…AND OTHER ROADBLOCKS IN WRITING!

JANUARY 10, 2019

I checked the date today and figured it was too late to write about New Year’s Resolutions. Especially since I already broke my first one: “Never put off until the tenth of January what you can do on the first.” And that should have been pretty easy to keep, because it applied to a specific month, right? ONE month. No contract. Pay as you go. Hey, no judgements here, thank you. I have a ton of good reasons. None of which you would accept from your third grader…but let’s move on!

According to National Day Calendar (https://nationaldaycalendar.com)  today is:

Cut Your Energy Day: So this blog will be short, and I might sit and read all day.

 

 

Save the Eagles Day: Not necessary. They saved themselves on February 4, 2018 when they won Super Bowl LII (pronounced “Lee”) but for LIII (“Leee”) who knows? What? You mean the birds? Oh. If I see any, I’ll do my best.

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Bittersweet Chocolate Day:Which I reverently celebrate as I sit here. You are lucky this not paper, or you would see the chocolate drools on it, and…

 

Oysters Rockefeller Day: Which my husband will eagerly celebrate in my stead. UGH!

But what I hope lights a bulb in your brain, is that you can start to write with ANYTHING as a prompt.

Even a date from National Day Calendar. Just DO it.

Now, as promised, I am going to turn off my computer and cut my energy. Unplug and do your part for the environment. Have a Nice Day!

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DIVINE INSPIRATION

When you think about divine inspiration, it really is divine, and often in disguise. Sometimes a writer struggles to find something to write that hasn’t been done in fifty-seven varieties like Heinz products. Other times, inspiration floods in until you’re knee deep in ideas with only two hands and one keyboard to mop it all up. I often start out with a goal firmly in mind. I keep both hands on the keyboard, driving straight to the point on a clear road when suddenly, something takes control and steers me in an entirely different direction.

I sat here at the keyboard attending to the very important task of deleting tons of outdated files from the computer. I excused my post-writing procrastination as waiting for divine inspiration.

angel-fig-face-christmas-39014As time progressed, I suspected my muse was probably out Christmas shopping. Heavy on my mind was one of the cardinal sins of writing: Thou shalt not await Divine Inspiration! So I hit the keys on my own to see what I came up with.

I started with a sentence about the colors of Christmas, and that thought veered off course into a forest of ideas and became a poem about a tree instead.

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Joyce Kilmer would be proud of me. But my blog is not done yet, and who wants to read writing catechism at this time of year? Nobody. I don’t even want to write it. And I realized that was what my poem was telling me.

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In The Road Not Taken by David Orr, the author claims that the poem of the same name by Robert Frost was not an ode to individualism because the author takes the path less traveled, but has the deeper observation of the self-deception we employ in telling our life stories in retrospect. Poetry can be, and often is, intended by the author to be read by more than one road, or level of meaning.

In this instance, I prefer to see Frost’s poem as the individual unafraid to take a different path. The poem that follows came because when the road before me diverged, I took the one less traveled. So even when you think you’re veering off track, remember that following it might be that divine inspiration you’re seeking.

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GREEN TREE      by Virginia Nygard 2018

Green tree.

Strong, faithful, and true

it stood tall and calm

through many a winter onslaught

until cut off in the prime of life.

Impaled and crucified on an iron stand.

Given a water sop to tame its thirst

and prolong its agony.

Severed from its source

it may as well have been fed

vinegar instead.

 

Green tree.

Crowned now with gold

costumed in mimicry of life

in red and green and blue, silver streams

and every hue rainbow blends deliver

it awaits the morning.

 

Green tree.

In the bustle and whirl of early day

it stands straight

bearing its purpose with dignity

shining with superficial joy

while remaining green and pure beneath.

It knows what they seem to forget

in the dizzying glee.

It’s His day.

Not theirs.

 

Green tree.

In dying

to a different use

it, too,

proves again to all

what sages long have known

the form may change

but the spirit lives on.

 

CANDLES AND OTHER USELESS THINGS

Watching the coarsening of society reminds me of Socrates’ comment on the children of his generation:

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.” *

A bit mild these days, no? Reminds me of when I was in high school and the “bad boys” got expelled for smoking in the boys’ room! To me, “normal” children don’t get into trouble by themselves. In a sense, they have the full cooperation of their parents.

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And I find this true in society, too. Bullies don’t get away with beating, crippling, blinding or killing people they hate because of a perceived insult, skin color, religion, sexual persuasion, or national origin IF the parents in society (add corporations, politicians, and religions) set examples by doing their jobs honorably.

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On TV a few days ago, I heard a mother respond to a senseless, tragic death in her family. She said she didn’t want our thoughts and prayers. She wanted action. So, instead of a candle, balloon, or teddy bear that makes you feel better, but doesn’t bring back a life or change society, sit down and write something! Francis Scott Key, amateur poet, wrote “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Katherine Lee Bates, English teacher and poet, wrote “America the Beautiful. Inspiring. Thought-provoking.

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Recently, a friend, fellow writer, and member of the National League of American Pen Women, Joanna O’Keefe, wrote a beautiful poem called “America at the Crossroads.” She teamed up with musician Tony Smith and the beautiful result can be found on You Tube. See it at:    https://youtu.be/I9w0oV62V-w.

Write what you know when it comes to writing and write what you feel when it comes to poetry, as I did, but never got around to sharing it until now.

So, whether you write a letter to a mayor, governor, or representative in Congress, or simply a poem or story that inspires others, pick up YOUR pen and Make America THINK Again!

AND THEN WE LIGHT CANDLES AGAIN

by Virginia Nygard  © 2018

The numbers grow, the reasons flow

and name every mental illness known;

we’ve mastered blame and faux denial

…and then, we light candles again.

 

We’ve forgotten those lightweight claims

of three or ten, a middle-weight of thirty-two;

we’re just grateful it wasn’t me or you

…and then, we light candles again.

 

From Columbine to Virginia Tech,

Sandy Hook and Parkland it goes,

and where it lands, nobody knows

…and then, we light candles again.

 

TV plays brutal gore for weeks, which

we say we abhor, but we binge-watch more

and get ready with teddy bears, flowers, balloons

…and then, we light candles again.

 

For lack of restraint, the wait is short

and our halfhearted thoughts and prayers

abort thoughtful solutions for prevention

…and then, we light candles again.

 

You say we’ll meet next time? Sure, that’s fine.

This week was your place, next one’s at mine.

You bring the tears, I’ll supply wine,

…and then, we light candles again.

 

 

* Attributed to SOCRATES by Plato, according to William L. Patty and Louise S. Johnson, Personality and Adjustment. p.277 (1953)

IT’S PUZZLING!

I think everyone who can read should be required to work crossword puzzles. Thoughtful puzzle workers will discover something about their thought processes that carries over into everyday life and decisions they make, be they religious, social, or political.

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The puzzle I worked today required a word for maxims. I considered adages, axioms, aphorisms, and related thesaurus meanings until, coming at it from a different angle, I realized the correct answer was the simplest: sayings!  And I remembered the old joke about the little boy who asked his mother where he came from. Mom goes into great detail with the birds-and-bees talk when the boy pipes up, “No, Mommy. I mean David comes from Atlanta. Where do I come from?” The simplest answer is best.

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And that got me thinking what we need right now is leaders who can take the puzzling world in hand, view it from differing perspectives, and make things better. Not perfect. Nothing will ever be perfect. Ask any writer whose work has been pecked apart by voracious error-eating vultures in critique groups and editorial services. Let’s strive for a simple betterment of the standard of life for all sides. That will take willingness to see issues from another’s point of view. And for today’s students it could begin with all high school curricula requiring students to enroll in at least one semester of debate.

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We full-grown bodies (adult assumes having attained a matured age of reason) can begin by flushing from our hearts and minds the poisons of accrued dogmas. Those my-way-or-the-highway lines of thought permeating politics, religion, and social interaction. And for some, a step like that is scary. Like stepping out of a plane without a parachute. Think differently from what authority figures have drummed into us all our lives? That sends lightning bolts of terror rushing through and numbing minds further.

Once we take that step, then we can demand more altruistic leaders as devoid (as possible) of greed and self-aggrandizement; leaders with impeccable (as possible) qualifications. Candidates who see beyond the winner-take-all mentality.

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Team spirit is fine for games. It’s great fun to see grownups paint their faces or wear weird outfits in honor and support of their favorite sports teams. But in the real world, when your team does something awful, will you have the courage to speak out?

Beyond games, doing unto others as you would have them do unto youwas meant to be lived, to be the creed of all people, not to lie dormant in the Bible and be given lip service and a wink-wink-nod. Puzzled as to how you get someone to listen to you? Step One: Listen to them. The more you listen, the greater your chances of understanding their point of view. Not accepting it totally, just understanding how they feel. That leads to Step Two: You’ll be better able to find points of agreement to build on. Step Three: You’ll be on the way to forging a compromise that will benefit both of you! Puzzle solved!

And that’s my monologue on Dialog on Dialogue for this time.

Go. Do unto others. Listen. Dialogue.

Any questions?

 

 

 

RHUPUNT IS NOT RU-PAUL…PART 2

Last time I promised to explain the difference between Rhupunt and RuPaul. I think I was pretty clear on RuPaul. If not, and you can find my archives, you can catch up.

Now, meet Rhupunt, poetic form. Wait! Wait! Don’t go yet. Seriously, you, too, can Rhupunt. It can be fun. Yes, even for you. It just takes a theme, and maybe some time, but soon, I am sure, you’ll be able to rhyme! (See how easy?)

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How else can I sell this? O-o-oh. Got it. Like Big Pharma!

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“No need to check with your doctor before trying Rhupunt. It is completely safe for all ages in any dosages. When you’ve tried it for a while, you’ll see it work like endorphins to relieve depression and improve your mental acuity.

“Unlike some forms of poetry, Rhupunt will not decrease bodily functions, cause PTSD, agitation, frustration, compulsion, irritation, or collusion leading to litigation. Use as directed below.”

Rhupunt Rules

1) must be four stanzas

2) each stanza has four lines.

3) each line has four syllables

4) first three lines in each stanza rhyme

5) the fourth lines rhyme

The repeated rhymes and terse form are particularly suited to humor.

 

So, are you ready?

Here’s my sample, and how about sending me one of your own?

 

WHEN I HATE MY CATS

by Virginia Nygard

 

My cats sure make

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one huge mistake

to think I wake

to their command.

 

A plaintiff howl

a dog-like growl

make me feel foul

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and loathe to stand.

 

I twist in bed

cover my head

try to play dead

while they demand.

 

Heeding their cries

at last I rise

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and fetch their prize:

King Kat Food Grand!

 

 

 

 

RHUPUNT IS NOT RU PAUL. . . (Part 1)

In fact, they are not even twin brothers, or brothers at all. One is a thing, and the other is a—well—let’s put it in his words from his autobiography: “You can call me he. You can call me she. You can call me Regis and Kathie Lee; I don’t care! Just as long as you call me.”[1]

Need a bit more clarification? Maybe this will help. Rhupunt is just—Rhupunt. More about him—uh—that later. RuPaul is a whole different thing—um—person. His full name is RuPaul Andre Charles. When born in November of 1960, his mom, a native of Louisiana, gave him the unusual first name, I guess, as a sort of remember your roots name. She took Ru from roux, which is a mixture of fat and flour used to blend the flavors and thicken stews, bringing separate ingredients into one cohesive unit.

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I wonder if she was prescient in giving him this name, because RuPaul is considered the most successful drag queen in the United States. And in my view, in doing so he has brought spices isolated in closets back into the American melting pot where they can add to the amazing national flavor of this country. Everyone has the right to be included!

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As such, he has also blended the male and female elements of his personality. Perhaps his being comfortable and open with his nature, and finding success in doing so, led to Time magazine’s including RuPaul in 2017’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. I think that shows that not only can anyone become president, as we have seen, but anyone—good, bad, or just different—has the potential to make Time’s“100” list! It’s just that I’d prefer the 100 who have attained more than fame and money—humility, gratitude, and understanding that, to whom much is given, much will be required, or in today’s parlance, pay it forward!

And before I go on to Rhupunt, I want to point out that RuPaul is also an author, actor, model, singer, songwriter, and television personality. Put that in your prejudice pipe and smoke it!

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[1]RuPaul (1995). Lettin’ It All Hang Out: An Autobiography. Hyperion Books. ISBN 0-7868-6156-8.

 

THERE’S NOTHING ON TV

 

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Okay, maybe there are a few TV programs and channels left that have not been bought out or sold out to sensationalism-for-profit. But they are becoming endangered species.

I’ve heard “You are what you eat” for as long as I’ve been on this planet, and that has been a fairly lo-o-o-ng time. So listen up, you whipper-snappers! If you disagree, stop reading. You have hundreds of mind-mucking dishes to binge on. Bon appetit!

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Am I alone in decrying the dumbing down of content, and the ratcheting up of violence in programming? And what does watching that stuff say about us? We settle for less than the best? Uh—yeah. Look at the state our country is in. It’s been turned into one of those base fake-wrestling, fake-reality shows. And the rest of the world is NOT laughing.

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photo of group of men wearing assorted scarves holding sticksWith the power of our buying habits, we can demand more  programs that promote ideals, add to one’s knowledge, and can change life for the better.

We need to laugh with comedy based on the human condition, humor that helps us see ourselves through other eyes, humor that’s not an in-your-face reflection of the negative influences in society. Humor that may even, yes, inspire compassion. Not comedy learned in colleges, but on the streets of life, like some of the best performers from the past.

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We need to be able to laugh at ourselves and our mistakes and learn from it all. We deserve shows based on ideals by which this country was built strong and proud and set on a pedestal of respect. The rest is mind mush intended to keep the masses controlled with the aid of a multiplicity of sales pitches and food commercials that push us to mindless consumerism and mindless eating.

 

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I recently watched a 2018 TV drama series The Terror, based on the novel of the same name by author Dan Simmons. The series is a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s 1845-1848 expedition to find the Northwest Passage through the Arctic. The two ships, Erebus and Terror, became frozen in the ice and their crews lost in agonizing conditions of body and mind and through the actions of a supernatural creature that haunts the crew. A second season is planned for 2019. You can judge its merits for yourself.

But here’s what I learned from watching it. If we learn from the history of prior expeditions, if we are willing to heed lessons from the experiences of others on such voyages, if we put the good of all involved ahead of our personal ambitions, we may live to try again.

 And what has this got to do with writing?

 

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Writers must continue to learn so we can write with authority and confidence about that which fires us up.

What we write can educate, entertain, lighten spirits, and enlighten minds.

In the darkest tale, we can write in a way that elevates and ignites the best not the basest in people, as divisive forces splintering this country have so skillfully done.

Stand up for what’s right.

Go.

Write.