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Archive for the ‘13. The Art of Writing’ Category

I cannot count all the phenomenally wonderful creative ideas that have fluttered through my head over the past several months – or the not so pretty yet powerful outpours of emotions through words.  They hit me while I’m driving, or while I’m walking through a market, or while I’m at work, or otherwise engaged and unable to write them down.

I cling to them… the muse’s ponderings, holding them firmly in mind until I can reach pen and paper (or keyboard). I tell myself to remember and I repeat the words.  Sometimes it’s only two or three lines, sometimes it’s just one sentence, or a paragraph – but I hold them, I replay them in my head… and then I find the time available and I pick up the pen and I jot the words down. I get so excited about finally being able to take the thoughts from my head and manifest them on paper… and suddenly, once on paper, they’re crap! It’s the same words I saw in my head that seemed so profound, so prolific, so insightful, so well placed – and once placed on paper, they “feel” different.  They’re not as smooth.  They’re choppy.  They’re cheesy.  That’s it… cheesy. Oober cheesy.  Cheese whiz kind of cheesy…. and, well, I’m lactose intolerant.

Ink changes things.

I’m irritated with myself about my writing. There used to be a time I could write three or four poems and a good, solid article in a day – or at least, in a week.  Here it’s been months and months since I’ve created anything I consider of value. I’ve leaned on my archives a lot in creating this blog… digging up nuggets of gold from a year ago, two years ago, ten years ago.  But there’s nothing recent – nothing other than rants and raves about this, that, or the other thing.  It’s all yada yada yada.

Where has my creative ability gone? Is it just that I’m working too many hours and don’t have the time to sit and daydream the way I used to? Is it that I’ve lost the skill all together?  Is the Universe intentionally puting me in a time out? Am I blocked by things I’m afraid to face? (Should I repeat that? *nods* – Am I blocked by things I’m afraid to face?)

Whatever the reason, it’s clear to me that while I may be waxing poetic thoughts in my head, I can’t seem to successfully transfer them to paper. 

Ink changes things.

Here’s what irritates me the most.  I’m not wanting to write for the sake of profession. I don’t require publication to achieve validation – I only want to write for me… to store in my own portfolio, to share here on my blog… to write for the sake of writing.  There’s no pressure, no deadlines, no set topics, no word count requirements… so why can’t I do it?

Maybe I should get back into the practice of writing my “Thoughts of the Day” – and no, that’s not the same as my “coffee thoughts” rambles.  Thoughts of the Day was a writing exercise I used to do where I’d choose a random quote – any quote – and then write four hundred words (or for twenty minutes) about that quote… following the thought wherever it went.  It didn’t always produce good writing, but it kept the pen moving and the muse well exercised. But that begs the question… when?

*sigh*

I guess I’ll just take the creative time out with a grain of salt, work through what needs worked through, continue the “rants” here as I have, and hope that some day, something other than cheese will flow through my pen.

W

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Written by:
Wendi Friend
August 2005

A Writing Prompt

Writing letters is something some of us do, sometimes, as a way of making personal connections with friends and loved ones. More and more, however, with technology evolving and demands increasing, we’re much more likely to pop off a quick email or ring our loved ones up on the phone. In the past, though, letter writing was not only an art form, but was an intense recording of history in informal context. Letter writing was a form of communication, but was also a great pastime, as people weren’t afforded the luxuries of televisions, radios, computers, or video games. When one’s chores or daily tasks were done, there were a few choices for recreation: read, play music, or write.

One of the greatest examples with whom I personally connect is Abigail Adams, recognized for her artistic style, intelligence, and powerful presence in text. Mrs. Adams opened the majority of letters to her husband with the words, “My dearest friend.”

How nice would it feel to receive a letter today with that greeting in the header? Even in her first words of introduction, Abigail drew her reader into her grasp. Once captive to her attention, she’d then unleash an eloquent fury of opinions regarding everything from domestic issues to politics. Helping her case greatly was the fact that the recipient of her letters, for the most part, was her husband – John Adams, a powerful force in the political party establishing the United States of America. The letters written from Abigail Adams to her husband had a great part in shaping the US, particularly in regard to women and slaves.

Abigail Adams wasn’t the only person to write letters that would be remembered and/or cherished. In fact, there are volumes upon volumes of books created on Civil War letters, and other old letters of days past. For some reason, today’s people seem utterly fascinated and uplifted by the style, vocabulary, and living conditions of those who dared or cared to take the time to write down their thoughts and send them to a reader for consideration.

When is the last time you wrote a letter by hand to a good friend or family member? How did you begin that letter? If someone were to find that letter a hundred years from now, what do you think they’d learn about you and the time in which you lived?

When is the last time you received a hand written letter? How did you feel when you received it? Do you save your old letters?

Challenge yourself – as a writing prompt – to familiarize yourself with one or two treasures from yesteryear’s letters. They’re easy to find on the Internet or in libraries. Then, take an extra step and write a card or letter by hand to someone special to you. But don’t just write a letter; make it an art, make it a part of history.

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Written by:
Wendi Friend
2003

When we write, we may create anything from a sweet piece of poetry to a best selling novel. When we write as a profession, we pay close attention to detail, to the choices of words and sentence structure. On the other hand, when writing personally, we may just throw our words out toward the page, letting them fall where they may. In diaries, we don’t worry so much about dotting that I or crossing the T . In diaries, we rant about whatever is on our minds from eating habits to romance. But there’s a third type of writing, often unnoticed, which can be equally as productive and pleasing as the professional and personal styles of writing. Merging the attention to detail as in professional writing with the raw innocence of diary writing, one can embark on a spiritual journey, recording revelations, epiphanies, insights, growth patterns and more. With the proper intent, anyone can begin the writing of his or her own Spiritual Journal.

One thing I love about journal keeping is that it’s not as rigid with rules as professional writing. In a journal, one can get away with writing fragmented sentences and putting hyphens or apostrophes in the wrong places. However, when keeping a record of your spiritual journey, it is imperative to pay close attention to detail. Your editor’s eye must make way for the eye of your heart to see through the words to the truer meanings and reflections of self. While you may not be looking for typos and misprints, you will want to be acutely aware of your choice of words and how they align with your true intention.

In some of my own spiritual journals, I’ll write a specific question with a word or two that I’d normally not use, or that may, in some way, stand out to me. Later, when the answer comes to me, I’m able to recognize it because that word was used! For example, this morning, I wrote in my spiritual journal that I wanted to hold on tighter when I feel I’m losing balance. I wanted to feel secure and assured as I go through life’s obstacles. When I finished writing how I felt inside, I drew a Fairy Oracle card, a Tarot card and a Tao card for the day. (I draw these cards daily when I can because it helps me to learn and remember them. When I do full spread readings, I’m then able to more easily recognize the messages for having seen them before in this more personal manner.) The cards I drew this morning used the words assurance and secure while telling me to hold on, find balance and have faith that my dreams are manifesting. The words I used in the writing became very relevant when I saw the words in the reading.

The answers don’t always fall in the form of divinatory cards, but also through people, songs, television commercials and several other unpredictable ways where synchronicity is in play. I may write a word in the morning, then hear it on the radio in a song that will penetrate me in a different way. The word becomes a “trigger” for deeper self- reflection.

In February of 2001, I wrote about Inspirare and other writing workshops. Inspirare had such an effect on me that it completely changed the way I live my life. Though it was a workshop for writers, it was a spiritual journey. In this workshop were exercises that would take one into the depths of themselves — deeper than we even knew we could go. The workshop lasted one year, consisting of twelve modules — one monthly. Each module introduced a new subject, required research and provoked inspiration on new levels. This workshop is where I learned the importance of spiritual record keeping.

My shelves were lined with journals and diaries. Anyone who knew me at all knew well that I’m never more content than when setting pen to paper; but until the Inspirare project, I don’t believe I’d ever written with power and intent. That’s what made all the difference in the world. Where a diary is a place to vent emotion and release negativity, a spiritual journal is a place where one accepts responsibility for their own actions, understands their own power and uses that understanding and power to generate positive results through intent.

To write in a spiritual journal is to signify that you know your words have power. Once per month, I perform a Tarot reading and record it in my journal. Later, I’m able to go back and review the lessons, how they were presented in the cards, how they manifested and how I handled them when they came up.

Dreams are also great material for spiritual journals because once one begins to question the meanings of dreams, many answers spill forth. But you don’t have to be a dream therapist or fortuneteller in order to record a spiritual journal. Regardless of your faith, background, gender or age, you can “map out” the journey of your spirit by simply writing what you truly feel, need, want and how you plan on creating that reality through intent, prayer, effort, and action.

In my raw opinion, there’s no faster way for a person to evolve than to record the journey in written word. In writing our goals and intentions, we empower them and create a space where they can manifest. But spiritual journals are also fantastic for reflection, to see where one may have fallen off track or made errors in judgment. In this way, you can use where you’ve been to identify how you got to where you are and how to get to the place you need to be.

There are many benefits to keeping a spiritual journal. In the end, for my personal journey, keeping the words in written form is a way to insure my legacy with my children and my children’s children. Through my experiences, may they gain an understanding, a feeling of comfort or the love of a woman living life in earnest.

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Written by:
Wendi Friend
2004

A critique is a person’s opinions and suggestions regarding an author’s work. Critiques can answer elemental questions regarding plot, character development, believability, and more. As such, they can provide insights into an author’s work and help to correct technical errors. But having others comment and make suggestions for your writing is only one way to draw benefit from critiques. The best way to benefit from critiques is giving them.

When a writer is serious about presenting their work for publication, they research the markets and writer resources, continuously improving upon their craft. When they do, they come across a myriad of advice. Among all the advice available, certain suggestions have become common factors. The leading offer of advice is to involve yourself in writing groups and opportunities to “exchange” critiques with other writers. By critiquing the work of other writers, one gains exposure to the variety of writing styles and subjects flowing about the realm of writing in search of recognition. Regularly reading the writing “hot off the presses” from both aspiring and established writers, common habits or “mistakes” can be identified. Once identified, they can be eliminated from your own writing. In essence, you’re learning to write better by editing the work of others. We learn by editing because we read the work of others with a more critical and less familiar eye than we do our own work.

For example, in reviewing the work of an associate, I noticed the tendency to start sentences with the word “so”. On one hand, it shows the author’s ability to write as he would have spoken. In his speech, he often does start his sentences with that word. In speech, extra words often go unnoticed because our focus isn’t only on the words, but on the way they’re being spoken. On paper, however, those habits stand out. When you spot these types of tendencies in the work of others, you will begin to see some habits in your own writing. When you can identify and eliminate habits during your own editorial process, you save yourself — and others — from having them pointed out when the piece is offered for critique!

Just the knowledge that critiques are helpful is a fantastic tool to writers, but useless tool when not applied. A hammer in a toolbox can’t pound a nail. It takes action. What stops most people from getting associated with other writers to review and edit each other’s work? Fear. Many of today’s writers don’t have college degrees, or in some cases, even high school diplomas. We then have underlying fears that we’re not “smart enough” to give advice to others, particularly if they’re already published writers. Heck, that’s intimidating!

Giving a critique isn’t as difficult as you may think. Just think of the questions you’d want answered about your own work, then offer those answers to the writer whose work you’re reading. Are you interested in the story? Was the reading smooth? Vocabulary, was it simple enough to understand, yet not so elementary it bores readers? Did the plot captivate attention? Do the characters feel real and believable?

Writers often read their own work so many times, they miss little misprints that most spell checkers don’t catch, such as “this” where “his” should have been, or “there’s” where it should have been “theirs”. Every writer has their own misspellings, punctuation habits, and style. If there’s a sentence you find difficult to read, point that out to the author. We don’t often trip on our own words, but others can and do. Most of those sentences can be easily clarified by the addition, removal, or relocation of as little as one word. The author just needs to know where the bumps are located.

In some critique groups I’ve been involved with, I’ve noticed some members have an abrasive style. Sugar coating is not required, although a bit more than “I liked it” is generally appreciated. But some people cut right to the chase with razor sharp opinions and total lack of empathy. There isn’t a need to slaughter anyone else’s writing, writing style, education, or lack of. Everyone needs encouragement; no one appreciates insult. Writers of every genre and experience level should offer encouragement and support to each other. We’ve chosen a difficult field that leads down an often lonely road.

There’s still even more benefit to be obtained from involvement with critique groups. You never know who you’re going to meet! People from all walks of life have merged into the Internet melting pot. From every culture, country, background, religion, etc., writers are coming together. In one group, you may find a young writer experimenting with his newly found muse, coupled with an author who has published multiple articles and books. You also never know whose needs your undiscovered talents may fill. It is not uncommon for editors to lurk in such areas to find fresh writers who’ve not yet been “tampered with” by the reality of the publishing world.

All things considered, if you’re still not ready to dip your toes into the reality of giving or receiving critiques, then if nothing else, READ THEM! You’ll learn more than you can imagine by watching how writers interact and communicate with each other.

Of course, there must also be caution. There are always those who prey on others with less experience. Not many people are interested in stealing the work of others, not blatantly, anyway. But there are cases in which writers are taken advantage of — situations where writers are offered bogus contracts, conned out of “reading fees”, suckered into contests, etc. You always want to use common sense and do your homework. Protect your writing, be careful who you give personal information, and do not pay to have others read or critique your work. There are several free writing groups available with other writers just like you who want to know if they’re on the right track.

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Written by:
Wendi Friend
2005

You know what writers’ block is, don’t you? There are so many articles available online, and support groups of fellow writers who can pick you up, offer encouragement, and give advice on how to overcome the beast. When the well of inspiration seems tapped, writers and other creative minds become frozen and fear-filled. What if the muse never comes back? What if a good sentence couldn’t be found if life depended on it, and what if the perfect word would never again be embraced with enthusiasm and adrenaline? This fear isn’t just career related. The panic stretches far beyond the reaches of employment, deep into the core of a writer’s very soul. Writing is an escape, a “get out of jail free” card in a world where there are no rules or realities. What if the writer’s block lasts forever then where will the soul of the writer go for release?

Not to worry, writer’s block isn’t always terminal, and there are “cures” for the condition. What you may not realize, though, is that writer’s block isn’t the only reason a writer finds themselves inked dry. Another reason writers are prone to dry spells is that they need to re-fuel and allow the muse to rest. Consider it a forced vacation from the Universe letting you know your tank is empty and you’re on the verge of being considered a slave driver for the way the Muse is worked overtime with little recognition or compensation.

How is this type of “block” different from writer’s block? Writer’s block occurs when the writer is expecting something profound with every stroke, when they write for reasons other than their own, or when outside influence prevents time or space for tapping the well of creativity. When the writer tries too hard or can’t concentrate consistently, their wheels tend to spin – and for as much as they want to create something and move forward, they’re stuck in the sludge of everything around them. Writer’s block can also occur when the writer heads off in the wrong direction with their words. Stories tend to want to write themselves once the muse has lit the path, but writers tend to want to show control over the story and force it in the direction they “think” would be best. The best writing isn’t ever “thought” of in the process. Instead, the best writing is nothing more than an accurate translation of deep feeling. As the writer stops “feeling” and starts “thinking” about how the story should unfold, a block is created. All of these blocks can be overcome through exercise (prompts, group support, research, music, and organization. On the contrary, the type of block I’m referring to doesn’t have a cure, nor is it triggered by an outside influence. Instead, it’s an uncontrollable, involuntary, desperate need to rest, rejuvenate, relax, and restore the muse and the mind to balance.

Writers love nothing better than to find their “zone” and follow the wings of inspiration, regardless of the genre, style, or pay. Journals, diaries, poetry, song lyrics, articles, fiction, non-fiction – These all take on a life of their own once the writer submits to their influence. But writers also have a tendency to block out reality and get so wrapped up in their own plots and characters that they forget to live the life of their own. “I’ll be there in two minutes; just let me finish this one thought.” Two hours later, supper is cold, the kids are in bed, and the spouse is asleep in the Lazy Boy chair with a disappointed expression. You wonder for a moment how two minutes turned into two hours, but you don’t linger long on the thought because the answer is obvious to you.

Even better, the writer will not feel guilty long, but will instead feel the perk of the ears when the thought occurs, “Oh, this means I can go get more work done!” The writer will remember deadlines and statistics more often than birthdays or scheduled appointments.

Keeping our eye on the goal has given us a bit of tunnel vision and all we can see before us is the “next step” that will put us one step closer to reaching “it”. Sadly, most of us don’t even know what “it” is, nor do we realize that our concepts of time differ greatly from those around us. We seem to think in a way that suggests, “Oh, one day, I’ll make it, and then everything will be so much better.” But writing is like laundry: you can do it every single day and yet never be done doing it! There is no “there” we’re trying to get to; there is no “finished”; there is no “last” piece to write. We’re simply doing what we enjoy or that we feel “called” to do – and hoping the experience will be lucrative in recognition and compensation.

When the writer is so trapped in tunnel vision they’ve gone cross-eyed, then the Universe steps in with an, “Okay, enough is enough”, forcing you into a time out so you can step back into your skin and enjoy your real life. Don’t describe sights, sounds, and smells – but experience them for yourself! Don’t write about passion, stop clicking the keyboard long enough to be passionate toward those you love. No amount of writing exercises, games, trips, triggers, or supports will allow you to write again until you’ve been back in your own life long enough to remember how to appreciate it. Appreciation for life is the signal to the Muse that it’s safe to come home.

So the next time you find your muse has gone silent, don’t cry “writer’s block” as an instinctive response and try to cure it with writing prompts or journals. Seriously consider your reason for being blocked, and then ask yourself how involved you’ve really been in your own life. You may not need to be flexing your creative muscles, but rest and relax with the people, places, and things you love. Honor the seasons of your muse and your life by knowing when all that’s needed to cure a “block” is for you to step back, for a time, into reality. Play with kids, walk your dog, swing, enjoy a sunset. Live every season and you’ll live in harmony with the Seasonal Muse.

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Written in 2001

 

“The magick moving through art is the ability to visualize without seeing, listen without hearing, speak without talking, and feel without touching.” ~Wendi Friend~

I over-slept today. I awoke frantic and frazzled due to bad dreams and thick stress. My eldest child, Atlas, was already gone off to school. The younger two decided that I should be left to sleep, so they played quietly together in the loft after having gotten dressed and made their beds. I awoke feeling the need to crawl inside myself; but in a healthy way. I felt like my heart was trying to tell me something. I wanted to sit still and listen. I wanted to silently remember my dreams and explore my thoughts.

Brewing my first pot of coffee for the day, I wrote down that I was hungry for creativity. Creativity, for me, is medicine – whether I’m creating with words on paper, crafting with supplies, or playing with notes of a new song. When my hands are busy, anticipation and expectation preoccupied with art, I can hear myself better. I can see the journey ahead a little more clearly. I can breathe a little more deeply. I was ready to heal. I was hungry for creativity.

Unfortunately, growth was not the only thing I was feeling this morning. The sign on my heart must have been flashing, “No Vacancy,” because all the space within it was consumed with a mixture of hope, need, want, and guilt. I know why I’m in this position. I know that stress backed me into a corner. I know that responsibility challenged time to a race and won. I found myself staying up late nights, waking early in the morning, and skipping meals in between because I couldn’t find the time to do all that needed done in the accomplishing of my goals. I felt guilty because the kids wanted to spend time with me. But, then, so did I.

That’s when I remembered this quote and wrote it down on paper again at that moment: The magick moving through art is the ability to visualize without seeing, listen without hearing, speak without talking and feel without touching. I wrote it down the first time in a journal/coloring book I’d received as a gift. I used a pink gel pen, then – and must have re-read the statement a hundred times while my left hand colored the picture to the left.

As I re-wrote the phrase this morning, seven year old Stinkerbelle knocked on my door, wanting to know if she and Rhythm could go play outside. Turning in my office chair, I smiled, saying, “Ya know what? No. Why don’t you go get your brother and the two of you can hang out in here with me for a while.” Stinkerbelle was thrilled to no end, as was her brother. I had no idea that hanging out in my office would be such a treat for them. When they were both in here, I explained that I’d like them to do something creative with this part of the morning, then they could go outside and play. Stinkerbelle immediately wanted to put to use the weaving project she got for her birthday. Rhythm had been wanting to play with my magnetic poetry book. He watched me do an exercise the other day, thought it was neat, and had been wanting to try one of his own. He picked out five words from my bag of magnetic poetry pieces while Stinkerbelle began stretching little loops of elastic to hook and weave on the plastic base. While the two of them nestled into their creative acts, I nestled into mine.

While Rhythm wrote his own thoughts of the day and Stinkerbelle wove a pot holder, I allowed the pen to move across paper with my own round of magnetic poetry. I withdrew five words from the plastic bag and wrote them down:

1. wind 2.away 3.sister 4.summer 5. morning

`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~

Morning flew quickly by today.
Summer heat taunts, though it’s only spring.
Winter has finally melted away,
making room for the great sun king.

Dreaming of a garden of flowers
I seek nature’s comforting glow.
Sister wind has exhausted her powers
when March currents did forcefully flow.

As I stand in these seasons changing,
I am one with light and sound.
My mind does it’s mystic rearranging
while my feet connect to the ground.

So I thank the entity Mother Earth
for destruction, obstacles and strife…
for death only makes room for birth
and a new opportunity for life.

Winds blow away negativity
cold freezes ugly thoughts
heat melts snow, warming creativity
and I find what I have sought….

my own inner garden of peace.

While we were working, I noticed how tranquil we all were. Rhythm and Stinkerbelle both worked with pleasant grins stretched across their faces, and I realized I was doing the same. We were able to be together, and yet apart, all at the same time. We were all doing the same thing, but differently. We were all being creative and exploring ourselves. This satisfied all of our needs. Their wanting to be with me didn’t mean that I couldn’t still do what I needed to do. I learned that they just like to be in my presence and sharing in my love of art.

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Intro: Another writing exercise- write for 20 minutes, or 400 words based on a quote.

“The Power of Words”
Written by:
Wendi Friend

“For me, words are a form of action, capable of influencing change.” ~Ingrid Bengis~

I never understood that words are a form of action. In fact, I’ve often heard it said that words are cheap. I knew my words could influence the thoughts, emotions, or reactions of others; but I don’t think I truly realized how my words impacted me – except that I knew writing contained some kind of inexplicable form of healing.

When I take a problem out of my worried head and put it on paper, I’m able to view it from a different perspective. I found a neat little pattern in my journal. Sifting through my journal entries one day, I recognized that the beginning of my writings were often disorganized, chaotic and clustered with surface emotion. However, about half way through, I’d begin writing past the raw feeling of reaction and merge into an analytical frame of mind, trying to find a cause for my condition. By the time my hand began to cramp, I had written the answer to my own problem. Never was writing the solutions my intent. My intent was to find a place for my voice and thoughts. I needed to speak without anybody listening. I needed to have a hissy fit, temper tantrum, pity party. I wrote not to gain an answer, but to rid myself of negativity. Inevitably, when the negativity had been cleared away, truth, beauty, understanding, and peace of mind all surfaced. This is the first real awareness that I had of the power in words and the writing of them.

Later, in an exercise for a spiritually exploitative writing workshop, I was taught about another aspect of the power of words. I was asked to write on paper those things that I thought would bring me closer to or set me farther away from that elusive thing called happiness. I thought I’d be able to whip out that assignment in a flash. I thought I knew exactly what would make me happy or prevent me from becoming happy. I was so wrong. Once I explored the reasons and consequences of my dreams and wants, I realized that I wasn’t striving towards my goals for the right reasons. I wasn’t happy in my life because I couldn’t identify what it was that I wanted, or why. Finally, I put pen to paper with the intent of self discovery. I’m not sure if the reaction happened because I finally identified it, or because writing the thoughts substantiated them, or if having brought them to my attention made me want to work harder to achieve them. Regardless of why, a reaction happened creating positive consequence when I put pen to paper.

Words, whether spoken, written, or sang out in song have a powerful energy in them. Our words hurt people, or comfort them. Our words encourage people, or discourage them. Our words have an impact on how we think, feel and react.

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