Category Archives: Thoughts

Update

Well, it’s been a while since I posted. My wife and I had our first child about six weeks ago. I hope that will suffice as a valid reason for my slacking. I do plan to continue, but I’ve found that working full time, coming home to help with the baby, then sleeping intermittently during the night makes for a special kind of exhaustion that’s I’ve heretofore never experienced.

In college, I’d pull all-nighters and occasionally roll a class to recover. I’d even have a little to much fun over the course of a long weekend. But there was always some way to make up for the tiredness with a nap or something. Baby’s don’t have off switches. You may think that when they sleep, that is catch up time. It’s not. That’s the time you sleep to try to ensure your body can maintain its life functions. It’s meat and potatoes with no dessert, and any current parent is probably wearing that annoying, all-knowing, told-you-so grin.

Believe me though, I wouldn’t change anything–unless I could have the opportunity to have done this ten years ago. Parenting definitely favors the younger crowd, at least in physical demands. I will admit that having lived a little and seen a few things, I’m way less likely to get frustrated or angry. I just go with it, and smiling at a screaming baby takes the edge right off.

And I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. My daughter has already been almost perfect. She sleeps fairly well through the night, she’s not that fussy except for a couple of times when she was likely having a growth spurt, and she’s progressively getting into a manageable pattern of behavior. Hell, she’s only had maybe three boogers and no snot. That’s a perfect baby so far.

I’m still working on ideas even if I can’t seem to find the time to put them down. I’ll stay with it though, and eventually my stubbornness will outlast her whole “baby” thing!

Duke

Posted in Thoughts, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Another Haiku

Here is another haiku attempt.

Breaking on the rocks,
Foaming seas moan deep and low,
Restless, mournful soul

There are so many approaches to creating haiku.  I think I’ll have to really work to find my voice.

Duke

Posted in Poetry, Thoughts | Leave a comment

Haiku

I submit to you a haiku!  It’s a western style 5-7-5 syllabic verse rather than the more nuanced Japanese forms.  I’m sure I’ll try to play with the forms more as I continue to write haiku.

delicate new growth
rends the walls of winter tomb.
Verdant eruption!

I wrote this yesterday after a series of events brought haiku to mind.  I hope you enjoy it.  I plan to write more, and I’ll explain why.

I was looking over information on manuscript length yesterday and ran across a site that mentioned micro-fiction and flash fiction.  they are, as you might have guessed from their names, very short fiction.  Micro-fiction is typically 100 words or less and anything over that up to approximately 1,000 words is commonly called flash fiction.  These formats sound pretty interesting to me, so I’m going to do more research and possibly try to write some.  Seems like a good challenge and an excellent way of forcing myself to edit very precisely.

An offshoot of this discovery was that I began thinking of writing “short” material.  Naturally, short stories came to mind, and I jotted down a few ideas I had for new short fiction along with further thoughts on some I’d already started working on.  Eventually my thoughts turned to poetry, which is typically short as well, at least in word count for the style that I tend to write.  Lying beyond even the shortest of my poetry is haiku.

Haiku is the ultimate in distilled thought and imagery.  They require deep understanding of what you would like to express.  Writing simple haiku is easy.  Any thought or idea can fairly quickly be transcribed into the form.  That doesn’t mean the haiku would necessarily be good.  Just like with any poetry, there needs to be revision.

I decided that writing haiku would be a good exercise for this blog because I could write drafts fairly quickly while working on something that’s either not ready to be posted or not meant to be posted.  I hope that doesn’t sound like an attempt to create filler for the blog.  What I hope is that it will be a constant exercise in translating thoughts and images into concise, metered poetry.

I respect that although writing what is typically 17 sylables can be done quickly, it is still very hard to do well.  I want to be able to develop a better understanding of what comprises the best haiku.  So while I might post more frequently because the form is shorter, I will still try to perform my due diligence and improve the work.

I will also continue to do freewriting and work on the material I’ve started.  I’ll still create new material as well, but when it’s harder to find time to post, I think I can probably manage to at least work on haiku.  I can even post them from my phone, so rather than being an excuse to slack, which would be an insult to the form if that were the case, I want this to be a pointed exercise in creating better, more concise poetry.

Duke

Posted in Ideas, Poetry, Thoughts | Leave a comment

Right Brained Distractions and a Way Forward

I’ve been writing some lately, but mostly just ideas and notes for the manuscript I want to complete this year; it’s not really anything I’m posting.  Beyond that however, It seems that when I try to pick up and continue some of the material from the blog, I haven’t been able to feel comfortable with where my mind is going, so I’ve stalled on some of the work.  I’ve also been a little distracted by drawing and other right brained activities.

Last night, for instance, I was sitting on the couch and noticed a fingernail clipper sitting on an end table in direct light from a lamp.  I immediately started to notice the shadows and highlights that shiny metal object was creating.  I had to draw it.

Sketch of Fingernail Clippers

Fingernail Clippers

You’ll have to forgive the photograph.  I took it with my phone in low light.  I brightened it up in Photoshop, which brought the picture noise out nicely (read sarcasm).  I’ll try to put up a better one some time.

Anyway, that drawing episode got me thinking about how art affects me as it pertains to writing.  I truly am not much of an artist, but I would like to be.  Much like my writing, I have some ability, but I need a lot of practice.  I’ve felt that way most of my life, so naturally when I got to college, I took some art classes along with my English and creative writing coursework.

I’ve always been a very spatially organized person, but that structure typically played second fiddle to my verbal pursuits.  Once I started taking art classes in college, that changed quite a bit.  In even the most basic courses, you are taught to look at everything spatially.  It’s all shape and value and space and negative space.  It’s a new language.  Teaching that language is the primary objective of most drawing courses rather than mechanical skills with one medium or another.  You willfully override the connection in your brain that wants to put a name to an object and instead look at the object as the product of light and shadow.  It pulls you away from the verbal to the spatial.  I’m certain that I will not blow anyone’s mind with that statement of the super obvious.  I only mention it to highlight the fact that viewing the world around you this way becomes easier the more you do it, and that is largely the aim of an art class.

Well, after having taken a number of classes, I noticed that the switch to spatial awareness was much more instinctive rather than methodic.  It is much more common now for me to look at something as a shape rather than an object.  This right brained tendency somewhat interferes with my writing because it pulls me away from words.  I also find that when I start to get a little “right brained,” it becomes an itch I have to scratch, and it’s been my most keen distraction lately.

So, it seems that beyond my typical distractibility in writing pursuits, I also have my right brain to deal with, and I believe I’ve ignored this facet in many ways.  I hope thinking about this is the first step to truly developing a strategy for successful productivity.  My original plan was to use this blog to force me to focus on writing, and that is the aspect of blogging–with this type of blog specifically–which rubs up against my bad writing habits and bends them to shape.  I obviously jump around between work a lot when writing and sometimes find it hard to find direction.  I wanted to feel pressure to work on something with consistency and to be able to break through some of the barriers I’ve typically encountered in my workflow.  The structure provided by the blog is helping me focus on completing work rather than letting it lie rough, and the guilt of not posting helps bring me back to it.

Also running counter to my goal of completing material is a tendency to want to start something new.  I’ve been trying to find a balance between doing new exercises and drafts versus continuing revisions on other work.  I did notice that while trying to create new material, I have been consistently coming back to similar imagery or ideas, which I think is a natural byproduct of writing more frequently and which must be dealt with by anyone who writes.  I seem particularly prone to writing about dawn and dusk lately.  Being conscious of the staleness of some of my thoughts has therefore made me even more prone to distraction.  I need to avoid distraction or at least manage it so that I can maintain progress.

And speaking of distractions, I have the artsy things I like to do.  I need to find a way to make art a part of my workflow rather than an impediment.  I am going to try to make myself draw at least once every few days in hopes that it will help me manage that desire.  I think I’ll probably start to include posts with anything I think has been executed well.  That will give me an outlet so that I won’t feel like I’m forsaking one thing for another.

Going forward, I’ll try to fine tune a structured approach to conducting my activities that allows enough freedom to avoid becoming stifled while maximizing my opportunities for being creative.  Drawing will be the easier part.  One upside to drawing and painting is that it’s easier to make yourself do it.  Even if I don’t particularly feel like drawing, I can set up a few objects and some light and make myself work through the process of exploring and translating that scene to a page.  It might not be the best work if I’m not “feeling” it, but it should at least be a quantifiable effort that can be completed to some degree.  The writing portion will require me to delve more deeply into my approach to become more efficient when writing.  I need to find a way to break away from distraction and to break through walls.  I think finding an method of brainstorming up new and fresh ideas will help with potential stagnation, and then improving my free-writing method for revisions will help evolve older work.

So . . . if I try to draw twice a week and then write something at least twice a week, I should be able to keep moving forward with this blog and with my work.  Ultimately, I think I’ve learned more about my process and what works for me in the last few months than I had in the entire interval preceding it.  I still have a lot of fine tuning to do before I would even consider myself passably efficient, but I’m willing to try.

Posted in Art, Thoughts | Leave a comment

How I begin writing

There are many ways people go about firing up the creative impulse and coming up with solid ideas or even the beginnings of a writing project.  I wish I had some foolproof method for beginning that flowed progressively forward through completion of a written work.  I don’t.  Just a couple of days ago, I tried to just do a simple exercise, and although I put a few things down, I would probably have been better served getting some sleep or trying to draw.  My brain adamantly refused to process verbally.

Normally though, I can usually flip the switch and actually do something simple at the least.  To that end, I use a number of very basic methods to “try” to get into the writing frame of mind and to “try” to get inspired.  Below is a straight copy and paste from the same text file where I’ve done a few quick exercises over a couple of days.  I’ll break them down.

The first part was from a few days ago.  I had the word minstrel pop into my head and immediately starting thinking of a scene where a minstrel played for a small group of people in a tavern.  I wrote the first word down and then jotted down the remaining words as I thought about the scene.

Minstrel
Onus
Lamplight
Dawn
Walls

As I thought about it, I expanded the visual image to include a walled city in the early dawn.  Yes, I know that my recent infatuation with that time of day is getting a little out of hand, but that’s also the way it goes when you spend a lot of time thinking about something while revising other work.  And I have no idea where Onus came from, but I put it down regardless.

Anyway, after only a few seconds, I had a short list, but I also had a visual image in my head of a scene.  So I wrote the first line below.  From there I followed the progression of what the light would do as it played across the stone walls and wrote the second line.  Then I brought the minstrel in and completed the stanza with a rhyming fourth verse that fit with the dynamic scene I had evolving in my mind’s eye.

The dying sun casts fitful rays at the cold stone walls of the keep.
Shadows grow in cracks and bowls among that flinty face.
Minstrels tune the lute and lyre in preparation for the night.
Chandlers with their waxy wands spread light about the place.

I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything more with this, but it has at least a little potential as the beginning of a poem that tells a story.  You’ll also notice that I consciously shifted away from dawn toward dusk, which changed my mindset but also fit the feeling of a beginning of a long evening rather than the closing of one.

Later in the same day, I was thinking about my unborn child.  I’ve always been a little distractible, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who knows me that I was randomly daydreaming about a child six months from birth.  During my imaginings, I thought about the fact that this is my first child, and that although I’ve been around and helped rear many children of both family and friends, this will be the first time when I have real weight behind what I say and do when I raise my child.  So I thought about what I would tell him or her.  The quick list of thoughts that follow is the result.

Letter to my unborn child

I hope you are better than me. That is my wish, my greatest desire. I want you to understand the benefit of hard work better and much sooner than I did. I want you understand kindness and selflessness without having to endure the worst of those lessons. I want you to be a person to inspire others. I want you to be judged and scrutinized by everyone and never be found lacking. I want you to be successful.

These are tiny little sentences that wrap up huge moments in my life.  I think it likely I will tell my child all the truth I can muster as he or she grows, and so I stopped writing this exercise because I realized the futility of trying to wrangle that kind of scope into even a grand volume, so much experience to mete out.  Yet, I also stopped because I realized that the little bit I wrote could be used to start countless other things as I expounded upon the events I learned from growing up.

Then earlier today I was working on the Early Dawn draft and playing with verses that were thematically similar.  I started with a mental image of early dawn and hit upon the following bit of verse:

Fitful traces of radiance draw forth form
From the erstwhile edges or deepest night
Depths resolve to surrender themselves
To the inevitable advance of invasive light

This verse doesn’t work with the other stanzas in Early Dawn, so I left it alone and moved on to the verse that I did include in the previous post.  I like some of this short stanza, and although it didn’t work as originally intended, it stimulated me enough to write the additional stanza.  Maybe I’ll come back to this at some point or incorporate it.

And the last bit is some simple verse I jotted down after seeing the word “stirrings” in the Early Dawn draft stanza I had written.  I thought about the word and started putting down some verse.

A stirring is felt within.
It is not something of the mind,
But of the soul.
How dare I speak of the soul,
Yet dismiss it as fantasy or mythology.
How and why and what are questioned,
And where are answers to be found.

It wasn’t meant to be thematic or even cohesive, but as one verse led to another, I started to tie them together more.  Again, this is just an exercise.  I’ll probably not use any of this, but if looking back on it another time, I find myself inspired, then it is a success as a writing exercise.

I guess I’d have to say I have two overall approaches to getting inspired.  The first and most common for me is through visual imagery, be it a mental image I construct of a scene or event or something I witness first hand.  Based on the vision, I create action or observation that I then feel compelled to put down on paper.  The second approach is verbal.  Hearing or thinking about a word or phrase is often the stimulus that causes me to want to write it down.  Once I have put something down, my mind naturally wants to toy with it and see if there is more to be coaxed from the words.

I’m not trying to espouse any method of divining inspiration, as I truly believe it’s a personal thing that has to be found out.  In all honesty, this post is more about self exploration than about sharing my experience.  If you find it useful or at least interesting, that’s just a bonus.

Posted in Ideas, Thoughts | Leave a comment

Vacation is nearly over . . .

Well, my wife and I returned home tonight after a long weekend of visiting relatives for a Christmas get together.  It was fun, and since we are still newlyweds, and it was her family we were visiting, it was another good chance for me to spend time with them.  They are much more spread out as a group than my entire mile-or-so-apart–parents-to-third-cousins–mass of family in the country.  We had a great time sans driving six hours.

Sadly, though, I’m now down to only tomorrow as my last day of vacation from work, then it’s back to the job.  That might not be a bad thing for the writing however, since I often spend a little time on lunch breaks writing this and that.  I’ll try to post more diligently.

I just this very moment realized that I didn’t make any New Years Resolutions last night.  I was lying in bed watching a movie in a hotel room while my pregnant wife snoozed next to me (yep, that’s exactly how I get down–HOLLA!).  So I’ll make the same standard resolutions including getting in better shape, making more money/spending less/being smarter with it, and doing the best I can at all I do.  Beyond that however, I will make a few legitimate, “FOCUS” resolutions:

  1. Be the best husband I can, which at this point includes a lot of catering to my wife as she brings forth my progeny.
  2. Be the best father I can, so that my child might have a chance to know a little of what I had growing up.
  3. And continue to write and write more prolifically including, if at all possible, completing a manuscript and sending it off to a publisher.

That seems like plenty of work, and I hereby reserve the right to wuss out on resolution three if resolution two owns me for a while, which is very likely.

(I used what is very likely the most highly experimental punctuation above.  Feel free to let me know if you would present my family situation more eloquently.  Thanks!)

Posted in Thoughts, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Update

Well, I’m in the midst of the holiday hustle and bustle.  I’m writing more content for the blog, specifically a couple of exercises and another Early Dawn draft.  I think I’ll try to finish the next part of the Magic Murder Mystery as I call it to myself.  I just need to pull it together and post it, which is where a lot of my work sits.  As much as I’d like to just write it out and post it as a draft, I have to do at least a little bit of editing, or it makes me crazy.  I’ve at least gotten to the point that I can actually write a draft and start a new one rather than continually editing the first draft down to the final.

I’ve also been working on a novel I have had going for a while.  I have an outline and chapter notes/descriptions/synopses but I’ve only written three or four of the chapters out.  I’m trying to get that information and content organized.  To facilitate that, I’m trying out yWriter5 from www.spacejock.com.  It’s a highly organizational writing software with options for adding almost any kind of content.  It also has a number of options for exporting the work or notes or the outline.  It’s very robust.  I’m enjoying my experience so far, but I’m only a little way into it.

Hopefully by the end of the week I’ll have another post or two.  I’ve got a project at work I’m trying to move forward, so I’ve been focused on that.  I should find some time in the evenings to at least do some exercises.

Duke

Posted in Thoughts, Uncategorized | Leave a comment