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Sometimes, Poems Just Happen

There are times when you spend hours, days, or more working on a poem. A poem that you tweak and re-write and struggle with. Then, there are the other times – when poems just happen. When it’s like you’re walking through a field, trip on something, and unbury it only to find that it’s something wonderful and new. And somehow it didn’t exist until you tripped on it (wrap your mind around that one!).

There Comes a Time in Every Life” was one of those poems. I was driving home, and suddenly, it was there in my head. Line after line. No hesitation, no fumbling. It just appeared. Like I waved a magic wand. One minute, I was thinking about a hard situation and people’s reactions to it, and the next, I could practically see the poem take shape in my head.

Em T. Wytte Poem There comes a time in every life when the choices all are hard when the options all are dim and dark the chances all are slim to none when the house holds the cards there comes a time in every life when something has to give but even once it bends or breaks you somehow have to live

Originally posted on my creative writing blog, twytte.

Of course, I spent the rest of the drive home chanting it in my head over and over again because when poems just happen they tend to happen in the most inconvenient places. Places where giving them the right amount of attention or even writing them down is hard. Or impossible. Here are a few places where I’ve run into this issue.

  • In the shower
  • On horseback
  • On a treadmill
  • During a presentation in class
  • Driving on the freeway

It hasn’t happened on a date yet, but I imagine it’s only a matter of time. With “There Comes a Time in Every Life,” it was the freeway – a fast-paced one with a lot of curves, ramps, and reckless drivers. Sad to say, even knowing how dangerous and stupid it would be, I was tempted to pull over long enough to write it down. I also considered getting off a few exits early to find a convenient parking lot.

This is where voice recognition software might’ve come in handy (very handy). But I, of course, didn’t have one. I decided to drive straight home and do my best to keep it in my head until I got there. Apparently, my brain didn’t think that was enough of a challenge. When I got about halfway home, still chanting the poem to avoid possibly forgetting any of it, my brain decided to “discover” another poem.

Did I mention that when poems just happen, they often come in multiples? Or in multiple stanzas?

It’s like when ideas attack. You never know for sure how big and ruthless they are going to be about holding you hostage. You could have a few lines to think about and miss 5  minutes of class. You could have a novel to think about and miss most of class. All in all, I guess I got lucky. I only had 9 lines to remember (well, 13, if you count the other poem, too).

And out of both poems that appeared, there was only 1 word choice that I went back and forth on, and it was in this poem. Can you guess which one? (Hint: It was a conjunction conundrum.)

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Starting Stories Before You Know What They Are

What do you do if you need to write a story, but you don’t have any ideas for a story?

Yeah, that sounds a little silly (kind of like putting the cart before the horse). Sometimes, however, you decide to submit something to a contest, a magazine, etc. You look up the requirements and learn about the genre(s) and word count range that the story needs to be. All you need is something to write about.

If you don’t have any spare ideas lying around and gathering dust (in the spare idea cupboard), what do you do?

I more or less forced this problem on myself a few months ago when I started twytte. I challenged myself to write and post a new poem or story (or part of one) every day. I was already writing every day, but this was different. Before, I was writing because I had a book to finish – I had a story I wanted to work on that inspired the writing. I still have lots of stories that I want to work on, but they’re mostly novels. I didn’t want to use them for a little snippet or poem. So I could either come up with new ideas, or I could give up on the writing experiment.

I’m not very good at giving up on stuff. That meant I had to figure out a way to start writing before I knew what story I was going to write. Well, necessity is the mother of invention, right? I got lots of practice, and eventually, I found a method that worked for me.

When I need a starting point, I generally try to think of 1 of 3 things: a unique/weird situation, character, or first line. Once I have 1 of those, I start writing about it and let it lead me into a story. They don’t need to be unique or weird although if they are, it not only helps keep the story from getting too flat or stereotypical but it also gets the brain moving.

I don’t know about you, but nothing makes my brain start writing a story faster than taking two things that don’t usually go together (or better yet, shouldn’t go together) and putting them together. It makes me want to figure out how the idea will work – to explore it.

That’s how Deathwalker started. It wasn’t on my list of novels to write. I wasn’t even planning to make it a novel at that point. I really only needed to write a certain amount that day, thought of the first lines, and let it grow from there. After a while, I decided to add to it. The more I did, the more I liked it. Suddenly, the plot grew in my head, and I had a book I was working on. And it all started with that unique/weird idea.

Seriously, try it sometime. You might really like what comes out of it.

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A Happy Day: This Writer’s Dream

Writing, singing, dancing, drawing - creating is a joy to be cherished.

Writing, singing, dancing, drawing – creating is a joy to be cherished.

A happy day
Is a comfy seat,
A cup of tea,
A way to write,
And nowhere to be.

Other than some lucky weekends, right now this poem is a dream.

I am lucky enough to write for a living, and I am very grateful for that. Although I never imagined I would write educational materials, I like my work, and I think it has been a good growth experience. The only problem is that since it is a full-time job, that means that whatever writing I do for my own projects (twytte, this blog, and anything for publication) has to be done in the hours before and after work.

That means I write before work, I write at work, I write on my lunch break, and I write when I get home. On weekends, I write all day and try to cram in whatever I did not accomplish during the week. So far (knock on wood), writing at work hasn’t burned me out on writing in general, but sometimes, projects fall through the cracks simply because of time and energy.

When I imagine what I could do if all of those hours were spent on my own projects, the thrill of the idea is indescribable. Simply picturing it is a heady feeling. Unfortunately, the realities of life intrude, and I know it’s not feasible right now. But that is my goal and my dream.

Someday, this poem could be my job description. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

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50 Word Short Story: They Call Him The Philosopher

This short story is today’s post from my writing experiment, twytte, where I have challenged myself to write and post something every day for a year (cue panicked/overwhelmed yell). Ok, so the idea has a few built-in problems, but otherwise, so far, so good! Nothing improves writing like practice, right? Right?! 

“They Call Him The Philosopher”

Concrete gets to be comfortable after a while. Familiar, anyway. Too many years of sitting on sidewalks makes a couch or chair too soft and too warm. Not that most folks let you, but that’s part of it, too. “Normal” changes. Even hot water feels strange. Or a full stomach.