Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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By joining the Round of Words in 80 Days writers I have been given the opportunity to peek into the process used by different people. Initially revealing goals, and now following the theme for 80 days of pursuit of those goals, we let each other know how our lives are proceeding. Some have chosen more personal ideals, and others are achieving astonishing numbers of words/outlines/rewrites and characters developed. I am impressed with all of the participants, and have started to think more about character development. I have not done this, but am now seeing the merit of telling stories of well-developed characters. From fairy tales to murder mysteries the characters hold our attention, and in some cases can bring about new stories or a series of tales. I live tweeted Downton Abbey last week and find it highly amusing to see how emotional the audience is about the characters. I also noticed that my own poetry is void of any characters. I make it all about the cosmos, memory, psyche, all very general and without personality. I need to work on this aspect of my poems.
There are three levels of character development I can identify in this challenge:
These three have all been at work in my life this week. I have been reading about Dorothy Parker, her life and times. Her character has been made larger than life since the internet. It dawned on me that Mrs Parker was a feminist in the early 20th century. She was a contemporary of my grandmother Olga, who got a masters in education and taught shorthand and typing. I was thinking about how odd it must have been to have no vote and be better educated than your husband. I wondered if Olga read Dorothy in Vanity Fair. I still prefer Mrs. Parker as my muse in poetry, but I must admit my grandmother was a feminist in a different part of the country. They were both strong characters, but I have real memories of Olga. I did write a poem about my grandmother, although it is short and sweet. This whole process has brought me to think it is very wise for me to use these characters in my family tree about whom I know so much. They inhabit my dreams and imagination, so I might as well use them as characters in my poems. I have written plenty about the facts in their lives, but I could focus on a more essential theme.
I gave myself two poetry days off this week, which I regret. I took a birthday holiday. This aspect goes back to number one on the list above, discipline and character. It is actually pleasurable to write a poem each day. The mindset that tells me I deserve a day off from this grueling task is quite bogus. I don’t plan to make up in penance for the lapse, or enhance guilt over this. I do notice that some silly side of my psyche wants to claim that poetry is hard and working on it is, oh my, such a burden on my important schedule. This is obviously rubbish made by some shadow character. I reject the claims of this looser. That character will not be developed. I will write about this poetic couple on the left in the photo below:
I have told a few people in the last week that I am a poet. I believe I am trying it out to see if I like the title because I don’t think of myself as a poet. First I explained to my fiduciary who handles my investments and gives me advice for retirement that my most important interest at the moment is poetry. He knows, since we do split the money he makes in the market, that I am interested in his best performance with little or no chit-chat. He has incentive to do that since his own profit is tied directly to mine. He is not a stock broker, but has a fiduciary responsibility to me for which I pay him a percentage of the profits. I switched to this arrangement before the last presidential election because it all felt too volatile and risky. Since he has done a bang up job I feel secure to trust his future work on my (our) behalf. My debt free, secure financial position is one reason I can dabble with being a poet. I have arrived at a time in my life during which I can reflect and use my talents in any way I choose. Now that I have told the fiduciary I am a poet he is convinced I will not be producing any more income during my lifetime. I am fine with that because it puts the pressure on him to make sure I never become a staving artist.
Last night I told a friend I have known for many years who came over for a drink and conversation. He is visiting from out-of-town, so we had news about our lives to share since our last reunion. After he left I was kind of surprised that I had told him about the poetry writing at all, let alone describe myself to him as a poet. I did make it clear that although I publish it daily I am not promoting it per se because it is not very well-developed. I am not ashamed of it, but I have no pride in it either. It is a practice and a new persona. I told him I admire and want to emulate Dorothy Parker. He recited a couple of her witty lines. I am not sure how sincere he was, but he told me that I am like Dorothy Parker. We were laughing and joking together all evening, so this was part of the fun. In retrospect I am giddy about being compared to her, and this little exchange has given me new hope about my poetic prospects. With some work I do believe I can be witty, satirical, and poetic all at the same time. I have loaded up two books by Dorothy into my Kindle and pre-ordered another about her life, Dorothy Parker Drank Here, by Ellen Meister. Now I am carrying with me two poetic muses, both ghosts. Henry Howard represents Tudor England and Mrs. Parker post WWII New York City. That should cover everything.
It is in the spirit of Mrs. Parker that I am working on curses and blessings suitable for twitter. They must be short and pithy. I am calling them #Twurses and #Twessings. Join me if you like. I think there is a market. It is a bit of haiku in 130 characters, ideal length. I think rhyming makes it memorable. #Twurse the snow and howling wind, Super Bowl parties must begin. I am sure I can warm up and do better than that. Thanks to all the #ROW80 writers who have taught me to have a good time and just do it, as they say at Nike.
I have managed to slip out of my creativity rut, just a bit. I admire the way so many writers in this program work on several books or projects at once. I rarely start a post that I do not finish in a day, so this longer attention span on a written piece is intriguing. I heard an interview on PBS radio with a professor of creative writing. He shall remain nameless, in part because I do not remember his name. He described two distinct ways of working on a story. He starts by just grinding out the words, and later in the day he edits them. He says the later session in which he edits can be relaxing and easy. I see this advice as a basic guide for me to expand my ability to tackle different subjects and new kinds of forms. I not only need to just do it, as they say at Nike. I also need to just edit it. I have written poetry this week that is not all about soul and butterflies, so that is a start. I spun a little story into a poem about real life. This is something I might try with matching prose and poetry posts. Starting with beheading was just too tricky, but I did relate to my grandmother’s craft work and extreme busy-ness with a short tribute. I still reserve judgement because I have not been doing this for very long.
Two goals are eluding me, but I think I can find ways to accomplish them. I want to be loyal to my dream journal by writing before I get out of bed, or even stir. This worked well for a while, but during the last week my dog, who has end of life issues, needed me to let her out during the night 4 or 5 times, including first thing in the morning. I can keep a little bit of the memory while I walk down the stairs and give her the relief she needs, but it is difficult. I have tried to capture specific words and colors from dreams to inspire the poems. I am sad about the kidney failure of my darling dog, so a certain sorrow takes over as soon as I think about how often she needs to go and how much water she is drinking. She has had a good life, and is not in pain, but this is a shadow covering the early morning dream memory. Maybe I need to write about my dog. I have also failed to physically visit the U of A Poetry Center. I keep planning to dedicate Friday to Venus, to revere all things of beauty and love. I think sitting around the Poetry Center reading is a total dedication to beauty, but my daily routine has not capitulated enough to allow this to occur. I will overcome, although maybe not on a Friday. I know that once I establish a habit, a ritual, I will enjoy it. I do love the podcasts and the apps that read to me in the comfort of my home, but I believe the pilgrimage to the poets’ place will change my perspective. I am not taking these failures too much to heart because the whole point was to write poems, and I am doing that. Onward and upward..
I am chiming in one day later than some because yesterday I made a stunning discovery in my family tree. I do think that since many of my real family members have been the subjects of fiction and even operas and poems, I should look more closely at making stories based on fact, or even on imagination. These characters are already alive in my thoughts and dreams and do some predictable stuff. I enjoy all the time I spend learning about the family facts and the supporting evidence. I notice that fiction writers develop their characters out of thin air, perhaps with a culture or time in history in mind. I can start with facts and the skeleton of what is known to make my stories real. I can also write about my dog and stop whining about my precious dream journal. Soon enough she will be only in my dreams. Now is my chance to see her in real life and help her with her dreams.
I had a conversation this week with my shiatsu therapist during my dreamy treatment. We discussed the rise of coaching of all kinds and the trend toward using these services. He commented that the sports analogy does not fit for him and is annoying. I had not considered that, but it does conjure up an image of an athletic coach. Why do those with extra cash spend it to be directed and held responsible in their own lives? I think it is very similar to the fad of personal training in the gym that is still popular. I do not argue that teaching and training is a silly idea. We need instruction and explanation. We also need to develop our own system of discipline and practice. I could certainly benefit from some training in writing. For now, I am very happy to be involved in Round of Words in 80 Days because the exchange with other participants functions to hold everyone responsible. We are the coach because we set our goals and track them. It is brilliant!
To create a new habit and stick to it the magic time is 40 days. After 40 days the new practice will be part of a routine that seems natural. I have only skipped one day in my poetry writing because I set my goal publicly and said I would report my progress. I have a vision of angels singing rounds in Latin in a gothic cathedral. The pun, Round of Words, has become a vivid picture of words aloft being sung by a choir…in rounds. The Latin is, no doubt, a bow to word derivation and perhaps to the Roman pantheon. These small and delicate word angels remind me that I must choose some words and make poetry until I am well established in the habit of dwelling on words. I know full well that to master anything from hula hoop to Hebrew, one must first do that thing very badly. It does not matter how bad or how long it takes, the point is that it is impossible to learn a skill you have not practiced.
Since our commitment to the process is scheduled to last twice as long as needed for habit making I expect this to be very effective. I told my therapist about this group and how much I appreciate it. I explained that for me it is like ski school. It feels reassuring to see your fellow students fall, as well as succeed in lessons because it shows that we all need to practice. I also told him how impressed I am with some of the writers who are managing big expectations for various writing projects while finishing a crochet scarf or training for running a marathon. Everyone is basically more ambitious than I am, so I can sincerely praise and look up to those with more difficult goals. I just want to write poetry to get better at it. I have set no number of words or other standards for myself. To those of you who are whipping out thousands of words a day, I salute you. I enjoy learning about your process and am inspired to try some of the stuff you do. I feel successful simply being in a writing group. It may even lead me to take a workshop at the Poetry Center, which couldn’t hurt. Thanks for the words, gentle writers. I appreciate your inspiration.
My adventure into poetry continues, and the plot thickens. I learn about the lives of poets from my podcasts and reading. I am highly encouraged by the diversity found in the population. Any and every kind of person has written poetry in the past, and the platform only expands now. There were people who worked in mundane industry who took up writing after retirement and found smashing success. There are prisoners, idealists, and students working diligently to create verse and other written art forms. Many of my fellow writers involved in #ROW80 have years of experience and much more instruction under their belts as poets. This feels like a good place to learn from those who have already mastered and shared words carefully placed and edited, intended to express something beyond what the reader can see. I notice that I might be better instructed by poems that do not suit my fancy than by those I instantly like. I also notice my subject matter is similar every time I work on my poetry. I am like Claude Monet and the water lilies, just can’t stop.
I see merit in making series or building on a theme, but in a couple of weeks of daily poetic practice I seemed to be pleasantly slipping into a rut. My drawings are mostly stylized butterflies, and the poems related dream images and psyche flying around the world bringing messages to daytime consciousness. I did say I was not entering this practice to be self critical, but I did need to nudge myself to move beyond the butterflies and tell some kind of poetic story. All the poems I hear and read show contrast and variety, while mine are running flat in a straight line, going nowhere. I aspire to be like Monty Python and Dorothy Parker, yet my current offerings look like rorschach tests with brief captions in explanation of my personality. I do hope we can improve on that.
I made an attempt to write a witty little ditty about the execution of my famous poet ancestor as a story. This truly haunted my dreams and daily life for a couple of days after I learned about the incident in history. We know details of his life and death because he was an aristocrat. We even have several portraits of him. Reading his work and imagining his last 6 days in the Tower of London in January freaked me out to the bone. I skipped a day of poetry writing because I could not come up with any angle from which to create this story. I know I dreamed about him, and developed sympathy for his plight, but nothing carried over into my writing. I found that my boundaries restrict my creative muse. My desire to capture emotions was not as great as my will to make a statement and be done. I finally wrote a short poem with him in mind, but it was not the big leap I wanted to take. I have decided to keep Henry Howard with me as my ancestral muse. I will confer with him before and after I write. I think that by reading more of his work and keeping his memory alive in my dreams I have a chance of expanding beyond my comfort zone as it is now.
I am grateful to all the writers in the #ROW80 challenge for showing me that all of us have similar issues, both helpful and obstructive to our process. The support and sharing within the group is a great incentive to keep the faith. Thanks to all who check in on Sundays and Wednesdays on this adventure of ours. I appreciate knowing we are in this as a team. I have high hopes for all of us.
The Round of Words in 80 Days challenge is a wonderful new experience for me. I joined last week by setting goals I intend to accomplish during the following 80 days. By joining this group I am entering a zone designed to support and entertain writers looking to learn new skills as well as improve on old ones. In the few and far between workshops I have taken in creative writing I did learn from my fellow students in many ways. First, it is comforting to see that many share the exact same creative obstacles and follies. Once we see that writing has certain difficult passages we feel less isolated. It cheers us up to find out others get stuck around the same places that we do. Many of the participants have much more experience and education, which does reflect in the way they put their words together to express themselves. It matters little how large your vocabulary is, or how much you know about crafting dialog for a story if you are out of ideas. We all have to go to the well of creativity and draw water to keep our writing alive. In #ROW80 we share this mutual idea of renewing our source of inspiration. The group is much more powerful than the sum of its parts.
My new devotion to write, read and immerse myself in poetry stems from my ancestry. I have some famous poets in my family tree. This, more than any other accomplishment of my ancestors, has made me think about my own creative legacy. I don’t care to be famous, but think it is very cool to read the handwritten poems of my famous 9th great-grandmother. They are the work of a religious Pilgrim in America, not exactly my cup of tea. I still treasure the poems because they have a life of their own, staying in publication for hundreds of years. I can hear her “voice” because she recorded it (as best she could in the 1600s). She inspires me to refine, discover, and expand my own poetic voice.
I have done the ground work I agreed to do by publishing a poem daily. This is starting to be natural. Usually I do the drawing and poem first thing in the morning, which makes me feel good. I don’t get too critical of the work, I just make an attempt to prime the pump and get a constant flow of words. I will be happy when I become more fluent and need to edit with more thought and specificity. For the present I am pleased just to keep that daily beat. I stay with the images as well as the words while I do my daily routine. I think pondering the colors and the words I have used works to inspire the next day’s creation.
My goal to expose myself to the work of poets with whom I am not familiar is made incredibly easy by the fabulous podcasts and poetry apps available at little or no cost. I have also downloaded a couple of apps that help you create poems, and even record your work. There are many good options to read and to hear. These are a just a few of the new resources for poets and poetry fans:
I am using these and a few other mobile apps to make it easy to find and lean about poets. I particularly like the translated work because the reading is done first in English, followed by the poem in the language in which it was written. I like to hear the sounds and the cadence of the original language after I know what it means. I have been pleasantly surprised by how easy and fun it is to discover poets and enjoy a variety of styles. I like the funny subjects the best.
I skipped the reading last week at the U of A Poetry Center. The schedule arrived in the mail for all the readings, events, classes and workshops to be presented in the spring semester. There is a series called the Poetics and Politics of Water which is very interesting to me. I have marked my calendar to be ready to attend all four parts of this collaboration with the American Indian Studies Program. I am also looking forward to an exhibition of photos from Afghanistan to accompany a presentation on oral folk poetry of the women of the Pashtun tribe, living on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. There is tremendous technical excellence built into all the work done at the Poetry Center. I cherish to the academic and aesthetic rewards of living very close to this special institution. It is my hope that with the inspiration of my dead poet ancestors and the living poets right around the corner I will be staking a claim to an identity as a writer. A lot can happen in 80 days!!
People walk through the doors of your expectations. This has been my belief for most of my life, and has proven to be a valid one. I have high standards, but notice how I am much more likely to apply them to others than to myself. I do set goals and make commitments, but not usually in a public way. This is why the #ROW80 challenge is perfect for me. I have set myself an expectation of working more creatively and do a daily bit to achieve that goal. I want to practice being more poetic in all aspects of life, so the drawing, photography and poetry are intended to build on themselves . I expect to become more observant in all aspects of my habitual life. There are already a few good results:
The addition of the art has made this exercise natural and easy for me. I have written poetry before, and even looked for art to use as inspiration. Making the art myself is a new and interesting way to tie my attention to a written project. Usually I write the prose, then add the visuals. Starting with color and form is a good way for me to see action and hue within the emotional tone I want to set. I have not attempted to draw anything realistic. My best work is not representational, but based on geometry and color. I am not afraid to try, and am considering going to the botanical garden and trying to do a depiction of the cactus section. Words to go with the cactus poem have been rattling around in my brain as a think about the idea. Although I do publish my work, the purpose of this venture outside my normal writing style is completely personal. I am not seeking adulation or followers. I am curious to see if my writing practice can expand and include more comedy, enlightenment, and beauty. So far, so good!! Now, for the poetry of others:
In general the poetic life is off to a fine start here. I have also started a food preparation calendar, which I think of as an extension of poetic thinking. I want my home life, my cuisine, and my fitness regime to reflect creativity and artful planning. The food preparation trip is actually a very good foundation because it concentrates kitchen time and frees me to wander off into the world of visual art and poetry. I have had some funny thoughts about food and drink poems I want to write. I think a cocktail series could be pretty funny. Asking “What would Dorothy Parker say?” is a fabulous prompt I am using. In my heart of hearts I want the ROW80 to turn me into a glib, sophisticated observer of the details of living. I don’t think that is too much to expect in 80 days.
I just read in a fellow blogger’s post about the ROW80 challenge. I have just started a practice to improve my writing by creating poetry and art. I had not planed to commit to a daily routine, but I am finding that starting the creative day by drawing, editing photos, and making visual art I am more likely to be observant for the day. Observant includes in this case a full attention to detail as I go through my life, and easy flawless observance of boundaries I have set. Since the group is making personal goals a shared conversation, observant will also mean that I pay attention to my fellow writers and the way they express themselves. This idea arrived at a most propitious time, since 80 days of tracking my goal of a more poetic life will give me a good jump start to a full time practice. I look forward to learning how other people contribute to this exercise.
Observe and Grow are the key words for my goal. I hope to grow my vocabulary, my skills, and my creativity by publishing art and poetry. By observing the world, as well as my dreams, I will find richer, more vibrant subjects. I tend to be a scribe, writing just the facts, and supporting the facts with some photo documentation. I still enjoy that, but feel I could do some story telling, humor, and abstract sound pieces if I develop my poetic sense. I want to see where poetry leads me. I am not seeking approval for the work as much as I am wondering what will happen when I apply myself.
For the next 80 days I will observe what happens when I write a poem each day. This is an adventure I will share. It will include:
It is my desire to explore a different way of using the written word. I think it will open new doors for my self expression. I also believe my daily life will be enriched by looking for poetic subject matter. I publish my art and poetry on my Tumblr blog, The Flow.