THE UKULELE DEBATE

Gosh. I'm actually embarrassed to be writing on here again because it's been a few weeks, guys, and I don't know how the time flew by without me writing another post! I promised myself I'd be consistent this summer (said every writer ever), but my sad excuse is that I was moving, and as this was my fifth move in four years, I was not in a good head space about it, to say the least, as I HATE packing- like irrationally, exaggeratedly despise it, and I basically mentally shut down during the entire month it takes me to get through it.

For me, packing is akin to some people's horrified anticipation of the dentist- I have nightmares about it, I put it off as long as possible, and in the midst of it I spend most of my time texting and phoning everyone in my address book to ensure they know how bad of a time I'm having. Maybe it's because I've moved so much in the last ten years (over ten times- I've actually lost count), or maybe because I dislike constantly being faced with all the things I still can't bring myself to give away (I might need that pile of jangly purple Indian bracelets for an impromptu costumed Bollywood dance party!), or maybe I'm just a big baby with a total first world problem (my sister's answer to my complaint about packing was: "well then stop moving"...), but I just genuinely can't think of many things I dislike more than taking things off of shelves, wrapping them haphazardly in newspaper, squishing them into weak-bottomed boxes, cleaning said shelves for what is inevitably the first time since I moved IN, and then piling said boxes into corners whilst being confronted each time with the amount of THINGS I apparently need to own in order to stay alive.

Furthermore, as much as I like new adventures, new cities, and new apartments, I dread the inevitable self-reflection that always comes with seeing all your belongings, the things that supposedly make up your identity, laid out in front of you, forcing you to wonder how you are still at the place in your life where you're once again trying to convince yourself that you might learn to properly play that ukulele one day. I can't handle the inner-ukulele debate again, you guys, I really can't. Though I try to pair down my belongings each time, and give away huge sacks of clothing and books and records and BOOKS, things just continue to creep into long-forgotten cupboards or drawers, and I can't figure out why I felt so strongly at the time about keeping that fake plastic cigarette holder. I don't smoke. I've never smoked. But for some reason I just can't bring myself to get rid of it. What if I have to dress up as Audrey Hepburn at the last minute?? WHAT THEN, I ASK YOU????

As a writer, I do love the glamour of UNpacking, because I am essentially the leading character in my own mental novel, and I like to see how my character chooses to inhabit their new space. Will she decide to stay with the "I'm a poor but true-to-thyself artist" vibe, complete with gallery walls of art but very little furniture and/or food, or go with the "I'm a bohemian minimalist", complete with gallery walls of art and.. nothing else..? The world is my oyster, you see, and I always find myself surprised by the things I unpack- as if I'd forgotten I owned half these gems (um, because I did) and they are all small gifts I've newly received and get to reinvent myself with the help of.

Along with the joy of reinventing my life with each move, I also think it's important as an artist to shake things up for ourselves now and then- get a new perspective, see things out a different (literal or figurative) window once in a while. In my current apartment in Toronto, where I'm spending the summer working on a theatre commission that I am doing a very poor job at keeping secret (BECAUSE THEATRE! AND COMMISSION!), my view out the only proper window is, not uncommon for Toronto, a direct view into ANOTHER window that is literally two feet away.  Not my preferred writing view (which consists, in my dreams, of a field of lavender, filled with a wonderful vintage circus, bordering a shimmering sunset-drenched ocean....), but it does offer me the chance to let my imagination run wild, since they have only ever had their blinds drawn, and I spend my mornings staring at the window and thinking up all sorts of stories about the people that live inside.

Currently, since through the window yesterday I heard someone dragging something metal across a protesting floor, the story I'm naturally assuming is that a beautiful but sad woman has tragically tied a young, devilishly handsome burglar to an antique bed, where she is holding him until she decides what to do with him (since going to the police would mean she has to reveal the hideous deformity of a mole on her otherwise perfect face), but she is slowly and painfully falling in love with him because he is so heartbreakingly charming and also an orphan. The metal dragging sound was obviously the bed creaking along the floor as they attempted their first slow dance together while he is still chained by the feet to the posts.... 

Sigh. Such a romantic city, Toronto, what with the raccoons screwing in the alley and the hundreds of condoms left behind on the streetcars from frantic, back-seat love-making sessions that are apparently taking place all around me while I commute unaware. Love and inspiration is in the air, friends, and sometimes you've got to undergo the painful, self-reflecting process of packing in order to move somewhere, get a new view, and remember that there are literally millions of windows just waiting to be peeked through for new writing ideas. 

To be frank, I was actually planning on writing this week's post about the tiniest bald creature that I found dead in the alleyway beside my new apartment, that genuinely looked so much like a small prehistoric raptor that I stared at it for an obscenely long time wondering if I'd just come across the world's first tiny dinosaur since they became extinct before I realized it was also shaped like a bird and was probably, and is, a bird. I felt like there was some lesson about writing and life and falling from your nest and trying to fly in there, until I came to the conclusion that this poor guy wasn't the most uplifting example, since he must have believed he could fly and indeed, could not, no matter how much he dreamed big, and instead just straight up died- not a great analogy for new writers.

However, my urging to you, dear writer, is to spend this summer writing that truthful, terrifying thing that's been gnawing at your mind for months, maybe years, though it may be as scary, and occasionally as dangerous, as jumping out of your nest before you even have actual wings. You might have to pack some stuff before you're ready- before the mind is primed and the heart is open- you might even need to try going through old drawers and cupboards, pulling out the piles of things you think you need to survive, and seeing if you can live without them. But once you've packed that shit up, you might realize that your identity wasn't as tied to them as you thought, and you might find you are staring at a blank new canvas- you might even discover you're actually staring out a whole new window. The story in the back of your mind that is dying to be written will thank you for clearing out the clutter so it can actually speak, and live, and breathe. OR, you might finally learn to properly play the ukulele. Either way, it's a win-win.

As Frankenstein's ill-fated lover, Elizabeth, would say:
"Adieu! Take care of yourself; and, I entreat! write!"
Alexa

P.S. In October I'm launching the WHITESPACE WRITERS' BOOK CLUB, a project close to my heart because it means I get to spend more time with you fabulous writers and book lovers of Calgary! More than just a book club for wine and gossip (though I will definitely be drinking wine), each month we will read a contemporary Canadian book and then meet together for a lesson on what writing tips we can steal from the author- from how to write fascinating protagonists, to how to use setting as a character, to how to bring your own style to new forms.
Anyone is welcome, so come learn how to read like a writer, and join our fun, inviting, and friendly Whitespace Writers community! Click HERE to register!