What Exactly IS a Feature?

We go through school constantly being taught how to write an essay: start with the introduction, come up with a thesis, the body should be such-and-such a length, the conclusion restates the thesis, start out broad and then get specific, support your thesis with strong points, prove your points and don’t just state them, blah blah blah, etc. etc. etc.  Somewhere in that time, some of us decided we didn’t like writing and reading very much, so we became scientists and mathematicians and doctors.  The rest of us read more than we had to and wrote more than we had to – and we discovered we liked it.  We liked reading and writing outside our schoolwork, and we had the desire and ambition to try our hand at other forms of writing than the all-important essay.

So we discovered story and poetry.  And with story, we began to experiment and learn and discover.  We started to develop our very own style and voice, often incorporating and emulating the kinds of techniques we admired in the styles of our favourite authors and favourite books.  We wrote stories and dabbled in poetry and created characters and designed settings and worked on our description skills.

We might not have been taught how to do all these things, but we learned along the way through endless trial and error, and eventually, we discovered how to write a story.

Now we know how to write essays and stories.

 

 

So writing a feature poses a problem.

At least, it did for me.  I hope I wasn’t just speaking for myself earlier, but that’s basically how I learned how to write: I was taught how to write an essay, and discovered story-writing basically all on my own (I don’t count the occasional assignment to “write a story about this historical figure” or “write your own version of your assigned literature reading for today”).

By the time I got to this Magazine and Feature Writing class, I could probably write an essay in my sleep.    (. . . Well, I could at least tell you HOW to write an essay in my sleep.)  And I already “write” stories in my sleep (I often get inspiration from dreams).  So when I was told to mix the two in a completely new form of writing called a “feature,” I was completely at a loss.  How do you combine research AND creative writing AND somehow include an unspoken but clear and specific point?  I understood that that’s what a feature is, but I was utterly confused as to how I was supposed to balance all three elements into a piece that sounded (at least somewhat) like the examples I had read.

As a result, it took me an absurdly long time to gather my research, figure out how to fit it together with my storytelling, AND weave in my underlying point.  I won’t say it’s the hardest piece of writing I’ve done, but it definitely stumped me for longer than any other piece of writing has since high school.

Please don’t misunderstand: I am not trying to say that anybody failed to teach me what I needed to know for this assignment, nor am I saying that I should have been taught this information any sooner than now.  Actually, I love to be challenged, and learning things that are completely new to me gets me excited about continuing to improve my own writing and field of experience.  This piece just happened to be especially difficult for me to figure out.

If you would like to read my full feature, I’ve posted it here: http://mistressofquills.deviantart.com/art/Fighting-to-Fit-In-408119218  Please note: if you want to comment or critique my piece, you have to make an account on that site in order for me to see it, or you could just post your comment here instead.  Thanks for reading!

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My Creative Writing: Poetry

Many of my creative pieces can be linked back to the specific songs that inspired them, and this one is no exception.  Music can evoke such potent emotion, and I love letting that emotion just carry me away.  As always, I appreciate each and every comment and critique!  Thanks for reading!

 

Cursive Lines

sometimes I wonder what it is
beneath my ribs
that beats and flutters so
and rises with the words
of a crooning song,
the lyrics a cry for freedom
the notes a bid for flight

it feels as though it wishes to burst,
as if
(if it swells any more)
I will rise on its current,
floating away in the wind,
the freest bird in the sky

but the cold of the world
drags me down –
the beat within the white cage
labors on,
the fluttery throb of hope
all but lost

for though I reach out,
my fingers grazing the rough edges
of my unfulfilled dreams,
they tease my fumbling grasp
and withdraw
out of reach

I wish to sing,
to let my voice be carried
to the ends of the world
as my inky fingers
dip again into the feathery depths
of the well of my inspiration,
my fingerprints everywhere
touching everything
everyone
with the words of whispered rhymes
and heart-rending tales

who hasn’t wished
for the beautiful dreams
that haunt the gold of sleep
to come true at last?
but ah, few get
the reward of white doves
and the chance to dream on

I wish that the beauty
                                                         higher

                                                me

of cursive lines would  take
as the sun in my heart burns on
longing for what?
its own song is a complicated string
of arpeggios and dissonant chords
that beg for my attention
as my mind wanders
following the flapping wings
of my fleeing fantasies

no diamond tears
or crystalline cries
will make the music of my heart
and the ink of my soul
translate itself into the weeping voice
and dancing fingers
of my wandering dreams

yet still I wail and    s  t  r  e  t  c  h    out my hand
toward something that seems
to move slowly away
an enigma of the flowing river
its caresses cold and gentle
against my bloodless body

so yes, I wait
as the condensation
of all that I wish to be
falls on the ground of
who I am.

 

 

 

~   fly me away
on wings of old
up to stay
among the stars so cold

on wings of white
and dreams that soar
show me the sight
of what flying is for

Visual and Found Poetry – Do They Count?

One thing I’ve often wondered in all the time I’ve been writing poetry is whether Visual and Found Poetry count as legitimate forms of writing…  I don’t deny that these pieces of art are both beautiful and artistic, but do they qualify as poetry, or should they be defined as a type of visual art instead of a form of writing?  Visual poetry (similar to “concrete poetry”) is when an artist (for lack of a better term) uses other artistic means to augment the meaning and impact of his words:

phantoms_by_adorkablexbabyxwhale-d5920oz (http://www.deviantart.com/art/Phantoms-317541635)

Found poetry is a little different: it’s when an artist takes a piece of writing by someone else and picks choice words out of the text to make a new poem.  In essence, they’re using the words of someone else to create their own art:

the_wind_by_mel_face-d3iqkt9

(http://www.deviantart.com/art/The-Wind-212871645)

One specific form of Found Poetry that I find particularly intriguing is called “Title Poetry.”  The artist takes the titles of a number of pieces of artwork (usually but not necessarily pieces of writing) and arranges them in a particular order so that the author creates their own meaning (usually adding small words here and there to make it flow better, such as “and,” “or,” “the,” or “but,” etc.).  I’ve never written any of these forms of poetry, but I’ve read quite a lot of them; I’ve found that while some artists can structure these kinds of pieces so that it really sounds as if they composed the whole thing themselves, many others only succeed in gathering a collection of poetic vocabulary and fail to actually compose a meaningful poem with them:

Destiny bought me a drink

(http://ninquetari.deviantart.com/art/Destiny-bought-me-a-drink-364666837)

Should such pieces of art be classified as poetry?  Certainly they are both forms of art that use more than raw words to create meaning and make their point, so can they really be defined as writing?  I think some writers (James Joyce being a prime example) would argue that the aesthetics of a text matter a great deal – that they enhance the meaning behind what was written and help the author to communicate his intent.  But is this what they meant by “the aesthetics of the text”?

run_away_with_me__by_dearpoetry-d5d1sxy

(http://dearpoetry.deviantart.com/art/Promises-to-Monsters-324250054)

I think many other writers would argue that Visual and Found Poetry are not forms of true literature because they use too much visual help to augment the meaning of their words.  It can be argued, then, that “true literature” is writing that can stand on its own without the help of any extra visual aid.  Oh, and “found poetry” is just plagiarism.

reality_by_jay_cougar-d54ef2t

(http://www.deviantart.com/art/Reality-309722069)

But what do you think?  Can you “pick a side,” or do you have your own perspective on the subject?  I would love to hear about all your thoughts in the comments!

My Creative Writing: Poetry

Ok, I must admit that I’m really excited about this post.  This week’s piece of poetry is “balloons and fairy wings.”  Of all the poetry I’ve ever written, this one is my favourite. :3  I realize that in saying that, I’m setting myself up for high expectations from my readers, but I’m going to say it anyway!

This poem also happens to be one of the few pieces I’ve read aloud, so if you’re interested in hearing it, here’s the link: https://soundcloud.com/mistressofquills/balloons-and-fairy-wings.

Anyway, I always love and appreciate comments on the quality and writing I display in the “My Creative Writing” posts, so thanks for reading!

 

balloons and fairy wings

I wish emotions
could be tied to words
the way they’re tied
to memories:
like the way strings
are tied to balloons
or the way wings
are tied to fairies’ backs –
with a bow and a knot
so the words
are never forgotten
and the emotions
that swayed the heart
and captured the soul
at the time of their birth
are never lost to the snatching,
jealous fist of time

you see, it’s quite a journey
being born as a writer’s words:
you open your eyes
to a world of vivid color
and (sometimes)
crippling emotion
feeling the sharpness of reality
hearing the noise
of a deaf world weeping
tasting the tang
of an infant’s breath of old air
and noticing the scent
of a cruel, unsympathetic universe

an infant word
is like an infant star:
when you grow
(and become loved
by your Creator)
you mature to shine
with your own beauty –
a brilliance
to which very few things
can ever compare

yet you are distant
and your light so very cold…

but I love you
and the stars
anyway

(fleeting) Inspiration.

One problem that every single writer who has ever lived (or ever will live) has come across is the problem of writer’s block – a period of time where inspiration decides to leave us in the dry, cold, colorless dust.  It’s an incredibly frustrating feeling: wanting to write, knowing you should be writing because you haven’t for far too long, but unable to conceive of a worthy topic or just unable to put anything you think and feel into the right words.  It’s like feeling out of sorts.  Nothing is right or normal or the way it should be, and you feel unsettled and uncomfortable in your own skin until the feeling goes away, or – for writers (and other artists) – until inspiration returns.  Which usually happens in long-anticipated floods of emotion and epiphany and color.

But how does this ebb and flow of inspiration work?  What makes it flutter away on disdainful wings like the spiteful Muses of old, and what makes it return in such productive floods and overwhelming relief?  (I think the Muses had/have Bi-Polar Disorder.  It would explain a LOT.)

Some writers turn to alcohol and/or drugs to prolong (or induce) their surges of inspiration.  Others feed off the emotional roller-coasters that dominate their lives – and sometimes those in the lives of others, too.  Sometimes it’s a combination of both those things that provides the impetus for new pieces to be created.

Not long ago, I wrote a journal entry about my current (at the time) state of mind and related it to the descriptions of how other writers get their artificially-induced periods of inspiration, and I think it does a pretty good job of describing my position on the issue of inspiration and how it comes to a writer.  Following is a section taken from that journal entry:

“I assure you, I am NOT saying that I’m “under the influence” right now, but I think I can begin to understand why [the writers doing drugs] did that… for the last few days now, I’ve been hovering in this state of mind where it’s as if I’m in some sort of detached unreality.  It’s like I’m still living my life, but I’m also observing it from a perspective that lets me see more – perceive more – than my normal outlook would usually allow me.  It’s giving me so much inspiration that I’m hardly finishing the first draft of one poem before the words of the next get shoved through my mind and out my fingers…

I am not a sadist or a masochist, nor am I the type to think of the glass as either half empty or half full (actually, I tend to really dislike that metaphor), but the pain that I’m going through has been a blessing as well as a curse.  I won’t be sorry when it’s gone, but I also won’t be sorry that I went through it.  Make of that what you will, but I can understand why those writers might have tried to prolong the time they were in the state of inspiration.

Nothing good (usually) comes of writing without inspiration, so they tried to figure out how to bring it on at will.  Granted, it was very often through using illegal substances or being irresponsible drinkers, but you see my point, right?  I tend to not call myself an optimist or a pessimist because there is truth in both of those labels for me, but I like what’s coming out of my pen right now.  It’s a slightly new style than my norm, but I’m letting it take me where it will, and I’m just fine with going along for the ride…

As long as the ride ends happily.  If not, then I’d be ok with it continuing for a while longer…”

My point in sharing this excerpt is that life gives us every reason we need to write.  It provides too many topics for us to ever explore thoroughly enough, and its ups and downs leave no time – or reason – to use anything else to augment the flow of that vital inspiration.

My Creative Writing: Poetry

Finally I’m getting to show you some poetry that isn’t ancient history!  I feel like I’ve come a long way in improving my poetry since I started writing it regularly, so it’s nice to look not-so-far-back and feel good about the quality of these pieces.  Today’s poem is one that I wrote in March, called “I Never Said I Was Ordinary.”  As always, I would really appreciate comments about the poem’s quality – what works and what doesn’t?  Does the meter flow well?  Do the images make sense/ are they clear to you?  Do the rhymes work?  Is it too long/ are there parts you think are unnecessary?  Thanks for reading!

 

I Never Said I Was Ordinary

you look at me as if there are stars in my eyes
blinding you with an unknown brilliance~
at least, unknown to me.

you say I don’t know it, but that I am wise
and I push you to the limits of resilience,
though I am too far gone to see.

you say the glimmer in my heart
shows itself in my written art,
yet I can’t see what it is I write,
as though my mind takes flight.

for though you see an innate beauty in me,
I only see what my eyes perceive~
if that is truth, then so be it.

I only see the world in its reality
with all the pain of humanity it can conceive
and the fleeting beauty within it.

my mind roams amongst the sea mist,
floating like a bird o’er the water, sun kissed
so yes, my eyes take on the absence
and glimmer with the reflection hence.

you say I am noble, radiating poise,
that I show a dignity born of confidence –
if I do, it was born of a once profound disquiet.

you say my voice is light and lilting, a sweet noise,
that my words leave you listening in suspense,
but I only hear the beauty of the still and quiet.

my dear, I am simply crying to the moon,
aching to sigh and sing and croon,
my voice rising with the song of a faery –
for, my love, I never said I was ordinary.

The Writer as an Artist

How would you describe a writer?  What definition would you give?  “Someone who puts thoughts and ideas into words,” perhaps?  Or maybe “someone who creates stories” or even “someone who can express themselves through the written word”?

My definition is much more simple: a writer is an artist.  Artists use their surroundings, emotions, perceptions and ideas as their material to create their own medium of communication.  That medium is their chosen form of art, and through that art, they attempt to communicate their unique and profound perceptions of truth and beauty.  This is exactly what writers do.  There may be many, many, many forms of writing out there, but there are myriad types and forms of art too – painting, pottery, sculpting, drawing, photography, animation, jewelry making, cinematography, acting, singing…  The list goes on.  Granted, there will always be disagreements about which forms of writing (and other art forms too, for that matter) actually qualify as art, but my point remains the same: writers are artists.

Some would argue that writing is a lesser form of art than the ones I listed above because pieces like paintings and sculptures are forms of “visual art,” and are therefore universally easier to understand because they lack a language barrier.  I would counter that any kind of visual art can be just as hard to understand as a piece of writing that isn’t written in your language.  Every piece of art has a profound concept behind it, and it’s the skill and intention of the artist that makes that piece of art easy or hard to understand.  Also, other types of art have just as many restrictions as writing does.  Pieces of writing can always be translated (even if some of the original meaning can get lost in the translation), but other forms of art have other restrictions that writing doesn’t have – such as being confined to one still image if we’re talking about photography or painting, or being restricted to a certain time frame if we’re talking about cinematography or animation, or even the restriction of one specific pose or shape if we’re talking about sculpting or pottery.  All of these restrictions put pressure on the artist, forcing him to refine and clarify his concept before pursuing it in his chosen art form.

I would even go so far as to say that writing might actually be a way of reaching more people than any other form of art.  Because no matter what picture you wish to convey in your reader’s mind, it will always look different to every eye that reads it.  You want to paint the image of a beautiful woman?  She will be beautiful, no matter what details you use to describe her because everyone who reads that description will imagine their own version of beauty.  It might not be your version, but you succeeded in communicating what you set out to.

You want to describe a desolate wasteland?  An emotion etched into a character’s face?  An object of rare beauty and mystical power?  Use the best language you can find, translating it from the image fixed in your mind, and if your skill can make the image breathe, you’ve succeeded in your purpose.

Because words are not color; they are the brushes.

Words are not lenses; they are the light by which you see the model.

Words are not the end; they are the means.

Visual artists can only show you one picture, but words can not only show you the whole story, they can become every perspective, conform themselves to every individual’s imagination, and even communicate an ideal in its truest, purest form.  Because the idea behind the words is an essence even the blind can understand.

And everybody knows that even the blind can read.