Category Archives: writing

Thinking our way to true self

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” 

Eleanor Roosevelt

“Can you eat an apple by yourself?”

That was the question asked of the children gathered at the front of the church. All of them nodded. Yes, eating an apple was an easy thing for them to do. 

“Could you always do that, or did you have to learn?” 

Roxanne Goodman, a performance instructor in popular voice with Carleton University, started her presentation with those questions. I think she wanted all of us — children and adults — to think and learn and honour our potential.

Every day she works with people who tell her they want to develop stronger, more beautiful voices. The problem is, she says, that those same people don’t have a good perception of their voice at the time. 

In other words, they want to “eat an apple” but they haven’t yet, and they’re sure they’ll never do it as well as Ella Fitzgerald, Lady Gaga, or Elton John.  

She shared a story from her own life to help us on our path to understanding. When she was a young woman she sang a solo in her church. After the performance a gentleman said to her, “You have such a beautiful voice.”

“It’s okay. It’s all right,” she replied. 

Hearing that, he said, “Tell me, am I the only person who’s ever said this to you?”

“Oh no, people tell me that all the time.”

“Do you think that we are all lying to you?” he said. 

After that she asked herself: if she was wrong about her ability as a singer, what else was she wrong about? What else could she do that she was telling herself she couldn’t do?

She started from there, with a new belief that she had a beautiful voice. She studied to learn the technical aspects and how to get the emotion out.

She made lots of mistakes and learned from those too. 

She believes that anyone can learn to sing from their true voice if they do two things: 

  • Appreciate what they already have; believe in the beauty of their voice.
  • Sing from the depth of their being, their essence. 

She pointed out that Eleanor Roosevelt didn’t say we must do the thing we cannot do, but the thing we think we cannot do. 

We sometimes think our way out of facing fears and opening ourselves up to the next step. 

We can also think our way to our true self. 

I apply Roxanne’s lessons to writing: appreciating the beauty of my writing voice, learning the technical aspects and how to get the emotion out, making lots of mistakes, and allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to let my readers see me. 

Can you eat an apple? What else can you do that you’ve been telling yourself you can’t?

Start with one bite. 


Listen to what she had to say: http://www.trinityunitedottawa.ca/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Reflection-181118.mp3

Visit Roxanne’s website: www.confidencebooster.ca

Go to the Big Soul Project Christmas concert: Saturday, December 8

Start with one bite.

I thole, you thole, we all thole together: A thole word

Some days I barely manage to thole the Twitter experience. Other days, it sends wonderful gifts.

Last week, @RobGMacfarlane sent this gift:

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Fantastic word, that.

Quietly, toughly inspiring, as he says. The simple act of reading the definition fills my “thole” with a renewed vigour.

Sometimes we feel like this lone twig on a barren tree.

lone twig on barren tree

Other days nothing can hold us back, like these robust colourful blossoms.

Lonely twig or robust blossom, I thole, you thole, we all thole together.

 

 

An invitation to create the old-fashioned way

Imagine how excited I was to discover this at the Penetanguishene Public Library near my cottage.

My husband, a former journalist, remembered the feel of those old typewriter keys under the fingertips.

I loved the idea of the invitation to story. I was pleased to see people take up the offer.

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I’m still on a summer break, but itching to write . . .

 

A splatter in time

In my earlier post I wrote about a weekend when time slowed down. I relaxed at a friend’s cottage, and the leisurely dawdle in time allowed me to notice images of wings that came to me.

Immediately after that weekend, time accelerated from dawdle to flash and I rushed from activity to activity: social events, my daughter’s graduation from university, travel to the Canadian Writers’ Summit in Toronto and the launch of an anthology that includes one of my short stories. Whoosh.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, close-up and outdoor

Smart, talented and determined, my daughter graduates.

I did my best to stay in the moment for all those fun and meaningful moments, but I had little time to luxuriate in noticing. Except once. 

During a writers’ summit poetry session held in a marquis tent at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre, one of the leaders asked us to notice something in our immediate surroundings: one unusual or interesting aspect of the setting. I looked up, around and then down. On the paving stones beneath my feet I noticed something that would have escaped me otherwise: bright platters of colourful paint. The stones beneath my feet were the setting for poetry at that moment, but in the not-too-distant past children had played and created with paint there. I imagined their laughter and playful shouts.

 

The workshop leader gave me the gift of time to notice.

I’ll pay it forward. Take some time to notice. What gift is there for you that you might not have appreciated otherwise?


The Blood Is Thicker anthology, published by Iguana Books, includes my short story, “Beating the Odds.” Available here: Blood Is Thicker

 

Obstreperous: Something I learned

Today’s topic brought to you by: 300 Writing Prompts.

My son and his girlfriend teamed up and their brainstorming led to this book as one of my Christmas gifts. It contains three hundred ideas to set me (and you) thinking. I flipped through it this morning.

I passed by “What color do you feel like today?” (Blue, but in the good way. Not much more to say about that.)

I turned the page quickly from “How clean is your house now?” Not going there.

I landed on “What is something you learned in the past few days?”

I thought back to the scrap of paper left lying about on one of the desks at one of the places where I work. (I have too many jobs, really.) Someone had written the word OBSTREPEROUS in well-spaced capital letters. I picked the paper up. “What’s this about?” I asked.

A co-worker, whose first language is not English, said, “What does it mean?”

I thought about this. I had heard the word before and I could take a stab at a definition, but when it came right down to it I had to confess that I wasn’t sure. “I think it means grumpy,” I said. “I’ll look it up.”

I searched Oxford Dictionaries and came up with: Noisy and difficult to control.” 

“Ah,” I said. “I understand how I was confused. People who are obstreperous make other people grumpy.”

Why was OBSTREPEROUS lying around on the work station? I would tell you, but thinking about it makes me a little grumpy.

What have you learned in the past few days? 

 

Sideways: Embracing interruptions

One of the joyous frustrations of being a freelance writer is the unpredictable variety.

I never know if I’ll be writing about money, or toilet installation, or chickens, or veterans, or crows, or . . . the list goes on. I never know when I’ll receive the last-minute phone calls. I get up in the morning with plans in place to do something and then BAM, the phone rings. My whole day gets knocked sideways.

That joyous frustration happened yesterday when all the things I’d planned to do and write about got swept off the table.

Joy comes from learning about new things all the time. I am so lucky to never feel like I’m in a rut. I get paid to write! How great is that? Still, sometimes I grit my teeth. It makes it difficult to plan. And if you ever drop by my house and see dust on the furniture, now you know why.

Another joyous benefit of my freelance writing career is the reading I do on many topics. Years ago, one of those reading stints led to me this best piece of advice:

Embrace interruptions.

When I’m writing, I focus. I dive deep down into a well of creative thought and if someone speaks to me I need to swim my mind up through sludge to the surface again. I can practically hear the murky bubbles around me.

Interruptions used to drive me bonkers.

Now I tell myself: There is a purpose behind this interruption. How does it benefit me?

It gives me a chance to get a drink or go to the bathroom. It makes me notice the typo I overlooked before, once I settle back into place and look with refreshed eyes at the work I’ve done. It gives me an extra 24 hours to write a blog post.

Interruptions come in big and small sizes too.

There’s the simple, “Mom, are we out of milk?” kind of interruption, and then there’s the, “You need to take this. I’m afraid there’s bad news,” kind of phone call that knocks a life sideways for weeks, or months, or years. The big ones are harder to embrace, but perhaps it’s even more important to look for the gifts in those doozies.

There is a purpose behind your interruptions. How do they benefit you?

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