Posts Tagged 'micro-fiction'

Trying to Capture the Elusive Muse

In a dream, I swim through a beautiful ocean of words, until I meet a very old tortoise who whispers the perfect sentence in my ear. I can’t remember the sentence when I wake, but my hair is wet.
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One of my greatest frustrations with my muse arises when she provides incomplete information. When inspiration strikes, I want to see the whole picture. To visualize the complete story, imagine exactly how the scene unfolds or clearly hear the voice of an important character. But the truth is that muses almost always provide only fragments. That’s actually the muse’s job. To offer a spark of inspiration. Then we must turn the spark into something more. So many of my best pieces of creative writing have arisen when I started with just a hint of an idea, a hazy image, a line of dialogue or a brief moment of action that I first told myself wasn’t worth pursuing. But when I push aside the voice that tells me “No,” and insist on following the flash of inspiration, I often find something lovely unfolding. Writers frequently talk about how their wonderful novels, memoirs, plays, screenplays and poems originated with such snippets. I find it really helps me to remember that when I’m annoyed at my Muse for only providing me with wet hair while leaving the perfect sentence balanced on the tip of my tongue.

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Finding Your Voice

I used to live in the desert and drink from the Well of Right Words. One day, I walked until I found an unexpected oasis. Now I sip phrases from succulent fruit and inhale ideas carried by a wind that blows from beyond imagination.     ~Sandy Ackers

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People often talk about writers “finding their voice,” as if it’s a lost pet that ran out the door when someone carelessly left it open. We all have a voice, right? We speak. People understand us. But finding your voice as a writer can be a daunting task. You write a short story in the same way you talk, and it falls flat. You create a poem about your lost love and it sounds like a million others you’ve read.

There’s lots of advice out there for tapping into your unique writer’s voice. I just did a Google search on the subject and found many helpful tips: read a lot, imitate writers you admire, write the way you speak, be willing to write badly, don’t censor yourself, write about what you’re passionate about, write about what you’re afraid of…the list goes on.

Though I believe we’re all different and each have our own journey, I want to share my experience here. For me, finding my voice was simply a matter of writing. And writing. Then writing some more. I wrote all the time. I learned to write from my heart. I went where my writing took me, even when it seemed stupid or pulled me in the opposite direction I’d been intending to go. I did massive amounts of freewriting. I took classes and joined workshops. I wrote fiction, poetry, essays, experimental pieces, journal entries and more. I read authors I admired and noticed how they put words together in ways I found interesting.

And then I wrote some more.

Finally, one day, I knew I’d found my voice. I just knew it, the way you always know the most profound things in your life, if you let yourself. I felt it deep inside.

How did you find your voice as a writer? Or what are you doing to find it?

DOWNLOAD YOUR FREE CREATIVE BURSTS WORKBOOK!
And receive free creativity prompts delivered to your inbox twice a week.
CLICK HERE!   (To learn more, click here)

Why I Don’t Speak Cello.

I’m on vacation, visiting family, friends and old college pals in my home state of Virginia, so I’m offering one of my most popular posts:

On Tuesday morning, a cello sat on the sidewalk outside my house. I considered engaging in a musical conversation, but instead rushed off to work.

On Wednesday morning, the sidewalk looked up at me with empty eyes.

**   **   **   **   **   **

I have a confession to make. Lately, I haven’t been practicing what I preach on this blog. Circumstances in my life at the moment have had me working long hours six or seven days a week, every week, for a while. Life has been particularly stressful. And I haven’t been maintaining a creative practice.

This blog itself does give me a bit of an outlet. But I haven’t devoted any time at all to what I call my soul-writing. The fragments of fiction and poetry, the phrases of metaphor and memory my Muse hands to me. Moments of creativity that may become pieces of a larger project or may just feed my deepest self by merely existing.

But this past weekend, I didn’t work at all, taking two days in a row off for the first time in quite a while. And guess what happened? My Muse took the opportunity to begin nudging me. Or maybe he’s been nudging me all along, and I just haven’t been listening. At any rate, a couple of metaphorical micro-stories flowed into my mind. And once I started writing them down, more arrived.

Perhaps not surprisingly, they all speak to issues of creativity and writing. I’ve shared one above, and I plan to continue sharing them and write about the issue each describes. “Why I Don’t Speak Cello” illustrates my current period of overworked stress. Something extraordinary sits on the periphery of my life, and I’ve been refusing to engage with it. Creativity is always extraordinary, you know.

My life hasn’t slowed down, in spite of the fact that I actually had a real weekend. And my stress level remains high. But this little story my Muse handed me reminds me that I can still take 15 minutes to talk to the cello before I rush to work.

15 minutes a day. That’s how you learn to speak cello—or become a writer, or maintain a creative practice—no matter how much crazy life throws at you.

And if you do ignore the cello until it disappears, just remember to stop and talk to the timpani and the trombone when they arrive.

Copyright © Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Get Micro-Creative

I’m on vacation, visiting family, friends and old college pals in my home state of Virginia, so I’m offering one of my most popular posts:

Sometimes I just don’t feel like being creative.  A deadline looms, I haven’t had time to shower, and I suddenly realize it’s been way too long since I left my apartment.

pen with drop of ink

But I have to ask myself: Can I muster up enough creative mojo to write six words?

In my post last Friday I talked about capturing tiny moments for slivers of creativity.  While I’ve often used those found moments to write pieces of larger stories, it’s fun to use them to write tiny stories as well.

The famous tale about Ernest Hemingway’s 6-word story seems to be getting a lot of Internet attention these days.  Legend has it that a bar bet led Hemingway to write what he claimed was his best short story:

For Sale: baby shoes, never used.*

The idea of a 6-word story must appeal to our over-scheduled, multi-tasking 21st century souls.  A quick search online came up with dozens of references, including an online magazine devoted to 6-word memoirs, an oncology center requesting 6-word stories about cancer experiences, a book of 6-word memoirs on love and heartbreak, a contest requesting 6-word submissions about air travel liquid restrictions, and a call for 6-word predictions in advance of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

6 stones

A truly well-written story takes some thought, even—or especially—a story of only six words.  But it can be fun to work on these in your head while you’re doing something else.

I spent a small amount of time doing this recently, and came up with three I like.  The first was inspired by a recent post, the second is all you need to know about a painful college breakup of mine, and the third feels like a 6-word poem to me:

My Six Word Stories:

The voices say I’m not crazy.

His hand in hers. I cry.

You live between my heart’s pages.

So the next time you feel like you don’t have time to write, ask yourself if you can write a 6-word memoir or poem or story or recollection of your first lover.  After writing these, I went back to my work feeling creatively refreshed, though I’d only spent a few minutes on them.

baby shoes

I’d love it if any brave souls would post 6-word stories in the comments!

_____________________________________

*An alternate version of Hemingway’s legendary story: For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

How to Use Creative Leftovers

I’m on vacation, visiting family, friends and old college pals in my home state of Virginia, so I’m offering one of my most popular posts:

Last night, I found myself wondering if I could reheat my unused words and turn them into a new creative meal. This thought occurred to me while eating cold pizza with my husband, since we have no kitchen at the moment.

stack of booksI still possess bits and pieces of my writing from as far back as elementary school, most of which will never see the light of day. But I don’t consider a single word I’ve ever written a wasted effort. It all adds to the creative reservoir I’ve been filling my entire life: a body of words that gives my current writing depth and texture.

As I pulled a limp piece of basil off my pizza slice before biting into it, I considered the possibility of recycling some of my cast-off creations. Then I remembered a project I undertook a couple of years ago.

In the middle of a period of memoir-ish writing, I compiled a stack of index card prompts. Each contained a word, a phrase or a few sentences I had written. Some touched on topics I’d not yet pursued; some had been edited from essays and poems; and some had been included in completed pieces, but interested me enough to want to pursue them further.

As I recall, I spend time compiling this set of prompts for myself, then never used them. I don’t remember why. Perhaps life intervened with its usual heavy doses of stress, or maybe I got tired of writing such serious stuff and set my sights on an amusing tale about dancing iguanas.

colorful houses like ideas in a row

At any rate, after dinner last night, I pulled out the stack of cards containing my old bits of writing to see what I could make of them. I found a rich trove of possibilities. As I read through them, I realized I could piece the cards together like magnetic poetry. But this game felt more meaningful than the versions you can buy, because each phrase and sentence resonated with me in a way random words can’t. And, though I wrote them all, they felt somewhat new to me, since they’d been sitting in the back of my creative freezer for two years.

I combined a few into another 6-sentence tale:

He’s the tragic hero of one of her short stories, a boy who continues to move quietly through the vine-covered trails in the back of her mind. When she knew him, she kept reaching out for the kind center of his heart and finding nothing there. She rubs at the memory, understanding only now he was not hers to keep.

After years of casting her nets out into the world, she stumbled upon an island of peace. Now love sleeps next to her in bed every evening, pulling her close until she feels its heartbeat on her back even during the darkest moments of moonless nights. A sensual dream wraps its warmth around her heart, feeding her ragged soul.

pile of stones

Now that I’ve rediscovered this stack of leftover words, I’m going to continue adding to it. The new pieces I include will differ from the older ones, because I’ve moved on in my life and in my creativity. This should add greater texture to the “leftovers” I can draw from.

I’d recommend this as a wonderful exercise for other writers: a word pile of ingredients that can be rearranged again and again over the years to create delicious new dishes.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Turn Your Life into a Movie…a Book…a Fortune Cookie…

I’m traveling for a few days, so I’m offering one of my most popular posts:

Sometimes, I need to jolt myself out of creative lethargy. It’s good to shake up your writing style now and then, and it tends to send a beacon to your muse. Muses love it when you try something new.

A while back, I started journaling in the format of the film synopses I write as one of my paying gigs. These brief daily entries combined true events from my life with movie language in a hybrid form I found surprisingly fun to craft.
clapperboard A few samples:

September 21:
While looking out her window during a break, freelance writer Sandy Ackers notices that every single dog who passes pees on the same corner of the building across the street. Launching a personal investigationdog to discover the cause of this phenomenon, she soon realizes the canines may be engaged in a mysterious form of communication. Meanwhile, her work remains untouched as she strives to unravel the deepening mystery.

September 24:
so tiredA weary writer drags herself out of bed Monday morning, her body wracked with pain from yesterday’s 20 hours at the computer. Why, she asks herself, didn’t she work harder last week? With a deadline on Wednesday, she faces two more dreary days of eking words out of her bleary brain, which has become stuck in second gear. She soon spirals down into an existential nightmare, with random words flying around her head like a swarm of angry hornets.

October 1:
In this tense drama, passionate freelancer Sandy keeps vigil at her living room window, waiting for the one man she desires. As if to torment her, he visits every home across the street, ignoring her completely.moneySandy knows from experience that hours may pass before the mailman returns, hopefully bearing the highly anticipated check that will mean the difference between dinner out tonight and another celebration of warmed-up leftovers.

October 10:
Sandy Ackers loves working at home—until the wacky lady across the street starts accordianplaying her accordion. 83-year-old German Anneliese enjoys sitting at her open window and regaling passers-by with her tunes. The only problem? She’s terrible! As Sandy flinches through every missed note during her 99th hearing of “Edelweiss,” she imagines a host of hilarious schemes to wrest the accordion from Anneliese’s grip and restore peace to the neighborhood.

October 14:
Stretching on a Sunday morning, Sandy expects to enjoy a lazy day with her husband. What she doesn’t yet realize is that a malicious fog has been gathering in the night, surrounding her and slowing down her brain. When she fully wakes, she’ll notice the viral cloud hovering around her — and she’ll have to fight hard to avoid becoming its latest victim. This disturbing spine-chiller co-stars Headache, Sluggish Muscles and Creeping Pain.

red movie curtains
Exercises like this can make writing fun when it starts feeling routine, or help nudge you out of a block. I find that keeping myself amused also facilitates my creative flow.

fortune cookieBut this concept can go far beyond movie synopsis journal entries. How about writing your autobiography in the form of book jacket copy? Or discussing your protagonist’s current dilemma through game instructions? You could explore your world or create a fictional one using bubblegum cards, a tarot deck, highway billboards, fortune cookies, horoscopes…the possibilities are endless.

As always, I’d love to hear about or see any creative efforts from people reading this.

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com

Finding Your Voice

I used to live in the desert and drink from the Well of Right Words. One day, I walked until I found an unexpected oasis. Now I sip phrases from succulent fruit and inhale ideas carried by a wind that blows from beyond imagination.

** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **

People often talk about writers “finding their voice,” as if it’s a lost pet that ran out the door when someone carelessly left it open. We all have a voice, right? We speak. People understand us. But finding your voice as a writer can be a daunting task. You write a short story in the same way you talk, and it falls flat. You create a poem about your lost love and it sounds like a million others you’ve read.

There’s lots of advice out there for tapping into your unique writer’s voice. I just did a Google search on the subject and found many helpful tips: read a lot, imitate writers you admire, write the way you speak, be willing to write badly, don’t censor yourself, write about what you’re passionate about, write about what you’re afraid of…the list goes on.

Though I believe we’re all different and each have our own journey, I want to share my experience here. For me, finding my voice was simply a matter of writing. And writing. Then writing some more. I wrote all the time. I learned to write from my heart. I went where my writing took me, even when it seemed stupid or pulled me in the opposite direction I’d been intending to go. I did massive amounts of freewriting. I took classes and joined workshops. I wrote fiction, poetry, essays, experimental pieces, journal entries and more. I read authors I admired and noticed how they put words together in ways I found interesting.

And then I wrote some more.

Finally, one day, I knew I’d found my voice. I just knew it, the way you always know the most profound things in your life, if you let yourself. I felt it deep inside.

How did you find your voice as a writer? Or what are you doing to find it?

Copyright @ Sandy Ackers, Strangling My Muse: Struggling to Live a Creative Life in a Stressful World, http://www.stranglingmymuse.com


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About Sandy Ackers

Sandy

Kaizen-Muse Creativity Coach and Writer.

To learn more about Sandy, click here: About Sandy

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Click here to read the post discussing my relationship with my somewhat pesky male muse.

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