Tag Archives: gratitude

My Top 10 Favourite Halloween Costumes

Over the years, I haven’t been one to shy away from dressing up for Halloween (… or any other day of the year, when the occasion called for it). I have always found it to be a lot of fun to step out of character for a day and take on another persona for the pure fun it.

Over the course of a half-century, I have had plenty of opportunities to try on different costumes. What surprises me is that the ones that seem to be the most memorable were not necessarily the store-bought ones, but the ones that involved an injection of creativity to complete the look.

Here are a few of my favourites:

10. Bugs Bunny

The most memorable store-bought costume had to be my favourite cartoon character, Bugs Bunny. Because I wasn’t in growth spurts around that time, I am pretty sure I wore it for (at least) two consecutive Halloweens.

It was pretty simple really, a grey polyester jumpsuit with a white chest and belly that I could hop in and out of in seconds, and a plastic mask with a little elastic in the back that needed a little reinforcing for the second year.

Add a carrot, fresh from our garden, with the stems still on and I was as happy as a clam. It really was a simple pleasure.

9. Groucho Marx

Inspired from an episode of “All in the Family” where Mike and Gloria were dressed up as Groucho and Harpo Marx, Mom helped me make a home-made Groucho Marx outfit. For the costume, she raided my parents’ closet for a white shirt, jacket and pants that would appear baggy on me, and then drew on a moustache and bushy eyebrows. Combined with plastic glasses and a plastic cigar from my toy box, and a repertoire of horrible jokes, it was an easy yet effective home-made costume that was a lot of fun. Continue reading

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What Surprises Me Most After Four Years as a Blogger

Last year, I posted a blog entitled “The Ups and Downs of Blogging Statistics” in which I admitted to checking out my blog statistics and keeping an eye on trends, but not obsessing about them, given that this was “rehearsal” time for me.

Blogging was a building block for me to refine my writing creative skills in preparation for my aspirations as a creative writer. My blogging was for the fun of it, and you were more than welcome to join me along the way.

But four years into the blogging journey, there is one aspect that often surprises me: the posts that keep getting viewed weeks, months or even years after I have originally posted them, and getting fairly consistent views over the long term.

As a blogger, I don’t sit down and think to myself, “This post will get a thousand views”, it doesn’t work that way. And even after posting the link on Google, Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard and sometimes Pinterest, we are sometimes at the mercy of the algorithms for how much prominence (and page views) a post might get.

I have read a good number of articles on blog promotion, and I have definitely taken experts’ advice to try to maximize clicks whether through a well-chosen title, a sharp picture to accompany it, adherence to a consistent posting schedule, as well as seeking lessons learned by the most viewed posts. Continue reading

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My New Blogging Strategy: Banking Blog Posts

In 2015, I wrote about a weird phenomenon that was happening within my blogging processes. No sooner than I would start outlining and building a blog post, the little writer’s voice within would pitch another idea at me, and I would start working on that one.

Having a run of good ideas is certainly not a bad problem to have. I definitely counted my blessings in that regard. But in its wake, I was being left with a series of incomplete posts, a phenomenon I called The Graveyard of Blog Posts.

As summer began, I was itching to get to work on another creative writing project and wondered how I could keep the blog going for a couple of months while giving my writer’s voice a fresh challenge.

As I was browsing through my drafts folder, the list of posts that were waiting to be finalized had recently grown some more and was looking pretty impressive. I knew that some of them were just waiting for a final conclusion to nail the point I was trying to make or some “icing on the cake” wording to make it pretty.

The point is, I had several that were almost ready to be posted and patiently waiting in the wings.

Maybe that was my answer!

I made it my goal to try to finalize 8 or 9 posts over two weeks, which should give me enough completed weekly posts to put the blog on autopilot with fresh content until Labour Day, and a couple of months to let my mind wander in another creative direction. 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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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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How the Cat Opened My Heart

I think it would be fair to say that I have always been a sensitive guy. Some might even say that is a bit of an understatement given that I have been known to cry at previews at the movies. It might be a bit inconvenient and a tad embarrassing, but I am quite comfortable being the guy for whom sympathy, empathy, compassion and joy run close to the surface.

To me, feelings remind us that we have blood coursing through our veins and that we are part of the human experience. It’s a wonderful thing.

But is it possible to become even more sensitive than that? You bet! And I have the cat to thank.

When I was planning and preparing for the adoption of my cat Ivy, almost two years ago, no one mentioned the many ways a pet can alter one’s range of emotions. What an unexpected epiphany!

I have accepted the fact that when she is waiting for me at the door when I get home from work, it’s likely not because she missed me, it is because it is feeding time. No delusions there.

But after she has filled her belly with her favourite catch of the day and starts following me around as I prepare dinner, that’s when I start sensing that she missed me. And of course, the feeling is mutual.

On a cognitive level, I have always understood the attachment between pets and their owners. Now, as a new pet owner, I also understand it with every fibre of my being.

It’s not like my heart needed much melting to begin with, but with Miss Ivy, it melts a little more each day with everything she “says” and does. She is a ten pound bundle of cuteness. Continue reading

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Ten Ways I Would Explain the Feelings of Creativity

creativityHow 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

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