Tag Archives: writing exercises

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 ūüôā 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 ūüėČ 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. ūüėČ

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

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Friday Reflections: the Sun, the Moon, the Stars

I’m back after a long time, everyone! I’ve had a very busy couple of months, and though I’ve wanted to make my regular posts at the very least, I couldn’t squeeze them in; very sorry for the lack of prompts!

I had time enough tonight to actually do some stargazing, and I could see enough stars despite the city lights (plus,¬†after many weeks, it hadn’t¬†been too cloudy); so this Friday’s Reflection¬†shall be to contemplate the stars! (or well, heavenly bodies in general.)

space

The Sun, the Moon, the Stars

You’re more than welcome to pick any one, two or all three of the above mentioned; you can explore related ideas such as “galaxy”, “universe”, “outer space”, or “the Heavens” — interpret the prompt in any way you’d like!

The skies mean something different for each of us. For me, stargazing gives me an immense sense of peace; I feel powerful¬†energies emanating from them, too. And it’s always interesting for me to consider that the stars we can see may or may not exist presently, considering how long it takes for their light to travel all the way to us.

In some cultures, planets are also considered “stars“, so that’s another angle to look at it from. You could also consider the stars as multitudes of suns, much like ours, at great distances away. And of course, we know that even stars, long as many of their lives are, eventually fade/die; what about¬†what happens to stars when they die – something that is determined by their size and nature?¬†Many stars¬†also provide light and sustain life (our Sun is a great example, though the Earth plays a vital role in letting that happen!).

Here’s an excerpt of a lovely poem by John Keats, especially famous for its first few lines:

Poem courtesy: Poetry Foundation

Poem courtesy: Poetry Foundation (click to read complete poem)

You could describe the sun/moon/stars as you see them today/tonight (I love watching the skyline during sunset and twilight, or cloud-watching¬†generally) or how it affects you at that time — the burst of sunlight behind a tremendous cloud formation, the shades of red, orange and pink during sunset, the silver moon rising at twilight…perhaps even the cityscape lining the horizon! From where I live, the moon appeared as a very thin, hair of a crescent tonight — it was a lovely sight!

A lot of people consider the moon as a “friend” of some kind, who appears every night and gives them company if they’re in need of it ūüôā It has also been considered “inconstant” since we have new moons every month, when it’s not visible. Of course, it’s really always there, just not visible – you could consider that, too.

Similarly, the skies or Heavens are also said to “watch over” everything that happens on earth. In some¬†cultures, people believe their ancestors are amongst the stars and protect/watch over them. Of course, people make wishes upon stars and shooting stars, too!

You could also explore the Heavenly bodies in various Mythic modes: there’s a character in almost every existing mythology who represents the Sun and the Moon, and perhaps various collective groups of stars too! Do you associate these bodies with what the characters symbolize? Why do you think these associations came into being? How do they influence us now? Do you have different associations you make with them? How are they appropriate to their natures?

Perhaps you could rewrite a short myth and give it a little twist – changing what that character symbolizes? ūüėČ Just consider why the change would be necessary!

On Constellations

Consider the spaces between the stars that are visible (tonight); what does the big picture look like? What do you make of constellations? (One of my recent poems was about a “journey” of sorts that I took along with a constellation character, across the skies.)

Do you like forming your own constellations? What do you base them on? Perhaps your writing today can be about the process of creating a constellation; perhaps what you write can reflect this process in its own way physically, too Рtry spacing out the words, arranging them differently, perhaps to resemble the twinkling of stars somehow? Can you capture the image with visual or aural onomatopoeia?

Write the Stars!

Whatever you choose your theme to be, make sure you step out and experience the sky for some time, let it sink in, and then reflect on what you’re watching ūüôā Sunsets have often been metaphors for “endings“, nightfall for the coming of some “darkness“, good or bad. Similarly, daybreak/dawn usually represent beginnings, the appearance of the sun again, and its light. Similarly, clouds have been entities that constantly “wander” adrift, and explore the world, and¬†are sometimes even “messengers” in literature.

You are always welcome to interpret these differentlythe universe doesn’t fix these meanings, we do. We’ve come a long way from thinking the earth was the center of everything — the stars in the sky are a glimpse into the infinite expanse of the universe (or perhaps it’s finite?). At the same time, the earth is where we experience these things, and every day no less.

So go ahead, pick your stars, and write them ūüôā¬†happy weekend, folks!

I’ll sign off by sharing this¬†lovely musical composition (Across the Stars) by John Williams¬†(here’s¬†a video of a live orchestral performance) you can try to write to:

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: 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 freedom. Birds (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 ‚ÄĒ you belong every place ‚ÄĒ 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 clich√© 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 ūüôā

 

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 Рprecisely 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 ūüôā

Friday Reflections: Windows

Hello, folks! ūüôā I hope everyone’s been keeping up with their challenges — we’re more than half-way to the finish line! (Don’t let it fool you though — there’s no real finish line, only milestones along the journey!)

Today’s Reflections topic is¬†Windows.

“Strange things blow in through my window on the wings of the night wind and I don’t worry about my destiny.”
-Carl Sandburg

Windows

I don’t want to put any more thoughts into your head before you brainstorm — you might have more creative images popping out of there than what I’ve got! Just take five, ten minutes to jot down your thoughts. Do you imagine a scene? Note down what you see; then consider¬†why¬†that image might have come to you. What does it have to do with “windows”? What significance does “windows” have?

It’s entirely up to you whether you want to write¬†about Microsoft’s famous Operating System, or these¬†wonderful glass-fitted openings in rooms:

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

Image Courtesy: Wikipedia

You could even read through this Wikipedia article and take a look at the many different kinds of windows!

The word “window” could also refer to those¬†rectangle cut-outs with transparent sheets, in envelopes, through which we can read the address.

You could observe what’s outside your window right now (or perhaps what’s outside the window of your favorite Cafe), and write about the kinds of people, happenings, and encounters you see.

Just take your pick and write away!

(It might help to know that the word “window” comes from Old Norse, combining the words “wind” and “eye“.)

There are so many interesting phrases we use today incorporating this word:

  • out the window
  • window-shopping
  • window to…(e.g., imagination)
  • a window on (something)
  • window, as an¬†interval, i.e., time window/window of four minutes…

The phrase ‘window-shopping’ is always fun to work with! Though this quote always comes to my mind:

“I went window shopping today! I bought four windows.”
-Tommy Cooper

Apart from phrases like these, windows often take on symbolic or metaphoric meaning in a lot of writing. Windows are interesting in how they are often transparent, and could let in wind and light, but are still barriers.

“Many a doctrine is like a window pane. We see truth through it but it divides us from truth.”
-Khalil Gibran

A character confined to the space of one room,¬†the window that he/she gazes out of takes on a very different meaning. We have characters smashing open windows to enter/exit buildings – it could be for a robbery or even after a robbery, as the last resort/getaway strategy; it could be to run away from one’s wedding; it could be to get inside one’s own home — perhaps he/she had locked him/herself out!

One may open a window to let in a breeze Рthe breeze may carry in with it fluttering leaves, inspiration, or some scent that invokes memories for the poet persona. Glass windows also let in light, which may be metaphorically significant. Does the character/poet persona open or close the window? What about curtains or blinds?

You could choose to be extremely concrete, or completely abstract; you could choose to dance somewhere between the two, or back and forth.

Here’s an excerpt from the poem I’ll Open the Window¬†by Anna Swir (you can read the entire poem here), to give you an idea:

I will open the window
and the large, frosty air will enter,
healthy as tragedy.
Human thoughts will enter
and human concerns,
misfortune of others, saintliness of others.
They will converse softly and sternly.

Another poem: From a Window by Charlotte Mew.

Many have written about what they see outside their window, or why they’re looking out the window (instead of just going out the door?). Perhaps the very idea of¬†looking outward¬†is a positive one, signifying that someone, who has been withdrawn for a long time, is finally¬†opening up, moving out, moving on… Perhaps they yearn for freedom — to go out, to experience the world, or be with nature.

While we’re on the topic of “windows”, I’d also like to share this lovely, very touching video (and the music):

 

In the spirit of National Poetry Month…

I’ll share one more poem today; it may not have¬†windows (but I think poems themselves are windows, in a way), but it’s one of my personal favorites.

Mother to Son by Langston Hughes

Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor‚ÄĒ
Bare.
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
’Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don‚Äôt you fall now‚ÄĒ
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.

Happy Writing!

I hope this helped you get your creative juices flowing, if they weren’t already.¬†Good luck with your NaPoWriMo/Poem-a-Day challenges! Have a happy weekend, ¬†folks — I hope it’s full of writing/poeming ūüôā

Friday Reflections: Memories

Good day, folks! ūüôā Hope everyone’s¬†been gearing up for (Inter)National Poetry Month! It’s just a few days away, now.

To get you warmed up, in case you’re participating in the April Poem-a-Day Challenge–or any other Poetry-writing event, this Friday’s Reflections post has several references¬†to other poems, books, songs, and related articles! ūüôā

Without further ado, this Friday’s topic:¬†memories.

by PARANOIA--7 at Deviantart

wonderful photography by PARANOIA–7 at Deviantart

Brainstorm!

Before my ideas clutter your thoughts, just take a¬†few minutes and brainstorm around the topic “memory”/”memories”:

  • list out any words that¬†pop in your head when you think “memory”
  • jot down any memories that strike your mind first
  • if you want to write about¬†memories as such and their nature¬†(not specific incidents in your life), you could¬†brainstorm¬†through the process of memory-making and remembering, and on how/why these happen

If you have a specific memory in mind already:

  • brainstorm note¬†any and all details you can remember, down to names, places, clothes,¬†colors, time of day, season/month, dialogue¬†(if any) and¬†even¬†brand names
  • brainstorm as many¬†sensory details as you can with regard to the scene of your memory; if what you’re going to write is going to¬†recall a memory, you can create the scene most effectively by being¬†specific
  • try to brainstorm¬†words that capture the mood of the memory

All Kinds of Memories

When we say “memory” we can mean the power of the human mind to save and recollect information. We could also mean Computer Memory: RAM or hard-disk memory…could be a tech-y poem (I’ve written one, it’s quite fun)!

The¬†m√©moire¬†(French for¬†memory) is also literary form. It’s not, however, the same as the¬†memoir¬†(the better-known of the two).

Memory poems, and the theme of nostalgia, are amongst my favorite when it comes to writing. I love saving up many keepsakes and little trinkets, and when I go back to them, they almost always invoke a little poetry.


(The word¬†nostalgia always reminds me of Yanni’s piece — this particular medley is all the more evocative.)

Often, these writings are¬†bittersweet, because we’re talking about what’s already¬†passed. Sometimes, they’re downright painful!

Some such famous poems include Lord Tennyson’s¬†Tears, Idle Tears and William Blake’s¬†Memory, hither come.

We talk about¬†cherished memories,¬†painful memories and childhood memories; we talk of¬†short term and long term memory, and even¬†memory loss. Many contemporary stories have protagonists who suffer from memory-loss — either temporary or permanent¬†(think¬†Memento). We talk about how¬†some memories fade, or about how we’re either¬†trying to remember or¬†trying to forget something.

Sometimes, we’re trying to remember something, and it’s¬†on the tip of our tongue, but not quite — a very interesting phenomenon!

We have all kinds of things aiding our memory now — Post-It notes, reminders and alarms, To-Do lists(potential list poem!) How do you keep track of/remember what has to be done? Do you have a system? Take a look at¬†your system — if you don’t have one, see if any family member you know, or perhaps a friend, does. Observe. How often are these aides…required? A little too often for comfort? Or does the subject perhaps have extremely good memory? (I certainly don’t!) Perhaps¬†photographic memory?

We could¬†remember a person,¬†remember an¬†experience¬†or even an¬†object. We could remember our pasts, remember the people and things we’ve lost. We could even remember a¬†culture — perhaps a dying culture — the remembering of it being its only means of survival.

A poem I wrote several years ago was written from the point of view of a woman who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. I was able to create tension by placing her beside her daughter, whom she did not recognize, and also by filling the scene with items and ideas that were to evoke memories — but only cause the woman pain and confusion instead.

You could also write about recollecting certain memories with someone else who has experienced them. Or perhaps, being unable to do so.

‚ÄúThe worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.‚ÄĚ
‚Äē Lois Lowry, The Giver

Photographs

It’s interesting how photographs used to be so rarely taken once upon a time, and often only in large groups, or in studios — and now we¬†click!¬†thousands of them with mere touches to our smartphones. Many of us still have that nostalgic feeling, though, when we go back to certain photographs we haven’t seen in a while. Sometimes, the memories seem so far away that we wonder if it really happened:

“Was it a dream?
Was it a dream?
Is this the only evidence that proves it,
A photograph of you and I–”
Song: “Was It a Dream?”,¬†30 Seconds to Mars

One of my personal favorite Memory songs is Memories by Within Temptation, and its lyrics give us an example of the effect one’s memories can have on him/her:

 

The Mind works how it will

This article on Memories, Photographs, and the Human Brain looks into the working of the human mind and how it captures memories and images.

It’s interesting how we remember things. How much of it is really as Mr. M√°rquez¬†says?

‚ÄúHe was still too young to know that the heart’s memory eliminates the bad and magnifies the good, and that thanks to this artifice we manage to endure the burden of the past.‚ÄĚ
(from Love in the Time of Cholera)

And then there is this lovely bit¬†from Haruki Murakami‘s¬†Kafka on the Shore:

‚ÄúMost things are forgotten over time … There are just too many things we have to think about everyday, too many new things we have to learn. But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.‚ÄĚ

Happy writing!

Try to put together the pieces of your brainstorm and flesh out the details of the memory you’ve chosen. Finally: what does it¬†do for the poet persona/writing voice? It could offer some kind of¬†progression or¬†growth. Does it prove cathartic or epiphanic, or provide some sense of closure?

Give some thought into why that particular memory, and what its recollection achieves.

Hope that gave you some food for thought and hopefully helped to write a piece ūüôā Happy writing, folks!