Category Archives: laughter

Arts and crafts and other trauma

I’m trying to get back to posting regularly over here, but I’ve been writing and am fresh out of ideas for a blog post this week. Not that I’m going to let a simple thing like that stop me. I figure I’ll just ramble on for a bit and eventually I might make some kind of sense. Or not.

My mom has been cleaning out cupboards in her house. She has lived in that house since I was five years old, so you can imagine there is a bit of accumulated stuff tucked into the odd corner. Stuff that isn’t necessarily hers. And some stuff that is, regrettably, mine.

Seeing as how her polite suggestions that we box up our stuff and take it with us (I have three sisters and we all happily left various childhood treasures behind) have been largely ignored over the years, she recently decided to just do it herself. But there is some confusion about which stuff belongs to whom. This prompted a few phone calls and text messages this past weekend and one of those was my older sister texting a picture of some “artwork” and asking, “Is this yours?”

Sigh. Yes, I made that. In middle school, I think. It’s plaster poured into a milk carton, which we then had to carve into some kind of thing using blunt instruments. Pure torture. I hated every minute of it. I asked my mom to throw it out, but I suspect she’s going to pack it lovingly into a box so I can take it home with me one day. She seems determined to make me appreciate a creativity gene I just do not possess.

I am not artistic. Not when it comes to arts and crafts like drawing or painting or sculpture. Or sewing. Or cutting and pasting construction paper. Or anything to do with glitter or beads or styrofoam or toothpicks as construction material. I’m not good at it. I’ve always known I’m not good at it — all of my sisters are very talented in these areas and the contrast is stark and undeniable — and that doesn’t bother me. Really, I just don’t care. I have other talents.

Those of you relatively new to this blog might not realize that I am in fact somewhat infamous for my [lack of] drawing skills. After one of the first luncheon meet-ups of Imaginary Internet Friends, everyone demanded to see pictures. I hatehateHATE having my picture taken and refused to let anyone take any. Yes, I am a tyrant. So I drew this instead:

Everyone agreed it was hilariously pitiful. [I’d link to that blog post, but it was on a different blog and we broke it anyway.] Delighted my drawing was received with the silliness intended, I’ve continued in those efforts.

Here’s one from a couple years ago, of me having a fine needle aspiration biopsy of my thyroid:

And the aftermath [blog post and more “pics” here]:

And then there’s the one of me imagining my daughter calling me, as promised, after being eaten by a BEAR [blog post here]:

Lest you think I labour over these things, these are all first drafts. No do-overs. Well, except the bear. After the first attempt, I realized I’d better draw the stomach contents first, then fit the bear around it, er, her. Whatever.

I really don’t care if people laugh at my lack of artistry. I’ve been laughing at it all my life. Although, inexplicably, I did manage to create some adequate pottery back in high school. Maybe I’ll round up a few pieces . . . here, I think there are a few upstairs too, but these are the ones I gathered up in a quick tour downstairs. I made these and I like them:

Anyway, back to drawing. I found this link through twitter and it totally cracked me up: Draw a stick man.

This is perfect for me! I’ve actually drawn several now and it makes me laugh every time when it becomes animated and moves clumsily through the little story, aided by other clunky items also drawn by me. I thought I was bad with a marker pen, you should see the results using a fingertip and the track pad on my MacBook. Or maybe you shouldn’t.

Is there anything like this you know you’re just not good at? Something you always hated but did it anyway because it was required at school? Can you laugh about it now or is it still a source of frustration or embarrassment?

Or are you really good at arts and crafts and wish you were back in school where you had unlimited supplies and an excuse to sniff paste indulge your inner artist? It’s okay to admit it, I won’t think less of you. As long as you don’t make me join in.


Filed under creativity, laughter

The Facts of Life, redux

I spent most of the weekend writing, revising and re-writing my current ms. I’m so deep into that mess, when I tried to think up a blog topic my mind went blank. Then my older sister called and we had a conversation we’ve been having in some form or another for three years now. Yes, three. Many things have changed during that time; her tenacity is not one of them.

I hung up and remembered a blog post I wrote about her back then and wondered whether it would still resonate with me today. It does, perhaps even more so. Because when the words won’t flow and you’re convinced they’re the wrong ones anyway and the whole damn thing seems to be taking forever, I think it’s easier to deal with the frustration if you can find humour in the situation. So here it is (with apologies to those who read it three years ago), my irreverent view of this thing called publishing:

The Facts of Life

I have an older sister. I also have two younger sisters, but I’ll probably get around to them another day. They all live in another state. My older sister (I’ll call her Babs because that isn’t her name and, even better, she can’t stop me) has been calling me on the phone quite a bit lately. Maybe once a week. A noticeable increase from the usual once every month or so. Stoic Minnesotans that we are, that seemed quite sufficient, thank you. And during these conversations she invariably asks how the writing is going. Yeah, silly me, I told her I’m writing a book.

I’d reply with something like: Just fine, thanks. And how are the kids?

So the other day I finally asked her about it: Babs, what is with all the recent interest in my writing progress (or lack thereof)?

Babs [in her bossy yet supportive oldest sister voice]: Well, I want you to hurry up and finish it so it can get published.

Me [after a stunned silence]: Okaay, but you’re asking ONCE A WEEK. Just when, exactly, do you think this is going to happen?

Babs [impatient with my inability to see things her way]: I don’t know. Soon. Next spring?

So after I stopped laughing, I shared with her my take on the publishing business. It goes something like this:

Publishers of mass market fiction are a bit like pimps. Unlike the heroes in romance novels of olden days, they are just not interested in virgins. They want writers who have done it a few times. Writers who can do it consistently, time after time, and on schedule. Writers who can make the next time seem as good as the first time and look good doing it, no matter that they have a headache and hungry kids to feed and a dog grown fat and lazy from lack of daily walks.

Babs interrupted at this point to chide me for not walking the dog.

I continued, undaunted: They don’t care that you really want to do it, that you’re sure you’ll be good at it or at least get the hang of it after a few tries. Enthusiasm and good intentions don’t count.

Babs: But I’ve read some of your stuff and it’s pretty good.

Well, thanks. I think. But teasing and flirtation and short excerpts don’t count. They want finesse and polished technique and proof that a writer can make it all the way through to a completion that leaves the customer satisfied and ready to pay for it again next time they’re in town. And most of all, they want writers who can rake in the big bucks from lots and lots of happy repeat customers.

And the truth is, I’m a virgin with no regular customers. Haven’t even done it once yet. And those publishers, they’re going to want to see some proof. Word on the street is that I’ll probably have to do it quite a few times for free before they think I’m good enough to get paid for it.

It’s going to take a while.

And I’m working on it.

Between. Phone. Calls.

OK, so maybe I got a little testy there toward the end of the conversation.

Come to think of it, I haven’t heard from Babs since I explained to her the facts of publishing life as I see them. She’s probably walking her dog and counting her blessings that she doesn’t hear voices.

Either that or she’s devising a way to speed up the whole publishing process. I’m confident she’ll tell me what to do once she figures it out.

Hang on, the phone is ringing…


Filed under laughter, publishing, writing

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