Tag Archives: symbols

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.


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: Signs

Hullo, folks! It’s been a while–and I missed posting for a few weeks, terribly sorry–January had been a rather busy month. I’m back for February, and for this Friday’s Reflections post! 🙂

A week or two ago, we were discussing semiotics in class. Not only do I find it an extremely interesting field of study, I feel that the understanding of it could help any writer add layers to their works! And of course I found a prompt there in all that talk about signs and symbols and one thing representing another.

So many signs

I won’t be getting into the nitty-gritty of semiotics, but even without that, we can flesh a lot out of “signs”. Take a few minutes first, though, to brainstorm and jot down whatever comes to mind when you think, “Signs.”

There are so many different kinds of signs!


image source: http://www.space.com

We have astrological and zodiacal signs. Perhaps one of your characters sets a lot of store by astrological readings; perhaps every character in your novel is bound to his/her destiny as it’s writ in the stars? Similarly, the images on Tarot cards have different meanings based on the reading.

A quick search for the actual definition tells me a sign is: “An object, quality, or event whose presence or occurrence indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else.” It can also be: “a gesture or action used to convey information or an instruction.” So objects as well as gestures can be signs. We even have sign language and, of course, your signature is your “sign”.

You could even say, “gimme a sign!” as when you’re asking someone to give some sort of hint or indication.

There are so many — just take your pick.

The world is replete with signs. How many have you placed in your last novel/story/poem? What do they convey and how do they convey it? Give some thought into the way a sign conveys meaning. Is it some arbitrary symbol that has come to mean something based on a cultural idea? Or does it actually resemble the thing which it represents?

Can you come up with your own signs for a story? Or perhaps take an existing sign and make it represent something else all together? How would your characters or readers know that the sign means something other than what they’re accustomed to reading it as?


Symbolism is a very useful literary device, and it adds to books and poetry a great deal. The red rose is a symbol of passionate love, while olive branches are symbols of peace. Someone’s actions can be symbolic as well – representing on a higher level, the character’s beliefs or desires, even. Animals, aspects of nature, and Inanimate objects can also become symbols.

You can pick a kind of symbol, and build a story or poem around it–like the famous red STOP sign that’s always used as an example! Or place various signs or symbols across a story. Try introducing a significant object in a story -as small as a character’s pocket-watch or even keys- and let it symbolically represent a theme or characteristic.

Symbols add very interesting layers to stories; sometimes they offer more insight into a character, based on the kinds of symbols associated with them. Commonly used symbols are flowers and birds.

Plus, symbols ask readers to make connections, to ponder a word’s connotations, instead of placing meanings right before their eyes.

Signs everywhere

Really, every word on the page is a sign presented by the writer to the reader.

With this in mind, try writing your piece. Make your work richer and more layered with symbols and metaphors — but of course, not too many!

Take a look around you and notice the signs everywhere: in the way your neighbor’s been limping, or the signboards along the road. Do you see anything unique? And even if you don’t–taking a look at the various conventional signs, consider the signs whose meanings we take for granted.

Dig deep, and happy writing folks! Wish you a productive weekend! 🙂

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! 😀