Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What is it about tax season...

...that brings out the procrastinating wanderer out in me?

I know everyone says they procrastinate, but I don't. I enjoy stroking things off my to-do list and despise the feeling that I should be doing something that I am not actively working toward.

So, after nailing down some assignments yesterday, I felt today would be a great day to get some business done. People are always telling me that I can't ignore the business side of freelancing. I'm reading Mediabistro's 'Get a Freelance Life,' and this is definitely Chapter One. Craig Silverman also stressed this last week at a PWAC event -- he even brought up the whole GST issue I've been dodging.

So I started my day by emailing Silverman (not about that tax thing -- I'll dodge it for another year), and while doing so I happened to hear him in my kitchen, being interviewed on the CBC! Well, I thought, my day is a smashing success and it's only 10 a.m.!

Then came Netfile or Efile or whatever the heck the feds have cooked up to make grabbing our dollars and getting our details into their system that much easier. Yea right. Just try to update your address. I dare you. Browser this, cookie that, phone us at...the line is always busy. I can't even get through to H & R Block.

And wouldn't you know it, the day I decide to do my taxes is the day that Facebook introduces chat. And just like procrastination, I usually steer clear. But George Swiminer is back from Uganda! And he's mere blocks away!

He'd never been to Ceylonta, and I'd never tried their lunch buffet. It's awesome, FYI. Maybe they'll ask me on Line 4327 of Guide 2375...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Runnin' down a dream

"It felt so good, like anything was possible...

Yes, such was my passion for running this Sunday morning that I casually (ok, there were some stomach butterflies) joined the marathon group with the Running Room, deciding that instead of 12 or 16 or 18 kilometres (the Half-Marathoners were doing 12), I'd go for 24! Why not?!

I realized why not at about the 18 kilometre mark. My muscles didn't want to be pushed anymore, some chipper blond had just suggested that my plantar fasciitis symptoms meant I shouldn't be running at all, the conversation was dying down, and ... I'd already run 18 kilometres!

But I pushed on. Outside the DFAIT building, while the group waited for a red light, I tried to sound casual when I asked group leader Scott "would you mind telling me how far we've gone?"
About 21.5 km, he figured.
Exactly the distance of a half-marathon. What a coincidence.

The coincidence would only last about another five blocks; by the time we hit that weird intersection outside the National Gallery my mind was made up (or at least my mind could not convince my body otherwise any longer). I filtered off to the side and let my fellow runners stream ahead. Then I walked. It only lasted about two blocks, but it felt great.

It didn't feel nearly as great to walk home. And I apologize to anyone in Hartman's or on Bank Street Sunday at 11:30; if I gave you the death stare it's just because you were not my bed.

Speaking of which, right before bed I decided to check out this whole plantar fasciitis thing. It's bad. You know carpal tunnel syndrome? The secretary disease that puts people out-of-commission or in orthopaedic contraptions for years? There's also tarsal tunnel syndrome, and it can lead to all sorts of nasty things...namely, not running.

Have I learnt nothing?
On Sunday morning, as I was cavorting with the marathoners and feeling all proud of my ambitious self (hubris!!), one of the marathoners said "well, at least you know your limits." I had been explaining how, ten years ago, I ran a beautiful 4:06 marathon in Victoria, B.C. Then I got all excited about being a 'real' marathoner and attempted one six months later in London, Ontario.
Too soon! Not enough training! Too sick the week before! I don't know what the Greeks said about resting on your laurels, but I'm all for that now. My second marathon was weak, unsatisfying, and 40 minutes slower. I missed a concert and I only remember pain. O yes, and that awful Cher song that I couldn't get out of my mind:
"Do you believe in life after love
I can feel something inside me say
I really don't think you're strong enough, no ..."

Imagine that for 42 kilometres with nothing but your ho-hum hometown to distract you.

So the lyrics continue. Now I seem to be running down some dream that may, in the end, require surgery. I iced my legs and wore shoes to bed, and this morning my feet didn't feel like they had marbles surgically implanted in them overnight.
Like resting and icing and stretching, we have to ward off our ambitions in order to stay injury-free.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Who's my Ottawa?

That's right, I'm hooked into Richard Florida again.

He's the author of the Rise of the Creative Class, an amazing reflection on the shape and character of society.
Now he's living in Toronto, and his newest book, Who's your city? dares to defy the notion that place is dead.
He argues that life is basically made up of three questions:
What do you want to do?
Who do you want to do it with?
and ... Where do you want to do it?

Now that I seem to have answered the first two questions, I'm pondering Ottawa.

Through lists and graphs, indexes and anecdotes, Florida suggests that certain cities are good for certain demographics. Boulder, Colorado is a good small town for singles. Washington, DC is a great city for families. Young professionals looking for a mid-size locale should check out Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Unfortunately, Canadian cities aren't listed.
And while I loooved Ottawa as a student, and continue to appreciate it as a young professional, I don't quite see myself raising children here.
In Ottawa, as in many urban centres, children are sort of treated as lepers. Don't touch them -- you'll be considered a pedophile. Don't look to closely at my toddler -- I'll keep my eye on you to make sure you're not some kind of sicko.
Worst of all, kids have to learn not to talk to strangers. How do you teach them this while maintaining that society isn't made up of whackos, that humanity is still, on the whole, good?

By moving to the country?
That's what I'm thinking.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On Turning 30

Yes, that's right, I turned 30.
The event was hailed with much merriment, a cake, and some self-reflection.
But I don't really do self-reflection. Instead I like to look around me for warning signs, red flags or, even, maybe, better things to come.
And, indeed, it's blue skies all the way.

Though my birthday was accompanied by those trademark 'April Showers,' I found out that in Namibia rain is considered good luck. If you are starting a job -- or a decade of livin' -- my Namibian Thinker tells me that consecutive days of rain is a good thing. For rain to follow you, she says, is a sign of flourishing luck and success. Yes!

But the self-reflection kicked in when, for the first time, I entered 3-0 as my age into the stationary bike at the gym. Thirty! Out of habit, or at least years of society telling us to hide our age, I quickly looked over my shoulder to make sure no one saw the digits. This from a person who writes her PIN numbers on her hand and keeps passwords on a desktop file named 'passwords'!

I digress...

As my legs began to burn and I realized that my peak heart rate had actually been lowered to adjust to my thirty-something heart, I thought of Laurel Archer.
I profiled Archer last month for a B.C. community magazine. This tough-as-nails woman is sharp, motivated, talented, sincere, and fun-loving. She routinely competes in multi-day canoe and kayak races (and often wins), she has recently been inducted into the 'Explorers Club' (kind of weird but very cool), and she is a published author.

O, and she is forty-something.

Then, last night I had this great dream about Judith Burch. I call her my American Inuit Lady from the East Coast. She's charming, astute, warm ... and she travels the world sharing Inuit art with children from Mongolia, Siberia, Japan, India, to name a few. I couldn't believe when she told me her won't either so I won't bother ;)

In journalism there is an interesting practice of including the age of subjects. I often forget, and have to call back. The conundrum is similar to including the sex of a crazed gun[person].
Yes, it is a fact.
Yes, it helps paint a picture.
No, it is not the most important part of a story.
But when a young woman pulls a Columbine, it's the first or second word in a headline.
So when I found out the age of my American Inuit Lady, I pushed that factoid up in the story proposal. In this case, it adds to my fascination with her.
(my dream had her singing lounge style ... it was great)

Is it natural to be fascinated with older women doing great things? Now that I am officially an 'older woman,' I think I can chalk it up to admiration of peers. But sometimes it sounds condescending.

"O that's so great! You're out on a Friday night! And you're thirty!!"

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It never rains...

...but it pours. That's what they say about freelance journalism and I'm currently experiencing a dry spell.
From actually considering turning down work just a week ago (of course I didn't), to firing off pitches like a Ritallin-induced paint-baller, I have officially experienced the fearful, changing seasons of freelance life.
For now, it seems like a right of passage. I'm living the life I've heard so much about, and that includes spending time in the trenches. My rent is cheap, my needs simple. The library, I'm finding, is a great place to escape the walls of a home office...though now that the main branch has wireless I'm sure it will become a second place of work.
But I am wondering how long I should roam this assignment-less desert, waiting for an oasis of satisfying, well-paying features to show up. Is a mirage (read: blog) enough to sustain me another few weeks?
Could it be that the entire magazine world is on hiatus? Perhaps adjusting to the onset of spring and simply going through their spring wardrobe?

I can help! I know the colour wheel off by heart! And I know both American and Canadian spellings of words like colour (color)!

Sigh. Patience, D, patience.

From my beloved library I found 'Steering the Craft,' by Ursula K. Le Guin. In it she emphasizes the need to work the words -- that writing may be a gift, but we need to work the craft of it, so that we can deserve it.
"There's luck in art. There's the gift. You can't earn that. You can't deserve it. But you can learn skill, you can earn it. You can learn to deserve your gift."
--Ursula K. Le Guin, Steering the Craft.

With that, I take a new outlook on my days devoid of deadlines. Rather than a desert, I'll see it as a chance to explore new waters, to play in the boat that carries me though life.
And as I look back to my last entry, where I questioned the place of writing in my life -- and wondered if I was giving it adequate room to roam -- I feel blind to what the world is trying to tell me.
Just write.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Just Write!

...this was the instruction of one of my first writing teachers Mr. Krisak.
That, and 'Let's Talk' were often scrawled across pages of my required journal entries, poems, short stories, and even the final 'Magnum Opus.'
Krisak introduced me to a lot of aspects of writing, like the notion that you'll never be absolutely satisfied with a piece and the idea that crap should not be tolerated.
So I often see those words in my minds' eye, when I'm washing the floors and am struck with a story, or find myself gazing out my front window, wondering what to blog about.
But lately, those two words have taken on a new meaning.
What if I 'Just Wrote?'
As in, didn't wash the floors or balance other people's interests into life's equations? What if I gave up the idea of physical fitness and social ties and...just write my days away??
I've always loved it. I can't imagine my life without it. And yet, I've never really let it take over my world, let myself become soley a vehicle for words, with no sister or mother, boyfriend or brother calling me out to play.

Could I take over the world if the words took over me??

I'm thinking of it today because I had a bizarre, disturbing dream last night. Really just a vision: I came up with a kick-ass, brilliant idea for a fiction novel.
Now, I dream often, and in vivid colour, action, and depth. The other day, after describing a literal roller-coaster of a dream to a friend, I tried to comfort him by saying that perhaps I dream so much because my life is sort of lame.
(This isn't true, but I sometimes feel bad about being happy. When 'no complaints' really means no complaints, and I can only say 'happy, health and fun,' I feel the need to recoil into apology mode. Weird?)
In any case, I told my buddy that perhaps my brain compensates, 'tops up' if you will, if the there's a lack of creative stimuli in my life...through dreams.

Now I'm scared. Do I need to be writing fiction?