Thursday, May 31, 2012

Photo-A-Day: May

"Particularize (v.): to mention particularly or individually; treat in detail; specify; give details."

Here we are, the completion of another month, and I have May's gallery of a photo-a-day to share. Funny how each month seems to zero in on a different "focus."

I tied this month into the word particularize. For one, I've always liked the way that word sounds. (We all have our favorite word, don't we?) And also because I decided to look for a specific detail--particularize if you will--as I went along. And you'll see what that detail is below.

But first, a little glimpse into why detail, or particularizing, is important in writing:

"If those who have studied the art of writing are in accord on one point it is on this: the surest way to arouse and hold the reader is to be specific, definite, and concrete. The greatest writers...are effective largely because they deal in particulars and report the details that matter." --Strunk and White, The Elements of Style

"Fictional reality requires strong specification, rendering, dramatization. The basis of all this is detail, and the best of detail is implicative, in motion, and appealing to the senses." --Oakley Hall, The Art and Craft of Novel Writing.

"The writer of fiction--and I include in this all the works of the imagination, poetry,plays, realistic novels, fantasy--may never tell; he must show, and show through the five senses...The beginning writer finds this difficult. I have to repeat and repeat: fiction is built on the concrete...One must particularize; show do not tell." --Madeleine L'Engle, A Circle of Quiet

"A scene will not be vivid if the writer gives too few details to stir and guide the reader's imagination; neither will it be vivid if the language the writer uses is abstract instead of concrete." --John Gardner, The Art of Fiction

"In stories, as in life, we must sometimes stop everything that's going on. Stop and observe. For storytellers this represents a kind of crossover into visual art because here we paint word pictures, or snap photographs in phrases. --Steven Taylor Goldsberry, The Writer's Book of Wisdom

(Of course there's a caveat here, as Goldsberry adds, "By all means, include description, but never allow it to slow your narrative." But that's a topic for another time...)

With all that said, I decided to look at a specific detail this time around, and the detail was...color. As you scroll down and take a peek at the gallery, you'll see that each row of four pictures focuses on the same color. The color was determined by what photo I snapped in the first of the row. Imagine limiting yourself to finding the next three photos in the same color family. It was a challenge, but a fun challenge--it forced me to be more observant each day.

Themes: Lemon, Cherry, Blueberry, Butterscotch,Vanilla, Pinkalicious, Persimmon, Aquamarine Ice. Can you find the corresponding row?
Thanks for stopping by and viewing my gallery this month!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Duck, Duck, Goose: Left Brain vs. Right Take 2

"Here is the key to natural writing: the melodies must come first." 
                                                                   --Gabriele Lusser Rico, Writing the Natural Way

They played Duck, Duck, Goose, the little ones, at Angelica's 4th birthday party the other day. Remember this game? The designated child runs around the circle of other children who are seated on the ground. "Duck,, duck..." she says as she taps each child on the head in order around the group. "Duck, duck... GOOSE!" On cue, the one tapped at that point jumps up (or is supposed to!) and chases the first, trying to catch her before she can reach her original spot and sit down fast. If child #2 fails to tag child #1, then child #2 is now it. And another cycle of "Duck,, duck...GOOSE" begins again.

The day was beautiful and sunny. The guests so much fun. And the activities continued through the afternoon--with a pinata, crafts, birthday cake (of course) and the opening of gifts. All exciting stuff  for kids and adults alike (until, that is, overstimulation kicks in and everyone crashes).

And yet, it is the Duck, Duck, Goose game that has stayed with me. I think maybe because I'm still on this left brain/right brain kick that I explored in my last post (here) and can't quite let go of yet. What am I seeing? I'm seeing:

Duck (tap), Duck (tap), Duck (tap)...Logical. Analytical. Objective.
GOOSE!...Intuitive. Thoughtful. Subjective.
Duck (tap), Duck (tap), Duck (tap)...Linear. Sequential. Rational.
GOOSE!...Creative. Random. Patterns.
Duck (tap), Duck (tap), Duck (tap)...Clear-cut. Piece-by-piece. Editor.
GOOSE!...Insights. Originality. Discovery.

Mary Lou Carney, author and senior editor of Guideposts magazine once described the difference this way: "Be aware you have sequential thinking and you have random thinking. Sequential thinking reminds you to buy stamps. It lets you put your files in order. Your random thinking is what lets you do divergent thinking--lets you think of wild,crazy things." (Hmmm, children's games, anyone?) "And," she contends, "It's a fine line between having the sequential keep you on track professionally, but indulging in the random. I'm telling you that it's the random that will set you apart."

Gabriele Lusser Rico, in the book, Writing the Natural Way, Using Right-Brain Techniques to Release Your Expressive Powers, describes the two aspects of creative thought this way: "I have adopted the terms Sign mind and Design mind," she writes, "because they characterize one of the most fundamental distinctions between the working of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Research has shown that the left hemisphere, or Sign mind, is largely occupied with the rational, logical representations of reality and with parts and logical sequences. It has the capacity of ordering thought into communicable syntactic form--the way words are put together to form sentences. It acts as critic, censor, and error corrector.

"By contrast, the right hemisphere, or Design mind, thinks in complex images; it patterns whatever it encounters, including language, which, instead of clearcut signs, become designs...Moreover, the thought pattern characteristic of the right brain lends itself to the formation of original ideas, insights, discoveries. We might describe it as the kind of thought prevalent in early childhood, when everything is new and everything has meaning." (Ah, children again!)

Rico adds: "I might say that your Design mind attends to the melody of life, whereas your Sign mind attends to the notes that compose the melodies." Thus her key to natural writing: "The melodies must come first."

There we go. In order for our writing to sing, we need to activate the right side of our brains. So, though the duck has it's work to do, we also need to let the goose free to do her work, too.

Here's to the goose in all of us :-)

Friday, May 18, 2012

From a Squirrel's Eye View: Left-Brain vs. Right

"Creativity is that marvelous capacity to grasp mutually distinct realities and draw a spark from their juxtaposition." --Max Ernst

I  had turned to my left that morning while on my walk, having spotted a cardinal. I fixed the camera on the designated subject, analyzing what a great shot the splash of red would be against the green. Logic told me I was in a good spot. Reason tried to convince me the bird would stay long enough for me to snap the picture. Numbering the seconds while I set the best setting, I shifted--and the bird flew away. Sighing, I turned to my right.

And instinctively (intuitively) I realized the better shot was on the other side--this squirrel, a lively creature as inquisitive about me as I was of him. What a character he was. Fun to watch--and a great example of the value of being in the right place at the right time. Random. Colorful. Full of expression and feeling. Just look at that face! And, I might add, doing quite the balancing act.

Left-brain versus right. The concept of left-brain or right-brain dominance was developed from research conducted by Roger W. Sperry in the late 1960s. (He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work, in 1981.) Generally-speaking, a person who is left-brained is said to be more logical, analytical, and objective, while a person who is right-brained is said to be more intuitive, thoughtful and subjective.

"In general," this from the online article Left vs. Right, Which Side Are You On?, "the left and right hemispheres of your brain process information in different ways. We tend to process information using our dominant side." Examples of contrasting forms of processing include: linear vs. holistic, sequential vs. random, symbolic vs. concrete, logical vs. intuitive, verbal vs. nonverbal, and reality-based vs. fantasy-oriented.

And: "The left side of the brain processes information in a linear manner. It processes from part to whole. It takes takes pieces, lines them up, and arranges them in logical order; then it draws conclusions. The right-brain, however, processes from whole to parts, holistically. It starts with the answer. It sees the big picture first, not the details."

Is it better to be right-brained rather than left? Not necessarily. "Though right-brain or non-verbal thinking is often regarded as more 'creative', there is no right or wrong here; it's merely two different ways of thinking." (Marion Boddy-Evans, "However, the learning and thinking process is enhanced when both sides of the brain participate in a balanced manner. This means strengthening your less dominant hemisphere of the brain." (Left vs. Right, again.)

I am definitely a left-brain thinker. Spelling (it involves sequencing) comes easy to me. I make lots and lots (did I mention lots?) of lists and when I complete a task, I enjoy checking it off (linear thinking). I've been known to keep master schedules and records of daily plans. Yep, the left side is definitely more developed than the right. Yet I'd like to be more balanced and tap into the right side of things, too. Maybe even see things from a squirrel's eye view, you think?

What are some activities that might help do this? Consider: writing prompts, word association, poetry, photography, freewriting, journaling, clustering, brainstorming, collages.

Anything you might add to my (right-side, not left) list?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Thoughts This Mother's Day

"You may have tangible wealth untold,
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be--
I had a mother who read to me." 
                                                                                                          --Strickland Gillilan

Celebrating mom...AND...mothers who read to their children...anyone who reads to children...the value of reading to children*...the added benefits of snuggling when reading to the little ones...the pure joy of reading to little ones.

Wish we could spread more of it around, don't you?  :-)

Happy Mother's Day Weekend!

*Interested in finding out more on the value of reading to children? Here are links on the subject:
Early Moments, "10 Reasons Why You Should Read to Your Kids"
Little Ones Reading Resource, "The Read Aloud Difference"
Cecily Markland,, "The Importance of Reading with Children"
photo courtesy of

Friday, May 4, 2012

A Writer's Advice: Be a Sponge

"In short, my advice to beginning writers, would-be writers, and even writers who are doing less than they feel they should be doing is the same, be a sponge. First you are a sponge. You have to soak up the world. When it comes time, wring yourself out on paper. But, you can't wring out a dry sponge. It has to soak 'it' up before it can release 'it.' It being everything, anything, all things worth the writer's and the reader's time." --Roger Caras

So, what will you be soaking up this weekend that might wring itself out on paper down the road? Hope whatever it is, your sponge becomes saturated with lots of great material! Have a good one...