Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Magpie's Fancy: In Memoriam Wislawa Szymborska

I've written a short piece about Wislawa Szymborska over at The Magpie's Fancy.  Come read it here:

The Magpie's Fancy: In Memoriam Wislawa Szymborska: Wislawa Szymborska died yesterday , and I am torn between the need to write what she has meant to me, means to me still, and my utt...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Power of Fear

I have just one simple thought to share today, but it's the foundation of much good writing.

When you are afraid to finish a piece, that's the best time to keep writing.  If it frightens you, this story or poem or essay you're crafting, then it's worth finishing.  I don't mean it frightens you in a ghost story, horror film sense.  I mean that some significant truth is at stake for you in the writing.  I mean that as you write it, your palms sweat or your gut aches or your scalp prickles.  I mean that you've taken a leap off something very high, although you know not what--nor do you have any idea where or how you will land. Whether it ends up being a graceful plunge into the ocean, like you're a seasoned cliff diver, or an awkward cannonball off the high dive into the deep end that soaks every onlooker, you will have taken the leap.  And you can leap again.  And again. Nothing will stop you after that first leap, because that one is the hardest.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Do one thing every day that scares you." Yes.  Do it.  Write it.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Some of the Best Writing Advice I Know

“Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music--the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.” 

~Henry Miller

Monday, June 20, 2011

What I Know That No One Else Knows

Sandra Cisneros
The title of this post is inspired by an interview with Sandra Cisneros in which she talks about her inspiration for writing The House on Mango Street when she was a 22-year-old graduate student at Iowa.  You can view a wonderful segment of the interview here.  Cisneros talks about one of the key things she teaches her writing students.  So often students struggle to get inspired--or to stay inspired.  She says to them, ask yourself this: "What can I write about that no one else can write about?"  

If you watch the video, you'll see how she arrived at this productive question.  The question will often lead to uncomfortable, but powerful answers, and these answers can provide the writer with rich territory for writing.  If you are feeling stuck in your own writing, take a peek at the Cisneros interview for a morsel of inspiration. 

I'm going to take a hiatus from Freewrite Fridays for a bit because my own writing schedule is too full right now, but I'll be posting tips and ideas here all summer long, so I hope you'll keep visiting!

In the meantime, Cisneros's question is my own question to you: What can you write about that no one else can write about?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Freewrite Friday: A Distant Memory

For today's exercise, try freewriting in your writing notebook for at least a half an hour about a very distant memory.  In fact, it may be a story from your life that is so vague you're not sure if it's something you remember or something you have been told about over the years.  It might even be something you glimpsed in a photograph or home video.  As you write about this memory, think about why it matters to you.  Don't worry about how much of it actually happened and how much of it you have created to fill in the blanks.  You aren't looking to capture an accurate report of events.  Instead, you will be trying to capture an emotional truth, a glimpse at something very far back and very deep within your life memories.  If you need to fabricate details, let yourself do this.  Was the carpet green or blue?  You decide.  Was it pouring rain or only slightly misting?  You create the setting, the mood, and anything else you need to make this memory come to life on the page.  

Have fun, and please feel free to let me know how it goes.  Happy writing and happy weekend!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Freewrite Friday: Out of Control

Hello, my friends.  This week's exercise is very straightforward, but I think you may find it useful.  

Begin by brainstorming for a few minutes about moments in your life when you have felt completely out of control.  The moments might be positive or negative--or a mixture of both.  I've included two photos that I took at a carnival a couple of years ago, because when I was a kid I loved that out-of-control feeling of carnival rides.  Now I get nauseous on them--I mean, really sick--but I still like remembering a particular Fourth of July when I was twelve, and my friend and I rode the Zipper over and over again, spending all our allowance money just for that thrill of being flung head over heels, the ground rushing up to meet us; and then one more flip and we were racing towards the sky.  That edgy blend of joy and terror is rich territory for writing, especially because when I think of that Fourth of July, I also think of being in love with a boy who was a little dangerous, a little wrong for me.  Yes, the memory of one moment of being out of control leads to memories of other moments, and then before you know it, you've got one dangerous piece of writing.

So, after you've brainstormed and found an out-of-control moment that resonates especially well for you, freewrite about it for at least a half hour, but longer, if you can.  The best possible thing would be if you let your writing itself get a little (or a lot) out of control as you go!  

Let me know what happens.  As always, if you post your freewrite on your blog, please feel free to share the link in the comments here.

Happy writing, and happy weekend!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Anything, Anything (Plus a Freewrite)

Looking back, I imagine I was always writing.  
Twaddle it was too.  
But better write twaddle or anything, anything, 
than nothing at all.

~Katherine Mansfield

My friends, for the first time since I started the series, I missed Freewrite Friday this week!  Life caught me off guard and carried me off to other tasks.  I apologize.  

I have many writing deadlines to meet, so I can't be as regular with posts as I'd like to be at present, 
but I will keep offering exercises and tips as much as I can this summer.  

I'm also thinking of offering an online writing course at the end of summer.  Is this something you would be interested in?  If so, send me an email or leave a comment here.  Let me know, too, what kind of work you are focusing on (or would like to focus on) right now: poetry, fiction, memoir, etc.  

In the meantime, I hope you are writing--anything, anything.  I hope you are feeling inspired, but that even when you're not, you are writing still . . . and all the more.  

And, since I offered no freewrite on Friday, I will give you now a quick exercise I've used when I am feeling stuck.  Copy out a favorite recipe in your writing notebook.  It should be one you have made countless times or one someone you love has often made for you.  As soon as you finish writing down the recipe, don't pause.  Keep writing.  Write about making it or eating it or a memory you associate with it or the person whom you watched making it.  Engage all your senses in the process of writing this exercise.  It's a magical one.  I hope you'll give it a try.