Reflective Practice

I cringed a little writing that title – “reflective practice” is one of those buzz words that cropped up when I was in teacher’s college and has never quite left me alone. Not that looking back on what you’ve done and how it can be reworked is a bad thing – it’s essential to teaching (and life, really). I’m just allergic to buzzwords. Kind of like being allergic to bullshit.

But I digress. The reason I’m thinking reflective practice is because I drove down to Kingston on the 15th for Homecoming at Queen’s University, to mark five years since I finished my undergrad. I’ve been to Kingston a lot since I graduated, but really taking the time to walk around campus was a little surreal. I’m not old by any means, but I’m definitely older than the students who were spilling out of house parties, dying themselves purple and stumbling downtown. Actually, since I was never really into that scene, maybe I was always older than that – to quote Pavel Chekhov in Generations, “I vas never that young.”

While I was down there I had the pleasure of briefly attending an event for the Creative Writing program, hosted by my longtime mentor Carolyn Smart. That in turn got me thinking about how I started as writer: attending Carolyn’s critique-group-style courses and working with my (soon-to-be) other mentor, Stuart Ross, to start developing my craft. One of my first publications in a chapbook anthology put together by Stuart was incredible on its own, but the real treat was getting to read at the anthology’s launch. And I even still have a memento from the night:

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It’s hard to really remember the attitude I had toward writing back then. I wrote a few short stories at Queen’s that were eventually published, including “Remembrance,” which is my only On Spec credit so far. But I remember telling my partner at the time, shortly after moving to Ottawa, that I never expected writing to be more than a hobby. A few more published stories didn’t really change that mindset. Call it imposter syndrome, but for a long time I thought of myself as a teacher who dabbled in writing.

The guy five years ago, just starting teacher’s college, could never have imagined the place I’m in now. Twenty-three published short stories (not including reprints). Multiple chapbook releases that have actually made money. Involvement in a massive publishing venture (TEGG), in which I already have two short stories slated. Part of the programming team for a major Canadian writing conference. Contributing blogger for Black Gate. Four honorable mentions from Writers of the Future, one of which was a semi-finalist spot. And the knowledge that this is only the beginning.

This sort of reflection makes me incredibly grateful, since I’m already living the sort of dream that me five years ago couldn’t quite fathom. I was chatting with a good friend of mine the other day about what it means to be a “professional” creative person, and one of the key things for me is taking advantage of the opportunities that come your way to advance yourself, both creatively and professionally. I like to think that’s what I’ve done so far. The exciting part is to wait and see what happens next 🙂

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