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5-Day Artist Challenge, Day 1: Writing

Okay, 5-Day Artist Challenge, here we go! In true OELC iArts fashion, I shall dedicate each of the five days to a different strand of art, and I decree that writing shall be first. Because obviously.

5-day artist challenge journal writing fountain pen

If art is bread for the soul, writing is… let’s say sourdough. You get a starter of an idea, you let it ferment a bit. You feed it some nice floury research, wait some more, and eventually you’re ready to knead and craft something interesting out of it. Or occasionally you might get a starter that’s all ready and you just have to go for it. Sometimes it will flop, sometimes it will have a respectable grain. Not everyone will like the result, but some people will think it’s delicious.

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Image via bbc.co.uk

{My sister is the actual sourdough disciple. Through her, I have become acquainted with some different versions of her starter, Don Juan. Beth, do I sound convincing at all?}

Ahem. Yes. WRITING.

Writing is something I’ve done on a regular basis since my first diary was given to me on my seventh birthday. I really got going with the journaling in my pre-teen years, and was prolific throughout my teens and even university (as time permitted). I wrote compulsively about events I wanted to cherish, and even more compulsively about heartbreaking or awful or turbulent things I needed to process. Some hopes and philosophies, lots about friendships, and even more about boys.

During my grade-school years, I dreamed of being a professional writer one day (like my authorly heroines – Anne Shirley, Anne Frank, That Scatterbrain Booky). I was also homeschooled by my mom, who is herself a writer of poetry, stories, and historical novels. Her encouragement/bias is evidenced by the many stories and poems and not-at-all-historical novels I wrote during that time. (Her novels tended to treat actual elements of the British monarchy, and mine were about contemporary pre-teen girls with first-world problems. Amy the Dreamer; Remember Me? I’m Your Daughter; and My Friend Christie. They were twelve chapters each, written by hand on lined paper in duo-tangs. Full of my youthful feels, if not actual ingenuity. The Magic Chestnut was never finished.)

I remember submitting the painstakingly typed (and dot-matrix printed) Amy the Dreamer to Nelson Canada (it was kind of a homeschooling project, with a business letter and everything) and receiving a very nice rejection letter for it. I’m pretty sure I once had a poem published in Cricket magazine, and I won a few awards at my high school’s Literary Festival. My real accomplishment, though, was “Rainy Day Cindy,” my first (and only) fully author-illustrated short story – which you can view in its entirety on this very blog!

Then, in university, I wrote a buttload of essays, culminating in my 75-page mémoire (similar to a thesis) for my Masters in French lit. And that was enough of that.

My journaling, and actually my writing in all forms, dramatically tapered off when Sean and I settled down together. Naturally, peaceful love life = less fodder; real job = less time. It wasn’t until I started blogging that I realized how much I’d missed having that outlet.

I don’t really write fiction anymore. As a kid, I had no end of ideas, and felt absolutely entitled to write the heck out of them. Nowadays, I feel unqualified to make up stories, intimidated by the incredibly gorgeous and heartrending novels I’ve read. There’s a part of me that still wants to write a novel, or lots of novels. The trouble is, I don’t want to do so without a character who could steal your heart, preferably within a story that could blow your mind. I’m not confident that my imagination is up to the task.

But I do love blogging. I’ve heard folks paraphrase Dorothy Parker on more than one occasion: “I hate writing, I love having written.” For me, this is not the case. I relish the writing process, love finding and puzzling together the words to say what I mean. I even sort of liked writing essays, for the brain challenge. Writing soothes the itchy parts of my mind.

Thank goodness for you, lovely Di-hards. Just by reading, you validate my act of writing things. You motivate me just by your presence. You make it okay for me to keep this frivolous habit of committing my thoughts to words. I’m profoundly grateful to you.

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5-Day Artist Challenge Postponed Due to Hogwarts Sorting Incident

My dear dance friend Mary nominated me, well over a year ago, for the 5-Day Artist Challenge on Facebook, in which you post a photo or so every day for five days, along with some interesting information or anecdote, to share with others the role of art in your life.

I did not manage to do this at that time, despite my best intentions. I forget what silly thing sidetracked me.

Because really, what’s more important than art? Art is bread for the soul – EVERY kind of bread: the white, the brown, the seedy, the fluffy, the cheesy, the crusty, the glutinous AND the gluten-free. I profoundly believe that we all need art to live.

This post was supposed to be Day 1. But I just have to tell you something before I start. I’m reeling a little, for two reasons that have nothing to do with the title of this piece.

Firstly, my beloved MacBook just came back from the shop. It had a several-days-long medical episode in which it was only sometimes taking a charge, and then it stopped charging altogether (!!) and went deep into computer-sleep. And then the good lad at the repair shop (their designated “Mac guy”) made it work again.

Everything seems back to beautiful normal in laptop-land… except that at least two almost-finished blog post drafts are GONE. Including a lengthy comparison of Stratford and Niagara-on-the-Lake as weekend getaway options. Disappeared! Except for this one partial title: “5-” Which frankly I could have managed to remember anyway.

Skye: I swear that this is true.

So that’s a bit traumatic. But EVEN WORSE.

My second shock has to do with Harry Potter. As you know, I am a Level 5 Harry Potter Fan with a tendency to geek out on the subject, sometimes at the expense of a small child. I just finished reading the entire series to one-and-a-half of my children (i.e., my 7-year-old listened avidly to every word, and my almost-4-year-old was asleep for at least half of it). It took us many months, and although I know there are those who would judge me for reading all seven books to such young’uns (believe me, I did not take the exposure lightly – I did fret about certain themes, and very occasionally edited small things out), my kids were great about it. They loved it, and I loved it. (So much that I did voices – WITH accents.)

Such an amazing story. It just gets better with every reading. The kids were almost never scared, and E took everything in stride. When we finished the series, he immediately asked, “Can we start at the beginning and read it again?” And to be honest, it’s been handy being able to refer to HP when questions come up about difficult things (war, politics, love, death, bullying, etc.).

I also, of course, bought The Cursed Child and read it (to myself only) after we finished The Deathly Hallows. (I haven’t told E we own it, otherwise he’d insist on hearing it, and I just don’t fancy reading a play aloud to him.)

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And I enjoyed it, especially the quirkiness of the new characters, although it felt very weird to read it as a play, and without Rowling’s unique voice. I’ll have to mull over and re-read to know how I really feel about it.

But anyway. Back to my trauma. My identity crisis.

I mentioned in my geek-out that I’d been sorted into Ravenclaw a couple of times, but that was years ago and I don’t even remember how. Then I became a member of the beta version of Pottermore, where they have an actual genuine virtual Sorting Hat, and I was sorted into Hufflepuff. When you become a Hufflepuff, you learn all the things that make Hufflepuff life so great, and I really did relate to it, and embraced the identity.

Then, just recently, after I started reading HP to the kids, I got curious to see if I’d changed over the years, and did another test on gotoquiz.com – the one with “all possible questions” – and it sorted me into… Gryffindor. That was a shock to me – not unwelcome, exactly, but startling to say the least. Was it possible that I’d gotten braver with age? But I said to myself, this is not Pottermore. The only way to know FOR SURE is to get re-sorted on Pottermore, because it’s the real deal.

I finally did that today, with my newly happy laptop, doing my best to consider each answer carefully and honestly. Because this is crucial. And what did I get?? Effing Slytherin. I still can’t believe it. Seriously, friends, is there ANYTHING dark about me?? Other than the fact that I do actually rather like snakes… What am I missing? Where did I take this turn?? (It’s probably The Cursed Child‘s fault, come to think of it. It’s trying to teach me a lesson.)

If you ever see me sacrificing my friendships for the sake of my ambition, just smack me, please.

Because this is an emergency, just to keep me from tossing and turning all night, I just did the “shockingly accurate” Buzzfeed quiz for hybrid houses. Good ol’ Buzzfeed. Now I can go to bed. Not sure I can ever go to Pottermore again, though.

huffleclaw hogwarts sorting test
Does this seem more Dilovelyish?

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100 Happy Days – Day 20: My Hubbibi, among other things

Lots of happy things today!

I should mention that one of them is: my blog is working!!! Almost basically back to normal! YAHOO! (Big thanks to my dad for helping and putting up with lots of rigamarole regarding my blog issues.) So now I’m looking forward to backdating the happy days I’ve stored up AS WELL AS posting new ones.

Then we have my Hubbibi, who magically procured groceries at some insanely late hour last night or early hour this morning (he works at 7 am) because we had somehow gotten ourselves into a situation of almost-lunchlessness for our son.

Plus, he’s cleaned the kitchen for the last two evenings in a row, and when my husband cleans the kitchen… it’s lick-the-counter clean, baby. (Not to be confused with “lick the counter clean,” which he does not do. Gross.)

AND he brushed off the car for me before he left this morning, which was a blessing, because SNOW and ICE are apparently all the rage. (I love you, Sean! xoxoxoxox)

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Ha ha. Those are our snow tires in the corner. A li’l bit of irony for ya.

Then, also, there’s been sunshine on snow today. That makes me happy in spite of snow pants and scraping windshields, because it’s just so pretty and sparkly and brilliant.

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AND, you gotta be stoked if you’re not in Buffalo right now. (And if you are… my heart goes out to you.)

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Narcissism on the Interwebs

My husband has a love-hate relationship with Facebook. He has created and deleted his account countless times. He knows that, for now, no other social media site does what Facebook does – that’s why he always ends up returning. The part he dislikes – apart from their sneaky privacy policies – is how it encourages narcissism.

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Likety-like?

I can see his point. There is something about publishing things on the internet that seems to lend them validity. You can go on Facebook and tell people: “Kids are at school, time for my morning coffee!” and chances are, there will be friends who Like your status, or who comment: “Me too! :)” or “OMG I <3 my Timmy’s!” Yep. Morning coffee: validated.

To Sean (and many others, I imagine), this is annoying. Who gives a poop about your morning coffee? Why should this be important to anyone?

And this is just a microcosm of the Greater Interweb, where anyone can be a published writer by starting a blog, anyone can initiate a comment war with a well-placed bitchy remark, and you never know if your stupid video of yourself accidentally face-planting in your kitchen might just go viral.

To me, the internet is simply a reflection of humanity. I’m not going to deny that, unfortunately, it has its evil side. The web validates child porn, white supremacy, and gun violence along with your morning coffee. That’s humanity for you.

At the same time, there are forums to condemn those things. And sources of sheer awesomeness to counteract them.

I see it as an equalizer. You can have your say and I can have mine. The floor is open.

I remember what it was like before the internet. I got my first email address in university, and it was a saving grace for a homesick freshwoman just a bit too introverted to love residence life. You mean, I can write to my family all at once? And they can write back that same day??

It took me longer to enjoy the wider internet. I remember my dad, who has been working with computers since they took up whole rooms, saying, “If you don’t know, you could look it up. On the internet.” I was dismissive; it seemed like too much bother. (HA.)

Now, I can barely imagine life without it. No more calling the Weather Office if you miss the long-term forecast. No more flipping futilely through Leonard Maltin if you can’t remember where you saw that actor before. No more recording grainy songs off the radio with DJs talking over the first ten seconds. No more researching with a mountainous pile of hulking tomes edited by a few academic strangers; Wikipedia weighs nothing, and it’s edited by everybody. Amazing!!

It’s a brave new world, easily accessible.

Aside from its handiness, though, it’s a great reminder that we are never alone. Whether your obsession be belly dancing, quantum physics, vintage cars, or high-quality writing implements with literary cachet {insert *Sean-cough*}, you know that online, you can find your peeps.

If you or someone you love has a miscarriage, postpartum depression, cancer, a broken heart, or anything else, there’s a community.

Also, if you need to laugh so hard you cry, or have your faith in humanity restored, it’s all there.

Some say that blogs are the ultimate example of narcissism. Any idiot can start a blog and start spewing their opinions and minutiae of their lives into cyberspace. True. The quality of blogs ranges from sublime to asinine.

But so what? As with all forms of media, all you need is a filter. If it sucks, DON’T WASTE TIME ON IT. If it smacks of narcissism, find something else.

I barely knew what a blog was when I started blogging; I just wanted to write. Little did I know that it would become the creative outlet I hadn’t realized I craved; that it would be an enveloping source of healing when my son died; that my message of encouragement to my colleagues would be read by thousands of disheartened teachers; that blogging would strengthen old friendships and open pathways to new ones.

It is wonderful, and humbling, to meet a reader for the first time and hear, “I feel like I know you – like we’re already friends!” And it’s not untrue: if you connected with me through my words, then we are connected. I wrote them for you.

I’ve felt similarly reading other blogs, learning so much about that writer and thinking, Wow, I love this person I’ve never met.

Mutual blog-reading and commenting is a unique form of friendship I’d never imagined. You can bond with people thousands of miles away, with whom you would never have crossed paths in life. That’s pretty special. The blogs I gravitate to are written by thoughtful, intelligent people, on all kinds of topics, and it’s genuinely comforting to read and relate to their words – especially after a national tragedy. In a community like Yeah Write, where mutual-readership is on fire, it’s like having a group discussion where we contemplate and compose our perspectives, then offer them to the company. I dig it.

And I don’t consider it narcissism to base your writing on your own experience. After all, that’s what we have to work with that’s most authentic and relatable.

As for Facebook… I like it. People complain about toxic comment threads and nasty gossip; I avoid those things as much as possible. It helps to have really nice friends.

It makes me smile to read about the kids or the garden, or see a photo of a delicious dinner or the dog looking silly. Those ordinary tidbits make me feel close to people I don’t see enough.

And when there’s serious news, whether personal or global, it’s heartening to see it through the lens of people I love.

By all means, tell me about your coffee. We can have one together.

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Photo by Lisa of Continental Breakfasts.

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