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
A secondary part of the writing journey seems to be the constant hunt for the perfect writing tools.
While committing words to paper is a pretty simple concept, the multitude of ways one can capture, retrieve, store and rearrange story ideas is very impressive. When I find ways to make things run more smoothly, the opportunity to spend more time actually writing than “maintaining” becomes a joy in itself.
Audio recording devices have always interested me. I have often thought that a recording device of some sort could be helpful in trying to capture those random writing ideas that seemingly hit at the least opportune moments.
When I think of prolific writer Dame Barbara Cartland who dictated to a secretary and was able to produce some 723 books and 160 unpublished works over her lifetime, I dream of how much more efficient I could be if I could incorporate some sort of dictation tool in my process.
A couple of decades ago, when I was first aware of my leaning toward creative writing, I got a good deal on a microcassette recorder. I admit that I had grand visions of capturing ideas on the run like some sort of secret agent writer. It seemed like a good idea at the time but unfortunately the only thing that ran were the batteries, as it sat in a drawer, mostly unused.
While in principle a microcassette recorder made a lot of sense, when I tried it, I felt like Cindy Brady in the “Brady Bunch” episode when she was on the show “Quiz the Kids”. When I hit the record button, I froze up. I don’t know why it is, but over the course of many attempts, I only captured a few words and the tidal wave of ideas I was hoping for produced only a mild drizzle. Continue reading
Filed under Humour, Writing
Over the span of my career, I was most fortunate in being asked a few times if I would be interested in a short term assignment as a manager, to fill a vacant position until it could be staffed permanently.
When that happened, I always felt like an award show nominee. The fact that someone thought highly enough of me and my work to extend such an invitation was a huge honour and for that I was most grateful.
I chose carefully and I accepted five times.
But looking back, even though I was told I did fine, I didn’t always think so. I was pretty hard on myself. I always thought I could have done better.
The bigger questions were why was I so exhausted when each assignment was over? Was it me? Would more training have helped? Was it a right fit for me? How did so many of the managers I looked up to make it look so easy?
As I reflected back over my agonizing decisions to accept, and the dissection of events when the assignments were over, I believe I should have paid more attention to my gut and to the struggle I was feeling.
After the last assignment, I realized that even though our society and our culture keeps telling us that climbing the ladder is a good thing, management might not be for everyone. I knew conclusively that it wasn’t for me and I finally knew the reasons why. Continue reading
In the fourth season of Bewitched, in an episode called “No Zip in My Zap”, Samantha is in a bit of a conundrum as her magical powers are clogged given Darren’s insistence that she live a mortal life.
In that episode, when “the dam breaks”, the accumulation of spells that didn’t conjure up anything all bear fruit at the same time, creating chaos in the Stephens’ household. “Doctor Bombay, Calling Doctor Bombay…”
As a writer, has that ever happened to you?
I am delighted that at this time in my life I am able to keep sharpening my writing skills in the corporate environment, while in my free time, producing a steady stream of blog posts, while working (slowly) on a few creative writing projects.
I am very happy with that combination and am not pressuring myself to do more. This works for me, right now.
By regularly tapping into my creative spirit in different ways, I feel that I am answering my calling and preparing for the next chapter in my writing life. But that has not always been possible.
Have you ever had those times when the ideas are flowing and you are yearning to write, but life just keeps throwing you curve balls preventing you from doing what you love most? Continue reading
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
1. It allows me to express myself in ways that I can’t in my day-to-day life.
2. It allows me to use my imagination and to be as whimsical, as dramatic, as light or as dark as I want, when the world would typically frown upon it in my day-to-day dealings.
3. I can make characters say what I wouldn’t dare say in my own conversations.
4. I can infuse my characters with feelings that I wouldn’t necessarily reveal in my day-to-day life, a process which can be very cathartic.
5. It feeds my appetite for creation.
6. I like writing because in the journey of preparing a first draft, it is just me and my thoughts. The creative process of a first draft is not a collaborative effort, which allows the artist in me to bring my vision to fruition on my own.
7. In a manner of speaking, each writing project is “my baby”. It is a joy to see what happens to each one as time goes by.
8. It allows me to put my own particular fingerprint of style and perspective on something that may have been said 1000 times before, but in my voice, it can sound completely different.
9. It enables me to be open and receptive to sources of inspiration around me.
10. Because of writing, I find myself more open to serendipitous moments. Continue reading
In last December’s post, “How Nature Photography Might Get Me to Appreciate Winter”, I wondered if my rediscovery of photography might be able to nudge me out of my usual winter cocoon and spend more time outside.
For those who have never been to Ottawa, let me offer a little bit of context. Yes, we do have an abundance of beautiful winter days that are like a shot out of a Disney movie. However, the Norman Rockwell painting of a perfect suburban Ottawa winter starts fading around the 18th consecutive day of snow, threat of freezing rain, or temperatures so low, even the cat won’t sit by the window and conduct her usual backyard surveillance despite her abundant fur coat. Winters here can be very harsh for long stretches.
When the weather outside is frightful and the sidewalks are covered with snow and ice, it’s not most conducive to a cheerful walk outside at lunch time. When you also factor in a long and slow commute home wondering where the heck the city’s snowplows went and repeatedly mumbling to myself “Why the heck do I pay taxes?” it should come as no surprise if I have to dig deeply to want to spend more time outdoors and risk falling and breaking a hip… the joys of becoming a grumpy old man! (and yes, I know some close friends are now thinking, “what do you mean ‘becoming’?”)
But this winter, I did spend more time outside, thanks to the camera!
While I wouldn’t say it made me a winter lover in one season, nature photography certainly made it more enjoyable by helping me lose track of time while doing something I truly enjoy. I would even go so far as to say this winter didn’t seem to drag on as much as it did in previous years. Continue reading
How would you explain the sensations and feelings of creativity? Here are some points of reference I would suggest:
1. When I was a kid, my parents had a multi-band radio that, in addition to AM and FM, it had “short wave” and “marine band”. I fondly remember hours spent slowly turning the tuner knob with the attention to detail of a safe cracker, listening to what distant channels I could get on a clear day when there was little interference. When I am feeling at my most creative and my instincts seem to be at their sharpest, it is like tuning in to a station and discovering a channel transmitting from hundreds of miles away and picking up a very clear signal.
2. When I am creating art and the elements of the project start coming together, for me, it’s like the rush I used to get in school, when I would be writing an exam and somehow knew all the answers off the top of my head. It is a sense of being on auto-pilot, when the words are coming but you aren’t quite sure where they are coming from, but it feels right nonetheless.
3. When trying to fall asleep and the little creative voice keep pitching ideas at me, feelings come over me ranging from frustration and irritation that the little voice won’t go to sleep, but also excitement and delight when I am able to get the ideas all transcribed and saved preciously for another day.
4. Time stands still and time flies by… at the same time. Continue reading