writing life creative
“Mom, I used to be a bird; now I’m a kid.”
We dream a day when he will build his way
out of the blur, hold the words in his hands
and fumble through them like wishes. When the tears
will lessen and carry his song, a bright
buoyant cloud, thunder, a bend of color
in the sun. He is singing if you listen.
We slowed down to hear his tune, to fidget
with insecurity, these awkward notes
that sound like waves of purple and gold. We
hold on to ourselves, on to him like calm,
walk like stray footprints, shadow and accord.
There is only so much we can do about the clusters of clouds, the colors of uncertainty, the bare trees in daybreak, crowded swirls of steel gray and blue. We can long for reassurance, the sky peeling open, peach and pale moon. When doubt sounds like winter and wind gust, a moist leaf in mourning lingers in daylight; a reminder faith is not scared of the dark.
“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation—either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force…” –Martin Luther King Jr.
We are human, vulnerable. Let’s accept, connect with that truth, see it as a gift. Let’s make, do our best work, build whatever we can get our hands, hearts, and minds around.
“In order to add lasting, meaningful value, we must – eventually – find our own voice. We must actively search for our voice, and clear a path for it to emerge. It is uncovered, not manufactured. We may not even like what we discover at first, but by embracing it we will position ourselves to occupy the unique space for which we’re wired.” –Todd Henry, accidentalcreative.com
To stand with you,
at the end of the day,
the air crisp and colored in.
The nest next door,
beyond bare branch
and red berries,
a box of secrets.
covered in sunset,
the flutter of bird wing.
We simmer our worry,
our cold and damp,
a gold and yellow mute,
a rooftop glow,
where the snow
falls early, and sky pills
like raggedy sleeve.
We leave the words undone,
tangled in forgiveness,
sweet remnant sun.
The cloud cover scribbled in the sky, holes
torn like mohair, signs of moths and autumn,
a gathering of the plums, rain, and cool.
The clean light, spare in the spotted window
pane, the sunrise bares routine: lunches, bags,
folded clothes, bright alarm, a kiss. Slow in
the small of morning, a blue gray hush, we
lie facing each other, a sallow moon
turning over inside the haze of day.
When the sun falls, lint, like some strange glitter,
dusts the round of our shoulders, and settles
in the space between us, fills comfortable
silence with shadow, wind, and ginger,
bands our time together an orange ribbon.
You and I, a slow fold, dressed in sunset.
I want words to get into the ordinary, the writer to treat the ordinary with new eyes and wonder. That’s how I see creative writing. No detail is too small for invention. Write and sketch with words in wide open spaces, if you can—everyday. This is how we practice, how we work on our writings, on our books, on our lives.
Examples of word sketches pulled out of ordinary wonder…
I spent time standing in front of the door.
The lock, just beyond me, with marigold
splash, daybreak oozing between the narrow
lip and curve. I could see inside, the bare wood
covered in our years here, shine and scratch,
our comings and goings pressed into each plank.
We could walk away from this place
or stay and fill the bedrooms, listen for laughter,
their young voices along the tree-lined streets.
The eggshell walls temporary, the paintings and furniture
will color and shift. This key, like us, is turning, turning still.
This house, a new beginning, collecting objects and selves.
I originally penned this post in March of 2012. I would like to think that over two years later, these words would have less relevance, less pain, less immediacy. I suppose these words knew better – waited for me to remember, reflect, read them again.
And it seems no matter how much time turns, the fire still shines in all of our eyes. We can close our lids and pretend not to hear the click and pop, but we would be kidding ourselves. The smoke from the barrel, the smell of lifelessness, even from a distance, appears endless or at least the headlines, wail, and tears seem to write, cry themselves restless and closer still.
Originally posted on life and write:
The black and blurry headlines ache as ink bleeds over our eyes and ears. The latest headlines of injustice and tragedy offer little to grieving parents, family, and friends; but the stir from those printed or spoken words gather a memorial and speak for the silenced. These stories of innocent loss of life remind me that we are human. And as adults we were all once children.
When the headlines ache with the echos of gun shots, children lying still on the other end, I think of mothers and fathers that bleed from those dark holes, those empty black notes where a child once sang. Last week I heard gun shots far away in the deserts of Afghanistan; I heard gun shots silence the early morning in France, I heard gun shots in Florida, just south of my own children’s smiles. That pain both near and far sounded like life…
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On this night I write. It fits between thunder and lightning, between wishful and mourning. The dusty sky has a way of falling into the trees, open branches full of silver and orange. Just before the storm I find words in this muddled space. If I stay still long enough, they will find their way warm in my lap, charming the gray with spit shine and tears.
Last week I spoke with writer Hannah Stephenson about living and working our creative. She crafted our chat into a lovely profile featured in this week’s Columbus Alive.
When you’ve said what you’ve come to say (volumes of poignant memoir, poetry, and writing) and done what you’ve come to do, lift your tongue, your pen, rise… You rest.
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. -Maya Angelou
Just put down on paper everything you can remember… -Anne Lamott
There is truth and fiction, and there are truths in fiction. However, sometimes your memory is less than sharp and so you pull from the soft fuzzy parts in your brain that imagine new truths. This is not permission to lie but encouragement to write about life the way that you remember or imagine. This is sometimes where fiction, the imaginary, the wondrous, looks to truths, tiny speckles of story, experience, happenings, moments, and strings them together like pearl drops, like the blurry beads of memory.
…is revealing to the reader the beauty in something that was so simple you had taken it for granted. -Neil deGrasse Tyson
Neil deGrasse Tyson is an American astrophysicist, host of the Fox Channel’s Cosmos (can also be seen on the National Geographic Channel), and Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Rose Center for Earth and Space. Find him on Twitter @neiltyson.
Introducing “The Possibility Space”. Many of you know along with my
writing, I am also an educator and have an interest in creative learning and teaching. Inspired by my own museum education practice, parenting, and the collaborative practices of others, “The Possibility Space” is where I will write about topics in creativity, education, parenting, learning, and teaching. Some of this will intersect with topics I write about at “life and write”. Of course I will still post regularly to “life and write” about the writing process and writing craft, but I wanted to invite you to my new body of work at “The Possibility Space”. I invite you to follow this blog if it suits your interests or you are curious. Let me know what you think about the new work. I look forward to connecting with you soon.
Originally posted on The Possibility Space:
My four year old: “Mom, the clouds are squishy. They have holes in them. Are we going to fall through?”
Me: “No, but the sun or the rain might.”
“And that’s what makes the world magical. Every baby’s a seed of wonder – that gets watered or it doesn’t.” ― Dean Koontz
Today my neighbor and I stood under the sky in the late spring mild, inside the echo of early evening rain, to notice the sunset, the patches of gold blue sky, like sepia spilled into the treetops.
There is a piece of quiet
among red light pulse, a pause
between start and stop,
that early or end of day still.
Outside the sky falls
as glitter and fog.
dangle at the edge
of each raindrop.
Rays from the sunrise drew forth the buds and stretched them into long stalks, lifted up sap in noiseless streams, opened petals, and sucked out scents in invisible jets and breathings.
Today I passed this gathering of tulips, this surreal field of red in bloom. There were hundreds of petals open under the overcast sky, the sunlight dripping between the waves of gray. I had to stop and marvel at the evidence of spring.
Lately my toddler is talking in shapes. He notices the sides (or non-sides) of things, the angles, and forms that surround him. He names them by color or geometric pattern, and places them in his memory, calls them out when he sees a familiar four-sided, three-sided, eight-sided thing. He sees the shapes I’m sometimes too busy to notice. He’s close to the floor or climbing, or riding in the car just looking and thinking. What else is he supposed do other than notice things, piece together this puzzle in his head with this infinite all around him?
The other day he wondered about these silver squares. “A square and a square and a square,” he said, “one, two, three, four…” I thought about what it’s like to discover something new, to see your reflection in those dozens of silver squares face up on the floor, to find it more interesting than the shiny blue car and the purple block, to notice that the purple and silver have something in common. Watching his wonder, I found myself wondering too.
Do not erase the designs the child makes in the soft wax of his inner life. –Maria Montessori
While writing under the dim light, in early morning, or late at night, I look for poems at the tips of my stinging fingers, worn of typing, working, beating against my warm and slippery cheeks, worrying over something, someone, over words. I search for the shapes of poems in the piles of unopened mail. Listen for letter sounds, low decibel, rhythm sway and shift. I am vulnerable with my tongue, my subjects, the soft bending of the day. I pay attention to the letter crumbs and dust piled in the corner beneath bills, Sunday’s paper, or the dozen books I build as word castle in the corner. I sit with those words full in my sleeve, cool in my pocket. I listen, look, wipe the backs of my fingers along line breaks, push those words along metered plank, watch them rise and fall as tempered waves…
The whites are less clean, even after a hot water soak. I lie them like ghosts along the clothesline, pretend those voices are in my head. The first call, calm, without cry, tumbles from the top of the stairs. The high note lowers pitch as it falls down the old rusty shoot to the cold basement floor. I ignore the second call; grasp the damp clothes, move them from hand to hand, hang them side-by-side. I stand still under the weight of their call; to see me, need me when I disappear. The second and third cries rise in volume but I stay in the shadow, lavender, drape and fold. The laundry room drowns the panic song. I borrow the space between dirty and clean, bid work and plea for five more minutes alone.
“Painting is trying to paint what you cannot paint and writing is writing what you cannot know before you have written: it is preknowing and not knowing, blindly, with words.” -Helene Cixous, Three Steps on the Ladder of Writing