The The – Perfect (Or How To Scare Yourself Into Fulfilling Your Dreams)

You know it’s going to be an interesting day when you wake up with The The lyrics playing in your head. The following lines float in my mindscape quite often, a little threat to suggest what could happen if I don’t take risks and chances at every opportunity that comes my way:

Passing by a cemetery,
I think of all the little hopes and dreams,
That lie lifeless and unfulfilled beneath the soil.
I see an old man fingering his perishing flesh.
He tells himself he was a good man and did good things.
Amused and confused by life’s little ironies,
He swallows his bottle of distilled damnation.

Yep. There it is. All the threat you need to never say NO again!

I often use those lines as a means to motivate myself into doing something I’m more than a little terrified to do. Say, public speaking. Do I really want to be a bag of bones lying lifeless and unfulfilled beneath the soil? NO. I want it to be said that I took risks, that I pushed beyond my own imaginary limits. I don’t want to live in my comfort zone anymore!

It’s harder than one would imagine. Trust me. But the rewards far outweigh the terrifying fear I sometimes find myself in. And…it does get easier. Those things you think you could never do. Do them. Do them once. Do them twice. Do them whenever the opportunity arises. You’ll find that the sixth time is just a little bit easier than the fifth.

One day, I hope to master this public speaking thing. I’ve been having a lot of opportunities lately to speak. Last month I did a writing workshop on Pantsing and Plotting. I was constantly waiting for the wall of nervous jitters to hit. The thing is…it didn’t. I was comfortable. Admittedly, some of the things I wanted to discuss in the workshop left my brain. I stumbled and stuttered a bit with the odd brain fart. But…here’s the thing…I did NOT pass out. I remember the first time I read in front of the writing community I am a part of. I had to sit down with my back to the audience. How insane is that. If I didn’t sit, I would have fell…my legs were made of that much jelly.

So, whenever fear strikes I just sing The The lyrics to myself. I have those lines chase me into submission. I will not cower away from opportunities I know I will enjoy. I will not cower away from opportunities I know I will enjoy. This conquering of my own will has brought me to a lot of cool places in recent years. I laugh when I think of the way I begged a play festival producer to give me a chance to be a playwright in his festival. ME! A playwright. That would never happen! And five years later I now have two plays in an upcoming festival in Toronto. These will be plays number 6 & 7. And did I ever imagine that I would be in a recording studio at the CBC building, actually recording something I wrote for the radio? Not in my life! But after getting over the initial horror, I think that experience went okay as well. Thankfully, I had a fellow writer friend with me!

What’s this all about? Taking chances. LIFE OPENS UP WHEN YOU OPEN UP TO LIFE. Just keep on singing those terrifying lines I quoted up there.    ^  Nobody wants to get to the end of their life and think, “I wish I would have done all those things I was too afraid to do!” Take chances. Push yourself well beyond your limits. You may just enjoy doing those things you’re a little nervous to try. (Disclaimer–if this prompts you to go jumping out of an airplane and your parachute doesn’t open, please don’t pin it on me.)

Go forth. LIVE!

From Ontario Writers’ Conference to Writers’ Community of Durham Region…

So, I’m about to step into a new role on the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR) Board of Directors. This was something I considered for a couple years. I was on the board several years ago, when I first joined the organization. After finishing an approximate 8 year stint on the Ontario Writers’ Conference Board of Directors, I felt it was time for a change. I cherish both organizations. I’ve seen a lot of growing pains and wonderful achievements through my stretch on the OWC board. The yearly conference is now running extremely smoothly. I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished. (click on the logo below to go to the OWC site)

It’s easy to walk away from something when it’s sparkling with achievement. And it’s easy as well to step onto another project when it too is sparkling with achievement. I’m going from one golden goose to another. Both of these organizations have much to be proud of…as both are run by dedicated and passionate people who do their best to present the public with a shining example of what an organization should be and how an organization should be run. The move, for me, is so simple. Though two completely separate entities, both organizations’ boards are populated with friends who are like-minded in their determination to make the creative writing community in their area among the best writing communities in the world. Both the WCDR and the OWC have become synonymous with par excellence.

Though I have finished my tenure with the OWC, I will continue to promote the conference here and elsewhere. You may be hearing a lot more about the WCDR from this point onward. What some nearby communities need to know is that the WCDR hosts monthly breakfast meetings that are an excellent source of networking and learning for writers. I hope to help spread the word about the organization and make its reach a little broader over the next couple of years. I would like to see Torontonians heading east to Ajax to take advantage of our community. These breakfast meetings are open to anyone who would care to attend. They are welcoming to writers of all levels and they have excellent industry speakers delivering valuable information in an amazingly friendly atmosphere of camaraderie.

I wish the Ontario Writers’ Conference a lifetime of success. I’m planning on attending now that I will be free to take it in from the other side of the desk and I’m really looking forward to that experience. Working with the organization has been such an amazing gift…I will miss the people and the process and the excitement of putting the yearly event together.

Come June, I will be the Vice President of an organization that has helped my growth as a writer TREMENDOUSLY over the past decade! As I step onto the Writers’ Community of Durham Region board, I urge others who have benefited from a non-profit volunteer organization to VOLUNTEER. It’s the best way I know of to show appreciation for the gifts you have received from said organization. You will find that by volunteering, you enrich your own experience with the organization too. By giving, you receive more! 🙂

(Click on the logo below to go to the WCDR site)

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Toronto Playwright Debut Approaches!

As May begins to wind down, I realize I am mere days away from my Toronto debut as a playwright. This makes me both anxious and excited. I was born in Toronto. In my head, it is still my city. Though I have been in the suburbs for far longer than I ever actually lived in the city, it seems you can take the boy out of the city but you cannot take the city out of the boy. I still identify as a Torontonian. Yet, with all my wild and crazy writing accomplishments in the past 10 years, none have been Toronto-centric. Until now!

I have 2 plays being produced in the upcoming 8th Annual InspiraTO Festival at the Alumnae Theatre. Well, actually only one is AT the theatre. On the mainstage, as part of the YELLOWSHOW in the festival. The second play is actually in a hair salon in the neighbourhood surrounding the theatre. How cool is that?! It’s reminiscent of my Trafalgar24 play experiences…where the plays take place in different rooms of a 19th century castle in Whitby, Ontario (yes, out here in the suburbs of Toronto!). There are 4 site-specific plays in this year’s InspiraTO Festival. They take place in; an alleyway, a lounge, a furniture store and a hair salon. Mine is called Walk-Ins Welcome. These plays are organized as the WHITESHOW. The audience gathers at the Alumnae Theatre box office and is escorted throughout the neighbourhood to the various plays. Sounds like a blast and I can’t wait to see this show!

My first InspiraTO play is titled PERFECT TIMING and it will take place at the theatre itself.

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I got into this festival as one of its MENTORSHIP recipients. This gave me access to seeing every step of the play creation experience. I’ve been to a workshop, I worked with a dramaturg and I’ve been to rehearsals. It’s been a wonderful experience. And I was lucky enough to squeak that second play (Walk-Ins Welcome) into the festival at the 11th hour when a call for the hair salon play went out to the playwrights involved.

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We’ll see how this goes. I’ve never seen my work on such big a stage. I’m as excited as I am nervous. The best part is that these plays take place in my hometown! Can’t wait.

THE FESTIVAL TAKES PLACE MAY 30th – JUNE 8th

FOR INFORMATION AND TICKETS CLICK HERE FOR A LINK TO THE INSPIRATO WEBSITE!

Hope to see you there!

Don’t forget! Buy any of my 3 novels during the remainder of May, 2013 and all royalties are donated to Male Survivor’s Weekend of Recovery Scholarship Fund!

How Many of You People Know You’re Alive?

So asked Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison in the biopic The Doors. Did Jim Morrison really stand up on a car and ask the living world of passersby around him this prophetic question? Who knows? Furthermore, who cares? The fact that it was asked in the movie is enough. How many of us really do know we’re alive? Sometimes I’m almost certain I’d have to be run over by a tank just to realize I’m breathing. But that’s the thing about breathing. You don’t need to practice it. It just happens. It’s one of those things-like blood flow-that just happens to us…come what may.

But is that enough? Do the facts that our blood pumps and our breath breathes make us, in fact, alive?

I say no. These facts just make us slightly different than rocks. They keep us alive. Alive is different than living. You have to live to be alive. You have to breathe the light fantastic. Or is that skip the light fantastic? Ooh…a cliche. Those things we’re never supposed to use. Anyway, I prefer to skip the light fandango…turn cartwheels across the floor. Now that is living.

I’ve lost the thread, haven’t I?

How many of you people know you’re alive? When Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison screeched that question into the Los Angeles night he was higher than a kite. He thought he was alive. He was passing judgement on everybody around him who he saw as ants struggling within the human condition. In other words, he was living.

At times like these, when I am knee-deep in my writing, I sometimes stop and ask myself that question. Do I know I’m alive? I mean, I’m involved in all this STUFF. And yet…none of it really touches me. I have 2 plays being produced within the next month. My 3rd novel was just released. I just helped pull off a hugely successful writers’ conference. I’m stepping into an important role on my local writing community’s board of directors. All these things should give me pause. Should make me feel something. Should make me think, ‘yes…I know I’m alive.’

But they don’t.

Those things are just for fun. Sure…I get excited about them. But only on a surface level. They are not proof of my existence. In other words, as much as I care about getting these things right…about people enjoying the work that I process, the writing that I create…they don’t help me in the least to breathe. These things are incidental. They are just things that I do. When I write, I pass the time. It’s almost the same as breathing…no effort on my part. It just happens. Does my writing answer the question that Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison asked while perched up there on the car looking down on the little people who surrounded him?

No. The answer is an emphatic no. Writing doesn’t even scratch the surface. It doesn’t suggest to me that I’m actually alive. I love it…don’t get me wrong. But it doesn’t seem to create a reaction in me that tells me I’m living life. On the contrary…being a writer sometimes requires one to remove oneself from the treadmill of life. I agree, you must live to be a writer of any talent. What we do as writers is reflect life. If we are not living it, we cannot reflect it…we would be nothing more than vampire attempting vainly to look at ourselves in the mirror.

What the hell am I even trying to say here?!

I live life. Spending a week at the cottage staring off into the bowl of paradise from my Muskoka chair, my wet dog at my feet. THAT is living. Holding my grandson’s hand as he walks me to the light standard in the middle of our court because he’s fascinated with lights and he wants to tell me that said light standard is… “It’s OFF!”…that’s living. Taking in a Leafs game with my son…who can make a hot dog disappear in ten seconds flat…THAT is living. Laughing at my daughter’s crazy sense of humour and wondering where on earth she gets it from? THAT is living. Hurting to the point of being ripped apart? Laughing to the point of pissing myself? Getting lost in a movie at the theatre and holding my breath as I wait for the big something to happen and transform my life within the confines of that dark theatre? THAT is living. Christ, even filling the grocery cart every week and making sure we have the things on the list that my teenage dirtbag son requires to make him artificially happy? Even THAT is living.

Writing…putting words down one after another? That’s not living. That’s just breathing. Anyone can do that. You don’t even have to try.