Tag Archives: Challenges

Opportunity Overload and Outcome

Handwritten writing exercise-document detailThere were so many enticing word-related opportunities lately, I overloaded myself and had to pull back. Here is the result of one that I enjoyed through a local group called The Village Writers School. The writing exercise briefly pulled me out of poetry into short-story writing. It was a 15-minute challenge based on a choice of prompts. The prompt I chose was “First Impressions.” Here is how it went:

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Poetry: Villanelle

Villa entranceYes, the “Villanelle” verse form relates to villas, or at least to villagers. Possibly, it derived from the work songs sung by Italian peasants as they tended crops.

As a poet, why have I avoided traditional forms so long? …Arrogance, laziness, freedom, efficiency—or what? My response is: All of the above, plus a good dose of fear. To me, it seemed a violation of an emergent poem’s integrity to stuff it in a straitjacket of just so many lines, beats per line, rhyme patterns, or even a prescribed mood or theme. “Let the poem make its own choices,” I protested, considering myself more midwife than mother. Besides, following all those writing rules is hard work.

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What’s So Scary?

Fear Itself

Every topic I started to write about tonight led to a dead end. That’s good. They were about scary things or self-recriminations. Really, though, how can I say they were about scary things? I don’t believe that.

“Scary” is a reaction applied in reverse as a defense. Lots of things are “scary” before we’re willing to face them and experience them. Almost always, the encounter ends up being positive instead. Because life is good. Regardless. As the latest popular saying goes, “The universe doesn’t do things to us, it does them for us.”

The unknown is a challenge. Once, when I was young and applied for temp work, I told the agency I was willing to do anything clerical or administrative. “But please don’t put me on a switchboard,” I emphasized. That must have made an impression; my next assignment was as a receptionist and switchboard operator for a large retail distribution warehouse. Since the agency apparently had confidence in me, I decided to have confidence in myself. I spent every spare minute of my first morning memorizing faces, names, and numbers … and practicing which buttons to push when. Not surprisingly, this turned out to be my favorite and most successful assignment till then and I was asked back repeatedly by the company. 

Cricket in hand“Scary” could be bugs for some people.
(This is a photo of a cricket.)

Once I lived in a small, very old downtown apartment where roaches were hard to control. But that is just what I was trying to do one night when a friend stopped by to visit. He asked if he could help … because, he said, that was the exact fear he was working on at the time. Being of the hippie type and generation, he one-at-a-time lovingly scooped up the half-dozen erstwhile residents and took each one to an outside garden. Because he was afraid to.

Hazy city sceneIt’s all a matter of perspective. Back when AIDS was a quick death sentence, I went to a literary event of some kind in a Little Rock bookstore. Poets read their work aloud. One’s was about the day he was diagnosed with AIDS. When he learned he had it and was told how it operated, he left the clinic and wandered the streets, marveling in an almost ecstasy of wonder: “Not immune. Not immune. I’m not immune to anything!

Approach and Avoidance

With fear, as with pain, there are two main techniques that can be effective—[this is my own experience speaking]—either complete focus on that thing or complete focus on something else. I’m lucky. I can usually do either with poetry. Today, Ethan and I had to face something intimidating and we both fell into behaviors we didn’t like. So we called a halt, reviewed things, and worked them out. During my halt, I delved:

Why am I such a drain?
     Why do I find fault
     then clam up like a vault?
Why do I complain?
     Why do I stew,
     then blow my top at you?
I feel threatened and powerless.
It’s some kind of cowardice.

Conclusion? Being afraid is about feeling vulnerable and deficient. And self-protection plays out as attack. Or it can. It helps to be in a partnership that calls a timely halt. Coincidentally, that is the very thing this blog is calling for, so I will end. May all your scares lead to positive outcomes.

♥ ~Jo

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Photo Credits: All photos are by morguefile.com artists.
No Outlet by jdurham – Hazy Street by krosseel – Cricket by rocker123 

Favorable Weather for Lettering

The Poet Writes Large

For over a week, the weather here has been extra cool and wet. Today started off rainy and the high was in the mid-90’s. That worked in my favor as I labored outdoors applying vinyl letters and graphics to a storefront. I don’t have photos of the process but can share the proposed design I gave to the owner:

Motorplex signage design

My husband’s mechanic friend is starting a shop of his own. When I first visited, the only signage was a small banner, barely visible from the highway. I expressed concern about James’s business being overlooked for that reason, and Ethan said, “If you can come up with something better, why don’t you make a proposal.” Long story short, James agreed to my design suggestion and even invited me to do the work.

I wasn’t going to turn down an opportunity like that, even though I’m not a professional signmaker. I bought the vinyl, made the patterns, cut the letters, and planned the installation. Today the installation took almost six hours. I was learning on the job … and I loved every minute.

Solving craftsmanship issues was the most satisfying … how best to clean glass, make measurements, position graphics, use tools, etc. After a few ruined letters, I learned to wet the surfaces and properly use a squeegee. Another important lesson was that the orange vinyl, being translucent, lost brightness when removed from its white backing and placed on a dark window. Also, letters that looked enormous at close range seemed smaller than expected at a distance.

How appreciative I am to James for entrusting me with the work and for showing his delight when it was done. I got a big thumbs up … and a big hug too.


If I had my druthers,
I’d play at work all day,
designing entertaining things,
for those who’d want to pay.

And, to find these others,
I wouldn’t have to shout,
or pay for ads, or dance and sing,
for they would seek me out.

I had a red-letter day awhile back when I started this blog. Today was an orange-letter day. I took advantage of fun opportunities to write both large (the signage) and small (this blog). Very satisfying. ♥~Jo

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Joint Explorations

Why this Website? Why Poetry?

They both have the same prompt: Oprah.
Poetry is a response to a life-mission remark she made. The website is a response to her recently-issued “Grow Your Life” challenge. In 150 words or less, entrants told which of their dream(s) they most wanted to advance. From the submissions, a winner will be chosen to have lunch with Oprah in Hawaii.

Machu PicchuI resonated with the challenge and entered, via a poem. (Creativity will figure strongly in the judging.) The dream I described has two parts: to fulfill a long-cherished wish to visit Machu Picchu, the ancient sacred city in Peru, and to combine that wish with my everyday poetry. I envision approaching the Inca site from a spiritual perspective, recording the experience in an art-and-poetry journal.

The website is a further outcome of my spirituality and writing liaison.

Writing Tools file00077014446

Part of my yearning and resonance is to keep very private with these joint explorations. That is counterbalanced by another part encouraging me to become more open and visible. I wonder which part invites more vulnerability, growth, and/or learning? We shall see. I already enjoy the creativity.

♥  Jo

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