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  • Writers, Writing, and Fetishizing the Process

    I am still–and continually–reading Page Fright, which means I have become more obsessed with the process of writing than usual. It also makes me think of how both writers and non-writers fetishize the process, giving birth to the idea that ‘real writers’ write longhand, or only use typewriters; that ‘real writers’ must have certain conditions met–perfect silence, a particular type of paper, a certain brand of pen or colour of ink. It can lead many budding or potential writers to believe that unless they also adhere to these ideas, they cannot possibly write and will never be ‘real’ writers.

    Yet this fetishizing of the process comes with a grain of truth.

    I’m leery of the idea that a ‘real’ writer must do anything but write, but I also recognize that I have my own process that I find difficult to deviate from. When I write by hand, I could use a ballpoint pen if that’s all that’s available, but I vastly prefer my Sharpie pens because I like felt tip pens and Sharpie has everything I want in a felt tip. I can write in a typical word processor–OpenOffice, say–but I’m only truly comfortable with a Scrivener project where everything is set just so.

    I have my preferred formatting (Times New Roman, 12pt, 1.5x line spacing when drafting; Andalus, 12pt, 1.5x line spacing, printed with a 2″ right margin for editing and rewriting) and my preferred setting (on the bus or train; in a coffee or tea shop, or in a diner; at the front desk at the motel where I work; and always within speaking, texting, or tweeting distance of fellow writers). My Moleskine notebook–where all manner of notes both writerly and practical are written–must be black, and so must the Sharpie pen I write in it with. I edit in green Sharpie pen, and my critique partners get their critiques written in purple and orange Sharpie pen, respectively.

    I have these rituals which surround my writing, but they have all developed as the result of squeezing the most writing time possible out of a very busy schedule. I write longhand at work because it is more practical and edit longhand because it gives me a fresh look at my work; I write and rewrite in Scrivener because the labels and folders help me keep track of where I am in my writing or revisions. I save and compile redundant copies all over the place because I don’t ever want to lose the work I’ve done. Everything I’ve incorporated into my writing process is there for a purpose.

    And that is the most important consideration for any part of the writing process. Writers write; how we accomplish that must be there to help us continue writing, not tie us to conditions we won’t always have the luxury of meeting. So whether you write longhand or exclusively with a computer, and whether you use fountain, felt tip, or ballpoint pens, find a process that works for you and keep on writing.

     

    Do you want to read an erotic short story by yours truly and stories by 43 others while supporting a worthy charity? Of course you do! Get the Felt Tips: Office-Supply Erotica anthology by Tiffany Reisz today! EBooks available at AmazonSmashwords, and Barnes & Nobel



  • One Of Those Full Moons

    Every once in a while, I just feel this need to stay up all the night whatever the consequence for the next day. It’s like a reset or an emotional cleanse where I can work out all the less lucid energy that seems to build up in the mean time. Mostly, this ‘reset’ happens on a full moon, or at least within a day of it.

    This is one of those full moons.

    It starts with a restlessness, and a sense of being dog-tired while at the same time feeling no desire whatsoever to actually go to bed and sleep. There’s a feeling that there are things to do, and they must be done now.

    Things like critiques for my critique group, A Bitch Of Writers, or writing that short story or sermon. Things like reading this book, or that one, or doing a bit of laundry if only there weren’t someone trying to sleep upstairs. Things like setting up the bookshelf, though I’d want to rearrange the whole living room first and there’s so much that needs tidying… I’m sure you get the picture.

    And so I’m here with a pot of oatmeal before me, Earl Grey tea at my elbow, and The Cars playing on YouTube because that’s apparently ‘Just What I Needed’. With any luck, I’ll be able to make this productive insomnia.

    Does this ever happen to you? Do you ever fight it and try to sleep, or just go with it?



  • Surviving A Cold

    or

    When To Give In And Stay Home

    So, this week I got hit with a cold. Still being hit with it actually, which is why I’m at home blogging and not wrapping up Youth Church right now. While I’m here, I thought I’d give you all a breakdown of the week that brought me here in the form of easy to follow, step-by-step instructions.

    Tuesday: You start feeling poorly, but it’s nothing you can’t handle. Besides, it’s poker night! You can’t miss poker night! You’ve tried. They wouldn’t let you. And you can’t let anyone else miss it either, so you really really have to be there! So you hang out in a Tim Hortons for two hours after work (only noticing the ’20 minute time limit’ sign you’ve been sitting under as you get up to leave) and grab some cough syrup on the way to meet everyone so you don’t end up coughing on all your friends. Easy.

    Wednesday: Get up bright and early, get dressed and polished because you have a résumé to drop off and you want to make a good impression. Make sure everything’s sorted out with your worker, print off the best copy of your résumé, and head out. Pick up some mint flavoured cough drops on the way so you can speak and make a good impression at the mini-interview. Ace it.

    Realize that it’s Wednesday, another friends evening that you can’t miss. Find out that for some reason we’re making pancakes tonight rather than ordering pizza, so you have to go out and get some buttermilk and no sugar added jam. Pick up some honey for your tea while you’re at it. Have a good time with friends and a surprise visit from your sister, help out by proof-reading a letter, and collapse into bed far later than you intended to.

    Thursday: Drag yourself out of bed and go to work. Have absolutely no energy or voice for the interview workshop, but muscle through it anyway. You’re learning good things, and you have plenty of cough drops, right? At the end of the day, decide that maybe you shouldn’t go to that thing at the book store after all. Stay home watching My Little Pony, and collapse into bed at 8pm without writing a blog post like you meant to.

    Friday: Drag yourself out of bed and go to work again. Spend the morning drained. Have several people tell you that you don’t look so good. Take a look in the mirror and realize that they’re right. At lunch, decided that maybe you should go home after all.

    Go home, watch even more My Little Pony. Try to work on critiques and stay up for #FNTWP (Friday Night Twitter Writer Party) but collapse into bed at 7:30 instead. Turn off your alarm because clearly you’re going to sleep as long as you need to.

    Saturday: Wake up possibly twelve hours later, maybe more. Who knows. Decide that you need food, but don’t want anything in the house. You’re not feeling that bad now, so maybe going to Smitty’s would be a good idea. Three hours later, leave the house. Arrive at the restaurant half-dead, order and eat. Get an email asking if you can put together a lesson plan for Youth Church tomorrow. You’re really tempted to say, ‘Sure! No problem!’ but you remember that episode where Apple Jack tried to do everything herself and made a mess of things, so you reluctantly let them know you can’t. Grab a bag of oranges and some lemon and ginger tea on the way home.

    Sunday: Vow not to leave the house this time until you’re actually feeling better, and pray that this will happen before the official interview. Wish that you’d thought to pick up some cans of soup last time you were out of the house.



  • Confessions of an Urban Transit Junkie

    I learned two important things today:

    1) I don’t feel like I’ve truly visited a city until I’ve taken public transit there

    and

    2) I’m an urban creature with no love for suburbia.

    I am now, and suspect that I will always be, a transit junkie. Not only am I dependant on public transit to get around my own city, it’s the only mode of transportation I truly feel at home with. True, having a car would make some things easier and more convenient, up to and including finding a job, but the reasons for me not to drive outweigh the potential benefits by a wide margin.

    With transit, I can make my way around independent of of the plans of friends and family. If I want to do something on my own I don’t have to ask for a ride or wait until someone is going in the same direction, I can just look up the bus route and go. It’s actually a lot easier on me, though I have a hard time convincing my be-vehicled friends that no, I don’t need to be picked up, I can meet you there. (A ride home however, is a different story. We’re leaving at the same time, from the same place, therefore there’s less stress around coordinating timing.)

    With transit, I can pull out my MS and work while travelling. If I tried doing that while driving a car, Bad Things would happen. We’ll put that under ‘reasons Eric shouldn’t drive even if he could afford to.’ I love the ability to squeeze that extra bit of work time into my schedule, which is why I ironically prefer a longer commute to the day job. I also don’t have to deal with navigating rush hour traffic; that’s the bus driver’s job.

    With transit, I can get into downtown, any downtown, ridiculously easily, and can either take transit elsewhere from there, or walk anywhere within the city core. Or a combination of the above. My choices are endless. If were trying to drive however, and I’ve seen this more than enough times trying to direct people driving downtown, I’d have to worry about one-way streets, finding and then paying for parking, and worrying about having to move the car or plug the meter to avoid getting a parking ticket. Driving to a downtown destination is at best stressful, and at worst, impossible.

    Which brings me to my second discovery of the day, my distinct preference for the urban core over suburbia.

    With the convenience and accessibility of downtown, I have no use for suburbia (except maybe as a temporary place to store my parents.) The houses really do look the same, as do the neighbourhoods. You could take a house from New Brighton in Calgary and move it to Riverside South in Ottawa, or vice versa, and no one would know the difference. (Seriously, you should try it. It would be a great prank, except that no one would notice.)

    The sprawl is not only uninspiring, it’s an economical and ecological nightmare. Suburbia is pretty much cut off from every sector of life outside of sleeping and, I dunno, watching TV. Maybe there’s a mega block of outlet stores with giant parking lots within walking distance, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a leisure centre or even a library nearby. You’ll have a couple of playgrounds for the younger kids, but any teen without a car is SOL. I don’t know about you, but I’d be bored to tears if I had to live there.

    From my suite just outside of the downtown core, I can walk to my nearest grocery store. The core itself is maybe 15 minutes away by transit, and that’s only if the rush hour traffic is particularly bad. It’ll be even faster once the new train line is complete. I can walk to 17th Ave with all its boutiques and cafés if I don’t feel like taking the bus, and I can even walk to the downtown core itself if the weather’s nice and I have the time. I’m right by the Bow River, with parks nearby if I want to escape the City for a short while. It’s beautiful.

    Rather than one bus from my neighbourhood into the core, I have my choice of buses both to the core and elsewhere. Grab the Circle Route in one direction, and I can get to Chinook mall, and beyond that to my friend’s house. In the other direction, I can get to my pharmacy in Brentwood, right next to a used record store where I can find such gems as 16 Hits of the Gay Nineties for a dollar a pop. (There are pharmacies closer, but a good pharmacy is worth travelling to. The record store is just a bonus.) The whole variety and vibrancy of the City is on my doorstep, and it doesn’t even have to cost me anything to see it.

    And I don’t just feel this way about Calgary. I learned that today when I took the bus to the Byward Market in Ottawa. Taking transit, I felt so much more immersed in the City than I did being driven around by my Dad or my Step-Mom. I got to explore a part of Ottawa that was unique and vibrant in its own right, with elaborate murals in narrow back lanes:

    A tribute to French Canadians

    store fronts with sidewalk displays to take advantage of pedestrian traffic:

    Pedestrians walk past a sidewalk display in the Byward Market

    and wrapped it all up with a pot of specialty tea at the Tea Store:

    A special tea light holder to keep my pot of tea warm, such a clever idea!

    And that’s just a small sampling of what I saw and experienced in a couple of hours. I could spend a week, a month, a year there and never be bored. And if by some chance I did, I could hop a bus to Gatineau in Quebec for a new, more francophone experience. Or else visit Librairie du soleil right there in the Market and pick up some books in French. Whichever.

    The point is, I had a variety of activities to choose from downtown, and the freedom to get around easily. I felt at home there because I am an urban creature and a transit junkie, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Am I the only transit junkie out there, or are there others who proudly ride the bus? Do you have a favourite downtown destination or experience? Alternately, is anyone willing to try to defend suburbia as a viable, sustainable option? Devil’s advocates welcome.



  • Life, The Universe, and Douglas Adams

    Long before I discovered Neil Gaiman, before Ray Bradbury even, there was Douglas Adams.

    I remember when I was a child, my mom would take us to the library. I remember the brightly coloured covers, the way four books could be combined, like a puzzle, to complete the pictures. I remember sitting with her as she read to me from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

    I also remember at one point looking up at her and saying that when I grew up, I wanted to be drunk like Ford Prefect and Zaphod Beeblebrox, but what did I know? He made it sound really fun. My mom of course, claims not to remember me saying this at all.

    The point is, I grew up with Douglas Adams as a huge influence in my life. Not only did I read the whole five part trilogy and try my hand at the computer game, my dad taped the BBC mini-series for me (this was in the days before PVR’s, people. Before DVD’s, even!) Between the questionable quality of the cassette tape and the pathetic budget at the BBC at the time, it was grainy and the picture wavered at times, but it was magic to me. Looking back, I think that was part of its charm.

    I also read Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, and later, The Salmon of Doubt. The last is always a bitter-sweet book for me since before reading it, I don’t think I even knew he had died.

    Is it possible to mourn a man you’ve never met? Absolutely. Through his books, the commentaries, prefaces and posthumous rememberings within, I feel that I know him. I know his humour, and something of his insecurities. I know his process, something he talked about at length in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: The Original Radio Scripts. I know how much he’s missed out on these last ten years.

    How much would he have loved the iPhone, the iPad, and all the rest that Apple has put out? He was a devout Mac person, and the fact that he missed the launch of the iPod by less than a year is tragic. In 1999 he talked about the future of the internet and information technologies. How wonderful would it have been from him to see it today? Can you imagine him on Twitter? I can only think that he would have been in heaven.

    He was a man made for this era, a man who would understand and appreciate the way the internet has shaped the world. In his time, he got to see the first glimmers of dawn, and it saddens me that he could not walk with us into the morning. I admire him, and while he left us many wonders, I miss him.

    Douglas Adams, wherever you are, may you always know where your towel is.



  • Trans, ADHD, And Accessing Employment Services

    Well. That was an interesting day. The kind of day that really drives home why I was so reluctant to apply for any kind of assistance before now. Unfortunately, I need some kind of gainful employment, or the next best thing, and doing it on my own hasn’t been working. So.

    Off I go to the Alberta Employment and Immigration office. I don’t know exactly what I need, except that I need help. I’d gotten a form to fill out when I was there Friday, but other than that and a handful of mostly contradictory ID, I’m unprepared. I think I know what I want to say, but most of what I say comes out of my mouth too fast and in the wrong order. I’m easily confused, and I’m not sure I know what’s going on. But I concentrate, and read things over twice, three times if I need to. Remember, breathe.

    One of the things I’m applying for is Income Support. Since it’s a provincial service, I happily fill everything out as Eric, confident that this is, in fact, my legal name. There’s a certificate to prove it and everything! Then the worker tells me that they need to know it I qualify for Employment Insurance before we can go ahead with the IS application. I just have to go across the hall to Service Canada and ask. Easy, right?

    Well, this is where being trans intersects with being ADHD to great effect. Remember how I was filling everything out as Eric? Well, that all well and good for provincial stuff, but as far as the federal level is concerned, my old identity is still in effect. I don’t even want to know how this will affect my applications across the hall; it’s bad enough typing in the name still attached to my Social Insurance Number. Worst part? I’m still too agitated and confused to properly explain to the lady helping me (read: practically filling out the form for me) what my problem is, and most of my corroborating ID is back across the hall. At this point, I can only hope that the information I provided is someone’s version of correct and that I won’t be locked up for fraud.  I’m probably overreacting, but I can’t help it.

    Back across the hall in Alberta, I have a slightly easier time explaining myself. She gives not only gives me information for employment services I can use, but also legal guidance so I can get some advice on this whole identity thing. By now I have all my forms and whatnot together to take to the third floor where the actual application process happens. Ok. After a quick detour to the coffee shop on the corner for a desperately needed Earl Grey, I’m upstairs, ready to fill everything in and get this process started.

    Well, not quite. I’m still missing my banking information.

    A trip home to grab a blank cheque and print up some bank statements, and a second Earl Grey later, I’m back up on the third floor. I have succeeded in replacing ‘agitated’ with ‘stoned,’ but at least I have all my information together. I go through the line, hand in my forms, and wait to be called up. With all this running around trying to get some kind of employment support, sitting in the waiting room of Alberta Works is when I get a call for a job interview.

    Of course.

    I still don’t know what’s going on, but I think it’s getting better, yeah?



  • 24-Hour Read-A-Thon Pre-Blog

    So, starting at 6am tomorrow (my 6am–your time zone may vary,) this blog is going to start getting weird. All right, weirder than usual. Let’s face it, I’m always weird. Tomorrow, I’ll be participating in the April 2011 Dewey’s Read-A-Thon, where I will stay up for 24 hours and read. That’s it. Read. And then blog about it.

    When I first heard about the Read-A-Thon, I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it. Did I really have time to spend the entirety of a Saturday reading, when I could be writing or working on other things? Then I went to the library and picked up a big stack of books for research. I looked at the books, at how much reading that would be and thought, What the hell. Bring on the Read-A-Thon!

    So the plan it this: at 6am I will get up and begin with what will no doubt be a delightful and cheery good morning post. I will then update that same blog post for hourly reports, unless I pass out at some point, so you will get to learn all about the Crusades and early Christian history, and whatever else I read to give my brain a bit of a break.

    I will also be spending a significant part of the day at my friend Krissa’s place, reading with her and the rest of our triumvirate of four. This will give me a chance to exercise my skills of reading while walking, since I refuse to leave the house before 6am. And yes, I will be doing this in my pyjamas. There will be soup. And munchies. And lots and lots of Earl Grey tea.

    So join me tomorrow in my reading adventure, as I no doubt dissolve into an incoherency rivalling that of Charlie Sheen. Tomorrow, reading becomes a spectator’s sport.



  • Self-Medicating with Earl Grey Tea

    Let me just start by saying that I am not a doctor, and that really, I can only speak from my own experience here. Please don’t take my word as gospel, but if you do, I’m not responsible for the consequences, m’kay? That said, I have heard on several occasions and from multiple sources that I cannot for the life of me remember let alone cite that the stimulant caffeine can help focus the AD/HD mind.

    Hmm? Oh yes, this does make for two AD/HD post in a row, thanks for noticing. But on to the story, and eventually the point of it all.

    So today I was hanging out with my writing triumvirate consisting of four people (we’re like a Douglas Adams trilogy like that, only not really.) We had some good times, attacked Twitter together, and even managed to do some actual writing, but there was a certain lack of sleep on several fronts, and candy. I was already trying to pay attention to a million things all at once when we decided to take a trip to Staples. Let’s review: lack of sleep, sugar, over-stimulation, an office supply store, and AD/HD.

    I. Touched. Everything.

    I barely had time to register one object before my attention was captured by another one. I picked things up and read the product description from the one that was still on the shelf. I had to reassure my friend that I did hear what she’d said, I was paying attention after a fashion, and that if things work out that way, yes, I would love to.

    I was driving myself nuts.

    When we returned, I promptly, after much running around in and out of the kitchen, made myself a cup of Tea, Earl Grey, Hot. The effects of my regular meds had clearly worn off or been overridden; the sweet, steeped drug was my last hope of, well, functioning.

    And yes, it had to be the tea. I don’t know why this should be, but I’ve discovered time and time again that coffee will turn me into an over-stimulated two year old. Not at the hyper stage (I was already there,) but at the over-tired and miserable stage. A nice, strong, black tea on the other hand will focus me. It will also make me feel more than a little stoned, but hey, self-medicating isn’t an exact science.

    The point of it all is, it worked. I dialled it down to regular-person hyper as opposed to AD/HD-hyper, and I could focus long enough to read a tweet, at the very least. Yes, I did indulge in a mild outburst over my dislike of forms (trust me, that was mild; it still had an edge of humour to it,) but over all I was fit for human company, even if I still couldn’t be trusted in polite company.

    The down side to all of this is, of course, that having caffeine so late at night means I probably won’t be sleeping very well. Which is why when I got home, I made myself a fresh pot of, you guessed it, Earl Grey tea.