New Chapters

A Shinny Big Nickel
A Shiny Big Nickel by BigA888 (via Flickr) Some Rights Reserved

Seven years ago this week I moved my young family (my son was 2 1/2, my wife was 8 months pregnant) to Sudbury, Ontario (aka The Big Nickel) to start a new chapter in our life. Toronto and the surrounding area had become virtually unaffordable to live (especially with a growing family and one income). Sudbury offered a new job and a chance at one day owning a house. I left behind nearly 20 years of memories, friends and connections. Among those friends were many close writing friends that I had grown to rely on for advice, support and critiques.

Learning a new job and coping with a newborn left me exhausted. Although I continued to write, it wasn’t until I had been living here for the better part of 2 years that I began to reach out to other local writers.  Between the Sudbury Writers’ Guild and the local Sudbury Region NaNoWriMo group that I began to cultivate a close knit group of writers that I could once again count on.

From that NaNoWriMo group in November 2008 a core group of writers began to coalesce into its own critique group. While it went through several iterations since its humble beginnings in late 2008, always at its core was Stephanie aka Steph.  In the past 5 years I have come to count Steph as formidable writer and a close friend. She’s challenged me and the other writers in the group to up our game at every turn, all the while discovering her own voice as a writer.

I owe a lot of where I am as a writer to Steph. The reason I am singling her out here and not one of the many other writers that have influenced me over the years, is because Steph has started a new chapter in her own life this week. Late last night Steph boarded a plane, leaving this sleepy Northern Ontario mining town behind for a new beginning  in Vancouver.

Goodbye - (If you get this reference then you must be nearly as old as I am!)

Goodbye – (If you get this reference then you must be nearly as old as I am!)

Myself and the rest of our writing family said our goodbyes to Steph earlier this week and while we were sad to see her go, we couldn’t be happier for this new chapter she is beginning. Just like the time was right for me and my family when we moved north to Sudbury 7 years ago, I am certain this is the right move for Steph. While 3000+ km  may separate her and the rest of her ‘old’ writing group, thankfully we have the internet to keep in touch.

To Steph: I wish you all the best in this new chapter in  your life and I look forward to flying to Vancouver in the near future to attend one of your book signings. 😉 Thanks again for your continued friendship and your parting ‘advice’ to “Keep writing”. I will.

You can check out Steph’s blog here – What I Write

 

 

DIY: Vision vs Reality

I have a confession to make. My current novel is woefully neglected and I’ve been trying to map out a path forward for some days, weeks, months now. This not to say there hasn’t been ANY progress, but the progress has been glacial. I’ve solved a few critical plot points and even did some much needed outlining. New words on the other hand have been slowed to a trickle.

I can stand here and make excuses till the proverbial cows come home, but it ain’t going to cut it. I’ve been writing long enough to know that the only sure fire cure for finishing a piece is sitting down and writing. So why then haven’t I done just that?

(For the record what follows are not excuses per se, but rather analysis of my mental state. Just so we’re clear…)

I had a lightbulb moment sometime last year when I realized that procrastination wasn’t a sign that someone is lazy, undisciplined or lacking in motivation. Procrastination can be as simple as an in ability to make a decision and move forward. While my current situation doesn’t feel like full blown procastination, it does have its roots in my inability to move forward.

Earlier this year my wife had some time between contracts and decided that it was the perfect time to give our kitchen a makeover. Not having a lot of money we decided the best course of action was to paint our 35+ year old cupboards and replace the hardware. She had seen examples online of people’s similar makeovers and was taken by how well they turned out. In a heady rush of optimism we bought all the supplies, consulted the various home hardware gurus (who are so willing to tell you they did the same job themselves and how easy it was). Then we waited. And waited. Next thing we knew my wife had got a call back for another contract and the project went on the backburner. It wasn’t until that contract finished did we sit down and discuss our lack of progress.

As it turns out I was deferring to her to start the project. My excuse for not encouraging her was that I couldn’t see her vision of how she wanted to transform it. Her excuse that was she was afraid to start the project because it was daunting and that once she started there was no turning back. For better or worse the cabinets would be forever changed. In the end it worked out and while there was a steep learning curve and many delays due to other commitments, but it got done and was worth it in the end.

Pardon my inelegant metaphor, but writing is a lot like a DIY home renovation. You see other people doing it, your motivated to do it yourself. The process looks challenging, but the end result looks so satisfying. Then you commit and you feel overwhelmed, like you don’t have the skills or the tools to pull it off and that you should have just hired professionals. Except in writing, unless you’re having someone ghost write your memoir, there are no hiring professionals to do it for you. It’s DIY by definition.

So where does that leave me on my current novel? I have the vision of what shape I want this project to take, so no excuses there. I may think I don’t have the tools I need to get the job done, but until I try and find out that I am lacking something, I won’t know. It comes down to that underlying fear of FAILURE. Of messing it up, so royally that you end up questioning your command of the English language. I know that’s an irrational fear. I know its a fear driven by not having successfully completed a project of this magnitude before.

This project has its roots in an idea I started in 2011 for NaNoWriMo. I didn’t start working on it seriously until last year, but even then its been fits and starts. At my age, I can’t afford to be wasting time spinning my wheels on projects. I need to be completing projects and moving on. I get that this will be my FIRST novel and whether it survives revision or ends up in the trunk remains to be seen, but regardless I need to move it forward.

So this is me working it out in my own head and putting it out there in the world that I need to make this happen. I need to commit to the process and dive in and not come up for air until its done. Whether it matches my vision or not, I need to get to the end before I can judge the outcome.

Wish me luck and don’t be afraid to ask me how’s the novel coming. See you on the other side.

Playwrights’ Junction

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Playbill from last year’s Playwrights’ Junction workshop readings

As if my life wasn’t full enough right now with work, family, and writing, I’ve decided to take on another writing project. This one involving the stage.

The Sudbury Theatre Centre has a playwright-in-residence, Matthew Heti, who has been leading a workshop for new playwrights for the past couple of years. I was interested in applying last year, but due to circumstances couldn’t commit the time.

I did attend last year’s presentation of the playwrights’ work they created during the workshop. Each playwright had a scene from their work read dramatically by actors in front of an audience. I was blown away by the variety of stories that were presented last year and the talent of the writers. I was also impressed with Matthew’s enthusiasm for the work and his support of the developing writers.

So when the call went out for participants for this year’s workshop, I happily applied. I didn’t have a lot of opportunity to see live theatre growing up in the Soo, but that all changed when I moved to Toronto. In addition to seeing some of the bigger productions hosted by hosted at the Royal Alexander and Princess of Wales, I was a frequent visitor of the theatres like Factory Theatre, Theatre Passe Muarille, Tarragon Theatre, Buddies in Bad Times, and Harbourfront’s World Stage. I was fortunate enough to gorge myself on several seasons of The Toronto Fringe Festival, which was like a buffet of live theatre where you could sample different fare from all over. I owe a lot of my Toronto theatre education to my cousin Don, without who I would never have tried such a variety of performances.

I was exposed to so many great actors/playwrights/directors during that time far too many to name here. In my application to the Playwrights’ Junction I did single out a few playwrights, whose work I can’t seem to shake from memory. Daniel MacIvor and his fierce and minimalist one man plays (Henry Lies Here, House, Monster). John Mighton a mathematician who writes witty and thoughtful plays (Possible Worlds, The Little Years) that blends science fiction and human nature in creative and original ways. And finally I had to include Robert LePage (who I’ve seen more of his films than his stage plays), who’s grand visual designs for the stage are incredible.

While I haven’t made a lot of opportunity to see live theatre since moving to Sudbury (almost  *cough* 7 *cough* years ago) I am hoping to change that now that my kids are getting older and I am more established in my job.

I received word last week that I was accepted into the Playwrights’ Junction and just last night I attended our first meeting. As Matthew said it was a bit like a first date, with the 8 participants getting to know a little about each other as well as getting a feel for what Matthew has in store for us over the next twelve weeks of the workshop.

It felt a bit like going back to school in a way. The nervousness, excitement, and oh, yes the anxiety. Having a group photo taken on the first day, certainly just added to that atmosphere. I am looking forward to stretching my brain in new ways and getting to work with and be inspired by a group of new artists that bring such a variety of talents and insight to the table.

I hope I’ll be able to share some of my progress with the workshop here on my blog so stay tuned.