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standing in the basement. (or, resolutions.)

January 1, 2013

AH – THE YEAR OF THE SNAKE. the idea of 2013 being a snake-year pleases me greatly, because ever since lying in a sweaty hot yurt in the middle of a northwestern nevada desert meditating on the idea of a spirit animal and soul retrieval i’ve been waiting for a reptile year to represent that sweet little green snake. please excuse the jagged sentences – i played a lot of air guitar last night and i don’t regret a thing.

every year i make resolutions that are really kind of irreverent – “wear more feathers, play clarinet, take a welding class”. but since i’m starting the back 9 towards 30 come this summer (yowza, yowza) i thought that perhaps it was time to “hone the craft”, as people might call it. and therefore this year brings about literary resolutions. (and also, putting the resolutions out here means i can be taken to task for them.)

disclaimer – i don’t ever want to longcock (unless absolutely necessary) and i don’t want to ever solely measure my success in terms of book deals/acquiring an agent/doing a book tour. i feel like those are things that might follow from doing what i love. man oh man has this year been a weird, rocky one – the ups and downs have been startling, painful, totally friggin’ wonderful, and the funny and tenuous connections that i’ve made and fostered with people – and with ideas and inspirations – are rewarding, painful, fabulous. i’ve been reminded that the city i left behind is still the city i love – toronto, you lovely beast, you many-eyed fortress of weirdness, violence, loveliness! – and that relationships are hard. that i learn something from every person i crack my heart open to. that even the people who make you angriest provide you with powerful mantras, and that you have to love big and probably lose big, too. that sadness is inspirational and hard, and necessary to humble oneself. and that i want to be stronger – physically, mentally, be the best i can be. and through it all, surprisingly, i found solace and excitement in writing. writing has become what ringette, clarinet, football used to be for me – an escape and a moment in which (sometimes) nothing else really matters. this all sounds so cheeseball i want to cringe a little, but this year i’ve read books and wept over and over again – i am consistently reminded of the power that the written word has, the way that books can remind me of the grace and persistence of humans.


therefore –

resolution 1.

start editing my thesis again. because – come on, gal! i can’t even bring myself to call it “my book” because that feels far too cocksure, as if i have agents lined up and have a plan of attack for publishing. really, i just want to put it through another rigorous (all-consuming noooooooooo) edit and see where that takes me.


resolution 2.

not be squeamish about what has to be written. sometimes if i write a sex scene or something violent, i think “oh god. what will people think? what will my family think? who will i offend?” well, if i’m doing it right – i’ll probably offend everybody. it’s a hard thing to be criticized and taken to task for what you’ve written, but it’s worse not to make any waves. i’ve spent a lot of my life trying to please people, and that’s worthy, but exhausting. i don’t ever want to be known as the woman who always tempered herself to make others happy. i would rather be known as the woman who wrote what the hell she wanted, and struck an impact that way – without ever being needlessly cruel.


resolution 3.

write what i want to write, and be prepared for the ramifications/crickets that happen when i do so. in that … what i have to say may not be what people want to hear, and i have to be prepared for that. that what i consider touching/powerful/sexy/rage-inducing/heart-wrenching is (sometimes) very different from what other people believe those same things to be, and so therefore i must remember that evoking a powerful (though perhaps negative) reaction is more important that not evoking anything at all. alternatively, the term crickets refers to institutions/grant juries/prize panelists who may not like what i have to write, and therefore funding may not come easily – the silence of crickets. and that’s okay, too, because i may not be able to write a first-prize-winning poem, but i always like what i write, and i feel strongly about what i write, and if i changed that, i wouldn’t feel very good at all.

it’s the art of giving a shit when need be, and not giving a shit when brusque criticisms and needling anxieties threaten to topple a lot of the hard work i’ve done over the past year to raise my writing profile and work on my specific projects.

case in point – after my globe and mail article, i got a lot of website hits/emails, and someone took the time to read through my whole blog, and then email me with this message:

“you say you’re a writer and you get pissed at people for not spelling correctly, but you don’t capitalize anything on your blog. you are a stupid bitch and a dumb fucking hypocrite.”

#RUDE. but good practice for inevitable hate mail.




someone important once told me to “build the house first, worry about the neighbours later.” all those awful tumblr photos have this adage on it, or something similar – “do what you love, and good things will happen” blah blah. the intimation often is, i suppose, that if you focus on your own stuff you become beautiful and a princess and someone falls in love with you. but i want to go beyond that – to write the most unflinching words i can, to not be so scared, because i often get so scared. to feel the fear and do it anyway.

now that’s an adage i can get behind.

so to go back to the image of the house – of construction, the smell of new wood. if this is the year of building the house (along with being the year of the sssssssnake), then i’m standing arms akimbo in the basement foundations at the moment, looking straight the hell up at the sky.


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