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.
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!
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I sat here at the keyboard attending to the very important task of deleting tons of outdated files from the computer.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.
As 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.
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.
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.
GREEN TREE by Virginia Nygard 2018
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
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.
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.
to a different use
proves again to all
what sages long have known
the form may change
but the spirit lives on.
…not. Don’t you love it when people give you advice?
I don’t. Unsolicited advice, I mean. There are times when looking for a good doctor or dentist, you might ask who your friends are happy with. But I hope you also check out medical websites for the practice’s reputation and the hallmarks of a good professional.
I was a professional, and a darned good one, too. I can say that because (1) I devoted my life (and my income) to it, and (2) I no longer live where I practiced my profession, so there’s no one to contradict me. :>) An elementary grade specialist with three university degrees, I served as master teacher to student teachers, and participated in a university program exploring creative approaches to teaching.
So, several years ago, when my husband was referred to a specialist, I kept abreast of the latest information in the field. At one appointment, we went in with my research on his medication, what seemed to be side effects he was exhibiting, and possible alternatives. This doctor was, I soon learned, accustomed to giving unquestioned advice. When I finished explaining what I’d learned, he swiveled from attending my husband, glared at me and demanded, “And, so you’re a doctor?”
“No,” I replied, “but I’m educated, observant, open-minded, and I’m proactive when it comes to health issues. Or any other issues, for that matter.” (You may use that line. in fact, you should. It’s a very good piece of unsolicited advice.)
So, back to the title. Most writing advice must be taken with a grain of…aspirin. Or a glass of wine. Why? Because what works best for them, might not necessarily work for you.
TIMING: Writers often tell you that you must write first thing in the morning, “preferably when you’re not quite awake” one recently said. Really? Wake me before 8 a.m., and we have the beginning of a Stephen King novel. Murder (or at least attempted) by any available means.
I am a night owl. My muse is rarely ready to work before 7 p.m. What writer doesn’t have a job, family needs to see to, or medical issues to deal with? Or houses and cars and appliances falling apart? Ants in the sugar? Mice scratching in the walls at night? Who? Oh, right. The twenty-five-year-old guy still writing in his mom’s basement apartment.
PLACE: Often we’re told to go out to a coffee shop or a fast food place and write because a change of location sparks the gray matter. Doesn’t work for me. Oh, I do have favorite places where I make notes on mannerisms, and eavesdrop on conversations, especially the loud-enough-for-everyone-to-hear cell phone calls. I have fun figuring out what the caller’s side of the conversation is like. But write with all the distraction? Not for me. I write best when only my muse is talking.
WHAT: Writing what you know is great. Sometimes a brief glimpse, phrase or anecdote from your youth turns out to be perfectly suited to your character. Or you can fictionalize the creep who bullied you on the playground. Great revenge. Just change his/her name.
Writing what you don’t know requires research, or travel to the area you intend to use for the setting. A short story or novella might do well with research alone; a novel or series would do better with in-depth exposure travel affords.
With a shorter piece I’m writing now, I spent a couple hours reading about the Dead Sea and looking for the closest town to it. There’s only one. Madaba. This information will appear in only one paragraph of my story, but will lend authenticity to it.
In a sentence, keep the aspirin or wine handy when you read articles on how to write.
Better yet, spend more time writing.
An elderly lady at a recent dinner meeting I attended, spoke of Christmas traditions in her family, and her voice wavered with still-fresh sadness when she recalled, as a nine-year-old girl, experiencing the death of her dear mother on Christmas day.
Around this time of year, no matter what you celebrate, the end of a year is a time for reflection on how we have spent a precious portion of our lives. We look back on events and holidays past, some happy, some sad.
And then we look ahead to a new year, a new beginning, a chance to set things on the right track again. We’ll work on better eating habits, exercising as we should, spending more quality time with the kids instead of binge-watching TV; reading and learning something from that great book we saw advertised, and we’ll resolve to cut back on giving our opinion on every media forum. (I’m working on that, but blogs don’t count—like calorie-free broken crackers and potato chips.)
Oh, the list goes on and on, doesn’t it? How’s my spiritual self? Do I sit in my place of worship one day a week and forget what those values command of me the rest of the week? Am I mending relationships or building walls—bigger, higher, uglier walls. It’s a struggle, this life, and we’re all in it together.
So, let’s try to make life a little brighter and sweeter—like the new silver dollar beneath the juicy, bright Florida orange and the chocolate-covered cherries in the toe of my Christmas stockings year after year, even when Mr. and Mrs. Santa had little to exchange with each other.
So, a very merry wish that you may experience the real meaning of Christmas, and perhaps write up a memoir or two from your childhood.
Well, this is a bit awkward. If you’re looking for my September post, there isn’t one. It’s not my fault. Irma did it.
When we heard the cranky old crone was heading our way, we did what normal Floridians do—we panicked! Well, not exactly, but we were very, very worried. Tremendously worried. Trust me. Hugely worried. And we prepared earlier and more sensibly because Irma was aiming at us with a Cat-5 left hook that would flatten everything.
I thought last November brought the worst disaster that could hit our country. I was spot on target then, but as we watched Texas get flattened and flooded by Hurricane Harvey we humbly bumped November down a notch. We had a minute to breathe, then Irma bullied and bruised her way through Florida. This crazy Cousin of Harvey’s was predicted to pulverize what we might loosely call the normal way of life in Florida. Fortunately, she danced her way out of the state leaving less wreckage than Harvey. But she left us with hearts hurting for the suffering of others, and an urgent need to offer aid and comfort.
What happened next was like some nutty weatherman saying, “But wait! That’s not all! Along with Harvey and Irma, we’ll send Maria free of charge to Puerto Rico!” And since Satan apparently thought we weren’t getting to his place fast enough in a handbasket, he took matters in his own hands. Literal Insanity blasted its way through Las Vegas, and Hell came to the U.S.A. with the sight of California going up in flames like a wickedly bad horror movie.
And still good people give—even their lives—to help others. And I say a big heartfelt thanks, and blessing in abundance to all of those good people. Now, despite whatever continued cyberstalking could strip from us—besides what’s left of our dignity—for now, manmade disasters lie stuck in the sludge at the swampy bottom of the Pool of Tragic Events. But sooner or later, perpetrators will get their comeuppances! As of this writing, hope springs eternal that common decency will prevail.
Okay. If you got this far, you’ve made it through satire, sarcasm, a trenchant view of current conditions, and perhaps dramatic (tragic) irony. Merriam-Webster defines this form of irony as “…what happens when the audience realizes that Romeo and Juliet’s plans will go awry.” And, early on, many of us were alert to signs that plans were about to go drastically awry!
I use this form of writing when my first response is anger about conditions that bring horrible situations piling up one behind the other like a debacle on I-95. That’s when, like today, the spirit of Andy Rooney drifts into the room, puts a hand on my shoulder, and says, “Steady, girl. No nastiness. Teach, don’t tweet the first thing that comes into your mind. Leave that to those who know no better. Smooth and subtle…no matter what ruffles.”
(So, Andy, how did I do?)