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Friday Reflections: Freedom

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Hullo, folks! I’ve had a bit of a break this summer because of a bit of travelling and plenty of family fun, but I’m back for today’s Friday Reflections post.

One of the world’s most beloved poets (of course, she was much more than a poet, too), Maya Angelou, recently passed away. Her poems are amongst my personal favorites; they always inspire me, and give me strength.

Today’s post has also been inspired by her life, and the topic is Freedom.

Freedom

Image Source: quotesstack.com

The Meaning of Freedom

Well, the dictionary certainly defines freedom in several ways, depending on the context — but each of us desire different kinds of freedom. It could be freedom of speech or the freedom to choose a way of life; it could be the freedom to read books, the freedom to be educated. It could be a country’s freedom — independence. Someone could be breaking out of social confines: limits determined and imposed by society, based on class, creed, race or gender. One could also yearn spiritual freedom.

What’s the first kind of freedom that strikes you? Which would you prefer most? Do you think you already have it? If not, why not? If so, does it satisfy you?

You could also always write about how doing some specific action set you free in some way. Perhaps creativity sets you free? Or going out for a run in the early morning? It could be emotionally taxing, like letting go of someone or some past incident; it could be a ritual of some kind that releases you in some way. One could also let go of inhibitions and fears (like in the song, Let It Go). Go for whatever resonates with you best!

Freedom works great as a theme in novels and short stories, even in poetry; and there are many symbols that are commonly used to represent the concept of freedomBirds (in flight) are amongst the most common images used (such as as on the covers of the book series, The Hunger Games). Another image is that of broken chains, which constructs a story: there is a past (one of confinement), then the struggle for liberation, and finally freedom.

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”
-Maya Angelou

An Exercise: Illustrate your concept of freedom

Based on what kind of freedom you’ve chosen to write about, can you construct an image that would be representative of it? Try to avoid cliché images, come up with something different. Try to be specific, and use all five senses to flesh it out.

You’re welcome to even try to sketch this image, if not write a poem or a prose piece.

‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’

One of Ms. Angelou’s best-known and loved works is her autobiographical work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; the poem of the same title is equally famous.

I share it with everyone here today, so that it may continue to sing of freedom:

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

(Poem Source)

With that, I’ll sign off — I wish everyone a happy weekend, and happy writing 🙂

 

Friday Reflections: A Year Ago & Letters

Good day, folks, hope you’ve had a great week so far! This holiday season always gives me a chance to wrap up my year with quality time with family & friends, catching up with overdue reading (especially since I have time off) and, of course, loads of writing 🙂

I’m just going to give this a try — two reflections topics in one post. As a celebration! The first topic is A Year Ago, which was incidentally inspired by the fact that it’s the one-year anniversary of The Horse’s Fountain  😀 and I also thought of it because of one of my November PAD poems I’d been re-reading today.

A Year Ago

This thought always hits me whenever I sit myself down to write my Time Capsule letters, or just reflect on my New Year’s Resolutions every January 1st. It’s amazing how much your life can change in a year. How your habits have changed, friendships perhaps, or maybe even something as big as your job or where you live!

You could reflect on all the big and little changes in your life over the past year — why or how did they come about? Do you like these changes? How many of these changes were your own decisions? Were any forced on you? Would you prefer how things used to be, or are you very comfortable with how things are at present? How drastically do you think things may change over the next 365 days? And how many of these coming changes are going to be under your control?

Perhaps you don’t like controlling things much at all! I know people who love going with the flow and taking life a day at a time! 🙂

Perspectives

I mentioned that this reflection was prompted by one of the poems I wrote in November. That poem was, in fact, prompted by a news item. One that occurred a year ago. My poem was a reflection on how that incident has impacted the country and the mindset of the people — and of course, me personally. You could always take something like that as a prompt.

A news article or any incident from around a year ago.

You could write from the perspective of someone who lived ten years ago, writing about something that happened eleven years ago. Perhaps something that, at the time, seemed small, but became a revolution.

Political situations change a great deal over the course of a year; and in wars, so very many lives are lost in that same span. Personal perspectives on public matters make for powerful poems!

As for fiction–there are plenty of novels whose stories take place over the span of a year, and it’s more than obvious that things have changed a great deal by the end! It’s the how of it that could make it interesting. How will your character journey through it? How will it be different? How will that make a difference?

So go ahead, start with: a year ago… and let your experiences and creativity lead the way. Perhaps you’d prefer “one year later/a year later” (which is what I chose for my poem). 

Reflections: Letters

The second topic for today’s reflections is letters. A glance at the dictionary tells us that there are several meanings for, and usages of, the word.

Letters of the alphabet (The letters in someone’s name, or initials; you could have fun with palindromes, even). The relation between letters and their phonetic equivalents!

Letters — those ol’ things we (once used to) communicate with, sending them off in envelopes stamped with loved ones’ addresses.

The letter of the law.

Men and women of letters.

Letter size paper!

A name lettered on a plaque.

And more. Take your pick at any meaning and try to write around that!

Letters, for me, first mean–those long personal messages (or communications) written in longhand on quality stationery 🙂 They could be letters exchanged by pen-pals who’ve never met, or ones sent by distant family members or friends, or love letters. I’ve often given letters to friends for their birthdays, or if we’re parting ways. And I’ve written poems about writing letters to people!

They make for great symbols in stories (think Poe’s The Purloined Letter, in which we never know the contents of the letter!). The success or failure of communication could be implied through letters. A packed, unopened mailbox could say so much about a character. As would a mailbox that always remains empty (perhaps the character checks it every day), or a mailbox that has a regular letter every day/week/month!

You could write a novel in epistolary format – i.e., in the form of letters, as Alice Walker has in The Color Purple and Stephen Chboksy has in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.

Or write a poetry collection in epistolary format, but in verse, of course.

Whenever you write in letter format though (unless it’s actually a letter meant for someone) whom do you address? Do you think of any particular family member or friend? Or that Dear Diary kind of personality? The person you choose to address would make all the difference. If the poem is about your father and you address your grandmother (father’s mother) throughout, that’s going to sound very different compared to how you’d talk to your other grandmother, or your mother, even, about your father. How is the piece most effective? (The form of the poem/text is a part of its meaning, after all.)

Thank you for stopping by & Happy Writing!

Before I sign off, I’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to stop by my blog -read a post, to like a post, to follow- everybody! Thank you so much!

I hope the prompts have been helpful! Wish everyone a great weekend, a merry Christmas, and a wonderful end of the year! And, of course, happy writing! 😀

Friday Reflections: Clockwork

How’s the first week of the November Challenges been? Hope everyone’s been progressing swimmingly! We’re already one week in, which means we’re a quarter way through our challenges! Here’s the weekly prompt/reflection, if you need something to write about:

This Friday’s topic is clockwork!

I was actually talking to my father about the physics/mechanics behind clocks at dinner tonight and that’s when I figured I could blog/poem about the same topic – there’s a lot of potential with stories and poetry where clocks, time, mechanics, cogs and the like are concerned.

What’s the first thing that struck you when you read the word clockwork? Did this image here put anything into your head? This image may take the term in a very literal sense; is there a way you can take the idea behind clockworks and convert it into a metaphor for something bigger, some similar function in life or the way something else works in the world?

Fiction writers: maybe in your next story, clocks play a major role as symbols? And perhaps the functioning of the clocks reflects the way things happen to/around the characters?

The Physics Behind It

Looking into the inner workings of clocks got me reflecting on how intricate the setup is on the inside, compared to how simple and, perhaps mundane in the 21st century, the external appearance now seems to us. (This contrast could also be something to write about!) It’s interesting to break machines down to their basic principles and take a closer look into their functioning – the oscillations that make it run, the sixty minute (as in tiny) motions that make a larger hand move…

Much study and effort have gone into the development of this tool – it happened years and years ago, but it has a most common place in many people’s lives now. The clock is perhaps something we take for granted at this point in time. [Random thought/prompt: When did you learn to tell the time? In how many languages can you tell the time?]

The physics behind machines offers a great deal to reflect upon. It also applies to all living things, even ourselves. There’s so much (both physically, in terms of brain and muscle power, and psychologically) that goes behind every movement we make, every action of ours!

Other thoughts

Some of the other things that come to my mind when I think “clockwork” are:

  • that splendid tick-tock sound clocks make – which annoys some and inspires others
    • what about the source of that sound?
    • consider your sense for time – are you always aware of it, or do you lose track of it completely? (perhaps you don’t care much for it at all?)
    • how about your characters – do they keep a close vigil on time?
  • time-bombs (I’m pretty sure I thought of this just because I watched crime-related tv shows an hour ago)
  • this line from Paul Auster’s novel The Man in the Dark“I’m just a personnel officer, a little cog in a big machine.” (loved this book, would definitely recommend the read)
  • the number 32,768 (which is now stuck in my head, and has to do with the mechanics of the clock – among other devices)
  • the very system of day/night/time makes for a great tool in fiction and poetry
    • I’ve seen the progress from day to night being used in several ways in novels – as symbols, as metaphors; to establish setting, to create a sense of urgency. Day and night are common archetypal symbols – perhaps they carry different meanings for you?

Hope this gives you something to write/blog/poem about along your November ride! Happy writing folks! 😀

This Friday’s Special: A Resource for Story-Writers

One of the blogs I thoroughly enjoy reading every week is K. M. Weiland’s Helping Writers Become Authors. There are only a handful of other blogs (on the craft of writing) that I’ve found as useful as this one.

What has me going back to her blog week after week is her wonderfully direct way of explaining the concepts behind stories and story-structure. She also backs these up with concrete examples, so we get an even better grasp of how these concepts are put into action, and how we can apply them.

Some books on craft spend pages and pages telling you just how important craft is and that you should absolutely know about it, only to never get around to telling you anything substantial. I’ve had a poor experience reading another writer’s book on story structure which did this; I couldn’t get past the 15% mark.

Thankfully, Ms. Weiland’s latest book on structuring novels is not such a book.

It’s crisp, compact, and, just like her blog, very helpful and instructive.

‘Structuring Your Novel’

ImageI think Structuring Your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story is a great resource for anyone looking for one on story structure.

I’ve read books about structure before, particularly the Three-Act structure.

My experience with Ms. Weiland’s book: it’s got all the essentials. She explains the functions of various elements of structure, such as the Hook, the Inciting Event, the Climax, etc., and how to make the most out of them.

The book is terse, it flows well, and it’s filled with useful, relatable examples. I think most readers have probably read or watched at least one of the books/movies she uses as examples, such as Pride and Prejudice.

The book also discusses flashbacks, subplots, pacing, and structuring scenes. (And much more.)

The book covers both macroscopic and microscopic elements – achieving expansiveness without being long-drawn.

Ms. Weiland is never vague or abstract while explaining concepts. Ms. Weiland makes her points efficiently, without wasting words. I appreciate how much she values the time her readers give her.

I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to recommend this book to others looking for a good book on story- and novel-structuring.

Ms. Weiland has done a good deal for the writing community; I think Structuring Your Novel is one of her best contributions so far. It even came just in time for me to revise some completed drafts and strengthen them! (I actually took down notes as I read Structuring Your Novel).

Hope this book’s as useful for you as it’s been for me! Happy weekend, happy reading, and happy writing, folks! 😀

Friday Reflections: The Figure a Poem Makes

Happy Friday, everyone! For today’s reflections, here’s the topic and question:

What is “the figure a poem makes” for you?

Of course, I’m not just talking about Mr. Frost’s essay titled the same. And when I say “poem”, I mean all kinds of art!

It ought to be…

We all have our ideas about writing, or creating art of whatever kind. We all have our preferences, have our beliefs about what makes for the best poem, the best novel, the best painting… Different audiences will obviously have different interests:

Image  Image  Image

Mr. Frost believed that a poem “must ride on its own melting“, that it ought not be “worried into being” – when one is in the act of creating, one should flow with the creativity.

Some may firmly believe that one needs to work every aspect of a work over, quite meticulously, and from beginning to end, for it to achieve the greatest effect.

Naturally, not everyone feels the same way about the act of creating. But there is usually this common idea: A poem should carry the writer away, and only then will it carry the reader away. This is one of Mr. Frost’s key points, Mr. King expresses something quite similar:

You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.
-Stephen King

This is most important. Unless one has been touched, how can expect to touch another? Whether touched emotionally or intellectually, or both, it is the experience of it that teaches us best what works in any art.

Most writers like to write the genre they read the most, since it resonates with them the best.

What it means to you

So what is the figure a poem makes for you? What do you like to read or watch? Should it be short or long, rhymed, unrhymed, its language simple or erudite?

If you go back and read what you’ve created, how similar is it to what you read?

Think about those all-time favorite novels you love to read — has your work touched your readers the way these favorites have touched you?

For those that prefer to read and to write two completely different genres: how or why do you think that is?

What “figure” do you believe a poem should make? (Again, replace “poem” with any kind of art.) How do you think this figure should be achieved?

Give an essay on what the process of creativity is for you!

You could write it in prose like Mr. Frost did; it could be about all art, or just one kind, or just one particular piece of work of yours or someone else’s. You could write a letter to someone asking you about your process of creating. Or maybe a diary-entry about your day at work, being a writer! How did you get your work done?

It could be a poem about writing poems! Here’s an excerpt from my attempt at this a few months ago:

you’re holding the pen so
you hold all the possibilities;
your imagination is
its direction, limitless
as long as your thoughts are limitless.

let go of unbelief
embrace the pen
give every poem a chance
to realize itself
and you’ll create them
in the process.

Are you following your own guidelines in creating something (about creativity)? 😉

Personally, my process is a lot like what Mr. Frost talks about.

For me the initial delight is in the surprise of remembering something I didn’t know I knew.

I love getting into the flow and letting the currents take me where they will; and I love being surprised at the end, even if I’m the one doing the creating! It’s a wonderful feeling. Indeed, for me, too, this is the most precious quality of a poem:

Its most precious quality will remain its having run itself and carried away the poet with it.

Have fun exploring your own creative process! I wish everyone happy writing & a happy weekend! 🙂

Friday Reflections: Time

The past few weeks have been pretty busy, and that’s what got me thinking about this Friday’s topic: Time!

There’s already a lot of creative work out there that is, in some way or other, related to time. Books, films, poetry, plays…

These mostly talk about how our time is too short, we’re running out of it, we don’t care enough for it, or, of course, there’s the yearning to either take a peek at the future or roll back to the past and change things.

Everyone’s time is limited, so it’s considered precious – a fairly simple principle. Yet the creative field is littered with works about the same theme – many of which are quite thought-provocative!

Best-known are classics like H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Asimov’s The End of Eternity, and Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. More recent entertainers are – the Back to the Future and Terminator series of films, the television show, Doctor Who, popular films like Déjà VuStar Trekand many more…this really is a long list!

Clearly, time-travel and paradoxes in particular have always been apples of science fiction’s eyes.

One can occasionally catch time-travel seeping into genres other than science-fiction, also! Movies like Midnight in Paris and Kate and Leopold are examples.

All that said, which would you prefer? Going back into the past, or jumping forward into the future? Or do you just believe in making the most of the present?

Exploring Time

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘time’? Some outlandish science-fiction-like story, or something closer to home, like a memory of when you made it just in time for some event? (Maybe you didn’t make it on time?)

Does it send you into meditation on the transience of life? One of my favorite poems on this particular theme is Robert Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Another thought I had was this: a moment which may be someone’s last time doing something (perhaps with someone particular) – such as walking home together with a close friend, doing the last assignment for a particular job, a dance with a long-time partner…

Other words/phrases that popped into my head when I ran ‘time’ through my mind were:

  • Wasting time
  • Time’s up
  • Hands of time
  • It’s about time (as in, It’s about time I cleaned my room! or It’s about time she decided to save the world!)
  • Countdown (you know, those lovely LED clocks on timed bombs – film favorites!)
  • Waiting
  • Once upon a time
  • Out of time
  • One more time
  • Time flies
  • “Five more minutes…”

Or has your train of thought already sped far away from all these usual ideas?

Explore what meaning ‘time’ has for you and write through it 🙂 The last time I sat down to really think about it, I got an idea for a short story which I was surprisingly satisfied with – so I hope ‘time’ continues to work its charm over writers for many more years to come!

Dig deep, folks! Happy writing 🙂

Friday Reflections: Innocence

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I’ve been away for a while, but I’m back for this Friday’s reflections! 🙂 I hope everyone’s having a productive summer so far! I’m trying my best to stick to my resolution (of reading and writing at least a little bit every day).

I came upon this Friday’s topic while reflecting a little on the short story I’m working on at the moment. It has nothing to do with the topic, actually. But it’s precisely because the story has no element of innocence that I thought of it. I’m deliberately trying to write outside my genre in this particular project. And that’s when I realized there’s usually an element (or at least a hint of) innocence in most of my stories. Which this story lacks.

And that brings us to the topic at hand!

Innocence

What comes to mind when you hear the word innocence?  Try defining the word by your own terms!

Give it a thought, try to go through all the images and ideas you’ve got in your head, whatever you associate with this word. Are they all very cliché? Or do you get something you feel is different from the usual ideas?

Have you ever written about innocence before? A short story, perhaps a poem? Off the top of my head, I can think of the following ways I’ve seen/used Innocence in literature: personified as a character in a story, projected as some kind of heaven or sanctuary into which humans are no longer permitted after a certain age, depicted through the use of symbolism… I’m sure there are plenty more, of course.

Perhaps I’m just a negative person, but for some reason, the first thing I thought of when I decided on Innocence as this Friday’s topic, was the loss of innocence – lamentable thing, that is.

Image

And what popped in my mind’s eye when I ran the phrase ‘loss of innocence’ through it?

Why,

William Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies, of course!

This book, which is pretty much allegorical, has a lot to say about human nature, civilization, and of course, the loss of innocence.

It’s rich with symbols and gives one a lot to think about, so I definitely recommend it to those interested in such themes! (The story’s got a fair share of violence and savagery, though.)

Other Thoughts

There are, of course, the more typical ideas of Innocence. We have images such as the one below.

Image

Yes, the young children (mostly girls, ne?) playing in a meadow.

My friend says babies are what she thinks of whenever she hears the word innocence. Indeed, babies do seem very innocent and blissfully unaware of the world around them.

Many poems have been written describing nostalgia and yearning for one’s childhood, and the innocence which is lost alongside it.

It also reminds me of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of ExperienceReading some of the poems from this thought provoking collection inspires me to think about the same ideas in a new light.

There are certain symbols which are used to represent Innocence, such as the color pink, or certain flowers, such as white roses or carnations.

Perhaps you have a child living at home with you, or even a baby, who makes you think about youth and innocence? Perhaps you have a friend who frequently feigns innocence?

Do you ever associate innocence with ignorance?

One particular period of time I found myself writing a lot of poems about innocence was when I was almost through with school – to be specific, during my last few days of school, and also when my friends and I were applying to colleges.

Did you have any phase like that which made you think critically about innocence/maturity?

Happy Writing!

I hope that gave you something fresh to think about today, maybe fuels a poem or a story this weekend! Happy writing, folks 🙂