Saturday, May 11, 2019

Rebecca Higgins: A month of writing moments

Distracted by tax season, my mental health work, a mood dip and all of the shows, I got very little writing done last month. But if I cobble together all of the month’s writing-related moments on various days, I might have a writing day to tell you about. 

Day 2: I attend the Rowers Reading series at Glad Day Books in Toronto and I love it. Inspired by the readings and writers, I think: I’ll go home and get to work! I go home and watch a show.

Day 3: I take notes at the food court at the mall, which is currently one of my favourite spots for observations and note-taking. It is ripe with possibility, characters and things to eat. I take my food to a table and get to work. Among today’s gems: a woman is clipping her nails at the table next to me, the bits flying onto the table and ground. I push my tray away.

Still at the mall, I seek out a store called Things Remembered. It’s research for a story-in-progress and was my main motivation for coming here today. I walk up and down the tributaries of the mall. The store is gone. First time I’ve ever wanted to go in and it’s no longer there. This makes its way into the story.

Day 8: Writing date at a friend’s house. I do a writing exercise, then spend the rest of the time talking to the cat about the moment when her affection turns into neediness. I answer a few emails for my mental health work. I finish the croissant I brought.

Day 11: I talk to a high school writer’s craft class about character. I have more fun than most of the students do. When I read a story from my book, some of the kids are checked out. But a few are leaning forward. When I finish, a few of the girls oooh. One breathes – I love that story. It’s the highlight of the month.

Day 17: Usually, I make notes on index cards I carry with me, but today I discover how to make notes when I’m walking and can’t discreetly stop to write something down. I use the voice memo feature on my phone to record observations as I walk.

What a good use of space it would be to put a pool on top of a subway station.

Okay, so they’re not all gems.

Days 13, 15, 17, 20: I use my index card observations for writing prompts. They’re fun to play with but will probably not have any place in my current book-in-progress.

Day 24: My writing group gets postponed because we all have non-writing life stuff piling up.

Day 25: Crossing the street, I pull out my phone for another voice memo. For one alarming moment, I can’t remember what the people with signs and vests at crosswalks are called.

Spotted. Two – um, what are they called? Not security guards. Crossing guards! Two crossing guards chatting: the one that used to do it, and then the current one. I wonder what that conversation was like.

At night, I attend a wonderful poetry workshop facilitated by Kathryn Mockler. It is so much fun! I write stuff! It feels good!

Day 28: I review some of the month’s observations. Some of them are nonsense. It’s like that time years ago I smoked weed and wrote down all the brilliant thoughts I had and in the morning I revisited the scribbles and they were useless garbage.

One voice memo in particular makes no sense to me at all:

Remember, DSM Photographic.

Reading over this essay, I’m realizing that perhaps this month wasn’t the writing desert I first assumed it to be. I’ve never been great with the discipline, and I have deep and envious admiration for writers who commit to regular writing routines. But I jotted some stuff down, I did a bit of work, and that’s something. Now I just have to figure out what the fuck Remember, DSM Photographic means.

Rebecca Higgins is a short story writer and mental health educator. Now based in Toronto, she has lived and worked in Fredericton, Ottawa, Ireland, Honduras, and Brazil. Her debut collection of stories, The Colours of Birds, was published by Tightrope Books in 2018. She is currently at work on her second collection. Find Rebecca at or on Twitter @RebeccaEHiggins.

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