Tag Archives: creativity

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

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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 & Some Prompts for your November Challenge

Hullo, folks! How are your November challenges going? You’re already half-way there! That’s 50%! You’ve done half of it – so you know you’ve got it in you to do another half…don’t stop now! 🙂

I have to say, I’m doing pretty well so far on my Poem-a-Day Challenge. For the past few days, I’ve been cranking out two poems a day; yesterday I was so inspired, I wrote three! I love it when I’m into a challenge full-swing.

If there’s one thing I could never get enough of during a poetry-writing challenge, I’d vote for prompts. So in addition to today’s Reflections topic, I’ll be listing a handful of prompts towards the end of this post based on the poems I’ve written so far in this month, just in case someone needs the words/sparks to set off their creativity.

Friday Reflections: Peace

I’m sure this dove famously carrying the olive branch would’ve put an idea into your head, but apart from this image, what else do you think of when you read/hear the word “peace“?

Maybe you could come up with a piece explaining why a dove and why an olive branch? It doesn’t have to be logically reasoned – just be creative!

Do you immediately think Warpeace talks, treaties, the UN, and the like? In that context, do you believe that “peace” is possible? What exactly would “peace” be – how would you define it? Is it some kind of utopian ideal?

Or does peace mean something closer to home for you? The chaos/peace binary pops out to me every time I think of the word “peace”. It leads me to: finding peace of mind (which recalls that hilarious scene at the beginning of Kung Fu Panda 2 with Master Shifu’s “inner peace“). Peace has different connotations when it comes to martial arts or yoga, as it does with religion (as in phrases such as “peace be with you” or “peace be upon you“).

Also, I’m always envious of people who can write in any kind of atmosphere, because I always need a relatively peaceful surrounding to be able to produce anything worth reading!

There is always, of course, the “peace out” v-sign slang, for which I see great potential in a poem or short story (perhaps as a symbol or refrain), maybe even a novel for characterization.

Go ahead and brainstorm for more ideas and maybe you’ll discover a poem or story along the way! 😉

Prompts for your November Challenge

Here are some prompts based on what I’ve written in this month so far:

Hope that gives you something to write about, if you were looking! Good luck for the rest of the November challenges, folks! And always, always: happy writing 🙂

Friday Reflections: Change

This Friday’s topic: change.

Brainstorm

Before I put my thoughts into your head, go ahead and brainstorm on the topic change. Dish out as many words and phrases as possible about “change”!

Change

The word has several meanings. Perhaps the first thing you think of is the most common meaning: “to become different” (definition courtesy: Merriam-Webster). One could also be talking about petty cash. Or one could mean “change” as in, a change of clothes. You could extend the word to say changeup (like in Baseball), or even changeling.

Maybe you could create a new word compounding “change” and something else, to suit the needs of your poem or narrative!

What about common phrases or statements with the word “change”? Like “winds of change” or “be the change you want to see.” And they do say that the only constant thing is change – however much it sounds like an oxymoron.

Try writing a creative piece (poem, short story, anything!) that takes one such cliché phrase and gives it a fresh perspective or new meaning!

You could run a google (image) search and use some of the results as prompts!

More on Change

Ten years of writing, and I still try to tackle the ideas of change and changelessness in a lot of my poems and stories. And every new writing experience offers a fresh perspective on how the world works. Perhaps it’s because the very way we write and the things we write about also change with time.

The Writer in You

One of the things you could write about is how much you may have changed as a writer/artist, across the years. If you happen to save most of your work (I do; truly unique is this experience of reading your younger self after so many years!), you could go back and review some of your oldest stuff. My time capsule letter exercises serve this purpose: my changes as a writer become clear to me.

Depending on how far back you go, there may be obvious external changes while drawing comparisons between then and now– in your handwriting (the difference was…too great, in my case) or grammar. Your style may have changed significantly. The themes you cover in your writing may have changed. What had you given importance to then? What do you give importance to now?

Your preference in writing forms and genres may have also changed! Perhaps you use different literary devices now compared to then!

Obviously, we also experience change on a psychological level.

What had you expected of yourself as a writer all those years ago? What drove you as a writer in the beginning? Is your motivation the same?

Of course, we change not only as writers, but as people.

Are there things about yourself you wish wouldn’t change, even five, ten, or twenty years from now?

Perhaps, on the contrary–there is something in yourself that you wish desperately to change?

Don’t forget to explore the reasons behind all of your answers!

The Changing World

Apart from reading and writing, writers constantly have to observe the world around them. Great literature has acted as a mirror, faithfully reflecting the way the world worked; it has also acted like a lamp (think M. H. Abrams’ The Mirror and the Lamp) – as Wikipedia says:

In a powerful contrast, Abrams shows that until the Romantics, literature was usually understood as a mirror, reflecting the real world, in some kind of mimesis; but for the Romantics, writing was more like a lamp: the light of the writer’s inner soul spilled out to illuminate the world.

How does your writing reflect the world around you? How do you capture the changing world, or perhaps the changeless world, in your work?

Happy Writing!

Before I close, I’ll just share a link to this blog post, in which Mr. Brewer questions what it means to be a writer in this day and age. The publishing industry has changed drastically over the past decade thanks to the ebook revolution; being “published” has a whole new meaning, now. So these changes within our field of work are something else you could journal about!

With that, I’ll sign off! Happy writing, folks~ 🙂

For fiction writers: on writing what you know

The Novelist’s Guide to Writing (Only) What You Know

Ms. Divakaruni’s piece “The Novelist’s Guide to Writing (Only) What You Know” is up on Writer’s Digest, now. In this article, she talks about how you can make even the most ordinary experiences of your life fascinating and compelling through good storytelling.

(Her short stories happen to be among my all-time favorites!)

Hope this gives a fresh perspective on how you can make the most of your personal experiences for your fiction! Happy writing, folks! 🙂

Friday Reflections: Silence

I happened to be reading up on effective language and rhetoric (plus, right after making a presentation on identity and voice) and that’s what led me to this Friday’s topic! 🙂

silence.

It would be an understatement to say that a lot of people have had a lot to say about silence. (Well, perhaps an ironic understatement!)

But before I get into what others have had to say, or what I may have to say — first comes first: what you have to say!

Take some time to brainstorm, mind-map, or free-write (whatever floats your boat) about “silence“. Give yourself at least fifteen minutes; if you’ve got time on your hands, go ahead, take half an hour or maybe even forty-five minutes if you’re so fuelled!

Next: do give this exercise a shot — it’s a way of looking at “silence” in a rather direct fashion, and how it may affect your creativity.

An exercise in & out of silence

It’d be great for this exercise if you could split your session into two halves and spend each segment of time in these two contrasting atmospheres: one where you do not have silence, and another where you do have silence. It’s up to you which atmosphere gets to go first! You could even try the exercise twice; you could choose noisy first and silent later the first time, and vice-versa the second time, or of course.

Note that the atmosphere which doesn’t offer silence doesn’t necessarily have to be “noisy”. You could be listening to music, or maybe there’s the sound of the rain pattering away outside your window. Just don’t restrict yourself. If you want to place yourself in utter chaos, like in a crowded supermarket, instead – go right ahead!

Prompts from music

Silence plays a great role in music – whether it’s a song, full with lyrics, or just one instrument crooning away by its lonesome. Take a piece of music (or maybe two or three, perhaps a whole playlist, if you’ve the time!) and listen to it a few times, paying attention to segments that you think may qualify as a kind of “silence”. How do these segments make you feel? What effect do they have on you?

silence

Sometimes, in my favorite pieces of music, it’s when I’m suspended in these segments of “silence” that I feel it truly touches me – so much, I get goosebumps when I hear it!

Silence matters

Whether people are advocating silence over speech, or speech over silence, we can’t deny that silence does matter:

“Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.”
Leonardo da Vinci

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Silence, for centuries, has been seen as both a brilliant tool of rhetoric, and a sin, which perpetuates subordination. Amongst other things. We have poetry that stands firm that only breaking silence and communicating can save us from isolation and death. We have had scholars and orators insist upon the power of silence.

It has great meaning for us, whatever the context. What is silence for you? What does it translate to for you? Do you believe in comfortable silences? Do you believe in communicating through silence, or just words, or a good balance of both? Where is this meeting point, where the balance is found, for you?

How do you express silences in your writing? In your characters? Your poems? More importantly, why do you express silences in your writing? What role do these silences have?

your word/silence

However it is you fit your Word into Silence, do explore and write about it! Happy weekend and happy writing, folks! 😀

I’ll sign off here with a couple more famous quotes:

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.”
Abraham Lincoln

“Silence is as deep as eternity, speech a shallow as time.”
Thomas Carlyle

And finally, this poetry excerpt, because I just couldn’t close without recalling these lovely words:

“Ships that pass in the night and speak each other in passing;
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice; then darkness again and a silence.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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! 🙂