Space and shape

In many a piece of music, it’s the pause or the rest that gives the piece its beauty and its shape. And I know I, as a writer, will often try to include a lot of empty space on the page so that the reader can complete my thoughts and sentences and so that her imagination has room to breathe — Pico Iyer

I’m not sure whether any of my writing has included a lot of empty space on the page so a reader can complete my thoughts and sentences. Do I want them to complete my thoughts and sentences? I don’t know. I’d prefer they come to their own conclusions about what I’ve presented them. I don’t see the point in telling the reader to finish my thoughts. I don’t think that’s part of how I define my job description. I could be wrong, though.

But I do whole-heartedly believe in giving a reader’s imagination room to breathe, or at least let them catch their breath (if you know what you’re doing, of course). I believe that is part and parcel of letting a reader come to their own conclusions.

While empty space isn’t exactly on my mind when I’m staring at a blank page, I do think about pacing and intensity — when to find the quiet moments, when to ramp things up, when to hold your breath and when to breathe. Dynamics, not monotony. I think I have natural ebbs and flows in my storytelling abilities. It’s not something I overthink. I’m not sure how successful I am at it, though. Haven’t heard any mutterings on that front. Not yet.

When I think of empty space, I tend to think visually and aurally. I understand it when I see and hear it in a film. It is also something that can be felt and tugs at your emotions. Moonlight does that for me.

Words can’t describe how that movie has affected me. Everything about that movie is perfection. I say that because of how it pulled me in from the first scene, right to the last words spoken in the film. I gotta tell you, those last words were so powerful, honest, vulnerable and heartfelt enough that it made me cry sitting in the theatre.

There are very few films that have the evocative power to move me this way. In fact, I can’t think of another film that has done what Moonlight did to me. I tend to go for the wild ride, the hold-your-breath type of films. Moonlight is it for me. It is one of those gems that you find once, maybe twice in a lifetime. Writer/director Barry Jenkins knows how to use empty space. You see it in the cinematography. You see it in the actors’ eyes and their physicality. You hear it in Nicholas Britell’s music score. You feel it in the dialogue. It’s inspiring. It has stirred something in my soul and it demands to be expressed or manifested in some way in my own life. It’s a process. I’m going to let it play out. I look at it with curiosity and embrace the possibilities to come.

If I can convert a small fraction the empty space I see in my imagination and shape it into something beautiful and, maybe, transcendent, into words the way Jenkins converted words into visuals for Moonlight, I will be one very happy camper.

Beyond the sandbox

If you’re actually allowing your creative part to control your writing rather than a more commercial instinct or motive, then you’ll find that all sorts of interesting things will bubble up to the surface — Emma Thompson

Last week, I started taking apart my short story and started re-assembling it into a novel. It’s funny writing a novel in this manner because one usually starts with a blank page and a vivid imagination.

I’m starting with something I’ve already written — a gallant attempt at writing in a short story format.  Note to self: shorts stories are probably not your jam. Ever.

Now, I need to expand this fictional world. To let it breathe, to let it find its space, to let it get comfy. Almost every scene I’ve written for the short story will be expanded to its full potential. Well, that’s the plan. There’s always the possibility of royally fucking that up.

And I have a laundry list of new scenes I need and want to write. Those will be fun for a variety of reasons, but the main reason is there is still lots of room for the unexpected. For me, the unexpected has the tendency to give me a few ‘a-ha’ moments and gets me more amped up than I already am. My descriptions for the new scenes are one to three sentences long. Not detailed. Just the essence. Gives me room to play.

I have to admit that creating a world big enough to contain my two main characters is thrilling and mildly daunting. It is mildly daunting because I had tried to confine them within the parameters of a short story. Switching gears from confining to expanding is going to be interesting, but in a good way. The moment my two boys came to life, I knew their personalities and their story were too big for a short story format. I knew they would be trouble. The good kind of trouble. The kind of trouble I couldn’t walk away from if I had successfully contained them within a short story.

The nervousness (I guess that would be the best way to describe it) about expanding the story isn’t akin to realizing you left the barn door open and it’s too late to do anything about the animals who have scattered off to parts unknown.

It’s more like removing the barn itself, removing the walls, the roof, the barriers and realizing there is nothing to keep you from exploring everything around you. Into the great wide open. No restrictions. Although I have a list of scenes that I need to write — a path to follow — it doesn’t mean I can’t stop and look at everything that piques my interest along the way. There is an adventure to be had with my two boys and I know they’ll drag me off the path just because they saw or heard something that aroused their curiosity. But they’re good boys. Once their curiosity is satiated, we’ll get back onto the path, with a couple of extra bruises from mucking around and interesting trinkets in our pockets.

I’m excited. Maybe too excited or overwhelmed to know what to do with myself or the boys. But they have a very clear end game, those two. As much as I have to keep them in line when their enthusiasm bursts into rowdy behaviour, they’re very good at grabbing my attention and reminding me of the bigger picture when they need me to be on my game.

Now, is the time to get my game on. My boys have made it clear they love the idea of roaming, playing and exploring. Nothing holding them back or keeping them from moving forward. They have moved beyond the sandbox and they want me to join them. Whether or not I feel ready despite my excitement, who am I to deny them.

I’ll see you folks later.

Well, that was interesting

To describe last week’s American presidential election as interesting is an understatement.

As a Canadian watching all of this unfold after having spent a number of days in Mexico, this all seems surreal to me. Those who exercised their right to vote had their say and Donald Trump won — a person with no political background whatsoever and a string of bankruptcies as part of his business resumé.

The lack of a political resumé doesn’t bother me. What bothers me is how he became president-elect — making voters go against their own best interests by instilling fear and loathing through xenophobia and misogyny. Once you instill fear into a group of people, nothing else matters to them. Detailed economic, environmental, health care, and infrastructure policies don’t matter. All that is lost under the noisy and persistent rattling of fear, unless you ignore the racist rhetoric and focus on the what the candidate’s position is on the economy et al.

I know not everyone who voted for Trump are racists. They voted because after years of governing by the Democrats, they didn’t see an improvement in their way of life or it was made worse via job losses resulting from the country’s participation in the global markets. They voted for him on his campaign promises that rang true to them. They wanted something different. They had enough of the Democrats. They didn’t want another Clinton in the White House.

Some supporters have downplayed his incendiary remarks about his perception of women and anybody who didn’t have white skin. But downplaying those remarks gives the impression of condoning racism and misogyny. Rightly or wrongly, that is the perception and it’s a tough cross to bear.

While I can understand they preferred Trump’s stance on the economy et al., I don’t know how they can brush aside the racist and misogynistic remarks he has made since he threw his hat into the political ring. There are people who say that was all talk and that will change once he occupies the Oval Office. He will be more presidential. That is either naivety or denial talking.

I am a person who believes that character supersedes anything a person may bring to a job. If I was American, I would have never voted for Trump. It would have went against everything I fundamentally believe in. I cannot believe there are that many willing to overlook Trump’s character. He is normalizing racism. He is normalizing misogyny. He is normalizing the idea that a white person is fundamentally better and more entitled than a non-white. In the hierarchy of Trump’s version of humanity, white man is top dog.

In some cultures, white is a colour associated with death. Don’t even get me started with the KKK.

By ignoring the damage that will be done with the rise of racism and the inevitable pushback against women’s reproductive rights and the LGBTQ community, is it worth having Trump as president? Only those who voted for him can answer that.

For those who voted for Trump because of his economic platform and promises and not because of his racist rhetoric, you have to look out for your fellow human beings — the ones who will be targeted in hate crimes, the ones who will be yelled at, screamed at and told to go back from the country they originally came from. Normalizing hate is not a solution to anything. Hate only destroys including those who are doing the hating.

I’ve read and heard some of my American friends discuss on Facebook the fact they’ve had to unfriend people because of the election results. The people they had to unfriend had become verbally abusive in their defence of Trump, instead of having a real discussion about what comes next for the country. I’ve read some of the remarks. Not cool. Politics can be divisive and they have never been more divisive than this past presidential campaign/election.

Intelligent discourse can be had but maybe not right now. For a lot of people, a Trump presidency is a hard pill to swallow. There is still mourning and grieving over the results of the election. But there is also mobilization by those who are protesting the elections results. Protests, not riots. Not yet. Hopefully, it will never arrive to that.

For those protesting, I hope they actually voted as opposed to being a group of people who didn’t exercise their right to vote and just want to be shit disturbers. Which brings me to something I discovered in the last couple of days. Apparently, over 46% of eligible voters didn’t vote in the presidential election. So, in reality, only one-quarter of eligible voters gave Trump the presidency. Does that sound right to anyone? Was it apathy or protesting the fact they refuse to vote for either candidate? A good mix of both, I suspect.

Voter apathy isn’t confined to the United States. Any country where its citizens have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote, faces the problem of voter apathy. But this is all hindsight and analytical navel-gazing now… unless there is a way to use this information to fight apathy and get people to participate instead of having them do nothing because they believe the status quo will never change. Well, doing nothing and not caring could land you in a shitload of trouble you might not be able to handle. If that happens, please don’t play the victim. Every choice or non-choice, every decision or non-decision you make belongs to you regardless of the outcome.

I was speaking to someone from Apple support over the weekend. I was having an issue with my iPhone. Anyway, he was helping me sort something out and we got to talking and I discovered he was from Louisiana. He had a sweet Southern accent. He spoke about recently visiting his grandmother’s place out in the country which is located near a body of water and how beautiful and quiet everything was under the stars. The sounds of nature. It sounded beautiful.

Near the end of our conversation, knowing I was calling from Canada, he apologized for the events of the past week. He disclosed that he is non-white. I asked him how it was going. He said it was still business as usual. There was a slight tone of uncertainty in his voice. He probably didn’t know how to explain the election results to me when he was still trying to make sense of it himself. I wanted to reach out to him and give him a hug. I told him the world would be watching America closely.

He said if things started to get rougher than he could handle, he had relatives in Seattle and would move there. He wants to think better of his fellow Americans. But he also has to think about his own safety. He has to acknowledge the idea of people being more openly hostile to his presence in the community. He talked about visiting British Columbia if he moved to Seattle. I told him he would love visiting the province.

And I wished him well.