Writing Process: Finding My Self

Reviewing my notes for the Young Chronicles section of this blog reminds me of how little I had a sense of who I was as a young man. More to the point, it makes me realize how much I remain the same person. My sense of self lost in mist.

I am a writer. I know that. I’ve been writing for 37 years – novel after screenplay after novel – but remain unpublished. I’ve also taught for 22 years and enjoyed that. But I feel more the actor on that stage. I do not belong there, as administrations remind me again and again.

It is not that I need praise for my work. That isn’t it at all. Writing is definitively the most comfortable place in this world, a refuge from the blur and nonsense, where I truly know who I am. But it is fleeting. I come back to here, this blog, and think that maybe I’m not.

Young Chronicles: Hitchhiking Summer 1983

I hitchhiked across Canada in the summer of 1983 in search of something. I told everyone that I was looking for Canada’s soul – sad but true – but it was clearly more about me.

10,000 miles and 110 different rides later, I can’t say I found anything much but laziness and fear. Not to say that I didn’t try. I stayed at Cavendish Beach in Prince Edward Island, buying enough peanut butter, jam, bread and juice for three days and thinking, “Okay, I’m going to really dig into self-reflection now.”

Sad, lonely view from my tent at Cavendish Beach, PEI

But I didn’t. I just read, wrote nonsense and walked around, counting down until I could eat another sandwich and have another juice. I was marking time, nothing more.

Trying to look confident and cool at Mile Zero in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

I did two things with regularity on the trip: take self-portraits and write nonsense. This was my path to becoming a writer and developing a sense of self. That’s what I told myself.

Self-portrait on the side of the road in Prince Edward island

But it all rang hollow. I was closed. To myself and everyone around me. The writing was horrendous drivel, and I just kept looking down the road to see what might be next.

Research for Cx Trilogy: Dark Matter Propulsion

The power source for an intergenerational space is a matter of great conjecture because the technology does not exist as of yet.

The spaceship in The Cx Trilogy, Aqaara, is powered by Dante, an immense engine – the size of a concert hall – made up of a series of collider chambers which process dark matter during flight. The process is highly unstable and requires a reconfiguration every three days.

Young Chronicles XX: Vancouver to Toronto

August 10-13, 1983 Mileage 2896 miles

The Young Chronicles details my 1983 hitchhiking trip across Canada. Having completed the bulk of my journey, I spent time in Vancouver before heading back to Toronto. Once I had worn out my welcome with university friends, I moved to the Vancouver Youth Hostel and paid for room and board by doing the dishes.

On the porch of the Vancouver Hostel

I had dinner with an old friend, Ellen, and her husband on their sailboat docked at the marina and impatiently ducked under a moving train to get there. The caboose man yelled after me that I was an idiot. I have thought about that moment many time since, wondering what might have happened.

I lined up early at A&B Record store where the first 30 customers got three albums for $10 and bought 1999 (Prince), Time Fades Away (Neil Young) & Security (Peter Gabriel).

I went to the inaugural concert at BC Place with The Tubes (T&A show), Peter Gabriel (great lights) and David Bowie (Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Space Oddity, Fashion, Stay, Scary Monsters, China Girl, Putting Out Fires, Rock and Roll Star, Young Americans, Station to Station, TVC15, Stay, Breaking Glass, Let’s Dance, Heroes, Jeanie Genie, Rebel Rebel).

Ride One: Vancouver to Winnipeg. Van. Met group at hostel, including Obbie (owner), Stephanie and two English guys. Paid $35 for gas.

Me, Obbie and the guys from England.

Ride Two: Blue truck. Winnipeg to outskirts of town. Middle-aged man told me to open the glove box where there was a porn magazine and asked if I wanted to go to his cabin to get a blow job. “I know a lot of guys who aren’t gay but liked to be sucked off.” I declined. He asked if I just wanted a sandwich. I declined again.

Ride Three: Outskirts of Winnipeg to St. Anne. 1955 pickup truck. Dean, a Native guy who ate sunflower seeds and got me high. Offered me a place to stay. I was anxious to get home

Ride Four: St. Anne to Falcon Island Provincial Park. Two young women who were unsure of me. I confessed to them that Dean had got me high.

Heading into the hills North of Lake Superior

Ride Five: Falcon Island Provincial Park to Toronto. Brown Rabbit. Di and Wax. Listened to Def Leppard too much. Had dinner at A&W. Was asked to drive but I had never driven stick shift. Wax tended to drift into oncoming lane on winding roads and almost hit a truck. Took me right to my house. I should have invited them in but I didn’t. I was tired and being selfish.

Killing Character: Writing Process

Killing characters in a story needs to be a random thing. As godlike as it seems, it isn’t. Unless it seems so, and then it is. Yes, killing something, is an senseless act, leaving me to wonder why I bothered to create them in the first place. A character is not flesh and blood. It’s just words, if even that.

To get to the point: Tragedy occurs at the midpoint of Anori, a spaceship crash, and a personal connection is needed to Dee. Initially, I made this Saarva, the sole Greenlandic character Dee had come to know. And then I realized the stupidity of that, to kill off my only decent Greenlandic character! It was lazy and a cliché.

More powerful and relevant was the death of Val, Dee’s closest friend. They were connected as individuals and character types. Losing Val is highly affecting. But what? How is that random? The death I need is of someone Dee knows. That’s it. And I thought of Nico, the founder of the enterprise. Why not that? Impactful for sure. And random. Calculatedly so.

Rising Fjords

A pair of snowboarders, Macro and Vartex, went into the record store, a relic from those long ago days, after the fire. They found a pigeon – and an actor portraying the same – which had been stomped with iron-studded boots, brutalized, all but murdered and maybe even that.

Messed-up bird

They took a couple of pictures that they would post when they got home and slid a couple of records, warped by the heat, into their backpacks. I stood with them by the garbage reviewing my footage of their excursion, thinking it might be a good film if only because of the carnage.

Fuck Pedagogy: The Book

I started teaching 22 years ago as a fallback position. The truth is that I hated everything about high school as a student. I hated my principals, teachers and fellow students. I was just killing time until I got the hell out.

The iconic clock tower of Upper Canada College, where I spent seven miserable years.

15 years later, it came as a great surprise when I went back as a teacher. My relationship with my fellow teachers was much improved, and my students too. It was the administrators who I despised this time. They made me think of getting the hell out again.

I was removed from my teaching position three times by my administrators – told to resign, fired and laid off. I have mixed feeling about all of this. Having never really wanted to teach nor ever having worked with a competent administration and yet having enjoyed working with my students – and some colleagues – it is a bittersweet thing.

Looking down the stairs from the 21st floor at Leman Manhattan Preparatory School

As I said, teaching was a fallback position. I am writer. And it’s time I wrote about this teaching thing. Fuck Pedagogy. That’s what the book is called. And that’s what it’s about.

Research for The Cx Trilogy: Alloys and Polymers

Researching speculative fiction is a wide open thing, all about imagining a future far beyond the here and now. As remarkable as the SpaceX launches have been, they are well short of my vision in The Cx Trilogy of an intergenerational journey to a planet light years away.

Aqaara is constructed in outer space, specifically in the Lagrangian orbit between the moon and Earth, thus eliminating the problem of leaving the planet’s atmosphere. Aqaara is composed primarily of anorthite, a high-grade mineral found in abundance on the moon.

Anorthite is a rarity on Earth but found in abundance on the moon

An anorthite-obsidian alloy is used for the exterior of the craft while an anorthite-rubber polymer is the primary material for the ship’s interior. Is this believable? Yea or Nay? The power source is a much bigger challenge. To be shared soon.

Young Chronicles XIX: Whitehorse to Victoria, BC

July 23-25, 1983 Mileage 1468 miles

The Young Chronicles details my 1983 hitchhiking trip across Canada. Having completed much of the journey west, I head south from the Yukon to Vancouver.

Greyhound Bus: $99 one way. My fear of isolated country and bears continued, as did my complacency. My rationale was based on saving on two nights accommodation.

As I have mentioned previously, I wrote a lot of drivel on my journey. The bus ride was no exception: In despair, the mind searched for an answer, for a reasonable excuse for a positive outlet, for a viable possibility. It is hard when one is alone. Alas, the sun sinks slowly down past the horizon’s wall.

July 25 – July 31 Stayed at Marco’s house in Vancouver. Monday: Beers in hot tub with Ranald, Gareth and Dave. Drinks on Granville Island with Marco and Graham. Tuesday: Caesars with Fiona, Graham and Hug. Wednesday: The UBC Pit with Sandy, Jackie, Graham and John. Thursday: Helped Marco move. Friday: Listened to Anthem of the Sun and Blues For Allah at Stewie’s house Saturday: Lighthouse Park with Gareth, Stewie, Ranald and Dave.

Jumping off cliffs at Lighthouse Park

August 1, Mileage: 135 miles

Ferry and public transit from Vancouver to Victoria.

Ride One: Victoria to Elk Island. Big car from Alberta. Driver hit on me. “Want to spend the night?

Ride Two: Elk Island to Schwartz Bay. TR7. Worried woman. “Don’t you try anything. I have a gun under my seat.”

Schwartz Bay Ferry Terminal

Ferry back to Tsawwassen and Vancouver.

Ari Aster’s Haunting Imagery

Cormac McCarthy writes in The Road: Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.

Such is the case with Ari Aster’s films Hereditary and Midsommer. Make no mistake about it, these are both very well made films. Perhaps too much so. It isn’t just the visuals – although sawing off one’s own head is hard to forget – but more so in the music, especially in the majestic, almost comic finale of Midsommer,

I want to forget the images of Dani wailing as her boyfriend is roasted in a bear suit, but that damn music by Bobby Krlic keeps creeping back into my head. It’s that good.