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poetry

Make your writing effortless

jackkerouac-ny-1953.jpgHaving written all of half a dozen blog posts in a handful of months, it might seem likely a less than timely time to write about how to make one’s writing effortless, but maybe this is a kind of reverse serendipity—for right now effortless writing is just what I need.

Read on—where these seven ideas are concerned, I for one will definitely be taking my own advice...

7 ideas to make your writing effortless

Writing doesn't have to be hard; in fact it can be as easy and natural as spoken conversation. All writers struggle in the beginning to develop creativity and flow; use the following seven tips to sharpen your talent and reach your goals.

1. Carry a notebook

Carry a notebook with you at all times; when inspiration hits, seize it and your notebook with both hands. All writers recommend carrying a notebook; use it for the surreptitious jotting of thoughts when and where ever they might appear. Jack Kerouac, foremost writer of the Beat movement of the 50's and '60s—a moniker and eminence he was deeply uncomfortable with—carried one everywhere, forever sketching poetry and novels to be in the most unlikely of places—"Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy" in his words. Likewise Walt Whitman, 19th Century 'Father of American Poetry' and inspiration to Kerouac, who went one step further and carried an entire manuscript, a paperweight sized bundle that would one day be his Leaves of Grass.

2. But use it in the right place

walt whitmanFunnily enough, this oft revised and reworked masterpiece was the cause of Whitman's dismissal from at least one job—fired from the Department of the Interior by an enraged employer upon closer inspection of the 'paperwork' on his desk. Which suggests that some places are better to write in than others, although in Whitman's defence, most writers can relate to the truth that inspiration may strike in the most unexpected places.

3. Make writing a good habit

Writing is a good habit which can benefit from a little encouragement. To this ends, many writers recommend a specific place to write, almost like a meditation shrine, dedicated to this solo, inspirational practise. For some a specific time of day is conducive—a daily regimen just like eating, sleeping and exercise. Creativity can wax and wane like the passage of the moon; take time and place of writing as two aids to assist obstructing clouds to part.

4. Regularity builds the muscles of writing

Make an attempt to write every day, without thought or judgment for the quality you produce. Writing is like a creative flow; it will not begin if you do not turn on the tap. One method is to write like a river bursting its dam, words spilling over onto the paper before you. Follow the rivers' flow as far as you can, and in time the distance you travel will grow. Look not at this metaphorical river's banks or rocks ahead of you; flow forth like water, always moving.

5. Writing is like meditation

Writing can be like the act of meditation itself, a secret known to centuries of haiku poets who were also meditators, and practised it as such. Write regularly, in silence and with one-pointed focus to achieve your goal. Furthermore, the discipline of regular practise, as in meditation, encourages an ever deepening flow of creativity, and a more fruitful, productive experience.

6. Suspend critical thought

Suspend judgment during a first draft, even if your mind screams that you are writing poorly. More important is to write, write, write; regardless of quality let the words pour upon the page—revising and polishing are for a later date. The editing process is a different mindset from that of writing, which requires creativity to flow directed but unimpeded; for the sake of creativity leave this more critical part of your being to one side. It is not without reason that professional writing seldom sees the occupations of writer and editor in a single person.

7. Exercise your body, not your mind

Running, and exercise in general, will actually help your writing. Meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy calls running meditation for the body; it clears the mind and purifies the emotions in the manner of a breath of fresh air, dispersing anger and depression as though clouds in the sky. Negative qualities are an anathema to creativity—it's total polar opposite; take physical exercise as a simple tool to clear the road ahead when you are writing. It also makes a good time out. Writing is like running in a sense; the hardest part is getting under way, but once started a momentum is built which will carry you along. Surrender to this and your writing may one day become effortless.

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The Seeker-Writer, and expressing God in words

Sumangali Morhall of Sumangali.org recently wrote a fine play in rhyming verse, The Seeker-Writer, based on a short story of the same name by meditation teacher Sri Chinmoy—“a humorous story with a spiritual lesson behind it” as she describes it. Despite my being a few days late in responding—not to mention several months late in updating what was once a regularly tended web diary—late is better than never in the case of this particular talented author, whose small, divine army of writing, poems and plays are worthy all of further attention and readership—Krishna’s Supreme Love and Music and Religion among them. In Sumangali’s play come masterpiece, one rhyming couplet come brilliantly crafted jewel stood out for me from many:
“God told you to your face your words were all perfection. You became disgusted, but you missed His true Inflection!”
To me, this line says much about the art of writing, the art of poetry, and even reading. Some may claim a writer’s greatness is as readily apparent as the page their words appear upon—as though a book, page or poem is itself a finished product, and while of course they are correct in one sense, such a conception misses the fact that writing is meaningless, even useless if it is not read, understood or appreciated by a second and third party. If it is not appreciated by a reader. And here begins something of a philosophical treatise. Forgive me if I have been doing too much thinking... To me, a writer’s greatness is, just like God himself, mostly hidden from ordinary human sight. Like casting pearls among swine, to partially quote a famous carpenter’s son, the art of great writing is only able to be properly, truly appreciated by those with a trained, refined eye—an eye for correct, true “inflection”—the depth, meaning and intention of the author, the breath behind their written word. Understanding great writing, just like the foolish writer protagonist of The Seeker-Writer—a vain, foolish sycophant who completely misses the truths, true context of the appreciation much sought for his efforts—is a matter of “inflection”—a matter of being able to appreciate what are often ordinary, lifeless garments—words—in the true context and depth which they were written—wear them as they were intended by their author to be worn. Here I am reminded about a point, more personal anecdote about Sri Chinmoy’s poetry and writing. I must, somewhat red-faced, admit that when I first began to practice meditation as a student of Sri Chinmoy, I was overburdened with intellectual knowledge, in the midst as I was of a university degree, and while I hope it is to my credit that I immediately recognised this state of being, in the face of true knowledge, knowledge of the Eternal, Immortal and Infinite, for the weakness and (spiritual) deficiency that it is, and took (long, sometimes arduous) steps to rectify it, I did find the apparent simplicity of Sri Chinmoy’s words—in poetry or in writing—initially hard to fathom. But not any longer. The longer I have been meditating, the wiser I grow (which is just a little I do hope), and the deeper Sri Chinmoy’s words appear; even a single sentence enough now to transport this little mind to a vast place of wisdom and understanding—a place where the mind is truly no longer needed. But Sri Chinmoy’s words haven't changed—rather I have changed. I am reading and re-reading the same books I read when I was a new member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre, some twelve years ago now, only now I am seeing new depths, new “inflections” in them, like an echo or resonance within that I never could have imagined then. Inflection, hidden meaning, hidden depth is what writing and poetry are all about for me. Not obliqueness, willful obscurantism, plain sophistry or outright confusion, but meaning larger, grander, deeper and more beautiful than words themselves. True writing and poetry, ultimately, is about expressing God in words.

ABC News on the passing of Sri Chinmoy

A video and news story from ABC on the passing of Sri Chinmoy on Thursday, 11th October, 2007. Download link
Oct 12, 2007 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Spiritual guru Sri Chinmoy, a peace activist who inspired his followers to feats of extreme physical endurance, has died at the age of 76 at his home in New York, a statement from his organization said on Friday. Chinmoy, who suffered a heart attack, died on Thursday. Chinmoy was born in India and in 1964 immigrated to New York, working in the Indian Consulate. He later started a meditation center that eventually spread around the world. A statement issued on behalf of Chinmoy's followers said he had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize that was awarded to former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Friday. He was a strong supporter of the United Nations and his charities sent food and medicine around the world. Chinmoy's followers were said to take on a regimen of vegetarianism, humanitarian service and extreme physical challenges as a way to inner peace. He set an example by running ultra-marathons before switching to weightlifting. Acolytes said he was capable of lifting airplanes and had written more than 1,600 books of prose and poetry in his quest for world peace.
Read more: ABC News: Peace activist Sri Chinmoy dead at 76.

You made me do it

By popular request I’m going to post some poetry. Of my own. While painfully aware that one person asking isn’t the full, honest definition of popular, it is one more than enough to flatter this non-poet into poetry. And being honest, I have already used the “Look how messed up I was as a teenager cause I wrote such atrocious verse” excuse to hide a seldom expressed poetic voice behind. Now there’s no where left to hide. I had the nerve to suggest a minor rewrite to a poetically more prolific friend recently, so what exactly would my excuse be for a failure of poetic nerve? That I make a better critic? It’s Monday Poetry Train day today. Let’s grin and bare it for a little exposure...
Untitled and in progress I am the drop of glistening rain, puddle formed by side of road, I am the car driving straight ahead, beneath skies clouded and grey. That is my sky, as good as any other. I walk under that sky, along that road, and beneath this rain as happy as anywhere else, as happy as any other.
It’s a few verses short of completion, a few ideas short of expression, and true lyricism was lost somewhere around the second line—the entire first verse has been rewritten off the page. But I’m feeling so much better for the saying... On the topic of messed up teenagers, I made an initial attempt at tidying this one up, a several thousand word story about my own formative years, posted (with embarrassing photos) for all to see on another site: Miracles out of Mountains out of Molehills. It will also do as my response to Camille’s now ancient Conversations With Your Teenage Self Meme. Better late than never.

Spoilers

Introduction to Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows opens, or more accurately is preceded, by two poems. The Libation Bearers by Aeschylus, and More Fruits of Solitude by William Penn.
The Libation Bearers Oh, the torment bred in the race, the grinding scream of death and the stroke that hits the vein, the haemorrhage none can staunch, the grief, the curse no man can bear. But there is a cure in the house and not outside it, no, not from others but from them, their bloody strife. We sing to you, dark gods beneath the earth. Now hear, you blissful powers underground— answer the call, send help. Bless the children, give them triumph now. —Aeschylus More Fruits of Solitude Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still. For they must needs be present, that love and live in that whch is omnipresent. In this divine glass they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure. This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal. —William Penn (read the full poem at PoetSeers.org)
I think that tells us more than enough about this final instalment in the Harry Potter series... Anyone doubting J.K. Rowling is a real, or serious author, should put that poorly titled book away right now. Any author who can quote Aeschylus, let alone has even heard of William Penn (one of the founders of Quakerism and namesake for the state of Pennsylvania), is worth all the pounds in the Bank of England. I must say I am tiring of prose somewhat—the writing of it that is—for tiring of its reading would be a strange thing to say indeed, 607 pages of The Deathly Hallows still to be turned. Prose is so precise, and therefore so unimaginative. You can joyfully throw precision out the window with poetry—although in the reading that is, definitely not in the writing, which requires an act of concentration at least deeper, if not stronger than in prose. With poetry you can let your imagination paint the words, and the lines in between. I have been writing prose almost non-stop for a year now—the first substantive piece of writing in my entire life (Airport Anxiety) written a year ago during a visit to Japan, and am starting to tire of it’s up and down, black and white limitations; it’s tendency towards haranguing and shouting, as compared to poetry’s soft whispers, varied meanings. Perhaps this is why I had a recent piece of writing declined for publication (Miracles out of Mountains out of Molehills); the editor said obliquely, and not completely helpfully, that he preferred my more simple, straightforward stories. Not so simply, I am growing tired of words in a straight line, trying my best to break them apart gracefully. There will probably be some dreadful experiments to come. I wrote my first poem in about a decade earlier this week—a rush of emotion-bourne words born upon listening to a song, and staring, at the same time, dream-like into a photograph. I then, by habit now an unrestrained shaper of prose, began to prune and rewrite, to my later regret. It will now probably not see the light of day. Ever the melodramatist, I dare saw I am really only a little tired of prose. No doubt, to either benefit or regret, I have thousands of words inside me left. And thousands more to read in The Deathly Hallows. I still haven’t made it past the opening poems...

On the fringes exist soulful whispers

Earth Dance 2005Music has always been very important to me. The moments in my life when I have lacked inspiration have also been lacking in music; to each and every part of my life worth remembering, there is a soundtrack playing. I almost always wake in the mornings with a song playing in my head; the better I have slept, the clearer, more deeply the song plays, the longer it stays with me during the day. It is easy to see only the bad in the world, or ourselves, to take the uninspiring present, our small corner of it, and paint everything black, imagine that even though we can't always hear it there is a soundtrack playing—even to life’s least rehearsed, badly performed scenes. Anybody who thinks that the world isn't improving, that all is doom and gloom might gain in the listening to the lyrics of popular music for a while. Yes, it is mostly insipid romance, exaggerated bravado, aggression or even worse, and it mostly has always been, but out on the fringes, far beyond the television or radio blaring, barely heard but, in time, progenitor and creative influence for everything, are soulful whispers...
I am your truth, I am your destiny I am desire and despair I am your glow inside your beating heart I am the love that leads you there I am your soul, I am your soul
Can you imagine lyrics like these being sung fifty years ago? To an audience of millions? Of course the distance between the lyric and the final, sung product, the song writer’s intention and mass, unthinking consumption is still vast, but a distance growing closer I would guess. Likewise meditation. People who meditate aren't seen or heard—those who break the silence grab our attention far before those who seek it’s whispers in secluded corners—the squeaky wheel gets the grease as the adage runs—yet those who meditate exist in increasing numbers, and their gentle, correcting, affirming influence can be found in the most surprising places.
And if you only knew Just how much the sun needs you To help him light the sky You would be surprised Cerf, Mitiska & JarenLight The Skies
I like these lyrics in so many ways—not just for their Emily Dickinson like intuition of a two-way bridge between nature, man and something deeper, their magical imbuing of the ordinary and everyday with something extraordinary and beyond, but for the idea that somehow the happiness of the entire world, the light even of sun and stars is brighter when each of us are happy. And what else is the human soul but eternal happiness?
I am the darkness where you disappear I am the light that leads you safe I am the shepherd of your laughter and your tears I am your pleasure and your pain I am your soul, I am your soul I am the faith that leaves your spirit strong I am the sunlight in the rain I am the universe inside your mind I am your pleasure and your pain I am your soul, I am your soul I am your soul, I am your soul I am the courage that inspires you I am the knowledge that you gained I am the people you will choose to be I am your pleasure and your pain I am your soul, I am your soul. Markus Schulz vs. ChakraI am

Through the Google Glass

hepi-ichikoIt is a constant joy, near form of poetry to read the search engine phrases that, month after month, click after click deliver readers to this site. Like absolute strangers on a train, mundane queries like“sensitivitytothings.com” and“really good writing that I will bookmark and read every day” sit alongside absolute gems—pennies from internet heaven too precious to ignore: “canada state electronic flash churches,” “delusions electricity sensitivity” and “i afraid of three things.” Admittedly one of those phrases might be made up... My site statistics tell me the most visited post on this site is the deliberately surreal, first exploration of search engine serendipity, Follow the Rainbow, a post inspired by one vistor’s mind-blowing, reality confounding search phrase,“Seeing a rainbow in your living room means what?,” which to consider the irrational rational, abandon serendipity for cause and effect was one assumes ipso facto attracted to these pages by Sri Chinmoy’s intriguing explanation of the spiritual significance of rainbows. The cause, rather than destination of this seeker’s query however is a matter for speculation—but I hesitate to ask for a serving of what they are having. I can’t say with certainty why other people enjoyed Follow the Rainbow, but for its author it was most enjoyable to write. An exercise in chance, serendipity and the random, it was written during something of a dry spell—inspiration, ability for anything structured or thought through lacking. So often the portrait of an artist as a procrastinator, I have literally dozens of pieces on the table at any one time, awaiting inspiration or moment of clarity for completion, sometimes comprehension; yet find it usually the unplanned, unstructured I enjoy most—probably the reason why so many remain unfinished. Like a fickle child, I am all too easily entranced by the latest shiny, flashing toy. Now hopelessly distracted, viewing and reviewing my search engine phrases once more, shall we follow the rainbow again? “john gillespie” john gillespie mageeTopping the list of Google queries, admittedly by margin smaller than people you can fit into an average car, is“John Gillespie.” Hmm, that name does sound familiar... Long in search of the true John Gillespie, I hope dear Google user you also found what you were looking for; but should you have been searching for the University of California biologist, failed Republican Congressional candidate from the year 2000, a London based actor, the Canadian hair transplant surgeon or artist from the nineteenth century, I’m little worried—it seems aside from the politician, my namesakes are all worthy of the seeking. Especially so John Gillespie Magee, Jr, whose all too brief 19 years crash-landed in a 1941 spitfire accident over Roxholm, England, yet lives on in a poem said to be a favourite amongst astronauts and aviators, quoted by a US President following the Challenger Shuttle disaster:
High Flight Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds, —and done a hundred things You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there, I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung My eager craft through footless halls of air.... Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace Where never lark nor even eagle flew— And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod The high untrespassed sanctity of space, Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
This John Gillespie would almost bargain a fiery, cockpit leaping death to have written that...