On Music As Amplifier

Harmony creeps, melody gathers, rising in fevered pitch.
Mind wanders, transported-
Taste salty sea air, crystallized, land upon moistened tongue.
Image dissolved-
Head sways left to right, feet tap in tune to that classic guitar strum.
Heart soars, swells, intensified by sorrow’s call.
Music fades-
Ethereal and transcendent, body rendered, hypnotized by sweet music’ song.

How does music move you? Does it inspire or enhance your creative thoughts? Does it bring forth words or imagery tucked away in your mind’s vault?

I have always found that anything sprouted from human experience, transposed by a creative voice, speaks to us all in different ways. Music in particular, for me, works as a strengthener, sometimes to boost my spirits, other times to set the right mood to let those writing juices flow. FullSizeRender-5

Music has become one of the tools I use to amplify my creative process, that sets the tone or mood when developing my characters and story. It helps push out those difficult words and thoughts that can sometimes refuse to come.

Most weekends the ritual of waiting for my caffeine to percolate, before sitting down in front of my computer is enough. But when I don’t feel inspired to write at all, when my mind is too riddled with thoughts of the “other”- to do lists that are never ending attack at full force and I can no longer hear or feel inspiration at my door. That’s when I surrender to my phone, not to call someone, but to search through my sea of music I use to create a playlist to set me right.

I have many rituals to prepare my mind, to help ignite my imagination for the act of writing. I tend to have situational rituals, music is a big one for me. I can let go and allow it to work with me, its like a pep-talk where I leave pumped, usually singing off key but ready to focus.

My playlists always have a special name, a sentient being living in my phone. Go ahead, snicker, I do. It sounds funny but it works- trust me. My current favourite: Screamed. Past tense- the distinction is important. I imagine those songs are written by songwriters at a point of desperation, frustration, defeat; then purpose, determination and resolve. The ebb and flow captured in a song. I imagine that when they reach that tipping point, fingers rush to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard, the words scrawled down in a rush, metamorphose into songs that feel like an anthemic roar. They feel like affirmations or reminders to me that sometimes you have to scream out before you can really breath in.  To another’s ear, it could sound and mean something all together different, but that’s what I love about creativity- diversity in understanding and action.

This type of emotive expression, coupled with the beautiful imagery a song can capture, render me. They take me away from the cacophony of the “other” trying to take up space in my head. But most important is that I let the music be that amplifier in my creative process.

Harmonic Reciprocity.



On Being the Odd One Out

Dinner parties. Gotta love them. The fuss, the prep, and the invites. The frantic thoughts of “will they come??” the shuffling and rework of the table when there is a last minute no show. I’m glad I’ve yet to host one. As an attendee, the anticipation, the pondering of what to bring, what to wear are my only worry. As an attendee, all one needs to bring is oneself and a little hostess gift, oh and don’t forget that “good company” attitude!

All these thoughts slip like flour through a sieve as I remember, I’m bring one more parlour trick to the party- my singledom. Don’t roll your eyes just yet, my soap box has been tucked away for the night. I won’t bemoan you with sad tales of being singe , merely a brief comment on my observations and their usefulness as a writer.

I walk up the steps to the front door to the house, a puff of air expelling from my lips, like mini clouds in the crisp afternoon air; I brace for what is to come next. You see, I am the only single goer in this smattering of couples. I knew what would be on the menu: PDA, wine, beer, questions and laughs. A strange but common mix of groupings I’ve experienced of late. The PDA I must disclose is rarely sent my way. This dining cycle of parlay is one  that I’ve come to expect with this particular group of acquaintances. It always makes for a dinning adventure.
What started as an office food tour group of co-works spread to include one “significant other” after another until it became an “everyone’s coupled but me” situation.  Where suddenly I became hyper aware of all the affection littering our table and the tumbleweeds gathering in my corner. Although I enjoy each and everyone of their company, the disconnect comes when the couples gather. Once together they become a superorganism or a hive if you will: they forget to be individual people, thoughts and experiences echo each other, laughter a chorus. This isn’t always the case mind you, there are always exceptions to every rule- I know a few of them actually- but this condition does exist and  happens often enough to draw notice. We singles tend to pool our stories, between a glass or two. Others have witnessed this action during their dealings when around coupled friends, this has only steeled my previous conclusions as correct.

So what happens in these situations you ask? Well I’ll tell you:
Girl sits at table, couples laugh and banter about couple-y things that couples do. They turn to me- target locked- realization hits- girl is alone. Focus sharpens, thought: she hasn’t been talking, how to save…how to save (insert mental reel of the coupled mind or the fixer friend- got it!) Ask girl about her solitary ways, why said girl is “single girl” not “coupled girl”.

Let’s all turn our focus shall we, surely we can fix this tonight. Saucer eyes tick-tock side to side seeking out exit- Girl.Is.Trapped.

I jest, but it can often feel that way.
I’m sure they mean well- in fact I know they do- but some people, of all sexes like the single life at times, some dare I say, haven’t found the right one. Others are really not in that much of a rush to join with another. Whatever the reason, the reason is theirs alone.

The dinner party draws to a close. I walk out into the quiet street blanketed from an unexpected storm. I stare out before me and see a tiny house, small and untouched while all around big houses surround covered in snow and modernization. To me that house stands strong against the elements, not caring if it’s dwarfed by the facades around. Its environment works to its advantage. I think that tiny house  and I shared a moment. I realized that much like the house, I will make the best of the moments- interesting or dull- that make up the everyday. I’d like to think those experiences help make great characters and stories: The good, bad or hilarious tossed in your way make good kindling for the writer’s imagination.

On Things Left Unsaid

Time, like nature is unbiased. The change it enacts has order and isn’t vindictive when it comes. To the human eye, we may see it much different. A woman ponders this as her eyes gaze out through the window, a brown leaf catching her eye as it dances in the wind. Locked in the carefree motion, the branches join in, swaying, debris picks up in the growing gale. She turns away and sits at a cosy dinning table. Unaware, her fingers quietly grip and ungrip her dinner fork before picking it up from its carefully chosen spot. The effort it took to make things “just right” on the table has long been lost for this Sunday meal.
“Please tell him to pass the potatoes” A son, distilled with old rage speaks to his wife, no eye contact made with his father sitting on the other end.
The tension around the enclosed space sets off imagined sparks, enough to set the house aflame. Potatoes move from one hand to another, reaching their destination through a silent, circuitous route. Mother rises, humming as she goes to grab the gravy, a strange harmony in a room void of melodic sound.
A woman blinks away the memory as she turns from the window of a hospital room. The echo from the sirens dissipate into the distance as it leaves the circular driveway. The leaves have browned, barely stirring in the wind, grey sky snuffed out what little light remains of the day.
Three stand around a bed, the silence blends into the sterile white walls. Father on one side, son and daughter-in-law hover on the opposing end, all the things they would have said left in the space between. The rhythmic beat of the cardiac monitor a strange harmonic sound cutting into the deafening silence that surrounds. Mother lies in a hospital bed, while they watch close as she breathes.

I am reminded how fragile and fickle life can be and how quickly things can change in the blink of an eye. Sometimes we let words and feelings burn deep within us, our hurt and anger fuses, unwilling to be let go. FullSizeRender-3

Last week a series of bad news and saddened moments cascaded around me- not happening to me, but effecting me all the same. They continued to reverberate in my daily life, tiny ripples barely visible above the surface, as I watched friends struggle to push through their obligations and navigate their personal hurdles with strength and determination. Even now, I can almost taste the fragility in the air, how fleeting things can be and how swiftly the wind can change.

These stories became a part of the kaleidoscope of the everyday surrounding me. It left me hyper aware of the randomness in everyday life but also to be grateful and mindful to hold good things when they happen and to take lessons from the bad.

I felt these moments were worth capturing, so I’ll leave you to take what you will from this tale.

On Balancing the Creative When you 9 to 5

Eyes flick back and forth between the whiteboard and clock on the laptop screen. The buzz of conversation swarms around me like frenzied bees to a hive. All energy and focus lies on the grey suited figure at the head of the rectangular table. The small glass room is electrified with energy and tension. Things need to be done, action taken. Fingers move at lightning speed capturing minutes, thoughts, moments. Grey suit leans in, “we need to get onside with this new direction”. Pulled in like magnets our bodies sway forward as we nod.IMG_1103

The meeting comes to a close, I walk back to my desk to field emails, answer calls, engage in dialogue. Clock hits ending time, I rush to grab my things, and dive into the thick sea of people, I blend into the surroundings as I move through the motion. I veer right, running up the stairs, I hop onto the train to begin heading homeward bound.

Thoughts ping pong against the walls of my mind of things unsorted and tasks ahead. The old train jostles through tunnels, the mind mimics- pause and go on all my “to dos”. This rusted box of shifting gears, sway as breaks engage, passengers wobble around me like tipsy dominos threatening to fall.

How does one calm the mind, separate the thoughts of the job and shift into the mental space needed to feed the creative spirit inside? Somedays, I struggle to come down from the chaotic whirlwind of decisions and experiences of all that transpires during the day. I’m sure we all had those moments where our other jobs: the 9-5, the 24/7 parental role or life and its obligations, negate our efforts by distracting and depleting our energy.

During times like these I find the best recourse is to fully give in to my mode of relaxation. Letting go, knowing I may not put any words to paper that day. It’s about learning the difference between honouring the commitment I’ve make to my craft and listening to my body’s need to recalibrate. To remember to find balance, keep whole.

On Old City Parts

I step out into the cold, feeling the damp air brush against my skin like tiny fibres, soft but firm they pass by as I wait for the cross light to change. The clouds fluff out, primped and ready to show off their pillowy form to the slow waking city. Cars rush past, tick, tick, tick I watch, hypnotized by the count down of the cross light, holding me still until the walk symbol grants me passage.

Up ahead I see the bus in the distance, mentally and instinctively I begin to pick up speed. I look back and forth, from side to side- safety first- but like a lioness, I stalk my prey with my eyes, beginning to prepare my body to catch my moving target. Once inside, I sit in the seat with the best vantage point, where the sky and streets are clear ahead and I can take in the suburban view.

I love going out into the city in the early morning during the week. Even in winter, I can walk at my leisure, not jostled by people rushing to get to their “whatever” on time. The school bell has already rung, while I, not a part of the salmon going upstream, can get lost in the old parts of the city and take the streets and city sounds all in.

Today I wandered back into the Distillery District, my last visit had been during the Christmas Market in December. This time the streets were quiet, all the affectation of the holiday long removed. The stark red brick now naked, contrasted against glass buildings and dustings of stale fallen snow. I found myself walking to my favourite little shop to grab a coffee and smoked toffee chocolate chip cookies (a mouthful of smoked heaven- I do not exaggerate) and sat on some near by green steps, wrapping my hands around the cup for warmth as I savoured the simplicity of the moment. I played back in my head a similar instance, sitting there, lights and christmas tunes over head; streets busy with children, couples, barely any wiggle room and this here and now where I could lay on the ground and maybe not a soul would bother me until closing time.

I check my watch: 10:55 am flashes at me and fades, while my mind wanders, time feels as if it stood still. I brush the crumbs from my cookie sampling off my fingers and rise, the chill finally seeping into my jeans. Up a head a man waits for someone- I assume, or he is just resting with his two dogs, trying to enjoy the view. I admit I have a bias toward the boxer breed, as I can’t seem to recall what the other dog type was, but that mug got my attention and when those boxer eyes locked with mine, we shared a moment of head scratches and cold hands. The owner graciously allowed me this little whimsy and after a while I waved goodbye to them as the creak of old wooden doors and movement signalled to me that it was nearly 11 o’clock.

I am astounded the difference that 5 minutes can make; people started to pepper in, the brief moment of solitude began to dissipate as I watched a few teens, phones raised high at the ready, trying to catch that “insta” shot. Sounds began to litter the space while I continued my walk. I thought to myself as I passed them, if they actually saw the beauty in the quiet stillness around them, but then I realized that I often suffer from that same affliction. Its become far too easy to forget to live in the moment these days and more through the filters on my phone. When I come here though, the old history and architecture captivates me and I’m more interested in taking in my surroundings, playing with a 1 year old boxer and watching the restaurants ready for the dinner crowd. I’ll admit, I can’t help myself, I see a great moment worth capturing- mostly because it’s so rare to see this place, usually busy and crowded, devoid of bustle. FullSizeRender-2

When I get home with my favourite treats from the Distillery, I look back at the photo and once again the memory rushes in. It’s now become a reminder to me when I mentally complain about the muck and the rush, the push and the shove of people as we all flood into to the city centre during the weekday. Of the hoods and scarves tucked high, everything forgotten in the drive to get inside and out of the cold that the beauty of a place remains, regardless of if it is hidden by the frost and snow blankets and to remember the wonder of all those little silences in between.

On Writing and Time

Distant screaming in my head. That’s all I can hear as I stir slowly awake from sleep to start the day. The light barely visible through my window, the screaming, I come to realize is my alarm blaring in the distance. Why did I set it to ascending? Do I really enjoy gradual yelling? I stare at the ceiling, annoyed as I reach for my phone and contemplate the possibility of abusing the snooze feature. Some days, I imagine that the only option for motion this early in the AM is an indelicate face plant on the floor. Just roll right off, the thud jarring me, I no longer have the choice to remain in bed or an excuse to sleep more. Through very little effort  I’d achieve the hardest step, though perhaps sore, I would then crawl my way through to the next proceeding ritual.


FullSizeRenderI’ve been told i’m not a morning person, I’m sure even you’ve come to that conclusion. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that without coffee, I would become a snarling beast of a half-human; the hunchback of Toronto, barely functional until that blessed cup touches my lips, dissipating the mind fog as I consume the heady brew. I’d like to believe my description is an exaggeration but I’ve come to terms- my crutch and I, we know well the roles we each play in my day.

Due to the recent demands of my day job bleeding into my evenings, the time which I designated as my writing hours evaporated, leaving me struggling to find moments to pursue my craft. I decided one day, on a particularly aggravating evening that every night I would adjust my alarm to wake a bit earlier. The goal: to find the right “magic” hour that would allow me to get some of my work done before I headed to my job. I knew the odds were against me, yet I tried and I was unsuccessful. I became frustrated with my inability to rise and my miscalculation in assuming that the dangling carrot of word progression would be enough to awaken my sleeping form. After a week of hit and misses, I decided to redefine where I could tackle my creative work and become more flexible with my time.

Although I use technology in every aspect of my life, I often forget that devices,  mobile and compact, can be a writing tool used anywhere I go. I focused the following week on making my creative space more transportable, playing music that set the tone, making sure I wasn’t in a rush and tried to create an environment in my mind that I could produce a sentence or two.  I had more success and less self-induced stress from this small change. Writing on my commute, I can’t help but have low expectations given the location I am trying to create, but the exercise in and of itself helped me to learn to be more adaptive in my writing pursuits.

As I continue to work away at my first draft and other writing projects, I recognize the struggle to find enough time between my day job, life responsibilities and the procrastinating she-devil that lurks under my desk. I think we all, at some point in our writing journey, have struggled to find ways to keep our writing on track.Sometimes distractions speak louder than inspiration. But as I write this, I feel motivation and drive become fuelled by my tiny daily efforts which I’ve come to realize and accept that they sometimes have to be enough.

On Words With Force

11 AM a bus fills with packed commuters, the bustle and hum saturates the air. Laughter, children’s voices echo in the cramped space. Moments pass like any other, then words- unfriendly, harsh, shoot out for all to hear. “Are you talking to me?” Sniper has hit its mark, someone responds to the barb. Voices die down, laughter seems to defuse, distanced by those simple sounding words. Anger, curses follow, bullets reloading a gun. Rage cuts back and forth, duelling tongues, no purpose in the litany of their rants. Commuters instinctively draw in to their seats, standing patrons lean away as if to avoid any stray words, fearful of the ricochet if any stray bile hits.

These two volcanos, who unexpectedly erupt, change the energy of this rectangular metal box. We need to get to our destination, we are unsure of where this volley of anger will go so we remain, frozen in reluctant anticipation. In a moment the place, public, dormant, becomes a minefield we must cautiously tread.

The moment passes, the snipers retreat, tension dies, a nervous laugh in the distance breaks the haze, the bus driver closes the door and drives off. I sit in my seat starring outside as we pass the gray city, moisture from the condensation outside pools in the corner, transformed to liquid, tear like as it glides down the window pane.

I am reminded that words have power good or bad. Their residue lingers long after the dust settles. Why is it that in a country laboured with reminders to be PC (politically correct) we forget that often times kindness to one another is ignored in favour of extremes: cautious politeness or pointless arguments amongst strangers. I often wonder why some people (we’ve all met them at some time or another) make the choice, in that defining moment to retaliate rather than calmly walk away. I’m not talking about aggression towards one’s body, or child or loved one, those aren’t the moments I am referring to- it’s when an ignorant or angry person, among strangers, choose to hurl words and the fact that there is someone willing to take the bait. We in kind as public commuters must endure their voices, choke on their tension, have their words stain our minds. It saddens me when the higher road is neglected, when the easy path becomes the default.

I love this city, understand what comes with riding public transit but respect amimage1ong humans is something I won’t loose faith on, even in moments such as these. In fact I demand we remember that when we hurl words that sting and cut- flesh and blood is at the end of that force.

2:50 PM I am sitting on the bus ride home, less packed with commuters.The bus driver announces “have a great day everyone.” I quietly smile, ring the bell and as I descend, wish her the same.