5 Things Not To Do When Your Writing Gets Stuck

Vortexit II, Bill Vazan, Réné-Lévesque Park, Lachine, QC

What’s the first thing you do when your writing gets stuck? After drinking coffee and eating chocolate, of course.

Recent comments by Canada’s Prime Minister and Finance Minister insisting they won’t change their plans for pushing forward with the Northern Gateway oil-sands pipeline despite fierce opposition provide useful insight into what not to do if you find your writing project stuck.

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The Fine Line of Focus

IMG_4819-1What is your favorite writing moment?

Mine has to be when I’m writing in response to a prompt (could be some detail in a story I’m working on or something entirely new) and I feel that special tug. Something has grabbed me, something that intrigues me, that seems meaningful, even if I’ve no idea what exactly or why. All at once I’m alert, curious to see what’s going to happen, energized, happy as a clam on its favorite rock when the tide is in.

Sometimes this happens after I’ve been free-writing, going with whatever wafts through my mind. Other times it happens when I’ve been concentrating on details of the prompt itself.

Once in the flow, both kinds of focus are needed to keep going: Continue reading

Ginger-Haired Twins, Friday Night’s Dream and Other Superstitions

spilled saltI’m working on a story in which one of the characters is very superstitious.

I have to decide if there is a particular superstition that is especially close to her heart. If there is, it’s bound to have an effect on what happens in the story.

Sharp-bladed gifts

When my husband gave me a pair of gardening clippers for my birthday (I did ask for them!), I wouldn’t take them until Continue reading

Writing Craft and Community

spare parts for writing a storyI was stuck with my novella, not a bad stuck, just a point when I needed to stop, think, and realign characters and plot.

I pulled a couple of craft books from my shelf at random in the hopes of sparking an idea, or finding a new way to see my material.

  • “Naming the World” (ed) Bret Anthony Johnston
  • “Burning Down The House” Charles Baxter
  • “Creating Fiction” (ed) Julie Checkoway

Writer Unboxed

Not an hour later, I was reading a blog post from Writer Unboxed about the issue of craft books. Although many people shared their favorite craft books and inspirational authors, a number of comments expressed quite a lot of antagonism towards craft books – e.g., craft books are only written to make money; you can’t learn writing from a book…

I was very surprised because I think of writers/artists as curious people and would have thought they would want to see what other Continue reading

Golden Rain And Other Inspirations

When spring insists on remaining winter, it’s wonderful to have such a rich arts week! So great for enlightening our own creative process…

Golden rain

In Lin Hwai-min’s “Songs of the Wanderers” performed by Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, three and a half tons of rice stream down as curtains of golden rain, splash up in high gleaming arcs and, in falling, transform into the shifting sands of a desert.

sun up in Sahara © Dr. J. HockAn ancient tribe struggles through this desert, leaning on their crooked staffs which have what look like a little leaf or bird at the top but are in fact tiny bells.

To one side, a monk or Buddha figure in white. Eyes closed, hands together in prayer. A constant column of rain pings off his head and hands and white robes. He remains absolutely motionless. Surely a statue. No. At curtain call he receives thunderous applause for his 90-minute stillness. Continue reading

Creative Grocery List: An Evening With Peter Carey and Josip Novakovich

little wooden man with veggiesI have a very unwriterly reason for having a soft spot for Peter Carey: my godmother was a fervent fan of his.

I remember a wonderful visit with her years ago in her little house (oh how I loved her royal blue bathtub and loo), listening to her talk in great excitement over tea and cake about “this marvelous new Australian writer” and his newly published first novel “Oscar and Lucinda.”

So when I heard the two-time Booker Prize winner was coming to Montreal to discuss “the writing of inspiration” with Globe and Mail’s Arts Editor Jared Bland at Concordia University, how could I not go? Especially as they were to be joined by Booker short-listed author Josip Novakovich, the master, I discovered last year, of the art of hilarious-but-serious anecdotes.

How to begin

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In Search of the Perfect Ending

The End(s)Why am I writing about story endings when the very thought makes me want to whimper and hide my head under my pillow?

Endings! Endings! Oh the agony! But oh the sweetness when you get the right one!

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Writing and the Dynamics of Smell

I watched a mother pass sample pots of dry teas to her young son in a local tea store. Oranges, he said, sniffing at the tin his mother held out while at the same time continuing to tease his little brother. Grapefruit. Vanilla. Mint. He got them all. I thought about writing and the sense of smell.

Smell for Narrative Energy

In Edinburgh last year, I was entranced by the installation “It Happens When The Body Is Anatomy Of Time” by Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. The fragrance of spices, cloves, cumin, turmeric, pervaded the room, bringing the visual artwork – lycra ‘skins’, the stitching details, the colour and lighting – alive, and making the installation a sensual and exciting experience. Continue reading

Five Ways To Lift Yourself Out Of A February Writing Slump

Le Malheureux Magnifique, Pierre Yves Angers

Winter is the traditional time for storytelling but by February many of us story tellers and writers in colder climes are feeling the effects of battling the freezing winds and icy sidewalks of a long, cold winter: hunched, tense shoulders, neck ache, cabin fever.

Here are five suggestions to help you rise out of the slump and re-energize. Continue reading