#FunnyFriday

So let’s be real. John is everywhere right now promoting his new book: Creativity: A Short and Cheerful Guide. Pick up a copy if you like. I will be reading and reviewing it shortly, but for now I will touch on some the ideas he has been tackling in his various talks, not just on the news but in other forms of entertainment.

That is essentially why I have had the privilege to speak with him and see him interviewed by others on topics such as creativity, psychology, and of course Monty Python, all topics near and dear to me. Still, while he is marketing himself, I am learning something and I can appreciate that.

Last night I watched an event where he was being interviewed by Judd Apatow. He addressed this issue of play but of course delved much deeper. Thankfully, he does touch on it in the clip above so you can hear it from the source.

It’s an important subject I think I/we should tackle in this blog, on the newsletter, in the group, etc. etc.

One of the things that struck me during his interview between two FAMOUS writers with long resumes (maybe not your cup of tea, but you have to give them that) is that they say the same words I have heard MANY “amateur/aspiring/what-have-you” writers say.

That most of the time what they write is crap, but they keep going until they get to something good.

Judd talked about his tendency to freewrite but then come back to the page later on to “fix” it. What he comes back to is usually a mountain of garbage with one “nugget” of good in it.

John talked about how he and Graham Chapman would write together all week, they would usually have something good by lunchtime Wednesday (because they put in the work Monday and Tuesday) and then that would be the best thing they wrote all week. Nothing good on Thursday and Friday, rinse, lather, repeat.

Think about that. What is your good to bad ratio and how do you account for it?

As a writer myself, I’ve felt… different about my writing lately. I know that while I am doing many fulfilling writer-like things, I am NOT by any stretch of the imagination putting is as much “play-time” as I have in the past or would like to. Why?

Well, while often focused on the business of writing, I am finding myself struggling with the same things I am trying to help others overcome.

  1. The lack of the motivation to write.
  2. The lack of creativity and ideas.
  3. Feeling stuck and unsure of how to keep going.

Even with all the coaching, experience, and learning too. And guess what?

THAT IS ALL PART OF BEING A WRITER

So what are the solutions?

  1. Acknowledge this fact and be nicer to yourself.
  2. Yes, you suck. Everyone sucks. Sometimes you are good, sometimes other people are good. Let go of the need for perfection!
  3. Get yourself back to that place when writing was fun and felt like play.

When John described to Judd how everyone deals with this in one way or another, he mentioned the hemispheres of the brain. While this concept has become rather hackneyed, there is still some psychological merit to it.

It isn’t simply that the left brain is all excel spreadsheets and the right brain is a joy ride, or that the two sides never work together. When we confront how it is more complex than that, we begin to understand why we have trouble “playing” creatively.

When we look at the functions of both sides of the brain, as writers we begin to see how we need both sides to write “well” or even think about writing at all.

We obviously need a strong use of written, analytical thought and language, and ahem, especially if we are right-handed. But we clearly need the right side too for our insight, intuition, creativity, and imagination.

John touched on the idea that even as creatives, society often embarrasses us into living in our left side and faults us when we try to find merit for the right.

As writers, I think our intellect is a huge part of our ego, and so we try to assert our intelligence more than we do play and have fun with our writing. Does that make sense? Am I making sense? Do I sound dumb to you?

You see where I am going with this…

And worse when we write for an audience and try to force them into the driver’s seat, we lose all agency to play as well.

Like if a child is playing house and Dad comes along and says, “You’re doing it wrong Timmy, you need to be thinking about your mortgage payment while you scramble your plastic eggs.” The child loses all agency and reality sets in.

I will part on this thought, take some of that time John described just once next week. It can be on a Friday, or any other day that feels more conducive.

I’m not saying abandon your family and responsibilities.

But think of this as nature calling. Your brain is calling you to let it play. You always have time for the other call. Make time for this one!

And let me know how it worked out.

#Funny Friday

Psst…you want to learn how to write when you aren’t writing?

What?

Anyway, a recap. If you are reading this it means that you know that my husband and I ride his motorcycle on and off, which is seriously awesome 10/10 recommend it…

But I mentioned that I write while I am on the bike.

What I really meant was that because we aren’t talking to each other while we ride I am able to let my mind crawl anywhere it likes.

No, I don’t have a pencil or journal in hand, I’m not hanging off the back with a laptop strapped to me, but I am writing. Because I recently redefined what it means to write.

And you’ll be happy to know that it’s writing you could be doing right now…

But back to the bike. Today, as I took in the scenery of our small town, on the wide open road as we barreled down it, I was thinking. And my thoughts were LOUD. They always are on the back of that bike.

I let my mind fill with ideas, thoughts, and words. I let myself explore my brain in all the different directions it will go creatively, and I am not bound by things like schedules and word count.

So many forget that this is as huge part of writing. And IMHO it’s the most important part. And the most fun.

People don’t let themselves play with words anymore. They have to quickly create something tangible and market it. Yes, that is important to the business of writing, but if your writing is all business, it’s not fun anymore, Jack!

And you find you have become “a dull boy”.

And really think about how annoyed the creative bones in your body get when they don’t get any exercise and you say, not now later, not now later, not now later, over and over and over again.

So let your mind wander. Do it now.

And let me know how it turned out.

#Funny Friday

This great talk for both Frasier fans and writers alike:

This week, Will and Kie discuss (and ‘narrate’) the email interview they conducted with one of Frasier’s most beloved writers: Joe Keenan. Discussing his favourite episodes, actors, and behind the scenes trivia, this mini-episode pulls the curtain back on the show we love. 

Writing Your Origin Story

So since I run this page, you will see bits and pieces about me throughout.

Sometimes I will go on and on… (it’s for your benefit, I swear) But other times I want to just gloss over stuff.

Today I will do both, maybe, and just give you a rundown (using myself a guinea pig) of how to start writing your origin story.

I’m big on the origin story. I think it’s important to know where we came from the find out where we are going. It’s important also to make a list of our accomplishments, so we have something to stand on when we feel small.

So, without further rambling, here we go…

I was born on a rainy fall day in the early 80’s.

25 years ago I was:

Living not far from where I live now. I was just starting Junior High school and was terrified of bullies.

But I had also just started writing out some of that angst and was turning those notebooks into something that would later become part of my first novel.

20 years ago I was:

A chatroom junkie. Starting my first year of college. I was working at a radio station, taking creative writing, journalism and communications classes. I wasn’t motivated to get good grades (yet) and I had just started a job as a barista and met someone at that job who is still my best friend. I was making plans to move to California.

15 years ago I was:

Living on a mountain in San Diego with a bunch of crazy people. Experiencing daily culture shock. Buying my first car. My first semester at Cal State San Marcos after taking a gap year to get residency, I was introduced to teaching and started a teaching job for first year comp students and women’s studies minors. I was also writing volumes of poetry in secret.

10 years ago I was:

Married. Living back in my hometown (in Pennsylvania). On my third go around with college but much more serious about life. Deadly serious about everything and honestly not having a very good time. Working full-time and recuperating from a chronic illness. Not the happiest of times if I were to be totally honest.

5 years ago I was

Living in Michigan and ready to pack three bags and start my life over. I had started three novels and finished one and had one self-publication credit to my name. I wanted more. I was tired of writing taking a back seat.

So there you have it. Bits and pieces of who I am.

If you did this exercise, what would you discover about yourself?

Give it a shot.

Why I Was an English Major

If you know anything about me, you might know I’m not super enthusiastic about the state of higher education. I actually haven’t been a fan for about a decade or so, and yet, all of my whinging hasn’t made much of a difference. I’m not in a position to make those decisions, and make changes-and yet the arguments for what needs to change continues.

It was more than a decade ago that I left college. Which was much later than most of my peers, which had both to do with affordability and being a first generation (in my immediate family, a lot of people don’t know that).

But I finished, walked away with an English degree and honestly so much more than that (including lots of debt). These are some of the things my English degree afforded me.

  • Resentment toward the expensive liberal arts college that tried to gouge me financially.
  • A more than comprehensive knowledge of all American and English Literature pre-(and post)1950 (sigh).
  • Relationships with very interesting people who could do nothing for me networking-wise.
  • How to write creatively, critique, and teach writing.
  • Insider intel into how the collegiate system works and how it is very broken.
  • A stellar GPA that I built from the ground up. (we’re talking 2 whole points in 1 & 1/2 years)

If I look back on my college experience and had to paint you a picture, it would be arduous and difficult.

  • I would have to explain the dumpster fire that was my home and family life just as I started my first year.
  • I would have to explain why I went to 3 different colleges and attempted 3 different degrees
  • I would have to explain why I lived in 3 different states
  • I would have to explain why I was a Communications turned Liberal Arts turned Literature & Writing major with a Sociology minor turned English major who ended up teaching GWE & Women’s Studies and in an Improv Group (actually that part of the story is interesting and I will mostly like tell you more about that at some point).

But for the purposes of this post, I am going to explain why I was an English major.

I settled.

You read that right.

I did what I had to do with the options I was given.

Well, let’s back up. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the English major, but ask around and it would seem (depending on who you ask–this is important!) that it is the dumbest mistake a human being can make.

And at the time it seemed like the smartest. Financially that is. It was what I had to do to ensure I would finish in the shortest amount of time.

Because the reality of college in America is, it’s a lovely time, and you learn a ton (you do, honestly) but you can’t get a real job and go to school full time. And you can’t afford school at all if you don’t have a full time job. AND knowing that these “time management” issues exist for most people, (most) colleges don’t care.

  • They make you take classes certain times of the day and in an order that doesn’t make sense.
  • They punish you for wanting a well-rounded education, i.e. taking a variety of classes.
  • They make certain classes requirements for graduation, but then never make those classes available (?)
  • All the while, they keep taking your money.

I wrote about these issues a long time ago. I thought if enough people complained at the time, something would change. Look how that all turned out.

Anyhow, there was a point in time when I was actually enjoying myself. I was living in San Diego, California and I was going to California State University. I was getting a top notch education as far as state schools were concerned and I was paying practically nothing to go there.

Well, what seems like nothing now.

And the people there had one rule really, they said if you want to do something, just step up and do it. You want to TEACH HERE? There’s a classroom full of students, have at it. You want to help make decisions for the department as a whole, here join this group/ club. You want to read whatever you want and write whatever you want without boundaries? Hey, have at it.

You want to walk away from here with a well-rounded education including having studied basically every artform so you are more than just an English Major?

It was wonderful, but short-lived. If I could do it over, I would have stayed. But it wasn’t possible at the time for me to live so far away from everything I knew. And despite all the people I met and the things I learned, it wasn’t where I grew up and it was lonely.

Before I write you an entire memoir just about this phase of my life…I want to get to the point.

The point is, people put too much pressure on themselves to be a certain kind of person, or have certain credentials so they can do what they love. End of the day, I spent too much time waiting for someone to tell me I was allowed to do something that I was already doing.

I was doing it at 17 years old. If I could do it then, you can do it now.

So pretend you are going to Cal-State-Freewheelin’-U, and I am your professor and I say to you,

You want to be a writer?

Have at it.

Hey fellow writer!

Want some tips on writing productivity? Check out my #5onFri guest post for DIYMFA called Five Ways to Fit Writing into Your Busy Schedule.

Here’s the cold hard truth. You’re not “too busy” to write. There is a whole lotta other crap in the way.

And, brace yourself, you are also doing lots of things to waste the time you do have.

So it’s time to get real and wind up your writing life. (see what I did there)?

(What are ya doing reading this anyway-click the link!)

Free writing advice from John Cleese #FunnyFriday

First of all, you’re banished from this blog if you say “who is John Cleese?”

Although, I am fair-minded, I will give you a few hints:

“Tim”, Sir Galahad, and the Black Knight, just a few characters from the Holy Grail. Here are some other of his acting and writing credits to be fair.

Now that you know who he is…you can be jealous to learn that I had the ridiculous amount of luck to be face to face with him via Zoom (thanks COVID) and talk to him about writing, my experiences with Monty Python, and the Dunning Kruger effect.

Couldn’t stop laughing. Click the photo to see our conversation.

So before you yell at me for wasting the man’s time, know that he is well-versed in it as he admitted to me that he has dinner with David Dunning three days a week because they are good friends.

So what is the Dunning Kruger effect? I’ll wait.

All caught up? Cool.

Then there is:

So, now that you get where we are going this this. I asked the man…himself (because I am a huge nerd and I needed to have something to say instead of just giggling and drinking my nervous energy away) if he thinks that Impostor Syndrome is the opposite of Dunning Kruger and to my surprise…he said

“No!”

And among other things, he went on to explain that your job as a writer, artist, what-have-you, isn’t to get so good at things that you don’t think you’re good at them anymore or that you don’t deserve your success.

But to acknowledge what you are terrible at and keep doing it until you get subjectively “better”–which will probably be NEVER. *double pikachu face*

Everyone has blind-spots.

Ultimately, he said it is also important to surround yourself with people that are good at the thing you are not good at so they can remind you you are terrible at it but also how to do it right.

End of the day, it’s a good thing to be humble and acknowledge where your blind-spots are and always be looking to collaborate with other imperfect people.

So, there you have it. Advice from someone much much MUCH more experienced than I am, because really, who am I to be giving you writing advice?

I’ll work on that…

I’m Too Neurotic For COVID19

So, I am finally doing it. After a few months of avoiding it, I’m going to write something about COVID. If you know me, you know that I have been avoiding this topic. I typically try to avoid it whenever I can, in conversation, in my daily writing life, anywhere it might come up. “How?” and “Why?” you might ask.

Avoidance.

That’s just how I roll, people. Part of the stuff that makes me what I am, rainbow glitter and cupcake batter aside…is my neurosis. Hate to say it, but I’m admitting it right here and now. And I know, it’s such a ten dollar word to describe what’s wrong with me, not to mention probably one that hasn’t been used since the 50’s, but it’s the one I’m going with today.

I’m too neurotic for this COVID shit. It’s just too much for my brain to handle.

In the beginning of all of this, I was an absolute wreck. I couldn’t watch the news. Hell, I couldn’t listen to someone else watching the news. I couldn’t have a conversation with someone who just watched the news and wanted to talk to me about it.

Which brings me to another aspect of my neurosis.

Trust.

Do you trust other people? I mean seriously, if you watch the news, I don’t see how you can. You see how other people are handling this situation when trying to rectify it…

You see how the people who are supposed to protect us do the opposite…

and at least where I am in the world, people blatantly disregarding regulations meant not only for the safety of others but for their own safety…

I mean…

Like the next gal (guy), I can make light of certain situations. I even encourage my readers to use humor as a way to deal with difficult subject matter, but it seems, in all honesty, I tend to draw the line at life or death situations.

It’s no accident that I have an overactive imagination where I can catastophize (sic) every moment of every day. I can easily spiral into an OCD level of cognitive dissonance where I imagine every worst case scenario possible.

Oh yeah, the OCD, a nifty little bugger who rests on your shoulder and forces you to watch and keep track of how often a person touches something with their bare hands. He’s extra fun these days.

And during COVID, my OCD and neurosis like to hold hands and taunt me with their PDA and oversharing. You know, like that annoying couple on Facebook. You know the one!

And again, I think that’s part of what makes me-me. I think it even goes back as far as childhood.

My mother was pretty neurotic. If you don’t believe me I could give you examples. She used to love to tell stories too. But they were the warning kind. It was clear she did her own level of catastrophizing(sic).

My three favorite stories:

  1. The story about the careless child who left his shoelaces untied and rode on the escalator, got his shoelace stuck, and had his entire foot taken off.
  2. The story about the careless child who hung his arm out of the window while the car was moving and had his arm taken off by a pesky road sign.
  3. The story about the careless child who laughed while he was eating and choked to death because he didn’t properly cut up his grapes and hot dogs.

The moral of all of these stories: that all of these catastrophes were altogether preventable (avoidable). I like to use preventable, because it’s a word a lot of the doctors used when they diagnosed me with late stage Lyme disease. But I’ll get to that in a bit.

A lot of people handle disease and pain differently than I do. In fact, plenty of them assume that most things can be treated with over the counter medication, and or the sheer willing of it to not exist.

That pain in your left arm, that’s not a heart attack it’s just every day aches and pains. That pain in your ankle, that’s not your bones and joints deteriorating, you must have bumped it on something. That rash on your back, leg, and face, it’ll go away on it’s own and it’s not the sign of some horrific disease that is killing you slowly.

And 9/10 times this person is usually correct. But I find that I tend to be that 1/10 times, and it’s annoying. Oh, yes. That one time I was right and everyone else was wrong will haunt me forever.

Foreva-eva?

When I started feeling symptoms, I knew exactly what was wrong. The problem is no one believed me. They kept talking me out of it. Oh, it’s can’t be that, it’s B, and if it’s not B, it’s C, and if it’s not B or C, it’s definitely D. Thing is while B was the common cold and C was a fungal rash, D was Lupus, and E was Cancer. So that wasn’t much help. Why could it not be A? Also how is Lyme disease worse than Cancer? Who knows.

“Well isn’t the solution just going to the doctor?” You would think so, except doctors, and pharmacists, and so forth avoided the L-word (not that one) like plague (heh) for some reason. Which is odd, because if you are a medical professional you know that the longer you wait to diagnose and treat Lyme disease, the worse it gets. It starts to eat away at your brain, so it’s best to get on top of that sucker, ASAP.

And yet, if you are a medial professional, you might also know why some doctors were too shy to (mis)diagnose me. I had the added luck of contracting Lyme disease at a time when people were suing doctors left and right for malpractice and misdiagnosis of Lyme disease. And I learned the hard way that if you wanted to be diagnosed and treated for it, you had to make an appointment and not say what for, then come in tell them you have Lyme disease and that you want to be tested for it. Then you sit and stare at them until they do it.

Well, that’s what I had to do anyway. And long story, short? I had had it for just enough time for the toxins in my body to almost kill me but not long enough that it started to affect me neurologically.

Although…jury might be out on that one, amirite?

“Wait,” you might be thinking, “I thought this was supposed to be about COVID 19?”. Alright, you, settle down.

So let’s rundown the list of people I don’t have a lot of trust for: Medical professionals, other people who don’t understand the nuance of disease, and who is left?

Our leaders?

Image may contain: 2 people, text that says 'Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTr... 1d As watch the Pandemic spread its ugly face all across the world, including the tremendous damage it has done to the USA, become more and more angry at China. People it, and can feel it! 289K 84.8K 761.2K You Retweeted Brian Tyler Cohen @briantylercohen Replying to @realDonaldTrump China wasn't in charge of the US response. You were. Every other country got it under control, but you were too busy pretending it wasn't real. That's on you.'

Don’t get me started.

Without going on a political tirade (today) I will simply say that bottom-line: I haven’t been dealing well with the uncertainty. If there was a poster child for social distancing, I would be she. I have probably left the house 4 times since March, meaning going further than my backyard. Which is a place I don’t even like being man, there are bugs in my backyard, ya know?

Never Her Color

Submitted for Contest #47 in response to: You check the time. Perfect. As intended, you’ve arrived fashionably late. view prompt

Five years. That’s how long it’s been since you’ve seen any of them.

And that is an ugly amount of time to be away from people you once considered your closest friends. They invited you back into the fold again, and you aren’t sure why.

So, you took your time when in the past you would have rushed. You would have been sweaty with anxiety and changed three times. You would have second-guessed your makeup, your hair, your entire face, and body and wished you could throw them all away, pull new ones out of your closet and have a do-over.

But now, you ignore the time on the wall, the time on your phone, the time on your grandmother’s old watch. You wait just long enough until you can see the time in your mind. But still you don’t check it. You double-check your hair, and your face, and your clothes, and your jewelry. Everything is still perfect, nothing out of place.

You step into the night air. You hail a cab. Still, you don’t check your phone or your grandmother’s old watch.

You walk to the door, and nod to the doorman. You take steps toward the elevator. The only numbers you look at are the ones lighting up the wall, drawing you closer to the party at the penthouse. Once you step out of the elevator you walk down the long corridor. You approach your friends’ door.

Now you check the time. Perfect. As intended, you’ve arrived fashionably late.

And you don’t feel sorry about it. You feel vindicated.

It’s a damning thing when you go through divorce and your friends claim to stand by you, but then they just don’t. And it isn’t because they sided with your ex. They despise him. They use the time you spent away trying to hold everything in your life together against you. And now, five years later, they act as if they don’t even recognize you.

And they shouldn’t. You dress differently, your hair is even different, now that you’ve been granted the serenity of self-care. Before, when they watched you spend too much time doting on another person, they would grumble about it in hushed tones behind your back, acting like you had water on your brain. Like you weren’t fully cognizant of how unhappy you were.

“Doesn’t Gloria see how he flirts with other women?”

“She mustn’t.”

“Doesn’t she see what a mess her life has become?”

“What a dope.”

“She dresses so modestly now, that must be his doing.”

“And what is going on with her hair; I would certainly never wear my hair like that.”

“Her apartment has cockroaches.”

   “He always smells of sweat.”

“Green was never her color.”

It was as if they enjoyed watching him hold you down. They relished that you couldn’t even wriggle around under that heavy force of everything going wrong. They had the instruments to cut you loose, but they never did. Not like a real friend who should have ridden the wave with you and come out waiting on the other end like Valerie did. You learned the word for it in therapy: Narcissism. You learned this is the type of person you gravitate to, the type of person you are constantly surrounded with, the type of person you tend to look up to.

So, what are these people even doing in your life? You enter the jungles of your memory and find those late-night parties that kept you up in the wee hours and with red, raw eyes. You remember how you used to have fun. How you used to be a person. And like a dream you don’t exactly remember when you awake, you can’t put your finger on who you used to be.

Something was lost in those dense jungles of self-exploration. Too many nights holding your other friends’ hair back. Too many nights wondering how you will pull the strands of your own life together. Too many nights helping them with their schemes and goals, while they climbed up your back, tugging your hair, and then trampling you with their stiletto heels.

And as you wipe away these remnant shimmers of your once happy twenties collecting like dust in the lines on your forehead, they balk at your “lateness”. Screw them, how many times were they late to the dinner parties you threw? How many times were you trapped in the bathroom with the three of them while they gossiped, took way too long to put on makeup, and argued with you when you looked at your watch? What kind of friends were these?

“You said the word individual, Gloria, the individual is irrelevant, everyone knows that, you should have belted that dress and I also don’t like your shade of lipstick and why do you wear your grandmother’s old, gaudy costume jewelry?”

Your grandmother, a holocaust survivor, who told you many stories of suffering, was no longer around. These were the only pieces you have to remind you of her, of her suffering, of your own suffering, of how her suffering was so much worse than your suffering. But did you dare say any of those words aloud? No, you were so dumbstruck by your friend’s rudeness, you couldn’t even gasp for air. You simply blushed and stammered like an idiot. No wonder they always thought you were so stupid.

You weren’t allowed to have thoughts, ideas, or opinions for a time either. Each one was clouded with the assumption that you didn’t really understand anything, that you never once bothered to open a book.

That evening you remember going home to comb your memory for friendships and lovers that didn’t make you feel like garbage. You reach and reach and reach until you are eight years old again. The first time you asked your friends if you could follow them on your bike.

They laughed at you and said, “Only if you can keep up.”

Only if you can keep up. Something you have no problem doing now. Now you are whip-smart, with clever anecdotes, perfectly styled-hair, and that short skirt looks damn good on you.

Green is most definitely your color.

Updates!

So excited to update you on June’s progress.

I’ve been behind in updating this blog, so I apologize.

If you didn’t know already. I started a super AWESOME facebook group for both writers and closet-writers (who are already writers in my mind) called:

FILL THE BLANK PAGE! So, check it out.

Also, as promised we have a way to subscribe so make sure you do!

And *drumroll* So you know that place I am always raving about DIYMFA?

Well, I work for them now, yay! This is so exciting and I can’t wait to share more about that with you.

Stay Tuned!