Boredom is Contagious, and Malignant

I don’t know about you, but I am not a person who handles boredom well. It’s slow season at the day job, and I’m out of make-work projects because I’m too efficient. This means I’ve been doing a lot of standing around lately. A lot. And I’m starting to see the toll it’s taking on my ability to focus when I want to.

Having absolutely nothing to keep me busy makes my days drag, and I find that once I’m out the office door I can’t shake off the drudgery. My feet drag 24/7. What’s worse is that I can’t figure out what to do about it.

I have a to do list a mile long, books I want to read, shows I want to watch, other things I want to do–but I’m swamped in apathy and I can’t find my motivation. Maybe it’s the heat. Maybe it’s the long days which have messed up my sleep. Maybe it’s my intense desire to find a new job. Maybe it’s my current feelings of aimlessness. Maybe it’s all of these combined and I just need to snap out of it.

Honestly, I wish typing that would cure me. Alas. I have a bit of time to myself at the start of August; it might be in my best interest to use those as vacation days from writing and to-dos so that I can truly recharge and refocus. My next school course starts at the end of this month, which is lousy timing, but I have no control over it.

When I’m done reading my current non-fiction book, I’m pulling The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People off my shelf and making some deadlines.

What do you do to rediscover your motivation? Do you find you drag in the summer or are you too busy to notice?

The Dog Days of Summer Have Arrived

According to the news broadcast I watch, or at least their weekend meteorologist, today (June 20) at 10:24 p.m. summer officially starts. Hello solstice!

As much as I love waking in sunlight and having light in the evening, I find these long days exhausting because they throw me right out of whack. I stay up too late because my system is not in let’s-get-ready-for-bed mode when I should get moving and then it’s awful trying to haul my sorry butt out of bed. The good weather also means more socializing because I can travel about without worrying that a flash blizzard will happen. Having a life further disrupts my routine.

There’s a reason the school systems give us the summer off.

Still, it’s not all bad. I love reading outside when it’s quiet enough, I enjoy grilling on the BBQ, and I’m a sucker for flowers and food in the garden. I also adore butterflies and bees. My spider friend is hanging outside my bedroom window again. There are lots of upsides, despite my laziness.

With the peak of daylight behind me, I’m hoping to get more things done. Early in the year I deliberated giving myself the warmer part of summer off to see if that would help long term, but that was before my quick decision to enroll in courses. Now I don’t think my stories can handle the time off. Either way, I really need to get in a productive frame of mind here.

I used to find the summer so inspiring. I need to get back into that head space and get some words on the page! I think I need a change of scenery and a long weekend. Canada Day is coming up and I’m hoping to catch up on some sleep. Perhaps I’ll use the time to find a new writing spot for the next couple of months.

What do you do to stay writing fit in the summer? Do you get more done or take a break and attack things in the fall?

Wry Moments of Inspiration

White TeethI’ve been reading a lot of great books by some fabulous and talented women lately. I just finished Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, which I discussed at length –probably too long, but tough– in my last post, and I’m roughly a third of the way through Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. Though Smith’s story is a tour-de-force coming of age and a no-holds-barred look at being a person of colour in a xenophobic country, Strayed’s is a memoir about hitting rock bottom and the lengths one will go to crawl out of the dark and try to find themselves on the other side.

What both tales have in common are that they are primary examples of why I want to write. What both women share about the human experience underscores why artists do what they do.

What I’m writing right now can’t compare to White Teeth. I’m pretty sure nothing I write ever will, but the focus of my book is far too removed from it. Wild, though, I’m feeding off of Wild. In RA1 I am trying to showcase that my main character is very close to an emotional rock bottom, which is very difficult because I’m not showing any kind of before. Mostly because her emotional descent has taken place over the span of nearly a decade and I want to catch her in the worst of it.

She’s not a destructive sort, like Strayed. But as I get to know her, get a feel for how she was trained, I’m seeing that she takes bad risks. Risks that could well see her die. I guess that’s a different kind of destructive.Wild

I’ve hit emotional rock bottom, but I’ve never been the type to put myself at bodily risk. My survival instinct is too hardwired. But reading about Strayed’s experience is enlightening, and I have an idea of what I can do with my character.

If I can transmit even half the emotional power of either book into my own writing I will call myself an epic winner. This is why reading widely is so important as a writer. You learn and grow and become better.

I feel bad that I’m almost feeding off of Strayed’s misery, but that’s kind of why she published the book in the first place, right? So others could learn from her? I wish that I’d been writing my story when I went to see her speak in 2013, I would have asked about that.

These are my latest moments of wry inspiration, though I don’t know why I think these two stories are an odd place to find inspiration for my dark fantasy novel.


There is nothing a writer loves more than moments of inspiration out of the blue. Not that we sit around and wait for them. Well, not those of us getting any words down.

Horseshoe from above.

Horseshoe from above.

On my birthday, my friends treated me to an afternoon hike in Horseshoe Canyon, Drumheller. It’s a relatively quick drive from where I currently live and it’s a spot good for beginner and intermediate hikers. While I have some experience hiking -I spent much of my youth wandering nature- it’s been a good decade since I pulled on my runners and hit a trail.

I hadn’t realized how much I missed wandering the outdoors.

The day was unseasonably warm for early May, yet it remained cool enough that my t-shirt and jeans didn’t have me overheating. A couple of clouds floated lazily overhead, but for the most part we had clear skies.

There are few views better than clear skies in Alberta. Just saying.

Crocus. Hairbell, I think.

Crocus. Hairbell, I think.

The trail hadn’t yet opened for the season, or so the busload of tourists who first arrived told us. Not a trio for listening to signs (even when we maybe should), we picked the best looking path to descend into the canyon while the crowd milled around the filthy washrooms. We picked a direction at random and started walking wherever the paths took us.

The only other humans we saw was a couple we ran into halfway through our walk. Otherwise, the place might as well have been abandoned. That completely suited me.

Spring flowers bloomed, grass hoppers chirped, bees flew in staggered lines over the ground. I stepped over various forms of scat and prints as we followed the recently dried melt trails further downward.

A mating pair of golden eagles swooped over us at one point, long gone before I remembered I packed binoculars. I found a thrush’s nest at the top of an insanely steep incline we decided to tackle. The last bit of wildlife we met were a male and female Mountain Bluebird arguing in a deadened tree at least a kilometre from us.

Golden beans.

Golden beans.

All of those details made the day special for me. I am a nature nerd if ever there was one. Seriously, I was raised on National Geographic.

Still, the incredible inspiration I derived from the area for one of my back-burner works in progress (WIP) made me giddy.

This particular WIP has been jumbled in my head for years. It’s a series focused on werewolves that I intend to set in Alberta. Originally, I planned to park my pack near Canmore in the relative privacy of the mountains. After walking through Horseshoe, imaging my wolves running, hunting, and playing in the canyon, I’m wavering.

I hadn’t expected to be hit by the writing bug while panting my way up and down precarious, crumbly slopes of dried mud. But there you have it. The writer brain never sleeps and when your characters are all but clambering to the forefront of your mind demanding to be placed in a certain setting, well, how do you ignore them?

Coyote print. Possible wolf chow?

Coyote print. Possible wolf chow?

I can’t. Besides I’m as excited as they are.

Deer print. Definite wolf food.

Deer print. Definite wolf food.

I don’t know if Horseshoe will be a place my pack merely visits –believe me, I will be relaying the images that played out in my head eventually– or whether I’ll move their home to a spot closer to Drumheller. All I know is that this hike fueled my brain into working harder on this particular story. Maybe it will see the light of day sooner than I anticipated. I’ve got to hit the trail more often!

Inside Horseshoe Canyon. I can picture my wolves running those slopes.

Inside Horseshoe Canyon. I can easily picture my wolves running those slopes.

An Evening with Jane Goodall

journey beyond the jungleOn April 8th, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a presentation put on by the Jane Goodall Institute of Canada (and other fantastic sponsors) at the Southern Jubilee Auditorium. And, you guessed it, the speaker and person of honour was none other than Jane Goodall herself!

This was my second time listening to Dr. Goodall speak about her work around the world. I enjoyed it just as much as the first -and the third, fourth and fifth, however many I am able to buy tickets to. Because I am an animal lover and primatology nerd, Dr. Goodall is something of an icon for me. Which is a significant statement for someone who can count the people they would consider overall inspirations on one hand. With fingers to spare.

Dr. Goodall is a woman of slight stature; she was nearly hidden behind the podium. A stuffed Jersey cow and a chimp holding a banana were her only on-stage companions. Her voice floated softly out of the surrounding speakers as she rearranged her shawl. None of this diminishes her power in the least, when her mouth opens you hush up and listen.

Jane Goodall: Conservationist and Humanitarian

Newsflash, Dr. Goodall is big on saving the planet. Her entire professional existence has been devoted to educating humans about animals, specifically, acknowledging them as creatures to be respected and the importance of protecting their habitat. That is simplifying her work extremely.

However, Dr. Goodall is also a promotor of eradicating human poverty. Save the people, save the animals, save the planet. It’s pretty easy to connect those dots, right?

I want to paraphrase a comment that really stuck out to me: “People, looking at the global problems we face, feel hopeless to solve them. Except youth. They see a problem and tackle it. When I look at global affairs I myself feel sad. But there is hope and we can change things for the better.”

Sometimes watching the news makes me want to hide under a blanket with my cats and cry. Hopeless is how I feel 90% of the time when I take care to learn about what’s going on around the world. One hour of news provides an enormous dose of despair. But maybe if I can be the change I want to see it’ll catch on and hopefulness will become my 90%? I’m not saying this will happen overnight but I would love to see it over the long term. We need more idealism in this world.

At any rate, her comment is something for me to think about. It’s inspiring. And can even apply to my own professional life.

I work a day job I enjoy but am not 100% devoted to. As it takes up more and more of my time, I start to feel hopeless because I’m not in the place I thought I would be at this stage of my writing career. Heck, I’m not even where I thought I would be in my personal life.

All the negativity, even in my own meagre existence, gets heavy. I need to look at the smaller pictures that make up my life and start positively influencing the ones I want to have a stronger presence.

My first Jane Goodall book.

My first Jane Goodall book.

Jane Goodall: Scientist and Woman in the World

Another newsflash, Jane Goodall is a feminist and believer in women’s rights! Not only did she open the doors of science with her initial study of chimpanzees, she opened the doors for women in science.

No one at the time thought that the three women Dr. Leaky sent out to study apes, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas would accomplish anything. Now they’re household names.

One of my favourite parts of the evening was listening to Dr. Goodall speak about her mother. Her mother who fostered her curiosity from a young age; who even travelled to Africa as 23-year-old Dr. Goodall’s companion when no one else would. How much more supportive could any mother get?

Of course, this made me think about my mom. I sing my dad’s praises a lot because he’s never treated me any different than my brother as far as perceived girls and boys skills go. He’s never told me I can’t do something because I’m a girl. He’s never treated me like a dumb china doll.

Neither has my mom. Some part of me believed that because she’s a woman she shouldn’t inherently treat me like I’m a second class citizen or teach me such values. My entire life I’ve taken for granted that my mom is a “forward thinking” woman because that’s the right way to be.

I now know that that’s hardly the case around the world and I am eternally grateful.

My mom is the one who taught me how to play sports, how to laugh at life even when it’s kicking you down, and to never let anyone trod over you. Our big mouths have gotten us both in trouble but we’re not silent wallflowers when it’s imperative we speak our minds.


I own a gorilla, not a chimp.

Moreover, like Dr. Goodall, I’ve found in my mom one of my biggest supporters. And not just because she has to be. My mom is the only other person who’s heard my poetry. She’s read most of my stories –even the one I wrote, illustrated, and bound with staples at the age of 8. She’s read essays about Agrippa, Elizabeth I and the Faerie Queen, and short stories I’m sure didn’t interest her in the least. But I needed a second set of eyes, so she said to send it her way.

I may not be a woman of Dr. Goodall’s stature in the world but I don’t know that I would be the person I am with the dreams I’m striving towards if another woman had raised me.

My evening with Jane Goodall was eye opening and entertaining. I left feeling a renewed hope that maybe humans will see the error of their ways in time and having learned a few things about myself.