Happy Anniversary WP!

Yesterday my car reached 1,000 kilometres and today is my anniversary with WordPress. I like anniversaries; they make us feel like something has happened. They create beginnings, middles and ends. They give us space within which to reflect: am I different now? Where was I last time? They allow for break-ups and reevaluations and for us to think we’re growing. They allow us to imagine that we’re always getting somewhere.

There is this campaign ad against the BC Liberals that asks Where were you 12 years ago? The point is that twelve years ago the Liberals gained power and isn’t twelve years too long? I loved the ad the first time I saw it. I came running into the room to see what it was for. I was like a kid with my hand up, wanting to share that twelve years ago I was twelve years old and now I am an ADULT! I can drive a car and I am about to be in a career and I have already kissed a boy. Then it was a campaign ad.

Time is so ephemeral that we try to tie it to ourselves. We look at time through our experiences; we look at our experiences by breaking time down into chunks. We call chunks anniversaries and milestones. We try to manipulate time so we can evaluate ourselves. It’s positive, really, that we can make something out of what we’re really just afraid of.

Yesterday and one year ago I was pretty sure I couldn’t have a blog. What would I talk about? I don’t make recipes. I have reread my diaries and you don’t want me to talk about my day. More importantly, I don’t know what’s going on in the world. I am useless. Then today one year ago I went to the North Shore Writers Festival and sat in on a panel discussion with bloggers. I got inspired, the kind of inspired I knew would probably last me until I got home but not far after. For example, after watching the document Revolution on Earth Day I gave up eating fish and seafood. Ephemeral inspiration. But today one year ago I left that panel discussion and started a blog. As I started it, I also imagined its demise. Today I still have a blog and it’s one year later. That’s really all there is to celebrate.

What made me start the blog and what has since made me keep it was a realization that I did have a vehicle for expression: I would write about writing. I would share the process of my writing with the understanding that you can talk about anything through the thing that you love. I have since talked about anything through the thing that I loved, and I think that if I read through my blog posts from one year ago to today I would see some kind of evolution. Whether that evolution be a year’s worth of positive growth or not, it would show me that time shifted, somehow, since one year today, and maybe I shifted with it.


Whenever l write a sentence I am sure it is the best. It is the best sentence I could have written and the best sentence that has been written. It means exactly what I meant it to say. Is this unruly confidence the nature of the writer, or the nature of written words?

I feel safe under words, when they’re written down. When I speak them – and when I speak them in a different language – they’re lost to me, invisible because I haven’t seen them and I didn’t plan for them to come out that way. They float somewhere above my head, marking me. I lose confidence in myself. That’s not what I meant to say! That’s not me!

I wonder if it’s what people feel like when they write and they can’t express themselves. I wonder if people who can speak and say what they mean feel as confident speaking as I do writing. Imagine that, standing there with confidence.

I asked my students to write a project in sentences. They choose an image and write a sentence next to it. This sequence of sentences and images forms a story. A class book will then be made up of one sentence and image from each student’s story. My teacher asked me today whether this was maybe a bit too easy for them. In grade three, they’ve been writing sentences for a while. With the most confidence I’ve had yet, I said that I respectfully disagree. I said that as a writer, I think that writing a really good sentence is a lot harder than writing a paragraph you’re not that worried about.

I said it with the confidence of someone who has written a lot of sentences and who knows how that is done. I said it with the confidence of someone who goes on tangents in her blog posts and somehow remains sure she will come back to the main thing. I said it like I meant it, my hand on my heart when I said the word “writer.”

And I realized that confidence doesn’t come from the words themselves, the ones I’ve written down or the ones that happened to come out of my mouth. Confidence comes from somewhere a lot more meaningful, and to have forgotten that is absurd. Confidence seeps through you. It’s in there and it fills up everything. That I write using it only means that I dig deeper then when I’m speaking. I need to speak to you, to speak to them, from a place deeper in me. I need to stand there knowing who I am and I need to share that with everyone. I need to seep out at you. I need to!


(from Amy Cuddy’s TED Talk on power posing,

photo from 8simia.wordpress.com)

I just put a sticky note next to my bed, where I roll over every morning and wonder why I ever got myself into a job where I have to wake up in the mornings. It says “Confidence.” The “e” trails off, and it’s boxed over in pen marks to indicate an evident stress on the one word that’s on the sticky note. And maybe tomorrow I’ll scoff at myself for writing it, and maybe the next day it will fall down as sticky notes do. But maybe the next day, or the one after, (Friday, thank god), I will wake up and I will meditate, as I am supposed to do every day of 2013 and onwards, and I will think to myself: confidence. And it won’t seem so silly, the word and the idea, because I will have been practicing it all week.

First is Worst

How do we ever start things, knowing our first attempt will be the worst? After years of experience knowing that success usually comes only after considerable amounts of failure, how do we ever begin anything new? I tried writing a first draft of a novel last year. I tried teaching last week. I also tried curling. I did them all wearing dark glasses of faith, surging forward with a white cane, sure I was going to have something called beginner’s luck. I came out of the first day of each unsure about my performance, unable to judge it on much of anything. I came out sure I was either a blow-away success or an utter failure, sure I could only be one or the other. In reality, all of my first days were very mediocre. What I had yet to realize in each activity is that everyone starts somewhere.

I forget this because I see people starting who aren’t really starting at all. I see writers my age who have novels published. I don’t realize they’ve been through Masters degrees in Creative Writing. I don’t realize that they’ve never had a job. I see new teachers like me who have complete control. I don’t realize they’ve taught before. I don’t realize they grew up with younger siblings. I see people doing things that I should be able to do and they’re doing them better than me. And I forget that everyone has to start somewhere.

I’m starting somewhere and it feels shitty. It feels shitty and I know that every day for the next few weeks, maybe the next few years will feel a little shitty. Because I’m passing over speed bumps and I’m learning the things every person has to learn in my position. I’m doing what I need to do in order to do the thing I am doing. But I hate it. I hate being aware of it.

What I need to focus on is the fact that the first day is the worst. The first day is long gone, as is the fifth. I am on to the sixth day of teaching and the sixth draft of my novel. I don’t know that the two are comparable, but the number is the same. Five times I’ve tried things. The first time I had nothing to go on, the second time I had one thing to go one, the third time I had two things to go on, the fourth time I had three things to go on, and so on. And now I am on to my sixth day and I have five days to go on. I am on to my sixth draft and I have five drafts to go on. I have five drafts to go on. I can go on because I am standing on five drafts. I have crushed them underneath me and I am five drafts taller and I am almost on to you, people who think you know what you’re doing. Because I know you never did. I know you started here, and I just never caught you in it. And you remember it, you remember the shitty days, the shitty drafts, but you can’t really imagine it, because something in you has shifted.

You are no longer a beginner. You have made it past something (maybe you had to create the thing in your mind) and you are suddenly in it. You haven’t made it (oh gosh, you’ll never make it), but you’re in it. The first is over and you’re on to the second, or at least the fourth, and you’re running forward because you’ve knocked everyone out of the race. You just kept going and look where you are.


Making Movies into Novels

I just figured out why I can’t sit through movies, or if I am able to, why I later cannot remember them. It’s because my brain works on novels. And so does yours!!

I am convinced of this because of how people are watching TV these days, i.e. not on a TV. We watch shows on PVRs, Netflix, online streams, illegal downloads and TV box sets. We don’t watch television on television. We’re too efficient. We have too much to do to watch commercials! We’re beginning to realize we like stories in a convenient format. We like to carry them around in our purses. Sort of like books.

I am happiest when I am in a novel, or a long New Yorker article, and I’m just waiting to find out more but I have to do something else with my time like work or sleep or maybe write. I keep the story at the back of my mind. It’s why I like reading more than one book (or New Yorker article) at once: they get to spend time together in my head, making my dreams more creative.

If I watch a movie by myself, I watch it in at least two parts. With Netflix now on my iPad, I watch movies in ten-minute  chunks, filling in the silent transitions of clothes-changes and teeth-brushes. I just figured out why I do it. My brain works on novels. I’m trying to make  movies into novels.

Charles Dickens’ novels came out in serialized format – one chapter a week in the newspaper. Why doesn’t that happen anymore? Wouldn’t newspapers be infinitely more interesting? Wouldn’t writers be infinitely more interesting? Our culture likes to see the ins and outs of the creative process: what if at each week, with the serialized portion of the novel, there was a quick post from the author on what it took to write this chapter this week? What if the audience became privileged to the inner workings of the novel, the way we can on DVD special features and episode commentary?


(photo from digitaltrends.com)

We’re already used to following characters and stories on Twitter and Facebook. We are used to the novel – we’re constantly using the novel format – but we don’t realize it. In fact, we keep talking about how the novel is going out of fashion. People are scared for books now that they’re digital. But what a good thing for the art form that it made it through this digital revolution. What a good thing that it maybe even impacted it.

I would say the nature of the novel, as it first appeared in serialized format, is the inspiration for social media. To engage us as an audience, social media has latched on to our passion for being in the middle of something ongoing, where the characters are developing and interacting and where we learn information through a combination of inferences and exposition. We are consuming novels all over the place without even realizing it. It’s why I’m so excited right now. I fit in! I’m going to work!