Tag Archives: author

Rekindling My Love for Classic Novels

This past summer, I was completely captivated by the PBS television program, “The Great American Read”.

The PBS Web Site describes the show as: “THE GREAT AMERICAN READ was an eight-part series that explored and celebrated the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey). It investigated how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.”

I am certain I am not the only reader who scanned each title on the list (…a few times!) to see how many I have read over the years.

I was most delighted at discovering that two of the titles on the list were part of my high school experience: “1984” by George Orwell (which I absolutely loved, especially since I read it in 1983) and “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier.

There were a few others that I had read later in life for the fun of it, like “The Notebook” by Nicholas Sparks and “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger.

And there were many stories for which I hadn’t read the books but I knew well from the cinematic versions, such as “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, “Gone With the Wind”, “The Help”, “The Great Gatsby”, and “The Color Purple”, to name a few.

I really enjoyed the PBS program because in each episode, teachers, authors and celebrities would speak about the books, offering their opinions as to what they enjoyed, what they got out of it and what resonated with them. 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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Great Ideas: A Roller Coaster of Emotion

roller-coasterThe joy of coming up with a great idea!
The panic of not having a piece of paper or an electronic device to record it.
The fear of losing the great idea.
The hope you’ll remember it.
The sadness when you don’t remember it.
The elation when it comes back.
The delight of being at a computer this time to record it.
The irritation of having to wait for software updates to finish installing.
The annoyance of not finding a pen to record it until the software update installation has completed.
The terror when other things start distracting you.
The relief when the updates are completed.
The peace of mind of finally writing the idea down somewhere… anywhere.
The indecision of whether the idea is good enough as is.
The determination to work through it to make it the best idea ever. Continue reading

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Can a Writer’s Voice Get Sick Too?

TissuesLast week, I was home with a cold. It wasn’t anything major, just a head cold that knocked me off my feet, gave me a pounding headache, kept me under the covers, and had me breathing through half of one nostril.

Even when my first priority is to get better, I can’t help but think that with the extra free time on my hands, it would be a great time to write. But I can’t. When I am feeling under the weather, words just don’t come.

Maybe it’s related to the fact that my oxygen supply is not at full capacity, or that my ears are affected and that I could potentially throw up at any given moment… it’s a little distracting.

But over the last 3 years of writing the blog, I have noticed that if I want to keep to a posting schedule of at least one or two works per week, I need to keep a few drafts in my back pocket for times like this.

The worst was when I was out with shingles for several weeks. I remember trying desperately to commit words to paper, but everything I wrote was disjointed, disconnected and frankly wasn’t up to my usual style or standards. Continue reading

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Would I Write Someone I Know Into a Story?

There they go again! The entertainment media speculating about whether or not a song is about a certain someone’s ex-lover.

And then I wonder to myself, would I ever write someone I know into a fictional story? The short answer is no…

 

“My pain may be the reason for somebody’s laugh. But my laugh must never be the reason for somebody’s pain” — Charlie Chaplin

 

First, when it comes to grudges, my emotional baggage would definitely fit in the overhead compartment of a turbo prop plane. At this point in my life, I know that life is too short to carry grudges, so I let most of them go.

Second, I try not to live in the grudge zone in general or to put myself in the path of grudges. Life is also too short to waste precious energy like that.

Third, if I did carry a grudge, why would I immortalize the subject in my art? If I wouldn’t give someone the time of day, why would I make them the protagonist of a novel I will be working on for months? That seems completely counter intuitive to me. Continue reading

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Would I Come Back As a Contractor?

Revolving DoorAs the countdown to retirement marches on, surprisingly, the question of whether I would consider coming back as a contract employee comes up at least once per month. The question always makes me smile.

Given that retirement for me is still a few years away, I find the best answer to the contracting question is something along the lines of “Thanks for the vote of confidence! We’ll see when the time comes.”

First and foremost, I take it as an amazing compliment. I know I worked very hard to build a solid career based on quality work, strong ethics, working well with colleagues and maintaining a positive attitude. To me, the contractor question is one that fills me with validation and gratitude.

Over the years I have seen many of my colleagues retire and then come back a few years later for short contracts, sharing their vast corporate knowledge and expertise. It is always a pleasant surprise to see their smiling faces and renewed energy at meetings. Parenthetically, I wish they would stop looking so darn refreshed after a few years away from the office. It makes me very envious!

However, I think it is very natural to dream and fantasize about a time when I can truly reap the rewards of a retirement that I worked a lifetime to build. I look forward to the sense of complete freedom where going to bed promptly, getting up with the alarm, dealing with traffic, and commuting in heavy snow or freezing rain become optional. I look forward to having choices I can make, purely in the moment.

To me, my first priority when I decide it is time to retire is to do just that: enjoy the fruits of my labour: Continue reading

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New Writer, New Set of Insecurities?

Writer’s Digest, a top resource for writers, has been sending out emails announcing their 83rd annual writing competition. It sounds like an exciting opportunity and frankly, I have been seriously thinking about throwing my hat in the ring and giving it a try this year.

The timing seems good as I appear to be developing consistency in my output, publishing a new blog each week and steadily working on a few other stories I am juggling.  There is no rush to finish any one of the latter products, just a clear commitment to putting words to paper and seeing parts of stories come to fruition.  Maybe tackling a special assignment like a writing competition is what I need to keep things interesting and seeing a short story through to the end.

What to write about is a bigger dilemma. And with it comes a bit of writers’ stage-fright!  Continue reading

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