Writing Through the Fog

Writing has been my life for four years now.

I started this blog after I graduated with my Master’s because I needed an outlet–to write out what I think, believe. A verbal map of where I have been, a compass to where I am going. Many times, I write and let the blog fall silent for months. Sometimes, it goes quiet because I’m working feverishly on my fiction, or I allow others to intimidate me into writing nothing. (Note: cyber stalking your ex’s blog says more about you than your ex or his wife).

But most of the time, I am just trying to write myself through the fog. 

Where the storytelling happens
Where the storytelling happens

Two weeks ago, I took the train from Lynchburg to Baltimore to visit my aunts. I had my laptop to write, but I couldn’t. I read a novel and stared out the window as the kudzu passed by. For a writer, travel always inspires me. Going somewhere new or in this case somewhere I haven’t been in 15 years, I soaked up the good food and experiences. But nothing really inspired me to write.

Until we went to the Baltimore Museum of Art. I had been several times before, before I called myself a writer. We walked through the Cone collection first–a large eclectic display of Matisse to Picasso to Monet. But the two Monet paintings struck my writing nerve. Both of the same bridge in London except the light and the fog were different. In one painting, you notice all of the hushed blues and violets as you try to make out the outline of the bridge and factories. The fog obscures everything but the basic shapes. The second painting, the fog has cleared. Greens and light and distinct buildings appear without the fog. Staring at these paintings side-by-side, something hit me about my writing.

We have to write through the fog.

Nothing is ever clear when I sit down to write. I don’t fully know my characters or the plot, and sometimes, I use these as excuses for not writing. Albeit, writing makes me happy, so not writing isn’t the best choice. The fog can discourage us because it can be so thick around us, hiding the essential thing that we are towards, but when we show up and do the work and write through that fog–we see our work more clearly, better even.

Today, I needed to write on this blog because the fog has been more like fear and discouragement. I needed to write past my fears, past the those who want me to be silent or unhappy, past my inner editor who says my writing isn’t very good.

Now, the fog has lifted; let’s write.

Celebrating the Small

When I practice silence, I realize how often we over-emphasize the big. These days I’m more interested in the small things. IMG_0070

Epiphanies come to me slowly, in the quiet space between, when I have shut down all excess and choose to be.

I’ve called myself a writer and a poet for a long time now. Well, long in terms of how the internet measures time which means I have probably lost all relevance whatsoever. But I really don’t care. I’m writing my stories and poetry anyway.

The internet likes big victories, big announcements, big anything really, but I’ve grown tired of this constant waiting for that one BIG break to come. I’ve spent too much time on the merry-go-round of I’ll be successful, happy, excited, when… that I have forgotten all those small things that led me to where I am as a writer, a poet. The right now sort of things that sneak past us when we don’t look for them because we have our eyes fixed on a nebulous horizon.

In truth, I want to dance like the happy hippos from Fantasia about my small everyday things rather than some “maybe it might happen…” down the road.

  1. Not killing the petunias in my fancy planters…my home is usually where all plants die except for weeds. And a few rogue sage and oregano plants.
  2. Finishing two books on my 11 Read My Shelves Challenge despite one being so utterly dull I almost gave up…and didn’t.
  3. Writing each day even after receiving all those lovely form rejections…rejection comes with the writing life. Not especially my favorite part, but it makes the excitement of publication even sweeter.
  4. Asking myself–what have I done to make my writing a priority today?  Then, I do something about it.
  5. Learning to place the those little voices of doubt on the shelf and just write.
  6. Totally beasting my To-Do list each day and holding myself to daily word counts.
  7. Allowing  grace when I don’t check off everything on the To-Do list. Life happens. It will be okay.
  8. Being brave and submitting my writing for publication. My natural response is to horde my words, to hide behind my computer screen and just play at being a writer. No more.
  9. Showing up to writing class with pieces that I’m genuinely proud to say I wrote all those words, string images together like beads.
  10. Showing up to writing class with something less than amazing and still being brave enough to read it. Time spent writing isn’t wasted just not always worth pursuing further.
  11. Remembering to eat all of my meals. You would think this would go without saying, but sometimes, I forget that I need to take care of myself too.
  12. Practicing radical self-care. Write, Read, Eat, Cook. Living well despite  life’s shit factory.
  13. Ditching the drama making machine and all those who contribute. If you’re all into drama and being a royal bitch, consider this an eviction notice from my life. I have too much good, too much to do, too much to write to be bothered with petty people.
  14. Not ending my list on a 13 because I’m still a writer who is slightly superstitious  and doesn’t want to anger the fates. Or it could simply be my OCD acting up because I have an affinity for even numbers. I really don’t know…

What small victories are you celebrating today? Share in the comments.

31 Days of Poetry{Day 19} Stuck

Welcome to 31 Days of Poetry!

Happy Friday!

Only 13 more days this of our journey, and I must confess that blogging everyday about something I love has been challenging. I haven’t blogged for an entire month ever(I tried in February of last year, and it didn’t work out so well), and I’m finding the act of blogging and writing each day helps me in my other creative outlets as well(like my fiction and my other blogs because once you start collecting blog you just can’t stop!).

This leads me to our topic today. Even when we feel the words flowing and the keys keep a steady beat as letters and spaces and periods bounce into life.

Sometimes, we get stuck. 

We call it so many things: writer’s block, my muse hath flown, just not clicking, the creative juices have dried up.

As writers, we train ourselves for the grammatical issues and stylistic changes and the weirdo in writing group that think everything we write should be thrown out and burned. But we rarely prepare ourselves for being stuck, so what happens WHEN you get stuck?

Well, obviously, we have to get unstuck(like it is that simple).

While I don’t have a magic formula, I do know what has worked for me. I would say that it is has been a LONG time since I needed to get unstuck, but it was just yesterday.

  • Clean: when I feel overwhelmed in a writing project or the poetry isn’t flowing, I clean something. I need to see immediate results. So I straighten my desk or do some dishes. If I’m really stuck, I clean a whole room(yesterday, I was EPICALLY stuck so I cleaned the living room, did dishes, cleaned the jetted tub, and the bathroom sink and mirror.). Once I see results, I can usually write something.
  • Walk the dog or walk yourself:  My desk faces the wall so it often feels like I’m in time out when writing. Having dogs gives me the excuse to go outside and mull over what I want to say, to look for new ways of seeing the world. I always come back feeling better and with something to write.

What tips and tricks do you have for getting unstuck?

31 Days of Poetry{day 12} Support Your Poet

Welcome to 31 Days of Poetry!

Tomorrow, I shall provide the links and topics from this week’s adventures, and Sunday will be a poem from one of my favorite poets. As always if you have any topics that you want to discuss, feel free to leave a comment.

 

When I began writing poetry exclusively here, I would receive lovely tweets or Facebook messages about how nice my poetry is, however, no comments on the blog itself. Strange, right? Well, maybe not. Poetry tends to intimidate most readers(why I don’t know), and so many of you have told me:

“I don’t know what to say.”

And I get that. When I read blog posts about death of a child or rape or abuse or poverty, I don’t know what to say that isn’t trite or worse an “I’m praying for you.” Sometimes, it is easy to skim over these and say nothing, and I have done this many times. But if you’re reading a blog frequently, you and I need to join in the conversation.

How to say something when you don’t know what to say:

  • Start with the obvious: “I really like this.” I have yet to meet any writer who doesn’t like a bit of encouragement. With this caveat, be genuine. If you don’t really like the piece, move on and come back another day.
  • Ask a question: perhaps, a line confuses you or you may be curious about what inspired this bit of poetry. Don’t be afraid to ask a question. While I won’t explicate what the poem means, I can tell you what inspired me to write it or where I was when the muse(before she died) kicked my butt.
  • Focus on the image/experience/emotion: does the poem remind you of something–write about that. does it bring a particular feeling–write about that.
What would you add? Or what prevents you from commenting on poetry blogs or blogs in general?

31 Days of Poetry{day 11} Rest

Today, I’m a bit worn out from late nights, from writing, from life.

I need to rest and do the mundane, and this is okay and necessary and good.

We cannot write poetry or stories or anything if we burn ourselves out. In order to give, we must replenish our souls, and too often, I forget to do this.

 Let’s rest and replenish today.

  • Let’s read a book of poetry. Doesn’t matter who or what just read some poetry.
  • Let’s put the kettle on and brew some tea, then watch the clouds or rain or snuggle beneath a blanket.
  • Let’s read a book.
  • Let’s nap.
  • Let’s cook or clean or be normal.
  • Let’s rest.

31 Days of Poetry {day 10} Poetry 101 pt 2

Today, I’m continuing our brief non-extensive, end all be all discussion of poetry. I’m simply providing a brief refresher for those who have or haven’t had a formal course in poetry. Yesterday, we covered some of the popular forms of poetry. Today, we are going to discuss some of the important aspects of the poem itself whether it is a Shakespearean sonnet or a free verse poem.

What are some lovely poetic devices? 

  • Rhyme: Most of you probably know that “rhyme” when 2 words sound or look-alike (sound rhyme and sight rhyme). But rhyme goes beyond just the sound. There are masculine and feminine rhyme. Masculine: 1 syllable rhymes. Feminine: 2 syllables rhyme.
  • Rhyme scheme: a set pattern of rhyme in the poem or stanza usually marked by letters of the alphabet. For example: an English sonnet will have this pattern, ABABCDCDEFEFGG.
  • Metaphor: a comparison not using like or as.(ex. your nose is an elephant’s trunk)
  • Simile: a comparison using like or as. (ex. your love is like a red, red rose. R. Burns).
  • Imagery: showing through a sensory experience.
  • Personification: giving human characteristics to a non-human thing
What else would you add or like help understanding when it comes to poetry?

31 Days of Poetry {day 9} Poetry 101 pt 1

Welcome to 31 DAYS of Poetry.

Today and tomorrow, I shall be delighting you or boring you to tears with an entirely too quick, not at all comprehensive, introduction or refresher in poetry and its various forms.

If you are interested in a more rigorous poetry introduction, may I suggest Perrine’s Sound and Sense.

(Note: this is a college introductory level poetry textbook, and it was quite pricey when I bought it. Check out used bookstores or online book retailers for a used copy. The information doesn’t really change, but the poems illustrating the terms may.)

 

So you want to know some more about poetry.

What is poetry? Good question, and I don’t have a definitive end all definition for you. Wordsworth said “it was the overflow of powerful feelings.” Emily Dickinson said when she “felt like the top of her head had been taken off” that she knew it was poetry. Some argue it evokes experience and literary language. Some argue it is an image. Take your pick. Personally, I espouse to Dickinson’s point of view.

What are some common forms of poetry?

  • Ballad: a short poem that tells a story in stanza form. Variation: folk ballad, same idea but usually the writer is anonymous and it is passed down through oral tradition.
  • Free verse: no metrical pattern or rhyme, breaks and pause come naturally out of the poem. (This is what I do)
  • Sestina: a poem of six six-line stanzas and 3 envoys. The stanza following another will repeat the last line but in a different order, the envoy uses the words again. A bit complicated as a fixed form.
  • Sonnet: a 14 line  fixed form poem written in iambic pentameter. Variations: the Italian: contents 1 octave(8 rhymed lines) and a sestet(6 rhymed lines). the English contents 3 quatrains(a set of 4 rhymed lines) and 1 couplet (a pair of rhyming lines).
  • Villanelle: a 19 line poem consisting of  5 tercets(three rhymed lines) and a quatrain.

 

What questions do you have poetry or its forms or its parts? Let me know in the comments.

31 Days of Poetry{Day 8} Kill the Muse

Today, I’m going to tell you a story, a bit of fiction.  The muse is a myth, and the reality of writing poetry or anything is simple–kill your muse.

 In this story, I named my muse Winifred Eugenia Blowfish(just in case you missed it, her first and last initials are WB aka writer’s block).

 

Kill the Muse

It was a dark and stormy night. The words blinked on my keyboard like small black, dull ants. Worn out ants with crutches, half-blind. As I watched the cursor keeping time like some infernal metronome, her liquid poison words broke the silence.

“Oh, what a beautiful, original, unique, magnificent sentence! So full of artistic skill, oh, you have honed your craft. Now, why don’t you just go relax?” She brushed my shoulder with her icy hands and her long perfect fingernails. Of course, she didn’t have to bite her nails like I did. No one ever sent her rejection letter after rejection letter. Damn, that bitch was perfect. And on that dark and stormy night, she wouldn’t perfect for much longer.

Perhaps, I should explain. I started writing when I was six. An old Kay-Pro computer, a story about unicorns, and the hopes for a Pulitzer(fine, I didn’t have a clue what award I wanted, but just go with it), then she arrived. Her name was Winifred Eugenia Blowfish, and she looked like a faery queen. Her perfectly curled(translation: 80’s permed) hair, violet eyes, and boxy power suit, Winifred exuded confidence and style just like every little one wants. I’m fairly sure that she brought me a purple unicorn to seal the deal.

“Oh, what a beautiful, original, unique, magnificent story!” She gushed, and I smiled. Finally, some grown-up acknowledging my hard work with appropriate adjectives befitting my talent. Most adults read my carefully written sentences and ended the conversation with a dismissing “that’s nice.” Not Winifred. Everything I did was amazing. Every word astounding.

“Of course, you need me to stay, right?” She hugged my neck so hard I thought I would puke all over her navy and hot pink pumps.

“You can stay as long as you want,” I said.

“Good, that’s exactly what I wanted to hear,” she said. Instantly, she set up residence in my house; then she moved with me to my dorm room in college; and my first and second apartments harbored her belongings. Finally, she came to live here at my marital residence. Only now, she had lost the faery quality.

Her violet eyes only critiqued my hard work. She scanned my haggard pages, smile with her tight botoxed lips, and hand it back.

“Well, I guess you weren’t as inspired today, were you?” She laughed, and it sounded like the pains of a mama cat birthing kittens.

“But that’s your job. If I’m not feeling inspired that’s why I have you.” I pleaded. Why else would I invite this harpy muse into my life except to help write?

Tonight, each rain drop pelted down. Still Winifred said nothing. She kept trying to usher me away from the keyboard with a cozy blanket, a cup of warm cocoa, then finally the promise of wine and another episode of Downton Abbey(she would gush about the beautiful storytelling that she inspired. Nothing but pure bullshit from her.).

And that was the moment, I decided to kill Winifred Eugenia Blowfish, my muse. I’m sure other writers will one day thank me for my ensuing actions. Some, of course, would wish that someone had taken such drastic measures sooner. Who else could make Edgar Allan Poe insane with grief? Cause Hemingway to shoot himself? Or fill poor Virginia Woolf’s pockets with rocks and push her in the lake?

“Oh, Winifred, you work to hard. Why don’t you rest a minute on this chaise, and I shall fetch you a bit of light refreshment?” I pulled her to the living room and tucked her in secretly with her shroud, oh, I mean blanket.

“Now, don’t you go anywhere.” I smiled and hurried into the kitchen. I opened my kitchen drawers slowly so the creaky mechanisms wouldn’t alert her royal harpyiness to my intent. Knives, too bloody. Rat poison, cleaners, too cliché. Damn, this murder thing is just as hard as writing. I looked through my cabinets trying to remember if she had allergies. But nothing came to mind. I put the kettle on and waited for the water to nearly boil. I wrack my brain as the tea steeps, then I put out usual condiments—lemon, tea biscuits.

“Here you go. A nice cup of tea,” I said handing her the tray.

“Oh you’re such a dear.” I never could get over how she slurped her tea. The abominable sucking noise would drive anyone crazy.

“I’m going to bed.” She was too involved in the latest Downton episode, and I absconded to the office. I had a more pressing matter—how to kill this muse.

Hours passed. I could hear her snoring from the living room, but morning would awaken her anew. It must be tonight. Every killing method, she already knew, and worse, would expect. I stared at my blank screen, Googled killing the muse, but nothing. Then as if by my own pure genius, I started writing this:

It was a dark and stormy night. Winifred Eugenia Blowfish tucked inside a blanket became too warm. Her skin roasting, sweating, but she couldn’t get out of the blanket, or what she would soon be calling her shroud.

“Oh my,” my harpy shouted. “It’s so hot in here. My dove, please open a window.” I sat amazed and kept writing trying to ignore her screams.

Now, poor Winifred felt a crawling, slinking emerging from her shroud. Out from underneath its masses, the deadliest viper of Ancient Greece. A bite from this snake would render its victim mute and paralyzed, never to be heard from again. Of course, Zeus never imagined that this viper would turn upon the gods or worse the beautiful witch muses. The viper opened its mouth, fangs wide, and grab the nearest piece of flesh—Winifred’s perfect nose. Now, gone.

The living room, now eerily silent. I heard her gasp her final breath. The viper, the ice shroud, and Winifred disappeared back inside my imagination. And I kept writing.

31 Days of Poetry {day 5} Help Us See

Welcome to day 5 of our 31 Days of Poetry. Tomorrow, I will have all of this weeks links in one lovely spot for you. Join other 31 Day Writers over at The Nester.


To write poetry, you must help your readers see. It doesn’t matter what snapshot of life you want to encapsulate in verse, but you must help us see it. As a poet, I can trace my ideas of poetry to Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, William Carlos Williams, and H.D. Each one of these poets helped us envision something whether it was a fly buzzing around a corpse, a yellow cat-like smoke, a red wheel barrow, or a sea garden.

For me, I focus intently on an image, then allow the first words to bubble up and out in a hurried helter-skelter way. On paper or computer or Evernote(best app ever for writers). Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect because it won’t be. Just write the image and move on.

To write poetry, you must stop hiding behind pretty words. Poetry isn’t the loveliest words vomited on the page. That’s Hallmark, and it’s shit. You want your image to shine through nouns and verbs rather than being bogged done with adjectives and adverbs(oh grammar, I knew you would be helpful).

And because I couldn’t write an entire on poetry without some poetry here you go:

 

some novel 

i need to bury myself

beneath the covers

of some novel

(doesn’t matter which one

just no dickens or hardy;

austen and wharton are better).

let its words

soothe the rough places.

it pages like down comforters

pull me in so i won’t leave.

because everything

in the novel

will conclude neatly

and the characters live on–

i need this now.

an end point, a certainty,

a something.

31 Days of Poetry {day 4} Go!

Welcome to 31 Days of Poetry. Coming this Saturday, I will post this week’s links on poetry. If you have a topic that you would like to have discussed, leave a comment.

to be a poet:

you must GO!

poetry doesn’t live

on the sofa,

beige and bland,

it breathes

mountains air,

drinks in the sea waves,

perches on autumn leaves

waiting to tumble down.

to be a poet:

you must

touch the cool sand,

smell the crackle of fire,

taste the wine,

hear the mockingbirds,

see the French impressionists.

but watching images

flash on a screen

never feeds the senses.

 to be a poet:

you will fail

if you hide behind

the comfortable,

the familiar,

to be a poet:

you must live.