Wednesday, May 1, 2019

May 1st - the glorious first of May - May Day - is it a call for help or a workers' holiday? Do we gather blossoms for the May Pole or rise up against the oppression of the proletariat? No, let's not do either. For one thing it might snow and there are definitely no wee May flowers yet (oh how I love their smell!) and for another it is time for another meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group!

I'm writing this on the 30th - usually my writing pal and I get together on Wednesdays but this week she has another money gig so we got together early. So here goes.

I'm including the purpose as stated on the IWSG sign-up page.
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Okay - confession time. For the first time since I was fourteen years old and I'm 67 now - so for the first time in fifty-three years, I no longer feel like a writer. I don't feel like a stuck writer, or a frenzied writer or an amateur writer or a professional writer or an occasional writer - I plain just do not feel like a writer at all. I'm still a blogger. I write on my blog Sojourner in Nova Scotia once a week. I do write a letter now and then - but I'm no longer waiting to turn into Edna St. Vincent Millay or Brenda Starr, girl reporter, or Margaret Lawrence or Carol Shields. So - not a poet, not a journalist, not a novelist, not a playwright. Nope - not a writer.

I've looked at why that might be and have a few theories but nothing very solid. It is totally shocking to me. And before you take to telling me that I'm simply going through a very natural lull or block - no, I'm not. I've done that lots of times and this is different. This is more like you woke up one morning and you couldn't see, or you couldn't use your hands. Something that has been a huge part of me for as long as I can remember - I know I said fourteen but actually I became a writer in grade two in Osgoode, Ontario, when a teacher praised my essay on our camping trip to the Maritimes.

Possible reasons for this may be the following:

  1. No positive reinforcement from the publishing world. No blame here, but the last time I got some was in the fall of 2017 when I got a poem published and a chapbook shortlisted for a prize. I have sent out a lot of poems and queries for Bright Angel in the last year and it has been reject, reject, reject. I know that is natural but after all this time I don't feel so sanguine about it. I feel rejected if you want to know the truth. I know it is a mug's game but jeesh!
  2. It is the end-days. Again I know this might seem a bit over the top, but hey - this is me reporting from my life. I feel that climate change is inevitable and so is the end of the human habitation of this planet. I hope I'm wrong but right now I think that is a reasonable conclusion to draw. That has led to a bit of an existential crises for me - not in every part of my life, but in the desire to create things for others.
  3. My creative life is flowing well with drawing and painting. I am expressing myself and in an area unbesmirched with the desire for publication and fame. I just do it for me. Maybe I could find that pure love of making again with my poetry - certainly it feels gone with novels and plays for me.
So that's it. That is the fire I'm in right now. I cannot adequately express how bizarre I feel not to be who I believed myself to be. It doesn't matter that no one else necessarily thought that was my identity. It feels so gone that I'm not even grief-stricken - more puzzled. Where did it go?

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

And We All Sang Out of Tune with Tremendous Joy

Welcome one and all to another meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group - where neurosis and indecision; procrastination and fumbling are celebrated! After all we are human beings, though we often mistake ourselves for human doings. If you wish to belong to this group of hardy self-flagellates hit the link button above and sign up. You'll be glad you did!

If you are new here - I usually post on the first Wednesday of every month so as to keep my status as an insecure writer. I'm also on Sojourner in Nova Scotia where I post weekly. I do love my writing peeps though - even if I quit writing for good (which as a fully operative neurotic I often feel like doing) I will keep coming back here to see how others are doing. 

Here is this month's optional question: If you could use a wish to help you write just ONE scene/chapter of your book, which one would it be? (examples: fight scene / first kiss scene / death scene / chase scene / first chapter / middle chapter / end chapter, etc.)

Right now the answer to that is so easy - please please please help me with the end of my WIP. It is a mystery and I know who done it and why but I can't make it work out on the page. I have End block. I have no problem with any other part of it. I mean it needs further drafts but I'm not doing those until I figure out the right (write) ending. I've run up to it, I've crept up on it, I've circled it, I've turned my back on it - but nada. No budging will it do. It remains hidden from my mind. So I paint trees instead.

As to the title of this post - well, it just came to me. I love it. I may write a new novel with that as the title. That'll show Crooked Knife who is boss!

On other writing related news I've been sending out a shite-load of poems to literary journals and chap-book publishers. Nothing moving yet but at least I'm back in the game. 

How about you all - where do you get stuck and desire a little magic assistance?

And I'm including a tree painting for those of you who care...

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Okay writers,  grab your favorite hot or cold beverage from the kitchen, take your seats in my parlour - watch out for the dog bones - ignore the dust bunnies and lets get to talking insecurity. Or security. Either way is fine with me.
Yes, it is another meeting of the IWSG - where writers of all stripes (and dots) gather to buoy each other up before heading back to the trenches, the utter chaotic warfare that writing is. Wait a minute! I do not think that. Nobody put a gun to my head or told me if I didn't enlist (at the age of seven) I would be an utter coward and disgrace to my country and people. Why do we want to make everything so dark and dramatic? Isn't real life enough like that? Okay...sorry. I know better than to start that conversation so early in the meeting.

Here is the March question - Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

I will give you my honest answer. I am such a Pantser as opposed to a Plotter that I have no idea when I start out if the voice I'm channeling is the hero or the villain. I don't even know what the story is or if it needs heroes and villains. Couldn't it just be a story where time and circumstance are the villains and heroes are those who manage to trudge through yet another day without harming anyone? I can tell you that whoever is the main character thinks they are the hero regardless of facts. Don't we all? I can barely even remember my siblings growing up and we were very close in age. Are. We aren't dead yet. Though come to think of it there is one I haven't heard from in awhile.

The work in progress is a veritable festival of folks who think they are heroes when mainly they ain't. They aren't totally awful - though there are a few as it is a mystery - but even the main character is as flawed as you might find in any police force. Come to think of it I don't think I've made her nearly wicked enough. I should go back at it.

I remember when I was a young actor and a director/teacher told me that if I wanted to play comedy I had to play it straight and if I was after real drama I should play it for laughs. Think that might be true in this regard as well. Worth thinking about...

How about you? Do you struggle with heroes, anti-heroes, villains and, er, anti-villains?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019


It is the monthly meeting of the Insecure Writers' Support Group. This group, which I've been a member of for as long as I can remember, is a group of writers devoted to sharing triumphs and failures, and to celebrating the 'pitter-patter-let's-fly-atter' nature of the intrepid writer. We meet monthly (first Wednesday of every month) to offer support, encouragement, and timely tips - or to share our fears and neurosis in an open and nurturing environment. I missed January and was beside myself for doing so. No, actually I wasn't. I really think there should be a week between the 31st of December and the start of the new year. A week of WTF do you mean we've entered a new year? I don't even have the tinsel out of my hair (it was a party filled time)! But, in the proper IWSG fashion, I got up, dusted off my knees and got back on the horse. 

The (optional) question this month is "Besides writing what other creative outlets do you have?" How extremely timely this is. I have a gazillion creative projects always on the go. I am a photographer, I draw and paint, I make dolls and occasionally quilts or hooked rugs. I sometimes get a hankering to make a little scene in a box, or knit a scarf that might wrap the neighborhood in wild colours. My dancing is sporadic but joyful and my singing is constant but always without an audience (except for the grade twos who always encouraged me - bless them). I love to cook and reinvent recipes. I have done ikebana once or twice. I act and clown. I used to sculpt and I sometimes long to do that again - but it is so ridiculously dependent on space and materials that I tried carving avocado pits last year. Not one of my finer moments but it was great to give it a whirl. I've done papier-mâché and felting. I embroider but only for love. I've made tiny worlds in a teacup, pine-needle sachets, small books, painted porcelain, and tiny shrines. 

Here are the things I come back to again and again - writing and drawing. I will have long and good spurts of doll-making as well but the episodes of it might happen decades apart. 

In the last few years I've kept up my writing and have finished a collection of poems, two novels ready to be published, about four others in various stages and a memoir. I've also written a few murder mysteries to be performed for an evening entertainment and half of a full new play. I've filled up endless sketchbooks and have thousands of photos. 

Lately, and why this question is so timely, I've been considering that I put more energy into my art than into my writing. I know there are very good reasons for this. It is hard to continue to create novels that are tricky to sell. My art is for me - I share it on social media but I do not give a care what others think of it. It is all for the doing, which I find a blissful state. Sometimes writing is like that - I'd say it pretty much is with my poetry - but not with the novels. Why? Because I've wanted to write BOOKS since I was eight. That's it - plain and simple. My darn ego has been entranced for fifty-nine years - massaged and contorted by pretty much me and a couple of other folks (my grade two teacher has a lot to answer for and I do not remember her name). 

This year I decided I would draw a tree a day. I thought that would be a great project and so far it is. I figure by Christmas this year I'll be a helluva tree drawer (or painter - the medium isn't such a big deal in this). It has consumed a huge chunk of my creative side. Everyday I sit down to draw or paint a tree or trees that I am either resting my actual eyes upon or from a photo that I have taken. I post them on Instagram and make no comments whatsoever about them. Having a year to do it means I don't fuss over each one - I do my best but I think of them as a work in progress - part of a master plan.  I'll put a couple of my drawings in here for your pleasure. (I hope)

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Together Again

It is the weekly meeting of the IWSG (the insecure writers' support group) and here I am - still writing, still insecure, still hopeful, still needy! If you are any of these things do go to the link above and join up - it is a lovely group!

Today, the optional question is "what five things might we find in your writing spot?" or something close to that. 

1. My computer - for I do not write with a quill pen on paper that scrolls. When I was in grade nine I took typing as I planned on being a writer. I got 50 as my mark. Why? Because I would only learn to type, not to set margins and acquire proper formatting for business letters. I planned on only writing with the thing. I loved it. I love a keyboard. I love how my fingers can fly nearly as fast as my mind. I loved the first electric typewriter I ever used and then I remember an exquisite joy when I first laid my fingers on the keyboard of a Selectric Typewriter (born in 1961 - ten years younger than myself). Oh my gawd that was heaven with its lovely quickly revolving ball of type. It is no surprise that the masthead of this blog is a typewriter - from a photo I took of a machine in the ancestral home of Elizabeth Bishop (fabulous poet) in Great Village, NS.

2. A white mug with CHAP printed on its side - full of pens and pencils and scissors and nailfiles and bits and pieces. It was given to me by my gestalt teacher, Rod McLean, who had been a chaplin in the forces. I adored that crazy, difficult and brilliant Cape Bretoner and it wouldn't be my desk without that mug.

3. A binder for the novel I'm trying to sell. In the binder are sheets on which I record where and when I send the manuscript and the responses I get. I know it might be better to have something on the computer but I like it in hard copy. I do forget even so and send it to some agency that I sent it to four years ago but hey - no one seems to notice. I also have a set of stapled sheets for the poetry I send out.

4. A constant flow of papers that I need to deal with. For instance, I have a letter that was typed out by a fella to my mother in hopes of getting a date with her. The paper has the heading of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company and is actually a file or claim form (form 102) and was sent to her on April 12th, 1938. She would've been 21 years old. I have it out because, since we came back from Labrador, I've been sorting treasures and junk. This is a treasure, as is my letter from writer Pamela Frankau which I've already discussed in this blog. 

5. A bookcase full of writing books. No matter where I write there are books that I need handy - Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Brewar's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, Francine Prose's The Artful Edit and about fifty more. It includes inspirational writing and references that always come in handy, even in the age of google. Google is sort of like fast food - it will perhaps suffice to fill me up but I would like a more nutritious meal. I have Cirlot's dictionary of symbols and the Concise Medical Dictionary  and so on. 

I have a room of my own to write in, but that is not always the case. It is also my shrine room, so also has my dharma books and my shrine plus paraphernalia. The walls are orange and there is a shelf that is part of the wall that goes around two sides of the room that holds paintings and sculptures and dolls and vases holding feathers and so on... I love having my own room. Oh, and I do not draw or paint here but do that upstairs in the dining room.

How about you? Where do you create? What do you need at hand?