No, I didn’t say pelican pose. Or peculiar prose (though I’ve seen some of that emerge from my keyboard lately). Peculiar pose, as in, “What is that crazy bird doing?”
A lone turkey vulture along Arizona’s San Pedro River, although separated from his group of pals, seems unfazed that I am madly snapping photos of his comical sunbathing stance. Click to enlarge.
This turkey vulture, with his spread-wing posture, is working to absorb solar energy so that he can passively raise his body temperature. Turns out, the vulture’s internal temperature drops during the nighttime, so it needs that pick-me-up in the morning to get the wings a’flappin again.
For Writers: Where do you get your writing energy? How do you warm up? What techniques do you use to start your writing day without stiff muscles?
I find, personally, that reading the works of others is a great warm up – and quite inspirational. And so is outdoor running, which seems always to jostle some creative morsels from my mind. I also wanted to share some excellent instructional tips from Janet Burroway et. al, in the text, Writing Fiction:
- Regular journaling: Write about anything. Write as little or as much as you want. But make journaling a regular habit. Include brief notes or descriptions, overheard phrases, ideas for future stories. “Keeping a journal regularly will put you in the habit of observing in words,” says Burroway.
- Freewriting: Get something down on paper, anything – and at whatever time of day you want. Or use freewriting to unlock your creativity. The point is simply to write. Says Burroway, “If you freewrite often, pretty soon you’ll be bored with writing about how you don’t feel like writing and you will find your mind and phrases running on things that interest you.” It’s a way of developing “verbal muscles,” she says.
- Roll out of bed and write: Dorothea Brande, in her book Becoming a Writer, suggests that writers “unlock” their thoughts on paper by rising each day and heading straight for the desk for 20-30 minutes. Let whatever thoughts roll from your head out on to the keyboard … before you are quite awake, before you’ve spoken to anyone, before you’ve read anything, “before reason has begun to take over from the dream-functioning of your brain.” The key, she says, is to write it, put it away without reading it, and after a week or two, do two such writing sessions each day. “It doesn’t matter what you write,” says Burroway of Brande’s technique. “What does matter is that you develop the habit of beginning to write the moment you sit down to do so.”
What works for you? Would you be willing to try any of the above suggestions? Or do you already employ them? I think I am going to try the “roll-out-of-bed-and-write” technique. If nothing else, some of my bizarre dreams will see the light of day before crawling back to the recesses of my mind. I will be sure to let you know how it goes.
I have to confess that the winter season in the desert has made my pursuit of “fun things to see” a bit challenging. This time of year the desert seems to be in slumber, with animals lulled to silence and plants painted by the stroke of the same dull, muffled brush – in withered, washed out hues.
A discovery last week, however, made me realize that there truly is something new to be seen every day, if only we open our eyes and look. Like this barrel cactus, for instance.
This barrel cactus appears to be wrapped in “hair,” strands radiating from the thick spines that seem to insulate and safeguard this already-protected plant (animals know to steer clear of the fish-hook barbs). The barrel cactus is also known as the compass barrel because of its habit of leaning toward the southwest. Click to enlarge. Scroll for close-up photo below.
My discovery of something “new” in otherwise familiar and ‘drab’ surroundings made me think that our lives aren’t much different. We drive to work, run errands, tackle everyday tasks, parent, do our jobs the same way – often on autopilot and often completely unaware of our surroundings. At times, the world around us can feel mundane, boring, same-old-same-old. But is it really? In 2011, I challenge you to notice something every day. Whether you’re in the office, amid nature, on the train, on horseback … Look around. Seek new sights. Listen. Feel.
Why? Because if you’re not enjoying the journey, you’ve already lost the race.
For Writers: Believe it or not, the image of this cactus inspired several writing lessons and thoughts as I plan for 2011. Rather than pick one, I’d like to share a few.
- As writers, we need to look at the world in the same way – eyes wide open, constantly in search of ‘material’ for our novels. Whether it’s the speech patterns of the New Yorker sitting next to us on the plane, the weed growing out of the middle of the concrete against all odds, the way our neighbor’s dog cocks its head … we need to look at everything around us with fresh eyes. All of it is novel fodder.
- The barrel cactus is known as the compass barrel, due to its growth in a southwestern direction. What’s your writing compass telling you this year? Focus on freelance? Focus on novel? Focus on nonfiction? What are your goals? How will you keep your compass grounded?
- In the close-up image of the cactus, the hairy white yarns protruding from the barbs really look like thread to me. It made me think about how I’m going to thread my writing goals together – freelance and fiction – along with my personal goals. The way the threads seem to “grow” from each spine also brought to mind the question of how I am going to grow as a writer this year? How will you? Attendance at conferences? Reading more fiction? Setting daily word-count goals? Seeking critique from more writing groups and mentors? Becoming active on Twitter? Writing a blog?
- And, finally, I’m curious what your take is on the “feel” of this cactus. In some ways, it says “comfort” to me – with the hair serving as an insulated protective covering and the almost soft bird-nest-looking center. In other ways, though, it says confinement: wrapped tight, entwined like a ball of yarn. What do you see?