A review of my week in no particular order.
I ran into a colleague outside Shoppers Drug Mart.
“I need to rake this weekend,” she said.
I imagined the prongs of the rake crawling along the drowsy grass, gently inviting… Continue reading
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
When your project is ready, it is time to find it an audience. This is the part of the process where I often get stuck. The process moves from creating to selling. Some writers find the business side of writing to be a drag. Sending out your manuscript to an agent or a publisher takes planning and preparation. It takes time and perseverence.
Some writers are experts at submitting manuscripts. This group of writers sends out daily query letters, weekly follow-ups, frequent pushes at the industry until they find their work a home. They tend to get more work published than the first group.
What is your relationship with the publishing process? Have you found homes for your work? How much time do you give to the business of writing?
So, imagine you have finished writing your debut novel. First, format the manuscript to industry standard. Find an agent. Find a market for your work. Send query letters to publishers. It seems simple but it is a process that eludes me consistently. I need to develop more patience for the business of writing.
Agents help support the business side of writing. According to my research, agents will take 15% from the sale for placing the book with a publisher, negotiating a contract, and in some cases, providing editorial advice.
In the book industry, sales do not indicate reading. Someone may buy the book and never read it. Or, someone may buy the book, read the book, and then share the book with a dozen friends. Continue reading
Inevitably I get bored in every creative project. From singing for an audience to painting with watercolours to acting in a community production to writing a novel or play, I get bored. The work loses its energy and zoom. Distractions appeal to me. I start to lose faith in the work and the process. This is not writer’s block, but a general malaise toward the work.
I have a box of unfinished projects. I started my first novel in the fall of 1998. I was a student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. I spent hours researching and writing the story of Tess, a modern rendering of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I was fascinated by the idea of a “fallen” protagonist, a hero who is also a victim. I rewrote the first eighty pages for five years and then I put the project in a box. Continue reading
How do you decide which pieces of yourself you will share with your audience? Sometimes when I write I choose superficial topics. I write about a trip to the grocery store or a memory of writing an exam in high school. Sometimes when I write I linger in the comfortable stories of my childhood, of my adolesence, of my every day. Sometimes when I write I think of my mom and dad and friends and coworkers and boss. Sometimes I wish I had an alias.
I have never stood naked in front of a crowd, but some days when I share my writing I feel bare, exposed, open. I feel like everyone stares at me with x-ray vision that pierces through my clothes, through my skin and blood and bones, into my spirit. I feel like a contestant on American Idol stuck in the moment between when the song is finished and when the judges share feedback. The air tastes like saltine crackers. My hands are cold. My breath is short. Tears of anticipation puddle in the corners of my eyes.
A couple of times a week I walk along Lake Ontario. I sit by the water and watch the waves roll in and out. The sun warms my face. I feel connected to God and country and family and life in general. One Saturday morning I realized that being near open water, feeling the sunshine and the breeze and the peace, that I was wholly myself. Expectation and ego, gone. Past and future, irrelevant. This is me, I thought. Right here, right now, I am me. This feels good. I closed my eyes and slipped into the moment. Vulnerability did not exist. I felt safe.
In solitude we connect to our true selves. We write who we are, but we also choose what we write. Why does a state of being that feels so safe in meditation look so frightening when it is translated to the page? Should writers bare their souls? Continue reading