Category Archives: Writing

When Work Doesn’t Feel Like Work

An overhead shot of a writing desk, containing a pen, a pad of paper and a cup of coffee.Not too long ago, I was having a discussion with the cat, trying to nudge her along in her morning routine so that I could get back to the computer and my latest writing project.

The words out of my mouth made me pause for thought: “Please Ivy, Daddy needs to get back to work.”

I think that I said the word “work” out of habit more than anything else. But I started questioning whether it really was the most appropriate word to describe the fun I have pursuing my calling for writing and storytelling.

If you have read any of my blog posts over the last eight years, you know that this what I have been preparing for, to apply everything I’ve learned about writing through the years and being able to create for the pure enjoyment of it.

It was my #1 plan for my retirement years, and I am finally at the desk, downloading ideas from my brain, at a rate that sometimes surprises myself. With so many writing projects that have been buzzing around in my head for years, I feel like I am in a pretty crazy catch-up mode.

But is it “work”? To me, it doesn’t feel like it.

The various definitions online seem to follow a common core, but some are tainted with a negative slant or synonyms like “toil”, “exertion”, “drudgery” and “grind.” Continue reading

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Deadlines: Friend or Foe?

After three decades working in the public sector, I am no stranger to deadlines.

Frankly, I don’t have a problem with them. If a colleague, a client or an executive needs quick information to enable them to take action, I am more than happy to make that happen.

I don’t know who hit the fast forward button in late 2012, but it seems that around that time deliverables seemed to increase in quantity and deadlines seemed to get progressively shorter.

I tried to adapt as best as I could and along the way, I noticed a contrast in how I was able to take some deadlines in stride while others had hair-raising, stress-provoking, anxiety-inducing effects.

For example, preparing briefing notes and status updates didn’t scare me. If I was actively involved in a file, describing its background, evolution and next steps seemed to come pretty naturally. To me, those were low-stress, easy deadlines to meet.

For the most part, solving client problems was also a straightforward process for me, a lot like solving math problems in school. I was pretty comfortable with those deadlines as well.

But surprisingly, it was the written assignments that were more of a wild card.

If a request was for something short, concise and to the point, I could usually pull that together in good time, no problem there. Continue reading

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Spell It Out!

A close up shot of a computer keyboardOver the span of my career, I took great joy in preparing drafts of memos, briefing notes and all kinds of correspondence for my management team. Naturally, I learned a lot along the way and I was more than happy to pass on to the advice to the newest generation when it was my turn to coach them.

In the early days, one comment that came back a few times was the editing note, “in full first”.

By saying that, my director was suggesting that I should write out an acronym in full the first time it appeared in the document and then to include its acronym version in parentheses. Once that is clarified to the reader, the writer can then feel free to use the acronym in its shortened form throughout the rest of the document.

What sage advice that was! To this day, I really appreciate the time, effort and patience that this busy executive took in tutoring me on the importance of spelling out an acronym.

She explained that an acronym that might be commonly used by my peers and myself might not be evident to someone on another team, someone who isn’t involved in the technical aspects of the work, or someone outside of our organization. Continue reading

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What Am I Gonna Wear?

A few years back, I wrote a blog post called “My Writer’s Uniform” in which I speculated on what I might be wearing in retirement when I would be free from office dress codes and pursuing my life’s purpose in writing. Of course, the pandemic was nowhere on our radar at that time.

In 2020, when we started working from home due to the pandemic, the line between home life and work life quickly blurred. That being the case, I made a point of putting on jeans during working hours. When I was off the clock, I could relax and cozy up in my comfortable sweat pants and sweat shirts. In my mind, this helped with the boundary setting between work and home.

In 2021 when I retired, it came as no surprise that the sweats became the default outfit. After 33 years of getting dressed for work, I appreciated the break from the pressure of putting on the office “armour.” However, when I was making public appearances like in-person appointments or running errands, I was more than happy to build a comfortable outfit around my favourite jeans.

But it was early in 2022, when I knew it was time to put my nose to the grindstone and answer life’s calling in writing that the wardrobe question came up again. With this next phase in life just beginning, I could not imagine spending the next 30, 40 or 50 years in sweat pants. There had to be a happy medium.

As I was waking up one morning, I looked over at the sweat pant and sweat shirt ensemble I had hung on the door handle in preparation for that day. I asked myself, “Does this outfit really make me feel more creative?” Continue reading

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10 Favourite Typos

A close up shot of a computer keyboardI never learned touch typing.

Believe it or not, I type with the thumbs, indexes and middle fingers of both hands, it’s a weird hybrid six finger technique that I developed myself that has stayed with me for more than 40 years.

In having written as much as I have, I know intuitively where all of the keys are. The six fingers in question know when to engage to hit the right keys. As a result, I rarely need to look down and can get words committed to paper pretty accurately.

But back at the office, I recall situations when accuracy suffered… often! It is amazing how last-minute urgent requests, conflicting priorities and needing to be in multiple places at once can conspire to help me conjure up a whole new language… or completely mess up the ones I supposedly know already.

Similarly, auto-correct has tripped me up a few times. I type a word correctly but auto-correct changes it to something obscure, rudely incorrect, or a word that I use so rarely that it makes me wonder if someone else has been using my computer. This is one of the reasons why I have a hard time trusting artificial intelligence (AI).

For all of these reasons, proofreading BEFORE hitting the “Send” button is incredibly important.

Yet some of the typos I have produced over the years have been known to make me stop and enjoy the absurdity, the humour, or both.

For your enjoyment, here are ten of my favourite typos: Continue reading

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Capturing Life’s Complexity through Writing

An overhead shot of a writing desk, containing a pen, a pad of paper and a cup of coffee.Throughout my public sector career, writing was a constant. In my recent transition to retirement, I was so grateful to discover the portability of the writing skills that I had acquired along the way in helping me pursue my dream of creative writing.

I always enjoyed the process: A manager would give me the broad parameters of what they wanted to say in a written product and then would send me on my way to write the first draft. The next meeting usually involved reviewing the draft together and exchanging ideas on possible improvements. As we approached the final version, we fine-tuned the product together, ensuring that it met its intended purpose.

One of the comments that often challenged me along the way was the question, “Can we go deeper with this point?”

From my earliest days, I knew that the question could mean many different things and could lead down many different paths.

I recall it was always a delicate balance, not just adding depth, but value-added depth, propelling an idea forward without getting into the weeds. It was about adding quality without adding bulk.

That challenge made writing for the business world interesting and fun for me. When a document reached final approval, I was always left with a huge sense of satisfaction that I got the balance right. That joy was one of the signs to me that writing was my calling and life’s purpose. Continue reading

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When I Don’t Feel Like Writing

An overhead shot of a writing desk, containing a pen, a pad of paper and a cup of coffee.Recently, someone asked me if I ever have a day when I don’t feel like writing. The answer is absolutely yes.

Even though writing is my reason for jumping out of bed in the morning, it is possible to have an off-day.

To put things in context, I’ve known for at least fifteen years that writing was my calling. Writing is one of the activities that I can count on that gives me energy rather than depletes it. Writing relaxes me. Writing makes me feel whole. Writing makes me feel like I am connected (and connecting) to something greater.

When I create something that has never been written before, I get a sensation that feels like a runner’s high. Writing gives me a sense of euphoria. This is what keeps me going.

Also, I am very fortunate that in the back of my mind, ideas are constantly churning, blog themes are constantly being pitched and my fictional works are evolving and maturing.

For these reasons, I never lose interest.

But do I ever wake up some mornings and not want to write? Sure, but I don’t question it. Even the most passionate of writers can have an off day. Continue reading

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My Fascination with the “Director’s Commentary”

In my insatiable thirst for knowledge about the world of screenwriting, I recently (and accidentally, I might add) stumbled upon a learning tool that was right under my nose that had completely slipped my mind.

One day, in a moment of nostalgia, I decided to pull out the movie “Grease” and pop it into the Blu-Ray player. When the movie was over, I wandered over to the disc’s “Special Features” menu. The interview with the movie’s choreographer, Patricia (Pat) Birch, sounded like a lot of fun.

During the segment, Ms. Birch explains the complex logistics involved in choreographing the dance scenes for the 200 dancers. I found her explanations fascinating!

Once the veil of the behind-the-scenes magic had been lifted, I wanted to go back and re-watch three of my favourite numbers to see the end result.

I’m not sure how I did it, but I ended up watching those scenes with the “Director’s Commentary” track activated. In the special feature, director Randal Kleiser and Pat Birch discuss several of the technical aspects of the movie shoot, the logistics, the vision, and the collaborative and collective effort that went into the project. At the same time, they share their memories of the filming as well as fun facts and trivia. Continue reading

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Writing: Morning, Noon or Night?

When looking back over course of my journey as a writer, I find it interesting to note what has been my preferred time of day (or my “peak” time, if you prefer) for writing.

The fact that it has changed over the years as a result of life’s circumstances demonstrates to me that a peak time does not have to be a set time that will never change. The fact that the peak time can differ from one writer to another also proves that there is no right or wrong answer.

I think that the awareness of one’s peak time for writing is a huge asset, which allows one to capitalize upon that best time, to protect it and to schedule around it, whenever possible.

Back in my university years, my classes took place at pretty much any time of day from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. When you also add to the equation a part-time job that filled gaps between classes in addition to time for a social life, my sacred time for writing had to be late in the evening.

With my day fully behind me, I could feel a sense of calm and stillness. With the knowledge that my obligations were met and I wasn’t likely going to face any interruptions, I could easily get in the zone, whether for writing reports, essays, or the poetry I wrote on the side. The ideas and the words to convey them would come to me quite easily until about 1:00 a.m. Continue reading

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My First Script

I had been planning for it and talking about it long enough, it was time to roll my sleeves up and get to work on my first script.

The conditions were right:
– retired and having time on my hands,
– the right working environment (my studio),
– the right background music, and
– a number of completed blog posts, ready for posting, which frees my mind for other projects.

Whether you want to call it a New Year’s resolution or just simply a writing goal that happened to coincide with the New Year, my plan was to spend January in preparation mode for screenwriting.

Over the month, I absorbed training material like a sponge. I devoured every article, tweet and video I could find on the theme of screenwriting. Meanwhile, I jotted down several ideas for the outline for my first story. I also started the background research needed to fill in some of my knowledge gaps about my subject. It was a very productive month.

Then in February, it was time to start fleshing out the story. Given the amount of material that I could see flowing organically from my story, I set a target of eight episodes of roughly 40 minutes each.

I wouldn’t even rule out the idea of overwriting, creating more material than needed, and then trim back to what I think are the strongest story lines and subplots.

Does this project sound ambitious? It sure is! Continue reading

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