Sunday Writing Challenge #2

I wanted to write about daffodils, my favourite flowers, but I couldn’t quite get it right. I was thinking of yellow stars and blazes of pollen like comet trails, or maybe an orchestra of silent trumpets. Anyway, that didn’t work out. Next I returned to an image from a short story I once wrote and came up with:

Branches a black scrawl
till the first buds pop
colouring in spring

I also wanted to try writing haikus with even fewer syllables. Simple, silent, calm – that’s what I was going for:

Bridges cast off
the sea har
reflect the sun

Sun lingers
Points of light
on the Forth

Did anyone else write a spring/autumn haiku this week?

For next Sunday I’m going to try writing a poem in terza rima. The simplest form, I believe, would be five lines with the rhyme pattern A-B-A,  B-B. You can have more verses - check out the wikipedia page on terza rima for the rules.

Sunday Writing Challenge

I was at a party last night and a friend asked me how the writing was coming along. “Well,” I said, “I haven’t done much writing recently because I’m very busy at the moment and I haven’t had the time.”

“I’m pretty sure you said that last year, too,” he replied.

And you know what? I think he’s right.

I can’t remember the last time I wrote a short story. Every time I think about writing fiction, my head immediately fills with reasons why I can’t write that particular piece: I don’t know enough about the subject, I can’t imagine how that character would think or feel or speak, my writing skills just aren’t good enough to pull it off.

This year I resolved to finish the novel I was working on for NaNo 2008. I decided to write a little each morning before work. Most mornings when my alarm goes off I snooze it and only get up when there’s just enough time left to get dressed and get out the door.

When I was doing shift work, I showed up on time for work at 7am every morning without fail.* I never ever snoozed the alarm clock. Why can’t I show up at my desk at 8am every morning to start writing? It’s less than a minute’s commute from my bed. I think it’s because no one is expecting me to be there. No one is expecting anything from me, writing wise.

The way to cure my general lack of motivation, I think, is to set myself some writing challenges. I really enjoyed writing that New Year’s haiku so I’ve decided that for next Sunday I will write a spring haiku. I think it will be easier to get out of bed that little bit earlier in the morning to write if I have a specific, short term writing goal. Also, writing a haiku seems a lot less off putting than writing a short story or a bit of a novel. I don’t have to worry so much about whether I can do a good job of it because I’m just doing it for fun, not with any hopes of publishing it.

So, next Sunday, expect one spring haiku from me. Would anyone like to join me in the challenge and post their own spring haiku, either in the comments box or on their own blog? Go on, you know you want to ;)

*There was one occasion when I slept in because my alarm didn’t go off. I dropped my phone and the battery fell out and when I put it back in and reset the time, I didn’t realise that I also had to reset the alarm. Doh!

Little Writing Distractions

I really enjoy having short writing challenges to turn to when I need a break from a longer piece. Last month I spent a few mornings working on this haiku for the Scotsman Hogmanay Poetry Competition:

Wings brushing wire mesh,
sharp beaks spray seed, pockmark snow
Birdsong in winter

I loved playing around with the words, exploring different sounds and rhythms. I think experimenting with different writing structures every now and again can give you the bit of creative energy you might be missing if you’ve spent a long time working with only one form.

Recently I’ve come across two mini writing challenges I thought I would share with you, in case you also like the occasional distraction. The first is A River of Stones, which I read about on Rachel Fenton’s blog. The idea is to write a “small stone” every day in January, which means taking a moment to observe something in precise detail and capturing what you see in words. The observations that Rachel has made in her stones are beautiful.

The second challenge is Next Best Page, a competition which aims to produce an innovative piece of theatre by uniting 52 different writers in the creation of one script. Every Monday a new page is added and you have until the following Saturday to write and submit the next page. The project will run throughout 2011 and resulting play will be staged in 2012. Page 8 was added today so check it out and see if you’d like to continue the story with your own page 9.

How do you like to take a break from your main writing projects? Are there any mini writing challenges you would like to recommend?

National Poetry Day 2010

Happy National Poetry Day! Here’s a poem I cranked out of Peter’s Haiku Generator:

Your heat catches clouds.
Pianos split silver kids.
Stupidity squeals.

I selected ‘noir vocabulary’ for that one. I also tried the ‘erotic vocabulary’ setting but I was a bit disappointed by the result, which is not erotic at all, unless you have a thing for priests dressed as Tarzan?

Earth wakes but joy wakes.
Snow cruelly sprouts a priest.
Jungles return.

Smoking Pets

Exclamation markRelax. There’s no animal cruelty going on here, only bad punctuation.

Today is National Punctuation Day so let’s follow founder Jeff Rubin’s tips on how to celebrate:

  • Sleep late.
  • Take a long shower or bath.
  • Go out for coffee and a bagel (or two).
  • Read a newspaper and circle all of the punctuation errors you find (or think you find, but aren’t sure) with a red pen.
  • Take a leisurely stroll, paying close attention to store signs with incorrectly punctuated words.
  • Stop in those stores to correct the owners.
  • If the owners are not there, leave notes.
  • Visit a bookstore and purchase a copy of Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style.
  • Look up all the words you circled.
  • Congratulate yourself on becoming a better written communicator.
  • Go home.
  • Sit down.
  • Write an error-free letter to a friend
  • Take a nap. It has been a long day.

Or, if leaving notes to correct shop owners’ bad punctuation is not satisfactory enough, you can always thoroughly shame the shop owners in question by photographing their poorly punctuated signs and sending the snaps into Jeff for publication on the website. My favourite is the smoking pets.

You want some more punctuation fun? Try entering the haiku competition, deadline 30th September. There are some very funny haikus by Craig Harrison up on the site to inspire you, for example:

Dot dot ellipses
The yada yada of print.
So on and so forth.

I’m off to scour today’s papers to see what mistakes I can find. I’ll keep you posted. What’s the most amusing or unfortunate punctuation error you’ve come across?