Saturday, February 21, 2009

Free Write Friday

Choose a word, any word – APPLE for instance – and as quickly as you can, write down five words for each letter in the word.

A – aggregate, agile, agony, actor, Augustine
P – pomegranate, poo-poo-pee-doo, pompadour, prickly, pop

And so forth. Then do it again. Same word, only this time list verbs. You can do this with any sort of limitation – just nouns, just verbs – whatever strikes you. I try to include verbs every time. Verbs make interesting things happen.

After you have made a couple of lists, go through – very quickly - and circle one word in each line that really zings you. Make a list of these words – keeping them in the same order. Write a paragraph, using the words in order, tweaking the tense if necessary.

Here is a recent free write that sprang from this exercise. My words were: Agile, poo-poo-pee-doo, Persian, lick, everlasting, assuage, pare, pricked, larder, etched.

The agile pubescents pull a succession of blouses on and off, waiting for perfection. When it struck – it was poo-poo-pee-doo, three girls in a row, as satisfied as Persian cats. They all but licked themselves, reveling in their tightly held belief in their own everlasting youth. Never, yet, had they known the aged feelings that flag, requiring assuaging. After the lovely parade, they stopped to pare themselves down to barely lingerie. The entire department was pricked up and alive, waiting to see what the lovelies would do next. Shockingly, they headed straight for the larder, to gobble down sausages and brined pickles. Still, the image of their morning stretch was etched into our eternity.

OK So, most of the stuff in free writes is pure crap, but still – there are things happening here. For instance, this line “They all but licked themselves.” That’s interesting. Might see that in a poem of mine some day. Even if nothing particularly usable pops up, free writing gets the writing bones lubed up and ready to go.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sharon Olds Springboard

Springboard du Jour:

The doctor said to my father, “You asked me
to tell you when nothing more could be done.
That’s what I’m telling you now.”

From the poem “His Stillness” by Sharon Olds, from Strike Sparks: Selected Poems 1980-2002.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Free Write Friday

Last week, my writing partner, Faye Quam Heimerl, cooked up a delicious free write based on her Steak Dianne recipe, which calls for steak, butter, mushrooms, lemon juice, parsley, and Worcestershire sauce. Faye posed this question: What would Steak Faye or Steak Debbie call for? Steak Gratitude? Steak Disappointment? Here are a couple of my word recipes from that writing date.

Steak Dubya
Dry cutlet of horse's ass, dredged in a pinchy rub
No Sauce
Mushy Peas
Chitlin cornbread, dry as a popcorn fart
Tootsie Roll on a stick
Mint Toothpick.

Steak Merengue
Side step of pork
with Cha Cha Chorizo
Thrum the edges with cumin
Sizzle the rack over high heat
Zip the sauce with a Thai chili swish
Bump and grind until hot and tender

Springboard du Jour: What's your word recipe for Steak You?

Give it a rest, Ma!

“Is that blouse starched and pressed, missy? Sit still now, we got company in the parlour, and I gotta git you presentable. Stop fidgeting, honey, and let me get that cowlick mashed down. Oh, lord, there’s something sticky on your patent leather, holt still a minute while I polish it up. NO, you cain’t go outside and play with cousin Walter, he’s got his mud shovel and he’s flinging dirt as fast as a dog digging under a fence. NO, you cain’t play with your Sludge & Goop chemistry set, neither, I don’t know what Nana was thinking when she give you that. Awright, stand up straight now and go on in there. Ya’ll ready now? OK. Everybody’s a’watchin. Go ahead now, sugar, and say something purty!"

Are these the kind of expectations you put on your writing? Does everything you write have to be “purty” and “presentable”? Don’t it make you just want to wither up and die?

Give your self a break from perfectionism. It’s a certain death knell for creativity. It’s too much pressure to perform. Writers need to spend a good deal of time just playing with words and language. Remember why you started writing in the first place? How a certain turn of phrase took your breath away, set you to wailing, or made you laugh so hard that it hurt? Sometimes language is so delicious, you just want to wallow in it. That’s what you need to do at least a little bit every day; wallow, frolic, snort around in it. When there is no pressure to be “Great”, your deepest creativity feels safe enough to poke its’ head up and join you, because the “nasty critic” is off duty and writing is actually fun. Then, when you are sitting down to produce something “presentable”, your creative voice will be available for you– and not in a grudging way, but full of joy and ready to breathe life into your writing.

So, go and play, now. You hear me? Write the way kids finger paint – all gloppy and with all the colors. This is supposed to be fun!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Paring Down

Check out Six Word Memoirs on NPR

You'll be amazed how much can be said in just six words.

Here is my first impulse:


Motherchild, separate cling separate cling, wings

Springboard du Jour: Pick one of these topics and boil it down to six words: Your Love Life, Your best friend, Your Mother's (or Father's) Life, Your childhood, Your work...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Free Write Fiday

Structured free writes can force interesting imagery. Create strict parameters, choose a subject and let go. I like playing with the form of Etheree - a poem that is ten lines long. The first line has one syllable, the second line has two syllables, and so on. There are no rules as to rhyme or meter. I like to write it as fast as possible, still keeping track and adjusting for correct syllable count.

For this Etheree poem, I closed my eyes, opened the thesaurus and pointed to the word "jazz".


don't work here
jazz is fresh juice
electric voice writhes
clarinets wail, wriggle
keening saxophones give wings
to embedded joys and sorrows
Wrested from their cells, their voices soar
tripping the clouds, diving into our mouths

Springboard du Jour: Try an Etheree about stormy weather.