The jtkwriting Blog

So, basically I just blog about life, stories I've read, stories I write, movies I've seen and the plethora of oddities that run through my brain.

Category: Life

#FringeTO Review

Well, another year and another 150 shows and another fantastic Toronto Fringe Festival!

Congratulations to all the performers, crew, volunteers, patrons and everyone else who played a role, big or small, in this year’s festival!

This was the first Fringe in which I immersed myself in the action and though I didn’t see as many shows as I would have liked – entirely my fault – I know that next year I need to go in with a plan and not go home.

What I learned and “re-learned” from Fringe 2014 (in no particular order):

-Networking is a real and easy thing. Sometimes it amounts to a casual chat over projects being worked on or just the weather, but during those chats connections are made and if the proper follow up is performed new and lasting connections can be grown.

-You never know who you’ll run into. One of my friends from a writing class I took a few years ago directed a play at this year’s Fringe and I received the pleasure of an invite to the performance which led to the pleasure of enjoying a fantastic hour of entertainment.

-Seeing great art spurs on creating great art. I felt a bit of a creative hangover today. Though I didn’t have any role in the Fringe besides enjoying the few shows I saw, writing a couple reviews and sharing some libations at the Fringe Tent, I felt motivated to write and plan out my next writing projects. The only reason I am writing this post right now and not lying in bed watching The Newsroom – great show by the way – is because I feel the motivation to keep my blogging, writing and creative momentum going. This was one of those days where Resistance was strong, but I beat it by thinking about the performances I saw and also the blog prep I did last week. I have a lot of posts ready to go and I look forward to sharing them as the summer plays itself out. I owe that to the energy and motivation I received by surrounding myself with the Festival and its participants. So, a hearty thank you to those involved! Read the rest of this entry »

Bookstores!!!

This looks like a great, if not the only, reason to travel the world. I will be taking offers for travel partners and financing in the comment section :)

This one is courtesy of Erin La Rosa at Buzzfeed: Bookstores!!!

Anyone else have a mild addiction to Buzzfeed? I love it for 30 seconds of distraction a couple times a day. And some of the stuff is pretty funny, and like the link above, it can also be inspiring.

Enjoy!

“Aleph”, by Paulo Coelho

13573214What I got from Aleph, by Paulo Coelho wasn’t what I got from his other books. I don’t know if I’m Coelho’d out but I had a harder time with this one. I enjoyed it to the extent that it had the requisite amount of Coelho quotes that I love. He has the ability to synthesize certain experiences and philosophies down to one sentence. Sometimes with less that five words.

Overall I’m glad I read it, and I think I was going through something similar to Paulo when I picked up the book, so I’m happy that I was able to get through my own creative journey as I read about his spiritual one. I especially love the story about Chinese Bamboo. If you like Coelho, you will like Aleph. If you don’t, I would give another one of his books a read first. My absolute favourite is The Witch of Portobello and Eleven Minutes is also one that I recommend.

Here are my favourite lines from the book:

“It’s what you do in the present that will redeem the past and thereby change the future.” – pg. 10

“If we seek something, that same thing is seeking us.” – pg. 46

“Expend your energies and you will remain young.” – pg.77 (I especially love this one. It makes me think that if we remain idle for too long, the potential energy we could have expelled being productive doesn’t just get wasted, but it rots inside us and thereby rotting our ability to act in a positive and productive manner.)

“Only mediocrity is sure of itself, so take risks and do what you really want to do.” – pg.83

“As always happens when we’re focused on what we want, things begin to slot perfectly into place.” – pg. 152

“Only the living die.” – pg.201 (I love this one as well, because I feel it implies that those who are not living to their potential are dead already.)

“Only two things can reveal life’s great secrets: suffering and love.” – pg.266 (I agree because when we experience these two things we are vulnerable to ourselves and the world and both suffering and love make us think about the deeper levels of life.)

#FringeTO

The Toronto incarnation of the Fringe Festival is back! If you are in the city from July 2-13 you are obligated to check out at least one of the 150 shows that are gracing Toronto’s stages. With prices ranging from $10-$12, what the Fringe does best is provide entertaining theatre from all genres that won’t hurt your wallet. So basically, you get out of the house, you are entertained and you can still enjoy some more entertainment of whatever type you enjoy while still being able to pay rent and eat. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal.

Another part of Fringe I enjoy is the beer/info tent, called “The Fringe Club”, located in the Honest Ed’s alley way. Here you’ll be able to meet some of the creative minds behind Fringe while enjoying a cold beverage in a very relaxed atmosphere.

Check out the website here, and get into the conversation on Twitter with the #FringeTO. Also, Facebook!

Tickets are available online, at the box office in The Fringe Club, and at the door for the shows. Buy quick and early though because a lot of shows are selling out!

Fringe is a great opportunity for you to support both local and international theatre, and creativity in general, at its grassroots. I feel it is one of the premiere festivals that allows for the building and fostering of talent that gives artists a foot in the door for their work to be enjoyed, maybe for the first time by an audience, which can open doors and help dreams come true. And who doesn’t want to help people achieve their dreams?

Support the arts!

Toronto Star “Big Ideas”

With their Big Ideas movement The Toronto Star is crowd-sourcing ways to build a great city. At least it was when they were still taking ideas. I kind of dropped the ball on this one by not posting about it earlier, however, I’m on the ball now because they just published the Top 35 Big Ideas on their website!

Anyway! Check out the site here and in the link above.

What I love about this is the communal aspect of it. The Star put it out there that it really is up to us – the citizens of Toronto – to bring the great ideas forward and to push the people we elect to follow through on these ideas. The issue of who we elect and their talent and will to govern is an entirely different and immense debate, but I love the intent put forward with this event. It truly shows the diversity of thought we have about our city but also the passion that people have to create a city, for the better, in our own image. Not all of the ideas can be put into place as some are opposing but they were put into the debate which is the main point. I also think of the international implications of this and how it is the people, not the people they elect who can and should have a say as to the world we build. Again, there is the topic of politics and democracy et cetera, that I keep thinking about with respect to this movement, but the main takeaway I have is that people still care about the world we live in and have passion for continuing to, at least attempt, to make it better.

 

Writing, Energy and New York City

Monday I returned from a short trip to New York. While that lede sentence could take this post pretty much anywhere, what I want to speak about is energy. My dear friends and I flew Porter Airlines, which arrives and departs from the Toronto Island Airport at the foot of Bathurst Street just south of Lakeshore/Fleet Street. As I was walking back to my apartment in the Little Italy neighbourhood of Toronto, near the corner of College and Grace Streets – about a 30 minutes walk – I was struck with the energy deficit I was feeling. I don’t mean that I was extremely tired, though travel days do take a bit out of me, nor was Toronto experiencing a black-out. The energy I’m speaking of is more of a social-kinetic type for lack of a much better term.

For background, this was my fourth trip to New York City. In addition to Manhattan, I have also spent time in the Bronx and back in August of 2010 I stayed with friends for a weekend in Brooklyn’s Chinatown. By no means would I say I am a seasoned New York visiting veteran, but I do feel I have a decent amount of experience with the city, as in I could comfortably negotiate the subway system and give directions to the more well-known areas of the metropolis if need be. But I would say that’s more a nod to the genius of it’s planning than my own knack as an amateur tour guide.

Before we returned, I had a couple moments to myself and I made sure to be still and take in my surroundings, some of them very familiar and some foreign. What I tried to focus on was the energy I have mentioned. I did the same thing as I was walking home. Toronto is a beautiful, vibrant and diverse city. We have creativity and we have history, though we do need to do a much better job at preserving what heritage buildings we have. Besides the history ingredient they add to our city they also add a flair of wonder and a beauty that can and, most likely, will never be re-created. Unless you enjoy concrete giants, then, well, you disagree.

What those buildings also add is energy. They add energy in and of themselves, but also add to the energy of the city. Buildings, architechture and planning aside, my biggest take-away from this short jaunt is that everyone in New York is moving. They are all going somewhere. Even if it’s just to grab some milk, the energy of the city is motivating. The energy of New York is kinetic and, I think what I’ve been trying to say all along (and probably should have led with it) is the principle of inertia it inspires, in my case, creatively is unrivaled. This is obviously my romantic view, but standing and looking up and around at Union Square or Washington Square Park or hanging out in the Lower East Side, I felt as though I was being filled with the energy of the people around me, even if they had never picked up a pen or paint brush.

Toronto has this energy but I realized it’s not necessarily bursting forth from the city itself. Though now I have just started an internal (and maybe external?) debate with myself about my skewed perspectives of each city. Maybe that’s an even bigger take-away from this trip that I am literally discovering as I write this post. Maybe I need to take a walk and look at Toronto from the perspective of someone unfamiliar with the city. This would be hard because I grew up within Toronto’s borders, even if a lot of those years were spent in Etobicoke. I was going to speak about how New York’s energy is present in stunning amounts in both its people and its space, whereas Toronto’s is simply present in its people, however, I think I have just given myself a new project of which I will no doubt blog about in the near future. Give Toronto a walk and view it from the perspective I view New York. I’m not sure if that is even possible, but I’m up for the challenge.

This all relates to writing in a simple way: your physical space, if you take a minute to be aware of literally everything around you, not only immediately but also afar, can have and should have a serious impact of your writing. Picture yourself as the Sun and your surroundings as your Solar System. I’m not trying to promote even more narcissism amongst creative types, but it’s the best metaphorical similistic example I could think come up with at this point. But yes, you are the center of what is around you. Take in the energy that is being thrown at you and also give your energy back. Remember that philosophic gem about “what you put out there comes back”? It works for your relationships with people but I’ve learned it now also works with your physical space. At least it did for me. I was seeking motivation and I found it. Obviously traveling to one of my favourite cities and a hub of creativity helped, but I think it helped as much as it did because I went with the intention of finding it, just not in the way or volume that I did. Which is how I am going to approach my new “project” with Toronto and everywhere I travel from here on out. What is my intention? What do I want to find? What do I want to discover? What to I want to take home with me? What is here that I can make a part of me for the better?

 

Ned Vizzini and The Artists’ Health Centre

1387573583_ned-vizzini-lgNed Vizzini might still be alive if he had visited The Artists’ Health Centre, but then again who can say?

I found out today via Google search that the author of It’s Kind of a Funny Story et al, died by his own hand in late December of 2013 (http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/ned-vizzini-kind-a-funny-667260). It hit me hard. I never met Ned Vizzini nor have I read any of his work though I have seen the film adaptation of It’s Kind of a Funny Story. In fact, I found out about his passing when I was making a list of books to buy for further reading and the first thing that popped up was news of his suicide. It hit me hard because I am a writer and I have had negative, sometimes very dark, thoughts. Ned had the success of which I have been dreaming. He had published books, had film adaptations made of his work, he was married and had a child. Ned had the very life that I am working hard and toward everyday. This is one of those stories that makes you think about your life, but also makes you realize that no matter what we have or want, it might not be what we actually need, or at least the combination of what we need. And by that I don’t mean he didn’t love his career or family, but that maybe Ned needed to talk to someone or do something to help him with his negative thoughts.  This is also one of those stories that hit me enough to at least spur action in the form of a blog post but also in my life. And that brings me to:

The Artists’ Health Centre located at Toronto Western Hospital on the 3rd Floor, West Wing @ 399 Bathurst Street (at Dundas) in Toronto. I have not yet taken a trip to the Centre myself, though I’m sure it is only a matter of time. I came to know about the clinic during a hockey of all things. Very Canadian, yes, I know. I was introduced to a writer who was a supporter of the cause and he handed me a flyer and the Centre was the first thing I thought of when I read of Vizzini’s passing, especially by suicide. The Centre is open Monday to Friday, 8:30am – 4:30pm with the hope of extended hours in the future. They can be reached at 416.603.5263 as well.

The Centre offers services such as: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy Group for Artists with Anxiety Disorders, Conditioning for Musicians, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction groups, Primary Health Care, Psychotherapy services, and Support Groups. Please see the full list at their website: http://artistshealth.com/ahc/clinic/.

Mental Health is important for everyone, including those who do not suffer from a specifically diagnosed mental health disorder or disease. It is not just clinically depressed people who commit suicide or self-harm.

Artists, yes we should funnel our emotions (both positive and negative) into our art, but we should also not be afraid to seek help if we find those emotions are having a negative impact on our work and , of course, life.

Never be afraid to speak up and out. And if you can’t find someone to talk to send me message on this blog, I’m here. And if I can’t help, I can hopefully direct you to someone(s) who can. :)

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