Sunday, February 27, 2011

Write Naked, Exfoliate, Then Flash ‘em

Put your butt in that chair, pick up your pen, and fire up your computer.

And as you do, strip down, bare it all, and write naked.

Bare everything, even if it’s saggy, hairy and a bit too flabby for your liking. You don’t have to show anyone your naked writing; it’s for the privacy of your own room or bathroom. This is the writing that, after working through all the layers of clothing, is what is underneath - your heart and soul.

Who cares about the pimples, bunions, warts or other weird-growths-we-will-not-discuss. They can always be removed later. Just keep writing - write naked.

Drop your Drawers – Lose Your Inhibitions

Authentic naked writing from the depths of your gut means ignoring all the restrictions swirling around in your head. Lose the bras, the belts, the garters, the corsets – anything restrictive and binding. Lose those inhibitions – including your drawers.

Those drawers are the final step - if you’re truly going to bare it all. Like the tiniest seed of doubt in the back of your mind, they are the hardest to let go. Self-doubt and second-guessing will limit and cramp your writing if you don’t take a deep breath and ignore whatever else is in your head. Be brave and bold, and let go –of your hold on your boxers. No one has to see anything if you don’t want them to.

So drop ‘em – and write.

So Ya Wanna Show it Off?

Your new-found freedom has released you, and you have decided to submit your work – yourself – to agents or publishers. GREAT! You are braver than you thought! And even better, you (hopefully) have a writing partner or editor to peek at your work for you.

But before you show your partner or editor, get out the tweezers and depilatories and start editing. If you intend on putting it all out THERE, you need to give your work a total body overhaul. But keep in mind - your naked writing is NOTHING to be ashamed of. This is YOU; who YOU are.

Your naked writing needs to be showered, shaved, and tweezed within an inch of its life – edited like there’s no tomorrow. Like those who go to the aesthetician for buffing, polishing and removing of the unwanted, unnecessary and redundant, your writing needs the same kind of treatment.

Everyone needs a good haircut and nail trimming now and then.

Exfoliate, Exfoliate, Exfoliate

You have removed every hair visible, and you have sent your work to your writing partner or editor. This can be scary - this first REVEAL. Don’t let modesty get in the way, covering up those sensitive areas with a towel. Don’t start making excuses for this roll here, that flab there. They have to see it all if they are going to help you. They will find the hairs you missed and the warts between your toes. Let them exfoliate your work. Don’t let their comments get you down; learn from them and improve yourself – your writing.

But as you hesitate dropping the towel in exposing your work, remember to ask yourself: how badly do you desire publication? How badly do you want to share and be heard by more than just your cat? Your peers won’t bite; they want you as beautiful as possible. And when they have finished exfoliating your work, listen to their beauty tips, go soak in the tub, and exfoliate some more.

Time to Flash ‘em

You have primped, preened and perfected your work, becoming brave and bold with your naked writing. You should be proud of yourself! Look at how far you have come since first dropping your drawers! Liposuction worked (less is more, remember), and you have rid your writing of all the unwanted stuff. Your lean, fat-free work is ready to submit to publishers.

But before licking the stamp or sending the email, ask yourself; with all the tweezing, exfoliating and liposuction, have you kept the YOU in your writing?

Take care to not jeopardize the YOU in your naked writing. Don’t try to be like anyone else. Forget face-lifts, injections, implants, and Botox. They might look great on the surface, but your naked writing - your authentic writing - would be lost in the silicone.

So take a deep breath, forget about injections or implants, and send out your heart, soul, and your naked self. Flash agents and publishers your best, and only your best. You have come this far – why stop now? Just do it!

Don’t Shimmy Into Those Undies Just Yet...

You have taken a deep breath and bravely, and confidently, submitted your work - and now you wait. Get dressed and head out for a celebratory something-or-other with a writing buddy - you deserve it! But that’s it. Don’t sit around waiting in your comfy undies, covering up everything. Get naked and get writing.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Enjoy it NOW!

It was 5:30 in the morning, and my world as I knew it was about to come crashing down. Everyone, including the cat and the fish, was still asleep; I was on my own.

Through puffy eyes I watched the news, and something the newscaster said woke me up faster than 10 cups of coffee.

The hardware store, Canadian Tire – a part of Canadian history - is getting rid of Canadian Tire money.

WHAT?? How could they do this to me?

I love Canadian Tire money. I mean, I LOVE IT.

For those of you who don’t know, Canadian Tire first opened in Toronto, Ontario in 1922. In 1961, as a customer loyalty incentive, ‘paper money’ was handed out - in denominations of 5, 10, 25, and 50 cents, as well as 1 dollar bills – the amount distributed based on a percentage of the purchase. The intention was to draw customers back to the store and use the money as ‘cash’ towards their next purchase. The incentive is still going strong.

But the company has decided to uproot this Canadian currency icon, and gear towards an electronic loyalty program – same thing, different method. And their decision sent me into a tizzy.

I thought about it all day; those coloured bills corrupted my every action. I poked out my eye with the mascara brush. I almost left the coffee shop with my coffee - black! While slicing paper in the paper-cutter at work – you know the kind with the big-arm blade – I cut my employee ID tag in half. In HALF, I tell you!

The bills were still clouding my senses much later as I tried riding the bus using my library card instead of my bus pass.

Oh, I cannot, CANNOT take much more of this.

So I had a plan. I had to find out if this - this ATROCITY - was true. I mean, newscasters CAN get things wrong. Right?

Lucky for me, a Canadian Tire store is at the bus stop where I get off. Mentally urging the bus driver to go faster, I knew that all I had to do was confirm the absurdity of this NEWS with the store manager, and all would be right in my world. See? Easy.

I did not run. I serenely and sedately walked into the store, and just as serenely and sedately, walked up and down the aisles looking for the manager. AHA! Found him!

I calmly and casually walked up to him, and asked him my burning question.

“Tell me – TELL me it isn’t SO! Are you really getting rid of Canadian Tire money?” I crumpled to the floor, sobbing and wailing – he ended up calling the paramedics.

Sorry, I got a bit carried away. What I actually asked was:

“Excuse me sir, but is it true that your fine company is eliminating Canadian Tire money in favour of a new electronic customer loyalty program?” I batted my eyelashes a few times, just in case.

He blankly said, “Yes.”

I stumbled out of the store without buying anything. He must be wrong, HE MUST BE WRONG! JUST because HE’S the manager cannot POSSIBLY mean he knows everything, right? I’ll show him. I’ll email the company – take it straight to the top!

And I did.

And the kind lady in somewhere-Canada promptly wrote me back - with the same answer.

It’s true. IT’S ALL TRUE! Why are they doing this to me?

I save the ‘dollars,’ hoarding them like chocolate. Like a miser I hide them, fearful that (gasp!) another family member will steal them. I am not greedy; truly I am not. I am just saving them for a rainy day.

For a day when funds are low and a summer toy (squirt gun, badminton birdies, etc) is desperately needed for a bored kid, or for a day when a bottle of motor oil will surely fix a sputtering car. Or what if I need something to cheer me and FINALLY cash in and get the 10-in-one hammer I have dreamed about for ages?

But those days never came.

I squirrel away ‘special things’ to save for a rainy day – just in case. And more often than not, I realize, those days never come, and it’s too late to enjoy.

I save things to use only on special occasions. I moved in the summer and found a velveteen dress I bought about 15 years ago with the pricetag still on it. I was saving it for a something special – a special occasion. Why didn’t I just wear it, and enjoy it, then? If I wore it now, I’d look like an idiot – out of date and out of style. And my good china? It has so much dust on it from 'saving' it, I don't know what it looks like anymore.

I save everything for various reasons; for a 'special occasion,' for a 'rainy day,' or 'just in case.' The reasons are endless, and I never enjoy the NOW. Just use IT (whatever it is) NOW and don’t wait for seasons/styles/trends to pass before it gets too late.

So I ate a pound (or two) of chocolate to calm down, and after rolling around in the piles of great wealth I worked so hard to save, I pocketed my $9.15 (comprised partly of 58, 5 cent bills), and skipped back to the store with a new found intention – enjoy it NOW!

And bought kitty litter.

(oh, and I saved a few bills – just in case)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Writing Like the 60’s

While I was lying on the floor of the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, BC, I realized I had a lot to learn from the 60’s, John Lennon, and a famous car.

And why was I lying on the floor, you ask? I was taking pictures of a car, of course.

Tourists stepped over and around me, and I could tell from their expressions reflected in the highly-polished chrome, they likely assumed I was some high-class photo-journalist.

How could they not? With my pink digital camera – it fits perfectly in my purse beside a pack of gum of the same size – and my body contorted to weird positions solely in the name of getting the most PERFECT artistic shot, I was definitely a ‘pro.’

Or maybe the chrome warped their reflected expressions and they were actually giving me weird looks.

But I didn’t care as I was doing my ‘thing;’ doing what I wanted. And I didn’t care what they thought.

I was practically nose to nose with a door handle that had been grasped by members of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Moody Blues, Bob Dylan, and countless others beyond my social circle – if I had been born during that time, that is. They did what they wanted, wrote about what they wanted, and in turn, we are still singing their songs.

The museum is the proud keeper of one of John Lennon’s numerous cars, a Rolls Royce Phantom V. Purchased in 1965, Lennon eventually had the Valentine’s black paint job covered by the ornate yellow, blue and red floral design the car is now famous for. The European flair of the design is reflective of the artists who painted it; a Dutch team of gypsy artists who originally painted a wagon that sat in Lennon’s back yard were commissioned to do the artwork on the car. Lennon also had the car fitted with a sound system, TV, fridge, and phone, and the back seat was made to a convertible double bed. Pre-paint job, the car carried the Beatles to meet the Queen to receive their MBE medals – Members of the Order of the British Empire.

Needless to say, the car has ‘been around.’ After it lived the rock ‘n roll life, Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono donated the car to a museum for a tax credit - much needed to pay off a few debts. After sitting in storage for a few years, the car eventually made its way to Vancouver, BC when it was purchased by Mr. Jimmy Pattison, Vancouver business man, for $2,299,000. It was on display at Vancouver’s Expo ’86 – a mere 6 years after John Lennon’s death – and was then given as a gift by Mr. Pattison to the Transportation Museum of British Columbia in Cloverdale, BC. It lived at the museum in Cloverdale from 1987 to 1993, when it was then moved to the Royal BC Museum in Victoria, BC.

Which is where I was, lying on the floor, and having deep, psychedelic thoughts about how I can apply John Lennon, the 60’s, and the car, to writing.

The era, and the flamboyantly painted car, are truly symbolic of how we, as writers, should write; vibrantly, passionately, and without care. When Lennon was out cruising the streets one day, a British woman smacked the yellow car with her umbrella and screamed, “You swine, you swine! How dare you do this to a Rolls-Royce!” Did he let that bother him?

Forget about everyone else. Forget about what your mother, father, siblings, great aunt or the hamster will think. Ignore the internal editor in your head saying ‘I shouldn’t write THAT.’ If you don’t write truthfully, from your heart, it will show.

Inducing a 'purple haze' to foster creativity is not my thing, and I don't intend on burning my bra anytime soon (this is 2011, after all), but maybe applying the same ways of thinking of those times - not letting fear and censorship smother passion and conviction - will have folks reading my work for generations to come.

Imagine all the possibilities.

Peace, man.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Frozen for Now

I had a teensy-weensy bit of a hissy-fit.

With my hair flying out of control, the pots and pans acquiring a few dents in my angst, and the cupboard doors left barely hanging on their hinges, I counted to ten and gently asked, “Where is my mini baking pan?”

3 pairs of eyes tried to mask their terror.

“I dunno.” Those words mumbled in unison made my toenails sizzle – they shouldn’t have said that.

And they shouldn’t have shrugged their shoulders, either. That was a BAD idea.

Out I stormed to the deep-freezer in the garage. My quest? Frozen peas. I also figured sticking my head in the freezer would help cool me off and help me put the missing pan into perspective. Peas now, pan later.

I opened the freezer door, the sudden whoosh of cold air instantly doing the trick. Before I could start hollering ‘Where ARE the stupid peas!?’, something caught my eye; or should I say some things caught my eye. The pan, the peas and my sizzling toenails were suddenly forgotten.

There is snow in my deep-freezer, and not the kind that needs to be chiselled off the inside walls (come to think of it, the big box COULD use a good defrosting).

I guess in my constant whirlwind-blur these last few weeks I hadn’t noticed these things – or maybe I just forgot about their existence.

Or maybe the now missing bag of peas was previously hiding them.

Seven snowballs sit, frozen in time, the joy of their existence preserved in a box of sub-zero degree temperatures. And underneath the snowballs? The missing mini baking pan.

Six of them are circa November 2010.
One of them is circa January 2011.

We DID have one from November 2009, but a move during a record-breaking August heat-wave sent the poor thing melting faster than Frosty the Snowman on a sunny winter’s day.

I tried to save it – I truly did try. But moving a household of thirteen years worth of belongings took precedence.

The deep-freezer has held, and still holds, a great many things – and not necessarily all food. One year we saved part of the carrot Rudolph snacked on – you can’t just leave Santa a snack on Christmas Eve, now can you? Even though it was preserved in a Ziploc bag, eventually the gnarled, blackened nub of the half-eaten carrot had to go.

A tier of wedding cake sits beside a turkey waiting for the next great feast. Freezies from last summer wait for next summer, while a water balloon, filled and frozen (yes, it’s true), is nestled between loaves of bread. An ice-pack is at the ready for the next injury (and in this house, there are many).

But what are most important are the snowballs – God forbid the power goes out for an extended period and the freezer defrosts, thawing everything within.

The six from November 2010, were made by Brother 1 and his friend when Brother 2 was at a sleepover. Brother 1 and his friend didn’t want Brother 2 to ‘miss out.’

The seventh snowball recently preserved in January, was made on the night of The Great Snow that had us outside until 10pm – WAY past bedtime on a school night, no less. Keep in mind that in these parts snow is rare and causes great excitement, good and bad, sending the city into upheaval (see my entry dated December 5, 2010 - Don't Panic - It's Just Frozen Water). As the weather man/woman/person predicted, the snow melted away by the next day, but we had them beat. We saved a ball of this precious commodity, holding on to the memory of that wondrous night.

I struggle to foster and savour memories for my family. I fight myself from participating my children in a science experiment to stunt their growth, so eager am I to hold on to their youth – the NOW. I know these snowballs will eventually shrink and evaporate (think of the ice cubes sitting too long in the ice cube tray – they always shrink), unlike my children who will grow and grow, no matter what.

I have to remember to freeze the NOW. Forget about missing pans, missing peas, and dinners yet to be cooked. Freeze the memories I have now; don’t let them melt away.

As they freeze the memory of snow, sometimes bragging to their friends that they have REAL snowballs at home, I remember to freeze my own memories.

I went back in the house, hugged them all, my frozen cheeks and tears making them squirm - and made grilled cheese sandwiches.

Forget about the peas and pan - long live the snow.