Really, what’s in a name?

Photo by Angela Roma on

Names are not important. It’s what lies inside of you that matters

Sarah J. Maas

Confronted by a blank white screen during this morning’s writing practice and finding myself equally as blank, I flipped through a notebook looking for ideas. Anything to get words out of my head and onto the page would suffice. I found an exercise that I thought looked interesting although its genesis uncertain but it seemed likely to be short so I decided to give it a try.

Here’s what it was: To start, use a web search to look at the origin and meaning of your name. Consider if your research fits with your sense of self, your identity, values and beliefs. Does it reveal context around the time of your birth? Would another name work better? If so, how would those around you react to this change.

I landed on the web-site, and placed my given name in the search bar. Intrigued, I scrolled through the results, taking in the origin of my name – Germanic noted to have a Spanish equivalency. Meaning words: flexible, soft, mild, beautiful. Then I moved into the coloured graphs that indicate the popularity of the name, the decades when it was used most often. Listings displayed were indicated by countries in the world where the name was used most frequently then tapering off as the name began to wane in popularity.

I could see that my name’s use was popular at one point in time and then fell off rather abruptly right around the time I was born. A tab with ratings on a myriad of characteristics showed me that my name is classic, wholesome. A comments section led me down a rabbit hole of a wide range of opinions about the name and people who like or dislike it. And finally, a tab for a section titled, namesakes, which contains a comprehensive listing of popular people and fictional characters in literature, movies, etc that share my name.

Interesting but reflecting on whether or not my name fits best with my sense of self and identity seems like a question best not asked. I can’t imagine not having the name I was given. And really the descriptors used on this web-site were generic rather like a syndicated horoscope in the daily newspaper. A person’s sense of self includes recognition of your name but there are so many complicated aspects of who we believe we are.

But curious about the meaning of names, I began looking up names of my family members and close friends. Some aspects of the meaning of names fit people in my life like a tailored suit and others seemed more generic like a one size fits all type of thing. I’m not certain there was anyone who should have a different name other than the one they already possess.

But learning more about the context of names in addition to the origins and meaning provides a window into determining what to name characters when writing fiction. Thinking about amplifying aspects of the person you are writing about can be a complex and nebulous effort. Landing on a tool to narrow and sharpen your lens through a focus on the origins and meaning of name could be helpful.

And this simplistic exercise did what I initially wanted it to do. It provided a quick kickstart to this morning’s writing practice and a possible strategy for naming fictional characters. As for the rest of it, my sense of self remains intact and I can’t imagine having any other name than what I was given at birth. But the joy in writing is the opportunity to play with alternate realities and to feel those creative sparks!

Stay healthy and safe!

Fallow time in creative life

Photo L Meyer

There’s something to be said for the quiet state of dormancy where little apparently happens

Bonnie Tsui

Creativity as a process is often a concept we take for granted. Either we have it or we don’t. And for those of us living a creative life as writers, artists, musicians, performers, and so on, those moments in our lives where we struggle to produce something, anything actually, become those times when we experience pain in a visceral way.

But just as in nature, there are cycles to creativity. Those times when we are not able to accomplish what we believe that we should, signal to us that it is likely time to step back and celebrate a change in focus to one of restoration and rejuvenation. Dr. Shelley Carson at Harvard University suggests that the creative brain is comprised of seven differing states. Learning more about how our creative process needs to unfold may be helpful at leading us to become more, rather than less productive, even if it seems that we are not doing anything.

Taking time to rest, to lay fallow, or to recognize when our brains are moving into what Dr. Carson has called an “absorb state” can be powerful. And a bit of a relief.

Knowing that it is okay to be quiet with our thoughts, to leave our projects alone for a period of time, to pay attention to the world around us simply taking it in can be a freeing experience. And by honouring the way our neurological needs should be met, the creative payoff in the long run is a welcome life lesson.

For me, there is something about the time when the leaves turn yellow and our garden beds are put to rest that I now recognize tells me that I need a bit of a breather. Long walks, free writing, playing with photography all combine into what I hope is a type of creative “vacation”. Rather than give in to anxiety about what I am or am not creating right now, this year I am hoping to nourish and prepare my brain for the writing work I hope to accomplish during the winter months.

Happy fall – stay healthy and safe!

Busyness – life distractions and your writing life…

Photo by Iva Muu0161kiu0107 on

There simply isn’t enough time in the day. But is this actually true, or is this perception of a time famine, as it is often called, an illusion? Research shows that we often overestimate the amount of time we spend working. And the busier we think we are, the more we overestimate.

Timothy Caulfield

One of the more difficult aspects of establishing a writing practice is wrestling with the time paradox which could be described as being too distracted to actually get the work done. Putting your words on paper is a fairly critical piece of actually doing the work of writing. But how often do we allow our “busyness” to get in the way.

Writing coaches, how to get it done manuals, podcasts, etc. seem to have proliferated in the past few years. Edicts such as write for just ten minutes a day or write 500 words a day or set your intentions by having writing goals or to have a clear plan – there are so many pieces of advice for writers, it seems this need has created a cottage industry in and of itself.

It is a strange phenomenon that research shows the busier a person is or reports to be, the more status they have. “Busyness bragging” is a thing. How often have you asked someone how they are doing and they reply by sharing how busy they are? And for most of us it truly seems that we are way too busy. Studies show that the actual amount of time spent working is much less than we believe.

Why? There are so many things that grab our attention and distract us. Email, social media, texting, chat groups, scrolling through news feeds, reading newsletters about writing, and the usual aspects of life like family obligations, socializing, eating, exercising, sleeping…the list goes on.

And it does seem exhausting when our focus is directed on everything around us except the writing work we would like to be doing. Then, when we take the time to reflect on what we have been spending our time on, the most likely result is to “beat” ourselves up for not doing what we truly wish to be doing. So the path of least resistance is simply to say, I’ve been too busy to write.

Finding a path to establishing a process that will assist us in meeting our goals is likely not a one time thing. Being vigilant, finding your own personal motivation to accomplish what you want to requires both commitment as well as energy and effort. Finding people in your life who can support your goals and listen to you when you experience challenges, is critical.

Distractions will always be present in our lives. Perhaps the trick is just to acknowledge that those times exist, be okay and at peace with that, and then seek out ways to work around them and write.

Stay healthy and safe!

Fall, nature’s reset button…

Photo L Meyer

Is this not a true autumn day? Just the still melancholy that I love – that makes life and nature harmonize.

George Eliot

Weather extremes on the Canadian prairies mean that it is critical to take advantage of every opportunity that presents to seek solace in nature.

This year, in particular, it seems more urgent to escape the angry noise of the strange and unusual world around us.

Scaled back Thanksgiving celebrations again this year mean connections are abbreviated so simple pleasures have taken on heightened meaning.

Carving out time for reflection rather than turkey, simmering savoury soups with mature garden vegetables, and enjoying the crunch of leaves underfoot.

Perhaps the slowing and semi-isolation will give rise to new creative energies, appreciations for the things we take for granted, and time to pay attention to what is truly important in our lives.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Stay healthy and safe!