As promised, here is this week’s workshop in form of a creativity drill. No stuffy mission statements or essays on the purpose of your writing and future endeavors in the field. Just good ol’ fashioned prompting. Enjoy!
Writing can often become stagnant. Let’s face it, we are caught in the grooves of our lives and sometimes a fresh idea is hard to come by. Even if we do stumble upon it, someone else has inevitably done it before and we’re left with the blank-page-stare, wondering if we’ll ever have that audacious lightning bolt that will shock the world awake with its brilliance.
I’ve been reading a little bit of Russell Edson’s short work and he has the most fascinating way of taking something mundane and jolting the reader with the unexpected. Edson would sit down at his typewriter and belt out ten first lines, no editing, just whatever strange little tail of a thought was hanging in the forefront of his brain:
“A man wants an airplane to like him”
“A husband and wife discover that their children are fakes”
“The household toilet wants to be loved and leaves when it isn’t”
What came of these lines is ridiculous and beautiful and like nothing I’ve ever read.
And that’s your FUN assignment for the week:
Write ten ridiculous lines
Pair things that don’t go, give life to the inanimate, sauté a hat, use the perspective of a floor or the voice of a garden snail. Make a shoelace dance round a fire at Burning Man. I don’t care; just be extraordinary.
Bonus: Take your favorite one or two lines and whip out a flash fiction piece (500 words tops).
Go play. Send me your favorites, don’t let them sit, face down on your desk, not bringing joy.
You can feel it, like a vibrating pulse, constantly surrounding us. It’s in the buzz of the lights, the ringing of phones, the blip of messenger, the ping of news alerts. It’s the hum of electrical devices and the glow of screens. It’s a blanket of noise and light, sound and motion. It’s the modern, ‘marvelous’ world we live in.
And it’s killing us.
Our brains are beautiful machines, designed to process incoming information from our senses and filtered through our own experiences and knowledge until they are the equivalent of a constantly running mainframe that makes millions of decisions a day, from a billion different choices and scenarios. And we live in a world where the information is at hand in any moment we desire, from thousands of different outlets and devices, constantly spewing out anything you’d like to know and most things you wish you didn’t.
And yet our brain no longer knows itself.
With a constant barrage of noise and information from outside along with the endless distractions permanently affixed into the palm of our hands, we have lost our ability to know who we really are and what is really important to us.
After all, without quiet alone time, our thoughts and therefore our minds become products of all that we take in. Without solitude for true self-reflect, unplugging, and just being in our own heads, we become part of the noise, this capitalist driven machine that has stopped questioning what it really means to be happy. Implanting ideas of material wealth and social forum acceptance as the cure all to the emptiness we feel.
We are too busy, we are too distracted, we are devoid of personal and private time. Our lives have become fishbowls; both open for inspection from anyone paying attention and also offering 360-degree views of everyone else’s business.
When was the last time you took 15 minutes of complete silence, without any external distraction?
Don’t have the time? It’s equivalent to about two Facebook checks, three cute cat videos, or two over-polarized news articles.
Don’t think silence makes a difference?
In a study published by Psychology Today, quiet contemplation was proven to dramatically improve our brain’s ability to sleep more soundly, stave off depression and anxiety, improve cognitive and behavioral function and even help fight chronic pain.
We all know what happens when a computer overheats. Shit starts to go wrong.
Depression and anxiety have never been at higher levels. Everyone on this planet is walking around with their nose stuck to screens waiting for the world to tell us what to value, what to be, what to feel…Waiting to tell us that we’re good enough. When the only person we should be seeking these answers from is ourselves.
I know it’s a little ironic to be preaching a sermon on getting off your tech from the pulpit of a blog. It doesn’t escape me that I’m keeping you here for some of those minutes we waste. But I’m doing it as a public service.
Get off your screen, take a break from the games, and social media, and frenzy of sound and light.
Because while the outside world is distracting you with all of its splendor, you’re missing the really beautiful stuff, the REAL stuff, that resides right in your own head. Go have a thought. All on your own. Follow it around for a bit without Google force-feeding you the answers.
Please. For your health, for the health of this planet and all human beings, do this thing.
Living beautifully means living. Not just watching fabricated life from the strangest social experiment ever concocted, but really spending time with yourself, with face to face conversations, with the space to breathe and let go of all that nonessential bullshit and make peace in the quiet.
I promise, this isn’t going to be as painful as it sounds and it might be one of the most useful tools you have when it comes to guiding your writing. A writing mission statement turns vague hopes for an outcome into solid ideas and language.
So what is it that you want your writing to do?
Last week I asked you to compose some answers to questions about your writing in hopes that you can expand on those answers in the coming weeks and use them in addition to our exercises to flesh out your writing career.
From those answers, you should have written down aspirations for what you wanted to accomplish in a year, month, week, etc, and the small manageable goals that can get you there.
This is a little different.
Thinking about the work in progress you’re embroiled in (be it a novel, an article, an essay, or directions on how to make a giant rooster shaped cake)
I want you to write down what you hope to accomplish with this particular work. We’re talking end game stuff here. What do you want the people reading your work to walk away with afterwards?
Say you’re working on an article about the wage disparity in large corporations.
Take ten to fifteen minutes and write what outcome you want to see as a result of your article. How do you want people to see your subject of the story? How can you make them identify with the people involved? Is it to educate? To change policy? Do you want to give them the tools to make changes, or just to think about it in a new light and in a way that encourages discussion?
Once you know the end goal, it will affect how you write the story.
For novelists a mission statement is integral to developing a relationship with your reader via your characters.
I want my readers to identify with a cranky, semi-violent spirit, haunting an old seaside house and fall in love with him. I want my readers to feel the sting of being trapped, and the power of love to soften hurt.
Writing about what you want to write will actually help you know what you need to learn in order to accomplish this mission statement.
So here’s your job this week:
Write a short mission statement for your work in progress or your next work.
Share it with someone (accountability bitches)
Where is the next, imagined destination of this work?
If you have time—study some of your old work, and see if you can write a mission statement for them—what did you learn from each?
If you have time—think of your favorite articles, books, masterpieces and see if you can decipher what the mission statement was for them.
Oye, so much work. Don’t make me crack a whip.
Again, feel free to share. I love hearing about your purpose in writing and remember that sharing that will help to manifest your goals!
Next week we’re dipping into some heavy creative work to balance out all of this business side.
Good morning writers, authors, editors or accidental guests.
This is the inaugural blog for The Beautiful Writers Workshop, a year-long journey into developing your craft through exercises in creativity, editing techniques, inspirational prompts, and building the framework for your writing career.
Some of the blogs will inspire. Some blogs will lean more to the technical side of writing. But whatever the weekly topic, you can be assured of two things:
You’ll have a prompt or exercise to help develop your writing (and the opportunity to share it)
I’ll try to keep it spicy enough to be enjoyable.
So let’s get rolling! I searched through nearly all of my favorite books on writing for a perfect topic for our first lesson together but the truth is, there are just too many (good and bad) ideas out there.
So I’m going to start simple and ease you in gently to this process.
If you’re here you are either interested in writing, or are already doing it and are looking for something to add to your tool box. In order to appeal to all levels today’s workshop is centered on the basic purpose of your writing.
Below are a few questions that I’d like you to read, think about, and journal down your answers to. You can share them, you can keep them secret, but DO WRITE THEM DOWN.
Something amazing happens when we write down goals and steps to reaching them. The process becomes manageable; the goals become real. It’s one of the many beautiful and powerful attributes of writing.
Without judgement or discouragement, and being as direct as possible: what is the ultimate, lifetime goal you have for your writing?
What can you do to kick start this goal in the next 12 months? (hint: where do you need to start, where do you need to grow most for the big picture)
Is this yearly goal attainable? WHY OR WHY NOT?
Of your reasons from #3, think about the fears, limitations or concerns that formed these reasons. Name them. What do you foresee keeping you from moving forward on this yearly goal?
Of the fears, limitations and concerns, what are the possible solutions or actions you can take to eliminate them? (hint: each limitation/fear/concern gets its at least one action you can take to overcome it)
If you have a planner or calendar, write down one weekly goal (eliminating distractions, word count requirement, number of submissions out, editing, classes etc) that will help overcome the hurdles you have to your writing.
Looking at these weekly goals, find specific and measured times you have to dedicate to their success and write them down.
Okay, that’s it! I know, it’s a little dry but when building a house you have to have a solid foundation first or none of the pretty architecture above it will survive. So build your foundation, know where you’re coming from and next week we’re going to talk about:
Mission Possible: Drafting your Writing Mission Statement
(that sounds super boring but it will help writer’s across the spectrum. I promise!)
It’s been a few weeks so I wanted to offer my sincerest thanks my readers out there for having patience while I took a little break from the blog. It was a perfect time to reset the old creative battery, try out a few new avenues, and make the new (and hopefully attainable) goals for the beginning of the next decade.
Last decade-turn I was stupid-big with my second baby and can’t recall much except I got winded a lot and had a really big problem with Whole Foods two-bite cannolis.
The baby turned out to be an amazing individual who is turning her first decade this year. Needless to say, back then I wasn’t thinking of the significance of a new ten years. I was thinking about potty training the oldest and trying not to tumble over while tying my shoes with a mouthful of cannolis.
But now here I am, in a less-rounded ten years and more in control of my mental faculties (still not so much control in the sweets department, but I’d be boring without SOME imperfections) and ya’ll are getting new and improved writing tools, inspiration, and help in the coming year.
First and foremost, (drum roll please) at the end of this month I’m launching The Beautiful Stuff’s first ever poetry anthology, entitled “No Small Things”.
I’ve been working hard over the holidays to get it organized, edited, and prepped. I must say, this is a beautiful little book with some amazingly talented writers contributing. I will give you updates on its release, book signing information, local stores who will be carrying it, how to get a copy if you aren’t local. If you are a writer or even just an avid reader interested in providing feedback and reviews for the book, please contact me and I’ll hook you up with a free copy.
Secondly, on Thursdays instead of the VerseDay you’ve grown accustomed to, I will be offering mini workshops; aptly named The Beautiful Writers Workshop, to get your creative juices flowing. If you’ve been inspired enough to write something you’d like to share, I will be offering a Monthly Writer Showcase, where you can promote your work, give a short bio, and/or provide a guest blog with any useful information you might have or want to share.
The Tuesday blog will move to only bi-monthly and will be more focused on The Beautiful Stuff of human existence outside of writing.
So there you go.
Recap for those of you who are cleansing and are a little foggy:
“No Small Things: The Beautiful Stuff 2020 Poetry Anthology” is out at the end of this month
Thursdays will feature The Beautiful Writers Workshop– free craft exercises to help break up the monotony and spark some inspiration.
Monthly Writer Showcase: Contact me if you’re interested in contributing!
Normal blog will be every other week on Tuesday and will center around The Beautiful Stuff of life.
If you’re in the middle of a learning new, healthier habits, I wish you good luck. If you’ve decided you’re just fine as is and aren’t changing a thing, I say good on you and keep on keeping on.
See you Thursday.
(By the way, The Beautiful Writers Workshop totally constitutes a valid excuse for buying new pens and pencils—you’re welcome.)
Okay, you can call it a cop out, but I loved this blog and I’m rerunning it.
It’s that time of year when we are faced with a choice that defines our humanity. The choice to either believe in the light of the season in all the forms it takes and spread our own joy to illuminate the shortened days, or the choice to be petty and divisive and shit on other people’s beliefs.
Don’t be petty and shitty, not any time, but especially not this time of year.
The world is dark enough as it is.
Be good to each other.
Psst… if you’re looking for a way to be good, especially after you read this tear-jerking post then click on this link (or find the similar site for your own state) and spread some joy:
I hear there have been some questions at school and amongst your friends, about if Santa Claus is real.
There comes a time, in most kids lives, when they are taught to grow up and out of what some adults call “silly, fanciful, daydreams.” And so adults and peers will go about destroying everything that even whiffs of magic, and work hard to wipe away every ounce of stardust from the eyes of children who believe.
To this I say…shut it your mean-hearted pieholes, you wankers. (And anyone who hasn’t, at some point in their existence, called a middle schooler a wanker is probably lying. Let’s face it, middle school was/is not our finest hour as humans.)
I’m willing to bet that these are the same little judgmentalists that gave you sideways glances for not attending a church (particularly one of a Christian persuasion).
These are the people who will say it’s obviously impossible for a generous old guy to deliver presents to kids one night of the year, while simultaneously cherishing and accepting the “fact” that a deity impregnated a virgin and their child wiped away the entirety of sin in the world…
If they can suspend reality, even base their lives around an idea of, albeit a cool, hippy/demigod, is it such a stretch to believe in a jolly old elf that spreads the ideals of generosity and selfless giving for just one day?
(To be clear–I’m an equal opportunity believer so I won’t touch your demigod hippy if you don’t touch my fat guy in a red suit.)
I refuse to lose my stardust. As Anne Shirley would say; I refuse to be poisoned by their bitterness.
You want to know if there is magic? If Santa is real?
Here’s what I know…
Santa is real and magic exists.
How can I be sure?
I’m here aren’t I? You’re here, yes? We’re all here.
We were sprung from the unlikely combination of a chemical lottery and dumb, cosmic luck. We went on to survive hundreds of thousands of years of evolutionary death traps.
If that’s not magical, what is?
Here’s what I also know.
There are two types of people in the world.
Those that destroy joy, and those that spread it.
I say, it does no harm to believe in something better, more beautiful, and magical in our lives (Hippy Demigod or Santa Claus).
I say, it does no harm to fill our eyes with wonder and joy in the midst of the darkest day of the year.
I say, it does no harm to hope and anticipate.
I say, it does no harm to walk into these short cold days with elation in our hearts.
I say, what a horrible, dark and sad world it must be for those that seek to take away such light; those who disbelieve and ridicule others who hold magic in their heart.
It does harm to take someone’s joy.
It does harm to smother the fire of giving and generosity.
It does harm when we seek to oppress the light of selflessness in a world so dark.
I know this; each one of us chooses what we believe.
We choose what we fill our hearts with and in a world that can be so gloomy and wretched, why would you want to fill your heart with anything that would make it even more so?
I choose to believe.
I believe in Santa Claus and I believe in magic.
I believe that there is light in the darkest of times. And I believe that the joy radiating from the hearts that hope, and love, and give, is more real than any hot air getting blown around by a bunch of self-conscious, hormonal, dying-to-fit-in middle schoolers.
I can’t decide for you, but neither can they.
So you choose.
Embrace the joy, be the magic, and light up the dark… or reject the lot of it and wipe the stardust from your eyes.
I probably should have stuck to a Thanksgiving type of theme. But maybe this could be considered in gratitude for the strength we house within ourselves. The strength that keeps us standing up for every knocking down we take. Be grateful for all you have, but don’t forget to include your amazing human-ness.
Travel safe, enjoy the company you keep, and take the moments you can to breath and be present.
Tin cup chalice
Beaten down vessel
Watched by the hungry darkness
of her heart
The told-you-so on the tip of lolling tongue
Ready to fire as I teeter on the edge, unbalanced.