When Your Muse is on Hiatus

It’s easy to write creatively when your muse shows up and fills your head with elegant verse and provocative prose.  But what do you do when your muse decides to call in sick, or worse, goes on a week-long booze cruise in Cancun?

A serious writer should try to keep a cache of ideas to survive these creative droughts.  I tend to be more creative at night, so I dedicate a half hour per night to brainstorming ideas.  I don’t have a specific time – it just has to be dark outside.  The ideas are usually very raw – sometimes just a single word, sometimes a phrase, sometimes a sentence complete with a subject and predicate.

I isolate the ideas that seem to have potential, and I expand them into content for this blog, or into poems, or short fiction.  I do this by dedicating 90 minute blocks of time to my actual writing, or as I call it, No B.S. Writing Sessions.  I schedule two or three of these writing sessions per week, and I try to sneak in another one or two on weekends.  Believe it or not, I wrote a 90,000 word Sci Fi manuscript in just under a year by sticking to my formula.  Of course, getting the manuscript to complete the metamorphosis into a full-fledged novel is a whole other thing.  If that ever happens, you’ll be sure to hear about it.

The point is this: The seconds, and minutes, and hours you need to be a productive writer are there for the taking.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s something I scribbled down while I was on hold with tech support –Time bleeds out of me into the thirsty sand.

Now, I was on hold for about three minutes, and I could have killed that time by playing Solitaire, or Candy Crush, or twiddling my thumbs, but I elected to brainstorm a little bit.

During my next 90 minute writing session, I looked at my cache of ideas and there it was: Time bleeds out of me into the thirsty sand.  I thought it sounded kind of poetic, so I elaborated on it.  Eventually, I completed the poem.

It’s about a guy who lost his Muse.  I kind of like it, and I feel like it’s good enough to share with you.  By the way, it was the inspiration for this week’s blog.  And to think, it all started while I was on hold with tech support.

 

Keep writing, keep revising, and be kind.

 

-Hawkelson

db-316-desert-u-129-1410

 

 

 

Marrow

 

The blank page has swelled into some forsaken

wasteland where words cannot grow,

where morning never comes, but I can feel Time bleeding

out of me into the thirsty sand beneath my feet.

I have stumbled upon the skeleton of my Muse,

half buried in a windswept dune, still clutching her lyre.

I crack open the long bones and suck out the marrow;

these are all the words she had left in her.

 

 

 

 

 

The Benefits of Haiku

Several posts ago, my topic of the week was on the literary form of haibun.  Typically, a haibun piece consists of a prose narrative followed by a haiku that illuminates some aspect of the prose in a subtle, but meaningful way.  I am still quite the novice at this form, however, I felt that I knew enough to submit a work of my own to a journal called, Haibun Today.

A few weeks later I was contacted by the publication’s general editor, Ray Rasmussen.  He felt the prose portion of my submission was strong, but the haiku needed work.  A lot of work.  Under his patient guidance, I was able to revise the piece, and it was ultimately accepted for publication in the upcoming December 2017 edition.

This post isn’t about me patting myself on the back.  Well, it is a little bit because it means a lot to have my work appear in a journal that I hold dear to my heart.  But besides that, this post is meant to reinforce a theme I touched on two months ago.  It was titled, “On Rejection.”

In that post, I emphasized how valuable an editor’s constructive criticism can be for a writer.  It’s rare when an editor takes the time to do this for an unsolicited submission. Seize the opportunity when it happens.  Chances are you’re going to learn something about the craft of writing.

And that’s exactly what happened to me.  I learned something about writing haiku – and I can apply that lesson to every facet of my writing.  Haiku forces a writer to focus a concept into a literary laser beam.  A lot has to happen in seventeen syllables or less, and if it’s done well, the reader’s brain will vaporize from the impact your haiku just made.  There is a ton of helpful articles out there on the subject – Ray Rasmussen gave me this link to get me started, and I highly recommend it to you: http://www.haiku.org.uk/two-image.htm

I’m not claiming to be a haiku expert, but I am claiming that studying the haiku form can help a writer eliminate a lot of the mental clutter that tends to bog them down.  When you’re writing in English, you can express a concept in a multitude of ways.  A given word could have dozens of synonyms that ever so slightly change the tone of a phrase or sentence.  Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the possibilities.

Reading and writing haiku for a half hour or so seems to prime my brain to think more concisely.  My mind feels more focused and agile, and my writing session is noticeably more productive.  If I was independently wealthy, I’d commission a team of cognitive scientists to figure out why this happens to me.  But, unless I hit the Mega Millions, you’re just gonna have to take my word for it.  And see if it works for you.  It certainly won’t hurt.

I’ll leave you with a haiku I finished a few nights ago.  Keep writing, keep revising, and be kind.

 

-Hawkelson

sunrise-in-savanna_f1ibGZDu_L

 

pastel sky

lazy shadows spill

from the still trees

 

 

 

 

 

Archives: Three Band Names

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When you work in the trades, there can be unexpected delays that pop up on any given workday. Sometimes it’s due to weather, and other times it’s the mechanical failure of a key piece of equipment. Whatever the reason, prolonged downtime on a construction site is never fun. One thing I do to kill time in these situations is come up with band names. If anyone is starting a band and can’t think of a name, consider these suggestions:

  • Trebuchet
  • Gossamer Spaghetti
  • Krakatoa Rumble
  • Rickshaw

 

Entropy Scissors: An Exercise in Dadaism

Dada, or Dadaism, was an anti-art movement initiated by artists back in 1916.  If that sounds counter intuitive, good, it’s supposed to.  It was a reaction to the carnage of World War I – a rejection of the dogma that lead vast numbers of young men to their deaths in the hellish trenches that scarred Europe’s landscape. It was also a slap in the face to the elitists who controlled the art community  – smelling salts intended to wake them from their complacent catnap.  The Dada artists took the idiocy and brashness that had contaminated the world and used them to express their own outrage.  Bizarre sculptures, gibberish poetry, and noise symphonies were some of the forms they employed to provoke people into assessing their own moral values.

The state of global politics today is terrifying to me.  Sometimes my tendency is to insulate myself with layers and layers of apathy.  Of course, that is the absolute worst thing we can do as informed citizens of the world.  To remind myself (and others) that it’s not O.K. to bury my head in the sand, I have made my own Dada poem according to the instructions of one of Dada’s pioneers – Tristan Tzara.  It’s simple really: Take a newspaper article, cut out each word, and place the individual words in a bag.  Shake vigorously.  Reach into the bag and blindly pick out a word.  Write that word down.   Continue the process until there are no more words left in the bag.  There’s your poem.

I printed out an article from apnews dot com.  It was titled, “UN Condemns North Korea’s ‘Highly Provocative’ Missile Test.”  I didn’t have the time or patience to cut out every single word, so I only used words from the first three paragraphs.  I also limited the poem to 50 words.  Even though this was an abridged effort, I still think the point came across splendidly.  The poem is the degeneration of a highly ordered state into one of disorder.  I read it out loud, and it sounds absolutely horrible.  The author’s original intent is lost entirely, and there was no cadence, besides the cadence I might use when reading through a grocery list.  Let this be a lesson: If the citizens of the world allow their governments to lead them down a destructive path, society will devolve into chaos, and poetry will utterly suck.  If I had to title this monstrosity, I would call it, Entropy Scissors.

nuclear-weapons-test-nuclear-weapon-weapons-test-explosion-73909

mainland from Friday longest immediately northern condemned ocean the on the when in missile highly North Korea’s Pacific advance technological to landed it U.S. early and deep denuclearlizing hurtling peninsula actions test Pyongyang the over test security Korean of After Japan demonstrate council perfected provocative and ballistic commitment outrageous Friday

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Be good citizens, be good people, and keep writing.

-Hawkelson

Comments Section

Sometimes I can’t help but lose faith in our species when I scroll through the comments section of a youtube video.  The ignorance, and the hate, and fear I see makes me think we’re still a bunch of wild animals.  Language is our greatest invention, and we use it for all the wrong reasons too many times.  Here’s a poem I wrote in response to all the hate.  Feel free to cut and paste it to the comments section of a youtube video whenever people start acting like idiots.

man-couple-people-woman

 

The comments are loose like rabid beasts. Half blind,

gut shot, bleeding out, crashing mindlessly

toward anything that moves.

-Hawkelson Rainier

Creative Nonfiction

This week I’d like to take a look at the craft of creative nonfiction.  Sebastian Junger’s acclaimed book, The Perfect Storm, is an example of creative nonfiction at its best.  It’s journalism with a soul – both heartbreaking and hopeful.  It’s one of my all-time favorite books.

Of course, the scope of creative nonfiction is not limited to literary journalism, as is the case with, The Perfect Storm.  Personal essays would certainly qualify for this category.  So would memoirs.  As long as facts are presented in a personalized way, you’ve got yourself some creative nonfiction.

Admittedly, I don’t write much of it.  There’s a knack to making a completely factual narrative sound interesting to an audience, and I certainly could use a lot of practice.  So, that’s the challenge I’ve issued to myself this week – to write a compelling piece of creative nonfiction.

As always, constructive criticism is encouraged.  I’d love to hear from you.  And, by all means, let me know if you have a piece of creative nonfiction you’d like to share.

Keep writing, keep revising, and be kind.

 

-Hawkelson

 

bush-cricket-1594641_1280A Sort of Biblical Swarm

 

Being from Northeast Ohio, I had plenty of experience driving in bad weather.  So, for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why my car was hydroplaning on a dry, sunny summer day in Louisiana.  I fought the impulse to stomp on the brake, and I steered into the skid, regaining control.  I realized there was some kind of substance on the road, but I wasn’t sure what it was so I cautiously turned into a gas station.

The parking lot appeared to be wiggling, and I turned the radio off, as if the sound was somehow interfering with my vision.  Nope – the parking lot was still wiggling.  Then my brain finally accepted what my eyes had been seeing the whole time – grasshoppers.  There were grasshoppers everywhere.  Truckloads of them.  I could hear them crunching beneath my tires.

I parked, and tried to tiptoe inside the gas station to minimize the amount of casualties I was inflicting, but there was no helping it.  I could feel them squishing under my shoes, and  they were slippery as hell.  When I got inside I announced to the girl behind the cash register, “There’s grasshoppers all over the place.”

“Crickets,” she said quite matter-of-factly.

“Okay, crickets” I conceded.  “They’re everywhere.”

Another employee chimed in from the snack food isle, “I reckon they’re a might worse than I’ve seen in a while.”  He had a broom, and he was busy trying to corral some rogue crickets into a mop bucket.

“How bad are they, typically?” I asked.

“Sometimes bad.  Sometimes not so bad,” the guy informed me.

“Where ya from?” the girl behind the register asked.  “You sure do have an accent.”

“Ohio,” I said.

“What’s a Yankee boy doin’ way down here in Shreveport, Louisiana?” she said.  The word came out like, Lose-y-anna.  It sounded very exotic to me, and I suddenly realized how attractive she was.  I guessed she was around my age – early twenties, tall and tan with long dark hair and blue eyes like glacial ice.

“I thought I’d brave the biblical swarm of locusts so I could ask you out for a drink,” I said with as much confidence as I could muster.

“It ain’t no biblical swarm neither.  It’s just a might worse than usual. And I done told you it’s crickets.”

“Oh,” I said, dejected.  “Well, I’ll see ya,” I said as I turned to leave.

“My shift’s up in about forty-five minutes,” she said.  “There’s a little bar up the road.  If you want, I’ll meet you there for a drink.  It’s called, Scuddy’s.”

“Yeah, I know where that is.  I’d love to meet you for a drink.”

“It’s just one drink now, and it’s just us talkin’.  Don’t get no ideas.”

“Scout’s honor,” I said, and I raised my right hand to show how virtuous I was.

“And I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts you was never no damned boy scout.”

She was right about that, too.

#End