Nanowrimo is upon us. Well, it’s upon me, and I like to think that we’re all in this together, even though I know it’s just me and my cats. Well, at least one of the cats. The other one doesn’t give a shit.
I’m alway mid-novel when the inspiration for the next one comes, and it’s always different. No formula, no easy way to plot it, just a story and characters that poke their heads out from behind the curtain of my overactive imagination and dance naked across the stage, strategically covering their most interesting bits.
I have yet to hear the countdown of my editing wrestling match with my novel from last year, but I’m planning a giant flying pile driver from the top rope to finally stun that thing into submission. Yes, it’s starting to feel like an opponent, and I’m not about to let it pin my creative shoulders to the mat.
It sounds aggressive, but I have to be. With enthusiastic characters waiting in the wings, I don’t have time to mess around with it any more. I need to make friends with my new folks. The ones that seem kinda normal, but lead extraordinary lives.
My next novel is about choice, surrender vs. giving up, contentment vs. greed, and the different ways in which passion manifests as we stride through mid-life. I hope that you will see yourself in my every-woman characters, laugh, cry (maybe not so much), and gasp at the ending.
To all of my fellow Nanowrimo authors, I hope that your prep time is as lush with new character creations as mine is.
Most of you know that I have recently moved. I live in a very strange community that has come to make me appreciate the effects of foreign property investment on our ‘communities’. In effect, all of the empty grand homes in our neighbourhood are mostly empty, with lights on timers, regular professional landscaping, and someone who clears the local newspaper and flyer delivery from their front porch. There is no neighbourhood here, only bank accounts in the form of houses.
It robs us of community. It robs us of mom and pop shops able to keep their doors open to provide goods and services for the neighbourhood.
Yesterday I popped in to a local Starbucks for a delightfully refreshing iced drink, and while I was waiting for my sweetie’s pour-over, I turn to the community board as I’m often want to do.
This is what I saw;
A picture is worth a thousand words. Nothing. There is regularly nothing related to community posted on this board. Despite there being a steady stream of people in line to buy their caffeinated bevvies at all hours through the weekdays and on the weekends, there is little if any sense of community.
I’m a writer, and admittedly, I’ve spent way too much time in coffee shops picking away at my keyboard, and I’ve spent way too much money on coffee. I have however honed a keen sense of place while I’m out and about mooching free office space.
I have never (not even once) settled into this location for my hour long writing sessions, arranged for a meeting with friends, or lingered any longer than it takes to make my Sunday-morning-one-bag-in-one-bag-out herbal tea.
This weekend in Toronto while getting settled in to a workshop, I was recommended to a coffee shop just down the street from where we were gathering. And this is what their community board looked like;
I stopped, took off my coat, enjoyed a cup of tea, and ordered one to go. The staff were so friendly, and vibe was so great, that I came back again after my workshop and tried their menu with a pal who was in the neighbourhood. $70.00 later I felt like I had a new place to add to my favourites. Lesson learned; a sense of community translates to profit.
Earlier this week, I was back in my old stomping grounds at my favourite Starbucks in Mississauga, and their community board looked like this;
When your community boards are empty at informal meeting spaces like coffee shops, there is a fundamental problem within the local community. There is a disconnect. People go out to write, to gather, and to get their over-priced half-caf-low-fat-made-exclusively-for-me beverages because they are craving connection as much as they are craving sugar and caffeine.
When your community board is empty, I challenge you to go out and find one that is overflowing with posters for yoga in the park, poetry readings, amateur nights at the local coffee house. I guarantee you’ll be a happier, healthier person.
Aggie the cat was stretched out on the roof, just past the glass of the window that was tipped open to allow her coming and going. Taped to the glass was the vintage orange, cover of Tennessee Williams’, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. You would have had to be a complete idiot to have missed the pun.
It was tucked up in the reading room of Shakespeare and Company that I read, in its’ entirety, Neil Gaiman’s, Art Matters. Amongst all of the old, hard cover, well-bound books that had possibly been in the hands of James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway or even Gertrude Stein, I soaked up the love of storytelling written by one of our contemporary masters.
Valentine’s day is the one day a year that we set aside to tell our love stories. There are very few of us who have lifetime love stories to tell, about meeting, marrying, raising children, and living into our twilight years hand in hand with our soul mate. But this isn’t the only love story. Love does not follow a script. It follows the heart, and hopefully, if you are lucky enough, you have, by mid-life ,a small collection of stories that continue to inspire you.
Spending time in Paris, tucked up on the old daybeds of Shakespeare and Company will always be one of those stories. The syncronicity of how I met my late, angel-to-artists friend Nick Beat is another.
Stories are the thread that binds the fabric of our collective experience. Sharing them should be treated as a sacred honour, worthy of our full attention. Worthy of dedicated time to gather and share.
February is mostly past. Valentine’s day is over. Our love stories involve more than romance and fairy tales. Don’t forget that. Celebrate all of those things that make you vibrant; tell your stories.
Like most adults, the magic of Christmas wanes with each passing year. This year I’m struggling to grasp that spirit at all, even a tiny shred of it.
I absolutely love getting out for Christmas dinners with my friends, I enjoy strolling the markets, and listening to Christmas music. I realized just how un-Christmasy my life is this year after reading an update from my cousin this morning about having his first Christmas dinner in the books.
This after waking up and staring at the ceiling of what used to be my writing room, and thinking just that…this does not feel like Christmas.
When I was a young mother, doting on my son, baking, cooking and inviting friends into our home made the season so very special. Long past having a big wish list, I have always used Christmas as an excuse to connect with the people in my life whom I don’t get to spend time with often enough. It’s a special part of the year that carries me through, having reinforced the bonds of these precious friendships.
But not this year. This year I am bound to the house, run off my feet, and honestly, feeling lonesome for those friends.
Loneliness and isolation can make a pathetic woman, and I am anything but that. So this year, albeit late in the season, I’m going to begin my efforts to connect with the special people in my life. The sustenance of kindred spirits during times like this is essential to anyone’s well-being.
In years past, I used to host an event on the eve of winter solstice called, “The Longest Night”, where my friends would gather, bringing a piece of art (writing, music, visual art) to share with the group. The theme was always sharing light in the darkness. Celebrating the darkness where mystery was waiting to be revealed, ideas were ruminating, and reminding everyone that there is beauty even in the mystery of the dark.
So this year, once again, I’m hoping more selfishly than ever that my friends arrive in the darkness, to be received into the warmth of a circle of friends.
Like sand through my fingers, it just seemed to slip away. Almost like that’s how it was always meant to be. Withered up alongside all of the tidy, check-marked boxes of my responsible, adult life.
It was part of my life that I cherished dearly. It was something that belonged to me and only me. It was the reason I stayed sane and productive and didn’t just get in my car one day and never come back. Don’t get me wrong, I would have taken my kid with me, and I’m sure we would have had an awesome playlist, but you get where I’m going with this.
That little scrap of sanity was my weekly writing date. More often than not, I would find myself at the AGO, or at one of my favourite Starbucks in Mississauga. At the museum it was poetic verse in a small Moleskine, with a glass of wine and lunch. At Starbucks I usually had my laptop and a latte, maybe a scone if I felt indulgent.
It sounds very simple, and not like much of an oasis of luxury, but it was luxurious solitude during a busy time of my life.
Now I have a beautiful writing room with windows and an altar, and enough of my precious book collection lining the walls that I feel justified in my efforts to write something of significance.
But my writing dates have stopped. I’ve stopped taking myself out, and being inspired by other people’s art, or even the regulars at my local Starbucks. And I miss it.
One of my resolutions (I hate resolutions) leading up to (so as not to be an official new year’s resolution) the new year is to take myself out on weekly writing dates again.
I can already picture myself at the McMichael gallery, swallowed up by the beauty of the gallery and the grounds, completely blissful in my solitude. I’m excited to slowly become a regular at my local cafe, where they wonder what I’m writing, but they know exactly how I like my coffee…steaming hot. The hottest of dates are always the ones that kept me creative, interested & engaged. I hope to see you out there fanning the flames of your own creative fire.
For a quick insight into my own process when the fire has died, I offer you this;
The newspaper. Yes. Paper. Go buy a print copy and flip to the editorials and opinion sections. Browse the arts and see what other fearless creatives are doing. Write about your thoughts.
Daily meditation. I used Goddess 365. Sometimes I’m faithful, and other times she waits a week or two before I give her any attention. Ah, but she is faithful and patient. Read, give some kind of offering even if it’s a silent tribute of gratitude or visualization. If you need altar supplies, I suggest Wonderworks.
An oldie, but a goodie, especially for sensual writer-types; Fruit Flesh
Don’t forget to carry a notebook. Take yourself for a walk without being plugged in to a playlist or a podcast. Let your mind relax and wander all on its own. But most importantly, put pen to paper. Doodle at first if you must, but don’t give up.
I’ve been writing, and chiding myself for not writing enough for what seems like a life time.
Often my blogs are a ritual of sorts before I get down to the real business of writing my novel.
My poor novel.
It’s been neglected for a couple of years now, and it’s time I either gave it wings, or set it free to find someone else to write the story. I am a believer in the vision of creativity that Elizabeth Gilbert explains in Big Magic ; Either use it or lose it, and I’m on the very precipice of losing it.
Already there is a movie in the theatres called, Mother. That’s the main character of my novel, and just a couple weeks ago I met a dog named Clover…another character in my novel.
The universe is sending me signs that it’s time to write or drop my pen. So, I’ve decided I must make a serious commitment to my writing.
This is the year I commit to NaNoWriMo. This is the year the rest of the things that tug on my shirt tails for attention get a swat. This is the year that I re-establish myself as a regular at a local coffee shop and get lost in my own little world of characters and creativity.