Tag Archives: creativity

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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The Writer’s Dilemma: Say It or Save It?

When I first started blogging almost seven years ago, the process was pretty straightforward: get an idea for a post; scribble it down; scribble more ideas; write the post; edit to make it sparkle; review again; if happy with the end result, post to the blog.

There is also a whole decision-making process surrounding the possibility of “if NOT happy with the end result”, but in the interest of not boring you with the 53 loops of reviewing, editing, overthinking and playing with Ivy the Wonder Cat, I’ll skip that part altogether.

I have been very proud of the content in my blog and in how it has connected with readers around the globe. The response has been heartwarming, deeply gratifying and a definite incentive to keep going.

Regular readers know that this blog has been a way for me to spread my creative wings and to keep practicing a form of creative writing until such time as I retire from my career of over 30 years, when I will switch to full-time writer.

With that finish line in sight scheduled for 2021, which isn’t too far off, I often find myself debating whether an idea should be articulated in a blog post now, or whether I should save it for one of the stories I will write later. That is a whole agonizing decision-making process on its own.

Again, in the interest of not boring you with that roller-coaster trajectory, a diagram that is sure to have you running away screaming, I’ll skip the specifics. Continue reading

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Why “1000 Words per Day” Might Not Be for Everyone

With the finish line in sight for retirement from career #1 and my transition to career #2 as a writer, I look forward to some solid years of finally getting a lifetime of ideas, plots and characters committed to paper.

Some of those characters (and their families) have been taking up residence in my head for so long that I look forward to sending them eviction notices from my brain.

But in writing circles, I often hear why wait until tomorrow what you can do today? …Why wait until retirement?

The answer is a pretty simple one: at the end of most work days, I’m tapped out.

I am extremely fortunate that my career already offers me the opportunity to create, write, proofread and edit a variety of corporate documents.

That is a choice I made and I stand by it, as it has offered me the gift of thirty years of challenging emails, memos, presentations and user manuals. What is most rewarding is that in writing for different target audiences and on behalf of a variety of executives with differing styles and approaches, my creative muscles have been stretched like silly putty in multiple directions. I couldn’t have asked for better training in writing. Continue reading

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The Roving Writer

As much as I try to make my home a comfortable, quiet place to devote myself to the craft of writing, there are times when things fall out of the span of my control.

Whether it is a symphony of leaf blowers, a neighbour’s dog barking for hours, another neighbour’s ailing muffler, a charming visitor to the neighbourhood who needs to turn the car alarm on and off seven times, or the apparent decision to suddenly reroute all air traffic directly above my house, auditory distractions are a fact of life.

Then add to the mix an extroverted attention-seeking cat, a ringing home phone, an empty coffee cup, a ringing doorbell, a load of laundry ready for drying, and the ding to indicate that my gluten-free banana bread is ready to come out of the oven.

When I reach into my desk drawer for a USB stick, I find a pair of old glasses that needs to be donated, I spot the case for the iPhone I carried in 2009 (that won’t fit anything today) and before I know it, I am in spring cleaning mode.

As I head back to my desk, I notice the wall I have been meaning to spackle in preparation for painting.

Moments later, I remember that the litter box needs “refreshing”.

When I finally return to my blog post, I write a few words and then take a moment to stare off into the distance between paragraphs. My mind drifts and I ask myself, “when was the last time I dusted that shelf?”

When I look in the other direction, I see Ivy the Wonder Cat’s favourite blanket and think to myself that it is probably due for a thorough washing.

At this rate, it’s a wonder that I succeed in publishing a weekly blog post. Continue reading

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What I Missed Most As a Manager

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

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The Writers’ Olympics

I don’t think I am different from other writers. My mind can sometimes wander between paragraphs.

As I tossed a crumpled piece of paper in the wastebasket across the room, I cheered to myself, arms in the air, “Two points!”

But even though writing isn’t much of a spectator sport, I started daydreaming about what other sporting events could form part of an Olympic-level game for writers of all backgrounds.

The opening ceremonies would begin with poets, writers, editors, screenwriters, proofreaders and translators entering the arena, smiling and waving to a cheering crowd of spectators with an appreciation for the written word.

The athletes would gather on the field, in the centre of the arena, behind their national flags, taking care not to drop their notepads and laptop computers as they capture their thoughts on this momentous occasion.

The judges then enter the arena and gather by a symbolic pedestal of reference books, to take the oath to officiate with complete impartiality and to uphold the principles of good grammar and spelling.

Oprah Winfrey, the queen of book clubs around the world, would declare the games officially open with an enthusiastic, “Le-e-et the ga-a-ames be-e-egi-i-i-n!” Continue reading

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A Renaissance of Storytelling

As a little dude, I remember that both my parents were avid readers. And as far back as I can remember, I was surrounded by books, not only in my parents’ library but in the growing library in my bedroom as well.

As an only child with an inclination for “the great indoors”, it didn’t take much coaxing to get me to share in their joy of reading and the love of a good story.

This love followed me around for a lifetime, in all of its forms whether movies, TV dramas, soap operas, biographies, classic novels, contemporary novels, plays, musicals, operas or even newspaper articles. You could say I have been a glutton for good, well-told stories.

Good stories have tugged at my heart and have inspired me. Good stories made me love some characters while I loathed others. Good stories have taken me to places near and far, real and imagined.

Stories have been a constant in my life, no matter how busy I got. There was always time for a good story here and there, for those moments I needed a little escape… or even a big escape.

I don’t know why, but lately I have noticed that my appetite for good stories is growing, bordering on insatiable. The more I see great stories, the more I want to see.

I savour every moment of stories of triumph, stories of personal growth, stories of courage, stories of social change, stories of love, stories of gratitude, stories of survival and stories of our ancestors.

Sometimes when I hear a great story, I sometimes pick up on one idea, one character, or one thread of the story line and think that you could throw the spotlight on just that one element and create a whole new story around it. There is really no end to the potential of storytelling. Continue reading

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When Life Gets in the Way of Writing

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

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How Old Blog Posts Can be Like Old Home Movies

This fall, I celebrated my fifth year as a blogger with great joy (… and surprise) at having achieved this milestone.

From the beginning, I always thought of the blog as my rehearsal space to sharpen my creative writing skills, as I began the transition from full-time career #1 to full-time creative writer. The fact that many of you have joined me in that journey and encouraged me along the way has been incredibly heartwarming and a source of boundless gratitude. Thank you everyone!

I admit that some weeks it was incredibly difficult to find the time or inspiration (or both) to produce some fresh content, as well as to stay on top of my social media presence to get the word out there. But with only a few weeks off here and there, I managed to keep at it and to not give up. For that, I am incredibly proud!

When time has been in short supply, I had to focus my efforts on moving the blog forward, and not looking back. Then weeks turned into months, and months turned into years, and BOOM! Five years went by and I suddenly had a repertoire of almost 300 blog posts. How did that happen?

And that is where the fun began. When time finally permitted, I went back and read some posts from my first year. Continue reading

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