Miss Pelican's Perch

Looking at my World from a Different Place


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Random Words and Runaway Sentences

I did a writing exercise this morning. I wrote a list of 10 random nouns and a separate list of 10 random verbs and then gave myself 10 minutes to write 10 sentences using both sets of words. Here are the results:

  1. A hot cup of coffee teaches me to slow down and savor each moment.
  2. The child wrote out her name using bits of her alphabet pasta.
  3. The worn out magnetic strip on her ID card could not be read by the scanner.
  4. You’ve heard of “pillow talk”? On that cold morning, the couple engaged in a little sweater talk.
  5. How do we listen to the incessant war drums pounding in our hearts?
  6. A wrinkled scarf sits on her dresser top where she tossed it the night before.
  7. Her old-maid reading glasses look up and meet his slick, stylish sun glasses.
  8. They shuffled the conference room chairs, badgering the too small tables.
  9. The color of the antheriums run juxtaposed against the dull, peeling wallpaper of the room.
  10. The vase she set upon the fireplace mantle was like a praise offered up in church.

The sentences are awkward, but the point in writing them is two-fold. First, it helps me to employ nouns and verbs in new and hopefully vivid ways. Second, these sentences can be a jumping off place for other, more solid writing. The sentence can be pared down, re-arranged, flipped over, allowed to run wild and even thrown away altogether after it has served this purpose.

This exercise is adapted from one that is in Writing Down the Bones, page 147 of the pocket edition.

ljg 2019


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Cleaning Out the Sludge

Last night around midnight I tossed and turned, puddling up in my sheets because it is still too wretchedly hot and humid. Finally, I got up and for some odd reason I felt like getting one of my favorite writing books off the shelf, Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within, by Natalie Goldberg.  I did not attempt to read it, but I put it aside to pick up and peruse this morning.

In ruffling through its pages this morning, I was inspired to post about the wonders of this little book. Then I faintly recollected maybe having done that already. In searching my archives, I discovered that I had written about this book way back in February of 2013. I was astonished to read what I wrote:  how this book was propelling me write in my journal 10 to 20 minutes a day–every day.

I must admit that the discipline of writing so much every day had escaped me years ago.  The sad truth is that I am a writer who has not been writing. It is no wonder then that my thoughts and ideas have become a jumble. Writing helps me sort things out — even if none of it ever meets the eyes of any reader.

So, this morning I got out a composition book, my favorite black felt-tipped pen, set the timer on my phone to 5 minutes and answered the basic question “How do I feel today?” My answer is not repeatable on a family-friendly blog.  I think that I am not writing because I got a lot of muck backed up inside of me that needs to be cleared away.   Journaling clears the sludge like running a rotor through a blocked sewage line.

The point I am trying to make here is this:    I wrote today for five whole minutes and a bit of the toxic backwater moved a bit.  That’s huge.

——-

If you would like to read the post from 2016, it is here:

ljg (2019)

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/09/16/rdp-monday-jumble/


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Story vs. Plot: What I Learned from The Lord of the Rings

‘Well, I’m back,’ says Sam at the end of The Return of the King. I have taken the last five weeks to read the three volumes that comprise Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The consequence is that I have scrapped the entire month of August in terms of doing any blogging or other kinds of writing.  So I am back now from my summer reading and I hope that I can provide you with something useful from that time.

In the last almost 20 years, it seems that no one can read LOTR without comparing it with the cinematic releases.  No, I am not going to do a book versus film comparison.  Both are brilliant in relation to their respective media.   However, I have had up until this morning a pet-peeve with both of them.  It seems to me in both the film and book versions the endings are just way too drawn out.  In The Return of the King book, there are six more long chapters after the destruction of the ring. And in the film I think there are just about as many– if not more– scenes following the same event. Because I consider J.R.R. Tolkien and the screenwriters of the film to be gifted in their respective crafts, this makes me wonder what I am missing.    In casting about for an answer, I serendipitously stumbled across this video this morning.   The issue is for me that I lacked a proper understanding of the difference between STORY and PLOT.

If you are a writer of fiction– a story-teller– this video may be helpful to you.

(Note:  Another serendipitous moment:  today is 46 years since Tolkien ‘sailed into the West.’) 

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2019/09/03/rdp-tuesday-scrap/


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More Reasons to Write Every Day

I came across this TedX video about the benefits of a daily writing practice.  Since life recently threw me a curve ball, I have fallen out the of that practice.  This video has motivated me to pick it up again and make it a part of my daily spiritual routine– just like prayer, meditation and yoga.   If you are a writer — or even if you are not– I encourage you to take a few minutes and listen to this writer’s entire presentation.  She really provides some practical advice for developing a daily writing routine.

 


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Being Captured by A Story

I honestly believe that stories float around in the ether looking for a storyteller to bring them life.  They send out little snippets of themselves– images, clips of dialogue, a tripping phrase or two– capturing the attention of the writer who then puts the pieces together and writes the story.   That has happened to me this week.

For me, the structure of a story is classic:  three acts comprised of a set up, rising tension or conflict, then a finale with a resolution.   On Sunday, an image presented itself to me and I thought it would make a great “first act”.   Then another image with some dialogue captured me on Monday for a second act.  Then last night I fell asleep while watching television.  When I woke up about midnight, the third act was right before me.   I had the complete story in bits and pieces.

Before I finally went to bed, I scribbled a tangle of one line phrases into my journal — I was that afraid I would forget it.   Now when the day job settles down a bit and I am not so darn exhausted when I get home, I plan to get to the business of actually writing the story.

The story captured me and will not let me rest until I write it.

 


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The Blogosphere, Fairy Dust and the Public Domain

I was orbiting the blogosphere this morning hoping to be inspired.  (I feel the need to write some fiction).    The Internet fairies took pity and sprinkled some magic dust on me, and I had an “aha” moment wherein I realized that instead of agonizing over coming up with something new that I could do what countless other writers and creators have done and retell a story from the Public Domain.    From there I stumbled across this wonderful video by author Jill Williamson.  She explains in detail what constitutes a work in the Public Domain and thus accessible for re-telling.  I urge you to take a look.   Now, I’m off to re-read some Homer and Grimm.

 


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Listening to Your Storytellers

 

My mother once told me the story of how she watched MGM Studio burn down some of their old stages while filming the burning of Atlanta scene for its movie Gone with the Wind. My grandfather used to regale me with stories of the Marx Brothers’ antics on set and how the Prince came to visit Grace while she was making one of her last movies.   My regret is that I did not pay much attention to these stories when they were told nor did I ask to hear more like them.  These stories from the “golden age” of Hollywood were part of my upbringing and were stories that connected me with my family heritage.  I wished I had asked more questions.

Stories, it seems, are important in imparting our familial and cultural identities.   Stories are also important in their power to change things for the better.

As I have stated before on this blog, the old 1990’s television series Northern Exposure was one of my favorites. I especially enjoyed the character of Ed Chigliak, a young indigenous Alaskan whose desire was to become a film maker. He was also studying to be a shaman, and he frequently cited scenes from movies to help members of the Cicely community with their problems and issues. There is healing in hearing our stories. There is power in telling them.

I don’t know what healing would come from my family stories, but they would have provided some fodder for my own stories if I had listened more. Perhaps I might have eventually found some wisdom in them.

Columnist and humorist, Dave Lieber, in a 2013 Ted Talk said this about story telling: “So tell your story. Take the data of your life and turn it into real people doing real things and you will move mountains. You will change the world.”


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Hearing My Voice in the Din

I have not posted about drumming in the last few months. This is because I have not been to my favorite drum circle in the last few months.  When friends ask “How’s the drum circle?  Still going?”,  I’ve been telling them that I’ve been too busy, or had a commitment elsewhere, or the hot weather was not to my liking, and so on.

The truth is I stopped going mainly because I felt intimidated.

Some of the people who regularly attend the circle are professional musicians. Several of them specialize in Latin jazz or traditional African drum rhythms. I find these rhythms difficult to ease into.  I just can’t nail those syncopated beats.  I felt like I was messing up their drumming because I could not get this.  I had convinced myself that I was not a good drummer.

During my hiatus from the drum circle,  I continued to drum with some other musician friends who play and sing contemporary folk/pop/rock arrangements. I get enough affirmation from them to know that I’m not completely hopeless. Those arrangements are my style, it seems.

I returned to the drum circle today because I missed the people there. But I held back, finding the base beats and softly playing around them so as not to throw off the other drummers.  Mostly I sat there and just enjoyed their playing.

The take away from this lesson is that I need to learn the nature of my own creative expression—what I enjoy, where my strengths reside— and be comfortable enough to not be intimidated by other Creatives who might be better in some respect. My creative genre is primarily writing. I need to know my style. I need to write in that style with no regard of what critics, both my inner and outer, think or say.

If someone doesn’t like my style of writing, so be it. I am going to keep on writing anyway. If my critics make a racket because they don’t like my writing, I’ll quietly persist nevertheless, hearing my voice in the din.


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And What Did You Write Today?

I can be a most undisciplined writer.

Every writer I’ve ever had the pleasure to study has said the same thing: “You’re not a writer unless you write every day” or variations of this.

A couple of wise people I know recently asked if I was journaling.  Yes, I said, but not every day. Not every day.  I felt no judgment from these individuals, but my inner critic, that hideous shrew who takes delight in tormenting me whenever I flex (or don’t flex) my creative muscles, pointed out that I was being lazy and uncommitted to my craft.

Oh, shut up, you old bat.

So last night in an attempt to become motivated, I troweled through the layers of this blog and found a post I wrote last year about how I force myself to write in my creative journal when I don’t really feel like it.  Here’s the gist of that post:

“1) Carry a journal and pen or an electronic device with a note-taking program with you AT ALL TIMES;
2) once a day in the journal or on the device, write one sentence that is an observation of something around you or in your life.  Just one sentence.  It can even be one word;
3) then try for a second sentence;
4) and then a third;
5) and keep writing sentences until no more come.
6) You will end up with at least one sentence a day.  Add them all up and you will have at least 365 sentences.   You will probably end up with a lot more.  It is exponential once you are on a roll.” (3/6/2017)

That being noted and taken to heart, here is what I jotted in my journal last night.  It is not much.  Just words, not even sentences.  But I wrote nevertheless:

“Hot, steamy, my clothes stick to me.  I feel debilitated.  Cold water sliding down my raw, painful throat.  The smoke from the fires.”

So what can be derived from this entry?  First, it has historic or autobiographical purposes:  we’re having a hot summer plagued with wild fires.  Secondly, it is cathartic:  I felt like crap yesterday and I wanted to express that.   Thirdly, and most importantly, there is a lot of fodder here for a creative piece:  an essay on global climate change, the opening words of a love scene in a novel, or perhaps a haibun about summer.  If I expanded in any of these directions, then no doubt more ideas would flow.

So, if you consider yourself a writer, let me ask you this:   what did you write today?  Nothing?  Then get yourself forthwith to the local dollar store, pick up a composition book and a cheap pen,  and get to it.

ljgloyd (c) 2018


Postscript:   I found this video with some good advice on using a journal for your creative writing:

 

Daily Addictions Prompt:  Practice