Far and Away: A Writers Dream

J.G. Chayko on the Sunshine Coast, British Columbia

There’s something romantic about stories of writers who have the means to travel to other places, live there for a few months and write. This is the dream we all have as writers. We imagine a cabin in the woods, a quiet desk at the window with a view, wildlife roaming freely through a lush forest; we long for a patio on a cliff hanging over the ocean, waking each morning to the whisper of waves breaking on the shore or a vibrant sunset kissing the whitecaps at twilight, perhaps a glass of wine at our side. We envision an elegant apartment in New York overlooking Central Park, and we bow to the illusion that if we could be in any of these places, we will finish the great novel, that bestseller we’ve been working on for months, maybe even years.

This is the fairy-tale we tell ourselves. It’s a lovely fantasy to think we can pack up for six months out of the year and burrow away in a cottage on the beach, but the truth is there’s no guarantee we will be any more productive in that space than in our parents’ basement. It’s a form of procrastination. We’re tricking ourselves into an idealized version of a what a writer should be and do.

We may not have the resources to travel to New York, Greece, Italy or any other exotic city to complete our novel, but we do have the power to garner inspiration from the outside world in the place we call home. There are glorious sunsets to be seen in our own backyard, serene parks with their own fertile beauty, lakes and shorelines that rejuvenate and inspire. We can make our own writing space as comfortable and inviting as possible. We can put up posters, hang pictures, rearrange furniture, paint, listen to music, infuse the air with soft aromas, construct our own Feng Shui to sit down get the job done.

We shouldn’t have to travel anywhere beyond our own imagination. We have the distinct power to design our own inspiring location within the stories begging to be told. The work itself should be enough to transport us far and away. Fire up the computer, turn on the music, sit down and start writing. You’ll be amazed at the places you find yourself.

A Summer of Reading

Write every day. That’s the advice we are given when we start writing – to make it a habit, to incorporate it into our daily schedule, to just write. And for the most part, I do. But during the summer, my writing work slows down. Most of my deadlines have passed, the days are warmer and longer, and the call to spend time outdoors is more powerful than hiding out in my writing room soaking up rays from my computer screen. Summer is the time to catch up with friends and family, swim, hike, walk along the beach, go on road trips, attend BBQ’s, relax on a patio with glass of wine, and soak up life and ideas. Summer is also a time for me to indulge in the writer’s most valuable ally – reading.

I love to read, and I read everything – well, almost everything. The romance genre has yet to peak my interest, but I’ll give anything a chance at least once. I started this summer reading a book by one of my favorite authors – Secret Windows, by Stephen King, a book of essays on writing, and as it turned out, it was the perfect book to build my summer reading list. As King ruminates on certain writers, books and stories, it stirred in me an inexorable desire to read those stories, and, as fate would have it, I have most of those books on my shelf – The Haunting of Hill House and The Lottery by Shirley Jackson; Bram Stoker’s Dracula; Tess of the D’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy; Charles Dickens, Great Expectations; Something Wicked This Way Comes by Bradbury – just a few of the classic stories I am devouring this summer.

My summer of reading is just as vital to me as my writing time. Reading inspires, entertains, and recharges my battery, so when the seasons change, I can return to my writing room, turn on my music, snuggle up to my fireplace and get back to work while the raindrops pelt against the window and the wind howls through the trees.

When the writing slows down, when we hit those blocks or just need a break, pick up a book, get lost in a story and remember why you wanted to write in the first place.

The Pitch

You haven’t heard from me in a while. It’s because I’ve been writing. It’s the reason we embark on this journey – to write, to put our words out there, to tell our stories. I’ve been fortunate, in my short writing life, to connect with an audience early on and find opportunities to share my work. I’ve published fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and participated in a couple of magazine interviews. Amid all that, I am steadily working away on my own book projects.

One of the many challenges I have been working on is the magazine pitch. Back in the fall, I wrote about an experience choreographing a pantomime and contributed it to a website as a guest blogger. One of their public relation consultants suggested that this story be taken further and pitched to potential dance magazines. She took the lead by sending out her own pitch on my story and received a response by a local magazine in my city – but they wanted the pitch to come directly from me. I have five years of writing life behind me, but for all those small accomplishments, nothing prepared me for writing that first pitch to a magazine.

When I have an idea for a story, I write the story. I work it. I let it carry me to its eventual finish – and then I pitch it. I don’t always have to know where it’s going right from the beginning, because I know I will discover its course along the way and end up with a solid foundation to propose. A completed piece already has the points in place – the work is already done, making it easier to market. With the magazine pitch, I need to understand the groundwork before I write it. Instead of relying on the finished piece, I must convince an editor to consider an idea.

A magazine pitch takes research. It forces you to take the time to understand a magazines’ style and subject matter, to figure out how, or if, your story will fit. It’s a different sort of writing challenge, but one I think every writer should try. The pitch I sent did not work out for this publication – but that doesn’t mean it’s not right for another one. The story is there, it’s worth telling, therefore it’s worth the continuing effort to find it a home and practice the art of selling a concept before it comes to fruition.

In the meantime, I did find my way into my first magazine. I was fortunate to have my story featured in an issue of Arthritis Research Digest UK – and the only thing I had to pitch was myself.

“The scariest moment is always just before you start.” – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.

Taking Research on the Road

Research is necessary for the writer. We research everything from the right kind of devices for writing, publication procedures, literary agents, publishing houses, facts versus fiction, writing markets, coaches, editors, people, professions, places – the list is almost endless. Research is essential for us to find the right fit for our work, and often it can take as much time, it not more, as the time we put into the act of writing.

Today’s technology, as distracting as it may be, it a most useful tool. I spend a lot of my time travelling from one place to another – the advantage for me living in a congested city is that I rarely drive, so most of my travel is as a passenger on public transit. The time it takes travelling from one place to another is the perfect opportunity for me to log onto my smart phone and browse the internet for information on the topics I am currently researching. The worldwide web is our door to almost anything we need to study – but I there is also another way to explore our writing world, and that is to actually get out into it.

My favorite kind of research is the type that takes me out on road trips. Recently my partner and I stole a weekend and travelled out to a historical ghost town a few hours from where we live. We spent an entire day following winding roads over majestic mountain passes, invigorated by fresh air that always holds a touch of fall even in the midst of a blazing hot summer. Eventually we turn a corner and dip down into the dry desert terrain, where an unforgiving heat smolders over sagebrush and sand.

We find our tiny little ghost town exactly as we expect – silent, hot, dusty, and almost devoid of human life, but the for the pockets of houses still occupied amid the sleeping debris. I took pictures of the past, walked through deserted streets rousing my imagination to absorb the sights, smells, and sounds. I had an impression in my mind of what I was looking for – I didn’t find it. There was a moment of disappointment. I brushed it off, content to accept the day as a great outing with my partner, when suddenly, I discovered a new insight that would prove to be a most striking revelation for my current project. It was a simple observation that was overlooked in all the previous investigations and research, but it was one I would not have found had I not gone on this journey.

Travelling and exploring the world around us is both invigorating and challenging. We don’t always find what we’re looking for – our research can often lead us to dead ends, creating frustration and a feeling of having wasted precious time, but this is not always the case. There will always be those moments that offer us an opportunity to discover new components that would not have been obvious to us in any other time or place. Those are the moments we celebrate. They wipe our previous defeats, rejuvenate our passion, and validate the path we chose.

I won’t tell you what it was I discovered. It is my fervent hope that one day in the future you will have the opportunity to read about it from the book I hope to place in your hand.

Happy travels.

 

I Write, Therefore I Am…

20160811_164147When do you call yourself a writer? This seems to be a complicated dilemma for many. Some people feel they can’t truly call themselves a writer until they’ve received some sort of exceptional endorsement for their work. I disagree.

There is no test, no exam, no screening method, no extraordinary circumstance that suddenly makes one “a writer.” When people ask me when I called myself a writer, I tell them I called myself a writer the first moment I picked up a pen. Before my first publication, before my first meager payment for a short story, I was a writer. A publication or a payment should never define you as such – short stories, poetry, memoir, novels, essays or blog posts – quite simply, if you write you are a writer. All you need to do is do it.

 

 

A Writing Crusade

20160715_195609I mainly write fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry, but every now and then I like to step outside of my comfort zone and challenge myself by writing in a new genre. And anytime that challenge helps out with a cause, it brings with it a delightful feeling of satisfaction.

Here is a review I wrote for a local show produced by The Page Theatre, a wonderful little up and coming theatre company created by a friend of mine through her passion and love for theatre. Since their creation almost four years ago, they have produced four shows, taking one of them all the way to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It’s no easy feat trying to get a theatre company (or any company) off the ground, but if I can help them out on their creative journey, and develop my own skills along the way, I will gladly do so.

And now I present the review for their latest show: Barrymore’s Ghost.

https://corkboardsandcoffeehouses.com/barrymores-ghost-a-review/

 

 

 

A Writing Sanctuary

20160604_133008Sometimes the only thing I need to inspire me is a quiet place to call my own; a creative sanctuary that unlocks my imagination and leads me to new possibilities. I am always seeking different places to stimulate my creativity – parks, coffee shops, libraries, restaurants, museums – but in the spring and summer months, my creative refuge can be found in my own backyard – or in this case, my patio.

When the sun makes its reappearance and the mercury begins to climb, I often retreat to the comfort and harmony of my patio. Everything I need is at my fingertips, just by stepping over the threshold and back into my home, but my patio offers me a barrier against the distractions of daily life and technology. I can leave my phone inside, knowing it is safe from light fingers; I can make my own tea and get refills at my own discretion; I can absorb the beauty of the great outdoors without taking precious time to drive or walk anywhere else; I can arrive in seconds, leave and return again in the same moment. My music is the chirrup of robins and chickadees, the haunting cry of seagulls; my stimulus are the people in my neighborhood, my solace is the flow of words that trickle out with the hiss of sprinklers in nearby yards. The constant motion of the outdoors is the white noise I can tune in or out of at will. In my writing sanctuary, I can cultivate my words and watch my stories bloom alongside my garden.

“I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it.”

― William Shakespeare