Tag Archives: creative writing

Posting Exuberantly

I thought this today: I’d like to share here on the blog ideas that pop into my mind, but not because I think the ideas themselves are all that valuable. Some of these ideas may be useful, at some times, to some people, but what I’d really like to show is how cool it feels to be open to new ideas and how rewarding it feels to practice creativity daily (mostly in the act of freewriting my journals). I don’t want to formulate some argument in support of these feelings — I think I may just post exuberantly.

‘Live like you’re already dead’: Exquisite Corpse poems, August 2016

Here are this fall’s Creative Writing classes’ poems written in the Exquisite Corpse method. See here for previous semesters’ poems.

Why even go to the extreme of doing absolutely nothing.

Pretty girls are not nice guys.

Nice guys don’t get wemen [sic].

The small dog slept quietly but the small words speak truth.

My only weapon of mass destruction hurt like a dislocated kneecap.

Cows eat grass like nothing is fun to do.

Everything I ate today was walking down the street I live on.

Aren’t you going to help, cried the helpless boy.

Do you like to read the title and wonder all the time?

Skunks — I don’t even know what they are saying.

You’re never going to be who you want to ask her to dance.

Invisible people would like to be or not be.

Go at the green, light the cigarette, and pass out next to fire.

Say absolutely nothing until a giant panda just took my hand in marriage.

Towards the end he liked that girl but he never knew why.

To me love is like the ice cream is melted the chocolate into bars.

We clapped to the music inside a penguin.

Backwards people are like books.

Milk tastes bad when warm like a fresh fart.  

Expensive dogs were cuddling aggressively.

This is my life story of how grandpa got rid of all my best friend.

My best friend came over to pick the nose of the future and past.

She gave birth quickly. She ran home.

Surprise, it’s me, the money-hungry son of a huge turkey leg.

A lot of things are yet to come and eat our babies.

Go iron pancakes.

High School Musical was disappointing me by killing Harambe.

You never really need to go through puberty.

Insane boys are not something Santa didn’t get me.

Butts are all different sizes. So are things that we all think about.

A lot of things are confusing like a donkey at the fair across town.

She told him to leave, but she is naturally pretty.

She should go die in a big hole with love and affection.

I help to build the dog that hid the dog.

Live like you’re already dead.

Peas are little green balls of fury in China.

Ear holes are where sound goes.

She dumped a big fat black book in the library’s cracked shelf of total complete shame.

The funeral pyres are very green today.

Very cute guys lie like a dog on my mother’s grave.

Sweet corn tastes like sour candy.

Your dad spent time with my life choices.

Poison her drink so she will die today and live in heaven while in the kitchen, mom makes nasty friggin’ meatloaf.

Pancakes are very soft like a baby’s foot.

My dear horse was riding a monkey swung from a tree.

The girl is lonely far away among Walmart’s towels twisted like tongues kissing in a tree slowly falling to her death.

Applies cry at apple cider festivals.

Dumb like a broken skunk.

Peacefully they agreed on stuff, like Hercules and Andromeda.

Never eat the red jellybeans shoved up hard in her no-no parts.

Do you ever want to watch your slow cat eat a dead body?

Rats like to bathe in sugar and blood.

I know how to fly a cat.

My stomach is in your abdomen.

Very very good pie is good three years old.

My knee has a baby.

Dude, Imma take advantage of having a knife.

The sun is big and round with plum sides.

Junior is your year of solace and solstice.

Fleek is my eyebrows’ jelly time.

Blue donut powder is like Heroine.

She loves to go to be or not.

Night is jealous of her best friends.

Baby aliens are insanely great to take pills with.

Baby aliens are insanely great to take pills with the bottles of the time we went to the store to the end of time.

No patatoes [sic] taste god.

You are a wonderful person that is sitting.

Mayo goes on ham sandwiches made of mayo and then a cat got told I was adopted.

Dirt doesn’t love you.

Round table knights were delusional.

Delusionally, this mouse got stuck.

Bro, I love me some people.

The pleasure of the pig ran into the dog.

The dog ate the cheese cake and lots of the boot and two children playing alone.

Bees’ knees get ACL surgeries.

A sonnet of Eustace Tortoise

To have my high school creative writing students show they can write to the iambic pentameter rhythm, I assign them to finish the last 6 lines of a Shakespearean sonnet we start together in class. Rather than using our sonnet to present or evaluate a romantic claim, we told a narrative of one Eustace Tortoise, which narrative some students wanted me to post here:

So Eustace Tortoise went to chew some gum. 

He rode a unicycle to the club.

He wore a tunic but he looked a bum.

He hoped to meet a hamster with a nub. 

Then Eustace took the hamster by the leg

(which leg was made of dense and crispy lard);

they danced until the hamster lost its leg

that’s good. She hopped along the boulevard.

The students diverged in their conclusions of the narrative, but we all got some laughs out of our protagonist Eustace.

Creative Writing By Creative Reading

MENTAL PICNIC and LIFE VIEWING AREA

MENTAL PICNIC and LIFE VIEWING AREA

To write creatively is to make something new to the world, often by taking the agency to break rules and do what hasn’t been done before.

To read creatively, then, is to also break the rules of how we’re supposed to read, namely, the rule that says we should start in the beginning of a text and decode each word from left to right and then down the page.

Of course, these aren’t really “rules” at all but conventions, expectations that the writer expects us to follow, because a writer’s work is to make things accessible to a reader (well, that’s one definition of a writer’s duty. I don’t mean to bind writers in this post). Writers and readers each follow the conventions, and communication can happen.

But we don’t always need communication. Sometimes readers may not want to passively follow the writer’s instructions, and we readers want to actively create as well.

The key here, I think, is that, as we read, our minds can find patterns and meanings that were never (what the psychologists call pareidolia) intended by a writing mind. We can create meanings stranger, more unique, than what most texts contain.

So, here’s an incomplete list of Ways of Creative Reading:

1. Read columns of words, straight down a page, instead of across. This may not always make for complete sentences, of course, but we’re looking for unfamiliar phrases and constructs that may delight us in their novelty. For instance, so far in this post, I have these words along the left margin:

to agency to namely each of writer to writers communication but passively as the meanings writing texts

Already here I like the idea of “meanings writings texts.”

2. Take a group of words chosen randomly (as with this method) and let your mind suggest an organizing idea from the juxtaposed words and images. It seems as though my mind hates disorder and so it looks to find or make order. For instance, these 10 words picked at random and matched up the number of syllables:

approach remote

mobile matter

darkest coolness

instrument amorous

advances listening

This set of words doesn’t immediately suggest an overall idea to me, but I can organize them into a sentence:

Approaching remote mobile matter, the darkest coolness is an amorous instrument and advances listening.

And as I wrote this sentence, I started getting an image of a space-travel context: darkest coolness, instrument, listening, matter. I’m not saying this method always produces a fascinating idea or sentence, but that’s not the point; the point is the joy in discovering and making meaning, in the engaged mental state of playing with the words.

3. Read multidimensionally by starting in the middle of (or at any random place in) an article in a magazine, say, and reading bits and pieces, jumping around from article to article, from magazine to book. In other words, taking the perspective that the reading a person might do an any given day is not reading among distinct texts but is reading one pastiche (or collage) text made of all this disparate parts.

4. Rearrange or replace words in a found sentence to make a new sentence. This might include wordplay such as Spoonerisms and mondegreens.

5. Intentionally misread words, or substitute other words.

I’m sure these are just a start. Please suggest any other creative reading ideas in the comments below.

Beyond genres, writing as a way to live

I earned twelve dollars and fifty cents this week for explicating Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” when I substituted in a high school colleague’s literature class for 25 minutes. I made my money by discussing the ornate crassness of lines such as “worms shall try/That long-preserved virginity.” I wondered aloud to the students why anyone would attempt to argue, to logically reason, someone into bed — has such a thing ever worked?

The next morning, the poem came back to mind, and I wondered if perhaps Marvell had been playing a joke — if the whole poem were some clever attempt to state in high style what is essentially a pick-up line.

Lately I’ve been wondering if all writings, maybe even all artworks, that are made intentionally for unknown others to read (as opposed, say, to writings done in a journal or letters written to a particular friend) are, in some sense, made to impress others, to show off, to build the writer’s reputation.

An assertion: All writings that are created in order to be published are written self-consciously; that is, these texts are written with the author’s own reputation in mind. Even as I write this blog post, I’m aware that it will give readers a sense of who I am as a writer, how competent, how interesting I am.  (Yes, I suppose that I sometimes write poems without intending to publish them, and if they turn out well, then I’ll publish — but before I decide to publish, I think about how the poem will make me look — pedantic? loony? genius?) So writers are always “on” in their published works in the way that actors or politicians or other professionals are “on” whenever they’re in public.

But being aware of, and wanting to build and protect, our reputations can make it hard to be honest, hard to be our most-authentic selves. When writers only publish their final drafts, they seem unapproachably perfect to novice writers. Perhaps writers want to seem perfectly brilliant and not like the flawed and/or boringly normal people we are. Certainly, not every thought that comes into my mind is worth telling others. (I’ve had to block certain Facebook friends who commit this artistic and anti-social sin.) But when we can let go of our self-control as writers and be spontaneous, we may also write things that are beautiful and that are wiser than we normally are.

I’m reminded of a st0ry Natalie Goldberg told in one of her books (I’m not sure which, perhaps “Wild Mind”) about giving a public reading of a text that she had written just a few hours earlier, a text that was basically a first draft, a freewrite.

Now, I don’t mean to say that all writings should be first drafts, either. This is a concept I struggle with, though. If I write for publication only things I already know, I risk lecturing others/being pedantic, or just as bad, being merely clever in an attempt to entertain. As amusing as The Onion is (and this story gets a little too close to my truth), it also strikes me as the mental-nourishment equivalent of eating frosting. And while the idea of writing Onion stories seems fun at first, it later comes to seem like some level of hell where everything one writes must be snarky. (My own Onion story suggestion: “Onion writer would just honestly like to be taken seriously.”)

Of course, I’ve set up yet another distinction — writing for oneself vs. writing for others — and most distinctions are arbitrary, temporary — are tools for thinking, left behind when no longer needed.

And so I write. I don’t want to write to meet a publishing purpose, so many of which seem needlessly restrictive. It may help marketers to establish genres and categories of art, and it may even help some readers to orient themselves, but dividing up the magazine rack by topics, and the bookshelves by genre, suggests limits on what counts as “real writing” that I accepted for many years.

I thought that what I wrote was valuable only as long as others would find it interesting — that is, I thought I had to carve out of my writings only those short bits that would fit into established, marketable categories. It has taken many years for me to see the arbitrariness of these things, and to understand that an artist is free to (and maybe ought to) challenge the common ideas of categories, of purposes, of value. Realizing that the standards against which so many things are judged are also arbitrary helps in that when we are creating something new, there can be no standard against which to judge a new thing, so there’s no wrong way to do it. Standards, forms, and genres melt as the confections that they are when exposed to the cleansing rain of creativity — to use an overwrought image, but eh, why not? Part of the fun of writing is the chance to use language fancifully sometimes.

I’m also aware that this is the second reference in this blog post to a sugary substance — this was not intended, but when these images (of the frosting, the confection) came to mind, I went with them. Perhaps this reveals something about my mind — but maybe all writing that is not intentionally-and-arbitrarily limited does reveal the writer’s mind.

But it takes a mind to tell stories — things and events do not tell their own stories. Every written thing is the product of someone’s mind, someone’s consciousness, someone’s mental voice (however one wishes to conceive of this). I had an experience of seeing students moving down a hallway yesterday, and my interpretation of their walk was that it was more of a shamble, almost as if they were cattle being herded ahead of the cowherd-teacher driving them. Of course, all of what I’ve just described was a mental phenomenon — I’m not lying, but I’m telling a story that exists only because I’m telling it. Nothing in the world outside my mind compared these students to cattle. But perhaps my description communicates to readers and perhaps interests and/or amuses them — and the reader can’t share my experience, but only my words.

And my words, too, must be interpreted by readers before they’ve communicated anything — and I hope my words and ideas could benefit others. But I know that I write to benefit myself. I write because thinking and writing are how my mind operates in my life. Some people craft furniture, some dance, and some of us write. Some of us see students walking like cattle and feel a need to say that, and then we are amused by the description alone.

Whether or not anything I write ever becomes widely known doesn’t really matter to me. But I write what I want to write, when I want to write it, and somehow this satisfies my mind’s need.

‘So easy it is actually hard’: A student compliments my creative writing class

I gave my creative writing students (high school seniors) a “Kreativity Kwizz” a few days ago, and one of the students gave an answer that I read as one of the best compliments I could get on this class:

“I know that this class is by far the most unique, weirdest class I have ever taken, and that it is so easy it is actually hard.”

This statement shows me that my student really gets, really understands, that being creative doesn’t require doing the things that people typically think of as hard work: solving lots of math problems or memorizing facts for a test (although I do ask students to memorize a few poems). Learning creative practices requires different thinking, or even no-thinking, which are themselves  challenging. I also just love the way this student worded this idea, showing her own creativity!

‘Punk rock is not my dear Aunt Frank’: More Exquisite Corpse Poems (2nd of 2)

For introductory explanation, see previous post.

Her origami smells like your love of dogs.

Fast running is not very reliable.

Now is the time for score, and seven years until my cat dies.

Money is my favorite thing, with some stuff, and then the cops came home like I never say you can’t.

A healthy unicorn ate my baby girl that no one notices.

Old ladies love old men.

Love is admiring something’s beauty, and the beast is Miley Cyrus, cried the young son.

Who will watch your mind? I have no mind.

The man-eating bunny is just a rabbit.

Time is always poorly wasted.

Easy does it, but hurry up now, you child of mine. You are my sunshine babe.

My shiny bicycle, wobbly and shaking — it’s hard to define this section.

Youthful old people still die.

Yum is what candy tastes like, heaven with sin.

Amazing things always happen never.

The one who has the pirate once said, “this is so long, bro.”

“Me scurvy is acting up” is the way where the wild things dance like nobody is watching you pee while eating away at my insides.

Distorted TV pictures make me or a tiger wild and dangerous.

Breathing like I’ve been running makes me very unhappy.

My domain name is nothing but letters.

The everlasting time traveler gets lost at Petro.

I don’t care to explain yourself.

Sometimes the dog can whistle your problems to someone.

Monkeys fling poo towards me because I want yogurt.

“Off with his head and toes” are in LeBron James’ poetry.

Music is the worst thing that I like most of the time here and now.

“Bro” is the name he lives in.

Here lies the body. Of course I like salmon.

A sweetie told my mother to say “that is good riddance; I hate going to the air balloon.”

Overrated is rated too overly.

An overly ambitious cab driver has smells that are lightly crisp, and remind me of Kit-Kats.

Hate is not nice love.

Big tigers are very big; Europe is not so.

Cows never loved you.

Punk rock is not my dear Aunt Frank.

Turtle beats the hare every time I see you are my nemesis now.

Kittens will kill you hard enough to scratch glass.

As it always seems, you’ve broken the black cat of me.

One flower is all left turn on Second Street lights dangerously placed.

Was the chicken really worth anything anymore? And that I need to know about the chupacabra in the bathtub, yo. How are you, man?

You punched my big nose is what I smell.

Two dolphins walked into bars and held on tight.

Another plane of existence is futile, ye wench.

You are beautiful, no matter of fact.

Will you sign your name and find yourself there?

Word is a stupid word.

Dinosaurs blame the government, twisting words and alibis.

Words are sometimes very weird-beard on your face.

“Rawr” is what a lion is the phrase for.

Mandatory that you have fun time to sleep in a pool of vomited words like sour and sweet mixed together.

Number the amount of children [who] are becoming new elders.

The grand piano sounds heavenly in silence with really big bells.

The gingerbread man I’m behind now: Thanks for not being there.

Elsewhere must be near.

The kindergarteners are not the best of all I get me out of hell.

Hell has cookies, apparently, so has come the lion.

Upset emotions were lacking with her old blue shoes that I want a dog in.

The Jonas Brothers’ rock is the best music, is my life-blood, is a gross sacrifice to my grandpa’s parrot.

Murder is a serious crime like stealing someone’s lipstick.

What are you really saying that he doesn’t want to know many more?

More than words can describe this thingy-thing-thing, what is this thing that is a noun, for they can always degrade.

Fire burns things I love is a beautiful thing.

“Bing bong” went the door and indulged our interests in having many things like syrup.

I think of songs [that] make me sad about that one day in this room there, blue-azul-rojo like no other ocean [that] has all sorts of the beautiful autumn day.

Songs that are very good habits die hard.

I feel the same as the carrot that is quite ridiculous, sir.

A treacherous life in water comes from my mouth.

Mouth to mouth makes life a beautiful thing.

Body [is] just cyberwire essence of the mind’s thoughts I’m having. Right now is the time for the love of God who never was there.

Sometimes life sucks as much of your knowledge lies!

I dislike the fact that unicorns are scarier than goblins.

I hope you find yourself a new beginning-end-middle era that begins too soon.

Too soon I will be free puppies on my street next to Wal-Mart.

Always will my hair be as big as you plus me equals love.

Last chance to waltz alive on the inside like potato chips and bologna.

Leg hair flowing like goddess divine is a key to success in Halloween costumes.

This morning arrived late today.

The squid thoughts: squishy movement, tanky, tall, buff, skinny, short, but tall enough to look at her sadly.

Tiger Woods’ prose is a true novelty I can’t read.

The wind is messy little kids that ruin the moment by saying things like “ooow weee” all the way home.

Home is where I live like you are never ever deal[ing] in absolutes.

Math is not my strong-suit of my body armor.

Amazing grace, how sweet the trees are saying stuff and things to do what you want whenever.

Click here to see a longer listing.