Friday, April 4, 2014

Just Write

In all my work, I try to say —
'You may be given a load of sour lemons,
why not try to make a dozen lemon meringue pies?'
   Maya Angelou

Today we’re celebrating Maya Angelou, a writer who had the good sense to be born in National Poetry Month.

When you consider that she’s achieved international success as a poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, historian, and filmmaker — there’s obviously a whole lot there to celebrate!

So, what exactly is her secret?

Well, Ms. Angelou reports that even though she lives in a fine, large home, she rents a hotel room in town. She’s had all of the paintings and decorations removed from the space, so it’s a lot like the blank page all writers must confront each day. In fact, the only items she keeps in the room are a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a Bible.

Every morning she heads off to her hotel writing room at about 6:00 in the morning. There, she uses only ballpoint pens and yellow pads to write for about six or seven hours.

So within those hours, does everything that spills from the pen of this award-winning honorary doctorate recipient effuse perfection?

Of course not.

As Maya puts it:

"What I try to do is write. I may write for two weeks ‘the cat sat on the mat, that is that, not a rat.’ And it might be just the most boring and awful stuff. But I try. When I’m writing, I write. And then it’s as if the muse is convinced that I’m serious and says, 'Okay. Okay. I’ll come.'"

She also says:

I wrote some of the worst poetry west from the Mississippi River, but I wrote. And I finally sometimes got it right.

And here’s my favorite:

“Of course, there are those critics — New York critics as a rule — who say, ‘Well, Maya Angelou has a new book out and of course it’s good but then she’s a natural writer.’ Those are the ones I want to grab by the throat and wrestle to the floor because it takes me forever to get it to sing… It must look easy, but it takes me forever to get it to look so easy.”

There you have it — Maya Angelou’s recipe for success.

So celebrate her birthday today by whipping up a batch of it for yourself —

Create your own special space, and then…

Just write.

PROMPT: If life has handed you lemons, use them to create a fine meringue pie or pound cake. Remember, it’s ALL material. Then try making this your new daily mantra — just write, just write, just write. And before you know it, those words of yours are bound to sing…

just right.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Kid Stuff

Every child is an artist.
The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.
~ Pablo Picasso

So true, Mr. P. So true.

Obviously, immaturity is the answer!

And because we’re celebrating National Poetry Month, I’m thinking a good limerick is just the ticket…

There once was a mustache I knew,
That wiggled with each chomping chew.
This fine facial hair
Caused people to stare
‘Cause it lived on the lip of Aunt Sue.

Yep, that totally worked.

I’m feeling, like, loads more creative…

And I have a strange desire to shake up all the soda cans down at the Quickie-mart.

PROMPT: Save your artist self! Get juvenile for a while and have a limerick do the trick. 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Happy Day!

Children + Books = Happy

Way back in 1967, SOMEbody decided that life would be so much better if the world had a “Super Bowl” Day where men could run around, grunt a lot, and legally give one another head injuries.

At about the same time, some gentle-souled genius had another idea.

He or she decided that the world would be a much better place if we all curled up on a sofa, smiled a lot, and actually GREW some brain cells by reading something fun.

It was called International Children's Book Day.

And guess what —

Today is NOT the Super Bowl.

PROMPT: If you've guessed that today is International Children's Book Day, then you must be a reader with a great set of brain cells!

What was your favorite book back when you were a tyke?

What’s your favorite children’s book now?

What kind of children’s book would you like to see written?

Yep, that last one’s the one you ought to start today!

And if you’re participating in the National Poetry Month challenge —

Do not be averse to penning it in verse!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Calling All Fools

“It is difficult to get the news from poems,
yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.”
~ William Carlos Williams

Yes, you can actually DIE (miserably!) from poetry deficiency. Take it from William Carlos Williams who was not only a brilliant poet, but a brilliant physician, as well.

That’s right, good old Dr. Williams prescribed poetry.

And although it's been over 50 years since he died (blissfully!) at the age of 79, the world hasn't heeded his poetic call to action.

Case in point  most of us were required to learn the techniques of cardiopulmonary resuscitation in high school health class, but do you recall a unit on life-saving poetic procedures?

Neither do I.

And while defibrillators have become standard equipment in sports facilities, shopping centers, entertainment venues, office buildings, transit centers, and schools, I have yet to see a clearly marked box of emergency poems in any of these locations.

Imagine how many lives go unsaved.

Well, my friends, that is about to change.

Welcome to the new CPR  Cardio-Poetic Recitation.

This revolutionary method requires one poem, an audible speaking voice, and clear articulation with heart-felt enthusiasm...

Apply liberally to any miserable person as often as necessary.

It is up to us to put the new CPR into action, and there's no better time than April, National Poetry Month

So, please carry a poem with you at all times 

the lives of miserable people everywhere are in your hands.

Bonus: In honor of the National Poetry Month / April Fools’ Day combo, I dug up this little ditty foolishly attributed to both Alexander Pope and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. While we don’t know exactly who gets the credit, we do know that it is the best-ever response to a critic. So, if anyone gives you trouble this month, be sure to have it on hand...

Sir, I admit to your general rule
that every poet is a fool.
But you yourself may serve to show it
that every fool is not a poet.

PROMPT: Be a poetic April fool and embrace National Poetry Month! Challenge yourself to write a poem each day. I do, and I find that it's a great way to super-charge the creative process. Whether you jot just three lines or twenty, the practice is certain to open your heart and mind. What’s more, it practically guarantees that you won’t die miserably! 

Also, be sure to get your new CPR certification by carrying a poem with you at all times  and with today’s technology, it couldn't be easier. Go to to get the poem-a-day app or email subscription. So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow… and YOU.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Simply Wonderful

Are you waiting for computer technology to help you finish that novel of yours?

For instance, do you pine for speech recognition software?

Or —

Are you holding out for some fabulous thought recognition software?

Well, it’s time to rethink those thoughts of yours.

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote each of her Little House books using a number 2 pencil and nickel tablets. Forever the frugal pioneer girl, she used both sides of each page and filled in all of the margins.

Novelist Truman Capote used a similar process  although his also involved chain smoking, which I don’t recommend.

Joyce Carol Oates writes in longhand for up to eight hours a day.

Amy Tan does the same for all of her early drafts.

Quentin Tarantino pens his screenplays with actual pens.

And the infamous Jack-of-all-genres Neil Gaiman balances the old and the new beautifully. He writes his screenplays on a computer, but prefers to draft his novels by hand.

So, forget the latest and greatest

Infuse some new life into your writing by going old-school this week.

And for inspiration —

Check out this clip of Jimmy Fallon, Idina Menzel, and The Roots performing “Let It Go” with some simply fabulous, truly “old-school” musical instruments.

Play on!

PROMPT: Get off the technology train — Let It Go by embracing the power of the pencil for just one week. See what a little old-school can do for you.