Waiting: A Writing Lesson From A Samurai Bullfrog

bullfrog

I should be writing. Instead I’m sitting at the water’s edge of the pond, watching an enormous bullfrog.

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He (she?) is sitting there, immobile. He’s waiting. Like me.

Except he’s waiting for insects and I’m waiting for ideas about how to end the story I’m working on. It’s a little story and I’ve spent far too much time on it, but I can’t seem to let it go.

“Better times come to those who wait.” So they say. Not necessarily. It depends on how you wait!

I’ve never been good at waiting. Usually I get too impatient and try push things ahead – which is when something inevitably goes wrong, whether I’m writing or trying to change a hotel room because I don’t like being next to the ice machine. I take the story somewhere it really doesn’t want to go and find myself blocked; I end up in a room with a brick wall two inches from the window.

But there’s waiting…and waiting.

What about active Continue reading

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A Smartphone? Waiting Is My Dreamtime!

Central Park, NYCCentral Park in New York City. Pink and white blossom all around us. Yellow forsythia. Brilliant blue sky above. Earlier my husband and I had delighted in all the fresh spring colors. Back home there wasn’t seen so much as a spike of crocus or daffodil to be seen.

But now was no time to admire nature. We had to get ourselves across Central Park to our hotel in time to get the shuttle to the airport. I had the map (a paper map!), I knew where I was going…except we somehow kept finding ourselves back on Fifth Avenue!Central Park, NYC

For the first time ever, I wished I had a smartphone. I was sure an app of Central Park would be able to get us through the maze of winding paths in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, as my aunt used to say.

My sister is always trying to persuade me to get a smartphone. Think of all the things you could do while waiting in a queue, she says. You can read the newspaper, find a book or magazine to read, surf the web.

But now, I tell her, I can gaze into the middle distance and suddenly realize what a character in my story should be doing, overhear something interesting or notice Continue reading

Writing Lessons From Three-Letter Words

From WordPress today, a challenge to write a post without using a single three letter word.

I am never able to resist a tightly restrictive challenge!

As soon as I start, I find three-letter words wanting to jump into every sentence I write. I have to include them: not but and the who can are all (*numbers below refer to these outlawed words)

Is there a writing lesson in this challenge? What am I to do in my writing today if I want to keep to these designated guidelines?

  • stay positive (#1*: “I do want to go….”)
  • agree (#2: no objections)
  • state things simply, in short sentences. Insert a period where this word might normally go (#3)
  • give your writing a punch by omitting this word (#3 again). Instead, stack up clauses using commas.
  • experiment with multiples (#4: some, several, those…)
  •  be vague or personal (again #4: “I tripped over a…”  “I tripped over your…”)
  •  go high-falutin’ (#5: “whomsoever aspires to write a post without using…”)
  •  delete whenever it pops up (#6: is it actually necessary in your sentence?)
  •  find those fancy verbs or employ (!) simple forms of verbs (#7)
  •  divide (#8: “everyone except Marianne…”)

Hula Hooping For Creativity

hoola-hooping

I was in my local Canadian Tire, searching through coils of tubing in the plumbing section. A passing salesperson asked what I was looking for. Could he help?

I told him I didn’t think so as I wasn’t looking for stuff for a plumbing job, but was trying to work out what I needed to make a hula hoop.

“Ah,” he said, nodding. “Hula-hooping! Best thing ever! Five minutes of that every day and you feel great!”

In no time at all he’d helped me find the right tubing and a little connector thingy to keep the tubing ends together, and brightly colored electrical tape to decorate the hoop.

What can hula hooping do for a writer… or any artist… or for any body? Continue reading

Are You Forgetting Your Face When You Write?

When you finish your writing session, are you frowning? Are your lips compressed or pursed forward? Are you gritting your teeth? Are you biting the inside of your mouth? Are your lips pulled to one side? Do your eyes feel heavy?

When we write, we often end up with tight muscles all through the body: shoulders scrunched up, body core slumped, chin pressing forward.

Just as we forget about our body as it gets stuck in a less than healthy position while we write, it doesn’t occur to us to think about what’s happening in our faces.

Unless you’re a writer who can’t bear to ignore a ringing phone, your facial muscles might remain immobile (i.e., stuck!) for long periods of time.

I’ve been writing long hours the last few months and noticed I not only finish my writing session with my face tight, but I wake up in the morning gritting my teeth.

So I thought it was time to check out some facial exercises. There’s some pretty unattractive vocabulary around facial exercises (sagging, drooping, aging….), but I ignored all that. What I was looking for were exercises that would keep my facial muscles lively!

A couple of my favorites Continue reading

Paying Attention: The Art of Noticing

setting sun in woods, Eastern TownshipsI finally make myself get into my boots, gloves, hat, neck roll, big coat, boot grippers and go to the gym. Head down, I lean into -24 C. Stop in my tracks. Feel the cold on my face, the icy wind, the stinging hail-like snow. Become aware of a strange creaking sound – the city is creaking all around me. No blaring horns and whooshing tires and squealing brakes from the passing traffic, just this strange creak of snow under tires. Beyond the creak – silence. What am I doing? I’m marking out a moment. Last year raced by. So often days became a blur. I’d finish one thing, rush on to the next.

Every day includes much more non-being than being. This is always so. One walks, eats, sees things, deals with what has to be done; the broken vacuum cleaner; ordering dinner; washing; cooking dinner. When it is a bad day the proportion of non-being is much larger. Virginia Woolf

So my new year’s resolution? Carve out a moment of being every day. And that means a moment of being attentive to the details of what I am doing, thinking, sensing.  I thought I would start by taking up journal writing again but this great article by Keri Smith gave me a better plan: the idea of ‘fives’. Every day I would write down five particular moments I had noticed. No sooner had I started than I changed my rules! Instead of ending the day wondering what moments I could remember, I would actively search for my moments. Every evening I would choose a focus or theme for the day. This could be : Continue reading

Walking Meditation and Peripheral Vision For Creativity

Hoodoo Trail, Banff, ABI’ve enjoyed walking meditation for years – I just didn’t know that was what I was doing!

I knew that when I walked our dog (especially as he became older and walked more and more slowly), I became hyper-aware of all sorts of sensory details around me, and that I’d often have what seemed like brilliant ideas as to how to solve problems with the story or choreography I was working on.

Hoodoo Trail, BanffIt was only when I went on a guided hike with Ronna of Eco Yoga Adventures while at a writers’ residency at the Banff Arts Centre that I discovered the concept of walking meditation.

I have to thank Ronna for a wonderful experience and for introducing me to these strategies for entering into the flow of this kind of dynamic meditation. Continue reading