Tag Archives: inspiration

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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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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Fashionably Fifty

mens-clothingI certainly would not consider myself a fashionista or an authority on the topic of fashion, but let’s just say that I genuinely believe that cultivating a personal sense of style does have its merits.

Throughout my professional career, dressing appropriately was something I took seriously, to demonstrate to my colleagues and my superiors that I was interested, engaged and committed to my work and to my career.

By offering attention to detail in my professional wardrobe, I believed it was a sign that my work would also reflect the same attention to detail. To me, it helped project credibility. Also, by dressing appropriately for the office, I never really had to worry about being called to last-minute meetings, as I was always suitably attired.

I would like to think that at this stage of my life, my skills, my track record and my professional reputation speak for themselves. But still, I have no interest in showing up for work while wearing the same thing I would be wearing if I was at home, binge watching Netflix.

Throughout my life, I have turned to men’s fashion magazines for tips and hints for cultivating the right look for me, for my age, and for my body type. After building and refining what I consider to be a classic wardrobe, combining durable investment pieces and a few colourful statement pieces, even if I don’t need to buy anything new, the magazines help me validate that the pieces I am wearing are still contemporary. 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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Where Did My “Get Up and Go” Go?

Get Up and Go It didn’t seem that long ago that it didn’t matter what day of the week it was, I could put in a full day at school or work, do something during the evening, even if it meant hanging out with friends until after midnight, and still get up the next day, bright eyed and bushy tailed, to grab the bull by the horns, to turn over a new leaf, and to move mountains.

What happened?

I realize that the responsibilities of being an adult do consume a fair bit of time and energy. However, my responsibilities at work translate to food on the table, my mortgage and bills are covered and that I have the means to enjoy fun experiences in my down time.

But lately, a typical Friday night consists of picking up my groceries on the way home, then a reasonable facsimile of a meal for dinner, a glass of wine, watch the news, maybe one prime time show and then I am pretty much ready to call it a night.

When it comes to going out, there have been times that on the way back after an eventful evening, I see carloads of folks half my age headed in the opposite direction on their way out to party. Then I wonder what went wrong. That used to be me… “Where did my get up and go” go?

Worse yet is to wake up one morning and to be hit with the old familiar feeling: every classic symptom of a hangover. Then in thinking back, realizing that the night before was an evening on the couch with the cat, a ginger ale and Netflix. Sigh!

It should come as no surprise that my running joke about having a caffeine I.V. through the day seems to come up more and more often these days. Continue reading

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My Take-Aways from Awards Season

Oscar and me1Ever since I knew I wanted to become a writer, whenever I watched The Golden Globes, the Academy Awards, The Emmy Awards (Prime Time and Daytime) or the Tony Awards, I always found myself walking away feeling inspired that one day that could be me.

When I hear writers’ acceptance speeches of humble beginnings, late starts in life or how a unique little story or unique way of telling a story became the object of much attention, I really do feel validated that there is purpose and potential for a budding writer like myself.

I do not delude myself into thinking that my turn WILL come at the awards podium, I think the odds of that are equivalent to winning the lottery. But I would like to think that my imagination, my creativity, my ideas and my story telling style combined with consistency and persistence, are the foundation for writing stories that will resonate. Where it goes from there, nobody knows. Hope for the best, expect the worst, and hopefully land somewhere in the middle.

This year in particular, the word “diversity” has been a recurring theme, appearing in speeches, editorials and reviews which struck a particularly deep chord with me.

As writers, I think we all have an innate fear, “What if no one is interested. What if no one reads it.” If the appetite for diversity is as strong as it seems to be, I take that as my cue and as my challenge to dig deeply for the stories that can matter and that can resonate.

The appetite for diversity is a sign to me that people want to see themselves in a story, someone to relate to, someone who has felt Continue reading

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Painting: My Backup Plan

Paint tubesAs much as I have spoken about spending my days writing as my ultimate retirement plan, the fear of writer’s block is still ever present. Even though I have hundreds of pages of notes stashed away in journals, file folders and on flash drives, I am not immune to the possibility of freezing up.

Back in 2002, shortly after my father passed away, the little writer’s voice went silent. I am not talking about a short break or a little case of laryngitis, the voice disappeared completely. Words were not coming. Inspiration virtually dried up. I actually ended up deleting my web site (my blog before blogs became popular) because I had no new content to add.

One Sunday morning, I went to the National Gallery of Canada, here in Ottawa, for a tour of the permanent collection. While I had no specific purpose other than to enjoy the beauty of the masterpieces, there was a glimmer of hope that it might stir up some creative juices.

In touring the gift shop at the Gallery, I noticed some beginner tools for painting. Something spoke to me, perhaps it was the memory of arts and crafts when I was a kid and thoroughly enjoying the creative process even back then. Around the same time, I was marvelling at the Bob Ross painting shows on PBS, demonstrating how to create works of art in just one episode. Put those two factors together and I became the proud new owner of a set of brushes and a few bottles of paint.

The painting that started it all was this one:
Painting 1
When looking at the result and amazing myself, thinking there might be a seedling of talent to work with, I started to read up about painting with acrylics. The painting journey began. Continue reading

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