Write Over the Hump: Descriptions that Sing

Recap of the “Rules”: Set your timer for 10 minutes. Read the prompt. Start the timer and begin writing. Keep writing no matter what. Don’t stop to think or fix anything. Stop when the timer dings. Beware: Timed writing can be addictive!

Write Over the Hump

Descriptions that sing don’t rely on the obvious. List these words: Cold, flu, cough, fever, chills, shakes, pain, ache, tired, breathe, stuffy, nose, drip, throat, lungs. Now set the timer for 10 minutes and write about being sick with a bad cold or the flu — without using any of those words listed above. Ready? Set… Start the timer and write!

 

What “song” did you write today?

Write Over The Hump: Outside the Box

Welcome to Write Over The Hump!

I’ve learned, though teaching my “What If? Writing Group” classes**, that timed writing exercises are a great way to bypass the conscious mind and enter fully into the subconscious. Timed writing shuts off the inner editor who sits there saying, “That’s a stupid idea; don’t use such a ridiculous word; who ever said you could write, anyway?” And it gets us deep down where our stories reside, enabling us to bring them into the light of day. We can surprise ourselves with what comes out in timed writing: ideas that contain the seeds of brilliance; words and phrases that lift descriptions into the sublime; and pieces of writing that amaze our readers (and ourselves) and often form the basis of fantastic stories we never would have thought of on our own.

Every Wednesday, I’m going to post a timed writing exercise for you to have fun with. There are no rules other than to set your timer for 10 minutes, start writing and keep writing, no matter where your thoughts take you. Don’t stop to “fix” words, phrases or ideas. Don’t stop to consider alternatives. If you don’t know what to write, write about not knowing what to write about until the timer dings. It may take a few weeks to become comfortable with this way of writing, but eventually you’ll find it second nature to read the prompt, start the timer and just write. Without planning. Without editing. Without conscious thought. Just pour those words onto paper, virtual or otherwise.

Some of the exercises will resonate with you. Some may not. But it’s important to do them as they are, because they are structured to enhance specific skills. Here’s a tip: I use the pictures from Tarot cards and Power Decks in my classes to help students who like or need a visual jog to their creative centers. The exercise provides the direction, the picture on the card provides the spark that ignites the imagination. Feel free to use any type of artwork/photographs in conjunction with the exercises, if you’d like.

You’ll be amazed at how fast your 10 minutes speed by. And you’ll probably be amazed at how much you will eventually be able to get done in only 10 minutes. Sometimes it will be impossible to stop after only 10 minutes, but try to discipline yourself to do so. And if you’re used to timed writing, or want a really challenging challenge, give yourself only 5 minutes for each prompt.

The “you” in these prompts can be yourself, a character in one of your stories, or a character you make up just for the exercise. The interpretation of the exercises is up to you. Use them as the basis of a scene in one of your stories, let them stand on their own as flash fiction, or let them become something new to work on. Or any combination. Each exercise has a specific aim, be it stretching your imagination, developing characters, defining settings, adding depth to your writing, working with point of view, etc. While you are having fun writing, you will also be learning or enhancing skills that will make whatever you write even better.

All this is a long-winded way of saying that these timed writing exercises will help you:

  • Access your subconscious mind where your best ideas reside
  • Shut off the annoying inner editor that makes you second-guess yourself
  • Allow words to simply flow onto the paper without interruption
  • Focus and stay focused
  • Move in directions that your conscious mind would never consider
  • See connections that are invisible to the conscious mind
  • Sharpen the skills needed to lift your writing to the next level
  • Juxtapose opposing ideas into new concepts
  • Make the best use of your writing time
  • Add depth to your characters and stories

So join me every Wednesday for “Write Over the Hump” and gift yourself with 10 minutes of extra-special, creative writing time. And let me know what happens! I’d love to see what you’re coming up with each week.

**The “What If? Writing Group” classes and exercises are based on my *****Write It Right: Exercises to Unlock the Writer in Everyone***** series, available on Amazon Kindle. See my Publications Page for further information.

Write Over the Hump

This week, let’s think outside the proverbial box: Look around the room and pick out three pieces of furniture. Use those three pieces in your writing, but not as they are intended to be used. Set your timer for 10 minutes and begin to write – now!

 

Let me know how you used your three pieces of furniture.

Death, Life and Writing

It’s been an interesting year, starting last October, when I almost died from pneumonia, heart problems and pulmonary blood clots. While it’s been both an interesting and scary experience, it’s also been a blessing. Mainly because all the tests showed a problem that I still would not know about, and that would have mega-serious consequences in the future. Now it’s (almost) a thing of the past… just one more simple treatment and then some more healing time. And I’ll be fully back in the saddle.

But all this physical stuff has certainly put a crimp in my writing agenda. Which is why my poor little blog here hasn’t been updated in a while. But I’m revamping, simplifying, and actually making it lots better. So I just wanted to give you a teaser today… what you can look forward to.

Think increased writing skills. Think accessing your inner truth. Think a lot of fun in a small amount of time. Think Hump Day…

Yes, that’s right. I’ll be launching the revamped version of Woman of 1,000 Words (with a new sub-category of its own) this Wednesday, and posting every Wednesday – rain or shine, health not withstanding. My aim is to get your creative juices flowing, help you hone your skills and have a great time doing it. Curious? Intrigued? Be sure to check back on Wednesday. Every Wednesday. You’ll be glad you did.

Photo Blog and Photos

My photo blog is up and running again. Hooray! If you’d like to contribute a photo to see what I do with it, feel free to send one along, along with whatever attribution and link you want me to use. I love to see what other people choose to photograph, and their artist’s eye gets my creative juices flowing.

Now, it seems the more things stay the same they more they change… or something like that. No sooner had I posted about the problems with media and links with WordPress, than somehow the media part got fixed. For me, at least. I know others are still having problems. Or maybe I just haven’t upgraded to the new version yet. Who can remember stuff like that? I’m still not sure if links work or not because I used my own photo this time.

Then I discovered that my new photo blog post didn’t automatically post to Facebook and Twitter like they did in the past. No, wait – now there is a new way to work with posting links to Facebook and Twitter. Social Broadcasting. Lets you post to other sites in your lineup, or keep them posted only to your blog. This is light-speed progress, in my opnion. Who stays up at night dreaming up these changes? May I suggest: get a life, please, and give us techno-dummies time to catch up!

I do, however, nominate them for the 100-yard dash in the Olympics. These light-speed progressions would win hands down. And I’m still here, huffing and puffing in the rear. I just hope there are still some hot dogs left by the time I reach the finish line.

What? You moved it? Again? Arrrrrgh!

Danger From Above

Here’s a photo I snapped one dark night, when clouds boiled across the sky and the moon snuck into corners of shadow, hiding from its own light.

Moon beams

What I see here is a UFO approaching Earth, ready to do—what? Destroy all life and take control of the planet? Or perhaps they, whoever they are, come in peace. Maybe those rays will induce joy and harmony throughout all the world.

But it could be a natural phenomenon, a huge asteroid heading on a collision course with Terra. If so, what then are those rays? Where does the light come from? Could this asteroid (or space rock) be inhabited?

It could be a planet in a faraway galaxy, one that owns its own internal light that radiates out into the universe. What kind of creatures would inhabit such a world? What would their lives be like, their hopes and dreams? It could even be a dying sun, it’s fire diminishing from the center out while on its edge one small hot spot fights to live. Or a birthing sun, it’s hard dark crusted shell breaking apart as exultant life bursts from within.

Or maybe it’s a dark chariot, the vehicle of anti-light that bears the Lord of Darkness to us. Or the hand of God, returning to Earth once again.

Amazing what happens when you take your iPad into the night, photograph the moon in Photo Booth’s “Light Tunnel” mode, and then enhance the colors. What do you see in this eerie, spine-tingling picture?

Happy writing!

Susan

I Recommend: Roxanne Britton by Shirley S. Allen, a delightful historical novel about settling the West during and after the Civil War. It’s wonderfully plotted, expertly written and filled with fascinating detail and nail0biting suspense. Find it at the Kindle store. You’ll be glad you did.

Of Farm Fields and Writers Block

The latest update of WordPress has caused two major problems. Until some extra code is placed in the proper config file (whatever that is), I can’t post any photos. And they don’t seem to be in a great hurry to fix the problem, either. Not the world’s best news for a blog that is based on photos, is it? Especially since I’m a self-styled techno-dummy and don’t even understand what I’m talking about here.

They also left out the code that lets one post links to other sites. The photo problem is fixable if you’re a computer whiz, but so far no one seems to an answer to the link problem. We’ll have to do it the old way: copy and paste into a new window in our browser instead of executing a simple mouse click. Sigh…

So, until I can con my computer guru son (who’s still working off in trade the ten grand he drank in orange juice while growing up) into inserting tab “Code A” into slot “Config B” so I can at least get back to photos, I’m stuck with only words. Oh, what a tragedy for a writer.  ; )

But today, while I was driving into town to meet a friend, I had a thought that doesn’t necessarily need a photo (though an illustrative one would be nice…). I was driving down a long, lovely country lane. Newly plowed fields of dark, rich earth stretched out on both sides of the road. The deep mahogany soil made the leaves of both trees and bushes glow. The air shimmered with a clean, refreshing light. These fields had lain fallow yesterday, covered with an unruly mob of drab, dissonant weeds. Today those weeds had been plowed under to enrich the moist chocolate soil that now lay ready to accept seed and nourish fledgling plants into the joy of maturity.

And I thought: Writer’s block. Not that ephemeral kind that lasts a mere day or two, but the long-term, four month/six month/twelve month or longer period of devastating desert dryness. That writer’s block, I thought, is like a fallow field, a dull blank expanse that lies inert, capturing the detritus of thought and dream and experience. In the fullness of time our imagination plows under what seems useless. Inspiration then waters the newly plowed field. Then the seed of plot and situation, or perhaps character, is winnowed from the chaff and planted in the deep rich soil to be nourished by plowed-under scraps of life until a new story sprouts, grows and comes into fruition.

Writers are not machines that can work on and on, never resting. Without a fallow period, the genius of writing cannot sprout, for it has no nourishment on which to feed.

So how can a writer survive the dry desert of writer’s block?

Don’t fear it. Never fear it. Fear is what keeps the block strong and arid. Fear is what stops the plowing under. Instead, celebrate writer’s block when it arrives, as it will for all of us at least once in our writing life. Use the fallow time to live, to love, to experience. Soon it will all be plowed under, giving nourishment to another round of the genius of creation: stories richer and more compelling than any you’ve crafted before.

On Writing and Staying Alive

Let’s face it. Writing is a sedentary profession. Unless we’re out hiking the hills to find the perfect spot for John to propose to Mary, or cruising the town’s streets and back alleys looking for body dumps, we’re sitting in a chair, fingers on keyboard, for long stretches of time. Our minds might be going a mile a minute, fingers racing to keep up, but our bodies are quiescent, patiently awaiting release. And when the writing is cruising at “don’t bother me, I’m in the zone” light speed, our physical form can have a long, tiring wait, indeed.

Though some of us are of a “certain age” and therefore more at risk, this advice, gleaned from very painful personal experience, pertains to everyone who applies seat of pants to chair for longer than an hour at a time.

Trust me, the doctors were abundantly clear on this point. It matters not that you go to the gym three times a week, or walk a mile or two every day, or are still in the twenty- or thirty-something range. The very sedentariness of writing can cause a life-threatening condition: Emboli.

In other words, blood clots. They can appear anywhere, usually in the legs or lungs. They can form without warning, regardless of your age or physical condition. And you can die from them. Quickly. Painfully. Here’s the best way to make sure this doesn’t happen to you:

  1. Drink lots of water while you work. Not coffee, tea or soda, but water. At least 12 ounces every hour.
  2. Ditch the marathon writing sessions. You might have a deadline, but you can’t make it if you’re dead yourself. Never sit for more than one hour in one session. At the end of every hour get up and walk around the house. Refill that water bottle. Check the weather. Make the bed. Set a timer for one hour (or forty-five minute) segments, write like crazy until it goes off, then get up. Your bonus? Timed writing helps turn off your Inner Critic because you don’t have time to listen to it.
  3. Eat regular, well-balanced meals. Nutrition is vital to the smooth workings of your interior parts. Don’t skip or skimp on meals because you’re on deadline or in the “zone” and oblivious to the passing of time. It’s better to eat 5 or 6 small meals than 2 or 3 large ones. Plus, you gave to get up and move around to fix a meal and eat it.

Following this advice will help ensure you’re still around to see your work in print. And collect those awards. It’s also good advice to follow when engaged in any sedentary activity or hobby, like watching TV, or knitting, beading, quilting and other crafts.

Stay healthy!
Susan

Craft Fairs and Submachine Guns

Here, at a local craft fair last Saturday, our two Sisters in Crime(SinC) tables of books sit surrounded by an abundance of yarn, beads, paper and ceramics. Local authors smile, ready to autograph their volumes. Yet attendees walk past our offerings without even acknowledging the fact that our tables are here, offering as holiday gifts some fantastic mystery/suspense books for sale. We are, to all intents and purposes, invisible.

Tony Piazza, Sue McGinty and Victoria Heckman

SinC Authors Tony Piazza, SueMcGinty and Victoria Heckmann. Photo by Susan Piazza

Funny how we writers enthuse about our ‘craft’ and work hard at ‘crafting’ our stories into a true art form, yet the public doesn’t see it as a craft. Or an art. They walk by, noses in the air, heads turned, as though we are interlopers among the handcrafted jewelry, scarves, hats, soaps, toys, cards and exotic canned goods.

Where are the readers? Do they not go to craft fairs, especially at this time of year? I know that wherever I am, whatever the venue, I immediately gravitate to any book stall, whether I buy or not. I never walk by and say nothing. I make eye contact, smile and say, “Hi.” I do not act as though if I so much as looked at the booksellers they would pull out an submachine gun and drill me full of holes, or kidnap me and lock me in a room with a diet of bread, water and unintelligible translations of Cicero.

SinC authors Susan Tuttle, Barbara Hodges and her mother

SinC authors Susan Tuttle and Barbara Hodges (with her mother) – Photo by Susan Piazza

Have we become a society of specialization to the point that the craft of writing has no place except in its own isolated venue? It seems only writers consider writing a craft that becomes, in its own right, a form of art. And yet at art and craft fairs, books seem to have no place. Perhaps we need to educate the general public of the place writing has in our society. If we don’t, it’s quite possible that books will forever more be relegated to online stores, and we writers will have to retire our special autograph pens.

And the world will be the poorer for it.

(Thanks to Tony and Susan Piazza for the photos. See Tony’s website at: www.authortonypiazza.com)

And Oh! The Thanks!

I have so much to be thankful for this year, and this Thanksgiving Day “zone” has brought it home to me in a way I’ve never before experienced. Here’s my gratitude, not in any order of importance, because to me they are all equally important!

I am thankful for, first of all, the fact that I am still here to enjoy this amazing world gifted to us by our Creator. And grateful that, through His grace, I’m here to ejnoy it.

Rainbow Over Morro Bay, CA

Nature’s Thank You

I hadn’t realized how close I came to not being here until a visiting nurse set me straight. So, Thank You to French Hospital in San Luis Obispo (SLO) and SLO Transitional Care for your gentleness, expertise and diligence in saving my life.

Second, I am grateful for all my wonderful church friends,

Seder Meal at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church

A Seder Meal on Holy Thursday at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Los Osos, CA

(I’m so happy to be back singing and cantoring again) and my writer friends,

Susan Tuttle Author - Volunters for the CCWC

Central Coast Writer’s Conference Volunteers – great writers all

whose care, concern and love pulled me through. Without all those prayers, I don’t think I would be here. I’m so grateful to be out and about among you once again.

Third, I’m grateful for my wonderful, amazing son, from whom I have (finally!) learned a “can do” attitude.

Author Susan Tuttle with son, Arron Kondziel

My 21st Century Renaissance Man Son

He’s a true 21st Century Renaissance Man (writer, cinematographer, musician, composer, etc.) and my computer guru, cover designer, cheerleader and first line of defense against doubt.

And, of course, I’m so very grateful to all my readers. You give me courage and purpose in life. So, my final gratitude is that I’m back at the computer, putting words down on paper, for readers everywhere to enjoy. I thank you all.

Susan

Flowers of Fire

Here’s a shot from the movie Cleric, taken by Aaron Kondziela (used with permission) and posted on his website (www.aaronkondziela.com) It’s very obscurity lends itself to an amazing array of interpretations.

Flowers of Fire

 

At a quick glance, these two objects could be flowers. You can see the way the petals curve around each other, almost feel their velvety softness. The darkness of the background makes all the other elements nearly vanish, so that the barely-visible black column in the center could be the stalk of the plant on which these lovely golden flowers are blooming. Below them a nascent bloom begins to unfurl in the linearly cultivated field.

But a closer look reveals tiny glimpses of chains attached to the golden objects. The striations on the ground could be the planks of a floor. The object on the left suggests movement at its edges, as does the small yellow spot on the floor. Is it held in a hat of some sort, or perhaps an iron ring? Maybe the dark column is a post of some sort to which the chains are attached. For what purpose?

What are the golden yellow objects made of? Some sort of fabric gathered into itself, perhaps. Something soft, held together by the chains, though the one on the left appears to be shredding with the movement. Are they inanimate, or living beings of some sort?

What is the purpose of these objects that so closely resemble flowers? What is making at least the one on the left move? Are they being manipulated by an invisible force, or are they sentient in themselves, moving with intelligent intent? What do they want, and what will they do to get it? One wonders where this place is, what kind of setting these objects inhabit. Perhaps a deep cave below the surface of the Earth. Or another planet altogether…

Share your ideas of what this picture inspires in you.
Susan Tuttle

Writing Tip: Read the pages you wrote during your last writing session and make “tweak” edits to them as you go. Helps make final revisions less painful, and gets you back into the flow of your story for your current writing session. (From: Write It Right, Vol 13: Technicals and Editing)