This happens to be my favorite section of monologue from a play by Shakespeare (any play by Shakespeare), and there are many brilliant ones. This is from the Henry Cycle. (Henry discusses his past nature as scoundrel and the companion of scoundrels and his coming nature as king.)
Since I was a kid, a teenager actually, I have taken what I consider to be great sections of poetry, prose, plays, songs, etc. and rewritten them to see if I could improve upon them in some way (linguistically, poetically, phonetically, in meaning or emphasis, etc.). As an exercise in the improvement of my own poetic capabilities. Or towards the improvement of whatever other capabilities I happened to be attempting to exercise.
To me this is the very paragon of verse from Shakespeare’s plays, for any number of reasons, not least the undercurrents of shaded meaning, the psychologically acute self-analysis, and the prophetic pronouncements of the future. I have rewritten this section many times and in many different ways but did it again late last week as an exercise to keep myself from becoming rusty and out of practice at this type of verse and monologue.
The first section is the Work of Shakespeare. The second section is partially Shakespeare’s, the part in italics (in order to set the theme of the monologue), and the last part is my rewriting of the same. It is not only a rewriting, I’ve also altered the emphasis, slightly and subtly, but it also contains allusions to other subject matter and characters I have written about in my own poetry, such as Orpheus and the Tears of Iron.
I hope you enjoy it. I also hope you try such exercises for yourself to improve your own capabilities.
I KNOW YOU ALL – WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
I know you all, and will awhile uphold The unyoked humor of your idleness. Yet herein will I imitate the sun, Who doth permit the base contagious clouds To smother up his beauty from the world, That, when he please again to be himself, Being wanted, he may be more wondered at By breaking through the foul and ugly mist Of vapors that did seem to strangle him. If all the year were playing holidays, To sport would be as tedious as to work, But when they seldom come, they wished for come, And nothing pleaseth but rare accidents. So when this loose behavior I throw off And pay the debt I never promisèd, By how much better than my word I am, By so much shall I falsify men’s hopes; And, like bright metal on a sullen ground, My reformation, glitt’ring o’er my fault, Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes Than that which hath no foil to set it off. I’ll so offend to make offense a skill, Redeeming time when men think least I will.
I KNOW YOU ALL – WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE AND JOHN GUNTER
I know you all, and will awhile uphold The unyoked humor of your idleness. Yet herein will I imitate the sun, Who doth permit the base contagious clouds To smother up his beauty from the world, That, when he please again to be himself, Being wanted, he may be more wondered at By breaking through the foul and ugly mist Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.
Of temperance there is none found in me When overwhelming Wyrd o’ermasters All the conduct of my prior faculties Yet when I am come, and baring as I come The former foil that gilds me dull, yet sharp In indiscretions manifold who will vouchsafe all my claims and titles Young with new maturity, if not I? In reform well sprang like Orpheus From the chair of Pluto and his iron tears My coming crown unworn, my sins unshorn Shall outline the very shadowed limits That I so like the scorching sun of noon Shall burn away when the Dawn of Me Does unexpected rise from deep within And clotted clay, the seeming sepulchre That frontiers all I have ever been Will be seen to walk beneath the heavens As if a new king bestrode the mortal world In glory more like ancient gods than man…
For the past few years I’ve been developing Tools to assist me in my career as a fiction writer, songwriter, and poet. In preparation for pursuing those careers.
I have decades worth of Tools regarding my business-careers as a business, copy, and non-fiction writer, and inventor (and as a poet, I’ve been a poet since I was about age 8 or so), many of which I have been posting to my Business Blog, Launch Port.
But here in Wyrdwend I’m going to start making it a habit to post some of my more useful Writing Tools in the form of Templates. I’ll arrange them all into a sellable book, or e-book, or workbook, something like that, maybe in a year or so. I’m too busy right now.
I’m giving you permission to use these tools, or to use them as idea-generators to make your own. Tools, as opposed to actual Works, I consider more public property than proprietary or personal intellectual property. Yeah, in book form I’d consider them mine, but in this form, if you find them useful, then use away.
Each week, barring some unforeseen exigency, I’ll be posting a different Tool, or a different kind of tool (writing, songwriting, poetry, etc.) that you can make use of in developing your own works. Some of these tools I modified from tools suggested to me by others, some contain partial information or design components from other sources, many are entirely my own creations.
To start I give you a very, very simple and easy to use tool. Nevertheless it should (if properly employed) contain vital and succinct information about your Work (Book or other Major Work) that you can use as an elevator pitch, to formulate a written pitch, or to simply keep the fundamental and primary elements of your work clear, distinct, and easily marketable.
We’re total suckers for self improvement: The self-help industry brings in billions of dollars each year from countless books. All that encouraging advice can feel empowering and commonsensical, offering a simple path to a better life.
But there’s a problem with this approach. “Reading a self-help book is like buying a lottery ticket,” writes social psychologist Timothy Wilson in his newest book Redirect. “For a small investment, we get hope in return; the dream that all our problems will soon be solved without any real expectation that they will be.”
While the power of positive thinking—the seeming bread and butter of self-help as we know it—is a nice thought, according to Wilson, there’s no evidence that simply thinking positively actually works. We can’t just will ourselves to be happier a-la The Secret. “Our minds aren’t that stupid,” says Wilson. “It’s not like you can just tell you mind, ‘Think positively.’ You’ve got to nudge it a little more along.”
In Redirect, Wilson offers an alternative he calls “story editing,” based on the research of social scientists over the years. This approach operates off the premise that we each have a core narrative or story that we tell ourselves about who we are and what the world around us is like. It’s a story that influences our choices and way of experiencing the world. But it’s also one we play a major role in shaping for ourselves.
Using specific writing exercises, according to Wilson, we can begin to shift that story and redirect our way of thinking. “Writing is an act of creation. You are creating as you go,” he says. “That’s what can make this personally so helpful.”
Write through a challenging problem
We can never simply write painful or difficult events out of our lives, but we can make them far more graspable and change our relationship to them, according to research by psychologist James Pennebaker. Over the years, Pennebaker has developed an approach he calls “Writing To Heal,” that uses writing exercises as a way to help people deal with difficult events their lives.
To try the Pennebaker writing exercise, think of an event or worry that’s been most on your mind recently. Set aside 15 to 20 minutes at the end of the day to write about that specific problem. Do this for four days in a row, setting aside at least 15 minutes at the end of each day to record your thoughts. As you write, don’t pause or second-guess yourself—just write without stopping.
Through his research over the years, Pennebaker found that this simple four-day exercise helped improve people’s health, and well-being in various studies. “It’s how we deal with setbacks that’s so important,” says Wilson, who has worked with Pennebaker over the years. While the writing exercise can be difficult at first, people tend to gain clarity as they continue doing it. “Often what they first write is jumbled and unorganized,” says Wilson. But eventually “they view what happened to them in a way that makes more sense.”
Distance yourself from negative experiences
Research has also shown that having some distance from a difficult event allows us to step back and better understand it. There’s a writing exercise Wilson calls the “step-back-and-ask-why” approach that allows us to create this distance and understanding in order to reframe negative events.
To do this exercise, close your eyes and bring yourself back to a specific moment or event that was upsetting to you. Then, in your mind, try to take a few steps back from yourself in the moment so that you can see the story unfolding as if it was happening to a distant version of yourself. Write about what that distant version of yourself is thinking and feeling. One way to do this effectively, suggests Wilson, is to write in the third person, rather than the first person, which automatically builds some seperation between you and the moment you’re writing about.
Don’t simply rehash a play-by-play of what happened; instead, try to explain why it happened. “Don’t recount the event,” Wilson writes. “Take a step back and reconstrue and explain it.”
Determine what your best possible self looks like
There’s a reason Saturday Night Live‘s “Daily Affirmations With Stuart Smalley” was such a hit in the ’90s. That focus on self-affirming mantras is practically begging to be made fun of, yet even today, you’ll find that same advice given in total earnest.
But as Wilson points out in his book, rather than telling yourself you’re doing the best you can and are the best you can be—a pretty text-book self-help mantra—try actually imagining what the best version of yourself might look like in the future and what you need to do to achieve those goals.
He calls this writing prompt the “Best Possible Selves Exercise.” Like the Pennebaker prompt, take 15 to 20 minutes a night for four nights in a row to do this exercise. Imagine your life in the future as if you’ve achieved all your life goals. Write not just what those life goals are, but also how you will be able to achieve them. “Focus on the process of achieving an outcome rather than the outcome itself,” says Wilson.
Imagine all the things that could have gone wrong
Gratitude journals are another self-help go-to, but research has shown they can actually have the reverse effect of making you feel less happy. There’s a pleasure to uncertainty—not being able to pin down the specific details of an event were was pleasing.
While reducing our uncertainty about negative events can help us bounce back from them more quickly, reducing uncertainty about positive events can take some of the pleasure out of them. Wilson calls this a pleasure paradox: “People want to understand the good things in life so that they can experience them again, but by doing so they reduce the pleasure they get from those events,” he writes.
For example, research has shown that asking people in a relationship to tell the story of how they met their partner doesn’t make them particularly happier. But ask those same people to write about the many ways in which they might not have met their partner or their relationship might not have worked out and they get much more pleasure out of the exercise. “People don’t like to do that, but when they do, it makes the relationship look special again, at least for a little while,” he says.
This translates well into a writing exercise Wilson calls the “George Bailey Technique” named after the protagonist in It’s A Wonderful Life. For this exercise, think of one of the most important or special events, relationships or accomplishments in your life. Then imagine all the ways in which it might not have happened. Doing this can introduce mystery and excitement back into the experience again.
Maintain a sense of purpose
These last two exercises aren’t so much writing prompts, as they are calls to action. In their studies of what make people feel happiest and most fulfilled, social scientists have found that having a clear sense of purpose is critical. This means reminding yourself of what your most important goals in life are and finding ways to move forward on those goals, says Wilson.
He identifies three ingredients to well-being: hope, meaning, and purpose. Writing exercises that help reframe the way you feel about negative events in the past can help create a sense of hope and meaning, but it’s also important to maintain goals that provide a sense of purpose in your life. “We all have some choice over what we want to pursue and those of us who are really lucky can get paid to do it, but plenty of people find other ways,” says Wilson.
Do some good in the world
Research has shown that it’s not simply having a sense of purpose that contributes to our well-being, but that those who help others are actually happier than those who don’t. These people have a greater likelihood of forming bonds with others and having a positive image of themselves.
“If you want to have a positive outlook and feel like a good person, go out and be a good person,” says Wilson. “The mind is a very good observer of ourselves.”
Lately I have been rebuilding myself into good shape after a series of injuries side-lined me for about a month.
For some number of years now I’ve been training in the Fartlek style when hiking or running or cycling. But today it occurred to me, “Why can’t I just do all of my training using this method?”
So I set my computer alarm to work for 30 to 45 minute intervals, then during my fifteen minute work-breaks I would simply do one exercise set from my overall Training Routine. At lunch I did my core work, but the rest of the time, during most of my breaks, I did one set from my routines.
By dinner most of my Training had been done. Three immediate advantages I noticed were these: 1) because I was only doing one set at a time I could do that exercise with great intensity and focus – I did not have to reserve energy for a full program, 2) it helped with my back a lot as I was only at my desk or various work-stations for 30 to 45 minutes at a time and the exercise break was very good for my back and for avoiding being sedentary too long, and 3) during my exercise breaks I could do things like hike or run for fifteen minutes or so which allowed my mind time to process and think on the work I had just done.
Also I suspect that it makes me more productive overall – the work-exercise, work-exercise, work-break then snack cycle.
It was also easy to rehydrate after each small exercise set.
This is a method similar to that I think our more ancient ancestors would have followed. Not the kind of cycle we moderns follow, that being long periods of sedentary work followed by short to moderate periods of intense exercise.
This is more work-exercise-break, work-exercise-break. Much closer to what our ancestors would have engaged in during their daily activities as farmers and hunter-gatherers.
Right before lunch I also took my hike cycle. I hiked in a 30 pound pack plus I carried 20 pound weights in both hands. I hiked one mile carrying the weights and one mile without the weights. No real bother at all, even on my back, except I had to bend over and stretch occasionally when carrying the weights. Actually it was easier on my back than if all the weight had been in the pack. Following this new method I expect to see a natural increase in my grip strength.
Also I could from time to time do a few rows, overhead presses, and curls as I paused in my hike. I didn’t put the weights down though until I completed the mile. I also ran uphill at one point with the dumbbells.
My hike track was as normal – open fields, hills, woods, and a short area (about ¼ of a mile) along roads.
This week I am back to my Paramilitary Training Routine. I was able to do it all in my work-break periods except the boxing and the chases. I did five pull ups and five chin ups and it did not hurt either my back or shoulder, so I think my injuries are now completely healed. The intensity was good in all of my exercises because of the short-burst (speed-play) nature of the sets.
Warm-Up – Jumping Jacks, Running in Place Stretching – arms, torso, legs Balance/Counterbalance Bat/Club Fighting Boxing Stretching – arms, torso, legs Broad Jump Chases Chin Ups Climbing Stretching – arms, torso, legs Cool Down – Walking Recovery Meal and 2 Recovery Drinks
I am now down to 175 pounds and staying there. I am also gaining more muscle mass each week or at least every two weeks. I’m also getting more rest each day/night.
Tonight my wife and kids and I made wild brown rice, salad, mixed vegetables cooked in olive oil, and flounder. For beverages I had coffee and green tea. For desert I had yogurt and fresh strawberries from the farm. Plus I took my supplements and metaergogenics.
Finally I have been doing quite a bit of research on how to reduce swollen lymph nodes. I’ve had a swollen lymph node for about a year now, actually a couple of weeks more than a year. Probably due to a tick bite.
Well I took a bunch of research regarding treating lymph nodes and created a node-reduction treatment and exercise program. I’ve been working it for a few days now and overall the swelling in my lymph node has been reduced ¼ inches overall. I suspect that within 15 to 21 days it will be finally again be reduced to normal size.