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Ars Poetica 2020: Where poetry inspires art

Ars Poetica is an annual poetry/art event in my county where poets enter their work in a contest and, if chosen, their work is forwarded to local artists. Each artist chooses one or more poems that resonate with them, and they make a piece of art inspired by the poem. This is the opposite of ekphrastic poetry where a poem is inspired by a painting or other work of art.

Once the art is finished, both the art and poem are displayed at local art galleries and celebrated with a reading and display of the art.

I was lucky enough to have two poems chosen this year. Artist Michelle Perdue chose my poem Smite Me. Her painting of the same name and my poem are displayed at the Poulsbohemian Coffeehouse. Due to the current state of our society, the reading was shifted to an online presentation of the poems and artwork, which you can view by clicking the link above and downloading the PDF.

Take your time to savor the poetry and the artwork. Ask questions. Explore. Contemplate.

And remember, art inspires art. Maybe something within these pages will inspire you.

For more inspiration and to spark ideas, read my post Creativity begets creativity: How to build your creative muscles.

Why you should write in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic

Writers write. No matter what the circumstances.

And in a crisis, writing can be our solace, our counselor, and our hope.

During the economic downturn of 2008, my employer, like many others, announced it was laying off workers. We knew it was coming, but not when. For months, employees lived in limbo, under a cloud of impending doom.

One of my writing teachers told me to write about it. Keep a notebook, she said. Write about everything.

We have been watching the march of the coronavirus as it has spread around the world, building momentum and anxiety.

We wake up each morning unsettled, with reports about worsening conditions and the prospect of an uncertain future. Consider keeping a journal to note what you’re seeing and hearing. You may find inspiration for a story or poem. Many great works of art have come out of crises. And writing can help alleviate stress.

Kitty O’Meara, a retired teacher and chaplain from Wisconsin, channeled her anxiety by writing a poem about what we could do and how we could change in this chaotic time.

Even in her isolation, O’Meara has shared spiritual healing with the world on her blog by speaking to the prospect of light in the darkness and hope for global healing.

Writing is a channel for joy, stress, and making sense of events. And so is reading. Here is her poem:

In the Time of Pandemic

And the people stayed home. And they read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And they listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.

And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live, and they healed the earth fully, as they had been healed.

– Kitty O’Meara

What kind of transformation will you create as a result of the coronavirus?

How to slay writer’s block once and for all

Writer’s block. Real or imaginary?

I’ve heard different definitions of writer’s block over the years, but I think my favorite is from writer and teacher Victoria Nelson in her book On Writer’s Block. Writer’s block is often our subconscious mind’s way of letting us know something isn’t right, Nelson says.

I’ve definitely experienced this kind of writer’s block. Years ago, I was working on my memoir and I got to a point where I just couldn’t write anymore. I was totally blocked. So I stopped and thought about Nelson’s words and discussed my problem with a fellow writer. I finally realized that my memoir was focused on the wrong person! It took me two attempts to fix it but when I finally got it right, the story just flowed from me. Poof! My writer’s block was gone.

But not all writer’s blocks are created equal. A writer can experience what I call minor writer’s block. Nothing major is wrong, but when you sit down to write you feel resistance to putting words on paper. This mostly happens to me when I’m working on a project that feels scary or outside my wheelhouse—when I am stretching my comfort zone.

How do you conquer this kind of writer’s block? I’ve tried different things over the years, including: Read more

Reveal your characters through their circle of friends

Experts say we are most like our five closest friends. I think that’s true. Our friends usually have similar interests and values as we do. Looking at someone’s friend circle can tell you a lot about them.

I’ve started using a friendship circle to track my friendships as a way to see where people belong in my life—this helps me keep clear boundaries which is something I always need to work on.

Recently, I wondered what would happen if my main character Caitlin filled this out. Who are her friends, and how do they reflect who she is to my reader? I had her fill out my friendship circle and the results really helped me get a clearer sense of who she is deep down inside.

I’ll share my experiment with you, but first a bit about how to use the friendship circle. Read more

Creativity begets creativity: How to build your creative muscles

In my 20s I was busy working and raising a family. I had no time for anything else, much less any creative endeavors. But one day I realized that part of me was missing—my creative self. I knew I needed to do something to fulfill that emptiness within but I didn’t know how to start.

Literally, the next day I was browsing in a book store and a book fell off the shelf and landed on my foot! Make Your Creative Dreams Real by SARK became my inspiration for designing my creative life. I don’t think I even finished the book, but I read enough to make a list of creative projects I wanted to pursue. I chose one—writing—and thus began my creative journey.

What I’ve learned over the years is that creativity begets creativity. Practicing creativity in any form exercises and strengths our creative muscles. Think of your imagination as a muscle for a moment.

When I had ankle surgery and couldn’t walk on my right leg for three months, I was amazed at how quickly I lost muscle tone. When I measured my calf muscles in both legs, my right leg was one inch smaller! Your imagination is like this—if you don’t use it, you lose it. And when you do exercise it, you gain momentum over time. Read more

How to use the six basic human needs to make your characters come to life, part 1

The key to writing strong, believable characters is to really know and understand your characters as if they’re living, breathing human beings.

You want to know your character’s background, what makes them tick, what has happened to them to make them who they are today, what they dream about for the future, and more.

You need to know all this even if it’s not in your story. I keep separate journals for each of my main characters so I can write about them and write from their point of view.

One tool that has helped me delve deeper into my characters’ motivations comes from human needs psychology which has defined six basic human needs.

Motivational speaker Tony Robbins has written a great article on these needs, “Tony Robbins: 6 Basic Needs that Make us Tick.” The six needs are: Read more

Find your flow with writing prompts — part 2

As mentioned in part one of this post, writing prompts can help get us into the flow of our writing. Poetry prompts are easy. Pretty much anything can be a poetry prompt. But what if you’re working on a longer project like an essay, short story, or novel? Learning to develop your own prompts for a specific project can be a powerful tool in your writing practice.

The more we practice developing prompts and writing from them, the better writers and storytellers we will become.

Think about the word practice for a minute. Practice is defined as to do something habitually and also as to pursue a profession such as law. But, really, anything can be a practice.

I’m currently doing a 30-day yoga challenge courtesy of “Yoga with Adrienne” on YouTube. I don’t have a naturally flexible body, so I have to modify many of the poses. This is one of the things I love about yoga—it’s flexibility to fit any body type. It’s called a “yoga practice” for a reason. I love saying the words “yoga practice” because they remind me that I don’t have to be perfect. In order to get better at anything, we have to practice it. Read more