Tag Archives: artist

Managing Energy Vampires

An overhead shot of a writing desk, containing a pen, a pad of paper and a cup of coffee.You would think that given the almost perfect conditions I have set for myself for the purpose of writing, my writing sessions must be fruitful and uninterrupted.

First, I retired from a very busy career of 33 years, which has freed up several hours per day.

… I have time!

Also, following my retirement, I have had several months to relax, catch my breath and to recharge my batteries.

… I have energy!

Given our relocation to a rural property, I can feel my mind, body and soul slowing down with every breath. The profound calm and serenity of this great location allow my spirit to disconnect from the distractions that were always present when living and working in the city.

… I have peace and stillness!

The icing on the cake is that I have a comfortable studio in our home where I have the right ambiance and all of the tools I need to make my writing dreams come true.

… I have so much for which to be grateful!

But despite the best possible working conditions to keep me focused and on track, I admit that one of the challenges that still lurks in the background is my personal fight with energy vampires. Continue reading

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Filed under Health and Wellness, mental health, Writing

A Love of Writing or Storytelling?

A close up shot of a computer keyboardOn the approach to retirement, when I was asked what my future plans were, without really thinking about it, I always answered “writing”.

For as long as I can remember, with every passing year, I became increasingly aware that writing was my life’s purpose.

I was the kid whose bedroom was referred to as a “firetrap” due to the abundance of paper “masterpieces” scattered everywhere. I was the budding (but bad) poet in university. I was also the employee who raised his hand when management was looking for volunteers for challenging writing assignments.

Over the course of producing and editing thousands of pages of material for different executives and for different target audiences, I always felt more energized when completing writing assignments than with any other tasks. To me, that was a clear sign.

But it was only recently, during a drive to the city, that I realized that I might not have accurately articulated my retirement plans. Someone on the radio mentioned the word “storyteller”. This was a mind blowing moment for me, as it offered an important distinction I was missing.

In retirement, the suggestion comes up from time to time that if I love writing so much, why don’t I offer my services as a writer, either as a consultant or for community work. When that happens, in my head, I hear tires screeching to a sudden stop. Why is that? Continue reading

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My Guilt Trips over Books

The guilt… oh, the overwhelming guilt I feel when I place a book on the back burner and don’t get back to it for weeks or months at a time. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I feel awful.

I think it would be safe to say that I have always been an avid reader. In high school, when a novel was assigned to us for a book report, a presentation or a test, I would usually devour the book cover to cover on the Sunday, to ensure the information remained closely in my subconscious for the coming week.

It wasn’t that I was procrastinating, but with my brain processing so much new material from all of my classes, it was the most efficient way for me to ensure I was prepared to answer questions about the story.

The pace at which I learned to read (and to retain) became a wonderful life skill not only for my personal reading pleasure but also for my career, where I often needed to process great amounts of information to generate reports, recommendations, solutions or combinations of all three.

If I had to express a preference, I like to read at a more casual, relaxed pace, where I can truly savour every word, especially when the author’s masterpiece is a tour-de-force in brilliant writing. Savouring a book on a rainy or snowy Sunday, in my favourite chair, sipping a wonderful cup of tea, with the cat snoring next to me is paradise on earth. Still, there are times when regardless of how quickly or how slowly I may start a book, the words just don’t seem to sink in. Why is that?

Over the years, I became aware of the difference between a “light read” and a “heavy read” and how that affects the appropriate timing for introducing a book in one’s life.

During stressful times at work, heavy reads just would not sink in. In most cases, a light read was all that my brain could handle. Still, there were some abundantly stressful times when light reads were a challenge too, as you could likely see glimmers of “no vacancy” signs in my eyes. Continue reading

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The Writer’s Studio

I have always envied artists when they made reference to their “studio”.

When a recording artist referred to “time in the studio”, it always inspired me as that special place where the magic of creativity happened. It was the incubator where ideas were hatched and where new sounds were created. It was the place where the collective creativity of songwriters, producers, engineers, musicians and singers culminated in the birth of new musical material.

Similarly, when seeing visual artists working in their studio, it struck me as a sacred place that gave them a chance to play, to experiment and to work in their chosen medium, to translate vision, imagination and creativity into physical form.

It didn’t matter whether actors, photographers or fashion designers mentioned “studio”, the word itself was to me like an incantation invoking the spirit of the creative masters of the centuries. The term “studio” always gave me palpitations.

But I have often asked myself, “Do writers have studios too?”

Why shouldn’t they?

While on the one hand, I could refer to my writing room as an “office”, I just concluded a 33 year administrative career, working in offices. To me, the term office doesn’t necessarily associate itself to a space for deep creativity, but that’s just me and my baggage talking. Continue reading

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What I Know For Sure About Writing

When I attended retirement planning seminars over the course of my career, the psychologists who provided guidance on how to mentally prepare for the transition always seemed to ask the same question: What do you want to do in retirement?

To me, the answer has always been a no-brainer: writing.

My first glimmers of self-awareness about writing came in high school and university. Of all of the assignments in a students’ life, I enjoyed writing essays and compositions the most – and the longer the better – despite the groans from my fellow classmates.

When I stepped into the career world, by some strange stroke of luck, I often ended up in work teams where my colleagues were more than happy to let me raise my hand and volunteer to write lengthy reports, business cases, user manuals and web content while others would probably rather raise their hand and volunteer for root canals.

Writing tasks made me so happy because they presented learning opportunities in an area for which I held a keen interest in becoming better and better.

I enjoyed writing for my managers and executives, as it presented a unique learning opportunity to learn and adapt to their respective writing styles. With the knowledge that I wasn’t writing for me, I was writing for them, I never took personally any comments about what I produced. In fact, after working on a few memos, I truly relished getting to a point where I could receive a request, get a few key points about what is intended in the message, and go back to my desk to draft, edit and return a product that was exactly what they wanted and in their own voice. There was no greater compliment to me than when they said “André, this is like I wrote it myself!” Continue reading

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50 Reasons to Love Music

1- Music can pick up a listener’s mood when they’re feeling down.
2- Music can help a listener to relax when they’re feeling wound up.
3- Music can help set the mood for any activity.
4- In the morning, the right song can help set the pace for the whole day.
5- The right music can make traffic jams more bearable.
6- The right background music can make a movie a masterpiece.
7- A game show would not be as much fun if it didn’t have the right background music.
8- A horror movie would not be as enjoyable without the appropriate background music.
9- Music is a great conversation starter.
10- Music makes people want to move.
11- Music makes exercise more fun. Continue reading

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Is it Possible to Master More Than One Art Form?

I was recently walking through the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, admiring the work of celebrated impressionist painter, Berthe Morisot. After a few minutes of roaming through the exhibition, I caught myself doing what I usually do at art museums.

Not only do I admire masterpieces from afar to get the big picture on what the artist was trying to convey, but I often zoom in very closely to observe the intricacy of the brush work that was needed to achieve that vision.

In doing so, I often come away feeling inspired, thinking to myself that maybe I should get back into painting to try my hand at that technique.

Similarly, when my camera shutter captures a really amazing picture, some of it is technical knowledge and some of it is luck. I often think that if I had the free time to play with all of the settings, to better master the principles of photography, maybe luck would be less of a factor.

The same thing happens when I’ve surprised myself with something I’ve produced in the kitchen. I say to myself that if I just spent a little more time practicing the technical skills, I could get even better at it.

There is no disputing that I have the soul of an artist and that inspiration comes pretty easily. The question is whether there are enough hours in the day to explore all of the art forms which interest me.

With maybe 50 to 60 years ahead of me, could I ever do it all? Continue reading

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My Lifelong Envy of Artists and Their Sketch Pads

Regular readers of my blog might remember a couple of posts in which I talk about how other artists inspire me as a writer, even when their works of art come from other creative disciplines.

Musicians who can pick up an instrument, anytime, anywhere, and start playing beautiful music are mind-blowing to me. I am also in awe of singers who can not only carry a tune, but bring such depth and complexity to a song by smartly using their “instrument”. It is also a joy to behold when an actor can take a script and breathe such life into a role that I am able to completely suspend judgement and believe in a fictional character.

I especially envy visual artists who can take a pencil and a sheet of paper and produce picture-perfect images worthy of a gallery showing.

In high school, while certain teachers droned on in that Charlie Brown teacher’s voice, I remember looking over at my artist friends during class, pencils blazing over whatever piece of paper (or flat surface) was at their disposal. Blank pages were magically transformed into masterpieces with images of eyes, faces or pets from different angles, and all from the perspective of their mind’s eye.

There was seemingly no struggle to their process. They did not stare at a blank page, think hard about it, draw, erase, draw, erase and start over. It just seemed to flow out of them like they were on auto-pilot. They made it look effortless. Continue reading

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Top 10 Reasons Why I Still Don’t Have a Tattoo

When it comes to tattoos, I don’t know what it is but I can’t say I am anywhere near the idea of getting one.

I have the deepest of admiration for the folks who have embraced tattooing, who will proudly show you the ones they have and can describe in intricate detail the next ones they want to get.

Plus, as a creative spirit myself, I can genuinely appreciate the works of art I have seen, when I consider the skill, the patience and the attention to detail that tattoos require. Those masterpieces are a demonstration of the artist’s passion as well as for the proud owner’s for whom the tattoo holds special meaning.

I also tip my hat to the courageous souls who have braved the pain of the procedure, as I imagine that some of those images appear in some pretty sensitive areas.

Despite my admiration, I am no closer to getting one myself.

Tattoo fans, it’s not you, it’s me!

Even though I have no fear of the needles themselves, I have been able to narrow down my tardiness to the tattoo party to the following top 10 reasons: Continue reading

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Inspired by the Creativity of Others

A few days ago, I attended a concert at the National Arts Centre, here in Ottawa, to see The Tenors perform with the National Arts Centre Orchestra conducted by Jack Everly.

Much like all of the Pops series concerts I have seen in recent years, the concert brought me on a roller coaster of emotions, between goose bump moments of arias and their triumphant crescendos and moments where I felt a tad verklempt, hearing favourite songs performed live in brilliant new arrangements.

Throughout great performances like that, I can’t help but ask myself, “How do they do it?” How much of it is natural aptitude and how much is hard work? How many thousands of hours each performer put into their craft over the years, to become one with their instruments and to make it look so easy? How hard did each one have to work to achieve this level of proficiency, to produce such beauty that can elicit such strong emotions from spectators?

This inner monologue replays in my head again and again whenever I feel deeply inspired, whether it’s at a concert, in a museum, in a theatre, reading a book or watching a great movie. It’s like a vortex of creativity, swirling around, reaching out and stirring up my own artistic momentum to keep doing what I love doing, keep practicing, work hard and don’t let go.

I sometimes pause and wonder if I will ever get to the same degree of skillfulness and versatility in writing as someone who can pick up an instrument and play a song, just like that. Then I think to myself that I have been known to pull a rabbit or two out of a hat on a few occasions.

Whether it’s a blog post that I was able to commit to paper in one sitting in under two hours (it doesn’t happen often, but it does), a blog post that successfully reached out and really struck a chord with readers, or writing a piece at work that was exactly what was requested, offering the right words at the right time, and being able to do so under crazy time constraints. I reassure myself that I am on my way. Continue reading

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Filed under Inspiring, photography, Theatre, TV, Writing