Day 25. No Time

I don’t know what it is.  But lately there never seems to be enough time in the day for me to get everything done.  And I’m not talking about chores.  I mean work.  Writing.  I don’t know where the day goes.  I don’t know where the week goes.  For that matter, I don’t know where the summer’s gone.  Or the years.

No matter how early I get up (and I set my alarm for 7 a.m. every day), by the time I’ve fed my cats, done litter box duty, showered and fed myself (while reading the newspaper, so I don’t waste more time), it feels like half the day’s gone.  It isn’t really, but it’s damn close.  On those days when I have a client meeting, that’s it.  A glance at my watch tells me it’s 3:00 or 4:00 o’clock.  I may not even have had lunch yet.  And yet, the day is pretty much over.  Time to maybe pick up some groceries and head home.  To work.

While I may not have meetings every day, I still have work to do for clients.  Writing their websites.  Their blogs.  Thinking about marketing plans.  What comes next.  How our campaigns are working so far.  Briefing photographers or designers.  There’s always something.  So again, when I look at my watch it’s late afternoon.  And again I may not yet have had lunch.  And I haven’t written either of my blogs.  Or worked on my book.  Or been on the hunt for new business.

Why does it feel like I’m always behind the 8ball?

Maybe I’m deluding myself when I say I don’t think I’m a time waster.  But I really don’t think I am.  I’m on it.

My time crunch is considerably worse since I’ve added this blog to my repertoire.  I now have a commitment to write something each and every day.  I love doing it.   Continue reading

Day 24. Immediate Gratification

Several years ago when I was working at BBDO, one of our clients was Ontario Tourism.  On this particular occasion, I was to write a brochure on fly fishing for them — a subject on which I knew less than nothing.  In less time than it would take a fisherman to cast his line (or whatever it is they do), I became enough of an expert to write an absolutely splendid brochure, if I do say so myself.  I even found a great recipe for cooking your fresh catch, over an open fire, in the great outdoors, under a moon-lit sky.  A quite charming addition to the piece.

Google.  Search.

Not that many years before that, I would have had no other choice but to spend hours and hours at the library.  Or I’d have been forced to first “let my fingers do the walking through the yellow pages”, looking for where I might find sportsman-type shops; and then I’d have to schlep myself to one or two of them, where I’d look like the idiot I was, asking the sales staff stupid questions.

While it was always fun to get out of the office on these little field trips, it did take critical time away from the task at hand, which was the writing.  And the deadlines were brutal enough, without having to spend days and days on research.

Some writers love the research part of it.  I don’t mind it.  I quite like digging for info and finding new angles along the way.  But I like to get to the writing as quickly as I can.  That’s my favourite part.

Frankly, at this point, I don’t know what I’d do if somebody took Google away from me.  I honestly don’t think I could do what I do.  Just out of idle curiosity, one of these days I should keep track of the time I spend ‘searching’.  It wouldn’t surprise me if I spent almost as much time on Google, as I do writing.  Even when I’m just Continue reading

Day 23. We’re Adrift

In the immortal words of Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On?”  When did we lose our way?  When did lying, cheating, plagiarizing and brazenly breaking the law  become the new normal?  The new standard by which we live.

It turns out that the man the whole world believed was one of our greatest athletes, used illicit performance enhancing drugs.  Year after year after year, Lance Armstrong cheated and lied his way to victory.   A famous, and revered, football coach watched, in silence, as young boys were being sexually molested right under his nose.  Time after time after time, Joe Paterno knowingly allowed the most heinous of crimes to be committed, so Penn State would continue to attract budding football stars; and big donations.  Rupert Murdoch, the founder, Chairman and CEO of the world’s second-largest media conglomerate saw nothing wrong with hacking the phones of celebrities, royalty and private citizens.  For the kind of attention-grabbing headlines that sell newspapers — regardless of whether or not they were true, and regardless of the damage it caused his victims.

Jonah Lehrer, a brilliant, successful 31-year old author fabricated Bob Dylan quotes for his latest book, “Imagine:  How Creativity Works”.  And if that’s not bad enough, his publisher is apparently thinking of re-publishing a corrected version of it.  Why?  Well, of course, I know why.  But the answer disgusts me.  Because they’ll probably sell more books and make more money than they otherwise would have — even if the original version had sold exceptionally well.  Because now it’s controversial.  It’s achieved a whole new level of fame.  It’s no longer a book.  It’s a conversation piece.

But what’s really troublesome is, if that book comes out again then we are turning our backs on the fact that the author made stuff up.  And maybe, just maybe, he made other stuff up, as well.  But he got fired from his magazine-writing jobs, so who cares.  He was publicly humiliated, so who cares.  For a minute, but never mind.  Now let’s all make some money.

And what about the CNN host and Time Magazine columnist, Fareed Zakaria, who plagiarized Jill Lepore’s essay in the New Yorker?  So boo-hoo, he got suspended for a month!  And then he got to go back to all his high-paying jobs.  And his face was red for a couple of days.  Come on.  I know he didn’t murder anyone, but the Continue reading

Day 22. Non Event

Are you into astrology?  I am, to a point.  I’m not a slave to it.  I don’t have an astrologer on retainer.  I am capable of making decisions before I’ve read my daily horoscope.  But I am curious about it.  And very often I’ll see an astrologer or read a horoscope that describes me, an event in my life, or something I should be aware of, that is absolutely bang on.

Years ago, in Montreal, I worked with a fashion designer who introduced me to his astrologer.  He was amazing.  The first time I went to him, he absolutely insisted that I was one of three children.  I kept insisting that I was an only child.  Which I am.  He said we didn’t all have to be living — that my mother had conceived three times.  That gave me pause, because my mother had an ectopic pregnancy when I was four years old.

But still, that would have made me one of only two conceptions.  He wouldn’t let it go.  Normally, he would have totally pissed me off, and I would have cut the appointment short.  But there was something about him.  Before I left he made me promise to ask my mother and let him know what she said.  The instant I left his office and got home (pre cell phone days) I called my mother and said I was coming over.

At first when I told her that I’d been to see an astrologer she was dismissive.  “Well”, she said.  “You’ve just blown a hundred bucks.”  Then I told her that he’d been adamant that I was one of three children.  Her jaw dropped.  And then she told me that she’d had a miscarriage before me.  Then she decided she wanted to go and see him, herself.

I went to him regularly for years.  By regularly I mean once a year, before my birthday.  The timing was his idea.  He felt it was important to be able to prepare for Continue reading

Day 21. Who’s Lonelier?

I have another WordPress blog — one where I talk about my day job as a writer, marketer and strategist.  About six months ago I wrote about how, just by looking around and being observant, a writer can find inspiration anywhere.  And everywhere.

One of the examples I gave was about a couple, having dinner a couple of tables away, from my then-boyfriend and me.  I spotted them the minute we sat down and I have to confess that I couldn’t take my eyes off them.  I was riveted.  They were married.  And there they were, at a small table for two.  But as intimate as the space they shared was, they might have been in different countries, let alone tables.

They said nothing to each other.  Not once.  Not even when they ordered their meals.  They never looked at each other.  Not once.  Although they were sitting directly opposite each other, they were ‘positioned’ at a slight angle away from each other.  So their bodies were facing in slightly opposite directions.  I’ll bet anything they were totally unaware of it, too.

They didn’t seem angry.  They didn’t seem upset.  There were no red faces, tear-filled eyes, longing looks, frowns,  sneers.  No clenched fists.  No negative body Continue reading

Day 20. Love Sundays

When you freelance, like I do, weekends don’t seem to take on the same importance as they do when you have a full time job.

As long as I make my deadlines, I can do all the chores usually reserved for Saturdays and Sundays, any day of the week I please.  As long as I make all my deadlines, I can go for a walk, do pilates, visit with a friend, have a manicure or read a book at any time during the day.  Unless I have a client meeting, I never have to ‘dress for success’.  I can work in jeans, sweats and, for that matter, my jammies.  But despite all the freedom I have, I do look forward to Sundays; and my delivery of the Sunday New York Times.

My parents had it delivered, so it’s a ‘ritual’ I grew up with.

In winter, when I become a recluse, there’s nothing I like better than collecting it from the mat outside my door and getting back into bed — where I stay for hours — with a huge mug of tea (don’t make coffee at home) and the entire newspaper, spread out all around me.  Not the easiest thing to do when you have cats, mind you.  They don’t like being ignored — even when they’re ignoring Continue reading

Day 19. Coffee Culture

I go out for coffee everyday.  I like to write in cafes.  I like the ‘buzz’ of human energy.

When I work I tend to zone right out.  Especially when the writing is going well.  So although I know there are other people there, I’m not really aware of them.  I have no idea when they arrived.  I don’t notice when they leave.  And I can’t tell you what they talk about while they’re there.

But from time to time I do look around.  It’s fascinating.  Different purveyors/brands definitely attract very different people.  And depending on the time of day, you may also find totally different types of clientele — at least much of the time.

Tim Hortons is as Canadian as the maple leaf.  Founded in Hamilton, Ontario in 1964, today it is a multi-million dollar franchise, best known for its coffee and doughnuts.   Although I’ve worked in advertising, I’ve never worked on the Tim Hortons account.  I’ve never seen one of their creative briefs so I don’t know who they would tell you their audience is.  I can only speak about what I’ve seen any time I’ve visited:

Go into any Tim Hortons, anywhere, and you’ll see your average Canadian. Ethnically diverse. Families. Parents with kids.  Multi-generational families — grandparents, with their kids and grandkids.  Seniors on fixed incomes.  Students on tight budgets.  Office workers.  Hard hats.  Policemen.  Some professionals.  Highway travellers stopping for gas, bio breaks and a coffee  on long road trips.   Shift workers, because so many of the stores, even in the city, are open all night.  But regardless of how they earn their living, they are hardworking, decent, looking for friendly service, a good cup of coffee and a price that cannot be beat.  It is not Continue reading

Day 18. Start Packing

There’s a WordPress blog that I’ve recently started to follow — Bucket List Publications.  The author of the blog creates a new bucket list every year; and the other day she shared this year’s list of 100 things she wants to do.  Yes, 100!  She has completed some, but still.  I was exhausted just reading it.  That’s what I call ambitious.  Anyway, she invited readers to share their lists, as well.

Her list intimidated me at first.  I thought, God, where do I even start?   Then my phone rang, and that was it for a while.  Then, without being aware I’d even been thinking about it, a couple of hours later a list popped into my head.  I won’t bore you with all of it, but I will say that out of 10 things I’d like to do, 5 were travel-related.  Even more interesting, at least to me, is the fact that out of those 5, I’ve been hankering after 4 of them for quite some time.

So I guess it’s time to stop procrastinating, and get on with it.

The one I hadn’t thought about doing before I read Lesley’s blog is learning to speak Italian while living in Italy.  Over the years I have wanted to learn to speak Italian, but I never considered doing it by living among the people — which one could do even for three or four Continue reading

Day 17. Good Intentions

In a previous post I wrote about how much I loved India.  That trip has left an indelible impression on me for many, many reasons.  First, the extremes:

The vastness of the country and the staggering number of people who live there.  The over-the-top opulence and the abject poverty.   The sight of some people driving BMWs, while others are riding camels, on the same street.  Sophisticated cities like Mumbai, with its glass and steel towers, compared to the backward villages in Rajasthan, where the tools and implements residents use every day look like they’ve come from an archaeological dig.

The overwhelming noise — an absolute cacophony of different sounds.  Horns, voices, vendors hawking their wares, music, traffic, screaming, laughing, dogs barking.  The mind blowing colour, everywhere you turn.  Prints, stripes, checks, plaids in combinations you cannot believe.  Bolts of fabric, saris, flowers, painted buildings, displays of every kind, stacked floor to ceiling.  The smell of curry, mingling with the scent of flowers, mingling with the odour of cooking food, mingling with the stench of dung.

What most impressed me, though, what I will never forget, are the people.  Whether they are wealthy or live in tents on the street, they are kind, generous, compassionate, sincere, warm, grateful, welcoming, inquisitive, understanding, wise, calm, well intentioned and very, very spiritual.

I was there for a month.  We spent part of an afternoon (completely by chance) and then had drinks with two brothers, princes, whose family not only owned the heritage palace hotel where we were staying, but most of the town.  They made us feel as if we were old family friends, they were so pleased to see.  The wealthy owners of a company that manufactures carpets and pashminas and clothing for export all over the world, and who also have a store where we shopped, invited us to their family home for dinner.  There must have been twenty-five or thirty members of their family there — the Continue reading

Day 16. Hiding Places

The last time I wrote about Bartlett, I briefly mentioned his fondness for box springs; and said I’d elaborate at another time.  Well, that time has come.

He was out of the guest room, roaming free in the house.  I honestly can’t remember how long I’d had him at this point — I’d say probably no less than six months and no more than a year.  I was going away on a business trip and had my suitcase on the bed, so I could pack.  I know cats don’t like it when we pack.  I have a friend in Montreal whose Persian would pee in her luggage each and every time she was taking a trip.

So I wasn’t in the least surprised when all three of my cats (Zazu, Sundance and Bartlett) were full of nervous energy — jumping on the bed, off the bed, up and down like bouncing balls.  Climbing into the suitcase and refusing to get out again.  Burrowing under whatever clothing I was putting in.  I’d get rid of one cat and the other would take over.  When I opened drawers to get stuff out, a cat would jump in, making a holy mess.  Frustrated, I decided to let them have their fun and get it out of their systems, while I had some dinner.

Only an idiot trys to outsmart a cat.  Remember this.

Dinner over, I went to put the garbage out — I’d forgotten the next day was pick-up.  Then I hauled my sorry ass back upstairs to my bedroom, to finish packing.  Zazu was fast asleep in my suitcase.  Sundance was curled up on a pile of clothes, that were laying on my bed, waiting to be packed.  Bartlett was nowhere to be found.  Thinking nothing of it at first, I got on with the task at hand.

By the time I got to my toiletries, he’d been MIA for a while.  Too quiet.  Too long.

I looked in every drawer in my bedroom.  I looked under the bed — not just looked, by the way.  I got down on the floor, on my stomach, and literally slid under the Continue reading