Let’s face it. This world can be difficult and confusing at times. Writing or doing any art or creative endeavor (even cooking or taking photographs while out walking) can help us figure out the difficult things.
I’ve written before about how writing poetry is like working a puzzle for me. That’s true on another level as well—not just finding the perfect word for a line but also as a way to puzzle out my world.
As a result, some of my poetry can delve into heavier subjects–illness, death, grief, etc.–which is why I love using humor in my writing. A bit of humor can not only serve to give the reader a reprieve, but it can deepen an emotion I want my reader to feel or an insight I want them to have. Humor can also take your reader on a journey they didn’t expect.
Below is an example of using humor in my poem “The Art of Flow” from my poetry book The Dragon & The Dragonfly (I’ve underlined the humorous bits): Read more
When a book instantly grabs me and draws me in, I like to go back later and analyze why. Sometimes, it’s the subject matter. Sometimes, it’s the narrator’s voice. Sometimes, it’s a simile or metaphor that hooks me. Always, it’s the strong writing. Strong writing means that the arrangement of words on the page “works.” Strong writing is an art that we can learn.
Many award-winning, best-selling authors have a secret weapon that helps them produce strong writing. That secret success weapon is the use of rhetorical devices.
Award-winning poet and author Jack Remick discusses his use of rhetorical devices in his interview with Joel Chafetz. He says that the devices all conspire to create a certain cadence in his work. He goes on to say:
…”it’s not enough to put the words down, that’s information. You have to make the words dance and rhetoric can make your words dance. Most people dismiss rhetoric but rhetoric cannot be dismissed. Rhetoric can give you rhythm, rhetoric can give you cadence, rhetoric can give your writing new life. So the writing in Blood is thick with rhetorical devices. And that’s what you’re picking up—the poetry of violence couched in rhetorical devices driving images at full speed so the story spins out ahead of you, drawing you along with each one.”
I’ve used rhetorical devices in my poetry for years–alliteration, assonance, similes, metaphors, etc. These are some of the more common devices with their definitions below: Read more
Poet and teacher May Swenson said, “The best poetry has its roots in the subconscious to a great degree. Youth, naivety, reliance on instinct more than learning and method, a sense of freedom and play, even trust in randomness, is necessary to the making of a poem.”
In the spirit of being random, turn up your observation skills and as you go about your day, note 12 phrases or words that strike you. You might see something in an e-mail, a text, or an overheard conversation at the tea shop. Use them to spur the writing of a poem or flash fiction.
For inspiration, read Earth Your Dancing Place and other poetry on Poets.org, the website of the Academy of American Poets. Learn more about May Swenson.
Ever find yourself happily writing along and then, suddenly, you’re stumped on what should come next? When I start a scene, I usually have a general idea of the direction I’m going and how it will end. But occasionally, my characters take me in a new direction or the ending I had in mind feels insufficient.
This happened to me recently. An ending to a new chapter left me feeling uninspired. And, worse, I couldn’t think of a better ending. Every idea I thought of felt forced.
In my writing room is a set of Tarot cards. I don’t know how to read the tarot, but I purchased them because of their beautiful pictures. Plus, I’d heard another writer say that she used them when she needed inspiration in her writing. At the time, I thought it was pretty silly—am I really going to incorporate a Price of Cups or Queen of Wands into a story? Read more
As I was reorganizing files last week, I found a writing exercise I’d done that helped me see how I could quickly sketch out the outline of a story from beginning to end in about 12 to 15 sentences (or more depending on how deep you want to take it).
I discovered the exercise in the book Writing and Publishing Personal Essays by Sheila Bender. She assigns it to help her students practice collecting sensory images. She credits a poem by poet Charles Proctor as the inspiration.
It’s a good focusing tool to note the key elements of a writing idea and chart the beginning, moments of conflict, middle, and resolution. And it works whether you’re writing a poem, memoir, short story, or novel. Read more
I’m always looking for ways to stimulate my creativity or go deeper in my writing. In a previous post, I wrote about using timed writes as a way to do this. I’ve also written about the effects of writing to music or a specific beat.
Today, I toyed with another way to go deeper–changing my vision. Literally. Normally, I wear glasses for distance and reading (yes, I admit to bifocals–without lines, of course). When I write on my laptop, I wear my glasses so I can see the screen. But when I write by hand, I find that I often take them off. I like how my vision becomes slightly blurry…as if I’m writing by Braille (well, not really but my vision is so bad, I may as well be). Read more
In a writing class taught by Nicola Morris, I learned how to be a sculptor of words. As described in part 1 of this post, she had us take a page of completed work and after each sentence, insert two new sentences.
Now that I’d added 66% more words to my masterpiece, it was time to whittle away the unnecessary fat. The first exercise Nikki gave us is called “unpacking.” It’s a good exercise that teaches us to take our time as writers and fully develop a piece. The next trick was to take these unpacked, expanded pages and whittle them down again—leaving only what’s essential. I think of it like packing and unpacking a suitcase—there’s a whole bunch of stuff in there and each item has its own place…I wouldn’t put my bra in the medicine cabinet with my toothbrush would I?
In order to decide what to keep, I ask myself three questions: 1) What is important to me in this piece? 2) What do I want to say? 3) Which sentences are essential to what I want to say? Read more