write. play. repeat.

from joy to joy to joy

Thursday Poetry: April is Poetry Month!

Yes, I know that it’s Friday, and not Thursday. This post is late because yesterday was April Fool’s Day, and you can’t believe anything you see on the internet until April 2nd. 😉


April is National Poetry Month in the U.S. !

Poetry month is always full of great poetry-related events, like speakers, workshops, and readings.   Check out your local independent bookstores for any poets that may be stopping by this month. NPR also tends to feature more poets in their programming during April as well.

Have you heard of NaNoWriMo? November has dibs on National Novel Writing Month, where thousands of folks participate in trying to write novels in 30 days.

A few years ago, Maureen Thorson came up with NaPoWriMo, National Poetry Writing Month.  The goal is to write a poem for every day in April.  Just as with NaNoWriMo, the writing is not expected to be amazing or great, it’s just expected to be THERE.

I love these types of exercises because they’re a great way to get used to writing past your fears and frustrations.  It is a perfect practice in letting go of perfectionism.   It just has to get on to the page.

When I focus on doing instead of thinking about doing, like magic, the work gets done.

I am participating in NaPoWriMo, are you?

Thursday Poetry: Eating Poetry

Lately I feel as though I have been reunited with poetry.   It’s been a delight to delve into it again, to swim around in words just for fun.   I know that around the corner from my desire to read lots of poetry again, there is the next logical step, which is writing poetry again.  I can’t wait.

To celebrate my rediscovered joy, I bring you today’s poem, one of my favorites. After you read it, I’d love to hear about something that has made you ‘romp with joy’ recently!

Eating Poetry


Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.

The librarian does not believe what she sees.
Her eyes are sad
and she walks with her hands in her dress.

The poems are gone.
The light is dim.
The dogs are on the basement stairs and coming up.

Their eyeballs roll,
their blond legs burn like brush.
The poor librarian begins to stamp her feet and weep.

She does not understand.
When I get on my knees and lick her hand,
she screams.

I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.

Idea Sifting & Perfectionism

This post comes from a reader question.   How do you sift through all of your ideas and focus on The One?

First of all, let me just say that, dear reader, this is an excellent problem to have.   Tons of us sit and stare at blank pages or blinking cursors, practically trembling with the effort it’s taking to come up with something to write about.  You are not in that situation, so you’re already ahead of the game. Congratulations!

Where to keep all of those ideas.

My advice is not to throw away all of those other great ideas.  If you don’t already, start a file on your computer or keep a handwritten notebook where you can store all of those ideas for later.  This little idea notebook is like the cooked-on stuff at the bottom of a pan that you scrape up, throw some wine into, and use to make a killer sauce.  You can go back to your notes months (maybe years)* later and see all of these great bits that can go into other projects and become something wonderful.

So pick one already.

When you’re sitting down to a writing session and looking to start a new project, you can take a look at your ideas and see if any of them particularly appeal to you that day.   Whichever one seems like it would be the most gratifying to work on is the one you should pick.  Don’t over-think this process, and don’t let yourself rationalize about which one you should be working on.  Go with your gut and leave your brain out of it for now.

Don’t run away.

It is tempting to move on to the next idea on your list if something doesn’t immediately work out, but try to resist that.  Work on the idea you’ve chosen for at least a few sessions in a row.    I’ve been known to bounce around from idea to idea to idea, with the result ultimately being that none of the songs/poems/etc. get finished.   I have to keep coming back to one piece for many sessions in a row in order to make any significant progress.  So, once you pick something, see it through for awhile before putting it away if it’s not working (there is a time and a place to put an idea away and I’ll talk about that in a post soon!)

The underlying issue rears its ugly head.

Having a ton of ideas and not being sure which one to commit to actually points to another possible problem, and one we’ve encountered before –  perfectionism.

Many of us are afraid to pick something, because we have that voice in our heads that wrings its hands in worry and says, “But what if it’s the wrong one? What if it doesn’t turn out?  What if I’m terrible and should never write anything EVER AGAIN?!”

As you can see, this voice can quickly get out of control.  This is why your Internal Editor (Mine is called Steve. Hi, Steve!)  is not invited to the early stages of creation.  It is not productive here.  Stuff that worrying perfectionist back into his closet until he can make himself useful…. which is later.  Much later.

It’s OK to pick the “wrong” idea.  You will never know if it’s going to work or not until you start to play with it.

So play.  See what happens.   You might end up with something delicious.

*This is where my sauce analogy falls apart. I do not recommend using months- or years- old pan scraps to make sauce.

Thursday Poetry: Affirmation

This week I’ve needed a lot of affirming.  Even the most confident soul occasionally needs bolstering when things seem to fall apart.    Many people swear by affirmations – short, positive phrases used to center and encourage and help you focus on the changes you want to see in your life.   I think affirmations are great, but being more of a lyrically-minded person, I like to find small collections of beautiful words and use those instead.

One of my favorites is the last stanza from Li-Young Lee’s poem “From Blossoms”:

There are days we live

as if death were nowhere

in the background; from joy

to joy to joy, from wing to wing,

from blossom to blossom to

impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

When I am stressed out and forgetting to notice all of the beauty around me, I will repeat the last line to myself:  “from blossom to blossom to impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom…”

For whatever reason, that line reminds me to notice the little things, to have gratitude, and to take time to be delighted.

Are there any poems that serve as a kind of affirmation for you?

Inspiration to Start the Week

I hope you’re all off to a good start this week, and are recovering from the time-switcheroo.

In honor of Einstein’s birthday (a day late) I thought I’d start my week off with an inspiring thought from Albert.

My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind.  – Albert Einstein

What slight details are revealing a superior spirit to you this week?

Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You

That directive is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, and lately, I’ve been trying to do it.
I’m not talking about things that make me fear for my personal safety (I will not, for example, be trying any of the activities currently being aired on the Winter Olympics any time soon) but rather things that make my stomach flutter when I think about them, things that feel just a little bit risky.

I have a feeling that just outside the border of my comfort zone is a whole lot of opportunity for growth. If I can edge past my safe bubbles even a little bit, I think I might discover some things about myself.

One of the first “scary things” I’m going to do is publicly post some of my poetry.
I’ve put poems up for others to see in the past (in workshops, classes, and on Livejournal when I used it) but those were always closely filtered environments where I still felt pretty safe. By posting some of it here, I’ll definitely be stretching out of my bubble.

So, without further ado…(but possibly with some nailbiting and nervous twitching)…


I May Not Be A Real Poet



It has been brought to my attention
that I may not be a real poet.
Most of the poets I know would
describe themselves as night-owls, working
full menial days and then
burning the proverbial oil
well past dark.

Why then, my morning ritual of
coffee and a banana
and most importantly, a pen?

Certainly I am no ‘morning person’.
I would never be allowed back into smoky
poetry readings if I said out loud that
I felt my art was fueled by weeding the garden
and sunlight coming through the damp leaves
instead of vicious midnight heartbreak,
and swilling bourbon, and the stubble
on frustrated male chins.

Surely I am not so simple
as to write from my own desire
to smell the pages of a journal
at the start of each day.
What fraud!

Let me rail against injustices,
rage with the worst of nighttime rhapsodists.
Let me drink only espresso, black
and ingest only the smoke from my own
cigarettes and crawl to bed on the low mattress
in the disastrous studio
of the truly inspired.

On the other hand,
the sun has yet to stop rising
each day, the cardinals have yet
to stop hopping along the bird feeders.
Looking through the kitchen window,
I with my single morning cup
still find it worth noting.

One Year Ago

A year ago today, I tentatively dipped my toe into the blogging water.

I wasn’t really sure what w.p.r. would become, but I’m so, so glad I just started.

If I had waited until I had a concise plan,

waited until the coast was clear of criticism,

waited until Steve the Internal Editor told me it was a great idea…

Well, we’d all still be waiting.

The same goes for you.  I know there’s something in you that wants to make something wonderful, but you’re waiting for conditions to be perfect before beginning.   You are missing so much by doing that.   Please, simply begin.  You will be rewarded.




So much of what I do relies on support — from family, from significant others and friends, from fans, patrons, and from you out there (yes, you!) reading right now.


Thank you so much for being on this journey with me and helping me grow.  I look forward to what another year will bring!



(If you haven’t already, please find me on Twitter and Facebook.)

Five Great Ways To Spur Your Creativity

Ok, so you’ve done all the prep work needed to get the ball rolling, and you’ve gotten started… but then you reach a point where you just feel “stuck”.  You show up every day to work on your project and nothing seems to bubble to the surface.     Believe me, I’ve been there.

Here are some things that work for me when I need a little kick-start.

1. Get Out!

Psychologists, doctors, and your Grandma have all been telling us for years to go outside and play. It turns out, they’re on to something.

Being outdoors has benefits far beyond your physical health — it has fantastic effects on mental health and for some it fosters a deeper connection with spirituality.  It’s ALSO great for your creativity.

On days when I’m working on a song or poem, I like to take a long walk outside.  It’s better for me if it’s in a natural environment, but a walk in the city can work, too.  The key is to make it a long walk (not just down the driveway to get the mail) so that my mind has time to work through the daily stuff it usually worries about. Once that crap is out of the way, my mind starts doing that magical thing that songs are made of: it starts wandering.

Observing the natural world may inspire a thought, which leads to another thought, which may lead to a bizarre connection I didn’t think of before.    By the time I get back to work, I can’t wait to scribble down (or type up) all of those new thoughts.

2. Explore Unfamiliar Territory

Sometimes I like to get out, waaaay out, of writing altogether.   I once stayed up all night playing with clay, and ended up with a pretty cute little sculpture – I have zero sculpting training or experience outside of this incident.   If you’re feeling like you just can’t move forward on your current project, take a break and try out something new.  Get some crayons or paint, learn to fold an origami swan, make up a silly song about your dog…anything goes.

It’s also easy to get into a rut when you aren’t exposing yourself to any new ways of doing things within your own medium.  Occasionally, I’ve been surprised to discover that something I thought would become a non-fiction piece is actually headed toward poetry.  Maybe you have a notebook full of short bursts of story that you can’t seem to get together into that novel you want to write.  Could it be better suited to a comic book?  Or perhaps a series of short stories?

Consider that there are other options and that, when you least expect it, the project can shape-shift on you.

3. Communing: Not Just for Hippies

Nothing makes me feel more full of  sparks than having conversations with other creative people.  My ideal afternoon is a long, leisurely lunch with some crazy, creative friends (and yeah, a little wine).  When I leave a date like this, I want to run, not walk, back to my work.

Communing with other artists is actually what drives my “inspiration wall” on this site (and the one that will go back up soon in my home office.  I collect quotes that I love and put them together in one spot in my workspace so that I can be encouraged by what other artists have done and lived through.   Even the Greats have been stuck, they just didn’t let that stop them!

Chances are, you’ve got a few friends around you who are working on some pretty interesting projects of their own.  Try to find a time to sit together, have fun, and talk about it.   Discuss your passions and brainstorm together – you may be pleasantly surprised at what comes up!

(For those of you who don’t have a bunch of creative folks around, or live in a very rural area, Twitter and other blogs are incredible resources for building virtual community.  I firmly believe every creative person should be on Twitter*, but especially those who don’t have ready access to an in-person creative group.)

4. Constrain Yourself

The idea of constraints can seem counter-productive to releasing a flow of creative energy, but it’s not.  Think of it more as a method of harnessing energy and consciously directing it, rather than having it spread out all over the place with no cohesive pattern.

Writers have been working with constraints for a long time by using different forms and “rules”.   When I have an idea, but I’m struggling with how to start, I like to try to write in a specific form, or assign myself a random “rule” to follow within a piece.

This is the reason I like writing prompts — not because the ideas in writing prompts are particularly good or original, but because the constraint of the “assignment” often generates ideas.  Human brains love problem-solving, so giving them an equation to work with can be a great way to get going.
Here’s one I like to use:  Write two columns of random nouns, then choose two seemingly unrelated words and write something that ties them together.

(Constraints work really well for writers, but can be great for other types of artists as well.  If you’re a visual artist, try creating a piece in a monochrome or with a color you hardly ever use, or make a very tiny piece of art!)

5. Cultivate “Child Mind”

Children are naturally curious about other people and about the world, and they often learn by playing.   I like to try to tap into that place and look at something as though I have never seen it or experienced it before.   How would a child approach this topic?  What is the first thing they would notice?  How can I ‘play’ with this more?

If you try all of the methods above and still feel like you got nothin’, you still have my permission to take a nap.  But seriously, you may just need to take some time away from your project.   Go back to removing the blocks from your life and recharging, then come back after you feel rested and ready.

*while you’re at it, come find me on Twitter! I’d love to talk to you.


One of my lovely readers (I’m lookin’ at you,  kid!) suggested that I tackle a post about how to keep momentum going on a creative project when you have, well, life happening.

It’s definitely tough when we think we have to have enough energy “left over” at the end of a long day of working, meeting with people, taking care of a home and/or kids, and running errands.    There is so much in our culture that demands our attention that many of us are completely drained at the end of a normal day.

In physics, we know that the momentum of an object is unchanged unless (say it with me kids) “acted upon by an outside force.”

Ask yourself what in your life is acting as that “outside force” right now?

Is it the clutter in the place where you usually work on creative stuff?   Is it that you don’t have any alone time?  Is it that you are so exhausted you can’t manage to do anything but order pizza when you get home?

If so, those are the blocks to your momentum you need to address first.

* Clean up the workspace and make it an attractive place to spend a few minutes.  Make sure all the tools you need are there and easily accessible.  If you live with others and don’t have a designated workspace, try to find one in the house — preferably with a door.

* Plan out a little bit of time that is just for you in the day.  Make it an appointment, just like any other work meeting or obligation.  Even 20 minutes will be a tremendous help.   For those of you who don’t think you have ANY time at all — take a good look at your schedule.   Take a couple of days and keep track of what you are actually doing. You might be surprised to find that you spend 3 hours online, or 2 in front of the TV, or 1 puttering around the house worrying about stuff.   Carve out some of that type of time (which is actually draining you) to just be with yourself and your creative ideas.

* If all you want is a pizza, first let me say I feel your pain.   Next, I’m going to tell you something you may not have heard since elementary school:  It’s ok to take a nap. No seriously, if you are utterly exhausted and can’t manage anything creative at all, your body probably actually does need a little extra power nap.  Use the time you carved out above to take a quick snooze.   Once your body feels better, you can work on the other stuff.

Once the daily blocks to your momentum are cleared away, you can start to adjust the way you think about your creative project.  Instead of thinking of it as a leftover (something you’ll do when you get around to it or feel like it), make the project a priority.

I know how that sounds.  And no, I am not telling you to quit your day job or tell your kids to walk to school (uphill! both ways!).   What I am telling you is that the reason you give so much of your energy to those other items is because you feel like you have to.  Those things must get done in order for the daily systems of your life to keep running.    Make your creative project one of those things you must do.   When it stops being a leftover, you stop making excuses for why you can’t or shouldn’t do it.   Allow this to be important, and you won’t have to justify spending time on it.

In my next post, I’ll talk about ways that I get going (and keep going) on a new project.

Show review – GARR

One of my readers and Twitter followers requested that I start adding performance reviews to my blog (Hi, Nancy!) which I think is a cool idea. Most of the time, show reviews in magazines or on websites come from audience members and critics. We hardly ever get to hear how a show went from the performer’s perspective. I’m going to start posting short reviews of how shows went under the category “Show reviews” (big surprise) so you can find them all in one place if you ever want to look back on them.

Earlier this week,  I had a performance that was out of the ordinary.  It was not a scheduled show, but rather one song that I played for a small group of people gathered together in a support group.

I attend the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry’s monthly group for people involved in the adoption triad (adoptees, adoptive families, and birth parents).   I am an adoptee and have recently been reunited with my birth family.  It’s been an incredible ride so far and I’m sure it will continue to be.     I look forward to these meetings where I can share all of the emotions involved in adoption and spend time in friendship with people who understand better than anyone not involved in adoption can.

On my album How to Take the Fall there’s a song about being adopted that I wrote for my parents, long before I ever thought about searching for my birth family or attempting a reunion.  The song is called “Love Like You” (you can hear it here if you’d like) and it is essentially meant to be a little love letter to the amazing people who raised me.

One of the other members of the GARR support group had heard this song and it touched her very deeply.   She and several other members urged me to bring my guitar to the next meeting and play it for them, so on Tuesday evening, I did.

Something that I think most writers strive for is connection with an audience.   We want to communicate something, bring up memories or emotions, form a bond (even a fleeting one) with the person on the other end.  We want to be relevant.

I can honestly say that I have never performed that song for a more emotionally connected audience than the group at GARR.  Talk about relevance!!  There wasn’t one person in the room who didn’t have some grasp of what I was talking about. Everyone could identify on some level with at least part of the song.

Usually, I am good at keeping my own emotions under control while I’m performing.  I do stay connected to the emotional place the song comes from, but I don’t get so “into it” that I can’t direct anything outward to the audience.   In fact, that goes contrary to my performance philosophy (which I’ll have to go into in another post).

This time, it was all I could do not to cry like a baby.  I did manage to make it through the song, but when I looked up the first person I saw was my mom, who blew me a kiss, and then I saw the faces of the other men and women in the room, many of whom were wiping away tears… and I lost it a little bit.

I have so much love and compassion for these folks, and so much gratitude for them.  It fills my heart to the brim to have been able to offer them that song.

(for more information on the Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry, visit http://www.ga-adoptionreunion.com/)