Journal: Making the most of an unexpected staycation

Journal: Making the most of an unexpected staycation

Journal Entry #1

I used to keep a journal, especially when I’m on the road. Given that I was supposed to be travelling this week, I thought it a fitting time for me to post a rambling, completely unedited, late-night thought. It provides for a welcome change from curing several years worth of past articles, essays and blog posts, even if this particular post is as inconsequential as a brief update or snapshot into my life at present.

I figure today, had I been on my trip as scheduled, I would have been driving back from the Isle d’Orleans community of Ste. Famille, the town which hosts the final resting place of my paternal ancestors, the first to arrive to the New World from France. My uncle and cousin went to see it this past weekend — I may have to wait a while longer yet.

The trip to Quebec was scheduled after my grandmother’s sudden death this past spring. Sadly, circumstances conspired against such plans, and I was forced to postpone the trip, possibly into next spring. Thankfully, the airline has provided me with a voucher which allows me to rebook my previously scheduled travel arrangements.

I thought that staying home would be such a bore, but as I have done in past staycations, I’ve used that time to either get ahead or begin working on new things. These last couple of weeks have seen me progress into learning programming in Swift 3 (the iOS programming language) as well as go through and backup some old docs on my iMac in preparation of selling my 8-year-old machine. Can’t really do too much though — spent much of the money I had left, after vacation-planning, on buying a new MacBook.

Perhaps my greatest success; however, lies in the epiphany I had a few nights ago when going through some of my past writing. Publishing a novel has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but every time I get started, I seem to fall into this endless trap of procrastination. I’m proud to say that I’ve gone at least further than most who have ‘writing a book’ on their bucket lists — I have three manuscripts sitting on my bookshelf as we speak. None of them, at least at this juncture, are ready for publication.

In my old files I was able to go through years of past writing — from essays to articles to speeches to poems — all of it there waiting to be placed somewhere. I found myself trying to read through these documents, and the one thing that I came to learn about myself is that, even in the last couple of years, I’ve evolved dramatically. Many of my opinion pieces and my fiction work (short stories, poetry) came from a place of cynicism, anger or despair. I recognized the writing as my own, but I found it difficult to believe that I had been the author.

After a full night’s rest from an evening of reading my old stuff, I sat down on my patio, armed with an iced coffee (me drinking iced coffees is also something remarkably new for me) and my MacBook and stared at the blinking cursor on my word processor. It was almost hostile — as if it was trying to provoke me to write something out, knowing that the first go at it would be complete garbage. After 45 minutes, I decided not to force myself any longer.

I paced around my apartment for about 10 minutes after realizing that the task of writing at this particular time was hopelessly futile, and starting thinking about my past writing — the work I’ve done on causes such as adult basic literacy, youth homelessness and youth engagement — and the creative mind seemed to reboot. Within 15 minutes, I had the answer I was looking for to a question I had been asking myself for about three years.

In the summer of 2014, I’d written a book which I titled “The Other President”. It was an autobiographical project which told of the events leading up to and in the months after my unexpected election as president of the Canadian University Press. The book told of the personal demons I had to conquer to even show interest in the position. Despite wanting the job, I never imagined I would actually get elected — nor did I anticipate the controversy that would see my election invalidated before I even formally began the job. The book was written in an attempt to keep an account of what had happened in those weeks, given that the organization itself, ironically, a collective of journalists who ought to be curators of history, was more interested in sweeping this under the rug, never to be revisited.

The project; however, despite being edited and re-written with feedback from editors, would sit on the shelf. After consulting with a lawyer about the possible ramifications of publishing, (the use of real names being disclosed was a source of contentious debate) the decision was made to halt any further work until I could have the manuscript vetted by a lawyer. Problem with that was the cost associated with getting a lawyer to read my book was more lucrative than I was willing to offer.

The question I had been posing myself was how to frame my story, which is actually more compelling for the inner conflict than for the controversy that followed it, as a comparable work of fiction — using characters and establishing a unique setting all while keeping the central plot themes of the real-life experience. It took me three years to think of it, and in going through some of my past opinion pieces, I had found the answer I’d been looking for.

When it comes to writing, I’ve been so focused on Trump and essay writing that much of the creative work has taken a back seat. I’ve tried watching new shows and reading new books to get ideas, exercises which seemed to end in failure. I’d never thought that I’d find what I was looking for in the writing I had done myself.

And with that, I’ll leave it there. The calendar on my cork board staring me in the face as I write continues to remind me with every pause in typing that I have to be up early — it’s now 3AM and I’ve yet to get to sleep.

Feature Image Credit: Phillippa Willitts (Flickr)

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