Thursday, January 29, 2009

Heighten Five Senses: Taste

A sense of taste, like any other sense, can be developed. According to "The How to Think Like Leonardo Da Vinci Workbook" by Michael Gelb, you can self-assess your sense of taste through the following statements:
-- I can taste the "freshness" of fresh food.
-- I enjoy many different types of cuisine.
-- I seek out unusual taste experiences.
-- I can discern the flavor contributions of different herbs and spices in a complex dish.
-- I am a good cook.
-- I appreciate the pairing of food and wine.
-- I eat consciously, aware of the taste of my food.
-- I avoid junk food.
-- I avoid eating on the run.
-- I enjoy participating in taste tests and wine tastings.

No one becomes a good cook or an afficiando of the world's great cuisines overnight. Like first poems, your first attempts on the stove-top might likely end up in the trash can. Mine did for many years -- in both cases. I believe two elements you need to develop a keen sense of taste is a spirit of adventure and a willingness to make mistakes.It's the same as approaching any other creative aspect of your life, be it writing, skiing, cooking or traveling. You'll never know what octopus tastes like until you try it, or how ginger might enhance an apple dessert until you make one yourself.

I'm not a good enough cook to create my own recipes from scratch or just "throw things together." Maybe I'll be able to someday. I have, however, enough "taste" experience to imagine what a dish will taste like just from reading the recipe. So recipes and cookbooks are my friends. I sometimes cross reference two or three recipes for the same dish and make a hybrid of it, or simply "tweak" a recipe, usually because I lack a certain ingredient or two and would rather substitute with something I have on hand. It does take a little kitchen experience to know which items can suffice as substitutes. But it all comes with time, as does a seasoned palate.


Friday, January 16, 2009

New online journal writing course

Let the new year serve as a fresh start for your journal writing direction. I'm leading an online journal writing course this spring with the University of Illinois at Chicago Writers Series. It's called "Rescript Your Life: A Journal Writing Workshop." The great thing is you can be anywhere in the world to take this workshop because it's online. It gets underway on March 9, 2009. Juicy details follow:

Direct your plans, relationships and creativity toward a new, personal direction through journal writing. In this online workshop, you’ll find your journaling “personality” and apply a variety of eastern and western techniques to uncover and explore your burning issues. Also learn how to journal your dreams, travels and creative ideas and even start your own online journal blog. Journal Writing Online allows participants to better deal with past, present and future issues through the outlet of journal writing, particularly when applying field-tested techniques introduced in the course.

Participants will also be better equipped to use the journal as a creative conduit to evolve raw experience into written poems, stories, character studies and other creative pieces. During this time of economic downturn, journal writing offers people an inexpensive, yet passionate outlet. This era is an ideal time to turn to an introspective mode, evaluating the past and looking for new direction for the future. Journal writing can help people in any situation deal with our changing times.

Topics include history of journaling, journal styles, dialogues and their methods, techniques of journal writing and blogging.

At the completion of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Focus on the type of journal writing to fit his or her personality.
  • Access their own list of numerous, personal journal writing topics and questions.
  • Use the journaling method of dialogues to address personal and creative issues.
  • Understand and use the Japanese method of haibun and naikan.
  • Create a Leonardo da Vinci-style notebook.
  • Create an active dream journal.
  • Create an online journal blog.
  • Develop a personal journaling vocabulary
Journal Writing Online
March 9 - April 10, 2009
Cynthia Gallaher
Friday, February 27, 2009

Register for Journal Writing

Dialog with the Body

Your body's wisdom can speak to you through metaphor. Writing dialogues in your journal can help faciliate the life lessons your body may be trying to teach you. Dialogue with the body is one of the six main types of journaling dialogues described in Ira Progoff's seminal book on modern journal writing, "Intensive Journal Workshop," first published in 1966.

First, choose a dialogue partner, whether it be a body part or organ, illness, injury or surgery, allergy, your sexuality; a body subpersonality such as thin self, fat self, addiction or habit; foods or nutrition; or pain, which always seems to be an important messenger.

Dialogue in writing, back and forth, with your dialogue partner. You will be writing both roles, of course! Your dialogue can be in the form of a thoughtful and direct "letter" or "instant messaging" back-and-forth dialogue if you thrive on fast-paced banter. If you feel like you're making it up, you're right. You are making it up, but it is a part of you. Don't be afraid of the unexpected or ideas that seem to come out of nowhere.

Having a dialogue with the body can be a form of healing visualization. Whether your dialogue partner is anything from an allergy to dust, a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer or the ache of a twisted ankle to an addiction to chocolate, the fear of hair loss or compulsion to wear too much makeup, your two-way dialogues can help you sort out the real from the imagined, the old you from the newer you, and help you decide what can be changed and how to go about it, or what may be inevitable and how best to face it.


Writing the Seen and the Unseen

Deena Metzger, in her book "Writing for Your Life: A Guide and Companion to the Inner World" suggested, "When you think you have nothing to say, when your life feels dull and tedious, try writing: Things I didn't see today." The things we can't see are often the most important. A Turkish poet who spent a number of years as a political prisoner, Nazim Hikmet, wrote a poem entitled "Things I Didn't Know I Loved," while looking out a Prague-to-Berlin train window.

...night is falling
I never knew I liked
night descending like a tired bird on a smoky wet plain...
I never knew I loved the sun
even when setting cherry-red as now
in Istanbul too it sometimes sets in postcard colors...
I didn't know I loved clouds
whether I'm under or up above them
whether they look like giants or shaggy white beasts...
I never knew I liked the night pitch-black
sparks fly from the engine
I didn't know I loved sparks...

As a journal writer, you don't need to write a poem, but simply write your own "things I didn't see today" or "Things I Didn't Know I Loved."