Now that we’re in Capricornus season, finishing at the end of January, it’s time to start bearing down on the project you’ve been dreaming about or pushing off. The changing of the seasons might find you seeking acceptance on creative avenues in your life. What’s holding you back? Expect frustration, but persevere nonetheless.
Everyone struggles with writing in their own way. Some have strengths where others have weaknesses, but you can’t compare your struggles to others’ successes. There’s a remedy to every writing conflict. Maybe this will help:
- Aries: Don’t abandon a piece because it’s not turning out the way you want it to. Start from scratch, take time to think out details and a plan you agree with, or go with the flow, letting what happens happen. Freewriting and rewriting are your friends right now. If your piece is really not working, break it up. Take your favorite bits and apply them elsewhere, and use the work as an inspiration for something else. Don’t let your labor go to waste.
- Prompt: Describe a flame in the instant before it is extinguished. What does it look like? How does it feel? Where does the heat go?
- Taurus: You’re stuck on a piece, a scene, on wanting to write but not being able to. You can’t fix it today, so try something else. Avoid the boulder and make your way down the river. You can always come back later. When you do, think about what in this situation is sticky. Can it be removed altogether and replaced with something new? Otherwise, flesh it out or write about what’s wrong, and at least let out some of your pent up frustration.
- Activity: Go back to your second most recent work. Find something you liked and something you were unsatisfied with. Start a new, mini-piece using each fragment.
- Gemini: You’re not sure what you want. Which word goes where? Where is this plot going? You’re afraid of making a wrong turn– don’t be. There’s always room and time to rewrite. Mistakes are okay to make in any stage of your writing. Learn from them, don’t learn to fear them.
- Activity: Take an unfinished work or an idea you have yet to write. Start the piece from another perspective or a different point in your storyline.
- Cancer: You’re having a hard time focusing on your work. Outside stressors are cutting into your writing time. Reclaim it, make time and space to get back into your proper writing headspace, even if it’s for 15-20 minutes. Think about what you need to get back into your groove: is it a quiet place, proper music, a good night’s sleep? Make adjustments and come back when you’re ready.
- Prompt: Imagine one human function– sleeping, eating, drinking water– is replaced with something more efficient, like photosynthesizing, one month of hibernation per year, etc. How does the human race change, for better or worse?
- Leo: You need to accept and apply criticism without losing hope. Your writing will never be perfect, but no one’s attacking you for that, and neither should you. It can be hard to understand that people are trying to help when they point out your errors, but it’s also hard to sense what needs improvement on your own. Trust your peers, don’t take criticism personally, and put effort into editing. Seeing improvements will be worth temporary discomfort.
- Activity: Make three copies of a recent project you got feedback for. Leave one version alone, then make the edits you feel necessary to another, then apply every suggestion you received to the last one. Which are you more satisfied with?
- Virgo: You’re beating yourself up over small details. They matter a lot to you, but learn to embrace the ambiguous and unknown. Your focus on these things may take away from other parts of your work, like plot, dialogue, or voice. Which part of your writing do you want to be the focal point? What do you want to be remembered? Record details that are important, not ones that distract you and the reader.
- Prompt: Take a hard copy of a short piece (it doesn’t have to be yours) and cut it up. Create something new from the cutouts, ransom note style.
- Libra: You’re caught in the insecurity that not everyone likes your writing. They don’t have to, but that shouldn’t be the audience you’re focusing on. Align yourself with people who care about your writing as much as you do, that provide positive feedback and helpful criticism when you need it. At the same time, understand that there will be many different opinions on your writing, and while you cannot change them, you also don’t have to give them your attention. Embrace what you do and others will do the same.
- Prompt: Have you ever read or watched something that had an ending you weren’t satisfied with? Change it. Twist the plot and characters’ decisions to match what you had in mind.
- Scorpio: Your confidence is getting the best of you. It’s important to be bold and passionate about your writing, but listen to the ones around you who tell you to slow down or take a break. You risk overlooking mistakes or burning yourself out. Pace yourself, restrict yourself to only one or two projects, and make sure you review your work carefully.
- Activity: Take a break from your next drafting session and read instead. Go through your previous works, review a friend’s writing, or break into a book you got months ago but haven’t had the time to read. Reading is one of the best ways to improve your writing and you deserve a break.
- Sagittarius: You may be dedicated to your current project, but you may have also bitten off more than you can chew. Break up what you’re working on into smaller, easier to manage tasks, or put something nonessential to the side. Quality is better than quantity, and whether you believe it or not, the stress of overextending yourself will get to you. Burning out is not fun, but it is preventable.
- Activity: Slow down and read through some of your newer, incomplete works. Are you following the bigger picture? Where are some points that you’ve gone astray? Identify them, but choose only one to work on for now.
- Capricorn: Not everything will go your way, no matter how much you plan. Don’t get too frustrated and don’t quit. Identify where and how things went wrong. Where can you see this often happening in your writing? Reach out to see what advice others can give you, and allow yourself the freedom to go astray from your original plan. Some good may come from impromptu writing.
- Prompt: It’s time to sit down and do some actual drafting. Find a place to put all your ideas, like sticky notes or a journal, and choose one to work on. Set the mood, find a place and time that works for you, and put pen to paper. Outline, freewrite, or make a character sketch. Give your idea substance.
- Aquarius: You’re an energetic writer with many ideas, but it’s easy for you to lose stimulation and, therefore, motivation. If something isn’t easy or doesn’t go the way you want right away, you give up. Bright ideas lose their luster, a dream becomes clouded, and the pen gets put down. Persevere through these struggles. Your muse will not always be present, but you will have to work past this to get anywhere with your writing.
- Activity: Write something terrible, just to get back into the rhythm of writing. It can always be reworked or even discarded, but you need to learn to persist even if you’re not feeling like writing. You may be surprised by what you come up with.
- Pisces: You tend to get caught in the fantasy of your own writing, so much so that you forget the writing part altogether. What’s causing this block? Are you too afraid to put your words on paper? Not sure how to articulate? Take some time to freewrite or plot out the idea you have, then give yourself a deadline. Dreams are great in your head, but they’re also meant to be explored and shared.
- Activity: Take some time to create a plot or outline for your newest idea. Where will your story begin and where will it end? Choose a point in between and free write for a bit. Does it follow the arc you want it to? Are you ready to keep writing or do you need to outline a bit more?
Looking for a personalized read to curl up with this month? This post from Literary Hub is old but the books are still worth checking out: https://lithub.com/the-astrology-book-club-what-to-read-this-month-based-on-your-sign-23/
Wondering how studying can improve your writing? This post is over, but here’s some further reading: https://writingcooperative.com/how-astrology-can-improve-your-writing-4b7004b33373
Meet the blogger:
EMILY POUPART is a Hamline senior from Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin. She hopes to go into publishing after she graduates, and enjoys plants, reading, and being indoors.
You’ve done it! You’ve found yourself some quiet time and you’re wondering what you should be writing about. You’ve dipped your toes in form writing before, but you want to try something new, or old rather, something a bit more ambitious than the well-treaded sonnet. Well, if you’re feeling brave enough to try out one of the many received forms from years passed, you might implore one of these three French and Italian forms with rich history.
The rondeau was traditionally a lyric and song writing form originating in the 14th and 15th century in medieval France. The musical form consisted of four stanzas, the first and last stanzas being identical, and the second half of the second stanza being a short refrain which had as its text the first half of the first stanza. As the rondeau became older, the number of lines within each stanza grew longer.
The lines were later abbreviated to fifteen lines when nineteenth century English poets adopted the form. The stanzaic structure also evolved to begin with a rhyming quintet, followed by a quatrain, and a sestet. The refrains were shortened at the end of the second and third stanzas leaving in its place a “rentrement”, or re-entry, of the opening words, creating a desirable change of meaning in this line from where it had been seen earlier in the piece.
Rhyme Scheme (R being the rentrement): aabba aabR aabbaR
We Wear the Mask
Paul Lawrence Dunbar (1872-1906)
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties
Why should the world be over-wise
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see up, while
We wear the mask
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!
Another French form from the thirteenth century, the triolet is an eight lined rhyming poem. The first triolets from their inception were devotional poems authored by notable names like Patrick Carey, a Benedictine monk. It was also reintroduced and became popular among late nineteenth century British poets. It is another great poem to play on shifted meaning using the nature of the repeated lines encouraged by this form.
Rhyme Scheme (the capital letters mark repeated lines): ABaAabAB
Mary Ellen Clark, published in 2003
In response triolet to James Joyce “She Weeps Over Rahoon”
Embrace twilight and bid farewell
to passion’s warmth and sweet caress.
A grave’s prepared where she will dwell
embrace twilight and bid farewell.
O hear the mourning of her bell
that tolls for sorrows you supress
embrace twilight and bid farewell
to passion’s warmth and sweet caress.
Invented by the poet Dante Alighieri from Italy, and used in his epic poem “The Divine Comedy” (further reading), the terza rima is a rhyming form consisting of tercets, there are no limits to the number of lines this form can have. Terza Rima is typically written in iambic line. An interesting dilemma English poets have run into while trying to write their own terza rimas is that there are fewer rhyme possibilities found in English than there are in the Italian language and so, many writers have used near and slant rhymes in their work under this form.
Rhyme Scheme: aba, bcb, cdc, ded
To sum up the form’s rules – a passage from poetry resource poets.org: “The end-word of the second line in one tercet supplies the rhyme for the first and third lines in the following tercet. Thus, the rhyme scheme (aba, bcb, cdc, ded) continues through to the final stanza or line”
Terzanelle: Manzanar Riot
Claire Kageyama-Ramakrishnan, published in 2008
This is a poem with missing details,
of ground gouging each barrack’s windowpane,
sand crystals falling with powder and shale,
where silence and shame make adults insane.
This about a midnight of searchlights,
of ground gouging each barrack’s windowpane,
of syrup on rice and a cook’s big fight.
This is the night of Manzanar’s riot.
This is about a midnight of searchlights,
a swift moon and a voice shouting, Quiet!
where the revolving searchlight is the moon,
and children line still to use the latrines.
This is a poem with missing details,
children wiping their eyes clean of debris—
sand crystals falling with powder and shale.
Now that you know a bit more, what do you think of these forms? Let us know in the comments!
Meet the blogger:
KYRIN STURDIVANT is a Creative Writing major and English minor in his final year of undergrad at Hamline University. Kyrin is a writer of poetry, fiction, and screenplays and enjoys practicing dance in his free time.
Perfect Songs For Those Nice Moments in Every Book
Have you ever read a scene from a book, and instantly knew what the perfect background song would be? Have you ever watched a scene from a television show or movie, and the background music helped strengthen the emotions you were already experiencing? Here are a few songs that can perfectly describe those nice moments in every book:
- When Two Vampires Finally Admit Their Feelings For Each Other
Song: “False God” by Taylor Swift
“But we might just get away with it/ Religion’s in your lips/ Even if it’s a false god/ We’d still worship/ We might just get away with it/ The altar is my hips/ Even if it’s a false god”
Taylor Swift has been known for her ability to write heart-wrenching lyrics and catchy melodies, and her song “False God” perfectly encapsulates the feeling of two sexy, ancient supernatural beings falling in love after thousands of years of being in solitude.
Book To Read: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
- When the Hero Finally Faces off Against the Supervillain
Song: “Last of the Real Ones” by Fall Out Boy
“’Cause you’re the last of a dying breed/ Write our names in the wet concrete/ I wonder if your therapist knows everything about me/ I’m here in search of your glory.”
With narrative lyrics set against energizing pop-rock instrumentals, “Last of the Real Ones” by Fall Out Boy is the perfect song to make an epic final battle even more exciting.
Book To Read: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
- When The Protagonist Finally Gets Over Their Ex
Song: “Over You” by HOLYCHILD
“Come on, girl, your life just started/ Don’t waste time so brokenhearted/ If it’s done then he’s not the one (he’s not the one)/ Once upon a time you parted/ Soon you’ll know the ancient garden/ You’re a flower, you are the sun”
The lyrics of “Over You” mixed with the cheerful and upbeat instrumentals describe exactly what it feels like to get over an ex, while trying to be happy and carefree at the same time.
Book to Read: History is all You Left Me by Adam Silvera
Do you have a go to song that you listen to while you read? What about a playlist? Let us know in the comments below!
Meet the blogger:
KIRA PAUL is a senior at Hamline University majoring in Creative Writing with a minor in English and Criminology. When they’re not doing homework, you can find them nose-deep in YA Fiction or catching up on gaming streams on Twitch.
Podcasts have become an extremely popular source of entertainment over the last few years, and they don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Busy writers rejoice! Podcasts, like audio books, are an excellent way to hear the words of writers all over the world while working, exercising, or just during your daily commute. Plus, many podcasts are produced by independent artists, meaning just listening and dropping a review can be a big deal for these content creators.
To get into the spirit (pun intended) of the Halloween season, here is a list of four of the spookiest, creepiest, spine-chilling-est podcasts produced in a storytelling format.
Written, recorded, and produced by the one and only Aaron Mahnke, Lore is a twice-monthly podcast featuring historical stories with a dark twist. From lake monsters, to UFOs, to specters and the Spiritualism movement, if it’s creepy, chances are Lore has featured it. With a backlog of over 150 episodes, there’s more than enough content to get you through October. Each episode clocks in at about 30 minutes on average, and features Aaron’s soothing voice along with a pleasantly spooky soundtrack.
If you’ve already listened and you’re hungry for more, Lore is also a book series, as well as a TV series with two seasons on Amazon Prime. In addition, Aaron Mahnke’s audio production company Grim & Mild has a host of other podcasts made in the same vein as Lore, such as American Shadows, Noble Blood, and the bite-sized version of Lore, Aaron Mahnke’s Cabinet of Curiosities. Check out Lore and all the other Grim & Mild shows at the production company’s website.
Must-Listen Lore Episodes:
- Snap Judgement Presents: Spooked
This haunting podcast is especially exciting because it features stories from listeners of the podcast all over the world. Hosted by Glynn Washington, each episode of Spooked features one or two real-life tales about the supernatural, as well as the occasional creepy anecdote from silky-voiced host Glynn to set the tone. Spooked stands out in this list as the only podcast told by more than one voice, which guarantees that each episode will be a unique experience.
Featuring tales of demonic possession, haunted homes, and ghostly apparitions, it’s impossible to forget that all stories are purported to be 100% true. Backed by a track of spine-chilling original scores, Spooked is definitely a show you’ll want to listen to with the lights on! You can check out Spooked and all five of its seasons on the WNYC Studios website.
Must-Listen Spooked Episodes:
Graveyards, churches, and hospitals – oh my! Haunted Places takes us to all of the most (surprise) haunted places around the world through multiple modes of storytelling, including a rundown of the location’s history, as well as original third- and first-person tales, all told by host Greg Polcyn. Each episode delves deep down into the dark places that inhabit our world, accompanied by the ambient sounds of wind and owls hooting, as well as unique music in every installment.
There are over 170 episodes so far, with the show having started in 2017, and no indication that it will be stopping anytime soon. In addition, Haunted Places offers episodes of a bonus series, Urban Legends, released on Spotify for free every Thursday. With featured tales such as Bloody Mary, the Goatman, and Slenderman, this sister series is also a must-listen. Check out Haunted Places on the Parcast website.
Must-Listen Haunted Places Episodes:
Unique to this list, Limetown is the only podcast told completely as a story. It’s a horror mockumentary brought to the radio, and the first season is spectacular (the jury’s still out on the second season; some people love it, others loathe it). Fictional journalist Lia Haddock reports on the city of Limetown, a small town in Tennessee where over 300 men, women, and children mysteriously disappeared practically overnight, never to be heard from again. Until now (cue spooky music).
Limetown is a binge-worthy series, with the first season containing 6 hour-long episodes as well as short mini updates which add to the feeling that this tale is real. The story is immersive, interesting, and brilliantly told, and will leave you hungering for more of the Limetown mystery after finishing each episode. Listen now at the Two-Up website.
Must-Listen Limetown Episodes:
All of them! Limetown is a story told consecutively, so make sure to start with Episode 1!
Meet the blogger:
MADELEINE WICK is a senior at Hamline University, working on her BFA in creative writing. She’s an aspiring podcaster and writer, and unsurprisingly, likes to write about podcasts.
No matter how prolific a writer you are, we all run into moments where we need a little extra inspiration.
Here are some tips on how to use your own photographs to inspire all elements of storytelling, from mood to setting to character and beyond. There are plenty of articles about how to find inspiration for your writing and look outside yourself, but using your own photos as a reference is a unique way to find inspiration inside yourself while still removing yourself from the piece of writing at hand. I know this is certainly a method that has helped me a great many times.
- Write the true story of the photo, the details of the moment(s) preceding or following. Or, perhaps a close look and write a description of the elements in the frame.
- If you had to use one word to describe the photo, what would it be? Use that word as the theme for a story.
- Zoom in close on parts of the photo or crop sections as small or large as you like. Don’t be afraid to cut to random sections, don’t overthink it. How does the energy of these sections of the photograph differ from the original photograph? Write a character that has the same emotional presence as each of the cropped or zoomed sections, then write them into the scene of the original photograph.
- Write a character into the scene. You were there for the photo, you took it, or maybe you’re even in it. How might you imagine another character would have behaved in that moment?
- Zoom out: you know what’s happening in the frame, now tell us what’s happening around it? What can’t we see? What terrors or joys lie just outside this glimpse into a moment in time?
Have any ideas of your own? Share them in the comments below to help keep your fellow writers inspired.
NOAH TOPLIFF is an undergraduate student at Hamline University in the final year of completing his BFA in Creative Writing. He spends his time outside of his studies writing and recording music and spending time with his dog and girlfriend.