Writing, Opening a Deep Well

Writing is not just jotting down ideas.  Often we say:  “I don’t know what to write.  I have no thoughts worth writing down.”  But much good writing emerges from the process of writing itself.  As we simply sit down in front of a sheet of paper and start to express in words what is on our minds or in our hearts, new ideas emerge, ideas that can surprise us and lead us to inner places we hardly knew were there.

One of the most satisfying aspects of writing is that it can open in us deep wells of hidden treasures that are beautiful for us as well as for others to see.

Henri Nouwen

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How Do We Become Better Readers of Poetry, How Do We Learn as Writers?

The quote below is taken from Image’s blog interview with Nicholas Samaras about his new poetry book that has come out this March,  American Psalm, World Psalm.

Image: Many of us want to read more poetry but have trouble approaching a poem. What can we do to become better readers of poetry? 

NS: My suggestions are easy but difficult—because they involve commitment and changing one’s cultural conditioning. I say: unplug from the modern syndrome of American “instant gratification.” Slow down. Nothing valued is easily won. Our human nature tends to not value or even appreciate what is given to us too easily. Reading is similar. There is surface, and there is depth. Read poetry to find depth and resonance. When we discover revelation in a text, we have a greater value for the experiences that remains longer and deeper within us. That’s the kind of reading you need to bring to poetry. Make the commitment; what you put in is what you get out. You choose to be superficial or you choose to gain depth.

Reflection and meditation on anything changes us, deepens us, enriches us. Beyond the event is the ramification and consequence of the event. This is education. What I learn from and absorb, I evolve in myself. I interact and mature. I can only teach what I have learned, and I continue to grow and mature as a writer, a teacher, and a soul. If you write, you are teaching—yourself, and others.

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Writer and Guest Blogger Krista Quinby: So, You Want to Be a Writer?

So, you want to be a writer?

You should. Writing is awesome. It’s also one of those things that pretty much everyone has to do, but not that many people do well. Doing it well is what gets you paid. In theory.

Some of the doing it well part is training. A lot of it is reading. MOST of it is practice. The getting paid for it part is a little trickier. So, what’s my story? I got a job in a media company as a receptionist. Now I write scripts for marketing videos (commercials, essentially). I write and edit copy for websites. I use my writer training to turn hours of random event and interview footage into a story people can follow, using words other people have already said. I almost never answer the phone.

Writing about thermal imagers is not where I imagined myself, when I imagined myself a writer. But, I love it. I work in a creative space, with creative people, and I get to see my ideas and my scripts become a (nearly) tangible thing. To me, that actually beats sitting alone in a room typing out another novel. Writing scripts and marketing/ad copy has taught me as much about the craft as any class I’ve taken. It’s also opened doors for me to a creative world I barely knew existed.

That said, here are my 3 SIMPLE TIPS for being a professional writer:

1. WORDS ARE DISPOSABLE.

I don’t mean they’re not important, I just mean they’re a renewable resource. You won’t run out of words (even if you can’t find the one you’re looking for just when you need it). Actually, the more words you use, the more you seem find. Words are brilliant like that. So don’t get too precious about that “perfect sentence” you just wrote. There’s a chance it might not look so perfect in the morning. There’s a chance your client (who, inevitably, is not as clever as you) just won’t “get it.” By the time I finish any project, I’ve written roughly twice the number of words that actually get used. Sometimes the cutting away hurts, but it’s always worth it.

2.  IDEAS ARE NOT DISPOSABLE.

You only get about 90,000 ideas in your lifetime and most of them are awful. Jumping off the roof with an umbrella? TERRIBLE IDEA. If you have a really great idea, you need to WRITE THAT THING DOWN. Immediately. Keep a book of all your brilliant ideas. Then, when you’re stuck and you’re on a deadline and your new client just gave the m’eh face about your brilliantly funny video concept, you can go back through your book of ideas and find another one that just might work. Or might inspire an even better new idea. But if you didn’t write that thing down – poof, it’s gone. So buy a moleskin. Fill it. Then buy another one. Then figure out a filing system. When you do that, call me, because I have books full of great ideas but no good way to reference them.

3. NOT ALL WRITERS WRITE BOOKS. Books are great. I’ve written several of them. Maybe, one day, people will even want to read them. But I don’t get paid to write books. Not very many people do, really. I know several published authors who don’t earn enough to quit their day jobs. I also know several who make a comfortable living cranking out series books like crazy. Very few people spark the public imagination in such a way as to earn millions of dollars (most of which, let’s be honest, show up when the book becomes a movie).

So if you really want to be a writer – be willing to write ANYTHING. Write articles for the school newspaper. Write a blog. Write letters. Write history essays like you’re trying to get them published.

Believe me; getting published is a lot harder than getting an A, so you may as well start working on it now.

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About the Author:

Krista Quinby is a writer, editor, illustrator and script-doctor with a talent for simplifying the complex. Despite a superfluous MFA from the University of Notre Dame, she still manages to make a mostly honest living doing work she enjoys. When she’s not in the studio translating Engineer into Layman, or editing charm into CEOs, she can be found blogging at www.MILKandWhiskey.com.

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10 Reasons To Submit Your Work For Publication In Beginnings & No Ends

1. To share your work with friends: Feed your friendships.
2. To find the power of your voice. You have a chance to speak and connect to the world.
3. To challenge yourself. Can you do it?
4. To create your purpose. Build who you are. Define your vision of the world.
5. It’s fun. You can put your mind and imagination to work.
6. To exercise your freedom: Participate in your democratic right to express and define your ideas.
7. To motivate yourself to write and create your best and find your best.8. To feel the book you’ve contributed to in your hand–notice the tangible satisfaction of what you’ve accomplished through your effort.
9. To gain the recognition of your peers, teachers, friends and relatives.
10. To inspire and encourage others’ ideas and to spark their imagination.

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Conversations With The Canvas–Discussion About The Painting Process With Artist Dennis Dahill

As a painter my creative thoughts are focused on making decisions and solving problems in order to produce a painting that satisfies me. If I am successful, others may enjoy my painting as well. I have been painting and drawing for many years, so you might think that making paintings would not be difficult for me, however, this is only partly true. Sometimes the creative process is, indeed, easy and the results are satisfying. At other times painting can be a difficult and disappointing experience. The reason why I paint often is because I enjoy learning from the experience whether the task is easy or difficult. When my paintings are successful, I am happy and my pleasure makes me want to paint again.

While I’m painting I imagine that the canvas is like a person with whom I will have a conversation about what I see and how I try to paint it.

Last weekend I painted outdoors in a beautiful park filled with pine trees and grassy hills. Everywhere I looked was a colorful scene but every view was too large to fit on my canvas! So, my first conversation with the canvas was a series of questions: How much of the view will fit in my painting? Is there room to paint the red leaf shrub? Will I be able to include the tall trees and blue sky? Should I try to paint the people walking on the trail in the distance? I made several small sketches to answer these compositional questions.

Next began another series of questions about mixing colors that capture the many shades of green, yellow and brown that can be seen in an autumn landscape. Did sap green and yellow ochre reproduce the color of a pine tree caught in a ray of afternoon sun? Did the red leaves lose their brilliance when I painted the patch of pine forest behind them? Every time I applied a new color to the canvas, my canvas showed me if I made a good decision.

After a couple hours of painting the weather turned cold and misty. I did not want to stop painting but my canvas was getting wet and the oil paint would not stay put. Thus the conversation with my painting came to a close. Some questions remained unanswered yet the unfinished painting reminds me of how close I came to capturing the beauty of an afternoon in the woodlands.

Arboretum 3b

About the Artist—

Dennis Dahill has lived most of his life in and around Boston, Massachusetts. He has been a secondary school art teacher in the US as well as in Iran and Turkey. He has been a librarian at a genealogical library, a training manger at a regional bank, and for the last 14 years, a drawing teacher at the Boston Architectural College. He enjoys travel, history, sketchbook drawing and creating artists’ books. Dennis currently lives at the foot of Savin Hill in Dorchester and is looking forward to climbing to the top of the hill to paint views of the Boston Harbor islands when the weather is warmer.

 

 

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How to Think and Write Like a Poet–Tips From Guest Poet Carolyn Praytor Boyd

Poets don’t wear a certain type of clothing, hairstyle, or expression.  Poets aren’t all alike, sensitive or even ‘poetic’.  But all good poets do have one thing in common; they possess a ‘poetic eye’.  Poets are the ones who notice things that others normally miss.  It may be the tiny things in nature: flower blooming alongside the road, or other people: a stranger’s reaction in a crowd, or our own senses: the texture of homemade ice cream just starting to melt.  “Poets notice and poets record” is the best working definition of the trade I know.

Noticing is not a genetic trait, but one acquired and trained.  An exercise to sharpen the poetic eye is threefold:  Look at people not like you, listen to conversations that don’t concern you, and think about things that touch us all.  Anyone wondering, ‘what can I write about’ or ‘how do I get started writing poetry’ can find the answer in a week of intensive noticing.

Look at people not like you.  We all focus most intently on ourselves, friends, and family.  Other people become the backdrop to OUR lives.  But others are fascinating and offer raw material for often unrealized truths.  If you are young, pay attention to old people for a few days.  Look carefully at their faces, how they walk, talk, or what they wear.  Same goes for little children.  Study them; let them remind you of your own childhood.  The people along the edges of our lives, those in the crowds or standing behind a counter or on the street corner, merit our attention.  Imagine what they are thinking and what their lives are like.

Listen to conversations that don’t concern you.  Listening to other’s conversations can help poets acquire a feel for language and an insight into the lives, joys and sorrows of humanity.  On a bus, in a coffee shop or waiting in line, listen to the people around you.  How do they say things?  A poet picks up unique verbal expressions and tantalizing stories by just listening.  Carry a small notebook for jotting down nuggets of sounds and story.

Think about things that touch us all.  The most powerful themes and scenes in poetry come from moments that are both universal and totally personal.  A poet rages against his father’s impending decline and death, a woman poet describes the power of a railroad engine, another recalls a flight of geese passing overhead.  As humans, we are united by both our individual experiences and the corporate bonds that we share.  Good poems don’t often come from moments and experiences totally unique, but from a unique take on a universal moment.

Watching, listening and connecting are essential skills for the poet.  Without them, poetry is likely to become hackneyed or eccentric.  By training the ‘poetic eye’, poetry becomes authentic and compelling, even if it is just a little poem about a rose or the fog or the plums left in the icebox.

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About the Author:

Carolyn Praytor Boyd, is the author of The DNA of Sand  and the winner of one of the University of Houston’s Bayousphere fiction competitions, and also won fourth place in the 2004 Writers Digest’s poetry contest.  Her work has appeared in a variety of literary magazines. She holds an MA from the University of Houston at Clear Lake, has taught in Turkey, Taiwan, and Kuwait and currently teaches at The John Cooper School in The Woodlands, Texas.

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Light Source– A Lesson in Drawing from Guest Artist Dave Peterson

Whenever you start a drawing or painting one of your first steps is to determine your light source, or sources. Outdoors this is typically the sun. Indoors, it can be a light, an open window, or a fire burning in the hearth.

Lets start with our basic tree trunk – no light, just a line drawing…. view the step by step visuals and directions by reading more here:  Light Source Lesson.

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About the Artist:

Dave Peterson is a visual artist who works mainly in water color.  He is a graduate from California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, California.

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