First Drafts

When I wrote my first novel — not the published one, but the one that came before that — owing to the fact that this was literally my first time tackling such a thing, I adopted a rather brutal style of writing the first draft. Like I said, I didn’t really know what I was doing, nor did I understand how difficult I was making things for myself in writing in the way I did.

My style, if it could be called that, was edit-as-you-go. Doesn’t sound that bad, right? And, to be honest, there are many writers out there who take this approach. I say this because I would be wrong if I said that this was a “bad” way to go about things. However, what it did was front-load a lot of analysis during a part of the work that really (really) should’ve been purely creative, in the playing-in-the-sandbox sense of the word. Editing as you write requires a writer to switch between two hats within the same writing session, which is (among other things) strenuous.

That book, it should be known, no longer exists in any form except for some files I have backed up. It simply wasn’t worth the amount of work that I realized, as I began to take submitting it to publishers/agents seriously, it would need. Like, a lot of work. And I’d just spent a number of years already on it, and its imperfections (and various forms of writerly immaturity) became harder and harder to ignore. So, into the figurative fireplace it went. A few years back my sister-in-law sent me a photo of the manuscript I’d sent her to read, asking if I wanted it (they were moving house and had to ditch things). I told her to burn it.

From the point where I started what ended up being The Society of Experience (originally titled The Improv Class), I chose a much more practical style of getting the first draft down, and that was simply getting it down. Didn’t need to be perfect. Didn’t need to necessarily match whatever chapters came before or after stylistically. The rule of a first draft, as I saw it, and mostly continue to see it, is to get it on paper (or on a laptop) as quickly and painlessly as possible. Then, and really only then, though there are points in the process where this might have to come sooner, will I get the editor’s hat out.

Revising is drudgery. I was at a retreat a few years ago, and was asked by a couple of painters what I was up to process-wise. I attempted to describe what revising was, and inquired what a painter’s version of this might be. They looked at each other and back at me and said: “Backgrounds.” That said, the important thing is that revising is where the magic really happens. The first draft is really just a proof of concept. It could be solid. It could be 70% of the way “there” (wherever “there” is), but it’s just not done yet until you revise. And revise. And revise.

The only problem I encounter with this style of writing is that the prose in my first drafts can end up being very (very) compressed — in the process of getting everything down I will often elect to not elaborate or flesh things out unnecessarily, feeling that this can be done on the next pass. I sometimes describe my first draft style as being “dehydrated prose,” as in “add water and it will expand.” Sounds good, but sometimes I’ll read something I quickly jotted down, and I’ll end up sitting there and asking myself what exactly it was that I was thinking about when I wrote it — sometimes the subtext gets lost when you’re writing in a fast and compressed style, especially when I’m coming back to it weeks later.

I must regretfully admit I notice this a lot with this blog. I don’t have a lot of time to blog, so my style here tends to be of that compressed first draft style, which can lead to comprehension issues in retrospect. I’ve had several incidents where I’ll go back the next day and read something I’ve posted and freak out, namely because what’s there isn’t really clear. Or worse, it’s open to misinterpretation (especially if I’m getting more explicitly political, where I need to add lots of context for rather forward opinions), which can be embarrassing. I once submitted a short story to a publisher, and when I went back and looked at it I went pale it was in sooo much need of revision. Lesson learned.

Writing is work, which is fine because I like writing. I’m good at it. But, creativity aside, it’s also a skill which requires a necessary amount of tradecraft in the process of making your workflow, well, work for you.


Tips For Finding a Therapist

I wrote a quick guide on my professional site to who-does-what (in Ontario, at least) when it comes to providing psychotherapy. It’s complicated, as I’ve commented here before. It can also be political, as there can be professional viewpoints that don’t align. I would like nothing more than for psychotherapy to be covered by OHIP (well it is, but only a) in the evidently magic hands of a Psychiatrist, which is funny because less and less Psychiatrists are providing psychotherapy, or b) a recently announced provincial pilot program, but only CBT is allowed). I’d like all licensed professionals such as myself to be covered because I understand the human value of what talk therapy can do for people who are seeking help and perspective.

Here are some tips for people who are looking for a therapist:

  1. “Fit” is everything: no matter how conveniently a therapist is located to your place of work, no matter how reasonably priced they may be, no matter how many initials they have after their name or what hallowed “evidence based” therapy they practice, it all takes second place to fit. What I mean by “fit” might be a little different than how it might sound to you: a sense of comfort (but maybe, for some of us, not too comfortable because we’re not going to therapy to be lulled but rather to learn and sometimes learning can be uncomfortable), a sense of the who-we-are being intrinsically acknowledged (i.e. not feeling as if they would say exactly the same things to the next person who sits on their couch). Overall, it’s the sense that the shrink “gets” us. Now, as I type this I’m thinking of all the reasons someone may not want this sort of “fit.” Maybe we want someone who reminds us, less than consciously, of our high school Phys Ed instructor, you know, the guy who you never not saw wearing sweats and a polished whistle dangling from his neck, who will call us on our bullshit. Maybe we’re not comfortable making ourselves vulnerable with the opposite sex, but nonetheless we want to push ourselves out of our comfort zone for reasons of growth. People are really complex. Ultimately, the better understood we feel by the person working with us, the more easily we stand to open up.
  2. Sliding scale. Not everyone can afford regular weekly sessions with a therapist (Registered Psychotherapists are generally cheaper than Psychologists, but, even then, cheap is relative), so look to see on their website if they offer a sliding scale for clients who are financially challenged. If you don’t see it listed it doesn’t mean that they don’t offer sliding scale, rather it might just be something they don’t advertise, that you may need to inquire about before your first session. I get the fact that some people find asking for things like this to be stressful. Consider it part of your growth.
  3. Therapists-in-training. Another option, for those who are looking either for the right fit or are concerned about the financial burden, is to check training institutes to see whether they have a program where therapists-in-training might be matched with prospective clients. Not everyone is keen on working with a therapist who doesn’t necessarily have all the practical experience in the world, however the price is often right. I’ll also note that, just because someone is in-training doesn’t mean they lack life experience, if you get my drift.
  4. Has your therapist ever been in therapy? I personally don’t understand how anyone can practice long or short-term psychotherapy without ever having been in psychotherapy themselves, and while the regulating college in Ontario encourages “safe and effective use of self” (or SEUS), there are still therapists seeing clients (Psychiatrists, Psychologists, and Registered Psychotherapists) who haven’t seen the inside of a therapist’s office that doesn’t have their name on it. So, when you’re shopping around, feel free to ask whether they have been in individual psychotherapy, either as part of their training or by personal choice (for the record, I have been in therapy in both contexts).



I don’t know how or when I got into ambient music. I can tell you there have been a few seminal contributors: classical music, movie soundtracks, minimalist and so-called world music composers, and the more spacious actors in pop/rock music.

Let’s start with a sort-of definition of ambient music, and I will begin by saying that I have no formal education in this realm. Ambient music is typically experimental and tends toward spaciousness and a lack of traditional (Western) song structure; it has its roots in the likes of 20th century composers such as John Cage, as well, during its development, contributions from traditional music from India and Japan, as well as from jazz. It can be a formless and electronic haze, or it could be all about exacting pattern and repetition using traditional instrumentation. There is also often a sense of the tactile. I will include some examples toward the end of this piece to begin to provide some context. At the end of the day, what is and isn’t strictly termed “ambient” is often more a question of the composer’s intent. You will just as likely see genre labels such as “minimalist,” “drone,” and “experimental” instead, as the term “ambient” can be a sort of kludge.

As a primary influence on me, classical music is a no-brainer, and like a lot of kids who grew up at the time I did, we were treated (or as I like to say, inculcated) to classical music through Bugs Bunny and Disney cartoons. As an adult I love the flourish and bombast of Shostakovich and Borodin, and the aching lyricism of Vivaldi and Bach. However, there is something undeniably mesmerizing about a brief section of Act II of Wagner’s opera Siegfried, where, through gorgeous use of instrumentation and dynamics we are surrounded by the quiet stirrings of nature — it surrounds the listener and one has no choice but to surrender to its formlessness. This formlessness is not something we often associate with something so strictly structured as classical* music.

the cover of Twine, an album by Taylor Deupree and Marcus Fischer. This image shows 1/4" audio tape loops hanging from the top of the frame.

As a movie buff, it makes perfect sense, given my exposure to classical music as a child, that movie soundtracks would inspire my appreciation of ambient music. Even in an epic space opera such as The Emperor Strikes Back there are many moments — particularly the suspenseful, quiet bits — where John Williams draws from classical roots, but of course, in order to create mood and retain timbre, sections end up as long stretches of almost abstract-sounding composition. Another perfect example would be the use of György Ligeti’s Lux Aeterna in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey during the monolith scenes. Funny how sci-fi tends toward this direction.

A movie and a soundtrack that shook my foundations as a teenager was Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi. While the imagery was both disturbing and inventive, it was my introduction to Philip Glass’ minimalist composition that entranced me. Its mantric dedication to repetition using an orchestral ensemble and use of church organ and choir during its more climactic parts was catnip to this kid. When, a year or so later after seeing this, I discovered that Glass had collaborated on an album with Ravi Shankar (1990’s Passages) I couldn’t resist picking up a copy at a classical/jazz record shop near where I worked as a photolab technician. It was love at first listen; while some might’ve thought that the two were at odds with each other — one an avant-garde composer, the other an Indian classicist — their collaboration (each took turns orchestrating the other’s compositions) was a major influence on me.

To save space here, I will briefly name three other significant musical influences: David Sylvian, Talk Talk, and Miles Davis. Sylvian’s Japan reunion of-sorts, Rain Tree Crow, only put out one album but it was a low-key combination of rock/jazz/experimental soundscapes with African rhythms that has had a lasting influence on how I decided to listen to music. Talk Talk’s last two albums — Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock — are rightly hailed as experimental masterpieces of pop-meets-improv jazz however a single song deserves mention, from their comparatively more formal pop album The Colour of Spring: April 5th. You can see where they were going with only that one song (and the album is wonderful as it is). Lastly, discovering Miles Davis’ album In A Silent Way was another key piece in my ad hoc self-education: the tactile nature of the instrumentation has been hugely influential on composers of all genres since then (and you can hear a motif from this album used on Taylor Deupree and Marcus Fischer’s Twine).

Over the last seven or more years, I’ve become deeply involved with ambient/experimental works by composers such as Stephan Mathieu (who not only composes but masters others’ work at his studio) , Deupree (who established the influential ambient label 12K), and France Jobin, as well as those, like Ryuichi Sakamoto and Christian Fennesz, who dip in and out of the ambient genre.

In an age where we are bombarded with divisive and interruptive dialogs encouraging us to be outraged at every turn (not to mention the very real aspects of society that are worth our outrage, if only we had the time and energy to devote to them while being able to support ourselves financially), experimental ambient music allows me — on a good day — to reset my thoughts and tune into a more free-form sonic world. Ambient is not pablum. Ambient is not “new age music.” If anything ambient has been about transcending the boundaries of “instrument” and “technology”, something all genres of music have attempted at one time or another; hip-hop does this particularly well.

Here are some examples that have been influential for me:

Radioland, by Stephan Mathieu:

Perpetual, by Ruyuichi Sakamoto / Illuha / Taylor Deupree:

Duo, by France Jobin + Richard Chartier:

~~~, anna roxanne:

Arrow, by Richard Youngs:

Tracing Back The Radiance, by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma:

Allister Thompson hosted a blog, Make Your Own Taste, that contains a lot of ambient artists and contextual information on the genre. You would do well to visit if this is your thing.

*note: I use the term “classical” generically; technically I prefer the Baroque and Romantic periods best, truth be told.


Hello, world (2019 version)

For all intents and purposes, I abandoned this blog. Not willingly or intentionally. To be honest, I didn’t (and still somewhat don’t) know what to do with it. You see, it contains a lot of crap; this is what happens with any blog over time: you change, the world changes, your knowledge/opinions develop. You end up with a blog where you squint at parts, hoping nobody looks too closely at the early stuff. I’ve been doing this since 2006, so cut me some slack.

I’m here to say that I’m back. I just don’t know what form this is going to take. You see, at some points this blog has been philosophically driven, psychologically driven, artistically driven…and I always feel bad when I change the mandate.

Why can’t you be more consistent? Does that question sound familiar? For those of us who are outliers (not by choice but by design), there is a great deal of downward pressure on us by society to fit the fuck in. Because if you’re not consistent then you’re difficult, and difficult means people have to spend more time than they anticipated trying to figure you out. People who are difficult or inconsistent typically find themselves struggling to figure themselves out — why the hell am I taking a path that only makes things harder for me socially?

Often, there’s no choice. Because being consistent typically means disregarding complexity, and if you have an innate appreciation for complexity then this is going to be a problem. And so, getting back to this blog, I’m not going to sweat the inconsistencies. I’m not going to pretend to stand by everything I wrote in 2012 or 2009 — this is why most posthumous memoirs shouldn’t be published: if the author had an opportunity, they would probably throw them into a fireplace for fear of looking like an asshole/monster. Thankfully, I don’t think I come across that badly.

Kerry Clare has some interesting points to make about returning to blogging. For me, I can relate to wanting to shift away from the disposability of social media. Particularly as I’m wrapping up work on my next novel, I think I have time for this.

I hope you’ll stick around.


New Author Site

Hello all. In order to promote my upcoming book and to (eventually) be a hub for promoting any published works I do between now and then, I thought it best to have a standalone author site created: This task was handily undertaken by Ingrid Paulson, and it looks great.

Eventually I will start adding pages to the site, to flesh it out (so that it is more than just a page, but an actual “site”).

The question currently stands: what will happen to this here blog? I’m not sure. The more I focus on writing gigs, the less time I have for blogging, and yet – paradoxically – I have more things to blog about because potentially I have more gigs. In other words, there is still a need for the blog, so imagitude will stay where it is and perhaps be linked-to from the author site at some point.


Kensington Market Essay in BlogTO

For those who don’t live in Toronto, there’s been a lot of discussion about my neighbourhood, Kensington Market, in the news. Much of it is about preservation vs development. I offered to write an op/ed for BlogTO and they published it today. I’m quite pleased that they kept the essay intact (you never know what an editor’s going to do sometimes). You can read it here.

It feels good to work on my non-fiction chops, and even better when something gets published.



I’ve been terribly busy for the last three years: work, school, new career, new work. No complaints except that my non-academic writing has suffered considerably. I believe I’ve only squeezed out one, maybe two short stories during this time. Of course, the bevy of my attention was on revising my novel (and whatever energy I had left was spent on the subsequent one).

With respect to this here blog, I’ve been unapologetically negligent. I’ve had no choice. Blogging’s great, but it’s the odd man out when it has to compete for creativity-expenditure with other areas. For one thing, it doesn’t pay. Another drag on its sail is the competition that social media plays. Between posting stuff on Facebook and Twitter (between which I don’t consider myself a fanatic contributor), little is left for blogging and I think there’s a problem with that.

Twitter ends up being a Post-It Note for ideas which never get developed. You tell yourself: if I just jot this idea down I can come back to it later. The problem with this otherwise workable concept is that in Twitter-land what you post takes the form of its own singular effort – it’s a public communication unto itself which fulfills a basic function which makes me, the author, forget about what it was I was hoping to say (or develop the idea of) later.

And Facebook is just a mess of “seen this” and “done that”.

And so I come back to blogging, for now, to say firstly that I’m still here. Secondly, to say that I feel there is room for this format, out-dated and seemingly formal compared to Tumblr, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Soon (I think) I will be able to get back to saying things of note and interest.


My Psychotherapy Blog

As some of you (now more of you) know, I recently began a practice as a psychotherapist. I have a website, which gets a fair bit of traffic (allowing that summer is a traditionally slow time of the year), but recently I added an adjunctive blog.

The purpose was to get more of me out there, rather than have people rely on their preconceptions of what a psychotherapist is/does just by staring at my business card. I figured it would help both me and potential clients (including curious onlookers) deal up-front with questions that often go unasked yet which people would like answered.

For example: Do I need to know what’s wrong with me in order to see a therapist? Will I lose my creativity if I see one?

These are some of the things people ask, sometimes in passing, sometimes directly to me. I was inspired to address them, if only so that I could clarify the process of therapy.

That said, it’s a challenge. Unlike this space where I can tear away at preconceptions without concern for who I may be offending, I have to alter the timbre of my voice when blogging for the benefit of those who may be potential clients – it’s not always cut and dry. I ran into this recently with a post I wrote about men and how men tend to have preconceptions about psychotherapy (and how some of this may have to do with the language/imagery predominant in the latest barrage of public service announcements). My partner brought to my attention that what I’d wrote (and published) was in fact meant for this blog, not the one I originally thought it was intended for. So…I went back and changed the voice, as if I were revising a short story.

The lesson? Know your audience. People curious about psychotherapy don’t need to read hard-hitting op/ed-style commentary – the challenge was to go back and revise what I’d done so that, rather than focusing on a political critique of the way society isolates men from seeking help and agitating for personal growth, I retreated/reverted/went back to the more digestible core point of therapy is good for men, too.

Perhaps I will post both versions here to demonstrate how I revised it. In any case, feel free to visit the other blog (and tell your friends).


TIFF a-hoy!

Looks like the film I worked on earlier this year, Keyhole, will have its world premiere in Toronto this September @ TIFF. Some press here.

For those new to this site, I have had a parallel journal chronicling the film, called Guy Maddin’s Keyhole: A Post Production Diary, which I wrote in tandem with my work on the project.

Needless to say that I’m very happy to have another film premiering at TIFF, and I hope that it is well-received. Keyhole is a challenging film, even for fans of Guy Maddin’s work, yet I think it’s perhaps his most personal and – in that regard – bravest work to date.




In the attempt to import 400+ pages from Blogger to here (via WordPress), there were several (try over 75) pages whose subject-tags were not properly imported. They became auto-assigned to “Uncategorized”. So, I’ve spent time each day re-categorizing them. They were mostly older posts – a lot from when I started in 2006. That was <checks watch> over five years ago.

The difference between blogging and writing fiction is that with a blog you’re not supposed to correct or revise things past a certain freshness date. It’s a journal: you don’t screw with it. The past is ultimately the past, and if you look like a moron in the past then, perhaps, that’s you being a moron in the past. Contrarily, with fiction, there is no straight jacket: when you look at past writings your lithe reflexes unravel a cloth roll of surgeon’s tools, all necessary for cutting and cleaning what you’ve written, regardless of how brilliant or not brilliant your ideas.

Thus with fiction, sensitivity to the whole is greater than the brilliance of the individual turn of phrase. With blogging, respect for The Record supersedes the ego: you must be careful not to disturb The Record.

And so I unearth and renovate quietly. I open the “Uncategorized”, scan them to make sense of how I should properly re-categorize them. Some I want to delete. Some I do delete (two posts: trust me, they were stupid). Others I begrudgingly leave. Renovation inevitably exposes weaknesses: of thought, of argument. It also lays bare ideas and passions you’d put aside in favour of other pursuits, but which you read today with fascination as if someone else had written them. This is the good thing about writing – fiction, poetry, magazine articles, blogging – no matter what your focus is, if you do it long enough you inevitably have something with which to reflect upon.