Category Archives: Freewriting

Looking Back & Flying Forward

Happy 2011! The past year has added another ring to the trunk of my tree, and as I trace a finger around the circumference of bark, I’m elated to be looking back on a year of frolicking, friendship, and focus, an enchanting year of feeling more at home overseas and in my new freelancing capacities, while still basking in the joy of home-home periodically—this last visit being an especially candy-coated one of icicles and white Christmas lights glowing from beneath inches of snow, of attending Nativity plays, marveling over how a bee could have stung my niece inside the house in December, hearing an older nephew’s voice deepen, and initiating a younger one into our Finer Things Club on the basis of his Harry Potter knowledge…of laughing with siblings, savoring parents, celebrating with in-laws, toasting with friends, and sharing chocolate fondue with several former students at the quaint café where I used to grade their essays :).

And, of course, it was a whooping, whirring, sometimes wilting, but always whimsical year of writing, but one that has now gotten me prepped for the humbling undertaking of querying and thrilled to start up new projects. Time to get warmed up, then…time for this monkey to fly.

The Prompt:

Today, page 44 of Room to Write asks us to write about flying—how it makes us feel, where it takes us. As an alternative, we can perform a free-writing by starting with the word “flying” or “wings.”

Response:

Flying these days inevitably makes me think of airports and how such places that used to represent adventure and freedom have now come to mean “goodbye.” There’s still anticipation in it, still excitement in it, yet somehow I also worry that with every new flight I take, the world becomes less unknown and more trodden. Nevertheless, flying is still my gateway to other perspectives, other features, other values, and flying is what will bring me to my 6th continent next weekend and allow my greying UK-ified skin to gulp up some Vitamin D. Flying is soaring, feeling the air rushing against my face as my heart rises into my throat and my stomach sinks to my bladder or clenches at my spine, it’s loop-de-loops and spinning spirals, then having to peel the cape off my face. It’s Peter Pan, it’s Superman, it’s the birds that escape the pavement and the predators and sing me out of slumber. Flying is icy pressure beneath my fingernails as they pierce the air and a tickling tug at my toes as their wake sucks a vacuum into being. It’s hearing the crackle of joints as my wings finally unfurl and spread out in a stretch that luxuriously takes my breath away before expanding my lungs with cool purity. Flying is connecting, an efficient means of traversing the distance between A to B or of ascending from thoughts to ideas, information to knowledge, sense to sensibility, for even when not stepping onto a plane, it is only opening a book or reading an email from Mom or closing my eyes atop a pillow that yet makes me fly. Flying is high-speed, forward-moving levitation, or it’s the freedom of imagination I enjoy while never feeling more grounded.

Reflection:

BeezArtist.com

I didn’t do a full-on free-write without stopping, but I did let my thoughts meander wherever they fancied sentence by sentence. No surprise that, being between a recent and upcoming plane trip, the word first took me to modern air transport, though it still didn’t take long to get to the actual action at hand, physically and metaphorically. Not my most creative effort, but a productive enough burst before bedtime to motivate me to wake to a day of more fruitful word-weaving tomorrow. I think when I found my mind wasn’t fully taking flight by writing tonight, it started yearning for a book—someone else‘s writing :). Fair enough. We become better writers by reading as well, so time for me to check-in (i.e., get in my PJs), get my boarding pass (grab my novel), check my bags (ditch any emotional baggage at the bedroom door), board my aircraft (climb into bed), switch on my reading light (uh, that’s really the same thing in both scenarios), and get ready for take-off!


On the Borderline

Oh goodie, this is a fun one—a game of sorts for those days when you fear the tap to your creativity has run dry and you just can’t write.  Well, you can.  Given some direction—rules, if you will—you might be surprised when you spring a leak 🙂

The Prompt:

Page 41 of Room to Write asks us to choose one of the following words:  fence, road, boil, or fall.  Then:

1. Write the first words that come to mind when you think of your chosen words.  Write them in a list form until you hit the bottom of the page (or your computer screen…I decided to do 20).

2.  Keeping the list in the exact same order, develop a story in which every line uses one of these words.

Response:

He rode the fence on the issue.

Sure, he realized the importance of establishing boundaries,

but was this something to fall under such restriction?

He was already on the border of sanity as it was.

One thing he was never good about was choices,

options that left him speculating which path to take and leaping to cynical conclusions as to what menaced him ahead on each.

In this way, even the gift of choice wound barbed wire round his psyche

and threatened to strangle his pride with the chain-links of fear he entangled himself within.

He never was a man of conviction, willingly crossing picket lines to not rock the boat with authority

and practically tying their strings onto himself as if he were some wooden puppet,

his thoughts and actions the property of someone else, always.

Facing the crossroads that he was now, he tried to envision vast farmland

dotted with livestock and caressed by the open breezes.

In this vision was also a garden; yes, there must be a garden in the back,

serving as the division of pleasure and labor,

where his legal troubles could be checked at the gate and all he would know of the world was a blooming fortress.

He then frowned at the way even his fancies imposed a natural barrier around him,

and wondered if he wouldn’t constantly need something to hold him back—balancing on the precipice of order and chaos as he was—

yes, something that would keep him penned in for his own protection and the safety of the world below.

He struck a match against the brick ledge, the final demarcation he would draw.

Reflection:

Today is definitely one of my days of feeling groggy and uncreative—there’s so much to take care of on all levels of my life, so my preoccupation with it all is almost paralyzing me into doing none of it.  In light of these kinds of days, I really appreciate an activity like this that confines me within a short set of rules; for as much as I think I’m a creative spirit, I’ve always functioned well within parameters.  Maybe that’s why the word “fence” is the one that leapt out at me 🙂

Anyways, if you ever find  yourself in a writing funk, I can promise you this is a good way to shake up your stagnant creative juices; there’s no pressure to how this sort  of piece will turn out, just that you follow the rules and keep on to the end.  Maybe it’ll go straight to the rubbish bin, maybe you’ll actually pull something from it to recycle in another work.  Who knows, but this took me less than 10 minutes, so surely you can afford that little bit of time to see what results.  It also has potential as a good lesson in working with motifs/extended metaphors in following through on a theme.

So, obviously I use these writing prompts to get me going, but I’m curious about YOU.  What is it that gets your brain-blood flowing and inspired to write again during periods of creative dormancy?


Same Difference

The Prompt:

Page 39 of Room to Write asks us to draw at least 25 comparisons between 2 different things:  something that’s around you right now, and something else that’s either an object, person, or concept.

I’m going to compare the old Victorian church outside my window to marriage 😉

Response:

1.  Soulful, can inspire

2.  Houses both joy and grief

3.  Immense, sometimes imposing

4.  Intricately constructed; always something new to see from a different angle

5.  What appears outside is not always indicative of/relevant to what’s occurring inside

6.  Wears with time

7.  Built one brick at a time

8.  Requires faith and commitment

9.  Can be alive with song and community

10. Is empty when neglected, hollow and echoey

11. Fundamentally the same structure throughout time, yet must adapt the way it operates to change

12.  Needs to be scheduled into a busy life

13.  The lushness surrounding it periodically gets chopped away, but does grow back, and more lushly for it

14.  Is a vessel of new life, on varying levels

15.  You get out of it what you put into it

16.  Can house hypocrisy

17.  Can’t please everyone all of the time

18.  Needs constant maintenance

19.  Provides sanctuary

20.  Provides education

21.  Requires attentiveness—not just hearing, but listening

22.  Requires reciprocal communication

23.  Requires an open heart and mind

24.  Cannot operate without thankless hard work

25.  Comes around collecting, making you pay now and then

Reflection:

These were the first 25 things to come to mind, and I’m sure that some of them are redundant with each other—I found it getting really hard by around 18 or so!  A very fun and brain-flexing activity, though, when trying to assess all that is similar between things otherwise so dissimilar to one another.  Writing involves an abundance of comparisons, after all, as such devices as metaphor and simile help us communicate more vividly and stylistically, drawing parallels within the universe to illustrate the connectedness of all things.


Mood Music Musings…

It is an eerie thing—underlying the cries of children in the garden square, a sinister melody booming from an organ is seeping out of the Victorian church beyond my window.  The only music I ever hear from there is new age Christian rock on Sundays, never an organ, never on Tuesday, never of that magnitude and fervor.  Huh.  It’s creating an odd atmosphere for me inside my old Victorian terraced home, I must say…the computer desk and bed are disintegrating from sight, along with a century and a half of paint as I start to envision the dressing table and hip bath that might have once stood in here, this room that I believe was once used as a dressing room.  The unit we live in was once only the bedrooms of an entire four-story house, you see, which makes it quite laughable for me to think that what we now occupy as both our kitchen and reception room space was only the master bedroom.  It is a place in which every petal in the ceiling’s floral moulding sends down whispers to me of all they have seen through the decades.  Trees have grown tall around brick and stone that was once exposed, new, though sooty now and crumbling and left for fanciful folk like me to point to and sigh for a bygone era.  But, my, how my feet would have pinched, my organs been crowded and lungs bereft of a deep breath of air…the dust kicked up on my hems and the humid sweat on a sunny day bleeding into the tight-woven fibers of my sleeves to cake in my dead skin and bake my scent.  No, though I used to lose myself in imagination of how much simpler, more romantic a life back then would have been, I peer through the wormhole to see it as it was and feel quite thankful I won’t be lugging tins of water up and down all those flights of stairs, past the pretty banisters, thank you very much.  Burgundy velvets, trembling fringes, clinking china, flickering flames…all these and the incantations of a seance fade to ivory.  My computer materializes back into my field of vision.  The organ music is muffled beneath the waterfall sound of speeding autos. It diminishes into a pleasant tune or subtle nuisance, depending on which I will choose it to be.


Stomach Growls…


The Prompt:

Today, page 32 of Room to Write asks us to write about what we hunger for, be it literal or figurative.  Something to consider as well are the experiences that either satisfy or intensify that hunger.

Response:

Physically, I hunger for cheese, bread, and chocolate in all their incarnations, yet emotionally

…I hunger for purpose...for the sense that I am doing everything I could be doing to put my abilities to best use…for exerting the effort to live for others and not just myself…for finding the words that could possibly express the shades of meaning and atmosphere and convictions that I feel…for inspiration that will fill my pen and get my fingers tapping on the keyboard with direction again…for knowledge…for the deliciousness of knowing that I could never know everything—so learning will be lifelong—and yet always striving to attain the satisfaction of expertise…for the teachings and imaginations of others that set my mind free and move my heart to feel…I hunger to bring myself into focus against a background of others willing to fade into each other…for an equilibrium that will slow the clocks and speed my steps…for peace of mind that expectations are being met, including my own…for a synergy of intentions and actions…for simplicity and streamlining, a clearing of the clutter in my eyes and ears…for passion in everything I do yet the ability to know when to not care and put it to rest and for others to do the same…for recollection and holding close the memories that are dear or transforming…I hunger for family, for bedtime stories, for a front porch at dawn and dusk.

Reflection:

Primary factors that satisfy my hunger these days are writing, reading, and travel, as they constantly challenge me to reflect on who I am, what purpose I serve in light of what I ought to be, how my life/world-view might be reaffirmed or modified, and how I can continually work to improve myself intellectually and emotionally.

I find that these are also the factors that intensify my hunger, as I’m always left with an incomplete feeling of it never being enough, and I crave for more—more story line, better description, more countryside, better immersion into authentic culture…and where my travels home are concerned, one taste of hugging my parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews and kibitzing as usual with old friends is enough to turn me into an addict, leaving the pain of withdrawal ever looming on the horizon in the form of a return flight.  Home is where I always felt full, so given everything I purged in moving abroad, my stomach and heart are left a bit emptier…there is a lot of fun to be had that suffices for a snack, but I’ve had to forage for alternative forms of true nourishment while feeling in a transitory state.

I don’t expect that what I hunger for is the same as anyone else, nor should it be.  That’s why life offers us a menu of assorted cuisine to taste or send back to the chef as we please, a culinary cornucopia of needs and wants to digest, some of us stuffing our faces, some of us grazing, some of us piling it on, some of us liking it on the side…all of us hoping that the bill isn’t too high…and, of course, we all tip differently 😉

Are YOU hungry?  Well then, welcome to McBlogComments; may I take your order?



Slippery When Wet

Just returned from a long bank holiday weekend camping in Devon with some pleasant drives and strolls through Somerset and the Cotswolds as well.  The English countryside with its rolling patchwork of greens and yellows and occasional puffs of white sheep and dairy cows—all accessorized in dense hedges or stony walls and cottages—is certainly an isle of inspiration for a writer.  Be they grasses or cobbles underfoot, the paths one treads here are a return to the natural state and the fundamentals on which we build our lives and stories.

The last writing prompt I followed involved fire; today’s regards that other element that seemed to so dominate my camping trip, whether it surged onto the coastal sands or pattered against our tent in the night.  I speak, of course, of water.

The Prompt:

Page 31 of Room to Write asks us to “write about water: tap water, ocean water, rain water, any water or experience or dream of water that has both wet and whetted [our] imagination.”   Well, I’ve written about my water dreams already, so I’ll try not to be too redundant here…

Response:

WATER.  It multiplies the Mogwai or signals an approaching T-Rex, melts the Wicked Witch or freezes Leonardo to Kate Winslet.  It helps kids slip-n-slide and makes T-shirt contests more interesting.  It conforms to the shape of its container and yields both its clarity and taste to the color and flavor of what enters it; yet I would not call it submissive.  No, it fills the container’s inner space to empty it of air and weigh it down, and it dilutes the efficacy of what it absorbs, dissipating it in its solvency whenever it can play this advantage.  It carves canyons and fjords in its liquid and solid states, eroding away in its slow, subtle way of feigning innocence.  Water cleanses away the toxins, rinses the filth; it quenches our thirst and hydrates our cells.  It cools or it scalds, it cleans or it floods; it can keep us afloat with its density or yank us down with its current, hold us up on a wave or crush us under a whitecap.  It ebbs, it flows, it dips, it swells.  It can flush out mortal life or baptize into one everlasting.  In its glassy calm, its surface can reflect our being and the wonder of the skies as it refracts the perceptions that penetrate deeper.  Water contains mystery in its depths, holding it beyond the reach of light, and yet what it sprays forth to glitter in the sun can somehow reveal all the answers.

Reflection:

Water has always fascinated me…as a little girl, I wanted to be a mermaid, and as an adult, I found a new way of communing with it when I learned to sail (the capsizing drill in 50-degree Fahrenheit Lake Michigan being one bonding session I could have done without…it was less fun the second time around when the main sail came down on top of me and trapped me underwater—not to fear!  I was an apt pupil and remembered my survival strategy :)).

Anyways, I find I often allude to water in my writing as analogous to emotions and circumstances, playing on the ways it can be a subduing or overwhelming force, an annoyance like a leaking faucet, or perhaps a current that sweeps my characters along the tributaries that lead into their destinies.  It’s a recurring motif, for example, from the very beginning to the very last sentence of my Sixteen Candles fan-fiction to play on the unfortunate fact that the narrator is literally unable to drink from the water fountain in the movie, which parallels her deeper “thirst” as she comes of age:

“Here [Sam] had the smartest guy in my physics club falling all over himself to impress her, saturating her ego with his deluge of compliments, but she gets all haughty and tense, as though struggling to ignore the persistent drip of Chinese water torture.

Girls like her just rinse and spit. They’ll spit out a mouthful and have the nerve to complain that they’re thirsty.”

I also can’t help but think of this element at the pen-tips of the pros, such as the way Stephen Crane wields water in his short story, “The Open Boat”:

“None of them knew the color of the sky. Their eyes glanced level, and were fastened upon the waves that swept toward them. These waves were of the hue of slate, save for the tops, which were of foaming white, and all of the men knew the colors of the sea. The horizon narrowed and widened, and dipped and rose, and at all times its edge was jagged with waves that seemed thrust up in points like rocks. Many a man ought to have a bath-tub larger than the boat which here rode upon the sea. These waves were most wrongfully and barbarously abrupt and tall, and each froth-top was a problem in small-boat navigation.”

No matter how light or heavy the content of a story, there seems to be an abyss of options for describing water or using it metaphorically, especially as it shares the complex dualities of fire that I’ve discussed previously.  In this way, it is a tap that could never run dry, so to speak.

So I’m curious—what are examples of water imagery that you have found effective, either in your own or others’ writing?


Fire Walk With Me

The Prompt:

Given the prevalent symbolism of fire across centuries of story-telling, page 30 of Room to Write asks us to share “a personal story, memory, or belief about fire.”  Or, we can conduct a freewriting beginning with the word “fire” and let it spread from there.

Response:

FIRE.  It takes life and sustains life.  It guides our sight through darkness or blinds us to what else we might find in shadow, revealing and concealing.  It illuminates our romance and dances upon the page.  Fire attracts the moth and repels the mosquito; it swallows the air and laps up the tinder that shelters us, spiriting it away in climbing smoke, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  It licks our bones clean and sterilizes the needle, preens the prairie grasses and purifies the water.  It  casts menace upon our faces when lighting us from beneath, yet shrouds in angelic glow when lighting us from behind.  Fire converts raw food into nourishment for our bodies, or consumes nourishment for our souls into raw emotion.  It is an exclamation that will clear a room within seconds or signal a gathering to share stories round its warmth.  It thaws, it soothes, it burns, it chars; it can fuel our hope or ignite our dread.  It can whisper to us in crackles and snaps, promising safety and comfort in a cold, barren landscape, or it can hiss at us like wind against our eardrums or a stampede rumbling down the hillside to crush us.  Fire is an element embracing our passions, sweeping exponentially in our lust or our anger until it sizzles into dowsing foam or, when there’s nothing more upon which it can feed, coughs its smoldering death rattle as glowing cinders close their eyes on a bed of black.

Reflection:

Ah, this prompt brought me back to my teaching days, when fire was so often imagery to analyzeI’ve actually used this exact same activity in class so that students could reflect on what connotations fire held for them.  And, as I can see above, I personally muse over the dualities of fire in all its functions and figurative implications.

This dichotomy is evident in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, in which fire goes from being a symbol of a romantic love to that of recklessness:

“O! she doth teach the torches to burn bright.” – Romeo commenting on Juliet’s beauty

“These violent delights have violent ends
And in their triumph die, like fire and powder,
Which as they kiss consume.” – The Friar commenting on R&J’s impetuous actions

In just writing about it above, I found how naturally anthropomorphism came, describing fire in terms of carrying out human/animal actions—e.g., “laps up,” “licks,” “preens,” “whisper,” “coughs,” etc.  This immediately brings to mind the figurative and descriptive language William Golding employed to depict fire in Lord of the Flies:
“Smoke was rising here and there among the creepers that festooned the dead or dying trees.  As they watched, a flash of fire appeared at the root of one wisp, and then the smoke thickened.  Small flames stirred at the trunk of a tree and crawled away through leaves and brushwood, dividing and increasing.  One patch touched a tree trunk and scrambled up like a bright squirrel.  The smoke increased, sifted, rolled outwards.  The squirrel leapt on the wings of the wind and clung to another standing tree, eating downwards. Beneath the dark canopy of leaves and smoke the fire laid hold on the forest and began to gnaw.  Acres of black and yellow smoke rolled steadily toward the sea.  At the sight of the flames and the irresistible course of the fire, the boys broke into shrill, excited cheering.  The flames, as though they were a kind of wild life, crept as a jaguar creeps on its belly toward a line of birch-like saplings that fledged an outcrop of the pink rock.  They flapped at the first of the trees, and the branches grew a brief foliage of fire.  The heart of flame leapt nimbly across the gap between the trees and then went swinging and flaring along the whole row of them.  Beneath the capering boys a quarter of a mile square of forest was savage with smoke and flame.  The separate noises of the fire merged into a drum-roll that seemed to shake the mountain.”
The similes and anthropomorphism above create such vivid sensory detail; this is the kind of descriptive writing to aspire for.
Okay then, your turn.  Does fire bear a personal meaning for you?  What images, emotions, or beliefs does it represent?


IF I post this, THEN I’ll regret boring you, BUT I am doing it anyway…

The Prompt:

Understanding cause-effect relationships helps us to keep the events of our plot line logically connected.  Page 29 of Room to Write therefore asks us to freely write a list of IF, THEN statements to get us in the practice of thinking through how certain actions relate to certain outcomes.  We can start simple and go wherever it takes us.

Response:

IF the sun would peek out from its grey captors of  vapor for more than thirty seconds, THEN I would feel joyful.

IF I eat a dark chocolate digestive biscuit, THEN I probably won’t stop until I’ve had at least three.

IF I read on the bus, THEN I might get car-sick.

IF I read on the bus soon after eating, THEN I will most definitely get car-sick.

IF I pick at my belly button, THEN I will feel nauseous.

IF I feel nauseous from picking at my belly button, THEN I will feel incredulous that I would have wanted to pick at my belly button in the first place.

IF I am not an omniscient being, THEN I will likely have no way of knowing where you or anyone else might be at any given moment.

IF I have no way of knowing where you might be at any given moment, THEN it’s possible I may unintentionally call your mobile phone at an inopportune time.

IF you leave your mobile phone on when it should be silenced (i.e., at said “inopportune time”), THEN it is your fault when it rings.

Ergo, IF you express irritation that I phoned you at an inopportune time, THEN I will be irritated with you for misplacing your blame and feel less inclined to work with you.

IF I ride a bicycle long-distance, THEN my knees will inevitably feel pain.

IF I ride a bicycle long-distance, THEN the bicycle should be built for long-distance biking.

Ergo, IF you rent me a heavy-weight clunker of a cruiser with skipping gears to ride long-distance, THEN I will mutter obscenities into the wind about you through the duration of that ride and not find any of your jokes slightly amusing.

However, IF you buy me a pint at a lovely country pub as a break during the long-distance bicycle ride, THEN I will forget my pain and my anger and possibly love you again.

IF you tell me the “Why did the monkey fall out of the tree?” joke, THEN I’ll likely have a giggling fit just like I did when I was eight years old when my older brother first told it to me.

IF I recall that joke, THEN I am setting myself up for wanting to play with its derangement more…

…So, IF the monkey fell out of the tree, THEN it might be dead.

IF I suspect the monkey is dead, THEN I might step closer to know for sure.

IF I step closer to the monkey to determine if it is dead, THEN I will wonder whether that is a very good idea in the event the monkey is still alive.

IF I suspect the monkey could still be alive, THEN I will worry about it pouncing at me and hurting me, maybe even infecting me with a disease…the disease that probably made it fall from the tree in the first place.

IF the monkey is suffering from a disease, THEN perhaps I should get medical help.

IF I consult medical help for the ailing monkey, THEN I might not make it back in time, or forget how to find it again altogether.

IF I forget how to find it again, THEN that was a colossal waste of time, and I have to live with the guilt of letting a monkey die.

And IF the monkey was already dead, THEN I’ll never know for sure because I would’ve left to get help before I checked.

IF I do seek help, though, THEN I can get help for myself, for visualizing this morbid scenario and finding the joke that inspired it to be so damn funny to begin with.

Meanwhile, IF I keep procrastinating from writing like this, THEN my novel will never be finished.

Reflection:

Can’t fight that logic, now can I…

This was definitely one of the more random, directionless prompts that I’ve followed so far, as you could take IF, THEN statements anywhere from the mundane to the complex to the silly to the serious.  To get started, it was easiest for me to start basic with the one-liners until I found myself wanting to follow a train of thought more and more, tracking a longer sequence of cause-and-effect.  As I entered into that chain-o-consequences, I most readily addressed a couple recent instances that really happened to me, as the IF, THEN format is a good outlet for bitter sarcasm…and then, well…then I just felt like going the weird route and trying to employ logic in a relatively illogical scenario until I felt bored and ready to call it quits so I can now move on to other tasks.

All in all, a decent exercise in giving a moment’s pause to consider the ripple effect of certain actions/attitudes, which I think will help make me more conscious of the logical outcomes that should result when I have a character do a certain thing or behave in a certain way.  As Bonni Goldberg says:

“Part of writing is keeping tabs on the nuts and bolts […] It may not at first feel as exciting as raw creation, but it will equalize you and prepare  you for the next creative surge.”


Blindfolded

The Prompt:

Whereas previously we were asked to write about something we can see through our eyes, imagination, instinct, and intuition, today page 28 of Room to Write asks us to write about what we can’t see—this can be something literally out of our sight, or figuratively hidden from our understanding or missing from our lives.  This should be freely written, beginning with the words, “I don’t see…”

Response:

I don’t see what it is that wakes me on time when I’ve forgotten to set my alarm, what prompted me to unlock my door and go back into my flat that one day to check the stove that, sure enough, still had a gas burner on from my morning tea.  I don’t see what it is that holds one person up when another might slam to the pavement under the weight of the world, or what it is that binds people together when the centrifugal force of their spinning lives would otherwise fling them apart.  I don’t see what it is that I sometimes think might brush against my face as it rests on the pillow, or tickle at my toes when they peep out from the kicked-askew bed sheet.  I don’t see what some people don’t need to see because they rest their speculation in faith alone or just don’t see the point, and I don’t see what other people try to detect scientifically as evidence of what they won’t believe in unless they can see it through thermal imaging or sound waves.  I don’t see the energy that humans exude, radiating onto and into others through smiles or kind words or enthusiasm or sucking it away through frowns or insults or indifference.  I don’t see what happens to that energy when a human passes on…that energy that, in all things, can neither be created nor destroyed, so must go somewhere when its host ceases to exist as a body in motion.  I don’t see the momentum of that imprint they made in life or if it continues to survive beyond death, filling the voids that person would have filled or instead dissipating into the atmosphere, joining the energy of yet-living organisms, lifting the wings of a bird, or watering a flower.  I don’t see what is perhaps best left unseen or may be nothing to see at all, yet is somehow something I want to believe in more than what I do see.

Reflection:

I guess the idea of this activity is to understand how what is absent (only because unseen) can serve as a great presence in our writing.  Perhaps it means our characters are missing something in their lives, and their search is what drives our entire plot; perhaps it is what we writers are missing and searching for through our stories—it’s a chance to find understanding.  I’ve indeed had characters explore some of this unknown, speculating through them how something so unseen could in certain ways become overtly present and necessary for them to confront and comprehend to move forward.

Do you find that your writing has/is helping you see what you’ve in some way been blind to?  What about your characters—are they having to confront something they can’t keep avoiding?  Is out of sight out of mind?


Resurfacing from the Dive

It’s been a few days since I’ve tended to the blog, not because I continued to sink into the despair I was feeling when I wrote my last entry, but quite the contrary.  I’ve been inspired!  One little tangible gratification that came my way since I last posted was an unexpected email regarding a contest submission I’d entered last year…I took the lack of response as a rejection, but no, I was selected for an anthology of letters.  So, not a nod toward my creative writing yet, but I take this as encouragement in my writing in general.  I have always been told that I write a nice note… 🙂

Anyways, riding on that positive bit-o-momentum, I’ve been writing a new short story over the last couple days to enter into a fiction contest.  Making decent progress on that so far, but presently taking a break by shifting gears over here in the blog so that I can refresh and dive back into my story.

The Prompt:

Page 14 of Room to Write asks us to revisit a previous “diving” (freewriting) session and pluck out a phrase, passage, or metaphor/simile that we ourselves still don’t fully understand.  Goldberg is operating on the belief that sometimes our writing is ahead of us—no, not that we’re psychic, but that we’re “tapping into a stream where imagination and intuition meet.”  What may initially sound like nonsense might contain a nugget of truth and understanding that further writing can help unlock and deepen.  To do this, we should roll this passage around on our tongue and practice any or all of the following strategies:  a) apply it in dialogue; b) list associations with it; c) create an acrostic using a key word from it; d) draw it; and/or e) verbalize it out loud using variations in tone, pitch, or accent

On revisiting a previous freewrite, then, I’m torn between these two passages (the most peculiar parts to me are highlighted):

1.  “playing at children’s games mild lost to tea and egg pie and muddle gunk and tomfoolery wizened but not wise enough”

2.  “I catch my breath and try to inhale the purity calmness gaseous extremity that I can believe in the cool quake calmness of din and then I reach the apex of snow and glide and glisten along my way the sunny fresh extremes of hilltops glossed in icing and glint and free falling to a furry escape

Response:

To address #1, I believe I meant that the benign naivety of childhood gives way to an adulthood confined by more rigidly self-imposed rules of living, like proper afternoon teas or other modes of conduct that are considered refined but may be even more nonsensical foolishness (i.e., “muddle gunk and tomfoolery“) than the ways children approach life through their innocent, natural perspectives—adults kidding themselves that they’ve learned through years of experience yet still have so much more to understand.  “Muddle gunk” sounds like something very inspired by e.e. cummings, a way of making up one’s own words that somehow capture an idea through their sounds.  On re-reading the passage, “egg pie” really sounded strange to me at first, but now that I conceptualize it more, there’s nothing odd about it at all; it’s just a more silly, casual-sounding (indeed, more childlike) way of saying “quiche.”

As for #2, as I repeat “cool quake calmness” aloud, the alliteration of the hard ‘c’ sound instantly clacks against the roof of my mouth, creating a crisp, clean connotation (look, I did it again!) that suits the image I presume I was trying to create at the time.  How “calmness” can coexist with a “quake” or “din” is confusing, though, so let’s see if I can work it out.  I associate the last two words with the two senses of touching and hearing, “quake” being a violent shaking or shuddering like an earthquake beneath one’s feet and “din” being a ruckus, a commotion of sound (for some reason I hear someone clanging on a pan with a spoon, perhaps simply because “din” first makes me think of “dinner” by virtue of its spelling, not meaning).  It could be that the tremors and cacophony somehow respectively meld into a steady vibration and white noise, within the hum of which one actually can drown out distraction and disturbance to find peace.

As to why I would describe the escape from all the clamor as “furry,” I’ll use that for my acrostic:

Friction-free

Underbelly

Refreshing

Relief

Yielding

It seems I meant that it would be a soft landing that would only bring tickling, warming, soothing relief as it breaks the fall from the more putrid, rotting, artificially-created existence described earlier in the freewritten piece.

Reflection:

This was a useful exercise for revisiting my own words.  It’s wild to think that we can write things that we don’t ourselves even understand at the time–even more so that we can extract meaning from it eventually, and something that actually does make sense!  It’s a testament to the power of writing and how it helps us to unearth truths and propel us forward into the realization of them.


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