Here’s another one of those exercises called “warm ups” – pick one noun/verb phrase and try to write (really fast, without lifting your pen from the paper) a paragraph in which every sentence begins with your chosen phrase. Here’s one I wrote, starting with “I know …”
I know that the sixties are not dead but Nixon is. I know that Queen Elizabeth I died a virgin and that Dian Fossey died a hero. I know that Ernest Hemingway was afraid of women and that he wrote like an angel. I know that Marilyn Monroe was sad all the days of her life and that no man cared as long as her voice was as soft as her breasts. I know that evil is not dark and goodness is not light, and that they both are shapeshifters whose purpose is to deepen our minds. I know the spiral of fear and the sinkhole of despair, and I know the numbing boredom of the artist concentration camp when you deny the truth of who you are. I know that if you take sides you must take prisoners too.
(Note: The edited and expanded version of the above warm up can be found in my book, Eating Mythos Soup: poemstories for Laura. Yet another proof that these exercises are practical and can turn into “real” writing.)
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if you live within
you must tell yourself stories
with surprise endings
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The Autumn Equinox is also known as Mabon. At this time of year Light and Dark are in balance, as the days and nights are of equal length. The trees are alive with color – orange, gold, deep red, and browns of every shade. The air is crisp and light. This is the time to give thanks for the Earth’s bounty. Nuts and apples become ripe around this time, as do many other crops. It’s time to gather and store them for sustenance for the coming winter. Mabon is also a time to celebrate. Here are some things my family and friends do to celebrate Mabon:
Have a feast! Serve autumn foods such as squash and corn, nuts and apples. Mabon is also called the Wine Harvest, so it is a good time to serve wines and ciders. Remember those less fortunate than yourself. Share your abundance by donating food to the hungry. Wear earth colors, orange or deep green or brown. Make a wreath of autumn leaves and wear it on your head.
Because Mabon symbolizes balance, make a mobile out of found objects. Go on an autumn walk, taking a basket or bag filled with ribbons, string, scissors, glue or tape. Pick up objects — beautiful leaves, moss, small rocks, twigs, bark —anything that strikes your fancy. Find some sticks and tie the sticks together in a mobile, hanging them with the found objects stuck on with glue or tied on with ribbons. Hang the mobile on a tree branch along your path, and leave it there as a surprise for the next passers-by. Or if you’re walking along a beach, gather rocks and make a rock tower, balancing them one atop the other.
Make a vow to live in balance today. Fill up on gratitude.
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I am obsessed by the sounds of words. I like Old English comical words like mugwort, or marshmallow. I like hushed words spoken in whispers, like neath and ghoul. I like common everyday words like horn and jump and dog. I feel words nestled in my mouth, tucked into my cheeks. I smell them and taste them and lick every last drop from the corners of my lips. Then I let them roll and drip like sweet spiced oil off my tongue. I feed myself with words. I suck them in while hot and feel them burn all the way down, and I even crave cold leftover words because they too can hit that blank lonely spot and make the soothing Aahh begin.
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lazing on a cloud
a clumsy muse may drop things
catch them if you can
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In my last post I wrote about The Artist’s Way and doing Morning Pages. Morning Pages are meant to be private. They are nothing you want to show as examples of your art. And yet – I keep preaching (I really try not to preach, but sometimes it just slips out) that we writers should be bold, tell the truth, show ourselves warts and all. So on this premise, I am going to show one page of Morning Pages here in this entry. Remember, I tell myself, writing garbage is still writing because garbage turns into compost which in turn nourishes your soil, and your soul. So here’s a page of my garbage:
“Goody has found something exciting outside. There are so many overgrown weeds in the back yard that all I see of her is the little white tip of her tail. I love her way more than is sensible to love a dog. I like the sound of her claws clicking on the floor of the hallway when she comes to bed at night. I wish dogs lived as long as humans, I hate the thought of her not being here. I don’t feel like writing in here today, but then this is almost always true. It’s weird to have grandchildren. How the hell did I get old enough to have grandchildren? There I go again on the passage of time, this subject has been done to death. The weekend is almost up but weekends mean nothing to me any more, ever since I gave up my corporate job in the “real” world. I need to buy a backup hard disk for my laptop, I get cold chills down my spine when I worry about computer crashes. Why do I always have to go to the bathroom in the middle of Morning Pages? I think it’s another resistance tactic. I’m not even done with one page yet. Maybe I’ll stop at one. No one can make me write more. Humpf. So there. Who am I talking to? No one has ever defined the word love, not really. I read somewhere that there is no Chinese character for the word love. Respect, kindness, admiration, but not love. How can that be true? Maybe I am making it up, or just mis-remembering. That happens more often nowdays. I hate that term, ‘senior moment’. So patronizing and condescending. But I have to admit, rather accurate. Oh Thank God, I’m done with one page at last. “
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Fifteen years ago, in 1993, I read The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. (http:// www.theartistsway.com) That’s not entirely accurate. I didn’t just read it, I did it. The Artist’s Way is a 12-step program for recovering your creativity. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It quite simply transformed my life, allowing me to become on the outside what I’ve always been on the inside. And it is still ongoing. I still do Morning Pages, every morning. I still do Artist’s Dates, nearly every week. (If you don’t know what those are – read the book!) They are the basic gas that fills my tank. And yet … I have to admit that nearly every morning I feel resistance. I start whining to myself. “I don’t feel like it today … I have too much to do … Skipping one day won’t hurt …” and so on. Even though I know Morning Pages and Artist Dates work. I mean, I wouldn’t expect to fill my car’s gas tank just once and expect the car to keep running for months and months, would I? Yet it still amazes me when I write morning pages and three stream-of-consciousness longhand pages later, after whining about irritants, narrating my to-do list, and basically dribbling on about nothing – a brilliant idea shows up, like a tulip blooming in a sewer.
This blog entry is an example of this phenomenon. It’s what I wrote this morning in my Morning Pages (although I’ve edited it, of course. I mean, you don’t really want to hear about the hole my dog chewed in my pillowcase, do you? Or how I need to buy a new power cord for my laptop? Because those deathless topics were in there too.) Yesterday I was moaning to myself about how I didn’t want to write a blog anymore, it was too much work, and besides I had nothing more to say. As if in answer to this self-pity, today my Morning Pages told me that this is not true, I do like writing a blog, it’s not that much work, and above all, I still have something to say.
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wear a black sweater
a hairy dog will find you
that’s the way it is
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Here’s a tip on what to do when you have Writer’s Block and can’t think of anything to say. Sit down and write for 5 minutes (or 2 pages, or whatever metric appeals to you) and start every sentence with “I want to write about …” Trust me, your mind hates sentences with subjects and no predicates. It will fill something in, and then you too will know. Here’s what I wrote the last time this happened to me:
I want to write about big meaningful stuff that shouts “Wisdom! Wisdom! Get Your Red Hot Wisdom Here!” Ha, I am funny. I want to write about how we’re all swamped by our own loneliness and how joy and fear co-exist, living together in a too-small overstuffed apartment in my head. I want to write about how life calls for courage, we have no choice but to be courageous or die. I want to write about my cat using her scratching post even though she knows she’s not supposed to, is that courage to be herself in spite of my orders, or rebellion in the face of my orders, or simply just because scratching one’s claws feels good and at this moment nothing else matters?
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