Category Archives: writing

Je Suis Charlie”

There was a time when I wished I was born in another era. I had romantic dreams of journalism as a youth, and still do. I believe media changes the world.

I know there are bad journalists and there are corporate entities fucking it all up, but if you talk to the average news journalist, they’re genuinely in it to tackle things they see wrong in the world. They’re in it to spread truth, challenge corruption, and effect change.

Journalists are always people I hold in highest regard. And rightly so.

Je Suis Charlie at AFP Paris


Night has fallen in Paris and the streets have been taken over by protestors and those wanting to pay tribute to the fallen members of Charlie Hebdo, the satirist paper that has never shied from controversy. They brandish pens in the air, shouting “Charlie! Charlie!”

Apparently Parisians have failed to realize they’re supposed to be terrorized in the wake of this attack. This is what happens when you attack what is arguably the birthplace of modern democracy as we know it.


Somehow, when life takes a turn for the evil, the horrible, or the immeasurably stupid, I seek a moment of beauty or humanity to remind me that it’s all going to be okay again.

Evil, inhumanity, these things aren’t modern inventions. They’re part of what mankind is, and we’ve had evil and badness among us since time began. Look at slaughters in Ancient Egypt, invasions by the Mongol Hordes.

We’ve simply improved efficiency (yay, guns!), and media is omnipresent, ensuring these events seldom go unheard today.

These shootings, slaughters, murders, and more — they’re going nowhere. Neither are the bad guys. You may dream of that day, but good luck coping with the inevitable truth that it’s simply a part of our (in)humanity. Nature is a beast, after all.

The animal kingdom does it too. Lions eat their young. Dolphins can commit infanticide with intentional impact injuries. For whatever reason, this ability to act with ultimate cruelty is stamped in DNA across species.

With 7.2 billion people on the planet, perhaps killing each other has been partly of biological/environmental necessity, but our ethical code teaches the majority of us that, even if our survival depends on population cull, it’s not something that most of us are capable of committing or ignoring. We’d rather be in it together with a compromised planet than witness mass loss that might save ourselves.

Look at the hundreds of thousands dead in the tsunami of 10 years ago. It felt like a gaping wound was ripped into the planet. We all felt the loss and horror of their adversity.


So days like today, when 12 people are killed because of one evil organization’s intent on squelching the freedom of the press, it’s strangely affecting. Just 12 people, out of 7 billion, but it’s 12 people who died for a reason that no person should die — because they wanted to challenge ideas, inspire dialogue, and push the envelope.

There is no sense to be made of this. Aside from spreading the news, not allowing it to happen in a vacuum, what else is there for us to do?

Admittedly, I’m a newshound. I follow these stories like a dog on a scent. It’s what I do. But I also walk away. Go back and find all the incidents of terror and mass shootings — outside of America, that is, because mass shootings in America have grown tragically all too common — and you’ll find 90% of the time I’ll take a long walk or bike ride to remind myself that the planet is largely beautiful, most people are kind, and it’ll remain that way most of the time.

The sunrise this morning, what I chose to seek after getting the news of this senseless slaughter. The world is beautiful. This trumps the evil of a few.

The sunrise this morning, what I chose to seek after getting the news of this senseless slaughter. The world is beautiful. This trumps the evil of a few.


Still, it’s a sad day. A horrible crime. A terrible thing to die for.

It’s a day that reminds me why I’m so outspoken, why I don’t censor myself. My language, the news I circulate, the opinions I raise like a flag, all these things are because I believe we need to speak truth to power — every one of us. Change happens on a personal level before it can take hold in society.

If you are too timid to say what you think, too scared to stand up to power, too apathetic to get involved — then the terrorists, the corrupt governments, the bad people, they all win.

Remind yourself that it’s a beautiful world. It’s worth fighting for and standing up to speak your truth. Otherwise why did these 12 people die?

Like the publisher gunned down today once said — he’d rather die on his feet than live on his knees. I like to think he was standing when those motherfuckers opened fire.

Today, my heart is with all those journalists and editorial cartoonists who feel emptier and less safe after this terrible attack.

But they’re just one small part of the fabric of humanity, and we good guys have strength in numbers.

Last year's Boxing Day sunset.

An End to Christmas Pantslessness: A Tale Of Introversion

You, dear blog reader, are my delay tactic to avoid walking for a little while longer. It’s 1:24. A little over an hour from now, I can leave to photograph the sunset. Last year’s sunset from last night was breathtaking. Tonight, we’re on the cusp of a cold and sunny front. Wispy clouds, blustery winds, moisture in the air. Beautiful things could happen. It’s worth a trek.

Along with this keen desire to shoot a sunset comes a little trepidation. I get sucked into my periods of isolation, like I am now. I haven’t left the house since the 24th. Going out today is the start of a slippery slope. I could have plans for coffee tomorrow, resulting in the tragic wearing of pants yet again. I have acupuncture on both Monday and Tuesday to use up the last of my medical coverage for the year (free acupuncture! why not?). Still more pants. Ugh!

I mean, there are only so many days I have available for pantsless slacking. It’s not like I’m scared of humans or anything. I just have this apprehension of talking to people because sometimes I just really fucking like being inside my head. It’s not an awful place to be.

I pity people who dislike being alone. What an awful way to live. Me, I like this.

It’s not as if I’ve sat stupid on the sofa. I’ve done some little domestic things. Plus, I’ve written 4,000 words in two days — inspired words, fast words, the kind of fat, juicy writing a writer likes to do. The kind I never get to do, because I get caught in the cycle of working for money, not for love or passion or spontaneity. The curse of adulthood and life in one of the world’s more expensive regions — money matters more than art, and it’s what makes the difference when deciding between paying the bills or satisfying the soul.

As for the woes of ending pantslessness, well, I think anyone who’s a true introvert has flashes of agoraphobia and/or anthrophobia. Fear of people, crowds, unavoidable encounters, that kind of thing. I don’t have it in a crippling or even inconveniencing way. I can talk to crows, I can work a room at a party, I can host an event — all quite comfortably.

I do dread people nonetheless.

Not in a collective EVERYONE SUCKS kind of way, though. Just in a “many people annoy the shit out of me and I’d rather be at home in fat pants” sort of way.

There are people I enjoy talking to. They’re the ones I find time for, who I enjoy seeing and even look forward to seeing. They’re people who not only talk but listen. They’re well-read, curious about the world, generally positive, interested in more than just themselves, and typically know how to focus on the moment.

But it’s unlikely to find that in the average person. That’s not snobbery or arrogance — it’s attention to detail.

The thing is, everything that makes me a good writer also makes me a tough friend to earn. I’ll notice inconsistencies. I’ll notice waffling, small hints of hypocrisy, insecurity, pettiness. And I can’t stand stuff like that. I’m definitely not imperfect — I’ll dislike people and let it show a little, but that’s just honesty. Not everyone will like me, either.

Take as an example when I see someone without the guts to say something to someone’s face but yet they delight in saying it behind their back, I’m repelled from wanting to be friends with that person.

It’s very true that my eye for detail and memory for odd facts, coupled with good intuition, all make me apprehensive of making widespread friends.

I don’t need a lot of friends, though, is the whole point. That way, I can afford to be picky. The people I like, though, I really like ‘em. People who inspire me, make me laugh, and let me blow off steam when I’m talking to them, man, they’re keepers.

If I’ve ever seen the far side of midnight with you because: Good Conversation, you’re in that group. If you’ve dined in my home more than once, yup, you too. If I’ve gone out of my way to find the time for beers with you, then you’re in that crowd too.

It’s not really a small list, either.  I just see people infrequently, so it can seem like a fickle or short list. Not really. The world’s full of groovy souls, but as an introvert, I like to spend about 90% of my time alone. Literally.

Introversion isn’t a curse. I like being an introvert. It can be weird, because being around the RIGHT people, for me, is a super-energizing thing. It fills me with ideas and gives me the desire to write, which then flips the switch to me needing to be introverted and isolated again. Being around the wrong people can drain me and compel me to get lost in TV and movies. It’s a cyclical existence when one is a sometimes-social introvert.

I just had a few such great days over the holidays. I’ve seen many people this past week, but unfortunately it followed a really brutal three-week schedule, and I lost my social steam. (Which I saw coming and prepared for by committing to zero plans following Christmas.)

All this has made me think a lot about how introversion informs my life choices.

Like right now. I actually have enough money to sort of go somewhere, have a couple day adventure. Maybe rent a car, see the countryside. Me having “enough money” at Christmas is a remarkable change in historical trends, and yet I’m more than happy to spend it at home with Netflix, naps, fat pants, booze, and bedhead.

I realize that this dream I have of living around the world for five years means I will frequently have to rely on the kindness of friends and strangers more than I’ve ever done before. I know it’s a tall order — someone as introverted as me having to make that shift for a half-decade. That’s why I’m so enjoying this time alone now — because it won’t be a possibility for a long time, once I go.

I’ve enjoyed more seclusion than ever, living here in Victoria. It’s self-imposed. It’s lovely. I could have more friends here, I could have made an effort. I chose not to do so. I understood then, as I understand now, that this period of self-isolation might be a rare opportunity in my life. Will I be able to live in a city while enjoying almost complete isolation again in my lifetime? Likely not. Even falling in love and finding someone wonderful will mean that all comes to an end — the ability to self-isolate.

I am enjoying isolation today with the distinct knowledge THIS may never be a lifestyle I ever enjoy again. That’s not fatalism. It’s just choosing to enjoy the moment and appreciate it.

Of course I’ll still have periods of this. That’s very different than having three years of it. I’ve learned more about myself in this silence than I ever thought I could. It’s a wonderful thing for a writer.

My future travel life will require people, but I’ll find periods of isolation. I’m thinking of a house-sitting ad like “antisocial hermit writing books who likes wearing fat pants and bedhead seeks remote, isolated cottage for house-sitting opportunity” or such.

In the meantime, I fully understand this may be my last homebody Christmas for a long time. I’m savouring it. So, despite the weather having turned, despite pants being required for the next three days, despite it all — I shall venture out into this blustery winter day now.

I’ve begun my ebook write about my travel ambitions, things I’ll need to achieve beforehand, logistics of how I plan to live for five years abroad, and more. If you’d like to be on the list for when it comes out, sign up here. I’m too busy to send out frequent newsletters, so don’t worry about getting bombarded.

Man relaxes on a Croatian sidestreet, photo by zolakoma on Flickr. (Creative Commons.)

Here Yet So Far Away: Dreaming of Distances

I vacillate. Often. Back and forth, back and forth.

Why wait?” I ask. “Why stay? Why keep banging my head on this wall?”

A part of me wants to cut and run tomorrow. Today. Now. Zippity-doo-dah, gone like the wind.

But the pragmatic part of me clears her throat and says no, we stay. We see the summer through. Turn 42. Celebrate Thanksgiving with my whole family together. Vote out Stephen Harper. Leave two days later, either in victory or defeat. That’s the ideal situation. See another shoulder season, enjoy another summer. Ensure I’ve laid solid freelance ground beneath my feet before I plunge.

Then, poof, off to Europe and chase the dream.

Prague's celebrated St. Charles Bridge, by Max aka Max Tim Tom on Flickr.

By Max aka Max Tim Tom on Flickr.

The Nutshell

Five years abroad. 89 days or less per country. Working my way through — keeping my job, my writing, all of it. Writing books. Photographing. Plodding the land, meeting the folk, noshing the foods. Write it from a first-person living-the-dream perspective. A literary treatment given with my voice.

The world through my eyes. Not travel guides, not tips. You want that shit, go read Lonely Planet. My journey will read as a mashup of Elizabeth Gilbert and Anthony Bourdain — a weird lovechild / hybrid of edgy, insightful writing set in the here-and-now of someone trying to figure out where in the world she belongs.

[INSERT DREAM HERE]

When I go to bed, I don’t know where to dream of. Should I dream of two weeks on the hills in Tuscany, a writing/reading/eating retreat, growing fat(ter) on cheese and wine as I trudge the verdant slopes?

Maybe I should dream of working on a new ebook in a seaside port on a lesser-seen part of Portugal’s coast, where fishermen persuade me to get over my fear of seafood and eat fresh-from-the-sea local specialties, laughing at my timid ways and shoving wine at me to wash it down with?

Perhaps I should instead fall asleep imagining a bucket-list check-off of shooting Prague’s St. Charles Bridge in early autumn morning fog as steam rises from the river below, hatching a plan for eggs in some underground cellar joint for breakfast as warmth returns to my chilled photographer’s fingers?

Tonight, it’ll likely be dreaming of dining on Croatia’s Pag Island, drinking local wine to accompany the famous island cheese made from the milk of sheep who spend their lives roaming seaside cliffs eating salt-dusted wild herbs daily.

I’ll do all of these things, and many more. Someday. One day in the next six years, I will.

My dreams, they’re not outlandish. No five-star hotels or crazy excess. Not my style, never has been. My dreams are like people I favour — a good way to spend a little time. Filled with intrigue and wonder, appreciation and simplicity, lively and fun. That’s how I roll.

The salty-herbs-eating sheep of Pag Island, Croatia, shot by Dimitrij Mlekuz on Flickr.

The salty-herbs-eating sheep of Pag Island, Croatia, shot by Dimitrij Mlekuz on Flickr.

You Gotta Ask Yourself One Question…

Waiting for these times ahead, so hard. Especially knowing I can do this lifestyle less than I pay now. I can improve my quality of life while living my dream, and yet it’s on ice ten more months. The idea of the wait is killing me already. I’m not sure I’ll last that long.

Just weeks ago I asked myself: Can I be this person? Am I cut out to spend five years abroad? Am I willing to just up and sell my belongings to do this? Have I got the guts?

At that time, I had to convince myself. The part that said I can wasn’t as loud as the part that scoffed at the notion.

Now, it’s not about if I can do it — it’s that I have to do it. I have to take this chance. I need to sell everything. I need to get the fuck out, live the dream. I need to know I tried. And one country isn’t enough. Five countries isn’t enough. Five years, that may be enough.

The hills are alive with wine and cheese. Tuscany, photographed by Konrad Jagodziński on Flickr.

The hills are alive with wine and cheese. Tuscany, photographed by Konrad Jagodziński on Flickr.

The Little Traveller Who Could

When I took this apartment, I increased my monthly rent by 25% in one jump. It was a risk. Only a year before, I sold my bike just to buy groceries. Could I hack the increased expenditure? Was I capable of working that hard, seeking out opportunity? Could I up my game? Could I commit?

I decided I could. Sure, I doubted myself and had a lot of fear, but I decided I wanted to make it work. So I would do just that.

I’ve done better than I hoped. I’ve really led the good life in this apartment. My standard of living is better, my dreams are bigger, my confidence higher, my focus sharper. A year ago, I didn’t have the guts to tell folks about this travel dream of mine. Now I can’t shut the hell up.

That’s not to say I’m fearless with this adventure. I have a lot of fear. Lots. And I should. There’s so much unknown. There’s new cultures, places, risks, threats, adventures, mistakes — all just sitting there, waiting for me. I know that.

But I also know of what I’ve toughed out — all the misadventure and adversity of my thirties. And I kicked its ass.

I don’t know what gauntlets await me, what struggles might come. I just know they’re there. They’re always there. But so is the knowledge that whatever else I might be, I’m a survivor. I make it through, and I come out better. And sometimes I have fun during the mindfuck of it all. Because that’s who I am.

So, yes. Just weeks ago I wasn’t sure if I was ready for this. If I had it in me. Now I know I do. The more I learn about the places, the more I know I can hack it. Besides that, I’m smart enough, savvy enough, and I’m good with strangers. I have rarely-fallible intuition on folks that will serve me well.

Fishing boats in Portugal, shot by salvadorveiga on Flickr.

Fishing boats in Portugal, shot by salvadorveiga on Flickr.

To Dream a Vivid Dream

I may not know what specifically to dream about when I lay myself down, but I’ve inklings of experiences I want. I want this craving I have right now, coupled with the heart-exploding anticipation of being amidst the travel zeitgeist. The brighter-than-bright saturation of moving fast or slow through worlds previously unknown to me. The kaleidoscope of color, places, and people swirling together around me. The feeling one gets from stopping to just be of a moment, in some strange great place. “I’ll never be here, like this, again.” And knowing it.

I dream of being confused by things like trying to buy vitamins and toothpaste in local shops, never knowing the same bed for longer than two months, shaking my head in confusion at foreign-language street directions, wheezing from running to catch planes/buses/trains, and always finding a new spot to see a sunset.

I long for the day when the boredom and routine of me being a hermit in my character apartment here/now seems like a great and distant fantasy. I think of the people I might meet who’ll indulge just a moment, or maybe for a stolen hour over coffees, to teach me their language.

I don’t need to dream of specifics. I dream of moments. Tiny moments I’ll remember for a lifetime. These vague and fleeting seconds will fuel me. I don’t want planned travels, just organic and whimsical detours. Dreamlike and surreal. Fed by impulse.

And with that, I have some wine that needs some drinking, and more travel shows to get lost in, as I tab through AirBNB listings and cost-of-living comparisons. Because this is what I do, these days. Haphazardly living in the present while stuck in the future.

I’ll be writing ebooks about these journeys. Sign up for my mailing list. I won’t be spamming you.

photo 2 (2)

The Zen of Landing Badly

I recently had a reminder that asphalt ain’t good eatin’.

I can’t play the victim card here. I fucked up. All my fault, 100% dumb-ass coming your way. I knew I was cutting it close between an intersection curb and a truck waiting for the light, and foolishly tried to ride through anyhow. Handlebar whacks mirror, down goes me. Mashed my face, my knee, my thigh, my hands, everything. I was so bruise-spotted, I looked like a human-leopard hybrid.

Oddly, it’s the third time I’ve been injured since late May. First time, I literally fell off a bar stool at the pizza joint, flat onto tile floor. Incredible fluke – Not only did I not hurt my back or head, I didn’t really get hurt at all. A couple days’ stiffness, and I was basically fine.

At the time, I was thick in the mire of a three-month contract that upended my life balance far more than I’d intended, so I wasn’t getting out much. I was counting days, like a schoolkid, until July 1, when the contract would be gone. Summer! Whee! I planned to blow off writing until the fall.

I shit you not, June 30th, 11:50pm, hours to go before my “So, our contract is up” email is to be sent, I’d been watching TV from the floor, went to stand, and heard CLICK as my knee popped out of joint, my tibia grossly cranked to the left. Horrified, I hopped to the kitchen on one leg, got an ice bag, and for no reason, the tibia popped back into place. Boom. Back like bacon, baby.

That boo-boo, unfortunately, did inconvenience me. I couldn’t walk much until the end of July, and most of the month’s summery fun eluded me.

Life removed the distraction of summer because I just couldn’t get out. I channeled that inconvenience into finishing my cookbook. Finally done  (it’s really good! buy it and support me), I once again felt like a kid getting outta school for summer. I was excited to cycle, be leisurely. I’d rode my bike daily that week. Bliss, whizzing through August air, sun beating down.

Five days into “summer break,” I whacked the truck mirror. Now I’ve been home licking my mental wounds for much of the last nine days. Once again: “I could’ve been hurt so much worse.”

It seems fortune has a twisted sense of humour in the dog days of summer.

Look ma, asphalt for eatin'.

Look ma, asphalt for eatin’.

School of Hard Knocks

Shit happens. Ask me my top ten life mottos, that one makes the list. Shit happens, it is what it is, que sera sera. Cliches to live by, my friends.

I’ve ridden the rides in this injury-filled park one time too many and I don’t need to be uninvited from the party anymore. When it’s time to go, I’ll grab my coat and be gone.

This is one of those times. Injured three times in three months? Yeah, okay, universe, you got my attention. What’s the lesson?

That’s rhetorical, people. I already think I know.

Writing well is a gift. It’s a privilege. It’s also a craft. It requires great sacrifice and dedication to accomplish matters of note. It’s not some flip of the switch. Like sailing a long ocean voyage, when finding one’s sea legs can take some time, getting a good writing flow takes a while of testing the waters.

Where the craft part comes in is where the sacrifice plays out too — daily duty, workworkwork.

Opting Out

I know writing is a choice. You see a keyboard, you sit, you pound it out. It’s like the old Hollywood movie trailers — “One man, alone in a foreboding wilderness… where only he can decide–”

The struggle that constantly assaults me is guilt. I feel like a failure if I’m not doing the outdoorsy-n-awesome things the locals here pride themselves on doing. Oh, look, someone else climbed a mountain and parasailed before landing on the moon for a local, organic picnic with cheese they hand-pulled at dawn. Thanks for the shame, Instagram.

I wish I could write in other places, but I’m a creature of habit and I like to be at my desk. I like the noise my keyboard makes, the rattle the keyboard tray emits under my staccato-fire key-whacking, the distance of the screen from my eyes, how I squint when I’m lost in thought and the creamy walls blur before me, while I listen to the white-noise whoosh of cars under my window, always noting the sea breeze blowing in and stiffening my knuckles. It’s my thing. This is where I do it.

So as summer days pass and nights get longer, cooler, and darker, my Catholic upbringing leaves me pounding the keys in shame and guilt at my desk, as others pass my window in their shorts and sunglasses, oozing optimism for a fun day ahead or the fatigue of a great day behind them.

And there I sit staring as they pass me by, me in my passive glory, ever the observer.

Of People and Places

But that’s writing. It’s not a party favour. It’s not a group activity. It’s a dark and dingy thing done alone.

There are different kinds of writers. Ones who write on events and places, happenings and zeitgeists. They need to be in the thick of it to serve it back to the masses. Then there are the those who slip away into otherworldly mental caverns. No safe place for others.

I’m the latter. My introversion can be extreme. A party of one works all too well for me. Three months on an Irish coast with a broken phone, only sheep dotting the horizon, and wine to keep me warm while winter winds howl and the skies cry, that would be a vacation for me. I might commit a serious crime if it meant time in isolation like that.

Paradox of paradoxes, for convenience and more time alone, I find myself living on the edge of the busiest part of my town. The most crowded, superficial, hyped, over-marketed part of my city. Rare does even a moment pass when people aren’t walking past my writing window. Isolation? Beyond my four walls, I think not.

Unlistening to the Machine

Part of me is very much of the “So? This is who you are. Just own it. Who cares?” mentality about self-imposed isolation. But I also think the world is beautiful, nature is powerful, and if I could have more of it with less of the humans in it, that wouldn’t be so bad. Humans aren’t so bad in small doses, either.

But society tells me Summer is fun! Go do summer! There’s only so much summer, so go out and play, kids! Whatchoo sitting inside for?! Don’t you know only losers don’t play outside? Come on, kids! GET HAPPY — it’s right there, outside your house!

It’s something I only want in 90-minute spurts. It’s not a lifestyle I seek. I don’t need to be on the Tilt-a-Whirl of the big-city life. Getting happy isn’t gonna accomplish my dreams. It ain’t gonna write my books. It’s not gonna pay my bills.

People who don’t understand introversion think people like me opting out is “sad” or “lonely,” but we think it’s sad and lonely that they can’t enjoy being alone in the same way we can. As Oscar Wilde wrote, loving oneself is a life-long romance. Even if there’s no one around to see it.

Among my favourite places to go alone: The sea.

Among my favourite places to go alone: The sea.

Do or Do Not, There is No Try

The trouble with writing a book, for any author, is it means sacrificing time you can spend earning other income today on the dream that it will earn income for you well into the future. This is where the stereotype of the broke-ass writer comes in. I have to cut back on my earnings AND my spending to be the writer I want to be. That’s sacrificing on every level.

That’s the risk we take when seeking the elusive dream of passive income and royalties. Passive income, that’s money you don’t have to run ragged on the hamster wheel to bring in. That wheel spins on its own, in theory.

The best way to grow that passive income isn’t to keep talking about the one book, it’s to continue writing others so you’re attracting new audiences.

For me, that time is now. I have to write more, produce more, and promote myself at the same time. All of it must be done at the expense of everything else in my life. Less time for leisure, less time to earn “real” money on the side of my primary job, less time to exercise, to cook — everything.

The longer I wait, the more interruption it causes in flow on all sides, the less then that momentum can carry me.

It’s a matter of discipline now. And my summer, as little or as much may remain, is a distraction from that discipline.

Dinner is Served

Which brings us back to the asphalt.

That day, I’d been meaning to cycle to the Gorge and sit under a big leafy tree as I considered my choices. Do I take more time to enjoy summer, or do I finally concede this summer’s a bust and writing must be my focus while the motivation burns?

For good or ill, I needed no leafy tree for the pondering. Life threw me to the curb and said “Eat this.”

I’ve never felt more strongly that I was getting told what was what. Writing, life said, was what my days had to be about for now. It was safer, for one. No moving parts, except on the chair.

If I barrel through this year as a writing tour de force and accomplish all the goals I’ve got bopping inside my head, I’ll have no regrets for the choices I made this week.

photo 2 (2)

Road Warrior

Sometimes when life knocks sense into you, it can be very literal about it all. It gets literal with this girl.

It took three injuries in a little over three months, but the Zen of landing badly has taught me a thing or two about a thing or two.

Sacrifice, choice-making, focus — all these themes played on a crackling, staticky loop in my head for days. Here’s hoping they echo loudly in the wintery, writerly months to come, ‘cos I know what road’s ahead of me — asphalt, curbs, potholes, and all.

Of Force & Faith: Writing & Creativity Blocks

ceremony script - sha sha chu

photo by Sha Sha Chu via flickr Creative Commons

Writing is a fickle mistress, and hard to keep happy.

I have much work to do but I’m like an athlete in training, and forcing myself to write something on a daily basis. Right now, it’s all of a personal nature. Opinion writing, observations, that sort of thing. So in a way, I’m “forcing myself” to write, but in another way, the pressure to do so is because I’ve had many “I want to write” moments of late. I’m inspired, and often, but I’m also beholden to work, leisure, and other living-in-the-real-world distractions.

The old “find the time” conundrum. Ahh, adulthood.

Which brings me to the idea of Writer’s Block. The nefarious “block” is a topic that makes me laugh because it’s something I know all too well. I find myself annoyed at smarmy, smug types who tell you “There’s no such thing as writer’s block,” because I’m not sure what they deserve more — a face-punch or a logic-restoring slap upside the head.

Of course there’s no such thing as writer’s block. Don’t be an idiot. There’s nothing that stands up inside you to shout YOU! DON’T WRITE ANOTHER WORD! NOT A LETTER! STOP!

Of course not. But that doesn’t mean you should be writing when it ain’t nothing but grunt. You know you’re writing shit when you’re writing shit. Why push the matter?

Wait Till You Can’t Wait No More

I’ve been forever misattributing a quote I read once, and I guess I’m so far from the original quote now that it’s unGoogleable (and all instances trace back to ME), but it went “A writer ought not write until the thought of not writing becomes unbearable.” Maybe I’m the one who said it after a fevered night’s dream.

Still, I’m not sure if I agree with that quote either, or its limitations of “wait till not doing it’s unbearable,” which sounds like the literary equivalent of blue balls. Somewhere in the middle of the extremes of workaholic craft-maintaining and waiting for the sheer passion to write is the sweet spot of creation.

I’m old enough now to understand that the life of a writer comes in waves. I’ll probably never be a write-all-the-time-forever writer, but I suspect I’ll have five-year windows where I’m on, and a little while when I’m off. Or maybe it’ll become more constant the older I get, as I learn about balance and understand what this craft does for me on so many levels. Maybe I’ve been out of the game enough to last me a lifetime.

I haven’t wanted to write for so long. I can’t explain how it is to understand that your creative self just isn’t what, or where, you want it to be. I can’t tell you how I knew I had to walk away and just rekindle my place in the world.

I can’t explain the loss of confidence I had in what I do, in how I write. I don’t give a fuck if you understand how pervasive such a thing is for a writer. It’s not about you.

Fake it Till You Make It? No.

Lighthouse on a ferry sail.

Lighthouse on a ferry sail.

My walk-away wasn’t all about confidence or the loss thereof, but that certainly played a role in the beginning. I totally lost my mojo in 2010 / 2011. I had grown angry at life and didn’t know how to feel other things or express more than that.

Real writing is about going to those netherworlds inside you. Dark places, places where we don’t sell admission tickets. So if what’s inside you is just blanket-angry and one-tracked, and you don’t approve of that anger, or worse, you disrespect yourself for it, it’ll be a really hard road to scrounge up personal writing that’s worth reading. I never found that road.

After I moved to Victoria, that bitterness began to vanish. The anger started to evaporate and I found myself lost in this new world around me. The will to write popped up at inconvenient times, but very fleetingly. It didn’t stick around. I didn’t get that “where’s a pen?” twitch, or that niggling sense of “Huh, I like that idea…” that made it worth the effort of recording.

Creativity was nebulous, at best.

When the desire to write started to return, my confidence issues returned too. I felt an imposter in a wordy world. Every time I wrote something, it’d be like I was walking through a garden, noticing things, enjoying the moment, then suddenly there’d be a 4-foot wall. Instead of looking for a way around or over, I’d go “Well, huh — there’s a four-foot wall. I guess that’s that.”

I wasn’t following it through, and worse, I felt I couldn’t.

And Then One Day

Writing is like anything else in the world. If you’re a writer and it’s really, really good, you just know it down inside you. It’s a feeling on a cellular level, an almost-religious experience. It pops.

I didn’t have that feeling again until I wrote Unmerciful World on Medium. Seymour Hoffman’s death hit me like a brick, and within 15 minutes I’d sat down to write in a daze. A trance, maybe.

It was the shot of confidence I needed. Arrogantly so. I was impressed with myself. I remembered what it used to feel like to crank out promising copy on a daily basis, on topics that mattered to me, rather than just work that would satisfy clients. (Which I pride myself on delivering often.)

So began the journey of trying to reconnect with writing. I started doing more, but they languish now as incomplete topics in my drives. And then I was writing a lot. But still not for your enjoyment. I started a very personal project I think will become an ebook by Christmas, for instance.

Still, writing for yourself, in silence, gets a bit masturbatory and creepy. It doesn’t take long before objectivity vanishes and a me-me-me mentality storms in.

Now I’ll need to find a balance between the two. I’ve alluded to projects I want to write and share with you. I have two books I want out this fall. (And since, unlike cooking books, there are no product testing, re-testing, photographing, or complex layouts involved… I expect it to be a much simpler and far more fulfilling experience! And quicker to bring to fruition.)

And there are others. I have creative ideas for weird experimental writing I’d like to try. As my confidence bubbles up, I’ll put those in the mix too.

Boat at Fisherman's Wharf here in Victoria recently.

Boat at Fisherman’s Wharf here in Victoria recently.

But like a long-cooked stew, these sorts of odd projects are sometimes best when simmered on low in the background for a good long time. And so they are.

Writing is exciting again. The challenge is nearly titillating. I’m beginning to anticipate the onslaught of winter, where I won’t feel like two selves are pulling in me — the one who wants to scream FUCK IT ALL and go running for the beach versus the other who wants to pull the sunny windows closed, mutter darkly “Fuck it all” and stay at the computer, pounding out words.

And in between it all is that damnable presence of the bank and a life that needs to be earned before it’s spent.

Writing, like all things, needs to be bad and uninspiring for spells, so we creatives can truly love and appreciate these rare periods where inspiration comes knocking and our keyboards answer confidently.

I’m not upset that I’ve had such long durations out of the creative world. I won’t apologize for it or beg you to take me seriously after it. I think I’ll be a better writer for the experience. I’ll simply have to prove it.

It’ll be a fun ride as I find out.

Mojo Rising: In Which I Want To Be A Blogger

307153_272353769461853_100000616957975_876750_1805170655_n (1)Hey, reader.

So I’ve not been blogging on purpose. Didn’t have it in me. For two years. Yeah, I know. You can fake it if you wanna, but I don’t phone it in.

What you don’t know is, the more annoyed or passionate I’ve been of late, say the last six months, the more I’ve been writing, and never doing anything with, new posts.

So it occurs to me that I’m, you know, one read/edit and a click away from having a shiny new blog post. Yeah! Something to ACTUALLY read, for you, the reader-person.

Doesn’t that just blow your fucking mind? A click away, man. A click!

•click•

But that’s the thing that’s been missing — the desire to write for public consumption. Or even write at all.

Lately, though, I’ve actually stopped what I was doing just to write something. Write a thing that doesn’t even pay me money! Lemme tell you, friendly reader: That blows my fucking mind.

You got your writers who’ll tell ya that writer’s block doesn’t exist. I’d agree with that. I can write six ways to Sunday all day long, but it doesn’t mean it’s got anything worth saying. And sometimes the saying of it is just a thing that keeps you hemmed into an already-troubled mindset. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

You wanna yammer on because there’s “no such thing” as writer’s block, or wallow in your you-ness, you knock yourself out. I know when I’m writing crap I wouldn’t even line a birdcage with. Let’s call 2012 and 2013 my “Bird Sanctuary Years,” okay? The Epic Saga of When the Crap-Writing Canary-Cage-Liner Sings.

But I got out and dialed up my creativity for photography and cooking, things a brain can pause for. Pause, a nice thing to use. Lovely. Pause. We should all pause a little but more, but petting zoos should have unicorn rides and shoulds don’t mean shit. Creativity is creativity and a writer doesn’t always need to write, I discovered. But now’s a different thing entirely.

So here’s the deal. I’m back. Not in a blogging-daily type incarnation, but then who knows? Maybe. I used to do the EB White write-500-words-a-day and it mostly wound up on here when it went well. Far be it for me to eliminate anything.

But wait! There’s more!

There’s something in this for me too. I’m writing ebooks. Not just one. I have a very crafty scheme in mind for taking this whole entire blog and giving you a radical reinvention of it in ebook form. This one will remain as it is, but I’ll have my fun. I need to get you all riled up about it. All in due time, reader. The grand tease thing. I’m shameless, friend. I’ll admit it. But I’ll make it worth your while too. Found my mojo, after all.

Thus it’s time for me to resume blogging for public consumption. I had my break. It was groovy. I have several things kicking around I can fire up and finish off. Longform stuff too.

I have mounting anger about the stupid-ass bullshit in the world and a raging hard-on to tell you why. I want to write. I’m twitchy. I’m ranty. I’m occasionally funny. I’m freeing up time in my life to take back writing and to own my voice.

Giving myself permission to just not write was what made me eventually write for the hell of it. It’s like rediscovering your golf-swing. You can’t just order it on Amazon. It’ll find ya when it finds ya.

So… I said Hey, reader.

In case you missed them, I have blogged lately… three times this year in larger posts I wrote and stuck on Medium. There was this about Philip Seymour Hoffman that got widely read and was an Editor’s Choice, and then there All The Fucks I Give, my thoughts on people who self-censor and the act thereof, which also was an Editor’s Choice, and finally this on how Twitter Doesn’t Suck, you make it suck.)