A walk: 15th April

I went on a walk with a friend this weekend and we took a few pictures to try and identify some species when we got home.  I also wrote a list of some of the plants and animals we saw on our route.  This was a good exercise in helping me remember and learn names for flora and fauna but it also meant I realised how much we saw.

Using the same idea as the natural history guide exercise, I wrote an “I am” poem.  Again I used the guide to get a bit of info about the species and I used my jar of words.  I also pulled a tarot card to give a direction or theme for my words.  This turned out to be the ace of wands which is a perfect, spring energy, kind of card.  The words I associate with this card were used to create the first line.

I am spring, flame thrower, life igniter.

I am the Norway maple, buds forced open like shooting stars.

I am the drifting, pungent catch of wild garlic in the air.

I am the paintbrush who’s sure and steady hand splashed the purple speculum on the female mallard’s back.

I am the heart leaves of the lesser celandine, serenading without permission.

I am the boggy carpet under the feet of Canada geese.

I am the committed blackbird, bringing squirming specimens to my love.

I am the golden jacket outlining the small great tit.

I am the velcro crackle of cleavers scrambling unapologetically.

I am the listening, learning, crow, holding tight to my caw-caw.

I am the family squabble of coots quarrelling

& I am the woodpigeon, perched, surveying, taking in the power of spring.

I enjoyed pulling together the images and I really like the use of the natural history guide as it adds another dimension to the images – without it I’d not have known speculum feathers were even a thing!  The information from the guide adds more precision as well.

I particularly like the image of the cleavers and, along with I am the music played in the teeth of a dandelion, before time is wished away from last time, I’m hoping to spin out another piece of creative writing.

I also created the line I am the queen of death, the glossy social climber; ivy but it was entirely out of sorts with the rest of the images.  Perhaps one to put in my pocket for a walk later in the year when the cycle of life turns again…

 

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A Natural History Guide To Poetry

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Using a natural history guide, pages chosen at random, and my jar of words, I have spun a series of metaphors which utilise different sensory aspects, excluding smell and taste as neither of those work especially well for me.

This was an exercise in creating metaphors but you could easily take one of the images and expand it and turn it into a larger poem.  I’ve adapted it from Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge and I highly recommend her book Poem Crazy for any creative writer.

I am…

I am a prickly cockle with a grain of sand gnarled in my foot.

I am a silky wall feather moss, collecting gossamer and rainbows.

I am a moustached warbler, and a longing, sweet ‘tu-tu-tu’.

I am the music played in the teeth of a dandelion, before time is wished away.

I am the sound of fish fins as they encounter the everchanging river.

I am a willow, weeping, leaves creeping, catkins dancing.

I am the grey-blue crown of a male chaffinch in summer.

I am the eyes of a peacock butterfly; mesmerised and mesmerising.

I am the shape of a mute swan’s neck, curving with the secrets of the self.

I am a migratory locust with a solitary path, soon I will plunge into a galaxy of my peers.

I am the perch formed by the spines of a gorse; stiff, unforgiving and deadly. 


To illustrate my take on this exercise I’ll dissect a sentence:

I am a prickly cockle with a grain of sand gnarled in my foot

I am… an animal was one of the prompts.

Prickly cockle came from the guide book.

Grain of sand, gnarled and toe were words I pulled from my jar, obviously I changed toe to foot as it made more sense with the chosen animal.

I particularly like the idea of the dandelion as a musical instrument and without Susan’s prompts I would never have considered it.  Similarly, I was using her furniture prompt when I wrote about the gorse bush.  By using a natural history guide, I have been able to include some precision in the name of the species and some detail, such as the call of the fantastically named moustached warbler.

I’m hoping I’ll return to some of these images and play with them a bit more deeply when I’m in less pain that I am at the moment (pain drains creative energy).

September Poems: My poetry

To get me started again, I’ve used a few tools and exercises to warm up the poetry part of my mind and soul.

Playing with form

Mslexia has a regular column for specific poetry forms and the back issues I was catching up on looked at triolets and palidromes.

Triolet

A triolet is made up of 8 lines, each 8 syllables, with the rhyming pattern ABAAABAB. The first line reoccurs as the fourth and seventh, the second line as the eighth.  It’s been a long time since I wrote poetry and much longer since I used any sort of structure so this was quite the challenge!  I didn’t expect it to be as hard as it was though.

Seasons rolled over as I slept;
Autumn golds, heavy skies roll on
From lazy days; I mourned, I wept.
Seasons rolled over as I slept.
I grieved for dreams that went undreamt
Under hazy skies now long gone.
Seasons rolled over as I slept
Autumn golds, heavy skies, roll on…

Palindrome

A palindrome is a a poem which has a pivot point and then reverses itself, both words and lines are reversed.  And wow is that tough.  I think just the lines reversed would be hard but reversing the words as well!  Eek!

The Turn of The Year

Autumn and
Leaves falling
Reaching
Outstretched arms
Twirling, twisting
Like turning year

Rising and falling
Falling and rising

Year turning like
Twisting, twirling
Arms outstretched
Reaching
Falling leaves
And autumn

Jam jar poetry

There may be an actual name for this but basically, I have written a collection of words, mostly but not all about nature, and put them in a jar. Every so often I sit and pull out one or two, or a handful, and see what poems arise.

In the event of my death,
Take a pilgrimage to the secluded
Decaying bench;

Weathered, overgrown and black as pitch.
Hunt out the fallen stones with
Pounding breath.

I am here.

I am not fluttering candle light.
I am not silken eggshell.
I am not the wishes from shooting stars.

I am heart broken bones.
I am gnarled, discarded antlers.
I am the echo from a forest of dead wood.

In the event of my death,
Take a pilgrimage to the secluded
Decaying bench;

I am here.

It has also produced fragments which I hope to develop at some stage:

The winter magic twists sunbeams to night

The image of roadkill scratches and scritches like a grain of sand in a wound.

Twisted dead wood rusts away to powder

Being honest with yourself about your eating disorder

“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”

~Louise L. Hay

These are all questions I’ve been asked during my recovery process, and found helpful at some point (you aren’t always ready for a question and that’s ok). I wanted to pull them together so other people can use them as journal prompts or whatever. They may or may not be helpful and certainly not helpful to everyone all of the time.

***

be brave 1

Do you want to recover?

It’s ok if the answer is no, well, ok might not be the right word but unfortunately I really think you have to want to recover. Which is infuriating for the people around you who care and who hate seeing you in pain.

If your answer is no, I’d still urge you to keep reading or at least consider why not.

What purpose does your eating disorder serve?

I don’t think many eating disorders are really about eating or appearances when you get to the heart of them. Mine was about numbing my emotions big style, it was about control, it was about low self worth, it was about shame.

My eating disorder was a way of coping when I was suicidal. In a twisted way, anorexia saved my life. But it also tried to kill me.

Do you know what is you and what is your eating disorder?

Example, a 10k run went past my flat recently. Anorexia responded by saying oh, we could do that, let’s look up couch to 5k online and get out there. I genuinely got as far as opening Google before I kicked back in and reminded myself I can’t walk or use a manual wheelchair. Running is out the question. That’s how powerful an eating disorder can be. And if I hadn’t done a lot of work separating the eating disorder from me, I think it’d have taken longer for the rational part of me to kick back in.

Why does recovery scare you?

No, not because you might gain weight etc. Really, what’s the real reason?  The emotional reason.

Mine was a fear of feeling emotions. A fear of having to face the hellish depression which had preceded the eating disorder. It was also a fear of feeling out of control.

What does recovered look like for you?

I was asked this numerous times.  And the answer changed depending on where in my recovery I was/am.

For me, recovering meant not having to constantly think about food.

It meant reclaiming my brain and my identity.

It meant not being a hypocrite ; I strongly feel people shouldn’t diet and that looks don’t matter, I don’t care what other people look like.

Recovery meant not lying to my friends: are you OK? Yes. Are you hungry?  No. Have you lost weight? No.

And although I’m don’t feel I’m fully recovered, I now have space in my head for thoughts which aren’t about food and I’m being a million times more honest with my friends now than I’ve ever been.

If you want to recover, what are you doing which works against that?

I would think oh, I can recover whilst still doing x, or without doing y.  Somehow I was special, my body was different to everyone else who has an eating disorder.  So what everyone else has to eat regularly as part of recovery, I’m special, my body doesn’t like/need/want to do that… (I’m 99% sure that’ll be the eating disorder talking, trying to keep its claws in you cos recovery terrifies it, if you recover, it dies.)

What is your eating disorder robbing you of?

For me, it was the ability to think, relationships with friends, being able to go out for a drink, enjoyment of food, very nearly my job…

My health – you probably already know all the shit health impacts and are probably thinking somehow they won’t affect you, that’s what everyone thinks…

Who are you with the eating disorder? and Who are you without the eating disorder?

This can be tough to answer even if you’ve not had an eating disorder for very long. The nature of it means you lose touch with who you are and you can’t see who you could be or who you want to be. You forget what interests you.

All of your energy goes into the disorder, how else could you use this?

What did you used to enjoy, be interested in, do with your time?

What makes you come alive?

What might it feel like to love yourself?

I’m not asking you to love yourself, but what might it feel like it you did?

What stories do you tell of yourself? What language do you use to talk of yourself?

It’s so easy to believe our thoughts and take our feelings as fact.  They aren’t always, especially not if you have an eating disorder.  The words we use (internally and externally) to describe ourselves, our experiences etc, those words stick.

“Unloveable, fat, ugly, stupid, idiot, bitch” are words which run through my head.  They run through my head a lot less now because I’ve done some tough work challenging them.  But think about it, if you hear all day that you’re a stupid bitch, you start to believe it.

So, try and do yourself a favour, learn to notice and then learn to challenge your head messages and think about the words you choose when you’re speaking about yourself to others.

what else

I hope there’s something here which you’ve found useful.  I strongly encourage you to go away and journal about these questions or other similar prompts – writing can help you breakthrough things in a way that thinking often doesn’t.

Recovery is hard work, but it’s so much better that the eating disorder and I hope you choose to fight.

Storytelling tarot spread 

I’ve seen writing inspiration tarot spreads on pinterest and thought they were interesting. Then a while back a friend asked if I’d do one for her.

I had a look and couldn’t settle on a particular spread, they all had strengths and weaknesses and in the end I pulled together the strengths and my knowledge of writing to make my own.

Half focuses on characters, their motivations and their relationship. The other half is based on the story arc idea with a card for each key point in the plot.

The reading I did for my friend was really interesting with some great stuff for writing I think. I hope so anyway!  I was inspired to do my own reading which turned out to be very different even though there were a couple of the same cards.

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Normally when I read for myself, I just note ideas down but when I did this reading for my friend, I used full sentences and wrote all my thoughts which turned out to be quite helpful. So I repeated this for myself (PDF).

Following this, an essential step is to actually sit down and write… I did a writers block spread for my friend as well. For me, I’m going to try and create a writing plan or routine which sees me do a little each week. I’d love to say each day but I know that my unpredictable pain and energy levels will mean I don’t achieve that. And once I’ve missed one day, it becomes very easy to miss another and so on… I’m thinking it might be worth adding to my Friday check in /week ahead planning.

If i don’t get far with a plan, then I’ll do the writers block spread for myself but I think I probably know my own blocks; lack of self discipline, lack of energy at times, wanting to get something spot on first time but mostly just not sitting down to write. I have all the excuses… Pain, brain fog, using the computer can worsen my pain, using voice recognition software is frustrating… But I have the time, I have vague ideas and the inspiration from the above spread, I just need to actually turn on my laptop and start drafting and jotting down ideas…

Wish me luck!!

a poet, anger and a banana… a writing exercise

Sometime last year, I bought a few old issues of mslexia off ebay.  I’ve got a subscription but I wanted some more to read.  The last couple I’ve looked at have had some interesting exercises to get you writing.  And as one of my projects for this year is to get back into writing, I figured I should actually give them a go rather than just thinking “oh that’s an interesting idea”…

This is the one that got me onto my computer to write.

Write a list of professions.  Come back later and write a list of emotions.  Come back later again and write a list of objects.

  profession Emotion/feeling etc object
1 poet guilt Gun
2 taxidermist Anger Spoon
3 teacher love Banana
4 Police officer Despair Door
5 Model Joy Camera
6 Journalist Excitement Pen
7 Artist Happy Painting
8 Poison taster Ashamed Screwdriver
9 Vet Courageous Tablet
10 Cook Bitter Chair
11 Editor Apathetic Marmalade
12 Taxi driver Grief Jar
13 Masseuse Overwhelmed Glasses
14 Hair dresser Anxious Window
15 Carer Peace Peach
16 Photographer Lust Plate
17 Actor pride Book
18 Miller scared Skirt
19 Ghost hunter confused horse

Then there’s different ways you can use your lists but the idea is that it’s a springboard for a couple of sentences, an idea or a vignette.

I’m choosing three numbers at random and picking one word from each column accordingly.

So 1, 2 and 3 gives  me a poet, anger and a banana…

8,9 and 7 gives me a poison taster, courageous and painting:

Everyone thought the poison taster was so brave, so courageous, risking her life each and every day for the sake of saving another. But she knew differently. It was a cop out. It was placing the risk in someone else’s hands. She felt no fear when she took that first bite or mouthful for her boss. She knew the outcome; live or die. But the second she sat at her easel and held a paintbrush in her hands, she froze. Her mind filled with anxiety, doubt, criticism. Overwhelming her, forcing her to turn away. The canvas remaining blank. A stark reminder to her of her cowardliness.

The painting remains unpainted. The poison taster poisoned.

What combinations do you get?  What stories do they tell?

Historic Objects of Conflict and Desire

Today I went on a one day course with the Centre for Lifelong Learning at the Yorkshire Museum.  It was a writing course but the title was Historic Objects of Conflict and Desire.  I wasn’t really sure what to expect at all but it was a really good day.

We were given a short tour of the museum which focused on particular objects and a bit about the history of them as well as the people associated with them.  For example, we looked at a tombstone which was commissioned by an ex soldier in memory of his wife and two children, a betrothal pendent made from Whitby jet, the York Helmet etc.

One of the exhibits we looked at was made up from things found in the Roman baths that were used by the legions (townspeople used a different set of baths).  There was pieces of jewellery, a jet ring, grooming instruments, buttons and beads.  There were also gemstones which fell out of rings because the steam, and contrasting high and low temperatures, caused the glue to fail.

Once we’d looked at the artifacts and handled some of them we started to write.  After a quick warm up we were asked to choose one of the objects that we’d seen that morning.  I went for the gem that had come loose from a ring in the baths.  The tutor then guided us through some questions to develop a piece of writing from the perspective of the object.  I found the questions really helpful and will try and use them again as a prompt:

  1. What are you?
  2. What are you feeling?
  3. Where would you rather be?
  4. What relationships do you have?
  5. What do you dream of doing?
  6. What worries you?
  7. What would you like others to think of you?
  8. What is the best thing you’ve ever done?
  9. What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?
  10. What makes you feel guilty?
  11. What is your favourite time of night or day?
  12. What is the point of your life?
  13. How would you like to be remembered?

A gemstone in the sewer

I am a beautiful gemstone.  I am feeling lost, cool, dirty.  I would rather be surrounded by silver, not filthy sewage.  I am surrounded by others, also parted from their owner.  We are all discarded.  I dream of sparkling in daylight, shining in the sun.  I worry that I shall be stuck here forever, never be found, never reunited with my soldier.  I hope he misses me. I want others to see me, admire my smooth edges, the hues within me.  The best thing I ever did was bring luck to my master in the fight of his life.  I saw him glance at me, fiddle with me and his face grew braver.  The worst thing I ever did was relax.  I didn’t hold on tight enough and now I’m being punished.  I feel guilty, without me, how will he survive the next battle.  Without me, he has no luck.  My favourite time of day was the golden hour before dusk.  I would shimmer and glow and I know that makes my master proud.  He flashed me around, showing off his status.  The point of my life is beauty and luck.  I hope he remembers he.  I hope he remembers me with regret, with grief.

We then carried on to other exercises which started to bring in conflict.  It turns out I avoid conflict in my writing as much as I avoid it in my life…!