Archive for the ‘Blogging from A to Z Challenge’ Category

“I do.  I’m a zizzer zazzer zuzz as you can plainly see.” –Dr. Seuss

This one I owe to my husband.  When my blog came up in conversation today and he realized it was the last day, he suggested the topic.  He’s been such a great support during the month–never a complaint, ready to read every post, even making sure I had time during our vacation to blog–I had to acquiesce.  Especially when he proceeded to quote Dr. Seuss’s ABC, beginning with “Big A, little a…”  Clearly Dr. Seuss’ approach works.

Is it the rhyming or the nonsense that does it?  I think it’s a combination, and while the good Dr. makes it seem simple, we all know the apparently effortless often requires the most attention.  Like a good marriage.  And with that, my dears, I bid you Cheers! and a good evening.  I’m cutting it short tonight to spend some quality time with my better half.  No nonsense.


copyright Cleeo W. Wright

Yellow stars blossom
against rain blackened tree bark.
Ephemeral joy.

Last night I wanted to work on a poem I’ve been composing.  My family was gone, the house peaceful–which for me means heightened senses.  The appliances roar.  The dust bunnies scream for attention.  The windows suddenly must be cleaned.  My ears ring with the quiet.  I’ve tried several approaches to silencing the internal and external noise.

I love music, possibly too much for it to be effective white noise.  As for the trend of writing to soundtracks, even if this might be inspirational, I haven’t found the time to put together a playlist.

I tried writing with a partner.  I thought it would be good to have someone else there as an external motivator.  It ended up feeling awkward and forced.  Maybe finding the “right” person to sit silently tapping with would have made this work, or it might be something I could acclimate myself to.  Haven’t completely given up on this idea.

I tried writing in a small group.  6 of us at a retreat.  I was able to do goal-setting and editing, but not much creative work.  I think it combined and exacerbated the writing partner and silence problems.  (Funny thing, some of the attendees plugged in to their music.  It works for them!)  I did my best only original composition when I moved outside.  I had nature noise and space and no dirty dishes in view telling me I was being irresponsible.

The thing that has worked best for me is to find a moderately noisy place and work alone.  I guess I’m an ambivert writer–I need a balance of society and self.  I’ve done a great deal of writing in libraries, which are not as quiet as they once were (and this is not bad).  If they are echo-y and there’s one kid screaming his lungs out down the hall, it doesn’t work, but a low buzz is perfect.

Back to last night.  I opted to write at a nearby restaurant.  It was busy and there was music playing at a level that made it fade into the people noise around me.  I finished 4 first draft stanzas, much to my surprise and pleasure.  I was so focused that, a couple of times, I didn’t notice the waiter when he appeared.  He picked up on what I was doing pretty quickly and tried to accommodate me, which was nice and made me feel like less of a jerk.  (I tipped him well.)

What I’ve learned through these experiments is that writing in a sidewalk café would probably be perfect for me.  That’s really annoying, but there it is.  I need low to moderate noise, not something distinguishable and not silence.

What type of atmosphere do you create best in?  What do you do to help you focus and work?

(PS–still working the A to Z Challenge!  Down to 2 days.  Kudos to all who have managed the daily blog grind this month!)

By Maagwokhuaeo (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


Considering that yesterday’s post, “The Undiscovered Country, Part II,” dealt largely with get-it-out-there fears, I thought what happened last night at my writers’ group was worth sharing.  We basically applied the counsel given in the blog I linked to in that post: “Accept that these things are sure to happen.”  We know we are going to write stuff that will evoke unintended mirth, so why not accept it, embrace it even, harness the cathartic effects of laughter.

One of the women in the group last night gamely read a rough draft of something she’d written.  No editing.  We all know where this is going, right?  A page in we were laughing, the author included.  By the end, some tears had been shed, but not the painful kind.  We were all having a great time, and the author was relaxed and pointing out things in her own work the rest of us had missed.  It was great!  I didn’t even return any criticism because I know she’s going to go back and clean those pages until they shine.  My input can wait until a reading of the edited version.

It struck me as we went through this that it might be a cleansing exercise for us to have an “ultra-rough night” when we each bring something we have done absolutely no editing on.  Or what about having everyone intentionally write something really bad?  What freedom would it give us to bring something we know is going to elicit groans and chuckles?  Would those “they’ll laugh at me” fears fade away if we initiated and controlled the situation ourselves?

Rules for Really Rough Reading:

  1. Know your Group:  Ours has been together for a while, so there is already an established relationship.  I wouldn’t suggest putting a new member on the spot like that.  It could be devastating.
  2. Gauge your Toughness:  The group members have each developed enough of an editorial thick skin to take criticism.  Newbies may not be quite ready for this experiment.
  3. Freedom of Involvement:  The author did this voluntarily.  Had she been having a sensitive night, she could have stopped reading at any time.  Also, I hope we would have been sensitive enough to her feelings to recognize if she was not finding this funny.
  4. With, not At:  We weren’t laughing at the author.  It was not mockery.  We were giggling at the types of mistakes we all make: a sentence here, a phrase there, the image that an unfortunate combination of words creates.   We also weren’t calling her work silly or worthless.  There was serious feedback given, and that was done with tact.

So, what do you think?  Is this a scheme for cleansing, or a plan for perpetuating paralysis?

I decided to revisit this post because

  1. upon rereading it, it sounds almost like a suicide note.
  2. it is a wimp out post.  I didn’t say what I really wanted to say.
  3. I can.

I composed a lot more on the original post, which I will get to in a minute.  First I wanted to address something I’ve decided to face, yet again, while writing this.  Fear.  The reason I wimped out on the first posting, was concern about offending.  I worry about this because I hate contention.  I know current popular attitudes embrace it; people eagerly seek out or initiate argument for the sake of argument.  I don’t want to play into what I see as destructive behavior.  Discussion for understanding–Great!  Arguing for ego or adrenaline–uh, no.

Oddly enough, when I got on the internet today, I found this article waiting for me.  I often post links that may be interesting, but this one I actually recommend.  One of the items on the “what writers fear” list is “will piss someone off.”  I actually thought I was pretty much alone in this concern.  I felt like people either were so nice they wouldn’t raise ire, or they actually welcomed the confrontation.  The advice on how to deal with that fear (and the others) was good enough I thought I’d try it.  Here’s the article:   3 Steps to Escape the Fear Trap and Put Your Writing Out There.

So, if you want to read the non-wimp-out version of The Undiscovered Country, here it is:

“The undiscovered country, from whose bourn

No traveler returns…”  –WS

Death.  One of the universal constants.  Everyone will experience it; no one knows for sure what it will be like.  Will we continue as individuals (in this sphere or another), in our current form or some other, or be absorbed into a collective consciousness or simply dissolve into atoms and dissipate into space, possibly to recombine into some other material?  If we do maintain a form, what type of matter will it be?  Will we be sentient, have memory?  Will we have the same or similar relationships, social structures, an entirely new society, no society at all?  Would there be purpose in an afterlife, a reason for being, growth or stagnation?  If we do not have some physical form beyond the atomic, or subatomic, will memory or intelligence somehow stick to “us” anyway?

So many possibilities.  And who really knows from personal experience?  The Dimension of the Dead can be an interesting place to explore.  [By this I mean in your imagination, as a setting for fiction, philosophically, not by applying the “bare bodkin” method.  This was the end of the original post, sans the bracketed comments.]

Personally, I fear death less than the process of dying.  The state of being “nonliving” does not bother me.  Whatever the ultimate outcome, it is what it is.  I’m not going to argue about it now, when no conclusion can possibly be reached, or then, when the evidence will be so overwhelming as to make argument pointless.  However, I think something else from Hamlet’s soliloquy is worth considering directly.

“…Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovered country, from whose bourn
No traveler returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?”

Shakespeare’s suggestion that our fear of the unknown is what holds us in stasis is evidenced everywhere–in our work, in society, in our private lives.  However, I don’t know that what seems obvious in this sphere applies to the next life.  I think it is less a fear of what may exist there than it is a concern about how the way we live our lives now may affect our later state.  Call it karma or the law of the harvest, most traditions have an expectation that the past and present affect the future.  While a belief in the non-continuance of being is a widely accepted possible alternative to eternal life, the supposition that the Hereafter will be worse than the present, unless we make it that way ourselves, rarely appears as an option.

This leads me to wonder if perhaps it is more the fear of the known than the unknown that drives us.

If our past and present show us compromising the rules that bring eternal reward according to our tradition, it is that which causes us concern about the afterlife, not the afterlife itself.  This applies not just to death, but to our current state as well.  If we prove incompetent in working for our goals, we may assume the future will continue likewise, or perhaps be even worse.  But an assumption is not a fact.  We can make a choice to change.  We can stop fearing the present and the past and believing that it dictates by its very existence the future.  Who would continue in a life that lacks peace, joy, success, for fear of something worse?  Someone who could believe in nothing better.

The fact is that each of us will someday discover the undiscovered country, and that country, whether it is death or the future, will be the same regardless of what we are when we find it.  We can either stick to the level of performance we are comfortable with, whether out of acquiescence or fear of failure, or we can expect something better and, by virtue of that expectation, become equal to it.


And now it’s time for me to overcome fear paralysis and push the button.  Feel free to comment even if you disagree.  Remember?  “Discussion for understanding–Great!”  Have a wonderful day!

When it comes to television mysteries, I generally prefer Sherlock Holmes or Inspector Morse, Numbers or Bones.  But every once in a while I get in the mood to watch a cozy mystery.  Nothing heavy, just a cuddle-up-with-a-cocoa kind of show.   Tonight I opted for “Rosemary and Thyme.”  It’s a little light fare featuring a pair of gardeners (Felicity Kendal and Pam Ferris) who travel around England taking on tough horticultural challenges and stumbling across murder wherever they go.  It strikes me as something of a British “Murder, She Wrote.”  But this post isn’t really about my taste in mysteries.

One of the most entertaining things about watching a lot of British television & movies is the constancy of the actors.  By “constancy” I mean they are always the same.  For instance, as I was watching “Rosemary and Thyme” tonight, I recognized Laura Thyme (Pam Ferris) as The Trunchbull from “Matilda.”  She also played Aunt Marge in “Harry Potter,” and more recently Sister Evangelina in “Call the Midwife.”  As I was mentally roaming through her resume, I realized I had to look her up on IMDB.  There I discovered she had played Grace Poole in a 2006 mini-series of Jane Eyre which I happen to own, and that she appeared in a production of “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.”  I didn’t realize that Bronte novel had been made into a mini-series.  Something I’ll have to check out.

If it were a long holiday, my family and I may have indulged in a game we like to play.  We link together a series of movies and/or TV shows based on commonalities such as actors or locations.  A simple version would be to watch Pam Ferris movies. Usually we don’t focus on one actor, however.  What’s the fun in that?  We like to make weird connections, so we might watch

  • Pam Ferris in “Harry Potter,” then jump to an episode of
  • “Cracker,” starring Robbie Coltrane who plays Hagrid in HP.  After that we might follow
  • Barbara Flynn (who plays Judith Fitzgerald) to “Cranford” where she plays Mrs. Jamieson alongside
  • Dame Judi Dench as Miss Matty Jenkins who might lead us to an episode of “As Time Goes By” which, of course, would lead to
  • Dr. Who, where we can watch Geoffrey Palmer, Judi/Jean’s lover Lionel, as Captain Hardaker.

And there, I suppose, we’d have to end because everyone knows all roads lead to Dr. Who.  This game can go on for days.  Usually we don’t have the leisure to actually watch this much tv, so we’ll just make the connections verbally.  It’s still fun.  We also play with the limitation of only using what we have available on Netflix and in our dvd collection.  And when we get stuck on the “I know I’ve seen that person in something else,” we resort to IMDB.

I know there is a name for this type of game, but I cannot remember what it is and it’s driving me crazy!  If any of you, dear readers, know it, would you please jog my memory?

If you visited my blog earlier this month, you may have noticed that I spent some time in the Smokies with my husband hiking and taking pictures.  It was wonderful.  I thought I’d share just a few of the 700+ pictures he took.

copyright Cleeo W Wright

Star Chickweed

Day 1:  We found this Star Chickweed on the side of the road.  We spent an hour shooting along the 20 yards of hillside.  Great Smoky Mountain National Park has over 1500 species of flowering plants and is also known as “Wildflower National Park.”   Each year they sponsor the Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage.  The 63rd annual event begins tomorrow, if you happen to be in the area.

copyright Cleeo W Wright

Grotto Falls

Day 2:  …the very end of day 2, to be exact.  We reached the trailhead just before sunset.  I sent my husband on ahead and he practically ran up the 1.5-mile trail to catch the light.  By the time I got there, the sun had gone down, and we had to hike back in the gathering dark.  My headlight was on before we hit the bottom.  The bear-clawed trees and heavy brush (mountain laurels, etc.) I noted on the way up was none to comforting on the way down.  We made it safely back, however, and while we didn’t see any salamanders (Grotto Falls is a hotspot for the little amphibians), we did get some interesting shots of the landscape.

copyright Cleeo W Wright

Sunrise at Clingman’s Dome

Day 3:  On our last day we watched the sunrise at Clingman’s Dome.  It is the highest point in the Park and in the state of Tennessee, and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi.  It also marks the highest point along the Maine-Georgia Appalachian Trail.  We didn’t trek the .5 miles to the summit, opting to shoot from the parking lot instead.  I don’t know what the view would have been like from the observation tower, but it’s hard to believe it could have been better than what we had.  I posted another shot of the sunrise on “L” day of the A to Z Challenge, but I like this one better.

April is a fabulous time to visit GSMNP.  Perhaps this sneak peek whets your appetite for adventure and discovery in the outdoors of Tennessee and North Carolina.