Tag Archives: passion

Could Robots Replace Writers?

Not too long ago, I was listening to an interesting report on the evolution of artificial intelligence (AI) and the types of jobs that could be replaced by robots. Of course, the occasionally insecure writer in me wondered, could robots replace writers and screw up my retirement plan?

While I am certainly not an expert in the field, nor should this blog post be interpreted as an expert opinion, the Pollyanna in me says if it could happen, we are probably some time away from that.

To me, a good story really boils down to three things: the reader, the writer and the story itself.

For a story to be successful, it needs to engage the reader and resonate on a human level. It needs to connect with readers on an intellectual and on an emotional level. The story needs to stir up feelings in the reader to keep them coming back for more.

To achieve that, the writer needs to tap into their imagination, their emotions, their experience, or all three. Plus, with each writer’s unique point of view in the way that they craft a story, additional layers of interest are created and the writer’s sense of style is stamped on the story, much like a fingerprint.

A good story could be a testimonial of human experience that discusses the strong emotions felt along the way such as the struggle, the pain and the joy. A good story can take us to a world we could only imagine. Good stories can also scare the crap out of us, play with our minds, or inspire us.

To do all of the above requires heart and passion. Continue reading

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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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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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Where Did the Little Voice Go?

Pool chairs, Tropicana Hotel, Las Vegas 2007 As any diligent writer would do, whether I am away from home for a weekend or a week, part of my packing routine includes gathering drafts of unfinished blogs, up-to-date outlines of stories I am working on, office supplies to keep the drafts and side notes organized and a reliable little notebook and pen, in case a moment of brilliance strikes when the airplane seat belt sign is on. In a nutshell, my carry-on becomes a mobile Staples store.

When traveling, one never knows when one might be spending unplanned time in the airplane terminal, on the tarmac or on a long layover. By the same token, one never knows when a shift in time zones might lead to a sleepless night. It is with the best of intentions that I ensure I am ready to make the best use of any free time that presents itself to capture the stories and ideas floating around in my head.

However, in the last three major trips, something happened: I did not write. I did not review unfinished blog drafts, I did not scribble any notes, I don’t even think I added more than 10 words to the Notes app on my iPad. What happened?

It is like that little narrator voice that speaks to me and is constantly bombarding me with ideas, phrases and puzzle pieces of dialogue (and often at inconvenient times too, I might add) suddenly disappeared.

It was when I was unpacking from our most recent trip to New Orleans that I realized Continue reading

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Thank You 2015 & Happy New 2016

New Year's festivitiesAs I look back over this past year as a writer and a blogger, I am reminded that the epiphanies in the writing journey are never ending.

Despite the best of intentions, I did not fully hit the goals I set out for myself for 2015. My plan was to try to publish two blogs per week, to try to dabble a bit more with the video blog and to send out my first submissions for writing competitions. Unfortunately something happened… Life!

It is great to have goals and targets, but epiphany #1 was the realization that sometimes they need to be flexible if quality is also part of the equation. I would rather delay my blog post for a few days (or even a week) and post something for which I am proud, rather than posting something to meet the deadline that in my opinion might be below my usual standard. The challenge is to not beat myself up for missing a weekly target even if the result is worth it.

Where life tends to complicate things is in the fact that I am still a part-time writer. Thankfully, my writing at this point in my life is for fun, for practice and as an outlet, with no real pressures or commitments to publishers or agents (yet). I am still my own boss in this realm and it works for me.

Where the balance is a delicate one is the career, the job and the life of service that still pays the bills. While I am not sure if I chose that life or if it chose me, my career has been an important part of my life and will be paying the bills at least for another 5 years. The fortunate part is that there are some days I get to do a fair bit of writing at my day job. The bad part is that there are some days I get to do a fair bit of writing and am not in the mood to continue writing when I get home.

When I spend an entire day at my desk composing challenging written works to the point of feeling mentally fried, Continue reading

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A Taste of Retirement

Andrew Haydon Park, September 2015

Andrew Haydon Park, September 2015

Just before turning 50, I decided that my birthday present to myself was to take two weeks off from work for an easy-going staycation.

Originally, my partner and I had kicked around the idea of a trip to California to celebrate the big occasion, but a lower Canadian dollar made our trip to New York City in the spring a little more expensive than expected. Combined with a special assessment from my condominium corporation, there was a little dent in my cash flow which made California a little pricey at that point in time. After tossing around a few other more affordable ideas, just chilling close to home seemed to be the option that resonated most with me.

It did not take long to find the benefits of two weeks off to take life at a gentle pace, away from the commuting, the meetings and the deadlines. Also, given that I did not have a pressing list of appointments or major home maintenance projects ahead of me, a fairly quiet two weeks increasingly appealed to me. Reconnecting with life’s simple pleasures would be good for the soul: good sleep, good food, time to write, fresh air and exercise.

Vacation time kicked off with an exciting overnight trip to Toronto for a chance to see Janet Jackson in concert. I could not say no to the idea of crossing “Miss-Jackson,-if-you’re-nasty” off my bucket list of concerts, especially since I had never seen one of her live shows before but was always a huge fan of her music and videos.

The opportunity to see Janet worked out beautifully as a way of launching the vacation in style while quickly transitioning my mind away from the office. It was a fantastic show, sure to appeal to all loyal fans, in offering a set list of all of her hits and a few new songs from her latest album “Unbreakable”, packaged together in a high energy concert of brilliant dancing, staging and light show. For me, this Janet Jackson concert was definitely worth the wait.

Not long after returning home, the realization that I was on vacation quickly set in. The problem for me is that this sensation usually heralds a nervous energy spurt to start cleaning in the corners I don’t usually have time to get into on a week-to-week basis. But this time, it felt different. Because I wasn’t trying to wedge in a lengthy to-do list in a matter of a few days, I had the luxury of time to just try attacking one or two items per day. This allowed me to keep the rest of the day to myself and to decide in the moment how to spend it.

However, the recent arrival of Ivy the cat Continue reading

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Top 10 Signs You Might Be a Writer

How do you know when something is your calling?

I believe anyone can probably list off the top of their head 5 to 10 things that they enjoy and that they think they can do pretty well. But what is that one specialty that is absolutely yours?

It took a lot of searching and stock taking over the years, but when the answer was finally crystal clear, signs, such as the following, were my validation and reminder of my purpose in life.

The fact is that the signs were always there, but launching a career and earning a living were the obvious priorities, to put food on the table and to keep me in cool shoes. But with retirement from my day job just a few years away, there is no doubt in my mind how my golden years will be spent.

For your consideration, here are my Top 10 Signs You Might Be a Writer.

10. Losing track of time

The old adage “time flies when you’re having fun” is correct and also a sign of the type of work for which someone may have a calling. For me, there is no greater gift than when I can spend my whole day at work (or a whole day off from the day job, working on my own writing projects), focused on the written word whether that means writing, editing, proofreading or doing light translation. Honestly, I will put my head down, get into the writing bubble, and with the exception of a bathroom break, the next time I look up it will be lunch time and the next time after that it will be quitting time… a definite sign.

9. Writing tools are the best gifts EVER!

For the last few years, my birthdays and Christmas wish lists have contained items to help me capture blog and story ideas on the fly and convert them to works for you to enjoy. It never gets old for me, even if it means a pack of printing paper, a box of pens, fancy notebooks, or building up a reserve of printing cartridges for those times when the cartridge runs out minutes after the nearest Staples store closed.

8. Your brain is always processing characters and plots

My inner voice seems to start most sentences with “Hey, what about…” constantly pitching ideas, characters and story ideas to me. The trick is to capture them with any of the gifts received in #9, and save them for future reference.

7. You accidentally call your family by your characters’ names

When creating a fictional world, writers need to develop a very strong connection to their characters in order to convey the traits that make them complete, living, breathing and believable characters. The occupational hazard is that their personalities establish such a strong presence in our subconscious that their names may become as conveniently accessible as those of our own loved ones.

6. Your video recorder is often full Continue reading

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