Category Archives: On Writing

#reverb10 (December 2 – Writing)

December 2 – Writing. What do you do each day that doesn’t contribute to your writing — and can you eliminate it?

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I am about to answer this question when I notice a shiny piece of ribbon on the table. It is the silver, curly ribbon I have been twining around holiday presents. It is the tail end of a roll – not quite long enough to use but too pretty to throw out – I muse.

Distractions. My life is full of them. Starting with the internet: email, facebook, twitter, myspace, vanity searches and obsessive checking up on my CDbaby account to see if there’s been any activity since I last looked 10 minutes ago. All this bouncing around from site to site has an amazing ability to make time disappear. I absent-mindedly chew through time like one munches on potato chips. Salty, alluring and at the end of the day, a little sickening to my stomach to think about all the could-have-dones with that creative energy spent instead fussing and lurking and adding my periodic witty one-liners, my thoughtful “likes” to other people’s posts.

And what purpose do these distractions serve, really? Truth is I am equally distracted even once I am sitting down to write. I have so many half-ideas – so many trail of broken thoughts. I am afraid to commit to one singular path. To start writing is to put things down … is to let go of fretting… is to fix things. Two means of the word “fix”: (1) to make concrete on paper (and therefore seemingly unchangeable) and (2) to make better. There is, I’m sure, another long essay about how it benefits me to always feel something is *wrong*, but for now and in answer to “how can I elimate it?”

Trust that there is an abundance of words to come.
I worry sometimes that the start of a thought will come tumbling out only to be left to die alone in the desert. But there are more than enough words to quench my thirst for writing. And everything is connected to everything, so by uttering words naturally it follows more will flow.

Likewise,

There is an abundance of time.
I can pursue a single idea because even if it turns out to be silly or superficial, I can turn that page aside and dive into another idea. I can do this again and again… and again. This may sound like I am saying I could spend more time, not less, frittering in these distractions. But to the contrary: there is a desperateness to that distracted state – if time were air it would be like drowning. Attention flailing back and forth between tasks like arms thrashing back and forth trying to stay afloat. Spits and starts at tasks like gasps for air, all the while feeling my lungs fill with water. There is an abundance of time, if you are not grabbing at it but letting it flow.

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#reverb10: let me explain.

Two days ago I signed up for an online writing project called #reverb10: for each of the 31 days of December a topic / prompt is posed to me (and a couple of thousand other people), and I (and a couple of thousand other people) will attempt to respond to it through writing, photographs and music. These daily musings are with a goal to “reflect on this year and manifest what’s next.” (http://www.reverb10.com)

Well. I signed up this project already seven days in and immediately procrastinated an additional two, that means I am now nine days worth of musings behind here. I will have to hustle to catch up!

Which is why that first entry was so scant, so barren. I knew I had to leap in… gently. Let this be the momentum I need to engage in this project for realsies now!

(PS Thanks Christine Bougie for introducing me to this project.)

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#reverb10 (December 1 – One Word)

December 1 – One Word. Encapsulate the year 2010 in one word. Explain why you’re choosing that word. Now, imagine it’s one year from today, what would you like the word to be that captures 2011 for you?

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2010: Leaping.
2011: Gently.

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NOTEBOOK ENTRY #21

mindful whimsy
weathered coward
fugitive imprint
punctured tone
flagrant pastry
little fellow kingfish

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NOTEBOOK ENTRY #20

tympanic hush
lisping eloquence
tittering moan
relentless interlude
glacial fury
clipping stupor

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Some Days It Surprises Me.

Here is another excerpt from the book I created during a writing course in the winter of 2009.

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Some days it surprises me that I find the courage to step out of my bedroom and down the stairs through the living room, to the hallway to the door, to step outside the door. To be stepped out on the doorstep, to let my self step outside of it, when every cell in my body is screaming like an old washing machine, spinning with a rackety-clack. Getting off-balanced, complaining about the load. Tilting with the weight of the laundry. Hanging it all out to dry for the neighbours to pick through, pick apart like buzzards perching up on the feeder, looking for a little nectar, for a mouse gone belly up in heart attack after the gas kicked in and chased her and her babies from the nest behind the stove.

I am not controlling this; I am trusting these metaphors are for something more and not just the winding down of my brain, early onset Alzheimer, maybe or too much booze not enough sunshine, or a heart that is shattered and the layer of sebaceous matter forming above the wound to cushion me from the sharp pain of my brokenness. This piece I hold in my hand, like a pen ripe with ink but holding it back lest my feelings leak out all over the page.

And this surprises me, yes. That I would even care. For once I was the queen of love, and I broke hearts not the other way around. But now, like a rocket on its way home, I find only a narrow angle for safe reentry.

Lord I was born a rambling man. Lord, I was born. A man, a rambling man. A wanderer on the holy sands. Forty years I walked that desert searching for my people. And I am sure that I have found my God is no less a beggar than I. Pleading with the universe “Don’t leave me alone like this,” he said, “for in between matter there is space, and in that space is where we ask why.”

It surprises me that I am willing to become a member of the Lateral Thinkers Bowling League, to strike up conversation because I believe in the gutters between thoughts – that truth is truly alive in imagination, that my story is told through my willingness to tell a story. My pleasure of spinning yarn, knitting tea cozies, of keeping the teapot warm. Lemme pour you a cuppa while we sit by the electric fire in my grandparents house in post war England. Where I swing my arms wildly and still don’t touch the years already past. But that somewhere in this rambling page, there is a modicum of truth.

Some days it surprises me that I still yearn to be loved. You’d think my life had wandered far enough down the loneliness path that I’d be used to it and no longer minded being alone. Grab my picnic basket, and be satisfied by my jaunt through the woods to grandma’s house – enticed by the wolves. I want to be saved. I want to be consumed. Ah, now I am spinning fables, aren’t I? Aren’t I? How do I shake these creepy feelings, like brushing spider webs away from my face long after the attic’s been cleared out.

Some days it surprises me that I haven’t given up. I am relentlessly hopeful. In every stranger’s face I see the kernel of love. It surprises me that I have yet to be recognized by someone as the beautiful, adorable, complex, sexy, intelligent, creative, engaging being that I am. Or maybe what surprises me is that I have yet to recognize it in myself. Every year this aching sadness creeps further upon me like shadows creaking across floor boards, like an animated story of a little girl tucked up in the blankets of her bed, and the relief she feels to realize that it was never a boogie man. That she was always safe.

(FEBRUARY 17, 2009)

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I Love!

I have a secret passion that I’ve been pursuing for about two years now. I have been studying improv comedy. Heck, I’m funny! Sure. Of course originally I started taking classes to deal with writer’s block, because when you’re standing on a blank stage with no idea what you and your scene partner are going to say, it requires you to get out of your head and say anything. I have been hoping to tap into this spirit of “there are no mistakes” as a carry over into my song writing.

I gotta tell you, it is utterly scary for me, getting up on stage without script or props or a guitar to hide behind. I spend a lot of time feeling like a dweeb, but there is something compelling about it that keeps me going back for more.

In spite of my nerves, yesterday I started yet another a new improv class at a place called Impatient Theatre in Toronto. My teacher, Jess Grant, is fabulous! My fellow fourteen or so classmate are also amazing, bubbling with energy and openness.

One of the first games we played is called “I love…” Using a stop watch set at two minutes, each person in the class got up and listed things off the top of their head starting with the phrase “I love…” Meanwhile, the rest of the class applauded and hooted uproariously in support. It was magical! A room full of strangers opening themselves to each other. An incredibly vulnerable thing to do. There were some overlapping themes, but each person’s list was unique to themselves, and fascinating to hear. Sometimes as a person spoke their loves out loud, they would surprise themselves. I discovered that I love cleaning my glasses! Heh.

I recommend you try this game sometime… or many times… maybe as an ice breaker at a party.

Today I did an adapted version by writing it down instead of saying it out loud. (Practical note: I made the time a little longer to compensate for the fact it takes longer to write.)

Here’s what I wrote (completely unedited, except for paragraph breaks to indicate breaths):

I LOVE

I love mint chocolate chip ice cream. I love the end of an ice cream cone when the cream has melted into the tip and it’s like a miniature ice cream cone, cuz you nibble it down.

I love my red plaid pants, I love how their pockets fit on me. I love wearing my soft turtleneck sweater with stripes on it. I love shiny things. I love collecting oddibles, oddities like junk from the curb that nobody wants. little curious knickknacks – figurines and my lite brite, and I love putting up different pictures next to each other – different colours. I love cleaning counter tops.

I love after the dishes are done and they’re stacked in the drainer. It feels tidier than when they’ve been put away. I love sleeping on the couch.

I love walking down Queen Street in Parkdale and making eye contact with people and smiling at them. I love when I take the TTC, and every transferring bus or subway arrives exactly 10 seconds after me, so that I can just hop on without waiting. I love when I’m on time.

I love coffee, like tasty dark roasted coffee, first thing in the morning (which means 10 or 11am on a good day). I love writing a satisfying sentence. I love finding four leaf clovers just by glancing down. I love my snow boots, my big brown sorrels that are so warm.

I love running into a friend at a live music show. I love singing at a concert. I love fingering CD covers and the surface of smooth books. I love getting shiatsu and how soft my muscles are afterwards.

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The One Book I Carry

As I was unpacking things in my new place, I came across a book I created during a writing course in the winter of 2009. Since this blog is turning into a journey about writing, it seems appropriate to add some of it here…

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February 3, 2009

LAVISH see PROFUSE
LAZY, indolent, slothful
PERFECT, whole, entire, intact

Not surprisingly, the one book I carry with me throughout my life is the thesaurus. Well, the actual book I’m thinking of is a dictionary of synonyms, which is slightly different than Roget’s thesaurus in that it also has the bonus of mini definitions for word usage, though everyone understands the broad category of “thesaurus” – synonym for “synonym”, perhaps.

Like fridge magnets I am drawn to words as the definer of self. My love of nuance between word choices a parallel of my love of fine detail. My love of metaphor, a lifelong effort to cleave meaning from the giant stone in my belly; the weight I have been lugging around with me. To chip away, form my sorrow into finely carved sculpture. To create beauty and art from pain.

I am quite comfortable on the page rolling words around the tip of the pen – and find joy in the physical act of writing and clarity in the written word. But curiously enough, it is not so to form those same consonants and vowels in air. I am always living on the tip of my tongue, like a girl peering over the edge of the diving board, afraid, nay terrified of leaping into the pool. Tongue-tied. Curious for a woman whose career places her on stage in front of audiences across the country, singing from the depths of that same water. But to speak rather than sing has the adrenaline squirting through my body in overdrive.

There is, I suppose, in the choice to bring the thesaurus with me in my travel through the years both an honouring of the beauty of the words, but also I wonder, should I get the larger, heavier full edition so that I can whap it against my skull like those monks in procession on Monty Python [based on a real sect, the ‘flagellators’ I think?] To acknowledge my deep seat inferiority complex. In an attempt to catch the smarty bus, I fortify myself with words, words, ever full of words – like a mitt full of tokens thrown down as fare as if this will put my bus into warp overdrive, and I will catch up with the years I’ve lost to the ravages of grief. The healing of my childhood, making up the lost time looking for the lost child.

But how reactionary to the idea that I would love words, could savour the subtleties of meaning, delight in the twenty shades of snow, the fifty types of rain. How many types of sadness have I experienced? How many shades of joy? This thesaurus honours my work at turning what was once a black and white world as a young woman standing on the doorstop of crisis to discover that the world is actually colourful, variegated, that there is more than the dichotomy of perfect and rotten. Rather there is a whole range of ambiguity, ambivalence, pondering, spontaneity and choice.

And now, speaking of choice, I’m thinking, hey, I could add to this book. I’m already teeming with the delightful realization that my story can be described with attention to detail rather than broad and clumsy strokes of “uh yah, her… she was born, she lives, she will die.” That my life gaily skips along the path stopping to admire minute details, spring foliage, moss on limestone, spackled light on an ash tree. And so, delight with words and my aspirations can even be greater. That I want to make *my* book the sort of book that is printed on onion skin paper, like those tomes set on special tables in the middle of libraries. Paper – soft, tactile invites both intellectual discovery of the text on page and also the discovery that the sensual world, the delicate crinkly sound as you flip the pages, is equally relevant to the discovery of meaning, the purpose of this life here on earth.

And I am inspired to tape maps of the Netherlands and places where I’d like to travel into its pages. Add collages I have made, and a recipe for shortbread. Add ink drawings, doodles in the margin, lyrics of songs I have written or songs I love that other people have written. Photos of work by people who inspire me, the copy of the string arrangement score that I recently wrote. Found poems and typed copies of these little essays I am writing for this course. A photocopy of a photo of my face pressed up into the screen on a window looking out into a winter garden at my old farm. I haven’t taken that photo yet, but I will have to.

I am trying to decide if this writing is helping to address this lingering crankiness I am feeling in the past few weeks. If I only could thumb through the thesaurus to find exactly the words that would have kept you interested in connecting with me.

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(2) I LIKE GAMES

Here’s a game for the word nerd in you. Randomly pluck five adjectives and five nouns from the dictionary, then rotate them through different pairs to see which combination sounds best.

I did this one just now:

Adjectives: mellow, stable, oncoming, thumping, full frontal
Nouns: bouncer, depreciation, leather, retort, smattering

  • full frontal bouncer
    mellow depreciation
    oncoming leather
    stable retort
    thumping smattering
  • thumping bouncer
    full frontal depreciation
    mellow leather
    oncoming retort
    stable smattering
  • stable bouncer
    thumping depreciation
    full frontal leather
    mellow retort
    oncoming smattering
  • oncoming bouncer
    stable depreciation
    thumping leather
    full frontal retort
    mellow smattering
  • mellow bouncer
    oncoming depreciation
    stable leather
    thumping retort
    full frontal smattering

Becomes a poem of sorts.

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