Friday, April 17, 2009

 

Writing Through Grief

Last week, my boxer, Charlie, died suddenly in his sleep. He was 10, and he led a good life, but it was still completely shocking and totally devastating. In our family, dogs are not just dogs, they are members of our family--our babies--and my parents' grandbabies.

When my husband broke the news to me, I was in the middle of writing a blog post, and I completely stopped. I couldn't finish, of course, and I just closed down my computer and put my stuff away. That night, we continued with our plans to take our other dog to my parents' house, pick up my stepson, and travel 10 hours to my brother-in-law's house for Easter. So, I didn't write the next day either.

For the week we were gone, I wrote nothing but two paragraphs on my blog about Charlie and a few status updates on Facebook. I could barely even turn on my computer. The only thing I could think about was how much I missed Charlie, how much I was worried about Hush Puppy (our Basset Hound), and how horrible it would be when we got back home without my shadow. I was exhausted from trying to be "happy" around my family and celebrate Easter. I hadn't gone a week without writing anything for probably five years. I usually write every day--an article for Bright Hub, a chapter of my novel, or a draft of a poem. But I didn't want to write--not at all--I didn't even miss it.

When we returned home, I forced myself to go to the library and write two articles for Demand Studios--articles that focused on travel tips and didn't make me think about Charlie. I finally returned to work on my novel yesterday, although I just read over a couple chapters and revised them. I'm still only writing during the day, away from home. I can't seem to get in the swing of things at night. I'm finding when your work is creative, it is just plain hard to work through grief.

I've heard people talk about journaling their grief or turning those raw emotions into beautiful poems. But the most I can seem to do is share my story with the world through a couple blog posts. I'm too close to the situation, I guess. I can't even think about the first line of a poem or essay--it's just a big, bundled mess in my brain right now, which is why this blog post is also probably rambling a bit.

I guess my point is that if you experience a great sadness in your life as a writer, give yourself a break. I didn't want to, and I keep worrying that something is wrong with me, that my joy for writing is gone. But it's probably not. This is all normal--and the same methods do not work for every writer. Some people could fill journal page after journal page about their grief or depression; others can produce pages and pages of poetry; I can offer this blog post.

I would love to hear your stories. How did you work through your grief over a loved one (human or animal), and how long did it take your writing to get back on track? The one thing that has really helped me through this process is an old book I found at the library about grieving for pets. Pet owners shared their stories, and I found comfort in hearing others' tales. Maybe we can do the same for each other here.

Margo Dill
http://www.margodill.com/

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

 

Quote Starters

When you're not sure what to write about, pondering a quotation can be a useful way to get started. The easiest thing to do is pick a quote you like and let yourself freewrite for ten or fifteen minutes. When you're done, you'll probably find the makings of an essay, article, or short story!

Below are some quotes you can use to spark your writing. Take a serious or a humorous approach with your response, whatever you prefer. I can envision some good stuff coming from any one of them.

For fun, try picking a number between one and ten, then doing a timed freewrite based on the corresponding numbered quote below.


1. "The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well." -Joe Ancis

2. "The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide." –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

3. "If you have a job without aggravations, you don’t have a job." -Malcom Forbes

4. "There is no such thing as 'fun for the whole family'." -Jerry Seinfeld

5. "The beginning is always today." -Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

6. "Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards." -Benjamin Franklin

7. "Housework can't kill you, but why take a chance?" -Phyllis Diller

8. "Ever notice that 'What the hell' is always the right decision?" -Marilyn Monroe

9. "You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it." –Margaret Thatcher

10. "Only time can heal your broken heart, just as only time can heal his broken arms and legs." -Miss Piggy

--MP

*image courtesy of tomswift46, flickr.com

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Monday, October 22, 2007

 

Look to the Nose Pool for Ideas


We rely upon our noses every day, and sometimes it’s for survival. Remember all the guys who have approached you that looked so attractive, until you smelled them?

According to Professor Nosetradamus at the Sense of Smell Institute, “Everyone has his or her own unique odor-identity or smell fingerprint.” This is great news for writers!

Have you ever relied upon your nose for story inspiration? Anything is possible, right?

We know that ambient scents play a large role in our society; they influence purchases, and they impact our impressions on places, people, events, or objects. But ambient scents also influence our memories, and this is where we should focus our noses when we need a little creative boost.

Have you ever walked into a shop, boutique, restaurant, house, or any place where you suddenly felt swept away by an odor? It could have been pleasing or not, powerful or subtle, but it should’ve had an impact on you, and not just your sense of smell. If you know what I’m talking about, then you might guess where I’m going.

Ambient scents can give rise to memories of myriad subjects--people, places, objects, foods, actions, or maybe something else. Of course, this affect can give rise to emotions or actions, too. For one, I’ve heard certain scents play a large role in purchasing power. I can’t say I’ve ever bought anything beyond food based on scent alone, but I’ve read that it happens. Apparently, some people choose their cars based on the interior’s aroma. Most people, however, don’t have the money to please their noses. But we know it’s true for some.

My husband and I sold three houses in the last eleven years. Before we’d shown our homes to prospective buyers, I’d put a few drops of vanilla on a heated stove burner, to fill the air with a fresh scent. This doesn’t mean that our houses had smelled dirty beforehand; but the vanilla added an impression to the air. We were told this helped ease buyers into a house much more than the smell of cleansers and bleach.

Everyone has smelled something familiar. Sometimes scents can give rise to déjà vu.

If I smell an ointment similar to an old one known as Ben-Gay, I immediately think of my grandmother in her final years. I don’t know if that particular product is still on the market, but I need only smell a similar one to think of my past. If, however, I smell poppy seed pastries or a yeast-based dough rising, I think of my grandmother when she was much younger.

I think we all have those experiences from various places, and maybe foods are the easiest ones. But they certainly aren’t the only ones. Here are a few off the top of my mind: roasted Hatch green chiles, Starbucks coffee beans, poppy-seed pastries, Cinnabon cinnamon buns, lilac blossoms, mold, pine trees, animal petting zoos, cow farms, gasoline fumes, cigarette smoke, cigars, pipes, onion fields, and the list goes on to infinite possibilities.

Just the other day, I couldn’t think of an idea for a contest. I let it sit, empty on the screen and in my mind. But the emptiness went away when I smelled curry powder. The curry scent wafted up my nose and tickled my memory of an event with a friend from years ago. That was all I needed to start typing up the story.

Professor Nosetradamus also tells us that “The average human being is able to recognize approximately 10,000 different odors.”

So, the next time you find yourself in story limbo, look to your nose pool for a scented muse! Technically, you could have about 10,000 story possibilities in there!

Sue ;-)

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

 

Creative Stories Break Down Writer's Block

By Annette Fix



Let’s face it…some days, it’s just not happening. There you sit, staring at your computer screen with the blinding white of a completely empty page and that blinking cursor mocking you, but nothing comes out.

Sometimes, all it takes is a little skip down a creative path to get your muse back on track with the work that needs to be done. All work and no play can leave your creative child pouting in a corner. However, there is a way to coax her back to the page.

Read through this list of 50 and choose a prompt that resonates with you. Pick one that gives you an immediate image—a story, memory, event, or thought—from which to create.

• What I know for sure...
• A letter to my younger self… (at four milestones in your life)
• Lessons I learned the hard way...
• Something someone said still haunts me…
• My guilty pleasure…
• On my tombstone, it reads...(4-5 short phrases)
• In my eulogy, they said…
• Mistakes were made...
• In my next life...
• She was always right…
• A summertime memory…
• It was like fireworks…
• Innocence--yours or someone else's…
• A random act of kindness…
• My message in a bottle…
• When I first learned about sex…
• My rebirth, the decision I’m making from here forward…
• My 1st impression was wrong…
• A dream you wish came true…
• He left…
• Independence—yours or someone else's…
• The consequences of my actions…
• A crazy person who is (or was) in your life…
• Running in the sprinklers…
• A story from your life you've told a million times but have never written down…
• I’ve never laughed so hard in my life…
• It was a loss…
• A Secret…
• I thought it was forever…
• Only a little white lie…
• Snow days…
• An obsession…
• A job, a boss, and a sticky situation…
• Monsters in the dark…
• A bad haircut…
• Holidays with the family…
• It was the truth…
• I just won the lottery…
• A broken promise…
• The best or worst date/night/sex of your life…
• A nickname that stuck…
• When the truth is enough and when it’s not... A time when you had to take the truth and twist it…
• A personal win that was icing on the cake…
• A bad thing you did and didn’t feel guilty about... And a bad thing you did that you did feel guilty about…
• My last day…
• Innocence is…Humiliation is…Comfort is…Joyfulness is…Solitude is…
• It was a miracle…
• My first kiss…
• That neighbor…
• With my bare toes in the sand…

Now that you’ve chosen a prompt, begin freewriting about whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t have to be a literary masterpiece—allow yourself to build a sandcastle with words.

You never know…the gems you may find from writing through one of these prompts could inspire your next novel, short story, or poem. At the very least, your muse will thank you for giving her a much needed chance to play.


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Annette Fix is an author and spoken word storyteller based in Laguna Niguel, CA. An excerpt from her e-book, The Hungry Writer's Guide to Tracking and Capturing a Literary Agent was featured in WOW!'s September 2006 Issue. Annette's memoir, The Break-Up Diet will be available in October 2007. You can catch her next spoken word performance at The Powerhouse Theater in Santa Monica on March 5th.

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