1/31/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #32: Ekphrastic Excellence 1

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#32
Ekphrastic Excellence 1

For today, we're providing one awesome image for you to be inspired by. Find a creative way to respond/react/interpret the image—be inspired, inspire your reader.

Image: "Toys 'r' Us 90s Era" by 'retro gaming' artist Rachid Lotf.


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How will you translate this image into writing? Are you telling it from the perspective of one of the kids looking in the window? Someone observing that scene? Are you back in the 90s or recalling that time? Are you making a Christmas list? Is your favorite toy in the window? Your child's favorite toy (or one they always wanted)? There are dozens of ways you can go with this piece, make it your own.

You got this!
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If you'd like some 80s throwback synth background writing music, try this: SOTD on NTS 1 #56 [New Age / Ambient / World / Electronic / Synth / Psych / Jazz Music Cassette Mix] which was a radio show from 2019 from somewhat new background music friends of the blog, Sounds of the Dawn. 

1/30/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #31: Three Things Together 3

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#31
Three Things Together 3


F
or today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following three things, Nice and simple.

  1. A Canoe
  2. Ketchup
  3. A Backpack
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Optional Prompt: Include at least three words that are 4-5 letters long and contain a double e in the piece, one sentence that is exactly five letters long, and name the month in which the piece takes place.

If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "Late Night Nostalgia (best of kudasai)" lofi mix from friend of the blog Dreamhop Music.

1/29/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #30 The First Time—Repetition Files 3

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#30
The first timeRepetition Files 3

For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which focuses on repetition. In this instance we will work with general repetition. This can be anywhere in the piece, whether anaphora or otherwise. Anaphora is a handy little bit of poetic craft that goes a little something like this:
the repetition of a word or words at the beginning of successive phrases, clauses, or lines to create a sonic effect.
Take a moment and read the above-linked Poetry Foundation article, even if you know the term. For even more fun check out this longer article called Adventures in Anaphora.

Your mission is to use the following phrase at least 5 times. 

The word or phrase we'll use for our exercise today is:

"The first time" 

Bonus Exercise:
 Include these five words into your piece "Ruby" "Flicked" "Bouncing" "Daring" and "Dial".
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If you'd like some 80s throwback synth background writing music, try this "The Abyss" lofi mix from the awesome lofi channel Dreamhop Music.

1/28/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #29: Sentence Calisthenics 2

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes—SC is more like 45, but shhhh! 

#29
Sentence Calisthenics 2
For today's writing exercise complete the following steps for a specific period of time, using the timer on your phone or computer and setting it for 5 minutes for each 'set'. The point here is to produce at very least 6 sentences in each set, but you're looking for both quality and quantity. Don't write a bunch of sentences with the same construction or that are boring—it's better if you have no idea how in the heck you might use the sentence. Something funky, interesting.  Normal, well-phrased sentences are of course good to have in the mix too, but include some quirky ones in each set.

At the end of every set mark your favorite 1-2 sentences.

In order to complete the large number of sentences demanded of this exercise it is imperative that you write fast. Don't stop to think too much at all until you've reached the final exercise. The process of this quick production is to thrust past second guesses or other stumbling blocks that sometimes impede your writing. You're aiming to write 30 individual, unlinked sentences in 25 minutes so you have ten minutes to organize and write that actual piece using the 'round up' prompt. This means you're going to be writing more than a sentence a minute. You can't do that if you're dawdling or trying to figure out the 'perfect' phrasing. The first couple times writing to these sprint-style prompts you may barely squeak the lines out in time, but as you get more used to it you'll get more both in quantity and in quality of your sentences. 

Save all of your sentences to a "Sentence Calisthenics" document, if you participate for awhile we'll have some bonus exercises that will refer back to these sentences, because sometimes you can't see the gold hiding in plain sight when you've just written something. Having fresh eyes might result in a quick, awesome piece. So, save those sentences!

WRITE FAST, DON'T OVERTHINK

Getting into the mindset: Before you start your timer, take a moment and breathe and think about keeping cool during a very hot day (and also during hot nights). Think about the feeling of a hot night, trying to sleep when sweating/covered in sweat or however else you experience a hot night or day. Think both humid and dry heat. Keep thinking of these things in the back of your mind as you're writing and in between sets. By no means should all of your sentences revolve around these things, we just want your mind centered with a few anchors in place before we charge into our piece, DON'T LET THIS DISTRACT YOU FROM YOUR SENTENCES. When you feel set, read the set instructions, appropriate Wordbank, and start that timer. 

When the timer goes off move on to the next set regardless of if you met the 6 sentence goal, you wrote only 3, or 12—when the timer rings, move along and if you don't hit 6 for one set, do your dangedest to knock out 6 in the next set even if some of them are short or silly or straightforward or even a fragment.

Set 1: Using the first wordbank you will write six (6) or more sentences which include one of those words and an item from this list and at least one word starting with the letter "P"

Wordbank 1:
  • Spat
  • Clump
  • Bald
  • Toppled
  • Hook
Set 2: Now write six (6) or more sentences which use two words from that first wordbank. At least two (2) of the sentences must be fewer than six words. 

Remember to mark 1-2 favorites for each set.

Wordbank 2:
  • Helpless
  • Dollop
  • Slumping
  • Chop
  • Billowing
Set 3: Now write six (6) or more sentences which use one word from Wordbank 1 and one from Wordbank 2.

Set 4:
 Now write at least six (6) sentences which include a word from Wordbank 2 and a season.

You're marking 1-2 favorites, right? Keep doing it.

Wordbank 3:
  • Thumped
  • Rip
  • Elected
  • Blocked
  • Core
Set 5: Take just 5 minutes now to write as many sentences or fragments that use at least two of the words from Wordbank 3 as you can. Try to get ten! If ten is easy, go for fifteen! We're sprinting here, first thought best thought, get your numbers up.

Set 6Now write at least five (5) sentences that include at least one word from each of the three wordbanks.

The Prompting Round-up
Step 1) Gather up all of your marked favorite lines and pick from those favorites at least three sentences to build your piece around. 
Step 2) Now that you know the core of your piece, go back up to the un-favorite lines and pick three additional sentences that you must use (even if you 'spruce' them up by tightening or 'quirking' up the language). 
Step 3) Now you have 6 sentences that are unconnected. You have a large chunk of a jigsaw puzzle but you've lost all the rest of the pieces. So it's time to make those pieces yourself. Make sure your piece has a 'point' or some sort of larger meaning above just the literal narrative/descriptions. Make an observation for better or worse, large, small or teensy tiny even. But, something new, and unique to your brain.

COMPLETE-A-PIECE 

If your piece hasn't jumped right out at you, use this 'formula' today using those six sentences. 

Step 1) First, throw out three of those six sentences that you don't care for as much. Look back at your original full list of sentences and see if any stick out. Sometimes in the rush of things you actually choke out something inadvertently kinda brilliant/interesting. That's the point of rush-rush-rushing. Pushing your brain. Ideally you'll have 4 sentences before you move onto step 2, so if none of those other sentences stick out (tweaks are acceptable of course), grab back one of the sentences you threw out at the beginning of this step, you want at least 3.

Today you will write a piece which centers around a fist fight. You will have 2 characters have their first confrontation, flash back to both of their childhoods, and finish with the actual fight. 

Step 2) Now we're going to write a piece which is broken roughly into 1/3s with the first 1/3 including one or two of your sentences and begin with a scene or stanza that has your two main characters in a heated discussion/shouting match. Something has caused this—what? Is it road rage, are they fighting over a significant other (or others), is it something that has happened where they both work, or go to school? Give us details that let us know who each of the characters is, and what caused them to get so angry with each other.

Step 3) The second 1/3 should include 1-2 of your sentences and should jump back in time to one of two things for each of your characters: either that character's first fight, or the first time that they baked something they were proud of. Both of your characters should get one or the other flashback. Give us good concrete details.

Step 4) Before moving onto the last section of the piece take a quick look back at your starred list of sentences and see if there's any that would fit in your piece. You want to use this as a little scaffolding for the final chunk, but if you don't find one or two that fit that is fine too. 

Step 5) The final 1/3 should include your remaining sentences and show us the actual fist fight, regardless of how short it turns out to be. Give us good sound details, and tell us at least once about the clouds in the first 3 sentences/lines. Bring back one detail from either of the flashbacks as well while the two are fighting, make it come up for a reason, not just out of nowhere, whether it's a smell nearby, or something that is in common with the cause of the fights. Don't dwell on it, but bring it back in a meaningful way. End your piece either with one of your fighters walking away victorious, or one of them staring at the clouds you mentioned at the beginning of this 1/3 of the piece.

Step 6) When you're satisfied with the ending, take that knowledge back to the first 1/3 and add in a couple small details, especially imagery, which are in line with that ending. Add in subtle foreshadowing first 1/3 in an innocuous or 'fun' way. Also include one additional smell or describe a car horn startling someone and somewhere in that first section. 

And that's it. You have your piece. This will almost definitely take longer than ten minutes but may just be worth it.

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Want some unobtrusive background writing music? Try this "Somewhere, Nowhere" lofi mix from friend of the blog Dreamhop Music.

1/27/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #28: Six Word Cluster 2

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#28
Six Word Cluster 2
For today's writing exercise write a piece that includes the following set of 6 words. If you're writing free verse or fiction, don't front-load them all into the beginning of your piece, save at least one or two for somewhere to 'aim' your piece.

Remember sestinas have 6 different end-words, but don't let me tell you what to write. Just use all 6 words in a fashion that isn't throw-away. Don't put them in in a way that you'll definitely later edit them out because they don't add to the piece. Make them important. This might require a little brainstorming at first. Don't be afraid, you can do it!

Six Words: 
1) Foray
2) Melee
3) Ballet
4) Heyday 
5) Relay
6) Pelé

---
Bonus Exercise: If that's not enough, also include 
1) at least three lines or sentences that begin with the word "Kicking", 
2) at least one reference to rain or a storm 
3) at least two smells.
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If you'd like some background music to write to, try this playlist of Chopin's Nocturnes which is always a pleasant background for writing.

1/26/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #27: Erasing EAP "Silence - A Fable" 2

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#27
Erasing EAP "Silence - A Fable" 2

For today's exercise we have split paths for fiction and poetry, though I highly recommend that even fiction writers try the poetry exercise, because erasures can be a blast!

For poetry do an erasure or black-out poem from the following selection of Edgar Allen Poe's 1838 short story "Silence - A Fable".


Edgar Allen Poe is considered by some to be the writer that solidified the short story genre as, well, a genre. Not the first writer of short stories, or even popular short stories, but he wrote enough of them that with the stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Dickens, Irving Washington and others, critics were finally like—fine. Short stories can be a thing.

An Erasure/Blackout is really simple: you take the given text and remove many words to make it your own new piece. One way to go about the erasure that I like to do is to copy the text and paste it twice into your document before you start erasing or blacking out (in MS Word set the text background color to black), that way if you get further into the erasure and decide you want a somewhat different tone or direction, it's easy to go to the unaltered version and make the erasure/black-out piece smoother. Another tip is to look for recurring words, or themes.

If you insist on fiction (or if one of these strikes you), write a piece with one of these titles taken from this section:

  1. Primeval Trees
  2. Upon the Dreary River Zaire
  3. Into the Recesses
  4. The Curse of Tumult
  5. And the Thunder Rolled— and the Lightning Fell
  6. The Waters Sunk 
  7. The Vast Illimitable Desert


Erasure Selection:

from "Silence - A Fable"


    "And the man sat down upon the rock, and leaned his head upon his hand, and looked out upon the desolation. He looked down into the low unquiet shrubbery, and up into the tall primeval trees, and up higher at the rustling heaven, and into the crimson moon. And I lay close within shelter of the lilies, and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude —but the night waned and he sat upon the rock.

    "And the man turned his attention from the heaven, and looked out upon the dreary river Zaire, and upon the yellow ghastly waters, and upon the pale legions of the water-lilies. And the man listened to the sighs of the water-lilies, and of the murmur that came up from among them. And I lay close within my covert and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude —but the night waned and he sat upon the rock.

    "Then I went down into the recesses of the morass, and waded afar in among the wilderness of the lilies, and called unto the hippopotami which dwelt among the fens in the recesses of the morass. And the hippopotami heard my call, and came, with the behemoth, unto the foot of the rock, and roared loudly and fearfully beneath the moon. And I lay close within my covert and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude —but the night waned and he sat upon the rock.

    "Then I cursed the elements with the curse of tumult; and a frightful tempest gathered in the heaven where before there had been no wind. And the heaven became livid with the violence of the tempest —and the rain beat upon the head of the man —and the floods of the river came down —and the river was tormented into foam —and the water-lilies shrieked within their beds —and the forest crumbled before the wind —and the thunder rolled, —and the lightning fell —and the rock rocked to its foundation. And I lay close within my covert and observed the actions of the man. And the man trembled in the solitude — but the night waned and he sat upon the rock.

    "Then I grew angry and cursed, with the curse of silence, the river, and the lilies, and the wind, and the forest, and the heaven, and the thunder, and the sighs of the water-lilies. And they became accursed and were still. And the moon ceased to totter in its pathway up the heaven —and the thunder died away —and the lightning did not flash —and the clouds hung motionless —and the waters sunk to their level and remained —and the trees ceased to rock —and the water-lilies sighed no more —and the murmur was heard no longer from among them, nor any shadow of sound throughout the vast illimitable desert. And I looked upon the characters of the rock, and they were changed —and the characters were SILENCE. 

   "And mine eyes fell upon the countenance of the man, and his countenance was wan with terror. And, hurriedly, he raised his head from his hand, and stood forth upon the rock, and listened. But there was no voice throughout the vast illimitable desert, and the characters upon the rock were SILENCE. And the man shuddered, and turned his face away, and fled afar off, and I beheld him no more."
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As your background music sommelier, I've chosen to again pair Vangelis with your "Erasing Edgar Allen Poe" series. For this sampling I've selected Vangelis' 1978 album "The Dragon".

1/25/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #26: Title Mania "Five Vowels" 3

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#26
Title Mania "Five Vowels" 3

For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose that utilizes one of the following titles, and if you want extra 'bonus points' also include the three items from below the title list. These titles all come from the awesome Campbell McGrath poem "Pentatina for Five Vowels" which is featured in Poetry Out Loud.

Titles:
  1. Nothing Unspoken Goes Without Saying
  2. Love's a Casino
  3. The Past is a Mirror
  4. Cloven
  5. Atoms Colliding
  6. A Fog Bank in Which I am Hiding
  7. An Anthem the Cuckoos are Crowing
Bonus Exercise: Three Things
(Your piece must also include the following three 'things', if you choose this option, or you can just do this 'three things' exercise without one of those titles—you do you!)
  1. A Trumpet
  2. Fog
  3. A River
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If you'd like some background music try this "Guitar Vibes" lofi mix.

1/24/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #25: Beginning, Middle & End 3

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#25
Beginning, Middle & End 3

For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which begins with one image, scenario, line of dialog or place, includes another thing or event somewhere beyond the first and before the last stanza/paragraph, and ends with another required 'thing'.

Begin WithA grocery bag ripping.

Somewhere in the middle: An adult with a sunburn.

End WithCaramel.

Extra Credit RequirementsYour title or first line must include the word "Like", and you should include the following five words: PumpingGlibVolleyKnotStrawberry.

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If you'd like some background writing music try this lofi playlist "Icarus" from lofi friend of the blog Dreamhop Music.

1/23/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #24: Three Things, Five Words 2

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#24
Three Things, Five Words 2
For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following three things, and these five individual words. The three things should be important to the piece, not just a throwaway reference used because it has to be. This is prompt time, baby! 

If you're not sure where to start, begin by finding a connection between two of the 'things'—whether that is a shared appearance, locale, one of the things might interact with another (or all three), some way that the two are likened or could be physically together. Use one of the things with two of the 'words' in the beginning of the piece and explore for a bit, knowing that you're aiming at the second ''thing' (where the two 'things' have their connection) about 1/3-1/2 of the way through what you imagine the length of the piece (which may be totally off). By then you should have a direction and it's off to the races, with that third 'thing' in your pathway to the finishing line.

'Three Things'
  1. Atlanta
  2. Horseshoes
  3. A Waffle
'Five Words' 
Include these five words in your piece: 
Cat, Flight, Dumbbell, Volcano, Viking.

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If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "Soothing Breeze" lofi mix from the channel formerly known as Chilled Cow, now Lofi Girl for that sweet, sweet SEO.

2022 Writing Exercise Series #23(b): Between a Fact and an Exact Place 2

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#23(b)
Between a Fact and an Exact Place 2

For today's writing exercise you will write a piece of poetry or prose which contains the following place (either as the setting, referenced or some aspect of it described) and the following fact in some way (its discovery, used as a metaphor, witnessed, explained, etc—anything but as a throwaway line).


As an additional assignment, should you choose to incorporate it, is as follows: Also include the words "Pole" "Breakwater" "Rapids" "Negativity" and "Dramatic".

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If you'd like some background music, try this "Solitude" lofi mix from friend of the blog Dreamy.

1/22/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #23(a): First Line Bonanza 2

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#23(a)
First Line Bonanza 2

For today's writing exercise write a piece that begins with one of the following first lines.

1) It wasn't the right time to compare scars, but there we were with our forearms bared.
2) Two wolves snarled at each other from either side of his neck tattoos.
3) There was a hush in the night woods.
4) Born to start fires, born to destroy, born to excite.
5) The invasion had begun.
6) The last time we'd crossed the tracks after dark both of us almost died.
7) There were invisible borders everywhere.
8) Satellites watched the volcano explode.

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Bonus 'constraint': You must include a paragraph/stanza in which the all sentences or lines begin with the letter "D" (at least 3) and the piece must include either a jungle or a garden hose (or both).
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If you'd like some background music to write to, try this "Lullaby to the Stars" lofi playlist from our lofi buddy Dreamy.

1/21/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #22: Dueling Six Word Shootout 2

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#22
Dueling Six Word Shootout 2
For today's writing exercise write a piece that includes one or both of the following sets of 6 words. Don't front-load them all into the beginning of your piece, save at least one or two for somewhere to 'aim' your piece. Remember sestinas have 6 different end-words, but don't let me tell you what to write. Just use all 6 (or twelve) words in a fashion that isn't throw-away. Don't put them in in a way that you'll definitely later edit them out because they don't add to the piece. Make them important. This might require a little brainstorming at first. Don't be afraid, you can do it!

Set 1: 
1) Foundry 
2) Clown
3) Announced 
4) Ground 
5) Mound
6) Ounces 

Set 2:
7) Housing
8) Halo 
9) Helpless 
10) Hexagon
11) Harrowing
12) Hunted

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Bonus Exercise: If that's not enough, also include the following three things: A Playground, Tomatoes, and A Blanket.
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If you'd like some background music to write to, try this lofi playist "Atlas Terminal" for 'space explorers'.

1/20/22

2022 Writing Exercise Series #21: Erasing Roger Ebert 50 "The Big Lebowski"

The 2022 Writing Series is a series of daily writing exercises for both prose writers and poets to spark their creative mind and to spur production of new pieces. The writing prompts take the impetus—that initial crystal of creation—out of your hands (for the most part) and changes your writing creation into creative problem solving. Instead of being preoccupied with the question "What do I write about" you are instead pondering "How do I make this work?" And in the process you are producing new writing.

This is not a standard writing session. This is pure production—to keep your brain thinking about using language to solve simple or complex problems. The worst thing you can do is sit there inactive—the point is to push, to produce something, however imperfect. If you don't overthink it, you will be able to complete all of the series' exercises in under 30 minutes. 

The Timer Method

If you're going with the timer method (which is certainly not required) I recommend setting four timers (these markers are if you're doing a 30 minute session): The First Timer for 5 minutes for a pre-writing reminder, if you do any planning or thinking on how those things can fit together or how to structure what you're doing, or to revisit your writer's notebook to remind yourself of anything you might have noted to write about 'in the future'. But mostly, to remind you not to overthink, not to delay the actual writing process. You should think at least a little about what the point of the piece will be (more in the third timer section) The Second Timer for 15 minutes which is the main writing time. Remember, don't overthink during this section. You're knocking out the piece. When this timer goes off it's not the end, but a signal that you'll be trying to wrap it up soon. The Third Timer for 5 minutes which is time to wrap up what you're writing. This is where you're making sure that you're tucking in any 'loose narrative threads' and getting to your conclusions. Remember, pieces should have some takeaway or 'point'. Some 'why'—a thing that the reader can point to if they're asking themselves "why did I read this?". The Fourth Timer for 5 minutes which is time for editing, for going back over the piece and giving it a 'once over' for typos. I highly suggest reading it aloud once at the beginning of the five minutes (or prior to starting the last timer). Then you'll use the time to fix things early on that you later changed, and to sprinkle in 'crumbs' which foreshadow or work well with later metaphors so that the piece feels more united.  

#21
Erasing Roger Ebert 50 "The Big Lebowski"

For today's exercise we have split paths for fiction and poetry, though I highly recommend that even fiction writers try the poetry exercise, because erasures can be a blast!

Poetry: For poetry do an erasure or black-out poem from the following:  Roger Ebert's review of the 1998 film "The Big Lebowski" (Four Stars).

Roger Ebert has been the archetypal film critic for decades, and he's written thousands of reviews. Because of their nature, almost their own bit of ekphrastic art, this series of erasures will be lots of fun!

An Erasure/Blackout is really simple: you take the given text and remove many words to make it your own new piece. One way to go about the erasure that I like to do is to copy the text and paste it twice into your document before you start erasing or blacking out (in MS Word set the text background color to black), that way if you get further into the erasure and decide you want a somewhat different tone or direction, it's easy to go to the unaltered version and make the erasure/black-out piece smoother. Another tip is to look for recurring words, in this example 'bingo' occurs multiple times and could be a good touchstone for your piece.

Fiction or (poetry): If you insist on fiction (or just feel like writing a "Title Mania" piece), write a piece with one of these  titles taken from this section:

  1. A Porno King, a Reclusive Millionaire
  2. In the Midst of Madness
  3. With a Fiery Zeal
  4. Lie, Steal or Cheat
  5. Lonely Vistas, Lurid Cityscapes
  6. Another Trio of Supporting Characters
  7. Never More Gloriously Mustached
  8. Their Meek Sidekick

Erasure Selection:

Roger Ebert's review of "The Big Lebowski" 

"The Big Lebowski" is about an attitude, not a story. It's easy to miss that, because the story is so urgently pursued. It involves kidnapping, ransom money, a porno king, a reclusive millionaire, a runaway girl, the Malibu police, a woman who paints while nude and strapped to an overhead harness, and the last act of the disagreement between Vietnam veterans and Flower Power. It has more scenes about bowling than anything else.

This is a plot and dialogue that perhaps only the Coen Brothers could have devised. I'm thinking less of their clarity in "Fargo" and "No Country for Old Men" than of the almost hallucinatory logic of "Raising Arizona" and "The Hudsucker Proxy." Only a steady hand in the midst of madness allows them to hold it all together--that, and the delirious richness of their visual approach.

Anyone who cares about movies must surely have heard something about the plot. This is a movie that has inspired an annual convention and the Church of the Latter-Day Dude. Its star, Jeff Bridges, has become so identified with the starring role that when he won the 2010 Oscar for Best Actor, Twitterland mourned that his acceptance speech didn't begin with, "The Dude Abides." These words are so emblematic that they inspired a book title, The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers, by Cathleen Falsani. This is a serious book, though far from a dreary theological work.

The Dude is Jeff Lebowski, an unemployed layabout whose days are spent sipping White Russians and nights are spent at the bowling alley. There is always a little pot available. He has a leonine mane of chestnut hair, a shaggy goatee, and a wardrobe of Bermuda shorts, rummage sale shirts, bathrobes and flip-flop,. He went to Woodstock and never left. He lives in what may be the last crummy run-down low-rent structure in Malibu. Trust the Dude to find it.

It is widely known that the Dude was inspired by a real man named Jeff Dowd, a freelance publicist who was instrumental in launching "Blood Simple" (1984), the first film in the Coen canon. I have long known Jeff Dowd. I can easily see how he might have inspired the Dude. He is as tall, as shaggy and sometimes as mood-altered as Jeff Lebowski, although much more motivated. He remembers names better than a politician, is crafty in his strategies, and burns with a fiery zeal on behalf of those films he consents to represent.

In the film, Jeff Lebowski tells the millionaire's daughter (Julianne Moore) that in his youth he helped draft the Port Huron Statement that founded Students for a Democratic Society, and was a member of the Seattle Seven. In real life Jeff Dowd was indeed one of the Seattle Seven, and remains so militant that at Sundance 2009 he took a punch the jaw for insisting too fervently that a critic see "Dirt," an ecological documentary Dowd believed was essential to the survival of the planet. True to his credo of nonviolence, the Dude did not punch back.

In "The Big Lebowski," our hero has left politics far behind, and exists primarily to keep a buzz on, and bowl. He is never actually drunk in the movie, and always far from sober. His bowling partners are Walter Sobchak (John Goodman) and Donny Kerabatsos (Steve Buscemi). Walter, even taller than the Dude, is a proud Vietnam veteran and the strategist of the three. He and the Dude never mention politics. Donny is their meek sidekick, always a step behind the big guys. He says perhaps three complete sentences in the film, all brief, and is often interrupted by Walter telling him to shut the f--- up. He is happy to exist on the fringes of their glory.

Details of the plot need not concern us. It involves a mean-tempered millionaire in a wheelchair who is the Big Lebowski (the Dude becomes, by logic, the Little Lebowski). He broods before the fire in a vast paneled library, reminding me of no one so much as Major Amberson in "The Magnificent Ambersons." His trophy wife Bunny (Tara Reid) appears to have been kidnapped. This leads indirectly to the Dude being savagely beaten by hit men who mistake him for the Big Lebowski. Well, how many Jeff Lebowskis can there be in Malibu? One of them urinates on The Dude's rug, which he valued highly ("it pulled the room together"), and the whole movie can be loosely described as being about the Dude's attempts to get payback for his rug.

The inspiration for the supporting characters can perhaps be found in the novels of Raymond Chandler. The Southern California setting, the millionaire, the kidnapped wife, the bohemian daughter, the enforcers, the cops who know the hero by name, can all be found in Chandler. The Dude is in a sense Philip Marlowe -- not in his energy or focus, but in the code he lives by. Down these mean streets walks a man who won't allow his rug to be pissed on. "That will not stand," he says, perhaps unconsciously quoting George H.W. Bush about Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. The Dude does not lie, steal or cheat. He does swear. He wants what is right. With the earliest flags of the republic, he insists, "Don't tread on me."

The Coens have always had a remarkable visual style, tending toward overwhelming architectural detail -- long corridors, odd interior decoration, forced perspectives, lonely vistas, lurid cityscapes. Even in ostensibly realistic settings, such as the suburbs of "A Serious Man" (2009), they like to insist beyond the point of realism. Their suburb is the distillation of Suburbhood. In "The Big Lebowski," their anchor location is the bowling alley, their dominant colors what might be described as Brunswick Orange and turquoise. The alley is strangely underpopulated, its lanes vertiginous in length. There is one POV shot from within a rolling bowling ball. When Jeff hallucinates or is unconscious, he inhabits bizarre fantasy worlds.

One of their fellow bowlers is Jesus Quintana (John Turturro), a man who has converted himself into an artwork in his own honor. Another trio of supporting characters, the Nihilists, is led by Peter Stormare (who played the man feeding the body of Buscemi into the wood chipper in "Fargo"). A considerable role is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman, as Brandt, the worshipful assistant to the Big Lebowski. Some of its fans have seen this movie dozens of times. I suppose they've already observed that that Hoffman and David Huddleston, who plays the Big Lebowski, bear a strong family resemblance. Someone knowing nothing about the film could be excused for suspecting that Philip Seymour Hoffman plays both characters, the older man with skillful makeup effects. A coincidence? I would not for one moment put it beyond the Coens, Ethan and Joel, to encourage this misapprehension. I suspect they cast Huddleston for the physical resemblance.

The film is all about Jeff Lebowski's equanimity in the face of vicissitudes. He is pounded, water-boarded, lied to and insulted. His rug is pissed on and his car set aflame. He is seduced by a woman who wants only his seed. He has a fortune dangled before his eyes, only to have it replaced by telephone books and used boxer shorts. To heal and keep himself whole he stirs himself another White Russian, has a toke, sits in a warm bath. Like the Buddha, he focuses on the big picture.

The film is narrated by The Stranger (Sam Elliott, never more gloriously mustached). It is he who observes at the end that the Dude Abides, and says he hears there is a little Lebowski on the way. The Dude however is denied matrimony, and indeed seems to have no women at all in his life, except by lucky chance. Does this depress him? Is he concerned about being chronically unemployed? No. If a man has a roof over his head, fresh half-and-half for his White Russians, a little weed and his bowling buddies, what more, really, does he need?

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If you'd like some jazzy background music to write to, try this "The Skies of Eden" lofi playlist.