Tag Archives: experience

The First Time My Own Writing Gave Me Palpitations

Regular readers will recall that I put the blog on autopilot in early summer, finalizing several blog posts at once, to offer me some free time to spread my wings and try some other creative writing projects.

It didn’t take long for me to sink my teeth into fiction. I guess ideas had been simmering long enough that putting words to paper came quite easily.

For one story in particular, I already knew my main characters and the main source of tension between them. I started committing those to paper.

What started with a few ideas soon became an outline. Then I rounded up the index cards I filled out over the last weeks related to this story and started typing ideas into their respective places.

What I loved was that I could keep the story up on my computer screen, walk away to put a load of laundry in the machine, come back and add a few sentences, entertain the cat a bit, come back and add a few more sentences, do the dishes, add another couple of ideas. Momentum was building and I was already enjoying the creative writing process.

I’d be lying if I said this particular story was a complete work of fiction. There are a few threads to the story that are inspired from my own life, but only a few people will know which is which.

Well into the process of engineering the flow of tension and conflict, I wrote a first draft of a heated conversation between two characters. For this dialogue, I tapped into something deep in my soul, loosely based on something I experienced personally.

In no way does the conflict in the story line resemble anything I’ve ever experienced, but whether someone is angry about life, people or circumstances, anger is anger. It’s universal and can motivate some very impassioned reactions in any of us.

As I was deeply into the writing zone, almost on autopilot myself, the words and associated emotions poured out of me. The exchange between the two characters flowed seamlessly.

The interaction seemed so natural. In some ways, I was not only creating a moment, I was living in it. The strength of conviction and motivation behind the dialogue was unlike anything I had written before.

When I finished typing out the conversation that concluded with one character storming out of a fictional room, the creative bubble around me faded as I returned to reality. In that moment, I noticed that my heart was racing, my breathing was fast and shallow and I felt beads of sweat on my forehead.

I was having palpitations! … over something I just wrote! Who knew that was even possible?

Instantly, this experience became one of those moments as a writer that I will never forget. At this point I didn’t care whether this piece made it to print or not. The fact that I was able to dig that deeply as if I was in the room with the two characters was a huge rush. The fact that it was able to elicit such a strong response felt like a huge emotional welcome into the creative writing world.

I was overjoyed! I was thrilled! I was euphoric!

If this is what it means to be a writer, then I want a lifetime membership! An experience like this makes it all worth it.

Did you enjoy this post? If you did, please know that there are plenty more where that came from! If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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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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My First Writing Competition

In working through some of my blog posts in the last years, there have been times when I would look at a final draft of a post and then think to myself that it was pretty good, but for some reason it didn’t quite fit with the overall theme of my blog. Rather than rethink the piece, I would just put it on the shelf and maybe the right time and place to post it would find me.

A few months ago, such an opportunity presented itself when I started receiving emails about the annual Writer’s Digest Short Story Writing Competition. I thought that this might be an opportunity to pick up one of those shelved stories and fine-tune it for the purposes of the competition.

With that decision made, in the days that followed, it was with great enthusiasm that I would come home from work, speed through dinner and rush to my desk to chip away at the story, several times per week. The writing competition definitely stoked my enthusiasm for writing again.

While I have never had delusions of grandeur about my skills as a writer, confidence was running high as the themes of the story were current, relevant and would definitely resonate with certain readers. To achieve that, I dug deeply (veeeeeeryy deeeeeeeply) for the material, breaking open some old wounds. Continue reading

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Texting During the Movie: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

iPhone Movies CatFriday morning, I awoke to the news that AMC’s CEO, Adam Aron, was opening the door to the idea of texting in some theatres. My initial reaction was “Are you kidding me?” with a not-so-nice word in the middle.

I immediately stopped myself and thought I was sounding a little like the Dowager Countess from Downton Abbey, horrified at the first telephone in the estate and asking “Is this an instrument of communication or torture?” Then the Bob Dylan song, “The Times They Are a Changing” came to mind.

However, just before posting this blog on Sunday, I noticed several sources indicating that AMC had already reversed their decision. Daniel White at Time.com reported AMC CEO Adam Aron as saying “We have heard loud and clear that this is a concept our audience does not want” … “With your advice in hand, there will be NO TEXTING ALLOWED in any of the auditoriums at AMC Theatres. Not today, not tomorrow and not in the foreseeable future.”

But I wonder if this is really the end of this story? How many times have you been distracted by the glow of a screen in the middle of a movie… or a concert… or a play? Personally, I think we are still at the opening credits of this dialogue. Stay tuned!

The theatre experience

For me, the theatre experience involves completely suspending judgement, suspending reality and completely immersing myself in the story that the producers, directors, actors and technical team are trying to tell me. To me, that is sacred for the full enjoyment of a movie, allowing my mind, soul and emotions to get completely wrapped up in the moment as if I was there experiencing it myself. If I can achieve that, then the experience was a success and money well spent.

I like the entertainment experience of completely escaping and disconnecting from my life for a couple of hours. The world will not come to an end if my online presence is not felt during that time.

Personally, I find it a buzzkill when there is a 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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The Graveyard of Blog Posts

Typewriter
In recent months, I seem to be in a weird loop of starting blog posts but not finishing them which seems to be turning my laptop into a graveyard of incomplete blog posts.

I find myself succumbing to the little voice in my head pitching at rapid fire pace, “Hey!… What about this for a blog topic?” I start outlining the idea, populating the outline and then before you know it, the little voice pitches another one at me. Sad to say that my enthusiastic little inner voice sometimes has attention span issues too.

Where it becomes a bit of a problem is that the idea seems to run out of steam anywhere between the 300 to 600 word range, when my target for a complete post is between 800 to 1000 words.

Would I be content with a shorter blog post? Of course I would, provided that the post succeeded in saying something meaningful or significant in fewer words. But sadly that is not always the case.

Or, on the other hand, when the post hits my targeted word count, it sometimes lacks a certain “oomph”, a certain je ne sais quoi that I think will have people smiling, giggling or nodding through the post as if they can relate.

In some ways, it is a little like dating, with blog post waiting for the right wording to come along to see if they work well together. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, and in some cases we’re still waiting.

It really is an exciting time when the “a-ha” moment arrives and a blog post that was started several weeks or months ago finally marries up to that magic idea, phrasing or common thread to tie the idea together and wrap it up in a nice neat bow.

But in some cases, I have to cut myself some slack because in developing a post, I ride that train of thought as far as it goes but sometimes the train only seems to go so far. I then find myself at the end of the line with not much more to say.

Then there are times when I find myself painted in the corner of a blog post and unable to get out to wrap it up with a half decent conclusion (closure is very important to me in a blog post… and in life!)

And sometimes, an idea that seemed to work in my head, once actually translated to the computer screen or to paper, sometimes just doesn’t work. It’s not for a lack of trying, but when I take a step back, draft after draft and think to myself who’s going to read this? For whom will this resonate? What point am I making with this? What am I saying and will anyone care if even I don’t find this compelling?

Surprisingly, I am OK with that. Each blog post holds its own learning experience. So I park it and wait for inspiration to come along.

I guess that is probably how certain artists must feel when they spent years on a work of art, like when we see a classic painting in a gallery saying it was created from this year to that year. (Oh Lord, does that mean some posts will be lingering on my laptop for years?) I guess in my case, that is the way it goes when you have a day job and writing is the second career.

Even though I have roughly 40 incomplete blog posts waiting in the wings, I hope that inspiration will strike when I least expect it and bring me the right words at the right time to complete them. I fervently believe that creativity works that way and that we cannot always control the exact moment when a piece comes to fruition.

Either way, I try not to worry much about it. As long as I publish one quality post per week, I am very happy because I know I am learning and honing my craft every week. In addition, the note taking never ends and a couple of novels are getting written one or two sentences at a time. (I can just imagine the process of putting the jigsaw pieces together in early retirement and eventually forming a manuscript out of them.)

All I can do in the meantime is just keep capturing the ideas as they flow and commit them to paper or computer. I don’t really need to think too hard about what works, my job is just to write it, try to make it work, and hope the piece reaches maturity. If it doesn’t work, park it and try again another day.

After all, if recording artists can spend months in the recording studio to produce 60 minutes of music, or create 40-50 songs but narrow down the selection to 12 on an album, maybe these partial blog posts are like understudies waiting for their big break too.

Maybe I should not regard the “graveyard of blog posts” as a problem but rather a great repository of ideas in development, waiting for the perfect words to come along. At some point they will, it is just a matter of time.

Fellow bloggers, does this happen to you? Is every blog post a winner right out of the gate or do you sometimes need to work at them over time… a lot of time?

Did you enjoy this post? If you did, please know that there are plenty more where that came from! If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.net. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Happy Halloween
André

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Filed under Misc blogs, Writing

The Annual Training Plan

BoardroomAs with every new fiscal year, we begin a new cycle of planning, setting goals and dividing up the work. Along with that, goes the annual meeting with the manager to discuss the work expectations for the next year, including its subset conversation about career development as well as training and learning plans.

Over the first couple of decades of my career, those conversations were pretty easy. I always looked for computer courses to stay on top of technology, courses to keep my corporate writing skills sharp, and courses to prepare me for the eventual career in management. That plan served me very well for most of my career.

However, after 5 times at bat as acting manager, I have concluded that for me, the management ship has sailed and that I am much happier in my normal job, where I get to roll my sleeves up and do a wide array of tasks from the very strategic to the very practical. While I have demonstrated that I am indeed able to manage, deep down I know it is not my thing. I tip my hat to those who do enjoy it and I fully support them.

So what is next on my career path when I only have five (ish) years to go?

Frankly, in seeing the metaphoric finish line in sight for this career, and in deciding once and for all that I do not want to become a manager when I grow up, that conversation seems to get more awkward with each passing year. Now I totally understand how some of my baby boomer team members felt when I was the (acting) manager asking them what they had in mind in terms of a training plan and they would reply, “I’m good. I don’t need courses.”

It is really the first time that I feel I am in that same paradigm, and inflicting on myself a catholic guilt trip for thinking of signing up for a course when it is my turn to see the finish line get closer with each passing week. Continue reading

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