Category Archives: writing

The universe conspires with you

 

universe-coelho

I love the book The Alchemist, and I find its author, Paulo Coelho, inspirational as a writer and a human being. 

Many people don’t agree. I made a visit to the “1 star” section of the Goodreads reviews of The Alchemist and discovered myriad variations on the “What a load of tripe” theme.

Those readers didn’t fall in with the fabled story of a hero journey. They didn’t buy the life wisdoms like the one quoted above. After all, since when does everyone in the universe get what they want? And what about good people who end up suffering?

Coelho recently responded to those concerns with this:

“I realized that despite the fear and the bruises of life, one has to keep on fighting for one’s dream. As Borges said in his writings ‘there no other virtue than being brave’. And one has to understand that braveness is not the absence of fear but rather the strength to keep on going forward despite the fear.”

I think he means this: If you have the ability to complain about NOT getting what you want, then that means that you’re still breathing, and your story is not over yet. There’s still time. 

Get busy. Work hard. Stop whining, because if you don’t, all you’ll get is more of the same. Fight past all those things you fear. Don’t let them paralyze you into inaction.

If you do, you might be amazed at the machinations of the universe. 

___________________

Consider Paulo Coelho’s 25 Important Points. Read them here: http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2014/09/03/25-important-points/

The changing sounds of offices

It took a few days for all the technological pieces to fall into place at my new job. For the first while, I had no laptop or computer. I spent the time reading about files I would need to know in future and listening to the sounds of the office.

Office sounds have evolved.

Today, the ticky-ticky sound of laptop keys softly touched dominates the space. No more thunk of Selectric typewriter keys, the clickety-clack of its spinning ball of letters, and the ding of its bell at the margin.

A gentle ping signals new e-mails in Inboxes. No more rustling pink memo slips piled on desks.

The click of a mouse—computer mouse, not the real kind that might have cleaned up crumbs in drafty older offices— is far more common than the scratch of a pen.

There is the scrape of plastic security badges, not the jangle of loaded sets of keys.

My office phone, which rarely rings, plays a tune that sounds like melodic mariachi music. That is a big improvement over the spine-rattling trill of old black phones.

From time to time, the gentle murmur of a meeting conversation carries through the open-office environment. So different from the closed-door work meetings of decades ago.

When footsteps echo from managers’ offices, these days those footsteps could be made by either a male or female. Hallelujah.

Office sounds have evolved because our society has evolved.

We’re more efficient, we’re more secure, and we’re more equitable. That’s all good. But I sure do miss the sound of a good old Selectric typewriter. 

Adjustments and appreciations

I have started a new writing contract, and this one requires me to make some adjustments.

My home is my usual base of operations. I wear comfy clothes, I take frequent breaks, and when I read my writing out loud to myself no one around me questions my sanity.

But for this contract, I need to put on nice clothes, walk to a bus stop early in the morning, and commute to downtown Ottawa. I don’t have access to my email at my office, so I feel untethered. It makes it more difficult to do things I love to do but don’t get paid for, like this blog.

Shock. To. My. System.

I know, I know—what’s the big deal, right? People do this every day. True, and I’m making the adjustment.

And I look for things to appreciate. The work is interesting, my boss is fantastic, and my co-workers are positive and supportive. The experience allows me to build my writing skills in a lucrative area. I learn to juggle domestic duties more effectively.

Best of all, I don’t have a work life like the one described by a woman on the bus. (Yes, I was eavesdropping.) She said:

“I break my day up because it’s the only way I can deal with it:

8:30 to 12:00 is work;
12:00 to 1:00 is waiting for lunch;
1:00 to 1:30 is lunch;
1:30 to 3:30 is work;
3:30 to 4:30 is waiting to go home;
4:30 is home.”

Wow.

I’ll adjust, and I’ll appreciate. And I’ll try not to let the blog slip . . .

stanley-park

Morning pages: Dredging out of a creative primordial soup

Lots of people ask me where I get my ideas.

Stephen King answers the same question this way:

“. . . good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, interviewed the American poet, Ruth Stone. During that interview, Ruth Stone spoke of feeling poems:

“. . . coming at her from over the landscape like a thunderous train of air.” She said that when this happened, she felt the poem coming, it shook the earth beneath her feet, and the only thing she could do was run like hell to the house, chased by the poem. She had to get to a piece of paper and a pencil fast enough so that when it thundered through her, she could collect it and grab it on the page. Sometimes, she said, she wouldn’t be fast enough and the poem would barrel through her and she would miss it and it would continue on across the landscape looking for another poet.”

Wouldn’t that be exciting?

I’m helped by Julia Cameron’s morning pages. In The Artist’s Way, she recommends the daily practice of writing three pages every morning. Weird and wonderful stuff comes to me on those pages. The ideas feed this blog and my other creative writing. The ideas arise out of a creative primordial ooze; I dredge them out of the muck, and they rise to the surface with a sucking sound, brand new and unevolved.

Without fail, something comes up. Almost always I think: “I could never have thought of that on my own.”

Out of the empty sky, barreling across the landscape, or rising out of the primordial soup—however we choose to describe it—the ideas come from somewhere, someone, someplace, something outside of us.

We just recognize them when they show up.

drop-off-zone

 

 

Time and space for creativity: John Cleese

“. . . it’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking, and it’s also easier to do little things  we know we can do than to start on big things that we’re not so sure about. —John Cleese

I’ll be taking a blog break for the next few weeks—time to refill my creative well. While I enjoy this breather, I will ponder the wisdom of the oh-so-creative John Cleese and his five keys to creativity:

1. Space – a playful a creative space away from demands, an “oasis of quiet”

2. Time – a specific period of time, because play must begin and end, otherwise it is not play

3. Time (No. That’s not a typo.) – all the time the creativity requires to turn a problem into an opportunity

4. Confidence – openness to anything that might happen

5. Humour –  silliness

When I return from playing on the open road, I will seek to play in his open mode.

A bow tie, (ears?) and a hot pink feather

noteMany of our most successful writers recommend a daily walk as a source of inspiration. I am beginning to see why. Both of this week’s post arose out of incidents along the route of my daily walk.

Tuesday I wrote about camp counselors’ hats in “Do you love it or do you love it?”, and yesterday I found this note on the ground:

  • Bring:
  • bow tie
  • (ears?)
  • hot pink feather

I thought, “Whoa, I want to go to that party.” 

Bow ties are making comeback, so I wasn’t too surprised by that one. But what kind of bow tie did the writer have in mind? I ran through the list of possibilities. A classic black tuxedo tie, a dignified plaid one, or maybe a large, droopy hot pink number to match the feather?

I wondered why (ears?) needed parentheses and a question mark. Most of us come with ears firmly attached, so I assume the (ears?) referred to here would be detachable accessories. Perhaps the person needed to be Yoda, or a cat, or Spock. But not for certain, because of that question mark. Perhaps a friend could bring the (ears?) instead. Or perhaps the person felt that, with a bow tie and a hot pink feather already in play, (ears?) would be just too much—over the top.

Oh yes, the hot pink feather. That really made me smile. What day doesn’t get a little better with a hot pink feather? I pictured a luscious Ostrich-sized one. A puny one simply wouldn’t do.

As I walked on I realized I was close to the intermediate school in our area, and the note was likely a leftover from the school play at the end of the year. Then I pictured a child saying to a parent, “Oh yeah. I need a bow tie, (ears?) and a hot pink feather for tomorrow.” This would happen at 9:01 p.m., immediately after all the stores had closed for the day. (Similar scenarios played out in our house more than once.)

The writer of this note dropped it along the way. Did that mean that he or she arrived home and thought, “I know I was supposed to bring something. Now, what was it again?” Did a droopy, hot pink bow tie make it to the event? What about the poor, questionable (ears?)?

Stephen King is one of those writers who recommends a daily walk. Now I understand how he comes up with those out-of-this-world ideas of his.

 

 

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