Tag Archives: creativity

Art Vs Dark


Why is it when you fall out of a habit, it’s so damned hard to get back into it? I was shocked to see how long I let this blog lay fallow. But it’s a new year, and I’m determined to try to dust off this habit and write something useful—well that is to be determined by you—but after a year like 2016, let’s try and do this together. Meet here once in a while? Sure. If you’re willing, I’m willing.

I’ve been on a zero news diet for the past week and lo and behold I find myself spontaneously dancing to Spotify, whistling through hallways and making small joyous pirouettes across my floors. What is going on? What is this feeling? So unusual after months of clenched worry, tightened throat and disbelief at the daily news cycle that obliterated logic and ushered in a new era of post-truth. I realized that the constant streaming of bad news from all media channels was creating a kind of tension fog in my brain. Once cleared, I was able to feel and sense the world around me and voila! The immediate world was a beautiful place I had forgotten still existed.

Look, as a Canadian I won’t lie, the situation south of the border is unnerving. Disturbing. Nightmarish in fact. But what use are we if we’re addled with worry and crouched in a position of terrorized protection?

Having to not go to the day job certainly plays a part in this newfound joyous feeling as does sleeping lots and reading essays by Joan Didion in the middle of the day. Also, how do we forget the healing power of snacks? Triscuits and Baba Ganoush are an old time favourite set on my grandma’s china beside my lap as I thumb through the soft feathery pages of a novel. The wide openness of these days feels like a tide that is not relentless as it comes in but rather like a pool being filled for summer. Inside, I clap and dive in with the joy of having time to just swim to where I want to go and not to where someone tells me.

But with a year passing behind, there’s no denying that I’m getting older. Well, we all are I’m afraid. I know some of you with tighter skin and dazzlingly impervious triceps may not yet know this, but mortality is the polite person at our elevator waiting for the cue to close the doors. As the ice obstinately circles my apartment sidewalks and coats the street with defiance that it can, yes it can, bring us West Coast wusses to our proverbial knees, there is a blue sky above, food in my fridge and a warm radiator. My son has grown a thicker beard and is, like me, gearing up for January courses that will have us pulling our hair our by mid-term. But luckily we have marvelously thick hair so I know we’ll survive.

The point is, instead of going back to the daily news museum of horrors, I’m going to strengthen my outpost here on earth. I am going to shore up supplies like compassion and empathy. I’m going to stock the larder with patience, contemplation, and a tich of keep-my-mouth-shut. I will fortify my defenses with sweet, rational boundaries that are forgiving but infinitely healthy. I will let family in and welcome them with soup and honesty. They can come or go if they don’t find the recipe to their liking. At night I will imagine throwing fistfuls of star light to children dying from the darkness, in whatever form, by bomb, by slap, by word, by starvation, by humiliation. I will love the child I was given, and try to stop from telling, do more showing and be there if he falls off whatever log he’s using to cross the river.

I’m going to dance on my slippery floors in the face of annihilating headlines and ALL CAPS tweets from a deranged president. Because my defiant joy is better than my coiled, quiet fear.

Our creativity needs to stay sharp in 2017. I hope you will join me and create art against the dark.

Here’s to your healthy happy love-filled 2017. I will see you here more often, I promise.

*I will be using the hashtag #artvsdark to tag my writing, collaborations and artwork this year. Feel free to use this to strengthen our collective light in the world.

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Before it’s too late…

DSCF0672I’ve been transformed. There I’ve said it—it may feel like I’ve just dumped an overblown heap of pseudo wellness speak or new age bullshit on you but this isn’t like that. It is the actual thing of transformation, before the word started being used in mission statements, yoga studio bathrooms or political ads.

What I’m talking about is the sense of slipping out of  your life and into another, only you are in the same body, driving the same car, with mail addressed to where you still live. But suddenly the old gimmick you used for so long to enter into the world is no longer needed, that half-truth you were telling yourself and others, about your life, about moment after moment when your heart’s subliminal, traitorous subtext was screaming at you: I don’t care. I don’t care. 

Gone. All those discouraging voices have disappeared like magic, and what is left is the actual thing you trying to discover, so easily seen now in the outline of buildings , textured and contrasted against the sky; people’s intentions appear undiluted and transparent, like veins you never noticed before. Their agenda so obviously void of you. Agree to disagree? Yes, probably a good idea at this point.

My former life, the one before the transformation, is like a nice but slow patient I must put my arm around and through the crook of its arm and walk to a bench, any old bench in a park say, at dusk. I put my hands on its shoulders and shift it onto the wood, see it firmly seated then say adieu in as cheerful a manner as I can muster.

Walking away, I remind myself change doesn’t come without something—someone— making room for its fruition, and that real transformation is a long haul, only fully complete after it is considered in reflection, a death having occurred of some kind or another.

But I’m talking around the facts. The truth is I went to an intense writing residency for ten days and it changed my life. Or rather, it reminded me of life, the one I used to live, when I wrote and performed my writing all the time. Something so important to my happiness yet year by year I let it go; sometimes on purpose, to prove I could what? Sacrifice? Not be selfish? Be a good mother. Oh, maybe it was to survive. That was it. A lot of it. For years. Like a fog bank that moves in, I could see no other way. And then I spent 10 days with poets and Susan Musgrave. Yeah, if you know of Susan then you’re nodding right now. You get it.

In the book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott talks about just showing up at the blank page to write, chipping away at it, she urges writers to just keep staying in motion, moving towards the moment when you give your attention completely to the doing, even if it feels like you can’t wrap your arms around all you have to, the immensity of the task, its blinding and potentially life threatening call to truth, insurmountable. You write anyway.

You write anyway.

I want the habit, of writing anyway. I want to live a life that calls me to the page each day. That’s what I know now that I didn’t know then. As in a month ago.

The latin roots of transformation are trans meaning “across” and  formare meaning “to form” so I take this to mean that it affects every part of your life, the very nature of your chemical makeup is somehow altered, and a new form comes into being.

I am so grateful for the wakening to go across and to form. To have the just-in-time love affair with my own life again, my poems, before it was too late.

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Filed under Non-fiction, Poetry

Insanity of writing, memory of marriage, and the elixir of story

What I’m about to say could possibly seem odd to you if you aren’t a writer. If you are a writer, you’ll nod and smile. Writer’s who write for money and writers who must write are two different things I’ve come to realize over the years. If you are able to stop writing, that is, if you won a lottery, and didn’t have to write for your job, and you wouldn’t miss it so much, then you belong in the first camp. If you are deprived of being able to write and find yourself going slightly mad, then it is quite likely you are in the second camp. As a metaphor–after all, we’re talking about writing–the second camp of writers will feel, after a short time without their writing, as someone who is forcibly kept underwater and not allowed to surface for oxygen. Panic begins to take hold and the urge is so intense that you feel you may die without that air in your lungs. You will go to extreme lengths to take air. You will swim to the surface, no matter what is stopping you, in order to survive.

I am most definitely in the second camp. When I spend too much time being non-creative, thinking in a linear, functional fashion, I get that edgy, unsettled feeling that begins in the bottom of my lungs and builds and builds and builds until I am that swimmer desperate for air and wildly swimming up to it as though her life depended on it.

Because it does. My mental well-being at any rate.

I sometimes wish I didn’t have this problem. Because then I would not have to ever take any time off from being a productive machine and even more likely, would be far wealthier as a result I am sure.

But I have to breathe. You might find me staring out a window quietly thinking for instance. I’m actually writing. The act of pen to paper is only one part of writing. So often I have often been criticized for just staring out a window during my life, with people violently waving their hands in my face saying, ‘hello??? anyone home???‘ Well, yes I’m bloody well home you idiot is what I wish to say when that happens but don’t because well, I’m Canadian and polite. But seeing fictional characters, feeling them, getting the details of their history, imagining their voices–all these float towards you as in a dream but you have to be quiet and still and listening for them to appear. You don’t want anyone around. You don’t want to be interrupted–dear god don’t get in the way of a writer in the midst of this process for heaven’s sake–so you  can fall and keep falling into your storyworld that was calling and calling for you all this time. It is heaven to finally get to suck in all that lovely creative air, gulping and gulping it in, finally, finally satiated.

The other day I was talking about Mrs. Everett–a story I am writing using various forms including text, audio, photographs, and video–and my son said, you talk about her as if she were real. I said to him, if she isn’t real to me, she’ll most certainly not be real for anyone else. Well, he’s a visual artist so looks at me like I’m nuts of course but a writer completely and utterly understands how these other people take up residence within us demanding their story be told.

So, after working very hard since last February in the linear real world, I am going to be holed up in December in the storyworld of Mrs. Everett and letting her finally get a chance to emerge as she wishes. I am clap-happy about these plans I can assure you as I surface for days on end to drink in the elixir of story.

Part of the storyworld of Mrs. Everett includes her poetry musings, often written in the middle of the night, usually about Mr. Everett her husband whom she has recently left. Here is a sound recording of her second poem in the project 2012-11-20 2_57_30 PM.

The first poem (Room 107) is only available to subscribers to Prue’s Postcards which you can find on my business site. In this poem/scene, Mrs. Everett (Prue) is staying on Catalina Island in California and is escaping to a posh hotel but can’t sleep as she thinks about her life and what may lie ahead for her and what she has also left behind (her marriage). I imagine she is also thinking of their early days together when they were once so in love. She remembers back when they watched Un Homme et une Femme, with Edward translating for her and saying the subtitles were all completely wrong. So, it’s a painful time of looking back for Prue (Mrs. Everett) and also with hope for what lies ahead. Here’s a still from the movie that will place you exactly in the memory she has of their heady days first in love as a young couple:

Anouk Aimée & Jean-Louis Trintignant in Un homme et une femme (1966, Claude Lelouch)

Now, because this story is written employing Transmedia techniques, I have to give Mrs. Everett a voice and image and so am standing in for her. What she actually looks like and sounds like isn’t me, so please suspend your disbelief if you think, hey that is Margaret speaking. I am, but on behalf of Mrs. Everett. Clearly you can see why my son thinks I am insane. La de da I say, and don’t give a whit if you agree with him either. For those that love a good story, this one is going to be a doozie I can tell you. So I do hope you’ll join me as I develop it. You can read the first part of the story on my business webpage at http://www.whatisyourstory.ca. The next installation is on its way soon!


Filed under Non-fiction, Transmedia

In the feverish pursuit of creativity, things will get messy

Lately I’ve noticed my house has gone to hell in a handbasket. On the living room floor are huge sheets of paper with multiple story visuals, storyboards, magazine clippings, glue, tape, pens, pencils, story architecture diagrams, website wire frame sketches, props for a shoot, photography books, and old Vogue’s.  On the dining room table: pencils, architecture pens, long white sheets of paper with careful fonts drawn with maniacal precision in pens, pencils, sharpies. Stacks of design books create shadows across the white table.

Our house is a hive of creative pursuits these days but a total mess. I’m in start-up mode which doesn’t make me a bad mother but it does make me a crappy housekeeper. I know I have to carve out time for it but when you are on deadline with a website to launch, a Transmedia campaign to finish, pending client deliverables, and well, a few thousand words of fiction to hammer out, it can get a bit hairy.

Guilt creeps in. Man, I have to wash that floor! I forgot I had a cat! Are those plants??

I was turning out the lights last night after a 16 hour day (a great day, but a long one) and saw this picture on the table. My son had an assignment to re-create fonts that had made an impression on him in his life and this was one of his drawings. I looked past the mess he’d left behind and just counted myself lucky I get to live with an artist. What an inspiration he is to me.

Copyright Brendan Doyle 2012


I’m working today but tomorrow, no really, for sure this time, I’m getting on my hands and knees and paying homage to Cinderella and cleaning my damn house.

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Piecing it back together

I don’t like talking publicly about my son because he is a very private person and I respect that. However, I feel compelled to write about an important issue that came to light while I was talking to another mother who was struggling in the same way with her young son as I once had. She so reminded me of my younger self;  I could see her challenges ahead and my heart kind of ached after I walked away.

Here’s the thing: Parenting brings you to your knees. All parents, at some point, are on their knees begging God for something; a fever to go down, an x-ray to reveal nothing, a broken heart to mend, a bully battering to stop. You’re on your knees and you’re as helpless as a gnat. Maybe it’s 3 am and you’ve got an asthmatic kid and you’re listening to his chest heave, the wet crackling of his lungs as they try to suck in oxygen and fail. Maybe your shy, small girl isn’t ‘adapting well’. Maybe you hear from school your kid just punched someone for no reason. Maybe you’re sitting with your silent child in a counsellor’s office wondering, what did I do wrong?

Doesn’t matter.

You’re on your knees.

But when you’re on your knees for 12 years to the public school system, there’s another flavour to the begging. I had a healthy, bright, talented child who returned from school on his first day diminished, unhappy, and glum and said, as he lay his blond head against the cool hallway door, so quietly I nearly missed it: I’m stupid.

It was like watching the most expensive china in the world slip out of your hands and onto the floor in slow motion. I wanted to scream “Nooooooo!!” and pull it back, to stop this shattering that would never be pieced back together to the moment before its breaking.

Inside, you fall to your knees while scooping up your child and humming happy tunes all the while acting like nothing has changed, everything is fine, and school isn’t a bad place to be. That was the beginning of 12 years of telling my son: No, you are brilliant, you are talented, you are actually a genius!

I’m not sure I was enough of a cheering section to keep the insecurities at bay, but I did my best . He is all those things and more and yet, he has been lying in bed for nearly a month with migraines just trying to end this education that has, in the end, brought him to his own knees. I feel like we are both just crawling to the end of this race, wanting it to just be over. When you have a gifted child who doesn’t necessarily fit into the typical learning style of most learners, it’s not an easy road. I feel for other mothers just starting out and hope they will be more demanding than I was about the change that must come to our public school system.

Our public school system is not well, and, I would argue, it is making some of our kids sick. I know there are some great teachers, I’ve heard about them, but how many leave out of sheer frustration with our system? A lot, I would imagine. Because there weren’t too many that crossed my son’s path over the past 12 years. When they did, they changed his life. His world became a bright, creative, thriving place to be.

I really felt for the younger mother I ran into who had a lovely little boy who so reminded me of my own son at that age–precocious, smart, willful, energetic, creative. When my son was that same age , I was told I would have to home school him or put him into a very expensive private school as the public school he was attending just ‘couldn’t serve his learning needs’.

I’m happy to say he’s off to university next September, taking his immense creative talents, and burgeoning confidence with him. I know he will set the world on fire, but I am quite sure much of his fuel will come from having to piece back together his own idea of himself outside a curriculum that often failed him.



Filed under Non-fiction