Sunday, October 24, 2010


I haven't shared a youtube clip in my blog before because I've always wanted to focus on my own creativity here, but I couldn't help but pass this one up!

Here is Gordon Pinsent, an 80 year-old Canadian actor very well respected in Canada performing on popular Canadian satirical news show "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" a dramatic reading of Justin Bieber's autobiography.

This clip made me somewhat sad for youth -- the content Pinsent reads, I mean. Since when does this count for a memoir?! But it makes me think... I was a pre-teen once. A teenager too. I remember reading biographies and autobiographies of my favourite artists like the Spice Girls, Hanson and yes... Enrique Iglesias. Iglesias's was especially interesting because it described his love for fast food... McDonald's chicken McNuggets I believe. I can't check that fact as I don't have the book on hand for some reason...

I must point out that Pinsent was reading from Bieber's memoir (meaning written by Bieber) while the literary gems I just mentioned were mostly unofficial and written by other people.

But don't worry, in Grade 10 academic (university prep) English I found literature I really enjoyed, much of which I read in school: "To Kill A Mockingbird," "Diary of Anne Frank," etc. I also really enjoyed Romeo and Juliet, much to my surprise, as after elementary school I was put into Special Ed. English (no Shakespeare in this or in the "Applied" college prep English), and other low-level courses mostly because of my learning disability.

It turned out my skills in some areas were more advanced than many (including I) thought they would be, so in the summer I filled out these homework books that would allow me to transfer from Grade 9 special-ed English into Grade 10 "Academic" and Grade 9 "Applied" Science into Grade 10 "Academic" science. I did well in Grade 10. I even auditioned for a role in my school's Shakespearean production and got the role of Puck in a scene from "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Two years later my school did a full production in which I starred as Bottom. For those unfamiliar with the play, Puck and Bottom are its most eccentric characters. Each of them set most of the story in motion and tie together the various plot lines.

I was grateful for the more advanced studies in English (science wasn't my thing, although in grade 9 and 10 I did well.) I also took "Academic" History and other "Academic" courses in Grade 10 that I hadn't needed to complete transfer materials to get into. Not only did these courses expose me to a lot of great literature, but they required me to write quite a bit. This, of course, was a skill I was happy to develop.

I had wanted to be a journalist since about Grade 8. That was my choice of study for university, so to improve my portfolio and dress up my resume, in Grade 12 I did some work on the school paper and also took co-op at my community newspaper. My grades weren't very good, so I only got into one of the three university programs I had applied for, but that was fine with me because it had just the title I wanted: "Professional Writing."

Finally! No more classes I didn't like. Just reading and writing, studying with colleagues and professors who were also writers. It was my dream! Even though I didn't do well in my first year of classes, I was still so happy to be reading great things, watching great lectures and experimenting with new types of writing. Also, I was finally out on my own: I was taking public transit every day (which I hadn't previously ever done by myself) and I was going to a different campus than my twin sister, so I had to learn to forge friendships without her!

Despite my mediocre grades, by the end of my first year I felt like I'd learned so much. My greatest lesson? Don't force profundity! I learned other stuff I can't remember, but the point is that my writing really improved. I was so excited to see how my writing would improve in the following years at university. I was sure when I finally got my degree I would feel I was a "Professional" writer.

By my third of five years, I knew "Professional Writing" wasn't enough to make me the writer I wanted to be. I believed then and still do that the only way to become a better writer is by reading and writing. This made me jaded because by this point I felt I hadn't needed my fancy program to be a writer. It was just a crutch. Anyway, I knew my ticket to more advanced writing skills was more advanced knowledge and research skills. I had already completed the main class required for the "Health and Society" program that I was really interested in as part of my social studies requirement. Researching and writing in those classes didn't seem to help with my writing, perhaps because the style of writing and research was more academic than journalistic, but it certainly helped me develop my opinions and become more socially aware, both qualities that are often important in writers.

For a few years now I've been very confident in my writing skills. I only graduated university a year and a few months ago. It was fun to write my Health and Society assignments knowing that I didn't necessarily care if I wasn't proud of a particular assignment as long as I got at least a B, hated the assignment and it didn't represent something that I would write professionally.

By my last two years of Professional Writing courses, many of my assignments were journalistic in style, as I had chosen the "Periodical" stream of my program. I enjoyed many of them, but didn't really feel like I was becoming a journalist. Why? While they offered much inspiration in the way of lectures, discussions and readings, my professors
little direction on assignments. Most of my professors gave us completely free range: "Choose a topic; research a topic; write a topic" was the basic formula of most. I could have done that completely on my own.

I really resented this lack of direction in the second half of my university career, but then I thought: how else could they have taught me? I certainly wouldn't have wanted a lot of direction as that would entail a formulaic writing style and lots of hand-holding. Also, remember that for years I have firmly believed that reading and writing are the only way to become a writer. What other way is there to teach writing? Nothing, if you ask me. Writing can't be taught.

I became a better writer because I practiced and I matured. I experienced. My university experience inspired my writing. Isn't this blog entry the greatest evidence of that?


  1. In answer to your question, I have to say "yes!"
    I have about as much interest in hearing about Justin B's life history as he has in reading about mine.

  2. You are an excellent writer!


  3. I have read your last few posts and they are so well written – you are good at writing. Sorry, cannot comment more as the tornado siren just started – the wind is blowing like crazy – I hope it will soon pass.

  4. Joe - I'm sorry! I forgot to thank you for saying you hoped I was feeling well. I'm not, mostly with pain and fatigue... I think I'll write a post about it. Yes, Bieber's history doesn't interest me either, but maybe it would if I found him talented and likable. He SHOULD find your life history interesting! I always enjoy your posts on your past jobs!

    Jane - Aw, thanks doll. You always make me blush.

    Vagabonde - It's so nice to see you again! Your compliments are so thoughtful and kind. Thank you! Your tornado siren concerns me. I hope everything went okay. Must be so traumatizing. No need to apologize!