Day 116. Be Brutal

Pete Armetta has a WordPress blog I very much enjoy.  He’s a powerful writer of poetry, flash fiction, essays and short stories; and I’m always struck by how few words he needs, to say so much.  Which, incidentally, is much easier said that done.  His ‘style’ brings to mind a favourite Mark Twain quote:

“I am sorry to have written such a long letter, but I did not have time to write a short one”.

Says it all.   Because the true measure of a writer is the ability to self-edit.  To be ruthless.  To choose words carefully.  To make every one work hard.  And having talent is the least of it.  It takes discipline.  Love of the craft.  The ability to let go.  To love ’em, but leave ’em, on the cutting room floor.  To know when you’re done.

So really, a writer’s best friend isn’t a computer.  Or a dictionary.  Or a thesaurus.  It’s the eraser.

Luckily, I learned that very early in my career. It was hard.  And painful.  But the best thing that could ever have happened to a young writer, just starting out.  Which is why I wrote a blog post about it.

When I commented on Pete’s poem, and how much I admire his ability to keep only what’s absolutely essential, he responded, Continue reading

Day 115. The Sequel

Hello there.  It’s me again.  And yes, I decided that I still had too much ‘creative thinking’ on my mind (no pun intended), to switch topics and write about something completely different today.  Hope you’re okay with that.

So yesterday I talked about a lot of ways non-creative people are still creative.  See, it’s not an oxymoron. But I did confine the conversation to those of us who work in ad agencies, an industry perceived as being ‘creative’ anyway.  And because I think it’s important for you to know that I am a firm believer in the fact that creativity can, and should, and does, exist outside of ‘creative’ businesses, I’m approaching the idea from a different perspective, today.

At its very simplest, it’s called out of the box thinking.  Being willing to turn a problem, or a tough challenge, on its ear, looking at it from a different angle, through a different lens.

Being willing, regardless of what you do for a living, to sweep aside the status quo and embrace new ideas.  Different ideas.  Unconventional ideas for your industry.  Client-centric ideas.  Revolutionary ideas. Never-before-considered or tried ideas.  Regardless of whether you work in the private or public sectors.  Regardless of Continue reading

Day 114. A Misconception

I’ve been talking a lot about writing and ideas lately. It’s not surprising. They’re my stock in trade. But I’ve just realized that there’s a myth out there, that needs to be dispelled. So I’ve appointed myself the bearer of the news:

Contrary to what you may have been led to believe, ‘Creativity‘ is not the exclusive province of writers and artists and actors and directors and fashion designers and make up artists and hairdressers and lighting directors and singers and composers and interior designers and photographers and musicians and the like. Every human being has the ability and, as far as I’m concerned the responsibility, to think creatively. Without holding a paintbrush or a pen or a microphone or a camera or any other ‘tool’ those of us who are creative, use.

Here’s a good example of what I mean: One of the ad agencies I worked for, is BBDO. It is one of those huge, international (289 offices in 80 countries, 15,000 employees), full-service agencies that’s been around for eons. Since 1891, to be precise. I have worked for more than my fair share of the top agencies in the world, so I speak

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Day 113. What’s Next?

Seems like only yesterday that I started the whole alphabet thing, but it’s already over.  Twenty-six letters.  Twenty-six days.  Twenty-six blog posts.  And it’s done.  Went from A to Z.  Just like that!  Poof!

Who knew, when I first started to learn my A, B, C’s at my mother’s knee, all those years ago (never mind, how many), I’d end up going right back, at this tender age, to where I started.  To “A”.  I hope it’s been as much fun for you, as it has been for me.

Back then it led to learning how to read.  This time I did it as a lark.  It seemed like an interesting idea.  Gave me a ‘brief’ to work with.  A playground I had to play in.  And for any of you who follow me regularly, you know that when it comes to writing, there’s nothing I like better than the freedom of a tight brief.

So for a little over three weeks I knew every morning, when I got up, what I’d be writing about.  The next letter.  You’d be amazed to know what a relief that was.  To me that meant I didn’t have to come up with an ‘idea’.  Of course, I still did, because there were hundreds and hundreds of objects, names, feelings, emotions, places, Continue reading

Day 112. My Diva

When I began this exercise and wrote my first post using the letter “A” what, or who, I’d be telling you about by the time I got to “Z” was a foregone conclusion: It could be none other than my beloved tabby, Miss Zazu.

Several years before I moved to Toronto, I adopted a cat in Montreal. He was a gorgeous chinchilla persian. A friend of mine had a neighbour who had the mother and father. The litter was unusually large for persians — six adorable kittens. In a one-bedroom apartment there was no way this girl would have been able to keep eight cats, so she was keeping the parents and one kitten and the rest had to be adopted.

I lucked out. But he picked me, I didn’t pick him. The first time I saw them, when I went to this gal’s apartment to decide which one I wanted, I just gasped when she opened the door. They were the cutest little critters I’d ever seen. I immediately threw myself down on the living room floor. And all of a sudden, the chubbiest one waddled over and sat down on my lap. I named him Buddha (because he had this big, round belly and he sat like the statues we see of Buddha’s) and he and I were devoted to each other for almost nineteen years.

But when he passed, I decided I would get two cats the next time. I always felt that he was lonely all day when I went to work. And that it would have been more fun for both of us if he’d had a buddy. I’d mentioned this to a friend of mine, another

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Day 111. Say Ohm

I’ve tried Yoga several times.  I like it well enough.  But I prefer Pilates.  While a lot of the movements and poses are the same, Pilates is all about building a strong core, at the same time as it builds your flexibility, strength and endurance.  It also puts emphasis on spinal and pelvic alignment, breathing and improving coordination, balance and posture.

The aim of Yoga, on the other hand, is to unite the mind, the body and the spirit.  It helps you become more aware.  It helps you find personal harmony.  It helps you relax.  All the while, making you more fit and energetic.

Probably the most significant difference between the two, is that Pilates incorporates both mat work and the use of special Pilates machines.  As opposed to Yoga, where your body’s own weight is used for resistance; and a lot Continue reading

Day 110. Happy Guest

Okay.  I admit it.  I’ve made it through twenty-three letters of the alphabet and I’m finally stumped.  Or was.  I wasn’t even bothered by ‘u’.  But “X”.  That stopped me dead in my tracks for a minute.  I have never been one to give up easily, though.

Oh, I could have copped out and taken the easy way and written about x-rays.  But I’ve never taken the easy way out in my life and I’m not about to start now.

I may have been momentarily flummoxed, but it didn’t last long.  I love a challenge anyway.  So determined to do the letter “X” justice, I googled interesting words that start with it.  There was more than I expected to find, but one stood out.

Xenodocheionology.  

Does anyone out there know what it means?  I sure didn’t.

Well it means love of hotels.  Who would ever have guessed that?  But it suited me to a “t”, because I do love hotels.  The photo, by the way, was taken in the lobby of Continue reading

Day 109. Telling Stories

I just can’t let “W” go by, without talking about how much I love writing. I have, ever since I was in grade school. English was my best subject, all the way through, from my very first class to the day I graduated. Both literature and composition. I have been telling stories my whole life.

So how lucky am I that I not only get to do what I love, but I also get paid for it.

When I write, I lose track of time. It could be ten in the morning. It could be ten at night. Sometimes I don’t even stop to eat. I am that engrossed in what I’m doing. I’m unaware of what anyone else is doing. Or saying. Or even if they’re talking to me. It’s like I’m in a trance. A world of my own. I find it very peaceful. Calm. It’s almost like a meditation. I don’t know how else to explain it.

Now to be completely honest, sometimes I don’t look forward to getting started. Some days I’m just not in the mood. And so I might procrastinate a little. But I have never missed a deadline, so I put if off for only so long. And I’m the same way with my blog. I know I have to publish a new post every day, and there is no way I am going to miss one.

Because being a good writer, a successful writer, is as much about discipline, as it is about talent. I take the writing I do for

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Day 108. Reflecting Time

I’m taking a big risk, here, you know.  By the time you finish reading this post, you may think I’m totally out of my mind.  But I wouldn’t be me, if I let that stop me from speaking my mind.  So here goes.

Have you ever wondered why so many ‘bad’ things seem to be happening, one on top of another?  The financial crisis that just won’t go away, for example.  And whenever we think there might be a little light at the end of that long, dark, terrifying tunnel, it rears its ugly head somewhere else in the world.  And what about all those absolutely bizarre, never-before-experienced weather patterns.

Tsunamis, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, blizzards, ice storms, hail storms, dust storms and floods that are wiping out towns and villages and cities, states, islands and even parts of countries.  Leaving total devastation in their wake.

Terrible political unrest.  Civil disobedience.  Riots.  Looting.  Shooting.  Bombing.  Blasting.  Killing.  Maiming.  Mayhem.  Horrific acts of terrorism.  Senseless acts, committed by extremists who have no respect Continue reading

Day 107. Fashion Biz

For a while in Montreal I did advertising and PR in the fashion industry.  First, for a fashion trade magazine, where I did all the ads for advertisers who were not working with ad agencies.  Which was all of them.  Then for a very small agency that specialized in the fur industry, of all things.

And then for a manufacturer of high-priced women’s clothing; and specifically, for one of their designers, Leo Chevalier.  He was one of the country’s best, Canada’s answer to Bill Blass or Geoffrey Beene.  For the record, this is not one of his sketches.

I loved all three of the jobs because they combined two loves of mine:  Advertising and fashion.  I also loved them because I got to do so many different things.  I wrote press releases, produced fashion shows, fashion videos and TV commercials.  Co-ordinated and styled fashion shoots.  I travelled with designers, and on my own, to do fashion shows across the country.

What was totally bizarre was when I became a ‘celebrity’ in Saskatoon after I’d been interviewed on the local morning TV show. People were stopping me on the street, asking for my autograph.  That was just a hoot!  Totally shocked me because I knew just how not famous I was!  I also wrote and Continue reading