Carve out time and space to write, and protect it as Cerberus would guard Hades

I’m writing this post from a cabin in the woods. Truly. I’m in a small town on Vancouver Island, and I travelled about five hours to get here. I know it’s over the top to say I drove down icy roads to get here, but that’s true, too. Life provides the drama, and I lock in at 40 km/hour in a 90 km/hour zone and ride it out.

I booked a long weekend for myself as a writing retreat. I left my partner at home, hired a catsitter, paused my email, put on my out-of-office. I have a goal for the weekend, and a writing schedule for each day. I’m keeping this post short because I need to get back to it.

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We want to help YOU start a Book Ride

The falling snow and cold temperatures have me dreaming of summer bike rides with friends. It’s the perfect time of year for you to start planning a Book Ride in your community. And The Reading Line is here to help.

Since 2014, The Reading Line has produced Book Rides that bring together the literary and cycling communities. We have a proven track record of engaging key changemakers in government and non-profit organizations by using a mix of vibrant programming and eclectic media to raise awareness of safe cycling infrastructure, literacy, and the arts.

And now we want to share our secrets with you. Continue reading “We want to help YOU start a Book Ride”

Every book has a mouldy couch. Find yours.

It could be the opening paragraph you drafted at the start of your project, the conclusion you tacked on in a hurry, or the chapter that contains crucial information but never really fit (face it).

Every manuscript contains what I think of as a mouldy couch. It’s something that shouldn’t be there and really is not improving anyone’s life, let alone the manuscript. It needs to be hauled away. And you, dear writer, need to do the hauling. Continue reading “Every book has a mouldy couch. Find yours.”

Take command of the intersection

My dad taught me and my two sisters to drive. In addition to being a skilled driver who used to take the narrow roads of rural Ireland at a fast clip, he teaches marine firefighting to land-based fire fighters. When I say “safety!” you say “professional!” My sisters and I grew up playing in smokehouses and life rafts, and tucking-and-rolling from slowly moving firetrucks. It was the perfect combination of risk and risk prevention.

So it was no wonder that accident preparedness would be a big part of our driving lessons. One of our exercises involved driving to a quiet dead-end road early in the morning. My dad would set up approximately seven 10-gallon buckets in a V, about 20 feet wide. We would then drive at the centre point of the V at 50 km an hour, and at the last minute he would shout “LEFT!” or “RIGHT!” and I would swerve the car, taking out the buckets in the process.

Lots of fun. Very messy. Sphincter-clenchingly scary. But the lesson sunk in.

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Inspiration does not come from a teabag tag

It never fails: I remove a teabag from its paper sleeve, read the “inspirational” quotation on the dangling tag, and think “Oh, fuck off.” (Today’s gem: “A garden is a delight to the eye and a solace for the soul.” Saadi)

Inspiration does not come solely from a teabag tag; you need to create the conditions for inspiration to strike. For me that consists of sticking to a routine, and allowing plenty of idle time for my mind to wander: walking after dinner, commuting by bike, washing the dishes by hand.
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Why are you here?

You promised yourself you’d write a novel by age thirty, and your birthday is just five months away. You’re trying to make tenure and you need to churn out twelve papers by a set date. Your ex told you you’d never make it as a writer and you’re determined to prove her wrong. You feel most yourself when you’re lost in a world of your creation.

The reasons why we write, and why we publish, vary wildly. For some, the reasons are one and the same, and for others, they don’t overlap. That prof seeking tenure may write for the sheer joy of it, but publish because her job depends on it. Continue reading “Why are you here?”

ABT: Always Be Tracking

We’re into the second week of 2019, which means many well-meaning individuals have already given up on their resolutions for the year. And who can blame them? So many resolutions, or at least the narrative around them, are rooted in shame and blame. Who wants to carry that negative energy into a new year? Not I, dear fellow.

Instead of making resolutions, I track my decisions, goals, progress, and setbacks over the year. It’s sort of like keeping on top of your finances throughout the year, instead of doing one big push over a few frenzied days during tax season. I’ve been tracking in one form or another since my mid-teens, so now it is a clearly established part of my routine. Read on to learn how I “track my life” and how you can apply these methods to your writing.

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Oh, happy day!

Some mornings you step in pet vomit, and other mornings you start off the day on a cleaner better foot. I was delighted to see Lands of Lost Borders by Kate Harris on the shortlist for the RBC Taylor Prize this week. Kate and the other finalists receive $5,000 each, a leather-bound edition of their book, and frenzied texts from their editors exulting over the news. The winner will be named on March 4, 2019 in Toronto. I acquired and edited this book for Knopf Canada, and it has since become a national bestseller, won a Banff book award, and been sold into numerous territories.