Tag Archives: writing

Of Eggs and Errors on a Holiday Afternoon

My kitchen is now a disaster. I made Eggs Benedict. For the first time ever, Hollandaise sauce stumped me. I failed not once, not twice, but three times. Angered, since I’ve never failed it before, I made it a fourth time — changing the bowl, changing the temperature, and even having cold water on-hand to toss in to stop the change-of-state before it cocked me up again.

Victory, motherfuckers.

eggsAfterwards, after having poached the eggs twice and vowing never to buy jumbo-sized eggs again, I looked down on my plate and realized I had never before so aptly or tastefully presented my refusal to quit or accept failure.

Because: Victory, motherfuckers.

It’s strange, isn’t it? When one little weird, messy, fattening episode can so succinctly sum up so much about who we are.

I feel like it was a very wasteful exercise, but for about $3, I proved something to myself. A completely unintended benefit, but I’ll take it.

I’m full now. It was lemony richness and everything I could have hoped for the first, second, and third times I tried making it.

***

New Year’s Day looms. I don’t know if I will accomplish all that I have envisioned. I’m trying to downsize by 10-20%.

It’s just a big nod to my dreams of heading abroad. I want to feel like I’m paring back life in preparation toward stuffing it all in boxes for a few years. So far, confronting my books has been emotional. I’m not ready for that yet. And should I? The age of paper is dying. Who’s to say they won’t escalate in value? Is it too soon?

And yet I’ve chosen some. I will choose more. It will not be easier.

It will, however, crystallize the fact that I’ve really begun to move toward my goals. That’s no small thing. Making your present surroundings reflect who you’re trying to be can be huge in achieving all that.

In the meantime, there’s more to do. I’ll get it done. It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t hurt to go slowly — take 20 minutes to tackle a new cupboard, approach it on a piece-by-piece basis.

***

You may not realize it, but I write about domestic stuff like this all the time — from home decor solutions and architectural writing through to environmental news and the ways we live in cultures around the world.

It’s nice work if you can get it. You can read all those writings here.

The more you share, the more eyeballs my work gets, and the more everyone on all sides is happy. If you know pro bloggers, support the work they’re doing. It keeps us all employed.

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.

Um, Thank You For Breaking My Blog

highfiveI’d like to extend warm fuzzy thanks for everyone who’s taken the time to read, share, and respond to my Jian Ghomeshi vs. The CBC piece. More than 100,000 people read it on my overworked little blog in just 36 hours. I’m absolutely blown away by how much it’s resonated with you. I’m very proud I had a chance to help change the conversation on why women won’t come forward.

I’m also glad the BDSM community feels I’ve helped clear up a few misconceptions being wilfully created by Ghomeshi and his supporters. While I’m fairly vanilla myself, I’m happy to advocate for a grossly misunderstood lifestyle and kink. Especially since this conversation shouldn’t be about BDSM at all, but instead about the lack of consent he reportedly had, and that a lack of consent makes these allegations of flat-out assault.

To that end, I had the chance to be interviewed by Vancouver’s CKNW 980 radio yesterday, and we discussed both BDSM and consent in relation to this explosive scandal. You can listen to that here. It’s a 12-minute chat with host Simi Sara.

Meanwhile, I have a few more things on my chest on the victim/survivor aspect of all this, more mainstream revelation of what the BDSM ethos and community entails, and so on. Please bookmark me and check back now and again.

I also have nearly a decade of archives here that extend to everything from sex and sexual politics to mental health and pop culture commentary. I invite you to explore tags and subjects for any of the 3,000 or so pieces I’ve written in the last decade. Might I suggest the “Steff rants” category if you like a little righteousness in your day? Check my archives by year, or search by categories. Many posts have several categories attached for your convenience.

Then there’s my newsletter. That’s how I can tell you when my upcoming ebook of collected essays and updated opinions will be released. Join that here. Thanks again. You’re fucking awesome.

photo

Dreams of Flight and Fancy

When I was growing up, I dreamed of going to places like Italy and France. I always thought they were out of my reach, far too expensive.

Before I could become the traveller I wanted to be in my 20s, life interfered with much stupid/tragic/disruptive stuff. Travelling didn’t happen beyond my roadtripping days, where I saw half of Canada and the whole west coast of North America, from Alaska to Mexico.

In hindsight, I understand why I got so dramatically derailed. I can say truthfully now that one’s propensity for having regrets grows exponentially with age. That’s hindsight for you. With wisdom comes the acceptance that there is much we could have done better, learned faster.

Staring down age 41, I have some of that regret, these days.

Surprisingly, not as much as I would have expected, given how unhappy I was, and for how long. As “old” as I feel, I also feel far younger than I would have thought for 40. I have excitement that I can still change things. I also have a sense that everything has kind of gone just as it should.

After all, becoming a world traveller in my 40s will mean I’m old enough to understand and appreciate all the culture around me. I’m wise enough to see what contentment is, and just how little is required to attain it. I’m cynical enough to look behind the curtains and ignore the tourist veneer. I’m confident and defensive enough to stroll off the well-trod path and find the “real” people and places behind the cultures I’m visiting.

I’ve been watching all my friends travel, and none of them have done it in the way I think I will. That’s the beauty of travel. It’s a world of options for a world of people. Literally.

photo

The Great Wandering Act of ’79

When I was soon to be six years old, we were on our first big family trip to Disneyland in ‘79. On a daytrip to Tijuana, I meandered off. I mean, not just a few feet away — I walked the hell off. I was gone for hours. My parents thought I was kidnapped. They waited to file a missing person’s report in the then-corrupt-as-hell-and-lacking-a-PR-department Mexican police station for two hours. My mother had $500 cash stolen from her IN THE POLICE STATION. This was in ‘79, man! Oh, Mexico. That’s a lot of dough.

Meanwhile, me, the absent 5-year-old, I was having a grand old time. I wandered the streets, talked to strangers. I bought a giant bag of candy and made a MILLION little Mexican friends who followed me around as I got them high on free candy.

Then I found my way into a street market and managed to barter with a vendor for a fringed leather cowgirl vest I would cherish for the next two years, followed by a Seiko watch.

I don’t remember how I reconnected with my parents, but I went back with no spending money, a candy-full tummy, a new vest, and a watch.

That afternoon, I learned about how sometimes people stole children and sold the kids to bad people. I never wandered off again. It was pretty fun while it lasted, though.

You Are What You Do

If this premise that our personalities are fully formed by age seven is true, then I guess my little wandering act says a lot about who I should be today.

It’s long overdue that I finally shift gears to be that wandering-act girl again.

When it comes to watching how all my friends are travelling, it’s helping me to decide the sort of traveller I wish to be. I don’t want to be breezing through places with only two to four weeks to see the region (or worse, less). I want to stay put, be a part of the place, become privy to the rhythm of their streets.

I see people shit on others who take trips and only see touristy things, but if I was confined to only a week or two, I would fall victim to the same dull scheme. That’s why I fancy the idea of 5 to 6 months spent per place. As a writer, I love the idea of really getting to know areas.

I’m also not deciding on a plan of attack. I want to see where the flow leads me. We live in an age where you don’t need to speak the language. Photo apps translate foreign-language signs, for crying out loud! Dictionaries and translators will speak for you at the press of a button.

Aside from medical vaccines, money, and visas, there’s no reason why one should be limited where they travel today. It’s an open-door world, thanks to gadgetry.

lone tree hill

Times Have Changed, As They Do

The world I thought was once too expensive to see has become far cheaper than where I now live. If I set the only parameter as being “must be 30% cheaper than where I live today” it seems as if more than half the world is an option for me.

It’s a strange phenomenon to go from a cheap little Canadian city to the most expensive in Canada, and top 100 in the world.

It seems an unrealistic goal, to spend my life travelling for a few years yet live for 30-40% cheaper than I presently do, but according to friends who’ve spent a year or more abroad, it’s not unrealistic at all.

It’s about choices, doing a little research, and being willing to live with less.

When you’re travelling, you don’t need entertainment. Your life is constantly new, entertaining. Stopping, pressing “pause” to spend time writing, or just wandering for photography, will become all-consuming. Writing, photography, they don’t cost money. They just take time.

Time I have too seldom of today. That’s my “pause” for this morning. Dreaming about the next phase. It’s taken some edge off some depressing world news I’d read before breakfast.

But later today I get to be a small-scale traveller as I go visit my brother in a town I’ve never seen before. Something new is always fun, even close to home.

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.