The writing exercise I would recommend to anyone is to set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes. Choose a random word from a handy book, start the timer and write, inspired by this word, without stopping or crossing out until the timer goes off. Read it out loud. This is a good way to tap into what’s going on in your unconscious and to also have the freedom to write without the pressure of being good or perfect. It’s an exercise from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones.
MAGGIE’s living room. SHE and SALLY are surrounded by paperwork from MAGGIE’s back taxes. THEY take a break; having a few glasses of wine while playing a favourite game of “My House.”
My house . . . My house is one of those big old places on Palmerston. No . . . Brunswick! The kind that’s been divided into twelve tiny apartments. But we knock down the dividing walls and rip out the extra doorbells—
My husband and I.
Anyway, we are both so successful in our careers that we are able to pay for this house in cash.
I know. We renovate and decorate. We turn it into a comfortable home and a showplace for entertaining. The neighbours say it’s the best the house has ever looked and everyone says how great it is that we never have to move no matter how many kids we have.
Three. But I only have to get pregnant twice because the two youngest are twins. I get my figure back right away without even trying [SALLY tries to interject but MAGGIE is on a roll. SHE becomes more and more frenzied to the end of the speech] and the best part about our house is that we live a block away from where Adam is still living in his dingy basement apartment. Every day, he walks home from the subway in his Canada Customs uniform and he cringes at the possibility of running into me and or my secure, successful, gorgeous husband and our equally gorgeous children as we push them in their multiple stroller or drive them around in our four door, four by four, limited edition, red Jeep Grand Cherokee!
He has to move. And not just to another neighbourhood. He moves out west. To BC. There, he tries his best to forget me, but the woman he marries always has a sneaking suspicion that he’s had this one true love that he secretly keeps comparing to her.
On his dying day, he murmurs my name in that bittersweet way that says he was richer for knowing me but is filled with the deepest regret for ever hurting me.
You spend way too much time alone.
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a bit of a late bloomer. The older I get, the more confident I feel of my abilities and the more deserving I feel of success. In my younger years, the slightest disappointment or routine rejection would set me back for months or years. I’m happy to say that I’m now much better at letting things roll off my back.
When did you realize you had a passion for writing?
I’ve always dreamed of writing. I loved books that came in series such as the Anne Shirley, Little House, and Narnia books. As a child, my goal was to write about my own series. Ten years into my acting career, I had the opportunity to collaborate on original pieces. This gave me the urge to write on my own.
What pieces of writing/authors have had the greatest impact on you?
Lynn Nottage is one of my favourite playwrights. She writes about such difficult and painful things like the plight of women in the Congo (Ruined) without ‘beating up’ the audience. She shows respect for the topic but folds in much-needed comedy and subplots.
I’m also a huge fan of Tony Kushner for his masterpiece Angels in America plays. This fantastical play addressed AIDS, homosexuality and homophobia in the eighties. These were issues dear to his heart and he shared them brilliantly.
How and when do you find time to write?
I like to write first thing in the morning before I talk myself out of it.
What has been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a writer?
I learned the hard way to not read reviews.
How have you changed as a writer over the years?
I’m much better at writing dialogue and creating distinct voices for different characters. In my earlier work, the lead character (always based on me) had a lot of monologues and tended to have the last word. I hope that my interactions are more realistic now.