Closet Poet at Capital Slam

In the flow, eyes closed.

Photo courtesy of the sublime Mia Morgan

A closet poet peeks out from her perch among mismatched stilettos and piles of funky laundry and breathes in the open air, tangy with words.

So, Saturday night was the Capital Slam season opener at the Mercury Lounge. As I had promised a few weeks ago, I threw myself off the cliff and showed up with two poems. Success would be measured in whether or not I peed my pants on stage. Continue reading

Why the Most Difficult Route isn’t the Best Route

There are always two choices. Two paths to take. One is easy. And its only reward is that it’s easy. – Anonymous

Thanks for that depressing bit of advice anonymous! It must mean that the hardest path has great rewards, right?

Or maybe the only reward is that it’s hard?

Or character building?

Maybe?

Are we really going to sit around judging our choices based on effort? Wouldn’t we better judge based on the merit of the path or its alignment with our values and dreams? What happened to following the middle path?

If a life of leisure is its own reward, what are we waiting for? Who is handing out these effort rewards anyway? Is there a Bureau of Challenging Paths that dispenses commendations?

Work hard and you’ll do fine.

Good advice, but does this hold true to scale? If hard work yields results, then the hardest work must yield the best results, right?

Wrong.

Just because hard work can be fruitful, the hardest possible road is not the best simply because of the effort required.

Give yourself a break, cut yourself some slack.

There are more than two paths. Several of them could lead to your dream, and their only reward will be chasing the dream. At least one path is difficult, and its only reward may be exhaustion.

Avoid the easy path if it runs counter to your values, goals and passions.

Avoid the difficult path if the only reason you are taking it is to appear stoic and virtuous. Who needs pain for pain’s sake?

The Worst Mistake You’ll Ever Make

I screw up with shocking regularity. I don’t always do the work I’m supposed to do. I forget to buy eggs. I’m late picking my mom up from the garage. I break treasured mementos. I feed the gremlins after midnight. I say dumb things. I hurt my friends’ feelings. I waste money…(The real list is really long, so let’s just move on, shall we?)

You have no idea how crazy this used to make me. Mistakes were more painful to me than a serrated hunting knife twisted in my gut. Seriously. Tiny hiccups, huge catastrophes, embarrassing mishaps, it didn’t matter. Each one was a crushing blow and a megaphone announcing to the world that I am fallible. For someone who takes herself way too seriously, fallibility is not a valid lifestyle choice.

That’s what trying to be perfect will do to you: it’ll turn every little bump into a nausea inducing cataclysm.

I Stopped the Madness and Quit Trying to be Perfect

In a shiny-new state of scruffy serenity, I discovered the most liberating secret of all time:

The worst mistake you can ever make is viewing your mistakes as a reflection on your worth as a person. To say to yourself: I fail, therefore I am a failure.

No, you fail, therefore you are alive.
You fail, therefore there is more to learn.

Mistakes are the Gift that Keeps on Giving

If you embrace your mistakes and see them for the learning experiences they are, it will have (at least) two results:
·      It will stop the cycle of self-loathing that is making your life suck, and
·      It will give you a reason to get messy and experience the grand adventure that is life.

You won’t ever have to hit the dreaded plateau, because you’ll never be done learning.

The Road Trip Plateau

For whatever reason, we have the unhelpful habit of looking at life as a series of destinations. Our progress is defined by the big moments, the mile markers on our road trip to the grave: first steps, removing the training wheels, first kiss, graduation, career, marriage, kids, grandkids, wheelchair, and last breath.

If your life is just a game of road trip bingo, it’s no wonder your future appears bleaker the closer you get to the end of the list of things to see and do!

With a Little Change in Attitude There is Hope

There will always be more to learn because you will never stop making mistakes.

Sorry, perfection just isn’t going to happen, unless you’re Jesus. (Are you Jesus? If so, welcome and also, please stop wasting your valuable time on the internet. But I digress.)

This is good news! Each mistake is a discovery. The joy of discovery makes us human. So long as you’re human and you keep screwing up, the joy of discovery can be yours. Neat, right?

Let me sum up:
·      You will make mistakes.
·      No mistake is worse than treating your mistakes as personal failures.
·      Life will always be exciting so long as you keep discovering new and exciting ways to screw up.

Have you ever beaten yourself up over failures big and small? Would forgiving yourself and moving on make you feel better about your mistakes?

Confessions of a Closet Poet

It’s been a few months since I stopped dithering and owned up to being a writer.

Since then I’ve published a pile of blog posts, had two guest posts featured on two of my favourite blogs, and submitted work to three short story contests. Phew, what a year!

The truth is, despite all this sharing, I’m still hiding. I’ve been holding back my favourite work.

You see, I am a poet.

Prose, articles and short stories are great fun and all, but mine begin as poems whose wings I clip to make them stay put on the page.

I write poetry meant for the stage and then hide it. It’s spoken word poetry that hasn’t even been spoken aloud. Yet.

Here’s what I’m going to do. I am throwing myself off a cliff and pledging here for all to see that I will prepare five of my darlings to be laid bare on the stage at Capslam beginning with the new season on September 1, 2012.

You won’t be fully alive as long as you keep the soul of your work hidden from the light of day.

What is your hidden passion? What gift are you afraid to share it with the world?

A Long Expected Vacation

Coming Home
Photo by Mike Steeves

It’s amazing how every day feels like a Saturday when you’re on vacation. Stay up late, sleep-in until an undignified hour and nap whenever you feel sleepy.

This summer I am taking vacation. Time to rest. Time to recharge and time to catch up on those important, life-giving activities that I have let fall by the wayside for the sake of being a responsible adult.

For me, vacation is reconnecting to my roots, to the core of who I am and how I came to be here. As often as possible, I spend my vacation time in the place that feels most like home: New Brunswick.

I stand on the beach. I feel the tides coming in and going out. I drink blueberry wine and eat too much lobster. Though, there really is no such thing as too much lobster.

Vacation time has given me new energy and new inspiration for storytelling. Crisp, fresh images come to mind when I’m near the ocean. Where the salt breeze blows in off the bay and chills my earlobes. The marshes, green and vast are a poetic song. How I wish I could take them with me when I return to the everyday. Bottle the sea breeze. Fill a bag with sandy beaches and shattered clam shells. Carry the essence of a busy fishing village on my back.

All I can hold when journeying a long way from home is words. Living words that paint pastel skies and sketch swaying marshes. Words that cradle family stories; baby birds in cupped hands.

Dream of home and fill your lungs with the places that first gave you breath.

A long expected vacation is all you need to be alive again.

Do your vacations take you home, to the root of your root?

101 Ways to Be Alive

Today I’m giving you an assignment: Make a list of 101 things you want to do in life.

They can be little and they can be huge.

They can be thrilling adventures and they can be quiet pleasures.

I made a list like this a few years ago and without referring to it again, I managed to check off several of the medium sized wishes. Once I had written them down they dug into my mind and I was compelled to seek them out! A few even made my list of wild horses.

Imagine what new passions are just waiting for you to chase them down!

Make a list and you may discover 101 ways to be alive!

Did you come up with 101? Be sure to post your favorites in the comments!

A Case for Mondays

It’s Monday and you’re probably none too happy to be heading back into your 9 to 5 world.

Before you disappear into your cube, take a moment to imagine that you are exactly where you want to be today. What does it look like to be you on a Monday in your ideal life? What are you creating? What are you contributing? In what context could you greet everyone you meet today with a huge smile and sincere calls of ‘happy Monday’?

Take this moment to visualize your blissful life.

Done?

Good, now throw that away.

Today is your life and you are everything you need to be. Quit wishing you were elsewhere and start moving yourself in the direction of your passions already!

Today is the only day, Monday or not, so get excited about life and do something with your dreams! Don’t let the day of the week determine your outlook and derail your ambitions.

Smile today, your life is now and you are enough. Today’s you is dream you, so get out there and start acting like it!

Practice Makes Perfect: the Magic of Metaphor

Metaphor is a speeding train pulling readers down the tracks of your story and today I have the great honour of sharing a few tips with the vibrant community of writers over at the Write Practice on using the magic of metaphor to breathe new life into writing.

If you want to learn how you can make your prose sparkle, head on over and check it out. Be sure to participate in the fun and post your practice in the comments section!

The Magic of Metaphor

Is Rage a Dirty Emotion?

I’m not one to get bent out of shape about events and I like to think I’m laid back, level-headed and easy going. But when I get riled up about something, you better watch out!

Recently, a mundane life circumstance really got to me and I hulked-out into the dreaded Rage Monster: “Sara Smash!!!”

The injustice of the situation and the all-around underhandedness burrowed under my skin and started setting fires like a teenage pyromaniac. I wrote and wrote and wrote in my stream-of-consciousness way hoping somehow to douse the flames with a refreshing blast of rational, summer’s air. But alas, my fingers, flying across the keyboard in their rage of output generated enough heat to kick up a new smokescreen.

I have always felt a deep sense of shame for losing control and betraying flashes of ill-temper, but maybe anger isn’t such a dirty emotion after all.

I have experienced first-hand how writing from a place of anger can significantly spike productivity and spur the honest voice. The verve and the energy starkly exposed in impassioned prose is staggering. Rage is dangerous, it sets words on fire, it causes a stir and gets a reaction. But what kind? Does this enraged flustering of words give light or merely heat? Can anything illuminating and constructive come from the bald expression of rage and anger?

I am starting to think anger, like sadness, is an emotion too much maligned in our hyper-sanitized, civilized culture.

Everything is not alright. People, real people, experience hurt and injustice. Real people do not glide along on an eternal cloud of blissful sunshine. Real people get pissed off, sometimes for noble reasons and sometimes for the sake of vanity or pride. We need to experience anger when things are wrong. All the fear and fight building up from the stresses of life have to go somewhere. We are not hot-air balloons built to store up hurt and heat and rise gracefully above the rooftops of circumstance. We have to draw the poison out of the wound and expose it to the light in order to fully heal.

If I’m wrong about the healing potential of anger, if screaming-mad writing is merely stimulating, should I indulge for the sake of catharsis, or should I refrain for the sake of appearances? I can’t justify hiding away uncomfortable emotions any longer. How can I connect with the rest of the human race and somehow write meaning into the chaos of human experience, if I deny the passionate nature that makes me human?

I try to keep a positive outlook in this space, to provide encouragement and to foster acceptance and peace, but authenticity should not have to pay the price for niceness. Today I am embracing anger. I will write while passionate and edit while sober.

What do you think? Is rage fertile ground for creativity, for writing and for finding your voice? Can anything good and light come from the raging fires of anger or only more pain and ash?

I Like You, Just As You Are

Real people never say things like this and they should. We are always so afraid to express these kind of sentiments. Why does it make us feel so vulnerable to affirm another person? To tell them how much they mean to us?

I don’t say it enough. So I’m saying it now.

I like you very much, just as you are.

I think you should like you too. After all, it would be impolite of you to disagree when I say you’re likable.