Writing In Retirement Blog

Celebrate: I Want You to be Happy Day!

Happy I Want You to be Happy Day!

March 3rd

Yes! March 3rd is that sweet day dedicated to making another person happy just because … It doesn’t have to be a big thing like giving away a million bucks – although I wouldn’t say “No” to that! It’s holding the door open for someone who is having trouble with it. It’s making breakfast for you sweetheart. It’s buying lunch for the car behind you in the drive-thru lane. It’s doing something special for anyone really. The reason? Just because.

Doing something to make another person happy has an unusual effect – it grows and multiples. As you make one person happy, that person feels great and because of that – makes another happy and on it goes.  I can’t give all of you a hug, but perhaps a silly limerick, or two, or three by me will bring a smile to your face. Here goes!

Limerick 1

There once was a pretentious bookcase

That sat next to the fireplace

Alphabetically, the books were in line

In a way to show each spine

Haughtily showing its knowledge base.

 

Okay so how about this one?

 

Limerick 2

There once was a weekly blogger

Who impressed everyone with her swogger

It was out there in cyberspace

That her blog was a showcase

And she really was a good jogger.

 

And finally!

 

Limerick 3

Limericks are such fun!

You’ll smile like eating a cinnamon bun.

AABBA is the trail.

With that, you will never fail.

Try your hand at one.

 

I hope I have made you smile.

Happy,

I Want You To Be Happy Day!

Comments are always welcome. Share a limerick or two.

ODE TO MY BLOG

Dear readers, I was having difficulty getting my thoughts together today. Instead, I came up with this rather nonsensical poem. Enjoy!

ODE TO MY BLOG

By Marie Staight

It appears I am in a horrid fog

For writing my weekly blog.

I wonder if I used some dialog

I’d deliver a post for my blog.

Perhaps if I listened to a chorus of frogs,

Ideas would flow to my blog.

I know! I shall have some eggnog

So I can blog-gity, blog, blog, blog.

So sad I have no clever monologue.

To write today for this blog.

I shall instead write an epilogue

For this writer’s blog.

It appears it is the swirling smog

Around my head, that blocks my writer’s blog.

 

Comments? Always welcome!

 

 

 

Five Tips For Using Prompts

Prompts are a wonderful way to strengthen your creative writing skills. They also serve as a conduit to stretch our imagination and write freely. Prompts come in many ‘flavors.’

  • They can vary from explicit to vague;
  • They can commence from a starting sentence or give you an ending sentence;
  • They can list words that you must include in the story/poem;
  • They can give you a cartoon or picture to spark your imagination for a story/poem;
  • They can give you a setup for your writing such as a fill-in-the-blank character or setting;
  • They can ask you to reword someone else’s work or expand someone else’s story, e., a different take on a fairy tale or morality tale.

There are as many variations of prompts as there are snowflakes. They give us a starting point – a place from which to build. Prompts remove any preconceived ideas because they present unexpected topics. We can then experiment from that point forward. After writing from many prompts, I have some tips for writing from them.

     1. Write the obvious: Write the less obvious.

A prompt can be taken exactly as it is written or you can look at it through a different lens and explore the less obvious. Say your prompt is to write about a ‘key.’ You could then concoct a story about the object that is a key. But looking at the prompt with a less obvious lens, the key could be the essential reason for doing something, or it could be the pitch for a musical number. Or you could write about the lock connected to the key. Before you plunge into writing, give some thought to how you want to interpret the prompt.

     2. Keep Writing

Once you start writing, keep going. The important thing is to keep the words flowing. If you hit a glitch, think “and then…” over and over until a thought forms, and you can go from there. Remaining open to your thoughts helps to reveal the story you want to tell.

     3. Don’t Edit

Stopping to edit can break the flow of your writing. I am a great proponent of using a spelling/grammar checker program like Grammarly to point out the errors after I have written the story. I also use the speaking function of WORD to listen to the story to edit the flow or to pick up less obvious problems in the prose, but I do this after I have gotten the story on the page.

      4. Use Sensory Descriptions

Use all your sensations in your descriptions. As we have discussed in other blog posts, giving specific sensory descriptions draws your readers into the story and has them experiencing what you are experiencing. Strong descriptions are not necessarily lengthy ones, but by using words which express the specific quality of the experience you want to explain, your descriptions will be clear and crisp.

      5. Be Proud Of Your Finished Project

The goal of writing from a prompt is to stretch your imagination and practice your ability to construct a narrative that makes sense. Filling a page with words that matter is a great accomplishment. Your story is unique to you, so don’t go comparing your work to another’s work – especially if you do your prompt reading in a group session. What matters is that you were able to construct something out of thin air and they were too. So revel in your accomplishment and be proud.

Practice: Five Tips for Improving Your Writing

typewordsThe adage of practice, practice, practice is an excellent one, especially in relationship to your writing.  I’ve put together five practical tips for improving how you can practice your creative writing skills.

  1. Capture the ideas that you want to write. There is nothing like having an idea land in your head and realizing that it would make a wonderful story. The problem is that if you don’t capture that little bubble of a story. Pop! It is gone! So keep a notebook handy to write down those bubbles of ideas so when you sit down to write – you have something clever to write.
  2. Research specific types of writing and then practice that: Improve your writing by focusing on one type of writing or improving one aspect of writing at a time. For instance, if you want to learn to write poems; research poems and then practiced writing poems.
  3. Write outside your comfort zone: Step out of those things you feel comfortable with and try to write something different. When I first started to write, I thought I would never be able to write dialog, or a children’s story, or a poem, so I practiced those things, and now I enjoy all of that. Writing prompts are a wonderful way to push yourself to try new things.
  4. Edit and Rewrite: First drafts tend to be messy. Proofreading is a must. But beyond that, first drafts are full of mistakes and read rough. Rewriting is the only way you can make your writing more polished and clear. Examining the content of what you have written and then strengthening words and phrases, or cutting out fluffy parts is all part of rewriting. Another way to look at rewriting is to restructure what you have written. To make the story read better restructure it by moving a paragraph or a sentence to another part of the draft. The more you practice the skills of rewriting the better your writing will be.
  5. Welcome feedback and criticism: Having a writing partner or an editor helps you to concentrate on the parts of your writing that need improvement. Joining a writing group can be helpful also. Reading that which you have written out loud often helps you to recognize mistakes or things that are not clear.

 

Comments are welcome!

Five Thoughts on the Art of Writing

“The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.”  ― Gustav Flaubert

Writing a story, like painting, is filling a blank canvas or paper with creativity that touches people’s emotions; niggles sensations; and inspires thinking. Words are used as brushstrokes to convey to the beholder vivid scenes, tumbling one after the other. Enticing the reader to fall into your imagination and follow a story you have carved out of words.

“Writing, at its best, is a form of thinking. It clarifies our thoughts. And it leads to new thoughts. It even expands us, when it’s done right.” ― Tom Morris

The thing is that creating a story is not done all on the paper. For me, at least, it’s the ruminating of ideas; it’s the imagining that goes on in your thoughts; it is the building of moments in time that forms a scene. Once I get to that point, it’s imperative that I begin to write or like dry leaves blown in the wind the thoughts can be whisked away before I can capture them.

“Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” ― William Wadsworth

Like painting, writing should be done with passion. My best writing is done because I want to create – not just creation for creation’s sake, but to create this story because it demands to be told. I write because I enjoy the process of writing – the love of writing. When I write with my heart open my thoughts can bleed onto the paper which leads to the authenticity of emotion in my writing.

“You will never write better than you read.” ― Erin Paulicek

Reading is the foundation of writing. It teaches me about all the components of writing. Learning to read as writer has given me the literary palette to compose my writing. The  dabbings of the plot, theme, sentence structure, grammar, etc., become the varying shades that I can use to compose my stories. Reading absolutely has expanded my vocabulary. I try to not only read the classics and those novels that are within the genres I enjoy best, but also to challenge myself to read beyond those most loved in order to open myself to new ideas and voices that I had not heard before.

“10 Steps to Becoming a Better Writer

Write.
Write more.
Write even more.
Write even more than that.
Write when you don’t want to.
Write when you do.
Write when you have something to say.
Write when you don’t.
Write every day.
Keep writing.”
― Brian Clark

There is no doubt that writing is one of those things you have to practice. To be a writer you just have to write. It really is the only way you can improve. I must admit that my writing was elementary when I began to seriously write. When I look back into my notebooks of stories and poems, I know that my voice, style and content have changed for the better.

How about you? What are your thoughts on the Art of Writing? Comments are welcome!

Possibilities: Taking Time Out to Write

 

possibilities

 

I seem to be having difficulties having enough time to write. So the conundrum is: do I write a brilliant blog post about writing, or do I write a story that keeps knocking on my brain to be told? I have to admit it is a wonderful day to dedicate to writing. It is cold out. I have no meetings that I need to attend. There are no pressing news stories that will draw me away to CNN. Now that the government is open again, I don’t need to keep emailing my Senators. So why am I trying to write a blog post about writing when I can just be writing? I guess it is like: “To be or not to be – that is the question.” Instead, it is:

2b or not 2b

 

 

 

 

 

It is not that I don’t want to write – it is that I don’t want to have the pressure of writing a brilliant blog post that no one cares about; when instead I can be writing a brilliant story that I care about.

After careful deliberation, I have made my decision. I am off to answer that knocking at the door of my brain, so see you next week with a brilliant blog post.

Comments? They are always welcome (unless they are snarky about my decision).

Designing Short Stories Settings

settings2

After reading some of my short stories, I got to thinking about the importance of settings to the stories. Settings can be quite important to a story. They set the mood and give clues as to what the story contains. Sometimes the setting is a character in the story, and at other times it can take a backseat to the story. Here are some of my thoughts about formulating a short story setting.

The Setting encompasses the elements of the surrounding and atmosphere in which an event or story takes place. It may provide particular information about placement and timing. The atmosphere aspects of the setting might include social conditions, historical time, geographical locations, weather, and immediate surroundings.settings

Broadly there are two types of settings: Backdrop settings which emerge as unimportant to the story, i.e., the story may have taken place in many different settings. It’s a universal story. The second type is an Integral setting which elevates the setting to a prominent actor in the story. The setting influences the characters, the action, the mood, and theme of the story.

The objective in a short story is to have the setting transport the reader to your world and allow the reader to be able to imagine the when and where of the story. In a short story, you do not need to describe your setting in depth. However, it must be done early on and as comprehensively as possible. Your description should enable the reader to see—and feel—the story unfold. Think of the setting as the underlying infrastructure for your story.  In describing a setting include the sounds, smells and other sensory details that distinguish it. Using concrete descriptive nouns is the best way to get the idea of the setting from your mind to the paper. Remember though to provide only the details that enlighten the plot, mood, or character.

As an example consider this opening paragraph from my story Lucky Charm published here on March 17, 2018.      

shamrocks

The path, lined with shamrocks standing like soldiers dressed in green uniforms, wandered around the land showing off a variety of greens. I followed its wanderings taking in the ancient stone fences separating patches of fields and fairy-like cottages from one another. At one gate I saw a wash of yellow daffodils waving in the gentle breeze. Beyond the daffodils was a small field of shamrocks. At once I sat down and took off my shoes so that I could romp in the field with bare feet as I had as a youth. As I stepped onto the cloud of green leaves, I heard a squeal. “Oh my, what have I done?” I exclaimed aloud.

To help mold a picture for the reader where this story takes place, I  used concrete nouns such as ‘path,’ ‘shamrocks,’ ‘green,’ ‘stone fences,’ and ‘field.’ I have no reference to time other than to indicate the area had “fairy-like cottages” which hopefully intimates to the reader that this is a fairy tale and takes place in ‘Once upon a time.” The set-up paragraph indicates an atmosphere of beautiful landscape perhaps in Ireland due to the overwhelming reference to green and the shamrocks all around. Because the narrator takes his shoes off and feels free enough to walk in the field of shamrocks, it must be a sunny, warm day. The characters of the narrator and the being that squealed tell the reader that the story must be about the interaction of these two characters.  Another clue given is the ‘squealer’ is hidden, as the narrator did not see him as he stepped into the field of shamrocks.

The next time you are writing a short story I challenge you to think about your setting and how it can add to the plot or mood and support your story’s characters.

Comments are always welcome.