Friday, May 4, 2012

The Perfect Pet

This is a pet.
This is NOT.

Goldfish are NOT pets.
Trust me, I would know.
When I was very young, I wanted a dog of my very own.
So, I wished.
I asked.
I begged.
One Christmas I even pulled out all the stops – I put a plastic dog under the tree and willed Santa to make it real.
Santa had other ideas.
That dang dog was still a petroleum-based product in the morning.
And I got a Betsy Wetsy instead.
If you don’t know what a Betsy Wetsy is – thank your lucky stars. Because if Santa thought that he could change me from a doll-loathing to a doll-loving child, this was definitely NOT the doll for the job. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is more unpleasant than a lap full of doll pee.
Anyway, in retrospect I realize that the whole “make my plastic dog real” idea would have never worked out anyway. “Buster” was a miniature dachshund model and most likely would have been disposed of by the cat before sunrise.
More wishing, asking, and begging ensued. And somewhere along the line, my parents decided that a goldfish would satisfy my dog dreams.
Yeah. Dream on.
So, they bought me a bowl, some flakes, and a bug-eyed fish…
1) Have you ever tried to play catch with a goldfish?
2) Have you ever taken a goldfish for a walk?
3) Have you ever actually “pet” a goldfish?
Well, I have.
And here’s what I know…
1) They do NOT like ping pong balls thrown into their bowls.
2) A LOT of water sloshes out – not recommended.
Sadly, number 3 is a fatal activity. And I’d like to say that I caught on to the petting = death connection with Charlie #1, but I was only 5 years old at the time. So, after Charlie #1 there was Charlie the Second, Charlie the Third, Charlie the Fourth, and Denise.
I owe an awful lot to Denise. She helped me figure out that I wasn’t simply dealing with a “Charlie” curse. So, she was the one who taught me that goldfish are NOT pets because (Duh!) you cannot actually pet them. She also helped my parents clue in to the fact that maybe I really did need a dog.
And so one wonderful, sunny, October day my dad came home from work with a puppy.
He was the perfect pet.
 except for that time we played seeing-eye-dog and he ran me into a tree.
Other than that –
Positively perfect!

PROMPT: Having a pet will boost your creativity! Okay, I made that one up. However, research does show that pet owners are happier than those without a furry friend. And we all learned yesterday what HAPPINESS spells. Also, pets lower blood pressure – and May is National High Blood Pressure Awareness Month! Be aware! Get a pet! But remember –
Goldfish are NOT pets. And since you’ve asked…
Neither are anacondas, for goodness sake.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

HAPPINESS – That’s the Way We Spell Success!

"Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success.
If you love what you are doing, you'll be a success."
~ Albert Schweitzer

Great quote, huh? You might remember Albert – he was one of the “leaper colony” folks I wrote about back in February. He was the guy who became a world-famous organist, then chucked it all at the age of 30 to go to medical school. The rest is more “world-famous” history. He saved patients, started hospitals, and wrote lots of books, yet still managed to find the time to pick up his Nobel Peace Prize in 1952.

What a guy.

What a deliriously happy guy.

For the sake of comparison, let’s consider another quote. I’ll tell you right now that this guy did not become a world-class organist, physician, or Nobel Peace Prize recipient. In fact, I don’t think he managed to make it through the first grade – and I think you’ll see why…

"Good morning, Pooh Bear," said Eeyore gloomily. "If it is a good morning," he said. "Which I doubt," said he.
(from The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-Pooh by A. A. Milne)

Unless they’re handing out Ph.D.’s in gloom, this guy’s going nowhere.

But sadly, there are an awful lot of Eeyores out there clinging to the belief that they will be happy just as soon as they get some success.

Oh, if only that were true.

Tough break, Cupcake – If your wish is to be successful, you’re going to have to get yourself some happy first.

Because it turns out that Albert was right. (I guess we can add world-class psychologist to his “success even after death” resume.)

Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California says, “Previous research often assumed that success and accomplishments bring happiness, but we found that this isn't the case.”

Her studies demonstrated that “When people feel happy, they tend to feel confident, optimistic, and energetic and others find them likable and sociable…”

Which, of course, leads to more of what we call “success”.

Happiness first, Cupcake.

Happiness first.

PROMPT: Get yourself some happy today! Studies show that some of the keys to wear on your happiness tool belt include gratitude, physical activity, positive thinking, and (great news!) creative endeavors – like writing!

This writing business. Pencils and what-not. Over-rated, if you ask me.
Silly stuff. Nothing in it.

Yeah. Rock on, Eeyore… Best of luck handling all of your success.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Celebrate Sibs!

Happy Brothers and Sisters Day! Yes, according to various internet sources, today is the day to celebrate those extra-special folks who swim in your gene pool. Mind you, the fun and festivities of Brothers and Sisters Day should NOT be confused with National Siblings Day. That took place on April 10th, and was totally and completely different…
(Now there’s a brother/sister response that’s sure to be uttered by billions across the globe today.)
Anyway, if you are lucky enough to have a brother or sister, you know what an important role they play in your life.
I mean, who else is going to help you learn the fine art of fiction at such an early age?
For example, one guy I know (who chooses to remain anonymous) was a child prodigy in wall art – but always signed his masterpieces with his brother’s initials.
When I was young, my siblings definitely helped make storytelling second nature to me. My little sister (who followed me EVERYWHERE) would fall for the Sesame Street ditch every single time. All I had to do was say, “Hey, did you know that Sesame Street is on right now?” and she would sprint for home – only to find that Grover had been preempted by The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.
I also learned the “Don’t Tell” part of “Show Don’t Tell”, thanks to my little brother. For example, I could (theoretically, of course) pull all the leaves off of a houseplant or (maybe) toss a few rocks into the gas tank of the family car, and get away with it – all I had to do was wait him out during the parental interrogation lineup. Eventually the little guy would crack – confessing to the entire mess, even if he had actually been 5 miles away helping little old ladies cross the street at the time of the crime.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure that my siblings would agree with Charles Schulz, who once said, “Big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life.”

And yeah – I still feel a little guilty about my crabby and conniving younger self.
So, I guess I’ll use this day to apologize.
Sorry, Sibs –

But I got here first.

So there.

PROMPT: If you’ve got siblings, you’ve got stories! Today take a trip down memory lane and gather a few. If you’re an only child, I suggest that you adopt someone for a few hours. Then eat all of their chocolate chip cookies… and gloat about it. Nothing else says “I love you” in quite the same way.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Bradbury List


Some folks don’t like spiders. Some fear heights. And rumor has it that public speaking terrifies most of us. Fear is certainly a funny and fickle thing. In fact, I once met an editor who got the willies from open umbrellas. To this day, I have no idea how she manages to get through those New York Aprils.

Oddly enough, many writers are afraid of the empty page. They see its blank stare, and it stops them in their tracks. Sadly, there’s not a medical term for this specific fear. Although during my search I did run across the term Pentheraphobia, which means you have a morbid fear of your of mother-in-law. This was an interesting find for me, given that my mother-in-law is currently a guest in my home. I am happy to report that I have not developed a case of pentheraphobia…


Anyway, back to the topic of that menacing blank page. My guess is that this fear is actually some combination of the following:

Atelophobia- Fear of imperfection
Catagelophobia- Fear of being ridiculed
Cathisophobia- Fear of sitting
Cenophobia- Fear of new ideas
Decidophobia- Fear of making decisions
Eremophobia- Fear of being oneself
Ergophobia- Fear of work
Graphophobia- Fear of writing
Kenophobia- Fear of voids or empty spaces
Leukophobia- Fear of the color white
Metrophobia- Fear of poetry
Mnemophobia- Fear of memories
Mythophobia- Fear of myths or stories
Papyrophobia- Fear of paper
Phronemophobia- Fear of thinking
Sophophobia- Fear of learning
And Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia- Fear of long words (clearly some diagnostician had one wickedly cruel sense of humor)

Do you really want to walk around with this soup of fear sloshing inside of you?

I didn’t think so. Well then, you’re just going to have to get over it. For a quick fix, I suggest that you spend some time in a room full of snakes. It is guaranteed to make the blank page seem like your best friend. Of course, your feelings toward slithering serpents may never be the same (Ophidiophobia).

If you don’t have a room full of snakes, then advice from the writing Grandmaster, Ray Bradbury, will do the trick.

Ray reports that early in his writing adventures, he began to make lists. Some were titles, some were simply nouns, but all had an emotional link for him. As he puts it, “I was feeling my way toward something honest, hidden under the trapdoor on the top of my skull.”

Here’s an excerpt from one of his early lists:


If you are familiar with Ray’s work, you’ll recognize each of their connections to this simple catalog of words. Ray says that whenever he was stuck, he could simply turn to his list and write about whatever stood out for him in that moment.

A simple fix.

No snakes required.

PROMPT: Grab an old notebook and begin your Bradbury list. I suggest that you keep it handy because good ideas can fly into your head at any time. And remember, your personal list can be anything – even tiny sketches. The only rule is that you must have fun with it. Fun trumps fear every single time. Good thing, too – there’s no medical term for “fear of lists” either.

For a sunshiny “ray” of inspiration, pick up Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing.

Ray rocks!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Bovines and the Bards

Serious poetic potential here – and that’s no bull.

Like everybody else, writers eat up a lot of life experiences – both the sweet clover kind and the nasty weedy ones. But after all of that experiencing, writers become a lot less like people and a lot more like cows.
Writers love to take their life stuff, wander off to quiet meadows (those places most other folks call offices), and get down to the business of chewing cud. In fact, I am convinced that the vast majority of writers are introverts because no one really wants to chew on regurgitated, partially-digested life experiences in public…
Well, it’s a theory.
Anyway, the awesome result of all this cud-chewing is often a product totally unlike the field fodder. And sometimes, if we’re lucky – it can be so wonderfully rich and full of butterfat that it’s basically Haagen-Daz on the page.
Yep, cows get my vote as the official mascots for Team Writer.
In fact, just hanging around cows can inspire even the most unlikely folks to pick up the pen. How else do you explain the entire genre of cowboy poetry? Clearly those boys were inspired by the moos.
And on this final day of National Poetry Month, you can, too. So, get on some giddy-up and write yourself a posse of poems about life on the range – even if the only range you’ve ever known is made by GE.
For a peck of inspiration, ride off to the nearest ranch, or take the city slicker route with this link to Cowboy Bob’s Dictionary.
After you’ve done the above, here’s a simple test to check whether you’re really ready to pick up the cowpoke pen:
Question: What’s a metaphor?
Answer: Why, fer grazin’ yer cattle, ya greenhorn!

Today as you are spinnin’
‘round this big ol’ ball o’ mud -
Save yerself a piece o’ time,
Just fer chewin’ up yer cud.

Okay, okay, I’m no poet lariat, but you know what to do.