What Was There When I Stopped Looking for Signs


When I was online dating, I was looking for all the signs.

We were both born in August!
His profile picture has a dog in it!
She emailed me on a Monday — I love Mondays!

I was looking for signals that this was right, because I thought that a good relationship was one where everything felt right. I didn’t think that love was a choice I could make. I thought it would be a summer rain shower I would suddenly be engulfed in, confounded and dizzy.

It was the same when we were looking for a studio for Firefly. I would fall in love with a certain address, with a street with the same name as my dead aunt, a door with a beautiful knocker, a landlord who was a writer. I looked for resonance, a gut feeling that said yes. There were MANY of those, but none of them worked out.

It turns out that none of it mattered. The person I would fall deeply (slowly, fearfully, awkwardly) in love with would be one who didn’t really stand out at first. Who wasn’t born in August. Who didn’t write me on a Monday. I chose to love him. And I continue to make that choice, every morning, every day.

And, the studio we found was 1898 Danforth Ave, as uninspired of an address as possible, with a property manager who didn’t give a shit about Firefly, just wanted us to pay our bills on time.

I feel wildly fortunate to have these loves — Ian and 1898 Danforth — but they’re no thanks to my sensitive psychic antenna. They’re here because I worked hard, I pried my stubborn, sensitive heart open again and again, and got lucky.

But can you blame me for trying?

When something matters deeply, we call our whole selves into the search. The trouble comes when we require life to bring us signals and signs along with the gifts it’s shoring up. The beautiful studio and the dead Aunt’s name and the email on the Monday.

Writers — I’m talking to you. Writing matters deeply. So it’s so easy to fall into thinking that we need everything to be just right in order to do it. Most of us labour under the idea that “real” writing comes in swells of flowing inspiration, impossible to ignore, that “real” writers sit down and their stories expand around them easily like their own secret landscapes, just waiting.

Or, we just think that we can get there, but the snow has to be shovelled first, the emails answered, the cereal boxes off the counter. Lined up. Smallest to largest.

We’re waiting for the moment when our creative energy gets so intense that it lassos us out of the chaos of distractions like the helpless calf that we are and draws us in against our will.

To be clear though — you are not a helpless calf.

You can just choose to do it.

And actually, as a physical practice, writing is very ordinary. It’s something we say yes or no to every day. And it’s something we can keep saying yes or no to, along with the shovelling, along with the Instagrams, along with of all the other ka-jillion demands and distractions.

And that, my friend, is the hard part.

It’s hard to choose to do something that no one might notice.
It’s hard to choose to do something that may not make money.
It’s hard to choose to do something that’s just for us.

But hard is fine. To be clear, my life would be a lot simpler if I didn’t have these 850 square feet of commercial space to manage and I was dating whoever I felt like from day to day. But simple isn’t what I’m striving for. Creation, effort, devotion, production — that’s what creative energy is for. And it almost never comes without struggle.

When the summer showers of inspiration drench us suddenly (and yes, it does happen sometimes, and Oh My Stars those times are good), it’s easy to say yes. But for every one of those writing sessions, there will be three to sixty more that look a lot more like a date with a hard chair, while all those other life demands wave invisible pom poms in front of our eyes, trying to get our attention.

In my experience, it never gets easy, but it gets easier. To get all biblical for a sec — writing begets writing. The more we choose, the more the choice comes naturally. I look around on Fridays at the group who is gathered at the studio for quiet writing time and my soul swells. They didn’t show up because they’re so immersed in their project that they can’t possibly turn away, they showed up because they said they would. Because they’re saying yes to it. And so they sit, and they look for the words that can pull them back in, and with patience and open-heartedness, they find their way back there. And by the end, they’re glowing.

I guess the point is — there’s company in the struggle. And it’s pretty beautiful in there. Despite the pom poms of distraction, despite the self-doubt, there is so much sweetness when we towards it fully and say yes.

Chris Fraser