Creative Inspirational Wisdom: Proprioceptive Writing—A Communication Loop

In this final blog series entry, Bobbie Panek encourages writers to try a new kind of writing to fuel creativity.


 

“From a voice in your head, to your arm and hand as you write, to your voice as you read what you’ve written, to your ears as you hear what your voice has to say. It’s that simple.”

 

As a writer, poet, and author I enjoy being inspired and motivated, and I enjoy hanging out with like-minds. I look for writing workshops where I know I will work on my favorite skill while I’m with creative people. A recent writing retreat that I attended is one that I’d like to share with others. It was so incredibly wonderful, it’s actually hard to describe—but here goes.

 

I’d first heard about Proprioceptive Writing from my twin sister, Beckie, who lives in the Adirondacks. She’s friends with Ann Mullen, who is a Proprioceptive Writing (PW) Teacher. Beckie had attended one of Ann’s weekend workshops and relayed to me how it “works.” I then read the book, Writing the Mind Alive, written by Linda Trichter Metcalf, PhD. and Toby Simon, PhD.

 

The sub-title for Writing the Mind Alive, is “The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice.” Now, I know the word proprioceptive is odd. Who knows what it means, and how can it help you with your authentic voice?

 

According to the dictionary programmed onto my MacBook Air:

 

proprioceptive |prōprēəˈseptiv|

(adjective) Physiology – relating to stimuli that are produced and perceived within an organism, especially those connected with the position and movement of the body. Compare with exteroceptive and interoceptive.

 

There is no similar word according to the thesaurus (I told you this would be hard to describe). But here is how I learned:

 

  • I bought and reread the book, Writing the Mind Alive, “The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice”
  • I signed up for a 5-day Immersive PW writing retreat taught by Ann Mullen and Anne Bright
  • Seventeen of us showed up at this Retreat Center called Wisdom House in Litchfield, Connecticut. (Workshops are on both coasts of the United States and also in Holland.) Here is the website if you want to look for more: http://pwriting.org
  • I met many wonderfully creative people
  • I learned a skill which I’ll apply for the rest of my life
  • I can attest this method brings clarification and grace to my life
  • The grace happened in the room where personal writes were read aloud
  • The clarification occurs each time I write and apply the writing method, listen to each thought in my mind, write it down, question my thought when I feel the urge by asking myself, “What do I mean by…?” and then asking myself four questions at the end of each 25-minute write

 

Okay, now—you’re perhaps even more confused by this method of writing, but I assure you it works. I’m thrilled. I feel more grounded than ever before. I listen to my voice(s); I give them space and learn from myself what I need, want, think and truly care about.

 

Too often, our culture is chaotic with constant chatter on-line, at home, in the car, in our heads. It is such a balm to settle down, to slow down, to think clearly and to listen to my thoughts. Trying to describe the method is like trying to describe a “gut” feeling.

 

The main message I’d like to share is to try this technique. Buy the book or attend at least a weekend workshop, apply this practice to your creative life, and see what happens. It works wonders. Oh, and one more thing: I’d love to hear your feedback.

 


Bobbie Dumas Panek is the author of Nature Walks: Zen Meditations, short observations written while walking two miles to work during the four seasons, published by FootHills Publishing 2010 and Just Another Day, a series of 48 stories about raising four kids on a dairy farm in the 1980’s, published with CreateSpace in 2015. Her poems, articles, and short stories are in numerous publications. Bobbie is Poetry Editor for the National League of American Pen Women. Please check her out at www.bobbiedumaspanek.com and find her on Facebook: Bobbie Dumas Panek, author.

 

OUR GUEST BLOGGING SERIES HAS NOW ENDED. We thank all Pen Women who submitted work for our Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business guest blogger series. We look forward to giving an update on the status of Creative Genius at Work, an anthology that will include posts from these two series, soon.

Creative Inspirational Wisdom: My Parkinson’s Muse

This week, Linda A. Mohr shares how a diagnosis brought a desire to write poetry.


 

Lexie Lee

I was like a graduate student researching primary sources. The starting point was the end—my poetry collection to uncover what inspires me. As I reviewed content, the answer slid into nature, objects and grief categories.

 

I started writing poetry in 2013 after attending a haiku lecture at the North Palm Beach Library.  The myriad of sensory delights while vacationing at the Missouri family farm inspired me to create over fifty haiku poems in two weeks. Bobwhite, amber wheat, alfalfa bale, honeysuckle, cockle bur, sweet pea tendrils and tasseled corn images along with chirp, chatter, squawk, screech and meow sounds found poetic expression. My first prose poem, “The Rocking Chair,” was created on the same trip in response to an empty lawn chair swaying to and fro. I imagined my spiritual mother visiting her homestead, and we were rocking side by side in conversation. The companion chair sits vacant. Or is it?

 

During this time frame, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. A fascinating twist of this progressive neurological movement disorder is creativity. Research studies find some patients suddenly begin a new art pursuit such as painting or sculpting or become more prolific in writing books. Although I published a memoir in 2008 and maintained a blog, poetry was not in my toolbox. Perhaps it was coincidental, but without formal education in poetry, I simply wrote about what touched my heart.

 

Intrigued by how my mother’s medical alert system talked to her in response to buttons being pushed, I wrote “The Magic Button” poem. More than anything I wanted the machine to answer my question. My mother is in heaven. I want to talk to her. What button do I push?

 

On an autumn trip to Lake Toxaway in North Carolina, my cabin was surrounded by trees showing and shedding their beauty. As I sat on the deck and watched leaves in various shapes and sizes falling in different ways, the leaves reminded me of people. Later I spread the dried reminders out on a table and created “Fallen Leaves, Fallen Lives” poem. Doubled over leaf drops, Mottled and worn out.

 

After the devastating loss of my beloved Maine Coon, I penned “Morning Visitor” poem. She had a unique way of communicating (including Lexie Lee’s Meowlogue) in life, so I was certain she would send me a message in spirit. She did not disappoint! Unexplained lightness on bed. Spot where you use to snuggle.

 

The most astounding outpouring of poetry occurred when I was on a long flight to Portland, Oregon in 2016 to attend a Parkinson’s Congress. Fourteen poems on loss, death and grief relating to my boyfriend’s passing twenty-seven years ago were created. Two by two they came. Carrying food trays.

 

Although more study is needed on Parkinson’s and creativity, I am grateful for whatever force drives me to write poetry. The results of creating over fifty prose poems in four years, winning awards, being published, and studying under presidential inaugural poet Richard Blanco bring a smile to my masked Parkinson’s face.

 


Linda A. Mohr of Boca Raton Branch NLAPW is author of award-winning Tatianna—Tales and Teachings of My Feline Friend. Her poetry, essays and Catnip Connection blog have received Cat Writers’ Muse Medallions and Pen Women awards. Essays have appeared in five anthologies, including Thin Threads—Women and Friendship and The Light Between Us. She studied under presidential inaugural poet Richard Blanco at Omega Institute. Poetry can be found in laJoie, River Poets Journal and The Light Within. When not writing, she runs an eBay business, teaches strategic planning and collects brooches while living well with Parkinson’s and felines. Her website is http://www.lindamohr.com/.

Photo provided by Linda Mohr

OUR GUEST BLOGGING SERIES WILL END ON OCTOBER 13th. Submissions for the series are now closed. We thank all Pen Women who submitted work for our Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business guest blogger series. We look forward to giving an update on the status of Creative Genius at Work, an anthology that will include posts from these two series, soon.

Creative Inspirational Wisdom: Searching for Life

This week, Janis Ward reflects upon how wildlife inspires her art.


 

Birds have always been my passion since childhood. Our small yellow canary entertained us with cheery chirps from his cage in our kitchen and delighted us as he made his swing go back and forth. As a teen, I acquired a beautiful, brightly-colored parakeet who used to sit on the edges of our coffee cups and fly into the dining room mirror to join the “other bird” there.

 

My husband and boys often went duck hunting, returning home with those beautiful birds for me to cook. It almost broke my heart. We also raised ducks from babies in our atrium pond and garden. It was fascinating to watch them grow. One day, a neighborhood boy brought us an owl that had been hit by a car, which we nursed back to health and watched him fly away to freedom with great joy.

 

We winter now in Florida, as do the birds. When we first drive into the golf course condo area in Pompano Beach, we are fascinated by the activity on a small lake. Ibis, a few pelicans, and occasionally one or two storks wander freely on the grass lawn. Many are diving and swimming in the water. Often, there are so many they block the cars. Most drivers slow down to avoid contact with the beautiful white birds.

 

Having been an artist since childhood, I often paint birds. There is nothing more thrilling than a flock of 200 or so squawking parakeets following their leader, bunched together. Geese are interesting to watch as well.

 

I came upon a large white swan who’d lost his mate a few years ago. They mate for life, so it was hurtful to see him always swimming alone in his large wooded pond. What a delight, however, to find a large black Anhinga stretching his wings to dry and hanging around with this gorgeous swan.

 

The winter of 2016 in Florida brought some disastrous news to the birding lovers. The flocks of ibis were nearly nonexistent. I kept looking for them and wondering why they weren’t in their pond. Finally, a newspaper article explained it all: Because of the ocean’s rising, salt water has infiltrated the pond, killing the small fish on which the large ibis had been feeding. Where the ibis went, I don’t know, but they are missed.

 

And so, I continue to paint these beautiful creatures in their winter habitat. This is the last one I painted early this year that shows the ibis wandering among the shrubs looking for food. Whether they can survive on worms and such is a big question.

 

My watercolor is entitled “Searching for Life.” I’m certain many more paintings will come as I follow their plight.

 


Janis Ward has been an artist since childhood and has studied under inspiring artists such as Carol Barnes, Maxine Masterfield, Stan Kurth and, most extensively, with M. Douglas Walton. She says: “Watercolor is exciting to me because of the unexpected. A true artist paints life as it is around him. Because I see the beauty of nature most keenly and wish to preserve all life that supports that beauty, most of my work depicts the natural world in bright, bold color. We must preserve our wild plants and animals through conservation to prevent humanity’s complete extinction.” She is a member of Fort Lauderdale Branch NLAPW.

“Searching for Life” image provided by J. Ward

OUR GUEST BLOGGING SERIES WILL END ON OCTOBER 13th. Submissions for the series are now closed. We thank all Pen Women who submitted work for our Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business guest blogger series. We look forward to giving an update on the status of Creative Genius at Work, an anthology that will include posts from these two series, soon.

Creative Inspirational Wisdom: Self-Culture—Being Without Speaking

This week, Elizabeth Diane Martin explores how individuality influences creativity.


 

If there is one thing constant in human nature, it is that each of us reduces the chaos outside of us by creating a highly personal and private environment of one human being: yourself.

 

There is no straight path in the swirl held in our private premises. We are a rolling conundrum of apparent contradictions, living life at four levels—intellectually, emotionally, physically and spiritually—automatically and intuitively. This self-culture ensures the survival of personal identity, what distinguishes you from all other persons. It is individuality, the source of original work.

 

You have a natural inner navigation system that always works for you to maintain ownership of your own identity. In hindsight, we see this more clearly. To get a feel for the path your life unconsciously indicates, divide your life into 12-year segments: birth to age 12; age 13-24; age 25-36, and so on. Reflect on how you felt at the end of each phase, and identify a major decision you formed about life, based on your experiences up to that point.

 

By making these 12-year jumps, major points rise above the run of years, forming a logical sequence. The shape and intention of your self-culture comes out of what life gave you and what you made of it.

 

CREATING FLOW

 

The flow of life comes when the heart, mind, soul and body are united in purpose. The heart and spirit are anchored outside of time, and that attachment to timeless intangible values keeps us on course with meaning. It is a reaching that goes beyond the physical world and draws us toward the inspiration that fuels life.

 

You may have thoughts in the back of your mind about something others couldn’t imagine possible. But it seems feasible to you. Secret hopes give you a sense of autonomy, and prepare you to follow your dream.

 

The heart skips the intent of the mind and triggers action that is spontaneous, genuine, capable and easy. You have greater impact through the things you love to do, more than in the things you have to do. We don’t call it ‘work’ when it’s a thing that we love to do. The unseen action of heart-and-spirit infuses your mind, emotions and strength with purpose.

 

Our natural tendency is to lean forward, toward the future. It’s that leaning forward that is the basis of love. What stirs the heart toward love is unconscious, self-renewing, positive and unquenchable. You are willing to extend yourself in the direction your heart is stirred. Extending yourself – exposing your true self – increases love. Beauty in art, music and artful writing cultivates love; childlike innocence, kindness, friendship are things that encourage us to “lean forward,” to take chances in life.

 

Leaning forward is the subtle guiding influence in your heart, and it speaks to your unconscious mind in whispers. Unrealized intentions are held in the subconscious, waiting for an opportunity or the right time to be carried out. Involuntary response is love that acts without checking in with your conscious mind, and love will always win, no matter how long it takes.

 

NATURAL, INSTINCTIVE CREATIVITY

 

Inspiration breathes life into your heart, first, and then invigorates your whole being. Heart motivation makes work light, and you become renewed as you work. This is the life of a creative person.

 

Workers in the arts find that life’s downs enhance its ups, in a way that refines our perception of good, or identifies the un-good, in contrast. In the arts, we feature one or the other, or put joy and loss together in a place where they complement each other.

 

There are times when you follow your inspiration, regardless of the obstacles, because you cannot do otherwise. For others, there may be a choice, but when your heart compels you, you will eventually yield or become increasingly unhappy with yourself. Creativity is the reward of living.

 

Our faculties work best, and contentment is achievable, when we are inspired – when we live and work out of creative impulse, with the spontaneity of breathing. All that you are fits perfectly in your life. Allow it. Lean into the good and create!

 


Elizabeth Diane Garcia Martin of Pikes Peak Branch NLAPW writes about the attributes of originality. If creativity is to be understood, the internal experience of the person must be understood. Whether it is in the arts, or in the more subtle expressions of love and devotion, originality is the gift each woman brings to her life and out into the lives of others. Elizabeth uses insight as an artist, and knowledge as a system analyst, to understand the design of human nature. In the raw design of her own nature, she discovered the natural system that follows the first breath of original thought. 

Elizabeth will release her first major publication in January 2018, a book that explores the spontaneity that characterizes a person’s unique life path. Stay in touch with Elizabeth through her website and The Art of Perspective business page on Facebook.

 

 “Open Old Book Page On Wood Table With Flying Books…” by khunaspix / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

OUR GUEST BLOGGING SERIES WILL END ON OCTOBER 13th. Submissions for the series are now closed. We thank all Pen Women who submitted work for our Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business guest blogger series. We look forward to giving an update on the status of Creative Genius at Work, an anthology that will include posts from these two series, soon.

 

Creative Inspirational Wisdom: My Creative Workspace

This week, Marsha Perlman shares how natural beauty inspires her creativity and her process.


 

My inspiration for writing comes from the vast natural environment that surrounds me. My work space is the outdoors, and I am an “outdoors person.”

 

Living part of the year in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains assures me no shortage of poetry subjects. My backpack carries a notebook, pencils, a ruler, a small shovel, a covered plastic container, a canteen, a snack, a rain jacket and a camera.

 

I choose a topic and spend blocks of time observing and taking notes as I move around the area by bike and foot. Or I choose a destination that is more flexible and allows for returning often to view changes that occur.

 

When I take many notes in the field, there is occasionally the problem of not recalling the sensory data. Therefore I immediately describe the words that I can’t retrace later, such as bird songs. Before I leave my subject, I scan my notes to be certain I have all the information I need. Sometimes, I take a few photos.
Once at home I sit at my desk and in pencil, write the first draft of my new poem. I read it aloud several times for obvious changes in grammar, spelling, punctuation or repetitive words. Printing is next and then I set the work aside for a week.

 

When I am ready to revise, I ask another person to read the poem aloud. Then I reread and rethink the text several times again, each time with a fresh eye for accepting, eliminating or adding another new word choice, better sentence structure or organization.

 

I often return to the location of the poem, if it is available and ask myself if I need to rework any lines. If so, I repeat the process. I want to be certain all my ideas are clear to the reader.

 


Marsha J. Perlman writes poetry and non-fiction. Her environmental poetry book, SPIRIT LIFE, received 1st Place at NLAPW’s Florida State Conference. TASTE LIFE TWICE, a memoir of her evolution from reticent and acquiescent to assertive and empowered, continues to receive excellent reviews. Her work appears in Until They Have Faces, Unraveling Mysteries, and Women’s Voices in the 21st C. As a photojournalist, she received awards from Colorado Press Women and has also co-produced a Latin American FM program. She participated in ArtPoems as an active member of Southwest Florida Branch NLAPW. Learn more about her at www.marshajperlman.com.

 

“Colorado Mountains” by Liz Noffsinger / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

OUR GUEST BLOGGING SERIES WILL END ON OCTOBER 13th. Submissions for the series are now closed. We thank all Pen Women who submitted work for our Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business guest blogger series. We look forward to giving an update on the status of Creative Genius at Work, an anthology that will include posts from these two series, soon.

 

 

Creative Inspirational Wisdom: From Lullabies to Gap Years

This week, Sheila Firestone, Composer, discusses how her grandchildren provide inspiration for her creativity.


 

From the days of their births, to the daily conversations, I do not know exactly when or how the new composition ideas will arrive, but they do. Staring at Lital’s birth picture, in the Sylvester Cancer Center doctors’ waiting room, the words and melody for “I’ve Stamped your Picture on my Heart,” arrives. This song later becomes part of a curriculum and series of songs, a Songs for a New Day program called Sing and Think.

 

From photos of little girls growing up in Northern, Israel, to “Welcome Little Wonder” (a song for Emily), “Berceuse” for Noah, and lullabies for Maya and Allie, six grandchildren have become my sources of inspiration. The oldest, now 22, is on a fellowship, in another country. Three others recently had their first work experiences. Their challenges often become my musical challenges, works derived from the joy of savoring who they are, what they face, their delights and how each meets and greets the day. A recent event in Charlottesville, Virginia, where the oldest received her master’s degree and taught, another’s struggles to achieve excellence on the job, other internships, and gap years with studies abroad have all become part of my musical collections.

 

 

Works are begun by nothing more than a touch, a photo, a Facebook moment, a tug of the heart, a tear, a smile, a skip and a Hi, Grandma. How are you? text message. I hear this story repeated by many grandparents. We tell the stories, and paint their moments in our works.  We are filled with the joy of expectation and the hope that our grandchildren’s lives will impact the world.

 

Lital’s third birthday present brings “The Peace Patch” dance suite and curriculum. The premiere was planned for our visit to the Israeli “Gan” preschool. “The Grandchildren’s Suite,” piano anthology, commemorates the budding interests of the six, as does the arrival of “The Cat Sarah,” who plays Kitten on the Keys quite well.

 

“Miriam and the Women of the Desert,” a musical/operetta, includes several lullabies originally written for the grandchildren. “Peace Child,” was created for Allie’s birth. I use it in the Miriam work to depict Mother Yocheved singing her hopes to the baby Moses. Batya, his Egyptian mother, sings “In the Cradle of Mankind.” The opening Prologue, begins with the search for God. It calls chorally on a number of modern Hebrew names given to God. It was inspired by a small child’s private conversation with God outside. An internship or a first job with its challenges now becomes a sonata or symphony.

 

These are my tributes to youth and my hopes for their success. I am grateful that the ideas translate into musical ideas to play with when I am not with these young people as they continue on their paths. So thank you, dear Grandchildren, for a lifetime of inspiration. I am always with you, continuing to be filled with wonder by your actions. May you always find joy as you use your energies to fulfill your dreams.

 

 


Sheila Meyerowitz – Firestone was born in the Bronx and has been a student of musical composition since 1987.  She retired after twenty-five years of teaching Communications to gifted elementary students in North Miami Beach, FL.  Firestone studied in the studios of Joseph Dillon Ford, and with Dr. Tom McKinley at Lynn University Conservatory of Music and Dr. Keith Paulson Thorpe. In 2016, Sheila won the NLAPW, 2nd Place, Vinnie Ream Award in Music for Waters of Transformation. She is President of the Boca Raton Branch NLAPW. Learn more about her at her web site, sheilafirestone.com.   


“Berceuse” sheet music provided by S. Firestone.

OUR GUEST BLOGGING SERIES WILL END ON OCTOBER 13th. Submissions for the series are now closed. We thank all Pen Women who submitted work for our Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business guest blogger series. We look forward to giving an update on the status of Creative Genius at Work, an anthology that will include posts from these two series, soon.

Creative Inspirational Wisdom: From Where or What Do You Draw Inspiration?

This week, Lois Batchelor Howard personifies poetic inspiration in a rural location.


 

I am blessed or cursed.  I don’t know which.  Perhaps both.  If I describe my living on a farm, that will possibly explain why or how I write.  I’ll give it a go.

 

Every time I look behind the house or the barn, for that matter, I see them there or I see them coming.  Actually, they’ve been coming for a long time.  They’re odd things: sometimes strange, always different, fascinating somehow. They’re always there, it seems. Grandma Bryce might have called them “wonderful pains,” like she described the aches in her legs that would not go away.

 

They have me caught; I know that.

 

When I’ve had the courage, I’ve asked my neighbors. Funny… they don’t see them, and they give me looks like I give a field of corn that for no reason I can figure out has suddenly stopped growing. Or is it the look I feel when it’s harvest time and the combine has broken down? Maybe it’s more like I’m asking ’em to an opera and they know that I know, more than the smell of bundled hay in the early dew of dawn, that they love country music. Whatever. I can’t pinpoint the look, but I’ve felt it before; it’s not a stranger to me. It’s kind of “puttin’ up with,” and it unsettles me some, but not enough to stop seeing those things.

 

They sit atop the trees on the horizon by Nelson Rathbun’s place, and they often shoot right out of the setting sun or the rising sun. I see lots of both, but there are more chores in the mornings.  They ride the backs of cows. Sometimes they get the chickens clucking and squawking, and the hogs squalling and the dogs barking, runnin’ around in frenzied circles, the horses bolting their heads sideways, restlessly shifting their weight back and forth in closed stalls.

 

Yes, these things have found me. They are powerful things, I tell you. I know I said it before, but it seems they are always here. Sometimes they’re in my boots when I go to put ’em on in the morning or they stick to my high-tops after a heavy rain, when I’ve had to gluck trough-deep in mud.  At times, they even leap out in the black of night. They’re here, all right, and—how does the expression go?  They must have seen me coming!  Or I, them.

 

I could use a lot of fancy words, maybe. Straight of it is, we get along. Oh, sometimes I put ‘em off, but mostly I grin and welcome them in. You don’t get that much company with all this land around and the houses so far apart. I don’t even always treat them to electricity; sometimes I light an old oil lamp and over the oilcloth table cover, shadows visiting on the walls, we sit down together. I rustle up some hot tea and biscuits and blank papers, set the ink jar down, and dip my quill into the ink that somehow reminds me of the clear spring water trickling down near the pond at the top of the hill. But I’m getting’ off the subject, in a way, and I’m repeatin’ myself. I tend to do that. My listeners keep reminding me that I do, but you do what ya gotta do.

 

“Friend-Things,” I say, “What poems do you have for me today?” and as they keep prattling on, which is our way when we’re together, I write. Oh, sometimes we take a break and check the larder or the root cellar. They tell me that’s why they come, and sometimes we gaze out over the acres and know there’s a lot of promise in that old Spring earth, buds of words and greens sproutin’ up all over… Why, those things now, out there again, dancin’, like they own the place.

 

They’ve been lookin’ over my shoulder, and they say they like readin’, that I draw inspiration from livin’ here on the farm and listenin’ to them. Gotta’ give credit where credit is due.

 


Like many of you, Lois Batchelor Howard likes to write. She admits she is possessed! She graduated from the University of Michigan in Music (pipe organ) and through years of rich musical experiences, the music of words became her favorite music. Gratefully, she is a much-published and award-winning author, and she loves being a Pen Woman.  A longtime member of La Jolla Branch, she served as its president for five years.  After moving to Desert Hot Springs, Lois now enjoys being a member of the Palm Springs Branch NLAPW. 

 

“Working Barn” by Maggie Smith / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

OUR GUEST BLOGGING SERIES IS ENDING SOON: Pen Women are invited to submit guest posts or artwork for our two series, Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business, up until Thursday, August 31st, 2017. Please visit this link for more details. We look forward to reading your material!

 

Creative Inspirational Wisdom: Season to Season

This week, Sara Etgen-Baker reflects on the inspiration to be found in nature and solitude.


 

When the alarm sounded, I wanted to continue sleeping.  Instead, I slid out of the warm sheets away from the comfort of my husband’s body; peeked through the Venetian blinds; and noticed graceful flakes of pearly-white lace had dusted the tree-lined trails adjacent to my home.  Even though the mercury hovered just below freezing, I knew today was the perfect day for a solitary winter run.  So, I quietly donned my winter running clothes and headed downstairs.

 

Daylight had not yet turned the slumberous, dark blue clouds to their morning gray, and—for a moment—I hesitated at my front door not wanting to disturb winter’s peaceful silence.  When I stepped outside, my warm breath mingled with the crisp, cold air as it stung my cheeks.  As I began to run, my stiff legs begged me to turnaround; I ignored their cries knowing they would soon stop complaining.  Only my footfalls broke the silence as the gentle snow crunched under my feet.

 

As I ran through the woods that morning, nary an animal crossed my path; their tracks in the snow indicated that they had been here before me though.  The nippy air frosted my breath, and soon my breathing mixed with my footfalls creating a rhythm.  I ran effortlessly past fallen trees along the creek side with no thought of time or distance.  I wasn’t aware of speed either—just movement.

 

I ran past an icy pond cloaked by barren, frost-covered trees trembling like skeletons in the brisk wind.  Snow began falling around me making me feel as if I was running in a snow globe.  Soon, winter’s tranquility and purity enveloped me; time and distance became meaningless, and I imagined that the woods looked as it once did 100 years ago. I gazed into the distance; and for a brief moment, I thought I saw Henry David Thoreau standing outside his cabin near Walden Pond.  He was not there, of course; and there was no one and nothing except for what was right in front of me—miles of glorious solitude.

 

For years I’ve run alone along these trails in the woods—a quiet, almost sacred place every bit as wondrous as Walden Pond.  Generally, the only sounds I regularly hear on these solitary runs are birds chirping; small animals collecting nuts; and my feet as they gently land on leaves, pine straws, or snow.  I occasionally hear the pitter-patter of rain drops as they hit leaves and fall onto the underbrush and forest floor.  Sometimes a light rain cools my perspiring body and soothes my spirit.  Frequently, I immerse myself in my thoughts and dreams and feel invigorated.  Other times, the solitude nourishes the seeds of stories germinating in my head.

 

Here in the woods, though, solitude—as silent and powerful as light itself—forces introspection.  So, I linger in the solitude emptying and quieting my mind; then, I let go of the world and my ego—journeying inwards.  Here, I sometimes hear my inner voice whispering to me; I occasionally meet myself face-to-face and find the being within—the true self—that has been waiting patiently to be discovered.  I continue running—grateful for the solitude and the balance I now feel.  But at some point, I must turn around; follow my footprints; and return in the direction from whence I came.  Reluctantly, I approach the end of my solitary run—not wanting it to be over.

 

From season to season, I’ve run alone along the quiet trails in the nearby woods; and I’ve taken great pleasure in the solitude it offers.  And to quote Thoreau, “I have an immense appetite for solitude, like an infant for sleep…” I discovered long ago that solitude is necessary for me, for that’s where my creativity dwells.  And I can no more live without creativity than I can live without sleep.

 


Sara’s love for words began when her mother read the dictionary to her every night. Her manuscripts have been published in various anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Wisdom Has A Voice, My Heroic Journey, Times They Were A Changing: Women Remember the 60s and 70s, and The Santa Claus Project. When not writing, Sara spends time with her husband of 34 years, Bill. Sara has been a member of the Dallas Branch NLAPW since 2014.  She enjoys the support and fellowship her affiliation with NLAPW brings into her writing life.  She may be contacted via email at: sab_1529@yahoo.com.

“Snowy Forest” by dan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

WANTED: GUEST BLOGGERS! Pen Women are invited to submit guest posts (or artwork) for our two series, Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business, up until Thursday, August 31st, 2017. Please visit this link for more details. We look forward to reading your material!

 

LAST CALL FOR CREATIVE WISDOM (Art Submissions Now Welcome, Too!)

All good things must come to an end, and our Creative blogging series is no exception to that rule. We presently have 68 pages in the Creative Genius at Work: The Inspirational Wisdom of Pen Women book manuscript, but we can add more! Pen Women who wish to be part of this blog-to-book project should submit work for consideration before the preliminary deadline date of August 31st, 2017.

 

Creative Inspirational Wisdom posts focus on all aspects of the creative process: brainstorming, drafting, revising, editing and publishing. Possible topics include:

  • From where or what do you draw inspiration?
  • How do you generate ideas for your work?
  • What is your creative workspace like?
  • How do you tackle “blocks”?
  • What steps do you take when revising your work?
  • What other helpful tips can you share with your fellow creatives?

 

It’s a Creative Business shares advice about making your passion your livelihood. Possible topics include:

  • What do you wish someone had told you before you started out as a creative professional?
  • Where did you learn how to run your business?
  • How do you make the perfect pitch to magazines, galleries, etc.?
  • What business practices lead to success?
  • How do you market yourself and your work?
  • What other practical advice can you offer about taxes, licensing, insurance, and so forth?

 

Submit today and share your discoveries, insights, and professional expertise with your fellow Pen Women! Posts should be 150 – 500 words on average, although longer pieces will be considered. New posts are preferred; reposts from your creative blog also will be considered. Additionally, we now invite Pen Women to submit artistic works that fit the theme of this series. Accepted pieces would appear both on the blog and in the book manuscript.

 

SUBMISSION REQUIREMENTS:

  • You must be a current NLAPW member and the original creator of your submission
  • If you’re submitting a post, please write a cover letter in your submission email that indicates whether your submission qualifies as inspiration or business. (If your submission is a repost, include the original link and permission to reprint in your cover letter.) Attach your .DOCX or .PDF file to the email, or copy/paste the text into the body of the email below your cover letter
  • If you’re submitting artwork, please write a cover letter in your submission email that includes a statement as to how your work fits the theme of the series. Attach your work to the email as a .JPG or .GIF file, or place the image inside the body of the email below the cover letter
  • Send all series submissions to penwomenpress@nlapw.org with “CREATIVE SERIES SUBMISSION.” We look forward to reading/seeing your work by August 31st!

 

Creative Inspirational Wisdom: It’s the Story that Counts!

This week, Sarah Byrn Rickman discusses the thrills and challenges of adapting her style for the Young Adult market.


 

B.J. Erickson in the first P-51 she ever flew; June 13, 1943; Palm Springs, California

With seven books aimed at an adult audience, all focused on women in aviation, I should stick with what I know. Right?

 

“Young girls need to be reading your WASP stories,” two author friends told me over beers at a writers’ conference last fall. “Write for them.”

 

“But I don’t know how.” Deep down, I knew they were right.

 

The research for book number eight was done. B.J. Erickson’s story would be my fourth biography and eighth book about the women pilots of World War II.

 

I got to know B.J. well over her final fifteen years. I visited her frequently, did her oral history, shared a speaking podium with her, and got to know her family. She “flew west” on July 7, 2013. She was 93, a great lady, and I miss her.

 

If ever there was a story for my fourteen-year-old granddaughter and her contemporaries, B.J.’s was it. A consummate leader at 22, she was a no-nonsense gal with keen insight into what made people tick, as evidenced by the accolades heaped on her by the women in her squadron who flew under her leadership in WWII.

 

I approached a friend who knows my “adult” work but who publishes for middle-grade readers. I asked if she would a.) be interested in publishing a WASP biography for Y/A and, if so, b.) would she work with me to get it right? She agreed.

 

Six weeks later, I had the first draft. Something built a fire under me!

 

My editor sent back her suggestions. I took them to heart and began draft two. My multi-clause sentences painstakingly became two or three stand-alone sentences. I searched for easier-to-understand synonyms—tough for aviation terms that the average adult reader won’t know, let alone a thirteen-year-old. When in doubt, explain.

 

Oh, yes—I also had a 25,000 word limit. I’m used to 80,000. Focus. I got my 30,000 down to 25,000.

 

My journalist’s training has taught me to write short paragraphs. That helped. But because we’re dealing with a lot of B.J.’s quotes, I’ve had to alternate them with paraphrasing because of the way the book would be formatted. I never had to worry about that before!

 

B.J. Erickson, age 19

I removed my proverbial darlings and that pesky dead wood—several times.

 

There were far too many dates and airplane numbers. Too much for young readers! Historian, ditch your dates. They’re boring!

 

I submitted draft three. The story was told. I’d tightened the lens. Enough?

 

No. Don’t start planning the cover yet. Revisions, not major but nevertheless needed, were required.

 

I thought I could do it in six months, start to finish—November to April. It was not ready in April, nor in May.

 

On July 11, I handed the finished manuscript—25,745 words—to my editor, Doris Baker of the small Colorado book publisher Filter Press.

 

The cover is now a go, and it is gorgeous. It is B.J. in the cockpit of a P-51 World War II fighter aircraft.

 

In all, 63 photos grace this book aimed at eleven to fourteen-year-old girls and, hopefully, boys. Boys do like aviation.

 

B.J. was 19 when she learned to fly, right before World War II began. She qualified as a flight instructor at age 20 and, after Pearl Harbor, joined the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) to fly small trainer aircraft from the factory to the Army training fields.

 

These women become known as WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots). At 22, BJ was named the leader of the women’s ferrying squadron in Long Beach, California. She led some 70 other women, many older than she, for the two years the WASP were on active duty.

 

Her squadron was the one tasked with the delivery of the largest number of P-51 fighter aircraft delivered by the women pilots. The P-51 was THE aircraft—the “Game Changer”—that ultimately sealed our victory over the German Reich in 1945. The P-51 was the aircraft that protected the big bombers from enemy fighters all the way from England to Berlin, then back to England and safety.

 

It’s the story that counts—and yes, how you tell it. Writing, whether for adults or for children, is all about whether you tell the story in a way that engages your reader, puts her right there in the cockpit with the heroine, and brings both the pilot and the story home.

 


Sarah Byrn Rickman, Pikes Peak Branch NLAPW, has been writing since she was five. An English major at Vanderbilt University, she began a 20-plus year career in journalism at The Detroit News and concluded it as editor of the Centerville-Bellbrook Times in Ohio. In 1996, she earned an M.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University Midwest. She has since written eight books about the women pilots of World War II, known as WASP.  Her web site is www.sarahbyrnrickman.com. 

 

Above photos furnished by Sarah Byrn Rickman, author
 

WANTED: GUEST BLOGGERS! Pen Women are invited to submit guest posts for two new series: Creative Inspirational Wisdom and It’s A Creative Business. Please visit this link for more details. We look forward to reading your material!