Monthly Archives: July 2009

Talking at midnight

My daughter called me late Friday night. She’s at the beach for a few days and without internet connection. Sounds like paradise to me. No idea why she’d call her mother. I sure as hell wouldn’t have when I was 21. But she did.

Of course, I thought something was wrong. “Hey, are you alright?”

“I’m fine. Why?”

Mothers don’t need a reason. “It’s kind of late.”

“Oh, I knew you’d be up.”

Well, okay, but still. I’d been thinking about going to bed. With the week I’ve had, I should have been in bed.

“Mom,” she said, “can you check my email for me?”

Yes dear, right after I don my cape and right all the wrongs in the universe. “Um, yeah, sure. How do I do that?”

“Go to and log in as me.”

Right. Of course. I’m completely familiar with this level of trust. “And your log in and password are?”

She had an impressively full inbox. There were several messages from people who had friended her on Facebook. “Who’s Mc Dots? Is that a person or a fast food menu item?”

“Oh, he’s a basketball player,” she said, laughing. “Did he friend me?”

“Yep.” Made sense, in a way that mothers worry about. You’re 5’9″ and gorgeous, basketball players will want to be your friend.

She asked what else was in there so I read her the sender names and subject lines. A couple she groaned about and said she’d read later. There was one from a law school touting the difficulties of attending said law school (difficulties I presume she will dismiss as insignificant) and the one she was looking for — more information about a voluntary “special project,” from the environmental law professor with whom she’s doing a summer internship.

I read the details to her and she said, “Mom, I need you to go to blackboard and check messages.”

Sure, no problem, seeing as how I’m still awake and all. “Okay, and where exactly is the blackboard in education these days? Will I need chalk?”

“Mom, don’t be weird.”

Got it. No weirdness. At least not on my part.

So I logged in and she walked me through the many confusing layers of blackboard until I got to the pertinent section. Where I discovered how awkward it is to read extracts of environmental case law over the phone. At midnight. I’m telling you, writing four-syllable words is entirely different from verbalizing lengthy paragraphs full of them.

Then she said, “Mom, you need to post a message from me.”

“What? No. I thought you said not to be weird.”

“No really, it’s fine. Just type what I tell you to type.”

So I did. It was painful. “Are you sure you want to use an exclamation point there? You just used one three sentences ago.”

“Mom. It’s not a thesis. Everyone talks like that on blackboard.” And so it went. Me, impersonating a college student on the intertubes.

If I can do it, anyone can. Keep that in mind.

We finished up with me informing her fellow volunteers which case she’d be examining and why. And let everyone know that, despite the lack of easy internet access, she’d send all the information about her case by early afternoon Saturday. So they could compile things and give their professor all the information he needed. So he could present it, before the Saturday evening deadline as requested, to his colleague. Who is serving as special counsel to a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The one holding hearings next week about the newest appointee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Yeah. That one. I understand they’ll be looking at a lengthy and complex history of decisions, summarized for them by a variety of sources.

Have I mentioned lately how very cool I think my daughter is? Even when she calls me at midnight.


Filed under deep thoughts, parenting

Creativity, Laughter and the Element of Surprise

Two weeks into My Great Twitter Adventure and I’ve made some surprising discoveries. The first of which is how openly friendly and just plain nice most people are to strangers. Didn’t their mothers teach them basic safety rules? I know, it shouldn’t have surprised me, especially since I’m mostly talking to other writers, but it did.

I was equally surprised by the concern expressed by my “imaginary friends” about my time spent twittering. I found this ironic coming from a community of friends with whom I have chatted away VAST amounts of time in blogland. A part of me acknowledges their point: time spent twittering is time not spent writing fiction. And they’ve been hounding steadfastly cheering me on all along, wanting me to finish the damn book already. So they can buy it. And read it. Certainly can’t fault them for that. I love my imaginary friends; they’re completely awesome even when they mistakenly think I still have a curfew.

But the biggest surprise, and the reason I will continue to twitter, is the effect it has had on my creativity and productivity. I expected twittering to be awkward and confusing. It is. I expected some people to ignore me. They have. I expected it to be a chore I would quickly grow to despise and then abandon. Instead, it has become a source of laughter and camaraderie. Also information overload, but that’s another post.

I have a dry sarcastic sense of humour that, even in person, is easily misinterpreted and can come across as . . . something less than amusing. I’ve experienced the pitfalls of this in both email and blog comments. I figured the potential for disaster when limited to 140 characters was almost unavoidable. Really, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve offended people who took me seriously when I was kidding.

So I don’t think of myself as someone who is funny. But a few fellow twitterers seem to think I am. I mentioned this oddity to my daughter, who said, “Of course you’re funny.” She then informed me that she sometimes reads my emails to her friends, who all think I’m hysterical. Not sure what I think about that. The last email I sent her pretty much said, “Be Careful Whitewater Rafting This Weekend.”

The point of this long rambling post is that I’ve realized that making people laugh, and more generally evoking an emotional response, is my own personal crack cocaine. Using words, twisting them and playing with them, is my favourite game. If things get a bit risqué, even better. Finding people who appreciate that game and will play along in the spirit of light-hearted fun is invigorating.

So for now at least, Twitter has become my place to play. I’d forgotten how much I need that, how imperative playfulness is to imagination. At a time when I have been floundering and frustrated with my writing, re-discovering the ability to use words to evoke a response from and connect with people who don’t know me has sparked my creativity. I have made more progress on my ms in the past two weeks than I had in the past two months.

Some writers need doom and gloom and angst and despair to inspire their writing, using misery as their muse. I’m not writing comedy but I’ve discovered that I need laughter, my own and that of others. Twitter is still at times awkward and confusing, some people still ignore me and I’m sure many more will (the wise ones, at any rate), but it is fueling my creativity like nothing else has in a very long time. And that surprised the hell out of me.

What feeds your creativity? We’re all creative in some way. Do you know what does it for you? Laughter, music, solitude, open spaces? Fritos?

Oh, and if you haven’t watched the TED talk given by Sir Ken Robinson about creativity, you should. It’s excellent and can be found here


Filed under creativity, laughter, twitter, writing