X Marks the Spot

a-to-z-letters-x I’ve been a day behind almost the entire week, so I apologize in advance for the double post today, but I want to try to get caught up before calling it a night.

I can’t quite put my finger when I first fell in love with maps. It may have been an excessive amount of creating, colouring and labelling maps in elementary school as part of the core curriculum that warp me as a young kid. It may have been a family road trip to Florida when I was 8 that kick started it and grabbing one too many handfuls of maps and tourist brochures at roadside stops along the I-75. Regardless I have found maps fascinating for as long as I can remember. The details they reveal about the history of a place, the lay of the land, the map maker themselves, and just the artistic nature of some maps.

Geography was always one of my favourite subjects in school, but for some reason I didn’t stick with it when I went to University. Instead I enrolled in a Engineering program and went on to fail out in the first year. While the details of how I came to fail out are more complicated than I want to get into in this post, suffice it to say that in the end I wasn’t as well suited to Engineering as I had been lead to believe. Oddly enough I did enrol in the Geography Department the next semester eventually getting a degree in Environmental Management.

I think in another life I must have been a cartographer. I have an old 1899 map of the City of Toronto hanging above my desk and its beautiful to look as much as its interesting in all the detail that it holds. It shows creeks and waterways long since paved over and redirected through storm sewers. Shorelines and roadways that have warped and shifted as the city developed. In that way the cartographer is a bit of a historian, documenting places in time as much as space.

W is for Writing Groups

a-to-z-letters-w Writing can be very isolating and solitary experience, so its no surprise that writers tend to seek out kindred spirits. I’ve been very fortunate to be involved in a number of writing groups over the years. Each group has taught me so much about myself and about my writing.

Writing groups have given me opportunities to learn from other writers with different view points and writing experience, as well as sharing my own. Having other people you trust to critique your work and bounce ideas off is crucial. Writing groups can be a source of support, motivation, inspiration and at times, even frustration. Writing groups are tenuous beasts threatened by pressures of work and family commitments, personality clashes, and geography, but when the work they are a sight to behold.

I have met life long friends through writing groups and long after the groups have dissolved I still keep in contact with people from some of my previous critique groups. The core of my current group has been together for more than 4 years now, which is a testament to the strength of the relationships we have forged. Like any relationship, communication is key and we’ve had to recalibrate our wants and needs as time and projects have progressed.

If I could give one piece of advice to writers starting out would be to reach out to other writers and open yourself up to sharing your work and receiving feedback. It’s scary and they don’t call it critiquing for nothing. You’re going to hear things you don’t want to hear about that piece that you thought was PERFECT. You’re probably going to feel like you don’t know anything after someone with more experience points out everything that’s wrong with your work from grammar to viewpoint and everything in between, but trust me when I say its all worth it. All the writers that I have met along the way have been patient, giving of themselves and their time, and you want to know a secret – they WANT YOU TO SUCCEED. They want you to grow as a writer, they want you to write that kick ass story that will make them wish they had thought of it.

I remember when I took my first baby steps on the path to becoming a writer, I asked a friend who I knew was a writer to take a look at something and give me their feedback. The writer asked me if I was ready for this and I said I was, but in truth that first critique was an eye opener in more ways than one. I realized that a) I had a long way to go on the path to becoming published b) that I had to be open to receiving the honest feedback that they were offering. I don’t regret asking for that critique and that sort of feedback made me eventually join my first critique/writing group which would start me down the road to where I am today.

I want to thank every one who has ever taken time to read one of my stories and give me feedback whether it was part of one of these groups as a one-on-one favour. I may not always act on your advice, but I will ALWAYS take it to heart with all the consideration that it was given.