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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Words to Live By #7

I'm not a paranoid derranged millionaire. Goddamit, I'm a billionaire.

-- Howard Hughes

Sunday, 18 September 2011

My Struggle Against Silence

As far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a gangster. Wait, no. That's Henry Hill. Me? I've always wanted to be a writer. I remember writing a short story in fourth grade, a little hazy to me now but I think it had to do with a village of talking rabbits, that really impressed my teacher. The comment on the story was that I was a natural storyteller and that I should keep at it. Long after the story I wrote dissipated in my memories, that comment has stuck with me like a rare earth magnet sticks to a fridge. I continued to write throughout school, always performing decently in English classes, but never really taking it too seriously, as in something I could shape into a career at some point. Even in my youth, I never considered writing as a viable option that could pay the bills. (I still don't today, but I am one step closer).

Have you ever had a thought that niggles in the back of your mind like a termite slowly chewing away at a load-bearing rafter in your house? I sure have. I've always scoffed at the idea of writing a book. It's a waste of time, a Herculean task that I could never accomplish. And if I did, so what? Who on earth would publish it? It'll probably be terrible anyways. Still the idea persisted, gnawing away at me, but I continued to stifle it. About a year ago, I decided to banish these negative thoughts. I have no idea why, but I felt the urge to actually do what I've always wanted to do, to make happen what I've never really thought possible. There was no inspiring speech, no words of wisdom, that changed my mind. More like a switch that got turned on in my brain.

So where do I go from here? No man is an island says John Donne. There's no way I could possibly do this by myself. Combing the Internet finding writers' blogs has become an addiction, and reading about other aspiring authors miseries has actually done wonders for me! At least I know I'm not completely alone. And next week, I am attending the first of a series of six writing workshops where I hope to meet like-minded, similarly inspired but also suffering would-be writers. Maybe we can sit around and trade war stories about writers block and discarded fourth drafts we knew were going nowhere the moment we put pen to paper. Validity through peers has never been something I have actively sought out, but now I cling to it like a mountain climber clings to a lifesaving outcrop of rock. I am excited about the prospect of sharing my fiction with other people, about hearing their thoughts and ideas, but at the same time, I'm slightly terrified.

Until quite recently, every time I sat down at my computer to write, I'd delete it afterwards. No matter how I felt about what I'd written, my reflex was to send it to the virtual trash bin. Not all of it was bad, but I never wanted another pair of eyes to grace anything I had written. Hell, it's a struggle just to write about my struggles about writing, i.e. this entire post. It's telling that my first instinct was not to publish this at all. But I suppose it's good to air one's frustrations on occasion; to exorcize the demons, so to speak.

I plan on doing further entries about the process of writing and the pains and (hopefully) rewards that come with doing something you have a true passion for, no matter how crazy it seems. By doing so, I hope to finally become somebody I've always wanted to be.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Autumn: The Winter of my Discontent

Forgive me for waxing poetic at times during this post, but I tend to do so when writing about topics I am truly passionate about. No, I am not about to go on a rant about politics, or complain that religion is the root of all evil. My chosen topic for this post is slightly more anemic than all that. Less Søren Kierkegaard, more Garrison Keillor. Yes, dear readers, as August has abandoned us all in it's wake of Coronas, kiddy pools, and languorous evenings, we have been deposited, some quite reluctantly, in the limbo of September, meaning that autumn has arrived.

"Blasphemy," you cry! "Look out the window. All you can see is sunshine and short shorts! Sandals and sunglasses! We're in the middle of a late summer heatwave. It's almost thirty degrees out there!"
 Nature's own fireworks display indeed!
Touché Mr. Obvious. But to me, autumn isn't just when a chill creeps into the air like a thief in the night. Autumn is all about transition, preparation, and reflection. It lacks the dizzying highs of the showier season of summer, all mindless cinematic blockbusters and ubiquitous beestings; and the isolating lows of winter, what with the four hours of daylight and the ill-fitting snow boots you refuse to replace since you only wear them for two weeks a year. And don't get me started on spring, that irritating younger cousin of summer that no one wants to hang around with since all he does is rain on your parade.

No, autumn is the season that means the most to me. As the leaves change, so does my outlook on life. It seems that I shift from passive observer to the world around me to an active participant as September rolls around. Me being a person ensconced in media of different guises, the world around me impacts this change. I mentioned the switch of summer blockbusters to more adult-friendly fare from September on, and this surely is a tool of this change. The Toronto Film Festival sparks a release of higher quality, adult-targeted films I actually enjoy watching for more than merely killing time. This sea change of cinematic robustness has a trickle down to my viewing habits in my own home as well. To me, there are "autumn films" as well as "autumn directors." For example, it just feels right settling into a movie like Old Joy or Rushmore while the leaves are changing outside and the days are shortening, and directors like Woody Allen, whose entire ouvre is optimally viewed during the autumn months. I have no empirical evidence or reasoning for this fact, other than it just feels right.

Even more than films, music is closely related to onslaught of autumn. Not in the explicit Vivaldi sense, however; but more of that spectral, hard to define quality of "autumn music." Recent examples include Fleet Foxes, whose latest album Helplessness Blues contains pastoral lyrics like "If I had an orchard I'd work til I'm raw," and Bon Iver's self-titled album, which was seemingly recorded to curl up beside a fire with whilst drinking hot apple cider and watch the leaves make their last stand against the oncoming chill.
Completing the trifecta of media consumption for me are books, which for some reason I love reading most during the autumn season. It seems that every year during this time, there is a book that is released that I look forward to more than any other. Last year was Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, a book that had little to do with autumn but bears the unmistakable stamp of the season since it was released during the first week of September. This year Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 is being released on October 25th, and already it is my "autumn book." The Man Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature are both announced in October, further cementing the literary leanings of my favorite month of my favorite season.

As we cease the frivolities of summer and prepare for the realities of winter, autumn is the perfect stopgap and the best excuse for sweaters, scarves, and the joys of watching your breath hang in the air in front of you without all the worries of freezing half to death or trudging through muddied slush. We are asked to put our childish ways temporarily to rest and mature with the leaves on the trees as they shift from the background to the forefront, from a bland sea of green to a vibrant patchwork of red, orange, and gold. So fear not the loss of summer! After you pack away your camping gear and swimsuit, do not sink into despair and regret for the inexorable march of time. Tour an apple orchard. Kick leaves into the air during your crisp autumn stroll. Tuck into a roast chicken and potatoes. Take time to notice the little things special to these few months; save them up so you can bask in them later as you shovel your driveway and shiver yourself to sleep. It's worth it.