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Creating the World Anew, 0-80 WPM

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Lately, whenever I’m writing, I’ve been getting reminded of what the greatest challenge of creative work is: being creative. I’m sure all of us go through these wonderful phases (I’ve got through it several times myself). Even when it isn’t a not-very-productive-writing phase, though, the pressure exists–the pressure of having to write something that hasn’t been written before.

How do you write something ‘original’? After all these centuries, every possible story has probably already been told. Everything we read or watch already has an archetype.

Yet…did no one speak of death before Donne or Keats? Has no one spoken of it after?

Indeed, as Shelley says, perhaps we should focus not on creating something new, but rather anew. Approach the world with a fresh perspective. And…

Focus on how you can tell things your way–for, your collective experiences as a person are unique. This is must be what is translated into your writing voice, and ultimately, your writing.

So, in case you haven’t already been working on it:

  1. Find your unique poetic voice.
  2. Let yourself tell a tale your own way, speak a poem the way only you can.
  3. Create at least one little piece of the universe anew.

Finding your writing voice takes time and regular practice at writing; like playing an instrument. Show up at the desk every day, or at least every other day. Write something, anything. Certainly, you needn’t pump every sentence with excessive you-ness, but you can try to defamiliarize objects and scenes, work on fresh phrases and metaphors, rework clichés to suit your style. It’s laborious, perhaps, but what worthwhile endeavour isn’t? Hone your powers as a writer:

“The two most engaging powers of an author are to make new things familiar, and familiar things new.”
Samuel Johnson

Revival

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Yes, fellow readers and writers…the blog lives, the fountain still flows!

It had been a ridiculously busy semester for me at college, and it’s been quite a tumultuous half-year on a personal level as well. I sincerely apologize for how dry the fountain has run and hope to keep it flowing hereafter with regular posts once again. 🙂

We’re half-way through May now. I’m sure many of us participated in April’s [(Inter)National Poetry Month] Poem-a-Day-Challenge, or some other unique and challenging poetry-related exercises! The plan was to get this blog active again by April but I was unable to do so. My own April challenge had been a difficult journey for many reasons; still, somehow I saw it through to the end–which reminded me once more of the value of such challenges.

This year, I wasn’t very satisfied with most of what I’d written last month. Yet, satisfactory or not, these poems would never have been born if I hadn’t taken on the challenge and stuck with it. This helped me to produce at least a handful of pieces that I can be proud of, and at least two dozen more that can be revised into better poems eventually. There’s usually something worth salvaging from every experience of writing.

That said, I do hope everyone else also had a productive and enriching April!

Considering that I’d like to bring this blog back to life with today’s post, I thought a suitable prompt would be “revival”.

As usual, you’re open to interpret the prompt as you like. Some other words that popped up in my mind are spring (the season), renewal, revitalize and rebirth. (That’s a lot of r‘s…perhaps you could write an alliterative piece with repeated ‘r’ sounds.) Here’s more for you to work with:

Courtesy: Google

Courtesy: Google

You could write a story about some kind of revival, a physical or emotional one. It could be a poem with revival as a theme, where you try to suggest a wholesome revival of spirit or faith in some way, through various concrete images. Perhaps if you’re not in as positive a mood, you could consider writing about something that cannot or will not be revived.

Here’s musical composition (a personal favorite) that I thought I’d pitch in. You’re more than welcome to interpret it any way you like, or stick with “revival” as your prompt and somehow let the music and the prompt fuel your piece:

 

Once again, I apologise for the months of inactivity. I’d like to thank everyone who has supported, liked, followed or even just stopped by The Horse’s Fountain to read 🙂 I’ll do my best to post more regularly. Happy writing, folks!

We’ve hit the 1/3-way mark! Writing prompts & an exercise for you.

Hi folks, hope you’ve all been writing strong for the past ten days! We’re already 1/3 way through the challenge 🙂 Let’s keep our energy up and charge ahead!

For today, let’s take up lists.

And, what about lists?

It’s completely up to you to decide what to do with the theme:

  • Use it as a prompt for writing lists of some kind, perhaps in your journal
  • Write a character who is obsessed with making lists for everything
  • Write a story that is written in the format of a list or utilizes listing for its narration
  • Make “lists” a theme in your story–perhaps a metaphor of some kind (things that we remember to list, things we miss out, what really happens thanks to or despite of our lists, etc.)
  • Write a list poem
  • Write a blog post that is a list of pointers/ideas/suggestions
  • Anything else that comes to your mind!

'Think Like a Tree' - a lovely list poem by Karen I. Shragg [Image Source]

Think Like a Tree by Karen I. Shragg [Image Source]

I pulled today’s theme out of the poem I wrote today, which (I only realized after it was done) turned out to be

a list poem! (this lovely one is Think Like a Tree by Karen I. Shragg)

Specifically, it was a list poem about the ways we deal with wounds, and in this case, those caused by love. You’re welcome to use that as another prompt: wounded.

A list poem I wrote a long time ago was about what a writer’s “grocery” list would look like. Notebooks, pens, sachets of inspiration, that sort of thing 😉 Feel free to expand on the theme with your imagination here! What does “list” make you think of? What are the most unique or outrageous lists you’ve heard of? What is a powerful list poem you could write today, based on an experience of yours?

A writing exercise!

Here’s a quick writing exercise with list-making:

  • List twelve of your favorite songs.
  • Pull out twenty phrases/lines from these songs totally (up to three lines per song, it’s okay if you don’t use lines from all the songs)
  • Re-write the ideas in these lines with completely different analogies/metaphors/words
    • (Re-write in prose or poetry, depending on what kind of piece you want to write)
  • Is there any way to glue these new segments together?

You don’t absolutely have to glue the segments together; you could choose to put some together and ditch others completely; you could tie them all into one big bundle–it’s up to you.

Just as a note: you don’t ever have to absolutely do anything in any writing exercise, unless you’re trying to write in form. 😉

Hope this helps with your November challenge! Happy writing/poeming folks!

November – the write-a-thon month – is here!

Hullo, folks! I hope everyone’s ready for a month of furious writing! 🙂

Yes, it’s November already! Month of the Poem-A-Day Chapbook Challenge, NaNoWriMo, NaBloWriMo, and any other way you can think of tweaking that second syllable; it’s time to get cracking, dear fellow writers!

For anyone who is new to November’s writing fervor, I’ve given a quick introduction to the various challenges in this old post 🙂

Has everyone decided which of the challenges they’ll be taking up? I’ll be attempting the Poem-a-Day Challenge as always, but I still have till the end of the day to decide whether I want to attempt NaNoWriMo 😉 it’s a challenge as it is, and to take it up last minute…but I’m still willing to play with the idea, so let’s see!

As for other ideas, I was just thinking it’d be nice to try something like “a short story a day” challenge. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there already trying it! If I skip on NaNoWriMo, I might attempt something of this sort instead.

The point of November’s furious writing, for me at least, is to make sure you show up at your writing desk every day and get something done. Making writing a habit. It’s hard to do it all year long (though that’s the ideal), so if you can’t, start here–start now, for just one month. November. Your write-a-thon month. Take any challenge that suits you, and do your best every day. Whether you’ve got a chapbook or a novel at the end, the more important product is the daily development your writing takes!

So gear up, sharpen your words, and write away 🙂

Prompts for the Weekend

Today’s the first day of November and it also happens to be a weekend, so here are a few of prompts to get you started. Feel free to mix up/compound prompts or change words/phrases/punctuation marks as you please! There’s only one rule in November and that’s to write every day!

  • the first day

This could be about your first day at anything, like school, college, work, or your first day at your November challenge! It could also be about someone’s first day of–well, life! It could be the first day of reading something different, or writing something different, or living somewhere new, perhaps living with someone new. These are just simple examples, I’m sure your brain could churn out something much more creative than what mine’s giving me now 😉

  • “How could I have known?”

This entire line popped fresh out of my first November PAD poem 😉 there, it had something to do with communication and how we get to know things, sometimes without words. For your piece, it could even be about not knowing something had happened, but perhaps being expected to know. Whatever the line suggests to you works best 🙂

  • Dawn / Daybreak (+music prompt)

For this prompt, I won’t say too much, since it probably already has so many possibilities brimming in your mind; I shall only add that you can always change any prompt into a different part of speech if you’d like, like “dawn” to “dawning”, or just add that meaning into your piece 😉 I will also add this piece of music to the mix, so you’ll have a music prompt for this one:

(You could always make use of the novel/film association here, or interpret the piece individually!)

Happy November!

I hope everyone’s got a good start on their challenge(s)! I shall try my best to make regular posts with more prompts (I expect to have a little more time now, at least for the first half of November). Wish you all a very happy, writerly November, folks 😉

Reflection & Exercise: bridges to cross / bridges to burn

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Hi, folks! 🙂 I hope everyone’s had a great summer!

Today’s post is a bit like a Friday Reflection, but since it’s also a writing exercise, it’ll have a few instructions and guidelines for you to follow. It’s totally up to you whether you adhere to it strictly (not there are a lot of guidelines in the first place) or simply take what you like! 🙂

The topic is: bridges to cross / bridges to burn.
It can be two topics, if you think of them that way, or one unit with two halves.

Step 1: A great bit of brainstorming

As always, let’s brainstorm before diving into the actual writing of the piece (it is, after all, the first step of the writing process). You could pick either “bridges to cross” or “bridges to burn” to reflect upon, or you could take the entire topic as a unit and reflect upon it as a whole.

Before I throw other ideas into your mind — what are the first thoughts that come to you? Jot them down somewhere right away — whether they’re single words or entire phrases, or even images.

This is an important part of today’s exercise, and might end up writing your poem in the process, so spend a good chunk of time here. Find a place to sit comfortably (curled into your beanbag, out on the balcony, up in a tree…wherever you can stretch your brain best without distraction). Spend fifteen to twenty solid minutes for brainstorming. Try to fill up your page with as many ideas/phrases as possible.

Step 1.5: Some food for thought

Once you’re through putting down what was already in your mind, you can proceed with this step.

What are the ideas that come to mind when we think of “bridges to cross / bridges to burn”?

There’s the famous proverb: Don’t cross the bridge until you come to it.

There’s a famous quote:

The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.
-David Russell

As Wikipedia says, crossing a bridge is a common metaphor for solving problems or overcoming obstacles. Bridge-crossing can also symbolize a significant decision made, or an important point of progress in a journey. In that journey, the two ends of the bridge can be two very different places, even contrasting places. These places can be landscapes of the mind. The journey can be entirely psychological, emotional, or physical.

You’ll find that images/metaphors such as these work best when they’re more layered. See if you can, in your piece, incorporate as many aspects of bridge-crossing (or burning) as you can: physical, emotional, psychological…

Burning a bridge signifies cutting oneself off from a thing forever (just as literally, once you burn a bridge down, you cannot get to the other side). You could be burning a bridge either to a place (again, this can be physical or of a mindset) to which you’ve choosing not to go, or from which you’ve come.

When the two are placed side-by-side, however, they seem to find new layers of of meaning, new messages. One of the messages rings with a tone of finality: either you cross the bridge or you burn it — stretched to Mr. Russell’s quote, it’s the difficulty of figuring out which are the “bridges” in your life that you have to “cross”, and which you have to “burn”.

Remember, “burning” a bridge implies that you’ll never be able to go across; “crossing” it may mean you never return (as Mr. Frost says, often “way leads on to way” and you find you’re too far ahead to turn around) or are not welcome back, should you wish to return. You could also be afraid of what awaits on the other side. This kind of decision-making could involve a lot of inner conflict.

Before we move on to the next step, could could also take a moment to check out this blog post on ‘Crossing Bridges’, for another perspective. There’s a poem shared there that could also give you another point of view:

Step 2: What’re you going to write (about)?

You’ve already got material to write with from your brainstorming, but the next crucial step is to decide what theme/experience you’re going to focus on in your piece. You have several options by now, actually:

  1. Go through your brainstorm and pick out one idea/theme that seems to dominate most of the page (perhaps something like ‘making difficult choices‘, or if it’s just one of the two topics, ideas like proceeding with the journey or leaving someone behind)
  2. Go through your brainstorm and pick out interesting oppositions that you’ve either intentionally or inadvertently written down (because of the two halves of the topic), and make this opposition of ideas your focus: two ends of the decision-making process; bridges we cross vs. ones we burn; or even the central conflict of choosing whether to cross or to burn
  3. Recall a personal experience of having to make that decision (crossing/burning a bridge) and illustrate the physical, psychological and emotional layers of the conflict
  4. Recall a non-fictional or fictional experience of the same — pick a character from a fictional story (could be from a short story or a novel) or a non-fictional one (could be historical, of instance) who might’ve had to do this; try to work through his/her/its experience — you could experiment with either 1st person perspective and write from their point of view, or maintain your position as an outsider and write in the 3rd person perspective
  5. Create a fictional experience based on the topic and work through it; experiment with perspectives, try to make the most efficient use of the metaphor as possible

Step 3: Let’s write!

Now that we’re done with all that reflection, and you’ve decided on your focus, it’s time to start writing! 😀

You can draw as many images, words or phrases from your brainstorm as you wish, just make sure they fit together and can be worked into whatever your theme is.

If you’ve chosen to deal with those oppositions:

  1. You could write something that’s interestingly structured — a poem written in two columns, perhaps, where each stands for one respective end of the bridge, i.e., the possible consequences of decisions. It could even be a list poem.
  2. You could write a story where the oppositions run parallel to one another, perhaps depicted through decisions two different characters make (each character could reflect a personality — one who constantly ‘crosses’ bridges head first, another who often chooses to ‘burn’ them).

If you’re writing a poem, see if you can structure it to work with the progress of thought in your poem! You could make it a concrete poem — structured in the shape of a bridge, for instance. You could have a fixed rhythm, rhyme, etc. and suddenly break it when you hit the climax (where either the bridge is crossed or burnt); depending on the resolution, you could either set back into rhythm (perhaps a new one), or choose free verse. This free verse could be cluttered, chaotic, or clumsy — depending on why the persona has not come to terms with the decision — or it could flow smoothly, and utilize the “free” quality of free verse to express the persona’s sense of liberation.

Of course, these are all only suggestions. If you’ve got a picture perfect idea of how to let your poem’s theme spill unto its structure, go with it! 🙂

Happy writing & happy weekend!

I hope you find this exercise useful and/or challenging! It’s always up to you to take as much or as little as you want from all of this. The most important thing is to be able to find something to write about, and of course, write.

Have a great weekend, and as always, happy writing! 🙂

Stretching Out: Trying Different Forms and Genres

What makes April PAD/NaPoWriMo challenging is writing a new poem every day. Making time for writing on a regular basis is already difficult for most people! And sometimes we end up cycling around the same themes, the same phrases, the same types of poems. Poetry that’s new and different, every day – that’s the tough part.

I personally love that part of the challenge – precisely because it forces me to face my clichés, and break away from them. I step outside of my usual forms and themes, challenge myself with new ones, try writing with new voices, fresh styles.

If I have enough time on my hands (perhaps a couple of hours) I test myself by writing in form. I wrote about this during last year’s challenge, as well, and one of my milestones then was how I’d managed to write my first-ever sonnet (or two). And I’ve written quite a few Haiku by now, but this April I stuck as closely as I could to the original form — in fact, I wrote two of them in Japanese!

Writing in form, traditional or modern, helps hone our craft. Plus, subject matter and theme can be further supported by writing in specific forms or meter that suit them. It’s not just in the message, after all, it’s in how it’s delivered. A poem is obviously more than the meaning it makes: it’s in how it makes meaning.

Image

I found the image here; do give the article a read!

 

If you choose your form and meter wisely enough, they could add new layers to your poem! Also, you could use forms just as effectively to break stereotypes, or even satirize common trends like this lovely sonnet by Shakespeare does (Sonnet 130):

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
   And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
   As any she belied with false compare.

 

If your form works with your poem’s theme, the overall effect is that much greater. That’s why we hear so many poets warning us not to default to free verse. Personally, I don’t find anything wrong with free verse – as long as it suits the context. What if the poem is all about non-conformity, breaking out of confinement – that sort of thing? Perhaps free verse makes sense. Even better, you could show the gradual development in the poet pesona by working within form/meter and having a break in form/meter later on in the poem.

In fiction-writing, too, we choose between genres and forms. You shouldn’t default to a form (novel, short story, novella) or genre because it’s a trend, but because it makes sense for your story. Make sure you know all the whys and wherefores.

The last time I stepped out of my genre for fiction-writing, I found I was pleasantly surprised by the result! I had a novella unlike any I’d ever written before, fresh and even a little shocking — and it never would’ve come to be if I hadn’t let myself try something new.

Writing Prompt: (Try) Something New

If you haven’t been at it already, try composing in different poetic forms. Perhaps you’ll find one you really love! Mr. Brewer’s list over at Poetic Asides is a very convenient and comprehensive resource: I hope you’ll find a form in there you haven’t written in already!

You could also try new styles, if not forms. Perhaps a different voice, like you would in a dramatic monologue. Explore characters and landscapes you haven’t before.

Before I sign off, I offer this as a writing prompt for anyone who’s looking for one: (try) something new.

  • The poem/piece itself could be your exercise at trying something new.
  • It could be about how you’re trying something new.
  • It could be about something new in your life, or maybe something new in someone else’s life
  • It could perhaps be something new and alien to the ecosystem (like plastic!)

Take the prompt where you will in your thoughts!

Happy Writing!

Have a great day folks, and keep writing! Just ten more days of fierce poeming to go, stay strong 🙂

8 Music Prompts

It’s been quite a few Reflection Fridays in succession, so I thought I’d put up something a little different today! 🙂

The best tonic for me when I feel a little low on inspiration is music. And while there are many wonderful, wonderful songs that work at just the right time, there are some compositions that work all-year-round for me – any day, any time, these pieces never fail to stir my spirit to write!

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here it is: (Warning: there are a lot of embedded videos up ahead. You can always choose to load the links individually instead!)

Johann Pachelbel: Canon in D

Easily one of the most uplifting pieces I’ve ever heard. String orchestra versions are my personal favorites, but there are plenty of versions around the internet that are just as wonderful, like this one.

Frédéric Chopin: Tristesse

I love most of Chopin’s compositions, but if I were to pick a favorite… Tristesse (Etude 3, Opus 10) bests Fantasie Impromptu by just a margin. Tristesse always touches me in that special way that tragedies do…never lets me go.

John Williams: Battle of the Heroes & Duel of the Fates

If I were to be honest, this would be a 9 Music Prompts list rather than 8 since I have chosen to mention two of Williams’ pieces. It’s very difficult for me to pick one over the other. In fact, I love Across the Stars just as much as Battle of Heroes and Duel of Fates. If you’re looking for romantic-epic music, I’d go for Across the Stars. The two mentioned here are battle-epic. They help me write climactic scenes (whether in prose or poetry) all the time!

Yanni: Enchantment

Enchantment was the first Yanni piece I ever heard, and remains my favorite. For me, it did exactly that: enchant. The music creates a sort of  magical mood. This somehow helps me write sensitive and earnest characters.

Mani Sharma: Thaye Yashoda (from the film ‘Morning Raaga’) (Singer: Sudha Raghunathan)

This would be one of the best Fusion (Carnatic/Western) pieces I’ve ever heard. Takes my breath away.

Utada, Hikaru: First Love (Piano/Instrumental)

I love the lyrics of the song, but the instrumental version is simply…sublime. This piano duet version is also lovely.

Kajiura, Yuki: Akatsuki no Kuruma

Rarely is there a composition by Yuki Kajiura (also the pianist in this video) that I do not enjoy from start to end. Akatsuki no Kuruma (Japanese) was my first experience with her music, and combined with Yuuka Nanri’s soulful voice, this song achieves such a depth -both its music and its lyrics- and it always leaves me wanting to write poetry. This Live version is the best one I know, possibly better even than the studio recording. I don’t know if there’s a translation that could go it justice, but do look it up if you’re interested! Beauty of music is, though, that it can be understood (to some level at least) even if it’s a different language.

Happy Writing!

That’s all folks! I think it’s been quite a long list, looking back – hope at least one or two pieces resonated with you and helped you write! 🙂 Happy weekend, folks, and happy writing! And three cheers for music~ 😉