Reminding You Once Again…

THAT YOU TOO HAVE A BODY!

Why am I bringing this up again?  Because I needed to remember.  As a writer, I have an infatuation with what I’m writing.  Some days, it’s more like a full-blown love affair.  One path leads to another…the infinite possibilities unfold.  The mind with its cornucopia of delightful discoveries, corners to turn, ideas to share!

However, that said, I forgot, once again, that I have a body with needs besides food, drink and rest.

My body needs and thrives on movement.  When I grant this request, everything in me is refreshed and my body feels celebrated. I enjoy walking in nature, some types of yoga, qi gong, tai chi and dance.  What about you?  Have you remembered to meet your body’s requirements for movement?

 

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When it comes to dance , another favorite is THE WAVE popularized by GABRIELLE ROTH.  Google it.  The Five Rhythms explores core rhythms of life itself–Flow, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness.  Check it out.  Perhaps there are corresponding rhythms with writing.  What do you think?

Movement Prompt:  Ask your body self what it craves as far as physical activity right now.  Pay attention.  It’s so worth it!

Do You Enjoy Writing?

“What are the greatest pleasures of writing fiction?” is the question the interviewer posed to Jennifer Egan and Carmen Maria Machado.  This short video, less than three minutes, is very revealing about writer’s process.

Whether fiction or nonfiction, do you find pleasure in writing?

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These two authors declare that they are on opposite ends of the spectrum as to how they approach their writing.

Are either of their approaches true for you?  While Jennifer seeks “escape” through writing, Carmen enjoys “organizing her mind into a narrative form.”  What about you?    Or is there something else entirely that guides your writing process?

For me the pleasure in writing comes when I engage “the flow.”  Then I feel both compelled and supported.  That is when I notice that things in my world become synchronistic.  There is a sense of no separation between me, the world, the words on the page.  It is both my process of self-discovery and a broader curiosity that propel my writing.  The real gift for me comes in being able to share what I’ve learned with others, inspiring them and inviting them to embark upon their own inward journey of self-awareness and integration through writing.

WRITING PROMPTS:
What brings you the greatest pleasure in writing ?  What is your “golden door,” your favored entry into writing?  If you aren’t sure, consider things you’ve already written and recall how you began and what lead you onward.

Writing Your Prayer

Writers write.  They write in their journals.  They write letters, stories, poetry, questions, lists; they write about curiosities, experiences, circumstances, politics, religion, sex, love, doubts, fears, hopes and dreams, you name it.  They write it all down. This gives them a bit of relief not to have things rattling around in their heads. Writing something down, preferably in a journal or in a notebook, they collect their creative ideas, often on a scrap piece of paper.

Lately, we’ve seen on the news, read about and experienced all sorts of natural disasters wreaking havoc across our planet.  And we are witnessing political games gone awry in our own and other counties.  Within ourselves and our families, there is hurt and uncertainty, growing pains, grief.

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In addition to what I do creatively, I turn to prayer. And I find that sometimes, writing down a prayer, a petition, a request to a Higher Power helps me to let go of where I feel powerless…that surrender to a higher wisdom with the greater good in mind. Surrender is rarely easy, but once I truly give something over, I do feel a lightening of sorts.

How to write your prayer? No one can tell you how to write your personal prayer. I won’t try…I’ll only invite you to write one that truly reflects who you are and what you feel, need and desire in these times–for yourself, others, the earth.

The Eagle is a prayer-poem written by Joy Harjo. I memorized this poem many years ago.  It begins:
“To pray, you open your whole self to the sky to the earth to the sun to the moon
to one whole voice that is you and know that there is more that you can’t see, can’t hear, can’t know except in moments steadily growing and languages that aren’t always sound but other circles of motion.”

Have a peaceful day.

Are You Ready To Go Public?

If this feels like a big responsibility and scary, well, it is. Only you, as the poet/writer/artist can decide when and if you are ready to go public with your work. Admitting to someone that you are a writer or poet, often elicits the question “Have you published anything?” The questioner doesn’t get it–the reason(s) behind your writing or art-making.  First and foremost, it has to be for yourself.  Being published is a goal though it doesn’t make you a writer or poet. It is through your daily practice and developmental process that the writer and poet in you grows and lends validity to what you do–write.  You really don’t need to explain this to anyone. However, it’s important that you understand this.

That said, going public is a big thing for a writer.  Once you’ve made the declaration, told several people that you are writing a book or that you are a poet, you’ve become visible in a different way. This could feel like something grand to live up to.

Anaïs Nin‘s famous quote:  

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”Iris

Every womb becomes too “tight” as you personally grow and evolve.  You know best when it’s time to birth your writing, poetry or art into the world.

There are safe “entry” points for sharing your work.  A relatively new and trusted woman friend once asked me to read every poem I’d ever written to her.  She wanted to know me better and what my life had been.  My poetry is what has been termed “personal poetry”.  One afternoon, we took a quiet couple of hours and I read my life on paper to her.  She was the perfect audience–present, receptive, without judgment.  It was, for me, a welcoming and validating experience.

PROMPT:  Are you ready to go public?  What would that look like?  Is there a venue locally where you could safely share your writing?  Some possible venues are:  A round robin reading at a coffee house; an intimate gathering with a few other friends who write and want to practice reading aloud for an audience; your own poetry circle; an open mic or your own blog.  You can also begin with sharing one poem, a piece of prose or a painting with a trusted friend. Can you think of other ways to comfortably begin sharing your work?

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“Courage starts with showing up
and letting ourselves be seen.”
Brene Brown, Researcher, Story-Teller, Author, Lecturer

Writer’s Block Reverie

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Several years ago, I took a refresher online writing class with a nomadic creative writing instructor.  She was travelling throughout Mexico, it seemed a pleasure trip, while supplying lessons via the computer.  She had a well-planned curriculum; there was homework and other requirements. I had virtual classmates and it was actually quite fun!  It was a bonafide course offered by the local junior college with college credits.

My final paper was an essay on writer’s block with several works cited.

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Following is an excerpt from that paper…

“There is no such thing as writer’s block,” I’ve been heard to say.  “Think of it as a period of gestation, a between-world where something is brewing and you need to be patient while nurturing yourself.”  I sympathetically add, “Do something else that is creative, just to keep the juices flowing, the channels open, blah, blah, blah.”

Here I am with this paper coming due and I find myself in a barren crevasse.  I’ve done what any frustrated woman might do–I’ve air-popped a large bowl of salty popcorn with a compromise of coconut oil instead of butter.  I know there’ll be a price to pay later–upset stomach and kernels wedged between my teeth–but right now, I’m desperate.

In her book, If You Want to Write, Brenda Euland has a chapter entitled “The Imagination Works Slowly and Quietly.” (24)

Writers do have to bank on this idea.

“You will sit before your typewriter or paper and look out of the window and begin to brush your hair absentmindedly for an hour or two. Never mind. That is all right…know in this dreamy time, that you are going to write, to tell something on paper, sooner or later.”
(Euland 24,25)

I’m sure if she could see me in this moment, stuffing fistfuls of popcorn into my mouth, she’d know that I am a writer in waiting.

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WRITING PROMPT:
For your journal. When you experience your version of writer’s block, how do you deal with it? How do you feel when you are in this state? Have you tried writing about this experience? Can you describe your writer’s block by writing down the details? Are there things you can liken it to–using simile, metaphor, personification? What is your recourse when you encounter this seemingly static energy?

Have fun exploring your brand of writer’s block reverie.
Perhaps this writing exercise is the breakthrough you need.

Essentially Yours

We begin learning by imitation.  This is necessary for survival in the world into which we are born.  Then, comes the differentiation…the recognition that you are neither your mother nor your primary caregiver.  Waving your hands in front of your face, you begin to realize that these are your hands and under your control.  The very beginning of individuation!

In writing and art, you might begin by imitating, copying techniques, practicing methods, mixing colors as directed, learning the language, advancing your use of tools and studying your genre of choice, etc.

As you further your education, what is bursting to emerge is that which is essentially yours.  How do you weave together all that you’ve learned and then, in which direction are you going to take it? Many artists speak about style.  Some artists fear being copied.  Other artists are flattered at being imitated. Every artist wants to receive credit for their creations.

I do think that there is within each one of us is that which is essentially your own. When you are in the copycat stage, there is an awareness that this is only the springboard that is going to take you to your very own style.  Style can be seen as the way in which you uniquely put the various constructive components of your chosen art together.  There is  a certain something that emanates from your writing or art that comes to be seen as your style.  At first, perhaps, you yourself can’t see it because it is so basic to you. I’ve found that others often recognize my style of  painting before I do!

In your daily life, there is a way you go about things. From the way you greet the day, to the foods on your shelf, to the arrangement of furniture in your home or how you dress.  I doubt that any two individuals do any of these exactly the same. Through experimentation, daring and trust–whether writing, sculpting or painting, –you are going to find a way to express that which is essentially yours.

WRITING PROMPT:  How do you perceive your writing or painting to be essentially yours?  What do others notice when they read your poetry or prose?  What do others point out when they look at your art?

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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.

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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.

 

 

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.

Leading Questions

When I paint, when I write or when I get stuck, I ask a leading question. Where do I go from here?  What would my protagonist do or say in this circumstance? Where does this poem want to go?  Or what color wants to come onto the canvas? Which line or mark can move this piece forward?  What if…I do this or try that? Then what? For it isn’t always flow, but sometimes a stumbling step, then another tripping step and then a fumbling move forward. Even a dreaded mistake can take you to the next level. It’s all part of it…this grand, unpredictable creative process.

As a beginning painter, my desire was often greater than my ability.  What did I do with that?  I continued the questioning.  And sometimes, I took a brush and black paint in frustration and swirled lines across my painting in process. Frequently, to my surprise, something new emerged from which I could move forward.

Basically, you become CONVERSATIONAL with whatever you’re doing–writing or painting. 

Life itself is really about “I wonder what is next?”  Because as much as we think we’re in familiar territory, we don’t know what the next moment might bring.  It is about fully trusting the unfolding creative process.

It also helps to see what you are doing as practice. You cannot know what you don’t know.  Through questioning, you remain open to discovery.  The faces that I drew and painted two years ago laid the platform for the faces that I draw and paint today.  I had to begin somewhere and to be patient with my development as an artist.  I spent time with faces. Today, I actually enjoy the challenge of drawing a three-quarter turned face.  I steeped myself in images of three-quarter turned faces–eyes, noses and lips in that profile position.  I memorized them, traced them, tore them from magazines, drew them, made tons of wonky faces.  And I learned from my mistakes.  I often asked, “What happens if I do this?”  These very words imply trial and error…and successes too.  And, I’m not there yet!inner2 (1)

WRITING PROMPT:
Revisit a work in progress that has been stalled (writing, painting, drawing) and begin a conversation with it.  Ask leading questions and respect the response(s) that you get. Allow the uncertainty and take the faltering steps as you move your work along. Allot yourself a sufficient amount of  time with this and see how leading questions work for you.

 

Image Detail

In the film, The Bridges of Madison County, Francesca (Meryl Streep) tells Robert (Clint Eastwood), “Robert, please. You don’t understand, no one does. When a woman makes the choice to marry, to have children; in one way her life begins but in another way it stops. You build a life of details…”  The thing about movies is that you see the details when watching a film.  They don’t have to be described.  However, if you’ve ever written a screenplay, you laboriously spell out every single thing from the sounds of a creaky door to “slouching in a front row torn upholstered seat in a moldy smelling theater.” Nothing is assumed…each tiny detail is duly noted.

Telling details actually means DON’T TELL ME, SHOW ME WITH YOUR WORDS!

In his book, Let the Crazy Child Write, author Clive Matson discusses in detail several ways to bring image detail into your writing. It is the details that capture our attention and imagination.  To bring the experience to a reader through our writing, we recapture the details.  It is the details that place the reader where your story occurs and it is the descriptive details that shows the reader who your characters are (along with their dialogue and actions).
Clive Matson gives a few examples of image detail: “The worn green fabric on the end of a diving board, a piece of chewed gum in the boss’s ashtray, the pearly scar on a lover’s neck.”  Recalling a detail, the entire memory returns. How many of you have had that experience with a smell, say cinnamon, which suddenly transports you back to a childhood memory–french toast with cinnamon and butter, a special treat for a Sunday morning breakfast.  Or, remember that song from the past you overheard at the supermarket the other day that returned you to a time and place in your life when you were making out with your first “love”.  When you are writing your story, include that detail; perhaps words from the song as they drift in and out of your experience.

I am going to refer you to Chapter One in Clive Matson’s book, on “Image Detail”.  He explains image detail in a precise, descriptive, engaging and educational way.

WRITING PROMPT:  What is a flashback song for you?  One that when you hear it transports you to another time and place?  Claim the song and a memory that it evokes and write about the whole experience in vivid detail. Paint the picture with words. Who were you then, who were you with, what article of clothing was a favorite?  Were you at the beach in southern California, in a windstorm on the high desert, in the back seat of a car–what kind of car?  Was there a smell that prevailed or a noise that intruded? Imagine your reader and take him/her there using sensory (of the senses) words and make the experience come alive.

Ah, time travel!