Category Archives: Art

The biology of story: Pick up, listen, restore

I spent the weekend in Toronto, Canada at the Canadian Writers’ Summit. Hundreds of writers from across the country gathered at the Harbourfront Centre to share ideas, learn from each other and evolve as writers.

Are you surprised I chose to attend a session entitled “The Biology of Story”? 

At the session, Amnon Buchbinder, associate professor of screenwriting at York University, talked about the “interactive documentary” he created to explore the idea of stories as living things.

Buchbinder’s documentary, found at, outlines three principles.

1. A story is a living thing

“A story will choose to be with you, but you have to choose to pick up the story.” —Nigaan James Sinclair

If you want to drive a writer crazy, ask them, “Where do you get your ideas?” You might hear something like “Out of the clear blue sky.” Perhaps it’s a matter of writers choosing to pick up the stories—those living beings—that come to them.

Watch: Stories are living beings. Period

2. Living is a story thing.

“Listen and you will see your own story will speak to you.” —Jean Pierre Makosso

Do you drift aimlessly from one event to another in your life? Are you listening for what your story—living being that it is—has to tell you?

Watch: Listen and your story will speak to you.

3. Not all narratives are stories.

“A real story is the possibility of restoring the world.” —Deena Metzger

Buchbinder writes: “We live in a world crowded with narratives. Many of them lack key properties of story. This accounts for the lifeless and/or destructive forms that some narratives take.”

Watch: Stories are about wholeness

Buchbinder’s documentary encourages us to pick up the stories that come to us, to listen for what our own stories have to say, and to work with those stories to restore the world.

I just sent you a story. Pick it up, listen, restore. 

Zero: Nothing and everything

“Zero gets to represent something and nothing” —from The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth Through Music by Victor L. Wooten

zeroVictor Wooten’s fantastic book leads me to write about zero.

Zero means nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zippo.

Place it to the right of the number 1 though, and all of a sudden you have ten times that number. The zero magically creates something more.  Keep adding zeroes and you can create all the way up to . . . infinity.

Nothingness used to create infinity. Huh. Sounds sort of God-like to me.

Something to ponder.

“Zero is like space. . . . A scientist looks close enough at an atom and what does he find? Space! . . . Space can be seen as the birthplace of all things.”




I recommend The Music Lesson. Reading that will make you think!



The pixels, the picture and the story: A faith mosaic

canadian mosaic july 7th smallSince 2008, photographer Tim Van Horn has been travelling across Canada to photograph Canadians, and he will continue to do so into 2017. Each one of his photographs will become a pixel in a giant Canadian flag mosaic portrait to be completed in celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday in 2017. The portrait will tell the story of “the collective history and energy of 40,000 of Canadians from across the land . . . weaving together a colourful, diverse, true life look at the Canadian cultural tapestry.”

Van Horn’s Canadian Mosaic Project takes the faces of Canadians and creates a picture. The picture in turn tells a bigger story of a culturally diverse country.

Life is in the details, and life is in the big picture.

To really appreciate his masterpiece, we need to know about and consider the 40,000 unique citizens at the heart of it—the people pixels. But if we were to spend all our time microscopically dissecting the pixels without stepping away to appreciate they way they blend together, we would miss the big picture. We don’t want to make the mistake of thinking that the pixels are the only thing. Sure, we need to study the details, but we also need to enjoy the big picture and, more importantly, ponder what greater story they work together to tell.

Faith is like that.

We can study the bible. We can closely examine the many intricate details therein. But we don’t want to make the mistake of thinking that those details are what faith is all about. We need to step back and look at the bigger picture. And, more importantly, we need to ponder the greater story they work together to tell.

The faith story for me is:

  • All people are of equal value. Each unique face forms a vital part of the whole. All are one.
  • The collective history and energy of billions of people of different faiths weave together to form a colourful, diverse, true life tapestry.


Find out more about The Canadian Mosaic Project on Facebook.




Hurry up and wait, at the same time

0870709593The book, Hurry Up and Waitis a collaboration between Maira Kalman, Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) and the New York Museum of Modern Art. Described as an “anti-productivity manifesto,” the book combines paintings by Kalman, insightful words by Handler and photographs from the museum.

Handler writes:

“You’re supposed to stop and smell the roses, but truth be told it doesn’t take that long to smell them. You hardly have to stop. You can smell the roses, and still have time to run all those errands before the sun goes down and it’s dinner time.”

I say, stop and read this book. Truth be told, it doesn’t take long. You hardly have to stop. You can read it and still have time to run all your errands before the sun goes down.

My favourite passage is this one:

“I’m just standing still, and then suddenly I think I am waiting for something. Once I’ve decided I’m waiting it’s like I’m not standing still anymore.”

The idea of idling transformed into action by mere choice appeals to me. 

You know those times when you feel stuck? You know when you don’t know what’s coming next or what you’re supposed to do with your life?

No worries. You’re not standing still. You’re actively waiting.

So, what are you waiting for? Hurry up and wait, already.


Writing from the collective consciousness

I am at the Canadian Authors Association CanWrite! conference in Orillia, ON, surrounded by writers from every genre. We talk about the joys and trials of writerhood and our varied creative processes. Most of us share guardedly, wary of how others might judge the quirky things we do to get to the heart of our writing. This morning, a poet friend bravely shared the sketch book she uses every morning.


“I am spreading good news.” Jean Kay

First thing in the morning, before she eats or showers or does anything else, she sits down with her sketch book. She writes the date at the top of the left-hand page and then on the top of the right-side page, she writes, “I am . . .” and completes the phrase with how she’s feeling. From a box of coloured crayons, she randomly selects three colours and draws a picture, a symbol, a pattern, or anything that flows from the colours and the phrase. And then (this is the part that boggles) she returns to the left-hand page and writes a poem, from start to finish. Boom, just like that. No stroke-outs or re-considerations. No pondering or hovering of the hand. Just a poem on the page.

She never knows what’s going to happen when she picks up the sketch pad or the colours. She never knows what the poem is going to be when she starts to print the words. She just “tunes in,” lets go and writes.


She receives daily emails from inspirational sources, and in this poetry sample, she writes about how often the topic of her poem and the topic of the emails coincide. (She reads the emails after she writes the poems.)

She calls it “collective consciousness.”

Tuned In
©2015 Jean Kay

After writing my morning poem
I read ‘Daily Word’ & ‘Science of Mind’
And very often the messages
Are of a similar kind

I call that collective consciousness
Some will say it’s coincidence
But whatever power is at work here
The messages are intense

Those articles were written months ago
But thousands are reading today
And I’m on a similar wavelength
To receive what is coming my way

I don’t preconceive morning poetry
I just write what comes into my mind
And yet often a word I seldom use
Will be in ‘Daily Word’ and/or ‘Science of Mind’

It makes me feel the path I’m on
Is the right one for me
I’m on track & tuned in
And living my eternity.


My 500th post: What better time for Calvin and Hobbes?


Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip, April 16, 1991 on

I’m celebrating 500 posts with a little of Bill Watterson’s genius. This is one of my favourites.

Carpe Diem. Make the most of your precious few footsteps. 

Happy New Year

Mill Street Books

Almonte's bookstore carries books, music, family games, gifts and more.


"Every day is a great day to make a joyful noise!"

simple Ula

I want to be rich. Rich in love, rich in health, rich in laughter, rich in adventure and rich in knowledge. You?

Bliss B4 Laundry

Inspirational Events for Mind, Body & Soul + Ontario's Best Wellness Weekends for Women


Spread love before hate conquers.

Kone, Krusos, Kronos

A personal forum to express ideas, experiences, stories, etc.


Just another site

matter of life and death

- perceptions from a widow's perspective


Life in a flash - a weekly blog on daily living

The Cathie Barash Blog

Relationship Author and Coach


Achieve Your Ultra Life


Only Occasionally Talking About Poop

J M Lysun

The pleasure of creative writing.

%d bloggers like this: