In May I bought a Nikon Coolpix S8200. This weekend I had some time to play with its features. Finally, I have a point and click camera that can help me to capture moments with more accuracy. The pictures seemed to instinctually know what I wanted.
As we toured around Georgian Bay in mom and dad’s pontoon boat I experimented with the camera’s features. I am excited about the possibilities of using photography with writing.
How do you use photography and writing?
Creative living. It sounds like a section in a fancy lamp store. Creative living is about light and design, so maybe the lamp store idea is not too far off.
A creative life is dynamic, purposeful, energized, connected, expressive, and open. To begin a creative life just turn on the lamp, let the light shine on who you are and who you want to be, for at its core a creative life is about you. It is about a deep sense of self and an understanding of purpose. Continue reading
People who love poetry can spend hours contemplating a ten-word world. To love poetry you need to love words and word placement. Poetry can be intentional, intuitive, musical, thought-provoking: really, it can be as exciting or boring as any other type of writing. But there is something unique in poetry, something that makes me slow down when I read so I can taste the words, something that makes my coworkers wrinkle their noses, something that makes poets the most under-celebrated group of writers in North America.
Why does poetry have a bad rap? What happened to the days when ladies in long gowns and gentlemen in riding boots sat around on uncomfortable high backed chairs reading Byron? Why do high school students across Canada collectively groan when their teachers write the word “Poetry” on the board to indicate the next unit of study? Continue reading
Tonight after dinner, before I left for an evening walk, I reached into a pocket of my large black Matt & Nat bag hoping to find a pen. Instead I found some keys. Lost keys appear at odd times.
In December I spent hours looking for keys to open my writing trunk. Years ago I bought a large tool trunk to store old notebooks and writing projects. I secured the trunk with two locks. The trunk has been locked for about five years. I could not remember what was inside other than some old notebooks and drafts of my plays.
What can we learn about our writing by looking at the work we did as a child? Continue reading
Since the Oscars in February the video about the Bechdel Test has been passed around on Facebook, Twitter, and via email. A couple days ago I told a friend of mine about the test. He teaches film but does not have Facebook. Since then the Bechdel Test has been on my mind.
To pass the Bechdel Test a story needs to have at least two female characters with names who talk to each other about something other than a man. Continue reading
In August 2011 I barely started writing the story of Leilah. While on a writing retreat I spent two mornings exploring story and character. When I got home I put the story aside, too busy with other things to continue. For the last three months Leilah has beckoned me to the page, wanting me to tell her story. I do not really know who Leilah is exactly. She is a lot like me and nothing like me at all. Likewise, Leilah is a woman of paradox.
Leilah, a quiet woman in her late thirties, teaches creative writing in a Community Centre for senior citizens in present day downtown Toronto. I do not want to give too much away yet. Three basic components of the story:
- Leilah is on a quest for a particular pair of beaded moccasins
- Traditional understandings of time and space are challenged
- Leilah’s friends may surprise you Continue reading
We know it as the writing process. When I think about processes I think of a linear sequence, a set number of steps from beginning to end. In the computing world, a process is the execution of a program sometimes utilizing multiple threads of execution at the same time. It implies multitasking. In science a process is a method that results in transformation. For example, birth is a process.
Then I start thinking about writing as a cycle. We began this workshop mining for ideas, hoping to begin a writing project. We cycled through getting the idea down on paper, adding layers of meaning, revising and editing until the work is ready to publish. In Lesson #7 we looked at the experiential learning cycle. It moves through experience, reflection, theory, and action. As writers we can move through idea, reflection, research, and writing. When we feel the writing is done we return to the first phase: idea. The cycle continues rolling as long as we are writing.
I prefer the writing spiral. A spiral is not linear. A spiral does not need to be predictable. A spiral does not risk the monotony of going in circles. A writing spiral twirls and swirls, picking up ideas, revealing layers, going deeper into our craft with each step. Everything is connected. Change is inevitable. When we engage in a writing spiral the energy is vibrant. The writing spiral begins at a central point, at who we are as writers, and progressively winds around our emotions, experiences, and actual work. Continue reading
Does a writing project ever truly feel finished? Sometimes I wish writers could be more like movie stars. Johnny Depp rarely (if ever) watches a film in which he is starring. Depp does not see revisiting the work as serving a purpose. When the filming is over, his contribution to the process completed, Depp walks to the next project without looking back. Depp knows when his work with a film project is done. Depp’s line in the sand is absolute.
My writing projects tend be done-ish when I reach the deadline. There comes a point in the writing process where I step back and allow the work to move on, much like an independent teenager who is ready to enter adulthood. I will have given the work all I can with the time and the resources available. I will close my eyes, make a wish, and blow the work out into the world to meet its fate. Continue reading
Tuesday after work I stopped at the bookstore. I love the energy of rows of shelves of books. Even if I am too busy to read I like to have books around. I like to buy books, borrow books, share books, and admire books.
Among the few memories I have of elementary school, I remember reading. I remember Mr. Muggs, Clifford the Big Red Dog, and I Am A Duck. Mom signed me up for a Dr. Seuss book club. Each month a new book arrived in the mail. I stretched out on my bed in my room with the Holly Hobby wallpaper for hours whispering the rhyming stories to my dolls. At night I often hid a book under the sheets. When the house was quiet I would slip under the covers, straining my eyes to read in the dark. Sometimes I brought a flashlight.
Books delight. Ralph and the Motorcycle Mouse, How to Eat Fried Worms, Are You There God It’s Me Margaret, Tiger Eyes, Deeny, A Wrinkle in Time, Little Women, and the Neverending Story borrowed from the school library. Sweet Valley High, Flowers in the Attic, and Stand by Me purchased at the used bookstore.
Books engage. I read The Great Gatsby on a car trip, The Edible Woman at the cottage, Gone with the Wind in the boat. I read on the floor, at the arena, in the backyard. Not surprisingly, English was my favourite course in high school. I adored studying literature in university.
Books entertain. My reading preferences spiralled through phases. The Robertson Davies Phase. The Bronte Phase. The CanLit Phase. The Historical Romance (set in Italy or England) Phase. The Harry Potter Phase. The Self-Help Phase. The Oprah Phase. The Giller Phase. Continue reading
It is a typical Friday night. I get home from work just before six. The house is empty at first. I turn on the television or the radio to fill the space. I look out the window. I notice the way the last ray of sun reflects off the house across the street. I feel relieved and worried that I have not made any plans. Lately, the weekends I enjoy most are the ones when I am alone.
It is comforting to sit in a quiet house, but not at first. Entering solitude is not as simple as walking through a doorway. It is more like waiting at the station for a train that does not keep to a schedule.
Saturday morning I awake saddened that my home is still empty, overwhelmed by the vastness of a blank day after a busy week. I watch television while I eat breakfast. Around 9:00 am I check in with family via phone or email. Then I tidy the house, make the bed, have a shower, and start the laundry. The idea of writing trails me like a kid sister from room to room.
It is lunch time. The need to write begins to hum a gentle tune as I prepare a salad. After I eat I turn on the kettle. Before the water is boiled my laptop is ready, the writing song is stronger. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, glance at the page, and type.
The words are slow at first, forced. Long pauses sit between words and sentences and paragraphs. I wait patiently for my train of thought to move forward. I breathe into the pauses. I let the words rise onto the page as if they are emerging buds in springtime.
Each pause is like stepping onto a new stone toward solitude. The words do not scroll across my mind’s eye as they do when I am walking. The words bubble up from a place deep within my creative spirit.
As I write this post I am trying to be aware of the meditative journey to solitude through the writing process. I am surprised that when I write from this place I am not aware of logic. I am not conscious of what I have written in the previous sentence or what I will write in the next sentence.
I spend hours writing in solitude. Suddenly, it is night. The afternoon’s sun has faded, dusk has turned to darkness. It is time to prepare dinner. Once I arrive at a state of solitude it is with me until I leave the house for work on Monday morning. I feel peace. It is in this place that I do my best work. Continue reading