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Susan de Wardt
Susan de Wardt is a life coach specializing in the use of transformative language to inspire creativity and assist people in achieving self-directed change. An avid writer, she belongs to a select group of individuals recognized for their expertise in the area of reflective writing. Susan is a certified journal facilitator/certified applied poetry facilitator and current president of the National Federation for Biblio-Poetry Therapy. She is on faculty for the Therapeutic Writing Institute and has been approved as an NFBPT provisional Mentor/Supervisor to train candidates for the CAPF credential. She specializes in distance learning and online facilitation for biblio/poetry therapy and creative writing classes. Susan facilitates the weekly Steamboat Writers Group for the Steamboat Springs Council on Arts and Humanities. In addition she hosts regular creative support groups based on The Artist’s Way as well as a weekly writing group, Expressions of the Spirit, in Steamboat Springs and has moderated the Steamboat Writers Group Day for Writers for the past seven years.
Susan presents frequent writing and personal development workshops nationally and online through Mindworks Coaching LLC. Her range of topics includes: techniques for success, writing to heal, memoir, journal keeping for creative expression and self-discovery, poetry and nature writing. She is also available to design a customized blend of writing exercises and personal development experiences for your group around a special theme.
Contact Susan at www.mindworkscoaching.com
Join the Mindworks Coaching FREE online journal community: http://www.journal.mindworkscoaching.com to receive weekly writing prompts for personal growth and creative expression.
Taking cues from poetry, Susan develops reflective writing exercises to stimulate writing and memory. Here are some excerpts from Susan’s recent workshop Word Play presented at the 2010 Douglas County Writers Conference:
by Susan de Wardt
“Creativity is inherent in playing and perhaps not to be found elsewhere.” — noted child psychologist D. W. Winnicott
Playing with words is a delightful way to improve writing skills while outwitting the dreaded editor. These quick exercises are designed to energize your writing and inspire flow in a zany, unorthodox way. Be surprised by the unusual and often extraordinary outcomes experienced when you have fun with words!
During the 1998 Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, Coleman Barks remarked, “It’s amazing that so many people can be genuinely excited about fooling with words.” That’s what poets and writers do, they fool with words. Poems and novels, essays and short stories are created from the sound and texture of individual words. Language and word play are creative inspiration for writers.
Sometimes during the writing process, writers can become stuck, devoid of new thoughts, and suffer from the malaise commonly known as writer’s block. Playing with words is the antidote. Fooling around with language in a way that is non-linear, childlike, and just plain fun can break up critical thinking patterns and supply new energy to a writing practice gone stale.
For these exercises, suspend judgment. Suspend your adult critic who tells you that you should be working and editing and refining the papers you’ve already written. Let your inner poet come out to play and engage in imaginative word play.
These exercises are simple; they do not require lengthy thought or consideration. Follow your instincts; allow your first thoughts to rise to the surface. Honor the silliness; escape the logic. Pretend for a while that you have no restrictions.
Exercise 1: Alphapoems
Alphapoems can help you discover your attitudes and feelings on any subject. Simply write the topic word as an anagram down the left-hand side of the page. Then write a line beginning with each letter in your word.
E ach line of an alphapoem starts with a letter.
X tra care must be taken with special sounds. Cheat if you must but
A lways follow the first letter rule; don’t
M ake this too difficult.
P lay with crazy consonants and inexplicable
L exicons and you will create an
E xtraordinary and excellent piece of poetry.
Another way to write an alphapoem is to write the full alphabet from A-Z down the left side of the paper. Choose a topic and start every sentence with the next letter of the alphabet. Try writing an alphapoem on the subject of Words.
Exercise 2: The sound of language
Do you have a favorite word? Rarely do we celebrate the unique qualities of individual words. Marilyn Krysl’s poem: “Saying Things” will inspire you to discover the magic of words and things. Here is an excerpt:
Say bellows, say sledge,
say threshold, cottonmouth, Russian leather,
say ash, picot, fallow deer, saxophone, say kitchen sink.
This is a birthday party for the mouth—it’s better than ice cream,
say water lily, refrigerator, hartebeest, Prussian blue,
and the word will take you, if you let it,
the word will take you along across the air of your head
to that you’re there as it settles into the thing it was ade for,
adding to it a shimmer and the bird song of its sound
Sound that comes from you, the hand letting go
its dove, yours the mouth speaking the thing into existence,
This is what I’m talking about, this is called saying things.
Try making a poem from favorite words – or from words that sound goofy, funny, familiar, or strange. Let the words roll around on your tongue. Circle some of the words in Krysl’s poem and rearrange them in a sentence, turning them into something new and zany. Ask friends and family members for their favorite words and start a list today. Or cut random words from magazines and keep them in a bowl on your desk. Start your writing day with a ‘pinch of words’ from the bowl to discover new meanings through unusual juxtapositions. Your writing will be richer, more tantalizing and alive when you pay attention to the sound of language.
Excerpt from Susan’s collection of essays:
A word about Writer’s Block
Unlike a roadblock, writer’s block is not physical. If you can think, and you can manipulate a pen, computer, or dictate to someone else, you can create a story. The problem more often is worry that what might be written isn’t good enough.
Writers write. Not writing is a choice you make – based on the thoughts and feelings that run through your head about the quality of your work.
The late Oregon poet laureate William Stafford had a ready response to people suffering from writer’s block. Stafford, a prolific poet, set himself the task to write a poem a day. When asked how this was possible, he replied: “I lower my standards.” In his mind it was inconceivable to write everyday with the same high quality; it was also inconceivable that this should be a reason not to write.
Natalie Goldberg presents similar advice in her book Writing Down the Bones: “Allow yourself to write shitty first drafts.” Without first drafts or the rough outlines of poems there is nothing to refine or embellish later. To expect that every word off the pen has to be perfect is a paralyzing thought. Write what first comes to your mind. Later on you can edit or simply have a laugh over what you wrote and recycle the paper. Writing everyday is what gets you over the writer’s block.
How to Overcome the Internal (infernal?) Critic in your Head
Write as fast as you can without stopping. NO erasing, NO crossing out, NO waiting for the ‘right’ word. If you’re using a computer to write, darken your screen so you can’t see what you’re writing. NEVER use the back-space or delete key on a first draft. Get it out; Get it down.
Set yourself a goal – five minutes, ten minutes, one page or three. Don’t stop until it’s done. Suspend judgment. Write whatever comes to your head without thinking about quality, grammar or punctuation. You can check that later. First thoughts are precious, juicy and desirable. Trust the process. If you want to be a writer, you commit words to paper. If you want to be a great writer, or a published writer, learn your craft. Write a lot. Read a lot. Edit later.
Make a regular appointment with yourself to write – ideally, write every day. If that’s not possible, set a regular time to sit down and write. Maybe every Tuesday at 3:00 pm works for you. Maybe Sunday afternoons…Whatever the time, find a place that is quiet, gather your tools and get to work. You can’t produce a novel or any other piece of writing if you don’t put your derriere in the chair!
© Susan L. de Wardt 2012