I feel we’re all struggling to find hope as the world slowly turns. I love Stuart’s story and advice, and think we also need to keep our hand on the plow.
I watched the morning news but turned away when feelings of hopelessness washed over me as they reported infection rates and death tolls. Isolation is helping end this nightmare, they say, but for any one individual it can sometimes seem an exercise in futility. When a reporter stressed the importance of continuing our social distancing practices, an old memory crossed my mind:
“No.” Ms. Wade shook her head. “Here’s what you’re going to do.” She put her arm around my shoulder. “Keep your hand on the plow and hold on.”
I knew what she meant.
Having grown up around farming and plows I understood the metaphor, but until then I’d never heard anyone describe so succinctly a situation pertaining to myself. Don’t dismay, was her message. Simply continue doing what I’d been doing.
It was early 1980s and I was a twenty-year-old kid working a part-time retail job. Ms. Wade…
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The Coronavirus has spread to our area.
You may be feeling alarmed right now, or alone. We’re overreacting. We’re underreacting. It’s ‘this person’s’ fault’ or ‘this idea.’
None of that matters.
What matters is community. That’s a funny sentiment In the midst of encouraged isolation, but it’s true.
In the frenzied buying at Costco, four of my neighboring shoppers helped a baby-holding mother (me) with her cart.
A woman I don’t know posted in our community page that she’s willing to share food or resources with those who don’t have enough.
Another person started a thread to help those needing childcare because they still need to work.
And so many healthcare workers are heading out to their jobs, demonstrating the ultimate proof of their duty and devotion.
So, let’s help our fellow humans. Stay home if you can; definitely do so if you are sick. It’s not panic. It’s to spread out the impact on health facilities that only have so many respirators, beds, medicines, and -above all- people.
We have amazing informational resources these days. Use them for entertainment and learning. And, like me, use them to encourage and uplift. We’re all in this together, even apart in our own homes.
©2020 Chelsea Owens
(Also posted on my personal Twofacebook page.)
“I would encourage all who read this not to give up trying. You may take two steps forward then fall three steps back. The important thing is that you don’t stay back there. Pick yourself up and try and try again.”
-Rethinking Scripture, “Personal Progress Report“
“To be a successful writer and enjoy the perks of paid writing, one must first understand what business they are in – and that is the entertainment business. One does not have to resort to silly antics to entertain, because you can do the same thing with horror or heartbreak, maybe even clever word play or just plain good writing – but in the end, it is primarily entertainment and we as writers are primarily entertainers.”
I’ve been asked for feedback on poetry a few times, a task I found amusing since I’d begged others for the same in the past. Art is very subjective. Art is also only so when the majority of people agree, when it takes skill, and when it’s not someone peeing in jar and taking a picture of it.
On that note, please enjoy my informative blog post on how to write poetry, first published October 1, 2017.
A Muse, The Blues, Some Clues -AKA How to Write Poetry
Lo! What light, what cackling sun
Burns your eyes?
It laughs as you run;
Jumping, grasping, to
Catch the poem…
If you thought that was bad, you were right. I literally wrote that without any thought, direction, or meter. I took about fifteen seconds.
Don’t get me wrong -sometimes people like that crap. Sometimes the Crap Off the Cuff really isn’t bad. However, poetry is just like any other crafted item: the more practice you have at your skill, the better anything you make will be.
Translation: those who are experts can write a decent impromptu poem, and the stuff they worked longer on is even better.
So, *ahem.* Let’s stop mucking about and finally jump into A Few Steps for Writing Poetry:
Seriously, there are already a lot of good poets out there who have already written your idea in a better way. Thanks to Google, you can probably find it.
There are also a lot of terrible poets who have murdered your idea and now it’s bleeding by the side of the road begging people to stop clicking that they Like it.
2. Still determined? Good! You’ve passed the first test: that of true motivation for verse. I feel that motivation, a muse, hangover, emotional distress, late-night deadlines -whatever your name is for it- are vital to writing a poem.
Even if you don’t have a clear subject or good structure, the sheer determination to express what you feel will squeeze something out.
3. Actual Guidelines
So… there is this type of meter I poked fun at initially. It’s called free verse. Let me tell you, from my extremely limited experience, that freely versing can be a BAD idea. It’s the commando version of creative writing, and needs a brave, strong, experienced writer to handle it.
My recommendation, therefore, is to follow a meter. No, you don’t have to go full-out iambic pentameter. Only do so if you wish to be counting on your fingers and looking up rhymes for “depressed” all evening.
A good start is to come up with a few lines in your mind, then count the syllables (and pattern of stress/non-stress) and roughly follow that for the remaining lines.
4. Stress and Non-stress
Really quickly: this is where we put the emphasis on our words when we speak. I threw it in here because I mentioned it in the previous step, and you might be scratching your head over it.
Sometimes, I write a poem and there is one line that is really bugging me. Usually, it’s because I followed my syllable count, but did not follow normal speech rules of emphasis.
Because of that, the syllable count is actually off. Readers (including you) will do a mental glottal stop to be able to stress the words where we are accustomed to.
5. To Rhyme, or Not Some Thyme?
This one is up to you. I mostly rhyme for mine, every other line.
The length of each line and how often you rhyme (every single ending word, halfway through, every other, or randomly) will determine whether your poem feels like a poem, Dr. Seuss, or a rap song.
Keep in mind that even Seuss mixed things up a bit. One of my favorite stanzas in The Cat in the Hat is:
So, as fast as I could,
I went after my net.
And I said, “With my net
I can get them I bet.
I bet, with my net,
I can get those Things yet!”*
Try it; it’s fun to read through.
6. Word Choice
Let’s say you want to emote about love and loss of said love. You are going to make us all feel something different than affection if you literally use the word “love” more than about three times. Sometimes, my limit is even one.
This is where your friend, Mr. Thesaurus, comes in. I mentioned this in my How to Not Suck at Writing rant as well, because it’s really important.
Let’s say you’re not that into synonyms. Too much woooorrrrkkk.
You will sound way more mysterious and intelligent if you do it. Like, “I loved and lost and lost my love” could become “Adored, then absent; Carelessly cherished.”
7. More Word Choice
Poetry is all about obscurity. Even when it’s a straightforward tale of a path diverging in the forest, everyone still says the poem is about something deeper.
So, use your new thesaural friend to obfuscate your terms, or make the simple description of your plush tiger on the shelf sound like it represents your childhood memories of being abandoned.
8. Practice and Preparedness
This goes for anything, but especially creative writing.
Read other poets, and copy their style. Keep a notebook to jot down random lines that come to you on the train. Try, try, try again. Everything you read and write will give you experience.
Now, go! Make the world a poetic place.
©2020 Chelsea Owens
*from The Cat in the Hat, by Dr. Seuss. All rights and copyrights, etc. apply
I consider myself a nice person. You know, publicly.
I feel that every human deserves to be treated like a human. I talk to every human like a human. I see no point in drawing class distinctions, boundaries of pride, nor ‘necessary’ ostracizations of certain peoples.
Besides this natural bent toward non-jerkiness, I’ve found polite treatment imperative to future conversations and relationships.
What do I mean?
I refer to the old adage to “not burn your bridges.” In my younger and more foolish days I thought I would never see most of the humans around me again. Others’ comments about “high school doesn’t matter,” “everyone makes mistakes,” and my young tendency to not consider the future all contributed to that mindset. Don’t get me wrong -I was and have always been a precocious thing. Even given that, I assumed I wouldn’t have to face the people I met at a future date.
That perspective also had help from there being no Facebook at the time…
Fortunately, I only used my ignorance a handful of times. I slipped up at work, wrote a scathing note to some girls in junior high school, typed up a fiery e-mail to someone I barely knew once, and had an embarrassing exchange with a friend in my twenties.
I do not write about keeping one’s bridges intact because of a big mistake. I write, instead, from times in which I’ve realized the error of my perspective from positive situations.
Two years ago, for example, a teacher at my children’s school asked me if I’d want to do content writing for a relative of hers. I took the job and worked at it for 9 months. That position gave me necessary professional experience for a writer’s resume, plus a relationship with someone still working in writing fields.
Through a love of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, I started a blog named A Wife, My Verse, and Every Little Thing. I saw others who referenced this trilogy, formed friendships, and was even invited to help judge a contest over at The Carrot Ranch.
A girl I babysat grew up and was babysitter to my own children. The daughter of my husband’s former CEO tended our two-year-old for a few weeks when I had my last C-Section. A good friend, looking for part-time work, ran our dice store for nearly a year. Just last week, I joked about my children with another random mother at Costco; and she called me by name and remembered we’d been college roommates.
No, we don’t “never see” people again. People live a long time. (You know, usually.) People know other people. People are related to someone you might work with, dated a guy you got angry with online, or taught preschool to the person bagging your groceries.
We are all connected, in The Circle of Life. It’s beautiful.
On that note, how have you seen this phenomenon in your life? Did you run into an old flame? Get hired by a former acquaintance’s relative? Accidentally cut off your elementary teacher? What happened?
Check out what I wrote this week:
Wednesday, September 11: Wrote about what I like about where I live in “Welcome to Utah; Wanna Stay?.”
Saturday, September 14: Announced the 43rd Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is a free-verse poem about secondhand sales. PLEASE ENTER!
Also, “The Problem with Being Karen;” a three paragraph story about Karen, a victim of her name.
Monday, September 16: “Wilhelmina Winters, One Hundred Four.”
Tuesday, September 17: An inspirational quote by Hugh Laurie.
Wednesday, September 18: Today.
©2019 Chelsea Owens
“The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.”
“Don’t do something permanently stupid just because you are temporarily upset.”
-One of those internet-forever quotes.