The Editing

The red pen comes out
merciless, unforgiving.
You kill your darlings.

My first draft is almost done. I’m going to give it one last readthrough before I begin the editing phase. Editing is always the hardest part of any writing project. You take your (literal or metaphorical) red pen and you slash away mercilessly. Comments crowd the margins. Entire scenes fall before the power of the red pen.

Then you begin incorporating those edits. The red marks fade from the page as your manuscript heals. The lost words are forgotten, and their siblings crowd in to fill in the gaps. Sometimes new words are added to take their place, and sometimes the gaps simply fade away into memory.

It’s frustrating, but also cathartic. With each pass of the red pen, your manuscript improves until there comes a point when the red pen never touches the page again. When it passes over the manuscript and leaves it unblemished.

And then you are done.

Book Club

Lively conversation.
Talk, debate, illuminate.
Good food and good friends.

Last night I attended my first ever book club meeting. It was fantastic. I wasn’t a huge fan of the book, but like any get together I feel like the book was a good catalyst to get the conversation going.

As the evening wore on the conversation meandered along, making its way slowly and naturally like a large river cutting its way across the landscape. The hours flew by, and as the evening drew to a close I believe all present were left feeling satisfied both physically (in this case meaning “full of delicious food and wine”) and intellectually.

I can’t wait to see what we read next.

The Magic of Books

A conversation
Paper book, not yet read.
But where will we go?

I have always loved books. As a child, my favourite gifts, more than pretty dresses or dolls or lego, was a new book. A book is a time machine, a spaceship, anything you want or need it to be. They are truly magical, letting us explore new worlds and meet new and exciting people.

I’m in a book club now. Our first meeting is Friday. I’m excited. One thing I also love about books is discussing them with other people. Reading is seen, by many, as an inherently solitary act. True, once we are old enough to read by ourselves we rarely read with others, but books have never been a solitary activity. They are a conversation between the author and the reader, a message sent across time and space.

Books are stories that we experience together.

Welcome Friend

A weary traveller
knocks at the door. Enter friend,
come in from the cold.

Winter is both miserable and magical. Cold winds bite at our faces as wet, thick snow blankets the world. The cold settles into our bones, chilling us through and making out teeth chatter. Winter is beautiful, yet harsh.

So we gather in our homes, the rooms filled with friends and family. We light fires and candles and push back against the gathering darkness. Soon we will weather the shortest day, and the longest night, of the year. In times of darkness, we must not bend, we must let our lights shine bright.

Happy Holidays everyone.

Sweet Tributes

Little Ghosts and Ghouls
shriek with glee, demand tribute.
Bags full of candy.

Halloween is nearly here, the time of year when we take out our vampire capes, dust off our witch hats and embrace the darkness. Children will run shrieking through the streets, banging on doors and demanding sweet tributes. On this one night, we indulge them, not only tolerating the intrusion on our time but encouraging it. We decorate our homes to welcome them, and when they arrive we compliment their imaginations and their handiwork.

We fill their bulging bags with candy, and when it grows too late the small monsters, witches, ghouls, and ghosts make their way back home. When they cross the threshold they transform back into children and the gluttony is tempered. Parents dutifully gather up the bounty of candy so it can be rationed appropriately, a small treat or a tiny sweet after dinner or tucked safely into a lunch box. 

As dawn breaks the world returns to normal. We no longer welcome strange creatures onto our doorsteps, plying them with sweets and a chance to show off. We take down the decorations, throw away the Jack o’ Lanterns and erase all traces of that magical night.

Then we wait. Only 364 days to go.

 

Winter Has Arrived

Cold, stoic Ice Queen.
Her companions Frost and Snow
One wave, the world sleeps.

Winter officially arrived last week as 40 centimetres of snow blanketed my city. Traffic was at a standstill, and pedestrians picked their way along frozen sidewalks and summitted snowy hills.

There is a beauty in winter. A harsh, cold, and unforgiving beauty, but a beauty none the less. When snow blankets our world we turn inwards, shutting our doors against the ice queen and her two companions.

Perhaps that is why they are so bitter: Always looking in, but never invited to cross the threshold.

Giving Thanks

Families gather
A bounty laid before them,
and thanks is given.

Monday is Thanksgiving, where Canadian families across the country gather around tables overflowing with turkey, potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and cranberry sauce. A day when we sit and remember how fortunate we are to be surrounded by loved ones and partake in such a glorious feast. Not everyone is so lucky, so we should be grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Money and Happiness

As the grave looms near
Your regrets will haunt you, dear.
Moments melt like snow.

It sounds cliche, but what will you regret when you lie on your deathbed? Will you say “I wish I had done more overtime” or will you say “I wish I had spent more time with my family”?

Ambition is an admirable goal, and money is a valuable tool, but both are a means to an end: Happiness.

Having a well-paying job makes us happy because we don’t have to worry about meeting our basic needs, and can even afford to splurge on those little luxuries that bring us joy. To be independently wealthy grants us the freedom to spend our days as we wish, instead of marching to the beat of someone else’s drum.

Forbes found that the secret to happiness is not buying things, but buying experiences. A $5 coffee shared with a friend is ultimately more likely to make us happy than a $500 pair of shoes. Giving gifts makes us happier than receiving them, and spending money on hobbies and learning new things enrich us more in the long term.

A study published in Nature: Human Behaviour found that a certain amount of money is necessary to make us happy.  Globally an individual needs to earn between $60,000 and $75,000 per year to be happy in their day to day lives and individuals who earn $95,000 tend to be happy with their lives overall. However, earning more than $95,000 per year does not actually make us happier.

Money is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used both effectively and ineffectively. Money is most effective when we use to enrich ourselves, create meaningful moments with loved ones, or make our lives easier. Buying things ultimately doesn’t make us as happy as experiences do, and the happiness they do provide is often short-lived.

This isn’t a financial advice blog, or a lifestyle blog. It is a blog about writing. So what does any of this have to do with writing?

Well, writing makes me happy. Working on my novel fills me with both joy and a deep sense of satisfaction. I write for a living now, and that presents me with the opportunity to learn and grow every day, which in turn makes me happier. However, in the past, I had jobs that weren’t related to writing at all. I did those jobs not because they made me happy but because they paid enough to cover my bills and still allow me to have the time I needed to write.

Those non-writing jobs were a means to an end.

That might not be the case with everyone. I’ve heard other writers say that they genuinely love their day jobs, and I am happy for them. But if you want to be a writer full time don’t lament the time you spend doing non-writing related tasks for money. Those tasks are a means to an end, and as long as you keep on writing I have no doubt that you will achieve your goals.