type of comparison come easy to you?

cropped-castlelake11.jpg(photo of Castle Lake by Christine O’Brien)

“The sky smiled at its reflection in the lake.”

Meteors? I Meant Metaphors

Creativity is a powerful engine.  Its desire is to propel your writing or artful pursuit forward.  Creativity is like an early summer strawberry–you crave its sweetness.

Within this brief paragraph are three examples of creative writing tools:

Creativity is a powerful engine                Metaphor

Its desire                                                  Personification

Like an early summer strawberry            Simile

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In the previous blog, I introduced simile. Today’s blog is about metaphor which is described as a direct comparison (without the words like, as or as if). I think of simile as having a sort of buffer as it makes the comparison. Whereas metaphor is direct.  It doesn’t hem and haw.  It tells it as it sees it.

With simile, My lover’s eyes are blue like the sky.  Change this to a metaphor and My lover’s eyes are the blue sky. Do you get a sense of the difference with this comparison?  In the first comparison, the simile, I am comparing only the color.  In the direct comparison using metaphor–his blue eyes and the blue sky are one and the same! I can get lost in this vastness.

lover's eyes

Poet and author, Edward Hirsch believes that “there is a radical difference (or should be) between saying that A is the same as B and saying that A is like B.”  He says that “Metaphor works by condensation and compression.”

For me, metaphor is bold! It makes daring statements! Ones that I probably won’t question because they come across with such authority.

WRITING PROMPT:
If you don’t feel you have a grasp of metaphor, you can certainly google it to get more examples. That said, look at the similes you wrote the other day based upon a feeling. Consider what those similes would sound like if you dropped the words like, as or as if. Do they work as metaphors?  Try it out. Could you write bolder comparisons to make your metaphors even stronger?  Go for it.

 

 

Smile…It’s Simile Time

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We’ve talked about image detail, right?  It is supported by well-chosen adjectives…ones that have sensory appeal.  Image detail, character description and action in a story are also enhanced through the effective use of simile and/or metaphor.  Let’s begin with simile.

Simile is an effective creative writing tool falling under the general heading of Figurative Language or Imagery.  According to author/poet, Frances Mayes, from her book The Discovery of Poetry, “A figurative image establishes connections between things we normally would not associate.”  It is “an explicit equation…using the words like, as, as if” to make comparisons. For example, we’ve all heard the similes “hungry as a horse,” or “timid as a mouse.” These are similes and they are also clichés. Clichés are oft-repeated, overused similes. You want to avoid clichés. Inventing original and effective similes is a fun art.

WRITING PROMPT:
What is a predominant feeling for you today?  If nothing comes to mind, borrow one from your experience…like being in love, or feeling angry or happy, tired or weepy.

Practice writing at least half a page of original similes emanating from your feeling. If your feeling is anger–“she was as angry as a disturbed hornet’s nest”. If the feeling is love, “she was in love like a bear with her fist in a honey pot.” Don’t forget to include the words like or as or as if in your simile.

Work with only one feeling…and that way you can get fully into the swing of both your feeling and writing your similes.  One day, I was feeling very angry and I wrote a full page of similes expressing what my anger felt like.  By the time I got to the bottom of the page, I was laughing.  I felt very clever having come up with so many original similes and I shifted the energy of anger in a creative way.

See what happens for you as you try this one out.
Have fun!

Choices–When Two Roads Diverge…

It’s been my experience that whatever I’m working on, including this blog, the universe is supplying continual content.  When I’m in that flow with my writing and I come up against a choice…that Robert Frost dilemma of “two roads diverged in a yellow wood and sorry I could not travel both…”  I can either figuratively pound my head trying to choose one over the other OR walk away and let the answer drift to me over the course of the day…or week or as long as it takes.  That’s being in the flow even when you’re away from your writing desk or artist easel. Sometimes, a whole other choice presents itself.

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Example.  When I’m crafting a creative writing workshop and I feel at at a loss about how to proceed, I go out in the world. I might go to Barnes and Noble. Sometimes,  a line leaps out at me from a book cover or as I randomly flip through the pages.  Or, I might be sipping tea in a cafe and overhear something spoken that is precisely what I need to hear to move my work forward.  Often, the next step inwardly presents itself to me as I walk beside the lake.  Ah, the surprising synchronicity of it all!

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The other day, standing in line at the local health food store, a bedraggled young woman stood opposite me in another line.  I had passed her, her partner and child earlier in the summer-crowded store.  Their odor was ripe. Later on, seeing her in the line across the way, she dropped the left flap of her dress exposing a flat tanned breast.  Her child, its arms and legs wrapped around her like-a-monkey-it’s-mother, latched onto the nipple and began to nurse.  The child was skinny, around two years old, hair matted, dirty and sad-faced, seemingly timid. The mother’s eyes had a vacant quality and it seemed likely that her breast was milkless, only for the child’s comfort in a strange place.

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I chose to include an unpolished rendition of this experience in today’s blog because when we witness something notable, we might not find a use for it in what we’re currently writing.  However, I suggest writing it down while it’s fresh in your mind. Then file it. You might find this recorded & filed memory useful at some future date.

We live in an abundant universe which continuously supplies prompts and content. How open are we to receiving them?

WRITING PROMPT:
What bit of inspiration crossed your path over this past day or week?  Was there something heard, smelled or seen (or tasted or touched) that could be used in what you are working on today?  Regardless of whether or not it is useful to what you are currently writing, do write it down in descriptive detail.

Writing down an experience is not a wasted effort–it’s practice.

Collecting Quotes

quotes2.jpgI seek, at times, (often, daily, always?) insight, clarity, truth.  I quietly quest as I go through the day.  I gather experiences, encounter others, learn lessons (sometimes reluctantly) and discover myself.

Over the years, I’ve collected quotes, though not stashed them in any orderly file. (I should, right?) I sometimes post one or two on my bulletin board. Mostly, I jot them down on a piece of notepaper. Typically, they get sandwiched between piles of papers–ideas that stand alone or that I might develop at some elusive future date. Regardless, when I happen across them as I sort, I am often touched, again, by the words of another.

Looking online, it is obvious that I’m not the only one who appreciates other people’s wise words.  These gems float on the internet, are sprinkled throughout books and magazines, graffitied on walls, in literary articles, etc. We read them in store windows or on hand-crafted signs.  Hallelujah to the immortal quotes that remind us of higher human values or that help us broaden our awareness or that become a lifeline in a moment of need.

As a writer, a quote can inspire me or find its way into something I’m writing. It can be food for thought that expands my view of the world.

Following is a quote from Frederick Buechner from his book entitled Now and Then, 1983.  

“Listen to your life.  See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness; touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis, all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.”

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I came across this quote many years ago, yet today, I find value in it.  My understanding of it is that the body, on it’s amazing sensory path, is a worthy vehicle and when I’m intimately connected to it, I can be transported to the very center of my being over this life of great variety.  How do you interpret this quote?

WRITING PROMPT:
Have you been collecting quotes to support, influence, enliven, expand, enhance and inform what you’re writing? Are they easily accessible? Have you contained and organized them or are they scattered? Do you plan to use any of them in your writing?

WRITING TIP:
To discover the correct formatting of quotes within the body of your work, you can Google the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL). This is a great resource (there are others). You can also find out how to properly document your resources. And so much more!

Depending on the genre in which you are writing, there are various style guides–MLA (Modern Language Association), the Chicago Manual of Style, CSE (the Council of Science Editors) and the APA (American Psychological Association).

Romancing the Writer and Artist (in you)

In an earlier blog, Julia Cameron explained Artist Dates. According to Julia, once-a-week or once-a-month, you take yourself out on a date–a fun and inspiring solo date.  In this post, I’m talking about daily romancing.  Refreshing your writing space from time to time, breathes fresh air into your creativity. Buying fresh flowers for that empty vase and setting them where you can rest your eyes on them between writing bursts is uplifting. A pretty desk pad, a curtain that is light and airy on the window or wall above your desk. Or an abstract dreamy painting to gaze off and into.  A new scented candle.

Romancing yourself is a way of inviting self-love into what you do. Typically, we write on the side or paint on the side or do crafts on the side. We don’t consider that it is a worthy occupation because we’re doing it on the side and perhaps we haven’t made any money at it (well, not yet; maybe one day?).

Regardless, romance yourself.floralballerina2

Another writer once suggested dressing up as if you were, perhaps, going out on an actual date…one to impress…makeup or tie, perfume or after-shave, jewelry? or whatever you do that’s extra special to be your boldest, most beautiful or handsome.  Then go to your writing space and “write!” I think this was a way that he or she addressed writer’s block. He/she swore that it worked!

Honestly, I don’t do this enough for myself.  I have writing clutter which I occasionally, in a burst of Virgo energy, put in order.  It doesn’t stay in order for very long.  However, it feels good in the moment like right after you’ve first washed the kitchen floor.  Yay, good job!  Hey, who walked through here with dirt on their shoes?  Suspicious eyes.

Seriously, I’m thinking about leaving a dark chocolate truffle on my writing desk once I’ve cleared it and placed a vase of fresh flowers.

WRITING PROMPT:
What can you do today to refresh and reinvigorate your writing life?  What sort of romancing works for you? You are definitely the hero or heroine of your life and deserve to be fully loved and appreciated, wildly romanced (especially by yourself!) as you pursue your craft. In your journal, describe what romancing the writer in you would look like.

Poetry Animated

Billy Collins is another amazing poet of our times. If you haven’t read his poetry or heard him reading his own poems, then allow yourself this amazing experience.

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For some, poetry has received a “bad rap”. I admit to having had childhood experiences of reading a poem and really “not getting it” and generally, not seeing the relevance of poetry to my life. Earlier, I posted a blog on blending my poetry with paint in a mixed media piece. Discovering this poem by Billy Collins, Forgetfulness, put to animation, exhibits another possible way to make poetry both accessible and relevant for audiences today. This poem was animated by Julian Grey of Head Gear Animation.

Creativity in presenting your poetry can go in many directions.  Are you open to exploring them?

Creative Prompt:  Have you considered how you might insinuate poetry into your daily experience?  Have you wondered how you can revive an appreciation for poetry in others? What is the value of poetry to you as a writer and reader of poetry? Does poetry presently weave its way into the ebb and flow of your life?
Take time to watch some YouTube videos of Billy Collins reciting his poetry. Afterwards, consider any new ideas that might be brewing inside of you around making your own poetry and writing both accessible to others and relevant to our times.

Poetry + Paint + Collage

Have you ever considered creating a mixed media piece with art and poetry or words?  A local art exhibition was my incentive to give this a try.  I have wanted to integrate poetry with images for some time. I wasn’t sure how I would accomplish this. The poem is called My Mother’s Hands–stemming from a visit to my parents in a care home during their last years.  At the time, I remember thinking that it was such a personal poem, revealing more than I wanted to share with the community that would attend the art exhibit. I got the idea to write the poem on the canvas and then let words and phrases peek through, not the entire poem.  I had some of my mom’s old costume jewelry.  Somehow, I wanted to integrate a few pieces.

I laid down a background by dripping some inks on the canvas. Once the acrylic ink was dry,  I wrote the poem on the canvas with black India Ink.  I gessoed and painted over parts of it in a very random way.  I traced my own hand and placed two pieces of my mother’s costume jewelry on the fingers.  I added my mother’s photo at age 17.  I collaged a few more pieces of paper, dripped more ink, traced out the flowers.  None of this was planned.  It unfolded organically.

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Creative Prompt:
Do you have a poem or some other writing that you’d like to incorporate with collage and/or painting? Do you have a bit of memorabilia that you’d like to include in your art-making?  Are there colors that you are drawn to?  Is there something that you deeply want to express that includes words and then goes beyond words?

If this process interests you, purchase a few bottles of FW Daler-Rowney Acrylic Inks (choose warm or cool colors so you don’t create muddy colors on your substrate) and have a spray bottle filled with water handy.  Watch a few youtube videos on ways to use these inks.  Play with the inks on a 12″x12″ canvas.  Drip one or two drops (a little goes a long way), spray them.  Watch the ink disburse.  Lift and tilt the canvas slightly creating drips if you desire. Once the ink is dry, write your poem or prose using India Ink or some other permanent black ink–you don’t want water soluble. When dry, partially gesso over some of the written words, add bits of collage or memorabilia. Add acrylic paint if you feel called to.  I used Posca Fine Line Markers to add elements of design as a finishing touch. Have that sense of experimenting, following your whims…perfection is put outside the door.  Let this exploration be for your eyes only.

 

More Practice with Noticing the Details

When I meet someone new, it is not unusual for my mind to form “judgments” or “conclusions” about him or her.  Before I can count to three, I’ve made up my mind in some way.  Once I have this inner judgment, I log it as “true” unless or until I learn otherwise.  First impressions are powerful and I wonder how many times they are correct?  I’m guessing there are a few studies.

How certain can you be about what you actually see?  What filters do you wear as you view something?  I know there have been tales of five individuals witnessing an event and, afterwards, each one relates it differently. Interesting.

Years ago, I was hiking in a designated wilderness area.  I don’t wear my glasses while hiking.  As I passed this grassy meadow, I was certain I spied two white horses, grazing in the relative distance.  What a lovely sight! Returning along the same path hours later, I realized that it wasn’t two white horses grazing, it was two large white immobile boulders! If you’d have asked me, I would have sworn that I’d seen these two beautiful white horses.

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As an observer and writer, I have an active imagination and can fill in the details around someone or something without having facts to substantiate what I conclude! 

Writing Prompt:
Here’s an opportunity for you to practice constructing a story based solely on what you see. Select a photo of a person in a magazine–National Geographic?–any magazine with great photos of people is desirable.

Tear out the photo or copy it so there are no distracting elements aside from the picture you are studying.  Using image detail, describe every aspect of the person in the photo. Clothing, expression, age, coloring, a “dissonant detail”, etc.  What are you assuming about this person based on the photo? Write that down also.  Make up a story based entirely on what you see.

Writing as Revelation

Writing has and continues to reveal myself to me.  As I write, I continually rediscover who I am.  Someone who is not constant. Someone who undergoes continuous transformation. Someone who can broaden her perspective. Forever becoming.

How many times in my life have I tried to pin myself down to a certain characteristic, belief or desire? How many times did I find that this is impossible?  As I’m faced with each new circumstance, I discover more of both myself and larger life.

With writing, I invoke the never-ending journey of self-revelation coupled with personal evolution in a world that is always in flux.

The writing I do reveals what I value.  It engages my sense of humor.  It discloses where I feel afraid to probe.  And, when I share my writing, I can only wonder what it awakens in someone else.  Here’s the thing, we make our writing public, release it to society, and others make of it what they do; and take from it what they do.

Doctor Seuss himself was a revelatory writer. I’m guessing that he had to dig deep to write effectively, and in rhyme with wisdom and humor. His messages are for anyone, regardless of age:
“YOU’RE OFF TO GREAT PLACES!
TODAY IS YOUR DAY!
YOUR MOUNTAIN IS WAITING,
…SO GET ON YOUR WAY!”

The more I write on a certain topic, the more that is revealed to me.  Then, the more I have to “reveal” to others.  dreamcatcher

Destiny
© by Christine O’Brien

Lace and ribbons
decorate the frock.
“Forget your dreams.
Get back to the kitchen
and bake me a pie!”
Banish your fantasy of
happy couples and
floral bouquet apologies.

Re-enter the Goddess–
no partial woman is she!
So, you are somebody
after all.
Tell us what you know.
Emergence is what you requested–
sit down and let’s talk over tea.

A wedge of lemon?  Honey?
Ah, the bitter with the sweet.
This you must experience
for yourself.

Lace and ribbons,
wedding day vows–
disguise your sovereign destiny.

(This mixed media dream catcher was inspired by artist, Tracy Verdugo, in her Paint Mojo E-Course.)

WRITING PROMPT:
For your writing journal:  Consider what your own writing has revealed to you about yourself.  Does it show your values, your process, your personal evolutionary path?  How is it connected to the whole of life? What do you think?

What mountain is waiting for you today?