I did a little free-write last night and here’s the result. I won’t tell you my motivation but would be very interested in hearing your thoughts. It’s been years since I’ve attempted something like this.
Dark is the beast of man elect,
Common in all but chance.
The pale of heart bend weakened knee,
Heads the floor of the dance.
With vigor and prowess in youthful despair
Draped in comforting trink
A gift borrowed from heredity
Swift to razor’s brink.
A man, no man, inside a man,
Found himself a fool
Used by those on bended knee
The brute no less a mule.
~ Nick Andrews
Today, while I was researching the life of Thomas Jefferson with a particular focus on his poetic appreciation I came across notes on his Literary Commonplace Book. Wow… how did I not know about this phenomenon?
Apparently, sometime during the Renaissance it became popular to collect favorite verses, thoughts, prayers, or even recipes in what amounted to be a scrapbook. Eventually, the well-educated were urged to do so during their college years. Thomas Jefferson began his at age fifteen and continued adding to it until age thirty. Other famous authors such as Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Mark Twain kept various types of commonplace books. They could range from basically a journal of scribbled notes and ideas, like Twain’s, to a more familiar scrapbook of pasted newspaper articles, like Thomas Jefferson’s.
I’ve never been one to make use of a journal, even though I do think they are a great creative writing resource, but I can honestly say that seeing how the commonplace books were used throughout history has really inspired me. I’d love to hear if others are using commonplace books and how you got started.
Also, if you’re interested you can read my full article, Thomas Jefferson – President and Poet, by clicking Here.
This morning, I caught myself going through one of my most enjoyable weekend routines and thought I’d pass it along. I absolutely love to sit comfortably in our den with a nice mug of coffee and spend some time on Writing.com.
This morning I realized that many people out there may not even be aware that Writing.com exists or what it is. Writing.com is an online community for writers and readers, where people can share their work. Members are able to review the writers’ works, take part in contests or writing prompts, and support each other in many, many ways. I treat it more as a quick hit for reading and reviewing, but have taken part in some of the small writing events. There are also support topics and advice forums for aspiring writers as well. The beauty of it is that it can be a different experience depending on what you’re looking for.
The posted works are also in several stages of completion. Some writers have written and posted full novels and been through the editing process several times whereas others will post a chapter at a time as soon as they have the final word in place. It can be very interesting to watch a work evolve over time. Other members, like myself, take more of a reader/reviewer role giving support and advice where we can. And of course, I’m sure some people purely read various postings without getting involved, which is definitely okay too.
It can become an absorbing website though. Several times I’ve found myself with 3 or 4 hours less in my day because I’ve gotten overly involved in reviewing an entry or writing an entry for one of the contests. Normally, at least one time each weekend I’ll sit down and log into Writing.com to take a look at a new author or to see if some of the authors I’m following have posted anything new.
I highly advise, if this sounds at all interesting please take a look at Writing.com. If any readers do join or are already members, don’t forget to say hello. My handle is The Hatter.
As bland as it began, today was a day of deep reflection.
With my ankle wrapped and my daytime life ultimately immobile, there’s a limited amount of creative influence available. I sit on the same couch that has held me for two weeks, watching the same television and staring at the same walls.
I see a news article about the pollution that comes from overcrowding in some city in the Middle East which somehow triggers a rapid thought sequence. Overcrowding because of overpopulation, overpopulation because people are living longer, living longer because of science, science is polluting the world.
Here’s my reflection. With the vast scientific capabilities we now have, even though in most cases we believe we’re doing good, are we in fact ruining the world that we live in? Most people would probably take that thought process to cloning, or stem cell research, or something like that. Being business-minded like I am, I go a completely different route.
Look in your cabinet or pantry. If you’re like me, you’ll have a ton of pre-packed goods – from cans, to single packs of coffee, to chips and on and on. Tons of plastic, cardboard, and metal. Consider the impact that this packaging has on the environment. And many times there’s packaging inside the packaging!
Recycling is an obvious possibility, but there are too many complacent people out there that aren’t concerned about where their trash ends up. For many people, recycling would have to be a zero effort process for them to get involved. Making a special trip to a recycling bin is completely out of the question. Even at special events where there are clearly marked recycling containers for cans and bottles, it’s still too much of an effort for some people to walk the extra five feet to throw their bottle in the recycle bin and not the regular trash.
My thought is this. Yes, we are slowly ruining the world we live in. Until the majority of the population comes to terms with the trash they create and the reality of what that trash means for future generations, the future looks bleak.
The Beach Boys – Don’t Go Near The Water
Don’t go near the water
Don’t you think it’s sad
What’s happened to the water
Our water’s going bad
Oceans, rivers, lakes and streams
Have all been touched by man
The poison floating out to sea
Now threatens life on land
It’s amazing how much a broken ankle is a perspective changing event. Suddenly, I can’t go outside by myself for fear of slipping on the ice. All the small things are now so much more time-consuming and difficult. I now understand why elderly people will fight tooth and nail to keep their right to drive. Mobility means so much in this world.
Since I have so much free time and the lack of mobility to do much with it, today I’m going to bring back a past-time from my creative-writing days. People-watching. Not in the sense of making fun of people but in a more constructive way.
Here’s the process. Go to a comfortable place with a fair amount of public present – i.e. a coffee shop, mall, etc. You’ll need a notepad and a pen or a laptop. Coffee shops are generally my favorite because the clientele tend to stay longer than what you might get in other public places. Find somewhere comfortable to sit and then just look around.
Take in your surroundings. Make notes on the background sounds, smells, overall atmosphere. Then take a look at some of the people around you. Find someone who catches you as interesting. This will be your character. They could be very similar to you or you could be complete opposites. You’ll find that the type of person you focus on will change every time you do this.
Once you’ve found your character, you have two main options on how to write. You can try to put yourself in their shoes, making their story as realistic as possible for this person. Or you can just write, using the real person as a starting point but not worrying where their story takes you. Now write. Write their background, their life, why they’re in the coffee shop, anything that helps explain who they are. Spend at least 15 minutes continuously writing, with no pauses. Don’t stop short though, if 15 minutes isn’t enough just keep going.
Once you’re done, relax and give your character a name. Then put your pages away and don’t look at them for at least a day. This will give you some separation before you do any revising.
If any of you should happen to do this, let me know how it goes. I’ve always been a huge fan of people watching and really enjoy taking it this extra step.
As I sit at home, handicapped by my broken ankle, it’s becoming easy to think of things that I wish I could do. Reading stories of travel and adventure help a little.
In one of my old books of poetry I came across this one from Rudyard Kipling. I found it intriguing even though it’s not the first time I’ve come across the concept. When we allow ourselves to enjoy the moment, to get lost in the moment, there are no differences between us. We’re only held back by how we define ourselves.
As always, I appreciate your comments.
Or ever the battered liners sank
With their passengers to the dark,
I was head of a Walworth Bank,
And you were a grocer’s clerk.
I was a dealer in stocks and shares,
And you in butters and teas;
And we both abandoned our own affairs
And took to the dreadful seas.
Wet and worry about our ways–
Panic, onset and flight–
Had us in charge for a thousand days
And thousand-year-long night.
We saw more than the nights could hide–
More than the waves could keep–
And–certain faces over the side
Which do not go from our sleep.
We were more tired than words can tell
While the pied craft fled by,
And the swinging mounds of the Western swell
Hoisted us Heavens-high…
Now there is nothing — not even our rank–
To witness what we have been;
And I am returned to my Walworth Bank,
And you to your margarine!