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What's a Big Day?

To knock off anything ambitious you generally need two things: unbroken time and sustained focus. But nobody has the first, and we’ve lost the muscle for the second. The solution – one solution, my solution – is Big Days. I’m suggesting you carve out one 24-hour block of time per month and devote it to a single task. When you clock back into your life the next day you’ll have put something significant in the books – be it soul work or work work. And no one will even know you’ve been gone.

One Big Days

Brian Doyle Day

Since we last spoke, I’ve tried angel dust. Or whatever it is that Brian Doyle sprinkled into his short essays about the natural world. I’m late to the party on this writer, who died of brain cancer in 2017 at age 60. My initiation came this past weekend. I’d stumbled on his hummingbird story while,…

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Sight Singing for Dummies

The best answer I’ve heard to the question “What is one skill we should all learn in quarantine?” was this from the writer Jia Tolentino: How to make someone feel loved from a distance. But here’s a pretty close second: singing. Yes! Who wasn’t inspired by all the Italians belting it out from their apartment…

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Back-Pocket Day

“I thought I was a hoarder. Turns out I’m a prepper.” That New Yorker cartoon captures the spirit of the last three months. Everybody holed up, thinking long thoughts, mentally bracing for what might be coming — while at the same time rueing that we didn’t snap into prep mode sooner. (It’s not like we…

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Stuck in the Airport

Edited Jan 14, 2020 On August 28, 1998, Merhan Nasseri’s plane touched down at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, and the Iranian refugee strode into Terminal One. In the departure lounge he found a seat. And there he remained until July of 2006, when he took ill and had to be hospitalized. For 18 years,…

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Make a Killer Halloween Costume

Halloween is like Ocean’s 11: You’re in you’re out, right now. “Half-in” doesn’t really fly. Like wearing sweatpants in public, making a lame last-minute costume broadcasts a depressing lack of both imagination and initiative. Why bother? On the other hand, we’ve all had the experience of going all-in on a great costume that ended up…

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The 10,000 Steps of Leopold Bloom

Lisa Simpson: “Oh, it must be Bloomsday. Every June 16, lovers of James Joyce follow the route traveled by Leopold Bloom in the novel Ulysses.” Bart Simpson: “What you’re saying is, we’ve run out of fun things to do.” … Even if the Irish family vacation planned by that other Homer, the dim one, failed…

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In ‘N Out Surgery

“Count backwards from ten…” The Uber driver rolled to a stop at the co-ordinates he’d been given. It was a strip mall in the Maples district, a subdivision in the north end of Winnipeg, Manitoba. A realtor might charitably describe the neighbourhood as “emerging.” Wait, thought Ron Robinson. Can this be right? He and his…

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Construct a Perfect Day

Is such a thing even possible? Lou Reed thought so, though sinking into a heroin fog probably isn’t the soundest strategy for long-term fulfillment – or even short-term happiness, if remembering what you were happy about is part of the deal. Not long ago, Melbourne-based writer Madeleine Dore wondered if you could construct a Perfect Day by…

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Raise a Ruckus

Certain unwritten rules have governed the Internet. One of them — which the Obama administration actually made a written rule – is Net Neutrality. It means that the Internet should be free. Everyone should have equal access. Think of the Internet as a public good, like clean water. The faucet is your web browser. What…

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Apply for a Grant

Thunk! Her final arrow pierced the foam target across the gym, and my 11-year-old daughter smiled the smile of the just. Then she thanked the member of the local archery club who’d been giving her instruction. This was the end of her free lessons. It was time to join the club. I didn’t know how…

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Assemble a Barbecue

One Saturday morning not long ago, I popped down to Canadian Tire to buy a barbecue. There they all were, out on the floor, in their gleaming stainless steel hoods. I found one that looked pretty good. The cooking surface was huge – like the deck of an aircraft carrier. And the price was right. I thought,…

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Be a Movie Extra

There are a lot of rabid fans of The X Files. They’re probably called X-Files-philes. Jill Gardiner isn’t one of them. Okay, she wouldn’t kick David Duchovny off the pick-up soccer team for removing his shirt. But neither the show nor its star was the big draw on this particular day in September. Jill was…

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Harry Potter Marathon

Imagine you entered a pie-eating contest where each pie is richer and more delicious than the previous one. The last pie is baked by Julia Child. Trouble is, at that point you can’t appreciate the subtleties of the crust. You’re just trying to keep the thing down. This seemed to be what the girls and…

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Ride the Nearest Bone-Rattler

Sometimes we all need a good shakeup. You might argue that life itself does that job quite well on a regular basis, thanks very much. So let’s try again: Sometimes what we need is a controlled shakeup – one we know is coming, can prepare for, and be certain the whole deal will be over…

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Create Your Own “Fearless Challenge”

photo: Ryan Pfeiffer/Metroland THE CHALLENGE If you’d asked Franco Scanga five years ago what his number one fear was, he’d have given you the number one answer: speaking in front of strangers. But that was before he watched his father get cancer for the third time. It was a terrifying ordeal, one that put his…

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Read Your First Real Novel

Nine-year-old Lila hadn’t planned to blitz through her first actual, no-pictures novel in a single day. It just kind of happened. It was where it happened that proved a bit awkward. Late July. Thetis Island  — a stupefyingly tranquil haven in the British Columbia’s Gulf Islands. A perfect place to read. Except that, when you’ve…

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One-Room Makeover

  The mission: transform a bedroom from a disaster zone to a handsome and ridiculously functional teen cave. The plan: A three-stage process. First, the purge. Then the deep clean. And finally, as Alex Trebek used to tell Jeopardy contestants who crashed to zero, we “start building.” New paint, new furnishings, new mojo. The reveal…

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Wish Your Country a Happy Birthday

As Americans celebrate their country’s 241st birthday today, in Canada we’re still mopping the streets from our own shindig three days ago. This one meant a lot because it was a big round number. We turned 150. Some of us aren’t likely to be above ground come the bicentennial, so this was definitely the year…

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Stage a Marathon Jam Session

They knew it was a big bite — as big as the bacon-and-egg breakfasts they were enjoying in a London pub as they hatched the plan five years ago. But then, big bites are the whole point of fundraisers — as the three friends well understood. “We wanted the project to be mad in its…

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Be an Art Pilgrim: A Day at The Lightning Field

As I watched the caretaker’s truck disappear in a cloud of dust, headed back to the nearest town — Quemado, New Mexico — it dawned on me that there was a certain amount of blind trust involved here. Watch out for rattlesnakes, she’d warned. Eat the food in the fridge, sleep in whichever bed you…

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One Big Day Journal

Day Trip into the Abyss

BBC photo “I really feel like in one day I’ve been to another planet and come back.” It was noon on March 26, 2012, and the film director James Cameron had surfaced in the Western Pacific ocean. Blinking in the sun, he looked like, well, a man who’d just been as far down as down…

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The Rocket’s Second Shift

When he showed up at the Montreal Forum an hour before puck drop that night, three days after Christmas in 1944, Maurice Richard told coach Dick Irvin not to expect much of a game from him. He was pooped. “Pooped?” Irvin inquired. “How do you mean, pooped?” Richard explained that it was moving day. He’d…

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Dolly Parton’s Big Songwriting Day

At some point, if we’re lucky, Hrishikesh Hirway will devote an episode of his new Netflix series Song Exploder to getting to the heart of what really happened that day in 1973 when Dolly Parton caught lightning in a bottle twice. He’ll get her sitting alone — she always writes alone – in a chair…

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The Triumphant Day of Fernando Pessoa

On March 8, 1914, in Lisbon, Portugal, “I found myself standing before a tall chest of drawers, took up a piece of paper, began to write, remaining upright all the while since I always stand when I can. I wrote thirty some poems in a row, all in a kind of ecstasy, the nature of…

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King Lear Can Wait

The guilt-trip phase of this lockdown is mercifully over. Remember about six weeks ago when people seized on the idea that this is actually an opportunity for creative types? That we all could — should — be super-productive with the oceans of time that have opened up? The backlash was swift. “It’s tough enough to…

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