Hits & Misses, Writing

Dabbling in Poetry.

alphabetIf you’re like me, you would have been one of those students back in your school days whose eyes would glaze over every time you were required to study poetry in English class. Being asleep with my eyes open, I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell you what we learned. Years later and far away from the horrors of school life, the muse can sometimes have a mind of its own. Even though I’m not a big fan of poetry, I have been known to dabble in it on occasion.

A few years back, I discovered a small publication that was looking for poems and short stories. The magazine also included writing prompts and there were two in particular that caught my imagination. My muse decided to take me down the uncharted territory of poetry and before I knew it, I had two short pieces written. With nothing to lose, I decided to send them off and was later caught by surprise upon seeing two free issues of the publication where my poems had been published. Here is one of them:-

Winter Sleeps.

A gentle whisper through the trees
Chills the air with fallen leaves
Sunlight glistens upon the grass
While shadows dance slowly as they pass.
The hand of nature deals a blow
Through heavy frosts that leads to snow
Ice that crackles under foot
Pays to be careful where it’s put
For underneath the lake is deep
Where all is silent when winter sleeps.

© Debbie Johansson, 2008.

Sure, I’m not going to win any awards for this; my first attempt, but it did buoy me up to try writing more. Every year there is a Banjo Patterson competition for short stories and bush ballads (for those overseas, Banjo Patterson wrote the famous bush ballad The Man from Snowy River), and I decided to take a stab at it. Such poems hold more appeal to me as they tell a story and actually rhyme. It took me a while to perfect it and I had it critiqued by a local poet before sending it off. She told me that she could see my poem as a short story. I worked hard on that piece and was pleased with my first attempt at such a poem, so was a bit disappointed by her comment. Of-course I sent the poem off and never heard any more about it. That piece still sits waiting at home, yet now, years later I believe that woman might have been on to something. I could give it a whole new lease of life as a short story.

Throughout this entire process, I’ve come away with learning these four things:-

1. Writing prompts are a great way to fire up the muse,
2. Don’t ignore smaller publications to get your foot in the door,
3. Sometimes you can get lucky and get published on your first attempt, and
4. Experimenting with different creative forms can lead you down different paths.

Despite my years of reluctance towards poetry, being creative means trying new things. Just follow your own muse, no matter where it takes you.

Do you dabble in poetry? Do you experiment with different creative forms and have you found them to be a help or a hindrance? Do you find writing prompts help your muse?

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Inspiration, This Writer's Life, Up Close & Personal

A Special Place.

A Special PlaceAs a child, my family and I would make regular trips down the south coast of New South Wales. I enjoyed being outside, and despite my fair skin, would spend many hours under the hot, Australian sun.

Back then, the caravan park in which we stayed was basic in its facilities. Toilets were little more than a hole in the ground. We were thankful for electricity, but we cooked on a gas stove until we eventually ‘upgraded’ and installed an old fashioned fuel stove outside. To have a hot shower, one needed to be quick; one needed to place a certain amount of money into a machine to get a hot shower that lasted five minutes. You needed to keep your eye on the clock and have a steady supply of loose change.

Campers could camp anywhere, and our caravan was perfectly situated directly opposite the beach. It was not uncommon to spend the morning at the beach, go back ‘home’ when you were hungry and then back to the beach again.

To break this monotony, my sisters and I would go for walks with our mother, either exploring rock pools or go on bush walks. It was here that I discovered the wonders of the Australian bush. One regular spot we would visit was a magical place for me. The trees were so tall and closely compacted, that it allowed very little sunlight to filter through. Images of Hansel and Gretel or strange beasts lurking further amongst the shadows entered my mind. We would always stop at one particular place and turn back, yet I always wondered what lay beyond in the distance, where the darkness seemed to go on indefinitely. The atmosphere and the silence fueled my imagination and I was always disappointed to turn back towards civilisation.

On the drive back to our true home in suburban Sydney, we would pass acres of farmland, and I could never decide where I wanted to live; country, bush or beach. I have since lived in the bush of the Blue Mountains and currently reside in the country (my last home the beach?), but there has always been the certainty that being out with nature is my special place. As a writer I enjoy the silence, being alone with my thoughts and my muse. Over the years I have discovered that setting and sense of place is important to my stories. These days, whenever I need to feel inspired, I just have to walk out my back door.

Do you have a special place? Do you enjoy the outdoors; maybe even ‘roughing it’? If you’re a writer, what do you do to find your ‘muse’? What do you prefer – the bush, the beach or the country?

Image by Debbie Johansson