Where’s the Write Spot?

Every second week I gather up my pencils and notebooks after breakfast and set out to find somewhere to write for the day. Preferably somewhere I’ve never been before.

“No one is immune to the impressions that impinge on the senses from the outside.” Creativity, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Could be a park, a café or terrasse, an art gallery or museum, a mall, a greenhouse…

I find working somewhere different helps spark off fresh, unexpected ideas.

The new chairs and benches on the Montreal streets this summer are attractive options too! I love the replacement of sidewalk flowers along McGill College Avenue with parsley and other herbs.

summer chairs along ave McGill College, Montreal

Sometimes I look up places I’ve heard about in advance, but usually I just set out and see what I come across. Montreal is a great place for that!

When I saw Continue reading

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In a Strange Place: Writing Lesson From The Woman In Gold

Since April 2 this year, Gustav Klimt’s painting Adele Bloch-Bauer I, the Woman in Gold, has been the centerpiece of a special exhibition at the Neue Galerie in New York.

In the painting, Adele stands radiant, hands delicately curved towards her chest, wearing a dazzling bejewelled dress, dark hair coiffed high.

On a lower floor of the Neue Galerie, in a passage near the toilets, hangs a related display of pictures. These were created by students in Vienna, the original home of the painting, who were asked to imagine Continue reading

A Smartphone? Waiting Is My Dreamtime!

Central Park, NYCCentral Park in New York City. Pink and white blossom all around us. Yellow forsythia. Brilliant blue sky above. Earlier my husband and I had delighted in all the fresh spring colors. Back home there wasn’t seen so much as a spike of crocus or daffodil to be seen.

But now was no time to admire nature. We had to get ourselves across Central Park to our hotel in time to get the shuttle to the airport. I had the map (a paper map!), I knew where I was going…except we somehow kept finding ourselves back on Fifth Avenue!Central Park, NYC

For the first time ever, I wished I had a smartphone. I was sure an app of Central Park would be able to get us through the maze of winding paths in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, as my aunt used to say.

My sister is always trying to persuade me to get a smartphone. Think of all the things you could do while waiting in a queue, she says. You can read the newspaper, find a book or magazine to read, surf the web.

But now, I tell her, I can gaze into the middle distance and suddenly realize what a character in my story should be doing, overhear something interesting or notice Continue reading

Writing Warm Up: Choose A Letter, Any Letter

I love writing warm ups – or any kind of creative warm up – that are fun and a challenge.

My warm up this morning comes from WordPress’ Daily Prompt: Fearful Symmetry: Choose a letter and write with every sentence starting with that letter.

I instantly thought “m”. Of course I then immediately wanted to choose another letter, but I believe (from experience rather than from any supporting scientific evidence) that it’s important to go with one’s first gut response to a creative challenge.

“Should you be writing this sort of stuff?” someone asked me after reading one of my writing warm ups. “Aren’t you wasting your time?”

That’s not the point. The point of a writing warm up is Continue reading

Hula Hooping For Creativity

hoola-hooping

I was in my local Canadian Tire, searching through coils of tubing in the plumbing section. A passing salesperson asked what I was looking for. Could he help?

I told him I didn’t think so as I wasn’t looking for stuff for a plumbing job, but was trying to work out what I needed to make a hula hoop.

“Ah,” he said, nodding. “Hula-hooping! Best thing ever! Five minutes of that every day and you feel great!”

In no time at all he’d helped me find the right tubing and a little connector thingy to keep the tubing ends together, and brightly colored electrical tape to decorate the hoop.

What can hula hooping do for a writer… or any artist… or for any body? Continue reading

Every Story Has Its Seasons: Fall Clean-Up

Spring – seeds of your first ideas, images, characters, plotlines send up green shoots!

Summer – the story blossoms, flowers and weeds alike.

Fall…

Fall. I’m working on my earth pond, pulling out invasive weeds and dredging stinky sludge and algae. I check every scoop for frogs and salamanders so it’s slow work. And it’s hard work too. The huge pond rake becomes even heavier when dragged through water.

If I don’t do this, the inlet pipe gets clogged up and the pond becomes cloudy with silt and will eventually fill up and return to the mosquito-infested swamp it once was.

salamander in netEarly fall is a good time for a pond clean-up.The frogs and salamanders I disturb are able to swim away and dig themselves into the mud again. If I leave it till later, when it’s much colder, they can be very sluggish and I worry about whether they’ll survive.

Dredge too early, in the spring, and the frogspawn and young salamanders will be destroyed.

Just like with the earth pond, fall is the optimum time for cleaning up a story! This is the time when a story’s process, motivations, scenes, points of view have become overgrown or tangled up in other weedy storylines, or even died off and disappeared into the undergrowth. Continue reading

Writer’s Process: Curiosity And The Contagion Of Looking

Dominion Building, MontrealMy story isn’t working. There are too many characters, too many events. Too much back story. I’ve lost the road map and driven into a swamp.

I need to take a breather. Time for a field trip.

“The brass elevator doors in the Dominion Square Building,” suggests a poet friend.

Go look at an elevator door? Really? Continue reading