That jerk called doubt

Every day. Every day I want to throw in the towel. Give up. End it. Put my pen down.

You’re not a writer.

You have nothing to say.

No one cares.

Don’t kid yourself.

My brain mocks and yells. Jabs and hisses.

Toss your writing utensils in the bin. Immediately. Burn them. Shred them. Drown them.

Creative doubt is an asshole. He lifts up my skirt and laughs. She spits in my eye and makes me cry. It steals my last Rolo.

I read my own writing. Open up old folders, articles, and notebooks, and dredge up the past. I obsess over bad commas and misused words and undeveloped thoughts. I do it all. I read, I reread.

On bad days, it’s all shit. Drivel that should have never seen day. On great days, it’s better than I’ll ever write again. I used to be a genius. Those good old days.

There are affirmations posted on my corkboard, scrawled on my whiteboard, written on a folded up piece of paper in my wallet.

I am an author. They say.

I am a screenwriter. They scream.

I am confident. They affirm.

I am a talent. They encourage.

Somewhere, somehow, I turned into one of those people who recite affirmations. In my youth I thought this was only for granola eating, crystal feeling, astrology reading nutters. Oh wait. That’s me too. But seriously, guys, granola is tasty. And affirmations, I think they work. One day.

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”
~ Sylvia Plath

Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I sob. Sometimes I stare blankly at the ceiling while laying on my living room floor listening to Bon Iver. Words! Come to me! Come to me in some sort of order that will make doves cry and fireworks burst in harmonic succession. And yes, it’s always Bon Iver in these scenarios. Their sad melodies merge with my melancholy.

There is a point in each project tackled where I doubt. Like clockwork. It bleeds out of the ink and taints the text. It’s the wall that rises in front of you. The block. That wall you have to kick down. Karate chop. Blow to smithereens.

(There’s a word I’ve never written before. Smithereens. It looks strange on paper. Or has it already been diseased by doubt?)

So, how do you do it? How do you tell doubt to fuck off? To stop coming round. To give back his key.

“If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
~Vincent van Gogh

I have no answers. Which is an answer in and of itself.

I read prose by Anais Nin, Tom Robbins, or Margaret Atwood. Or some other prolific writer. I wrap my head around their wondrous words. Get inspired by their rhythms. Tell myself they too have doubt. And look! Books! Published, bound pages!

I find validation from friends, from past praise, from previous accomplishments. I dance. Oh, do I dance. James Brown. Get on the Good Foot. And again. And again. I run. I walk. I watch movies. I make myself smile. Because if you make yourself smile, happiness is the reflex response. And happiness trumps doubt. Right?

Doubt is a bitch. It halts the process. But it feeds the process. It helps the process. It makes you stronger. I know this and I don’t know this. I forget it. I deny it. I keep going. Forcibly keep going.

This is the life I chose. This is the life of a creative. This is what I tell myself before I pick up my pen. That I’m supposed to feel this way. And this will, of course, all be crap tomorrow.

“The writer who loses his self-doubt, who gives way as he grows old to a sudden euphoria, to prolixity, should stop writing immediately: the time has come for him to lay aside his pen.”
~ Colette

“I confess I do not believe in time. I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another. Let visitors trip. And the highest enjoyment of timelessness―in a landscape selected at random―is when I stand among rare butterflies and their food plants. This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain. It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with sun and stone. A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern―to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humoring a lucky mortal.”

  ~Vladimir Nabokov (born today, 1899)

Short Story: Lust

Last night, I had the great privilege and pleasure of being one of Rachel Sermanni’s opening acts, along with Hannah Johnson and Young Nige, at an intimate house concert. Such talented, talented, talented individuals, including CR Avery who lent his harmonica prowess for a few numbers. Rachel has the kind of voice and presence that can make your body change its biology with the first notes sung. Powerful and mesmerizing. Do look her up, you’ll be hooked.

This is the piece I read for the crowd. My first time reading my words for an audience of more than one.


Lust has no morals. She had once found herself between two married men. Colleagues. Both Italian. Both old enough to have raised her. To have spanked her naughty bare bottom. The bar they lurked in was dark. Candles painted desire’s shadow on the wall as they both vied for her attention. A dangerous competition as fantasy morphed into reality. They stroked her cheek. Mimicked some kind of love. Or at the very least, adoration. The two gold bands on their misbehaving fingers tried to catch the light. To blind them all. To stop the immoralities. But temptation, temptation was a warrior. Its armour was oiled with pheromones. Dripping with the sweet scent of orgasms. Slick with ecstasy. Soaked with scotch. So much scotch.

A kiss on her hand resulted in a finger between lips. Her finger. His lips. Not those lips. His groans were primal. Passed down from the echoing caves of our ancestors. As she dipped in and out with the index of her hand, the other looked on with that vermin named envy slashing and axing lines between his eyes. His trousers dropped several sizes around his groin under the table.

When one Italian left, the other staked claim. Kissed her lips. And again. And again. Trying to fulfill an insatiable appetite his wife couldn’t scratch. It was the closest she came to tasting love – when she was with a married man. His wife’s monogamously musky scent on his skin. Love. Second hand love. As deadly as second hand smoke if inhaled too deeply for too long.

Lust was unpredictable. Her lust had its big bang somewhere between 1992 and 1994. She didn’t know its name at the time. Only that it was hungry. The feelings that ricocheted around her small, still crystalizing body were overwhelming. She couldn’t keep track of her longings. One minute her stares were directed at Steve, a skater addicted to detention, and the next she was focused on Cory, still keen on hair gel and popped collars. And then there was Alex. Brad. Chris. Duncan. Eric. Frank. Geoff. And so on and so forth. All the way to the letter Z. For Zubin. He was exotic. He had eyes as deep as a well. She had wanted to rappel into them and taste his water.

There were no boundaries to her teenage obsessions. Her Tiger Beat hormones diseased her with unrequited lust. It was only in later years that cravings were reciprocated. She learned to focus her desires. But never tamed. Lust is wild. Liable to lash out when caged.

Lust doesn’t travel by map. It appeared on an airplane once, thousands of miles above the ground, with the stranger sitting next to her. His lashes caught the light of the setting sun on the horizon sending it out like lasers. A mesmerizing kaleidoscope of orange and pink and red. His knee nudged hers under the blankets. No words. No verbal communication. Chemistry bubbled and smoked through the eyes and out of their pores. There was only one shared look to stamp their passports with approval before hands made the coarse blankets move like sand dunes in the Sahara. The time zone was irrelevant.

Lust doesn’t care for age. It happened on a picnic table at her sister’s wedding. When a something-in-law lifted her taffeta skirts over her head giving the man in the moon a hard on. He was young. She was not. His limbs and extremities did things a 21 year old shouldn’t be privy to. He was top of his carnal class. Presented with as many gold stars as there were in that night sky. It was almost dawn when she, fifteen years older than his darting tongue, snuck back into her family’s cottage. Tiptoeing so her lust wouldn’t be found out. Exposed as a harlot. Lust can be sneaky.

Lust has no schedule. Elevators. Supermarket lineups. 2pm. 4am. Time and location don’t matter. Lust is a lightning bolt striking a jagged tear in her libido. Oozing red innards across reason. Unreliable. Spontaneous. But she couldn’t break up with lust. She was addicted.

Her lust has no prejudice. She would drag her nail lightly across a bare thigh on a crowded dance floor. Slowly. Just to touch flesh. A beating being. She mainly tussled with men. But appreciated women. Women were a different flavour. Cotton candy. Cherry cola. Chocolate kisses. It was a delicacy she saved for special occasions. A gift for her lust. Not a sacrifice. There was nothing sacrificial about the pleasure she derived from lip to lip contact. One pair horizontal, the other vertical.

Often, lust was an hors d’oeuvre. An amuse bouche. A quick fix. She didn’t always touch lust with her hands. She liked to let it blow in her ear, carried to her by music. She watched it from afar, committed sins with her eyes. And she smelled it infused in a cologne, letting it climb up her olfactory fire escape.

If supressed for too long though, lust strangles. Literally. There was one instance after 47 days of dormancy when a seatbelt firmly held her neck in place, against the car door frame, as lips pressed urgently against hers. Her hair got trapped in the strap, forming a curtain to her lips that his tongue deftly parted, strands of brunette getting caught between her teeth. A street lamp discretely illuminated the passion. Lust had ended it there when the man played his game of power and left her with a bruised neck and wanting so much more. Lust had teased her that night under the cloak of the Hollywood Hills. Given her a ravenous taste before yanking the carrot away, into the grey clouds. Silver lining unseen.

Lust was an asshole. She’d always loved assholes. Scratch that, liked assholes.

Love wasn’t her brand of desire. Didn’t care for it. She would spit it out when it accidentally touched her taste buds. It was the one juice she wouldn’t swallow. Lust was her choice. Lust was her lifestyle.

"Cobain’s sense of oblivion was brave and confrontational, and that’s why he cracked even the hardest edifice and ate through misplaced pop culture like a creeping disease" ~ Dave Bidini The way this author uses words is mesmerizing: 20 years ago today, I was in chemistry class when news broke of Cobain’s death. We shared a birthday. At age 14, that meant something. I listened to Nevermind on my Walkman (then, later, my Discman) at damaging decibels. I wore out the band of tape where Territorial Pissings lived. Rewind. Play. Rewind. Play. My dad threw away my Snoop Dogg tape. But Nirvana, in all their thrashing, screaming, and melancholy, always survived.

"Cobain’s sense of oblivion was brave and confrontational, and that’s why he cracked even the hardest edifice and ate through misplaced pop culture like a creeping disease" ~ Dave Bidini

The way this author uses words is mesmerizing:

20 years ago today, I was in chemistry class when news broke of Cobain’s death. We shared a birthday. At age 14, that meant something. I listened to Nevermind on my Walkman (then, later, my Discman) at damaging decibels. I wore out the band of tape where Territorial Pissings lived. Rewind. Play. Rewind. Play. My dad threw away my Snoop Dogg tape. But Nirvana, in all their thrashing, screaming, and melancholy, always survived.

“If you follow the crowd, you will likely get no further than the crowd. If you walk alone, you’re likely to end up in places no one has ever been before. Being an achiever is not without its difficulties, for peculiarity breeds contempt. The unfortunate thing about being ahead of your time is that when people finally realize you were right, they’ll simply say it was obvious to everyone all along. You have two choices in life. You can dissolve into the main stream, or you can choose to become an achiever and be distinct. To be distinct, you must be different. To be different, you must strive to be what no else but you can be.”
~ Alan Ashley-Pitt

Photo: Tim Walker

I love the Oscars. I do. I love the recognition of storytellers, the trembling hands that plague winners as they grasp their Oscars or acceptance speech on stage, the encouraging messages to keep your dreams alive, the gratitude that pours out from winners’ mouths, Bill Murray making one of his elusive appearances… all of that great stuff.

What I absolutely despise, what makes my stomach sour, are the endless and unnecessarily vicious remarks tearing people down that litter social media and so-called “news” outlets. The fashion criticisms, the plastic surgery quips, the hair disapprovals. A matter of opinion is one thing, an attack and bullying is quite another. Will we ever stop publicly criticizing appearances?

This sums up one such instance from last night…

The blog entry linked to within this article is worth the read too.

When the breeze comes

Last November, I entered the Canada Writes Short Story competition.
My entry didn’t make the long list, but I thought I’d share it here.

When the breeze comes

There he was.

His hair had more salt in it. Less pepper. Still thick, clinging doggedly to his scalp. There had been nights when she’d pulled on it, held on for survival through those back-arcing throes of white lights. Sensations that words can never encompass.

Her favourite hairs were on his nape. She imagined the tiny bristles against her palm if she were to run her hand up his neck. Disturbing the grain. Slowly. Deliberately bringing them to attention.

How many years had it been since she’d touched him? She didn’t know. She ached to feel him. Like rain when it pitters and patters on a window. How it lands fast and hard before dripping languidly down, leaving a wet trail and remnants of its touch. As it takes its trickling time in the journey down the hot glass.

She was too far away from him to do it.

Peter. Too far away from Peter.

How many times had she said his name? Screamed it. Written it. Dreamed it. The letters still flourished there. On the tip of her tongue. That place where taste climaxes in a garden of buds. Eager to jump, leap out of her mouth and into his ears. But she daren’t allow it. For now.

She remembered how he used to say her name. Clara. When he whispered it so quietly only the downy hairs on her arms heard. They always lifted to his baritone. Called towards him like the wild. She wondered if his body would recognize her voice. Tremble and tense. Turn with feline curiosity.

She began to say his name, pursed her lips in preparation, but couldn’t bring herself to make the sounds. Not yet.

The café was crowded. There were so many faces that they all blurred together into a solitary person. She became them. Bodies filling up space. Unrecognizable. Indistinguishable as ones.

Except for that ding. Someone was beeping. Faint and muffled in a pocket or bag. A modern annoyance and distraction she wished the owner would notice and shut off.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Clara was out of his sight line when he turned with his steaming cup of coffee. Although faint to her senses, the smell of caffeine in the small room was making her nauseous. The rich, mahogany scent had once been so pleasurable. But pleasure wasn’t something she knew much about anymore. Only prickly numbness. The emptiness one feels when love disappears from life. Or when life disappears from love.

She watched him leave the coffee shop with the frivolous haste of someone on a schedule. Meetings, phone calls, emails were earnestly waiting. Ostensibly important items in his life. But if he’d known she was there, would he have stayed?

His suit moved gracefully with him. Part of his being. Sewn on his body by mice in the night. He had always dressed well. She thought of the closet they had once shared. His hangers so neatly spaced compared to her opposing disarray.

Chaos. That’s what had broken them.

Their life had at one time been full of sharing. Bowls of blossomed popcorn kernels as unique as snowflakes, drunken in a sea of butter. Bottles of crimson wine that summoned dreams out of captivity. Hot baths in the height of winter and the resulting puddled porcelain floors. A marriage certificate with their signatures, one looping, the other scrawled, sitting side by side on legal paper. Not touching, but together.

Would they share again? More than merely memories?


He was easy to find at lunch. Notwithstanding the time that had passed, Peter’s habits remained predictable.

Saul’s Bakery. Smoked salmon, avocado, cream cheese on a toasted sesame seed bagel. She remembered how it tasted. The oval seeds stuck snuggly between the teeth, cemented in by thick white cheese. She used to meet Peter during this midday break, not only for his company, but for the salmon that melted on her tongue. She had always loved the ocean.

She had no appetite now. No hunger for food, despite a hollow stomach.

There were more lines around his eyes than she remembered. Clara watched them crinkle as he laughed with his colleague. They were happy lines, then. Streaks of laughter and joy. The heavy black velvet cloak of sadness enveloped her. She had missed their development. The moments that had cracked them into being. The jokes and happiness. She should have been there. Have the same markings of life on her own face.

He sat outside in spite of the autumn crisp. The wind blew open his jacket and rumpled his zebra locks. She couldn’t feel the chill. Paid no notice to the cold that wanted to bite her fingers. Her focus was stolen by him. Why wouldn’t his eyes find hers? Could he not sense her watching from under the barren tree?

Perhaps it was that tedious beeping that had returned. It blinded her energy. Masked her scent.

Beep. Beep. Beep.


She lost him for hours after that. The sun retreated. Time darkened.

But somehow, she came upon him again. Interrupted a tender scene that made her heart hurt. Clara slid into the booth of a recently vacated table in the dim restaurant where Peter spoke intimately with another woman. A brunette. Who mildly resembled Clara if one squinted their eyes. Was Peter squinting? Is that how the wrinkles had appeared? In his search for someone like her?

The restaurant was playing their song. Georgia. Willie Nelson, not Ray Charles. A detail she noticed, and watched his face for a flicker of acknowledgement. A sign that he still thought of her. On his mind. Was that a pause in conversation? Had he faltered in speech? She grasped for anything. But pulled on unattached strings that fell limp in her hands.

His date, a word she found difficult to process, excused herself from the table. Peter took his wallet from his jacket pocket and looked inside the flap. Hesitating before he removed a credit card, which dropped to the table with a clack.

Perhaps this was her chance. Her time to be present. Back in his life. Dormancy didn’t suit her. She began to stand, and his eyes finally wandered towards her. Staring into the space in front of him.

A waitress appeared to clear the table of soiled glasses. Blocked.  Had he seen her?

Beep. Beep. Beep.

It consumed her brain. Returned, not to be ignored. Louder than thought. And she closed her eyes to will it away.

Beep. Beep. Beep.

Slow and steady. Monotonous. When her head got used to the disturbance and she opened her lids, the couple were gone.



Clara made it outside in time to catch sight of the kiss. One impenetrable, breath-capturing kiss. She knew it well. Her longing got lost in the shadow she stood in. Envy reached its fingers along the sidewalk and scratched up Peter’s spine. He didn’t notice.

For the first time that day, Clara felt the breeze. Earlier, she’d seen it touch the leaves that clung for dear life. Watched as the weaker stems fell, albeit gracefully, to the pile of their kin below. To be embraced or swallowed by the earth. She wouldn’t let her stems fail her. Couldn’t become a heap in the ground.

The beeping was deafening now. Too much to bear. She was sure her head would explode, project blood in splatters around her. But perhaps that would be enough to stop the kissing lovers as her guts landed on their hold.

She could take it no more. All Clara could do was yell his name and hope it broke past the beep.


Darkness entered her world too soon for her to see him abruptly end the kiss.


Peter had said goodbye to his date sooner than anticipated. Ferried her inquisitive face and disappointed body into a taxi before finding one for himself. The wind had tricked him. Warned him he wasn’t ready to move on with one thunderous murmur in his ear.

He was ringing. Called back to earth with the simplicity of sound. The name on his phone’s display made his teeth clench and dislodged a seed held hostage.

“St. Paul’s Hospital.”

He answered with a stuttered hello. A small voice his phone had never heard him utter.

“Mr. Lerner, your wife has woken up.” Unexpected words. Hoped for syllables. A dead dream resurrected.

Peter’s mouth fell unbelievingly open. The phone dropped onto the seat beside him. Destination was hastily rerouted as the bothersome seed blew out of his mouth. He ripped his wallet from his blazer to throw money at the driver when the car came to a halt.

There she was. Clara. Her photo stared at him from between the folds of worn leather. Given up on but never forgotten.

Music. Music.

I’ve discovered all of this music lately. The kind you want to close your eyes to. And I just had to share.

And then there’s this. You won’t stop moving.

What I learned in 2013

2013 was progress. It was planting seeds and waiting for them to grow. It was meeting people who now enrich my life. It was knowing what true friendship means. It was darkness and lightness checkered like a chess board. It was another chapter. These are the lessons I learned or re-instated throughout the year.

1. It’s never over when you think it’s over.

I thought my screenplay was finished in May. Then again in September. It’s not finished. It’s close. But it’s not finished. I’ve learned that you have to decide when to stop. Realize that it will most likely never be finished. There is always something that could be changed. I’m happy with the current iteration. Is it finished? Nope. But on to the next one. The same can be said about people – things are rarely really over. Everything comes around in a circle. There is no ending.

2. Smile in public.

Wide. By yourself. It’s catching.

3. Don’t underestimate synchronicity and happenstance.

I can’t even count the number of times in the past year when I was absolutely blown away by the coincidences playing out before my eyes. Small patterns. Large patterns. Everything comes together. And when you notice it, you’ll realize you’re on the right path. It gives me goosebumps.

4. Red wine and scotch is a dangerous combination.

Don’t do it.

5. Praise others for their achievements and thank them when they influence yours.

The truth of it all, this whole thing called life, is that it’s better when you’re making other people happy. When you can produce a smile on someone’s face with the expertise of a puppeteer. Gratitude is powerful. So is praise. Everyone could do with a bit of validation or thanks. And it’s the people in your life that make your world go round.

6. Be a lone wolf. Get away to be on your own.

I like to watch. At parties and events my most favourite thing is lurking. You see things you wouldn’t see while standing and talking with others. I’m a creep. It’s already been established. Also, the best people can be met when you’re alone.

7. Believe in weird things. Things that defy reason.

When I was in Guatemala in August, I secluded myself from our group to sit in silence behind one of the majestic ruins, back leaning against the cold, worn stone, staring out into the tangle of greenery. It was a point in my life (one of many, I imagine) where I questioned what I was doing. Was it really responsible and realistic to keep pushing for my dreams when my bank account growled with hunger? I was at a crossroads. So I sat there, in a pocket of energy heavy with history, spirituality and mysticism. I closed my eyes and asked, out loud, for a sign to keep pushing, to keep striving, to follow the road to my dreams. When I opened my lids there were white butterflies fluttering around me. I swear this to be true. Our guide told us that the butterflies represent the Mayan ancestors, there to look over their sacred home and to act as messengers to all realms of the consciousness. So, in a moment of the airy, fairy I succumbed to the spiritual. And deciphered the sign as I did… persevere. There is no other choice.

8. Foreplay is about words.

I have been seduced by words. And they can be more powerful than touch. Also, fuck the small talk. Get right down into the nitty gritty, real conversations. Expose yourself. No conversation is too intimate with a new acquaintance or an old friend.

9. You have to do things you don’t want to do to do what you really want to do.

It’s a mouthful, I know. Hold it in there awhile to let it absorb in. Survival is the key to progress. Real life has bills. Do what you have to do until you reach your dreams. And don’t think of it as a step backwards.

10. Travel is essential.

I went 8 months without traveling. Without leaving the country. The longest stretch I’ve ever gone. It made my spirit itch. It made me crazy. You’ve got to leave your surroundings to let new ideas and inspirations out. Change your environment.

11. Leave more time for a connecting flight through Dallas.

It’s madness. But there’s nothing like the rush of running through an airport.

12. If you want it, you’ll get it.

It’s a really simple equation.

My first memory of Mandela

In my early 20s, I spent my few months of every spring / summer in England with my aunt and uncle, 30 minutes outside London in Maidenhead. One day in April 2001, I went to London on the train to do what most 20-something year old girls do… shop. It was supposed to be just another day.

While on the tube, a young man inquisitively asked where I was going. Being a girl of 21 and wary of strangers (my, how times have changed), I gave some vague answer about my destination and coyly looked away.

This didn’t discourage him. Instead, he pulled a ticket from his pocket and held it out to me. A concert in Trafalgar Square. “For South Africa,” he said.

What I didn’t realize then and what I do know now, is that I was being offered a golden ticket. More valuable than a trip to any chocolate factory.
The boy had been pulled into work on short notice and couldn’t bear to see the ticket go to waste. So he chose me, a stranger on the Underground. I almost didn’t take it, but he insisted. And when he mentioned REM, I was sold.

When I arrived at the lion-guarded square, I walked into a buzzing crowd that weren’t there to merely see a few bands - they were there for a purpose. They were there for South Africa. They were there for Nelson Mandela, who looked over us in appreciation from a balcony.

I have never seen a group of people, thousands of people, so transfixed by one person speaking. It was a moment I wish I had been able to appreciate with more understanding. I wasn’t yet educated on the significance of Mandela. But regardless of my then naivety, I’m grateful for having had the chance to listen to that great man speak. The chance to see love and admiration for one man show itself on the faces of thousands as he spoke from deep in his heart.

I never did see REM perform that day – I left before they began – but I did get my first introduction to Nelson Mandela. Thank you to the British boy who took the Bakerloo line on April 29th, 2001 and gave me such a gift.

RIP Nelson Mandela.