March has arrived. The end is nigh! Not the end of everything. Though, not knowing the punchline to this universe, I can’t say for sure it’s not coming up on the end of everything. I just know the end of winter is nigh. This makes me happy. This makes me very happy.
With March entering lioness style, kicking and screaming and dumping snow on the city of Toronto…I can finally envision the end of this miserable terrible awful atrocious unseemly horrendous ludicrous horrorshow of a winter.
On the 1st, I celebrated the beginning of this new month in style, taking in the Paul Simon/Sting concert at the ACC. I was astonished when, after the concert, I walked out into a street covered in snow. Enter the lion. As terrible as it was to see even more of the white stuff, it made me consider the fate of the end of the month. Out like a lamb, right? So, as this is a highly accurate scientific way of measuring the severity of winter in March, I was SO relieved to see the lion at play. It means the month will edge out of existence quietly. No big final HURRAH from March, then. Something to look forward to. This winter has been an absolute bitch.
I’d like to take a moment to talk about something I don’t often talk about, but also don’t avoid…the Sexual Victimization of Boys & Men. There is a phenomenal organization in North America that is doing glorious things to help men and boys recover from sexual trauma. MALESURVIVOR.ORG is literally saving lives. They are also tireless champions of THE VOICE OF MALE VICTIMS OF SEXUAL ABUSE. They are getting people talking about this thing that nobody would talk about. Between removing the stigma faced by male victims of sexual abuse and helping male victims to move from a place of darkness to a place of Survivor to a place of Thriver, this is a well-needed organization. Their message to male victims of sexual abuse is that they are NOT ALONE, that it is NOT THEIR FAULT and that they can overcome. Heal. Thrive.
Here in Toronto, Male Survivor is putting on three events in the month of May, 2014.
The first event is on May 29th – Dare to Dream. This is a Free event - Presenting a special screening of Boys and Men Healing, directed by Kathy Barbini, and co-produced by Simon Weinberg. The screening of the movie will be followed by the Q & A with Jim Struve, LCSW, Dr. Howard Fradkin Ph.D. LICDC, Co-chairs of Malesurvivor Weekends of Recovery, Rob Hawkings MA, MES, & Lynne MacDonell BA, CADC, CHT. I’ve seen this movie at a past Dare to Dream event…and it’s truly a must-see. Watching it was one of the first times I realized I wasn’t alone. It will change your life.
The 2nd event is on May 30th. “Breaking the Silence” Training workshop – $141.25 ($125 +HST) This workshop will explore issues surrounding the sexual victimization of males. Included will be a focus on myths surrounding male victimization, distinguishing between male and female survivors, sexual conflict issues and clinical dynamics and treatment approaches for male survivors. Presenters include clinical case material and will provide time for questions and case consultation.
The 3rd event is on May 31st – Safety & Connection -Creating a Community to Heal for Male Survivors Workshop – $111.87 ($99 + HST $12.87) – A one day workshop based on the Male Survivor weekend of Recovery designed to help empower you as a male Survivor of Sexual Abuse.
If you’re in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), and you are a victim of male sexual abuse, I urge you to seek help. Do yourself a favour and attend these great events. If you can’t make all three, attend those you can. I’ve been to a Male Survivor Weekend of Recovery. In fact I’ve been to two. They are trans-formative. There is no time like the present to take back your life. The shame is NOT yours. The guilt is NOT yours. Aren’t you tired yet?
Please consider registering for the above events: ALL DETAILS ON THESE THREE EVENTS CAN BE FOUND ON THE GATEHOUSE WEBSITE HERE!
Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival:
In two days I head to Whitby, Ontario, for the Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival. My heartbeat has already begun the rat-a-tat-tat of sheer panic that comes prior to me entering the castle. But this is good. Honestly. I would NOT want to walk into this situation with confidence! There are times that my lack of confidence works fully in my favour. Trafalgar24 is one of them.
When one is being locked into a haunted castle for eight hours with the Herculean task of writing a play before the expiration of that time, one doesn’t want to walk in there knowing they will accomplish their goal. Confidence is sometimes the thing that will kill you in your tracks. One wants accelerated panic. Confidence tells a writer they don’t have to stretch themselves. They know they can do it, so they can ride the backseat and get it done. Panic and worry and doubt and fear and loathing…these things can be fed off of…these things can motivate a writer. We should always live outside our comfort zone. I get inside that castle and I think about the 300+ audience members who will be converging on the place in less than 24 hours. That audience expects the best. They want to be entertained. They’re coming to see six new plays…and by god, they best be fantastic. This is the thought that keeps me awake through the night…the thought that keeps my hands moving on the keyboard…the thought that keeps me walking in circles in my designated room, acting out my scenes and having an all-round meltdown.
I enter in to this event in a heightened state of panic, yes. But I also enter into it in a completely overwhelming state of euphoria. It’s a tremendous blessing to be able to push the envelope in such a creatively insane way. Somebody is taking a chance on me as a writer. This means something to me. I need to honour their faith in my ability to deliver in the best way possible. I need to write!
Please know that I write about all these things together as a subtle way of making a point. We should be talking about sexual abuse openly. I no longer feel the need to be silent. Or to talk about it as an aside. The moment we address this issue on the side, segregated from other events in our lives, is the moment we assign shame. Life is short. Taking on the shame of others is something I’m no longer willing to do. It’s time to open up the dialogue and speak candidly about sexual abuse. Today, it’s one of the many things on my mind. So I have discussed it here. If you’re finding this post because you searched TORONTO MALE SEXUAL ABUSE HELP or the like, please look into these events. It’s time for you to do something about the burden you’re carrying. Let MaleSurvivor.Org ease your pain…it’s never too late to reclaim your life.
This smorgasbord is now complete. Thank you.
rit·u·al (rĭch′o̅o̅-əl)n.1.a. The prescribed order of a religious ceremony.b. The body of ceremonies or rites used in a place of worship.2.a. The prescribed form of conducting a formal secular ceremony: the ritual of an inauguration.b. The body of ceremonies used by a fraternal organization.3. A book of rites or ceremonial forms.4. ritualsa. A ceremonial act or a series of such acts.b. The performance of such acts.5.a. A detailed method of procedure faithfully or regularly followed: My household chores have become a morning ritual.b. A state or condition characterized by the presence of established procedure or routine: “Prison was a ritual—reenacted daily, year in, year out. Prisoners came and went; generations came and went; and yet the ritual endured” (William H. Hallahan).adj.1. Associated with or performed according to a rite or ritual: a priest’s ritual garments; a ritual sacrifice.2. Being part of an established routine: a ritual glass of milk before bed.
[From Latin rītuālis, of rites, from rītus, rite; see rite.]
Besides flaying wombats in the moonlight and drinking elephant blood from glass slippers, what’s your ritual?
Remembering that Rule #1 of Writers’ Club is THERE IS NO WRITERS’ CLUB, what are the things you do to help you identify yourself as a card-carrying member of the Writers’ Club? What are your ceremonial acts as a writer?
The healthiest writers have rituals. Whatever their rituals might be, they serve to help them stay on track in their writing lives. Life is busy. We don’t always have the luxury of discovering hidden pockets of time that we can use in whatever way we like. This is why ceremonies help. For instance, it’s always a good idea to earmark time…to give yourself a daily allotment of time that is 100% dedicated to writing. If you feel you’d be a more productive writer in the morning, pencil in 8am-9am (or whatever hour in the day that works best for you—you decide) as WRITING TIME on your daily planner. Every day. And DO NOT DEVIATE. Whether it’s just an everyday day, Christmas, or you’re on vacation in Kathmandu, make that hour your time to write every single day of your life. If you’re more productive in the evening, pencil in 8pm-9pm as WRITING TIME. Or 2am-3am. You get it. Pick an hour and own it. Make it yours. That’s the best daily ritual a writer can have.
There are so many rituals you can add to your writing life. And the beauty of it is none of them need to make a lick of sense to anybody else but you. Here’s a couple ideas:
- Take a walk before you sit down to write. Make it a walking meditation through the woods or a stroll downtown in the deafening din of rush hour. Do it every time. Make it the way you start your writing day.
- Make a mixed tape of the music that most suits your writing. Listen to it every time you write, or every time before you begin to write. Turn it into your Pavlov’s Dog tape. Every time you hear one of those songs in the wild, you will want to write. You will be recalling the writer in you at times when you least expect it. Connection and association helps us to maintain productivity.
- Booze. Not for everyone. (-: Pour a shot of Jack Daniels, inhale it…and begin writing.
- Don that threadbare plaid housecoat you keep in the back of the closet. You know the one, your writing robe. Own it. Be a writer every single time you put it on. Or that one dress, one pair of shoes, pipe, whatever it may be. If you have something specific that you wear when you write, make it a magical source of inspiration every single time you don it.
- Sit-Ups, Jumping-Jacks and Dance Moves. Want to inject some health-conscious moves into your everyday writing routine? Go for it. Give yourself a ten-minute workout either before or after you put down your words.
- Sketch. Make other creative endeavors part of your routine. Draw for 15 minutes and follow up with 45 minutes of writing.
- Coffee or Tea. Even the benign everyday routine of making coffee or steeping tea can be done from a place of meditative peacefulness. Before you write every morning, take yourself to the kitchen and perform the task of making coffee or tea. Take your time. Meditate as the kettle boils or the coffee drips. Attain inner peace while the water ruminates. Or maybe ruminate while the water attains inner peace. Make this an important ritual that will set you up for an excellent hour of writing.
Of course, these are just a few easy suggestions. What every writer has to do is FIND YOUR OWN WAY. Just remember when you’re picking and choosing the proper rituals that will inspire your word-flow that there are rituals that will end badly. You want to find something that will make you limber and ready to hit the words. You want to be kind to yourself and create an environment that will be conducive to creativity. If your pre-writing ritual is 10 minutes on Facebook, followed by 10 minutes on Twitter, you may NEVER get to the point where you’re putting words on paper. Choose wisely, grasshopper. And choose based on the kind of person you are, not based on what other people tell you you should do. Charles Dickens always rearranged the ornaments on his desk into a certain order prior to writing. That was his ritual. I don’t have ornaments on my desk. Truth be told, I don’t have a desk. If I thought I needed to follow his ritual in order to write, I’d spend all my writing time at Ikea worrying over which desk would serve me best. So don’t take yourself too far afield from who you are to find the rituals that work best for you. Just pamper your writing time, and the time leading up to it. Make sure you’re ready, every day, to tackle the task.
If you are not aware of Donald Hebb, you should be. The Hebbian Theory, brought to its simplest, kind of says, “Cells that fire together, wire together.” You get those rituals in place, and every time you take part in the ritual you’re brain will be preparing to write. ‘Oh, I’m doing the making coffee ritual! I get to write now!’
Writer Steven Pressfield outlined his ritual-filled pre-writing morning in his book, THE WAR OF ART:
I head back to my office, crank up the computer. My lucky hooded sweatshirt is draped over the chair, with the lucky charm I got from a gypsy in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer for only eight bucks in francs, and my lucky LARGO name tag that came from a dream I once had. I put it on. On my thesaurus is my lucky cannon that my friend Bob Versandi gave me from Morro Castle, Cuba. I point it toward my chair, so it can fire inspiration into me. I say my prayer, which is the Invocation of the Muse from Homer’s Odyssey, translation by T.E. Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, that my deal mate Paul Rink gave me and which sits near my shelf with the cuff links that belonged to my father and my lucky acorn from the battlefield at Thermopylae. It’s about ten-thirty now. I sit down and plunge in.”
Do you see? Some of his rituals are quirky, yes…but they work for him. They give him the routine he needs to ‘plunge in‘. Could I write without the container of trail mix beside me? Probably. But I don’t want to. Eating that trail mix is firing my synapses…telling me it’s time to write. Like Pavlov’s Dog, I write.
Trigger yourself to be a better writer through ritual. Now, off you go…go forth and write!
I recently received a terrifying email from Sue Kenney, the organizer of the Camino trip I am taking in May. To be fair, there is nothing terrifying about Sue. She’s a lovely person. I’ve had the pleasure of novel marathoning with her in the past and I’m looking forward to walking the Camino in her footsteps.
What terrified me was the list of things I am to carry during my walk. The list is remarkably sparse. On the surface, this makes a great deal of sense. We will, after all, be walking every day…and carrying everything we pack with us every day. In theory, I knew the list would be short. It’s the luggage packing maniac in me who has begun to panic. How am I to carry so little for so many days? I’ve taken more with me on long weekends.
Perhaps if I brought along a donkey, nobody would notice. Said donkey could walk alongside me and carry the burden of my guilt infested well-appointed luggage. And if it’s a small donkey, I might even be able to squeeze him into two airline seats. In the proper costume, said donkey could probably pass as a rather corpulent human. Heck, if he’s small enough, I wouldn’t even need the second seat…we could just sit in the more spacious first class section of the airplane.
I’m sorry. I don’t know where that came from. Yes I do. I’m in the denial stage. I’m still under the mistaken impression that I could talk my way around the tiny list of meager possessions I am expected to carry. What can I say. As I was writing, my donkey brayed and that bray was the kernel of an idea. A means of rescue for an over-packer.
I thought I would compile a list of the things I will carry that will neither be in my backpack nor on my person during my Camino walk.
1. A rock I took from a mountain in Ohio during a Male Survivor Weekend of Recovery retreat (a retreat for men who were sexually abused as boys). The group of men I was with during that weekend all held this particular rock. It is meant to be a sort of talisman against the darkness. To hold it is to recall that weekend of empowerment and the men I shared it with. I will be leaving this rock at the cross of iron at Cruz del Ferro, if we are indeed to pass by this particular milestone in our shortened Camino walk. If not, it is of no matter. I will still be leaving the rock somewhere along my journey that seems of particular significance to me. (Read about the Cruz del Ferro milestone here)(so, technically, this will actually be on my person…I’m not really good at following rules.)
2. Fearlessness. I don’t think this is something I will be able to squeeze into my backpack. Fearlessness takes up a lot of space. It is better to carry it in my chest, where there is more room.
3. Faith in Goodness and Good Things. This is something I often have a hard time packing, even on my daily workaday adventures. You might have read my recent blog that referenced a quote by the late great Sid Caesar. “You think just because something good happens, THEN something bad has got to happen? Not necessarily. Two good things have happened in a row.” I tend to have a lot of faith in the happenstance of bad things. I wonder now if I should unpack my faith in bad things happening instead of attempt to pack a faith in good things happening. Or maybe I can do both. It’s always a good idea to get away from yourself when you’re travelling.
4. Wild-Eyed Wonder. I will be seeing beautiful things. I want to open my heart to it all, take it in and carry it with me beyond the plane-ride home. If I carry with me the same simple practice of wonder that I see in my grandson, Edward, I think I will be able to do this. When he sees the colour green, or a frog, or his favourite stuffed toy, or a puzzle, or chocolate, or mangoes…he himself becomes quite wondrous. If I think like him, see things for the first time like him, perhaps I will be able to enjoy every little detail of the Camino as I come upon it.
5. A notebook. Okay, like the rock, this is also something I will actually have on my person. A tangible physical item. But I will use it as an extension of myself. I will not worry about the grandeur of the words I choose to add to its pages. I will simply jot down the things that come to me. This is, after all, a pilgrimage. I’m sure a true pilgrim will always have a means to record the pilgrimage they are taking. I will be the notebook and the notebook will be me.
6. Cynicism. I will carry this in a safe place. Somewhere dark, isolated, and unreachable. It will be the thing I swallow before I leave the plane on the first day of my journey. And I will do my best to digest it and allow it to leave completely so I will no longer be required to carry it on my person once my journey is over. Cynicism is one of those things one just can’t seem to unpack. Best to just take it in and convert it to something more useful along the way. I know I can do this, because I am practicing on my Faith of Good Things happening.
If I make sure I have these things, they will help me to not notice the things I may lack in my backpack. Carrying these things may help me to be kinder to myself and to those around me. I’m ready for this. I can do this. The rock in my pocket, and all the things it represents, has given me a new kind of power. Sure, I intend on leaving it behind when I go to Spain…but I also intend on carrying it with me forever. Some things multiply in bounty as you let them go. If you have just the right amount of faith in a thing, you can watch it grow, even as it disappears in the distance. I’m making this journey to reclaim something that was taken from me. Sure, I may just be walking a well-beaten path to nowhere…but with every Camino Walk there is an immense inner journey that happens simultaneously to your feet touching the ground and your body being propelled forward.
Or so I’m told…
I recently mentioned that I had some super secret news. We’re now allowed to talk about it. (-;
On Thursday March 6th I have the distinct pleasure of being locked inside Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario for the 5th time! FIVE TIMES. FIVE! Count ‘em! Five! (-:
With the tagline, 24 ARTISTS. 24 HOURS. 6 NEW PLAYS., you just know it’s the one must-see event of the year in these parts. There is nothing quite as extraordinary as Trafalgar24.
I don’t know how I get so lucky. Sometimes, it’s hard being a writer (shhhh…not really). But at other times, it’s quite the fairytale. Trafalgar is my fairytale.
I enjoy everything about this play festival. I love the anticipation of waiting to see which room my play will be set in, how many actors I will be given to work with, whether those actors will be male, female or both. I love arriving at the castle at night and knowing I won’t be leaving until daylight. I love knowing that when I do leave the castle the next morning, that I leave behind a complete 10-minute play. For one night a year, I’m the elf…leaving behind a hopefully stunning pair of shoes for the shoemaker to discover.
I love knowing that as I’m driving away from the castle, there are a group of eager (and probably a little scared, anxious and excited) actors and directors arriving to rehearse the plays we playwrights leave behind. I love knowing that within those castle walls, for the entirety of the day, there is creation happening…actors are becoming the characters we leave behind, making them bigger and better and full of life. And directors are envisioning the perfect business to attach to the playwrights’ words. SO MUCH MAGIC!
And as I arrive back at the castle, a little after nightfall, there is an air of highly electrified excitement. The actors are there, the directors are there, the volunteer soldiers of the Driftwood Theatre Company are there. And the opening ceremonies see the castle fill to the rafters with audience members eager to see what delights are in store for them this year! Delights both culinary and theatrical…as the dessert bar at Trafalgar 24 is renown.
The audience, broken into 6 groups, tours the castle and sees all 6 of the plays in the 6 castle rooms chosen for the event.
Playwrights have no idea going in which room they will get to write their play in. To date, I’ve had the basement, the piano room, the auditorium and the lab. I love getting to my room, taking a walk around and trying to figure out what will happen there. So far, each room has spoken to me. I can’t wait to see where I get put this year!
If you have not yet grabbed your Trafalgar24 ticket, I suggest you do it now. This event sells out yearly:
See you at the castle!
From Driftwood’s Webpage:
Trafalgar 24 is a fundraising event in support of driftwood theatre
Every March, 24 playwrights, directors and actors get locked into a 19th century castle nestled in Whitby, Ontario, for a theatre creation event unlike any other. Using the castle as inspiration, their challenge is to create, rehearse and perform six new plays in only 24 hours.
This extraordinary festival is also Driftwood’s signature fundraising gala. Be among an exclusive audience to witness six new site-specific plays; feast on a fabulous selection of wine, cheese and desserts; find spectacular deals on entertainment, electronics, services, art and more at our silent auction; and help discover Driftwood’s next Beyond The Castle playwright.
March 7, 2014 | Trafalgar Castle | 401 Richmond Street, Whitby.