Tag Archives: perspective

Reflection & Exercise: bridges to cross / bridges to burn

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Hi, folks! ūüôā 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! ūüôā

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! ūüėÄ

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! ūüôā

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! ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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¬†¬†ūüėÄ 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! ūüôā

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 ūüôā 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 Рi.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! ūüėÄ

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~ ūüôā

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! ūüôā

Reflections: Perspective

The weekly Reflections post is back at last! I hope to be able to post on Fridays again next week onwards. But for now, here we have it:

Today’s topic:¬†Perspective.

Image

This is a familiar image, I’m sure! What do you see in it? If you see both, which did you see first – the vase or the two faces?

An exercise

What’s your perspective on perspective? Take a few minutes to brainstorm all of the ideas that come to your mind about this topic, and list your ideas.

When you have time, call on one of your friends¬†or a family member, perhaps even your neighbor. It could even be a stranger at a park, or a classmate. Ask him/her (you can, of course, ask more than one person, for more ideas) what he/she thinks of the word “perspective”. What is his/her idea of¬†perspective? What would he/she do to, say, “gain perspective”? Jot down what everyone says.

Go back to your own list at the end of the day or week (the longer the gap between the writing of and the revising, the better) to compare and contrast the various ideas. Is there anything you’d like to add? Something that’s neither in your list nor in your friends’ lists?

Looking side-a-ways

Perspective by common definition means the way one sees something. Everyone is bound to have different perspectives, even for the very idea of “perspective” – which is what the exercise was all about.

Do look up the term (which I suggest you do only after the exercise!) sometime. It could mean quite a few things.

There are drawings, paintings and sketches done in perspective. An archaic meaning of the word referred to a glass used as a telescope. It could refer to point of view. It could mean a vista. And a whole lot more.

Here’s a comment President Lincoln made, which is all about perspective:

‚ÄúWe can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Abraham Lincoln

  • What is the first definition that came to your mind when you read “perspective”?

Why, why, why?

Looking beyond just one’s perspective, I think the¬†reason¬†behind their perspective is also very important. Especially to fiction writers!

There’s much that contributes to the way we look at the world around us, the way we perceive what’s happening, the way we understand and assimilate things.

Social conditioning¬†is a key factor. We’re brought up by our families, and the society in which we live, to see things in a very particular way. To accept certain things as they are. To not question or dare to subvert these views. Our understanding of social norms¬†is one of the results of this process of socializing. We are reared to accept and comply by these standards.

You can say that this restricts our thoughts and makes us narrow-minded Рor that it is necessary to maintain order in society. Or whatever else you can think of to reprove/justify the idea. The point is that it affects the way we think.

Language, preferences, morality – we acquire all of these as we grow up in society. It’s often not even a conscious process.

So we writers have to carefully set up the societies, histories, families, settings in our fiction Рall in such a way that our characters and their stories are valid products of these factors.

  • What else can you think of that may contribute to one’s perspective?

Through their eyes

It’s natural that fiction writers pay a lot of attention to their character’s perspective – point of view is one of the basic tools of story-writing.

What is an angry teenager likely to observe when he storms into a room? What would he notice if he were calm and collected? Our perspective leeks into the things we see. It’s the glass-half-full or glass-half-empty question. If a mug of coffee spills over, is your character more upset that her drink is wasted, or that her newspaper is ruined?

Also,¬†a character’s perspective must be¬†in keeping with his/her back-story. There should be reason behind what he or she sees and does, after all. If a character’s going to be extraordinarily different from everyone around him/her, even¬†that¬†must have a cause. And this cause must be as great as the character’s conviction is strong.

Keep your eyes wide open

When you revise what you’ve written, take a moment to ask yourself about the perspectives and stereotypes, the ideas taken for granted in the piece.

Have you restricted yourself in any way? Do you always write poems in a particular form, thinking that’s how it’s got to be written? Do you always write stories in first-person? Do you avoid reading or writing certain genres without even trying them? Are your characters stereotypical?

It’s best not to rule out anything outright. With an open mind, we leave a lot more room for creativity!

Even stereotypes aren’t all bad – they have their uses. They¬†are extremely useful, in fact, to create the effect of irony or to expose social follies.

Write on, folks!

There’s definitely a lot more to be said and written about¬†perspective, and from different perspectives. I’ll leave my fellow writers to explore them. ūüôā Happy writing, and happy weekend, everyone!