Friday, August 24, 2012

I know Beans

I am taking care of my neighbor’s garden while she’s traveling for the next couple of weeks.

Did you know that gardens actually boost your creativity? I, for one, cannot even look at my neighbor’s plot without wanting to test out my photography skills – I mean, that garden gnome of hers is just aching for a joy ride.

Meanwhile, my gnomeless garden is either all hopped up on organic coffee grounds or has found a way to get a hit of Miracle Grow on the sly.  Those green beans just don’t know when to quit! Lately, I have eaten more green beans in more ways than I care to mention. I'm starting to think that the bean boys are in league with the zucchini brothers for world domination.

Don’t say you haven’t bean warned.

My garden keeps me humble – I’m being outnumbered and outsmarted by green beans, for peat’s sake. But it has a super bonus feature, as well. It's a great place for me to hone the writing skills I need in the off-season.

Those beans and zucchini? Clearly reminding me that my run-on sentences Must. Be. Stopped.

Flowers? The adjectives and adverbs of the world. A few sprinkled here and there are lovely and add to the pleasure. Too many, and the whole thing is one hot mess.

Corn is pretty persnickety about paragraphs. If you don’t plant it that way, it gets all huffy and refuses to pollinate.

And finally – woe to the lazy gardener/writer. Both kinds of plots require constant weeding/editing to get the good stuff.

And while I’m working the double garden shift this weekend – eyeing that gnome, editing and hacking away at run-on sentences – I’ll also be getting all of the great creative benefits of going green

uh, bean.

PROMPT: Get in a garden this weekend and get dirty in a non-Prince Harry sort of way. Then enjoy all of the wonders it is sure to do for your writing, painting, and gnome photography skills.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Old Gray Mare

She ain’t what she used to be. Yeah, that is a photo of my laptop keyboard. And those white blotches are not glare. I think that I have probably used more than my fair share of a few letters. When it comes to vowels especially, I am clearly a one-percenter. So far, no one has protested or egged my car. I think I hide it well.

Anyway, back to my computer... When I look at that keyboard and hear the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang chug-a-lug of her tired old fan, I am made aware of the miles of words I’ve put on her and think, “You know, I might be a writer.”

You might be a writer, too.

Here are a few of the signs –

You visit coffee houses for the drop (as in eavesdrop factor) instead of the drip.

You think that solitary confinement is not a form of torture, but a great way to complete that novel.

You see movie trailers and the first thing out of your mouth is a plot prediction, NOT “Gee Honey, that looks good.” Case in point – I think I watched about three thousand trailers for The Odd Life of Timothy Green during the Olympics, and I never once thought of it as a “feel good” movie I wanted to experience. Instead, my mind went straight to – “That kid is a pile of brown sludge by first frost, or I will eat my hat.”

You reread good books just to figure out how the author created the “ride.”

You tell small children that you get paid real money for making up big fat lies.

You would leave your house without pants before you’d leave without a pen and paper.

I could go on, but I think I’ve probably shared quite enough.

PROMPT: Comedian Jeff Foxworthy started an entire career using the line “You might be a redneck.” In fact, he is the largest selling comedy recording artist in history, and his material is based on tube tops, trailer parks, and wreath family trees. Trust me, you can top this. Pick your “You might be a…” and GO!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Dorothy Day

Yesterday we talked about postcards from the dead. And dang, that was a good time!
So today, in honor of what would have been Dorothy Parker’s 119th birthday, I thought that it would be fun to explore quotes from the dead, too.
Just in case you aren’t familiar with Dorothy – she was an American poet and writer known for her wit and wisecracks. Her secret?
“Every day I get up, brush my teeth, and sharpen my tongue.”
And even though she made her living as a writer, it was a love/hate relationship –
“I hate writing, I love having written.”
She was never one to mince words when asked her opinion –
“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”
“This wasn't just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.”
And you could probably write a whole book of Parker Proverbs –
Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.
Take care of the luxuries and the necessities will take care of themselves.
You can't teach an old dogma new tricks.
Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.
(Yeah, Dorothy said it first)

Before her death, Dorothy had this to say in an interview –
“That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.”
Well, it turns out that this wasn’t her epitaph after all.
After her death, Dorothy was cremated, but in a novel-worthy twist of fate, her ashes were unclaimed. So, they sat on a shelf at the crematorium for a few years. Somebody finally noticed and shipped them to her lawyer’s office. He obviously realized that there was no billable hour potential in dealing with some dead lady’s ashes, so he put them on a shelf, then on a desk, and finally in a filing cabinet (under P?) for another 17 years or so. Oh, I can only imagine the field day that Dorothy would have had with THAT.
Dorothy Parker’s ashes were finally placed in a memorial garden in 1988 where a plaque contains another of her suggested epitaphs – Excuse my dust.
Funny to the end – and then some.

PROMPT: Do not wait another day – begin writing your witticisms now. And don’t just do it for yourself – do it for your family, your friends, your country, and all those 22nd-century bloggers desperate for material.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Snails on Serious Sedatives

Please Mr. Postman, look and see
If there's a letter in your bag for me.
Why's it takin' such a long time
For me to hear from…

~ The Marvelettes (1961)

Fifty-one years ago today, Motown released what would be its first #1 hit – Please Mr. Postman by the Marvelettes. If you have no idea what this strange dinosaur age music may have sounded like, you can check it out here.
Well, around the time that the Marvelettes were beboppin’ out in their beehive dos, Scott McMurry’s parents were visiting the John G. Shedd Aquarium in the windy city of Chicago. They were having a really good time, too. So good, in fact, that Scott’s mother sent him a postcard to let him know.
Her first line goes like this – “We’ll probably be home before this gets there…”
Well, Mama was having a psychic moment.
Scott’s parents came home on the midnight train to Georgia, and moved on with their lives.
Time moved on as well…
Some guys went to the moon, the PC was invented, the whole world began tweeting and posting cat photos on Facebook, and yet…
The postman did not look in his bag and see
A letter for our dear Scott McMurry.
That is, until May…
 of this year.
According to the postcard, his parents have been having a whole heap of aquarium fun this whole time…
Even though Mama’s been dead for, like, 21 years.
Maybe it’s just me (yeah, it probably is), but there is something so deliciously creepy about postcards from the dead.

The postal plot possibilities are endless.

PROMPT: Yes, we are going postal today. Misguided, misdirected, and misunderstood letters are the plot du jour. And for the younger crowd -- how about a picture book called Jolly Little Letter’s Wonderful Journey, where our protagonist languishes behind a processing machine as postmen go grey and retire. Okay, that one may need some work.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Morning Magic

Do you have a novel that you can’t find time to finish? Are your watercolors gathering dust on a shelf?
If you answered “Yes” to either of these questions, then it’s time to revamp your morning routine!
Morning habits are the kind of habits that really stick. Think about it – you’ve probably stumbled to the coffee pot in exactly the same way for decades. I know I have.
Morning patterns are less likely to be interrupted (unless, of course, you have children under the age of four. If you have children under the age of four – go back to bed. Forget that I even mentioned this). Also, mornings tend to put the power back into willpower (unless you have children under the age of four. And if you do – why on earth are you still reading this? You should be in bed).
The point is – if you can work just a little writing or painting into those morning minutes of yours, there’s less of a chance that your creative endeavors will become dust magnets. Prepare to be amazed by how much you will accomplish over time.
And here’s an added bonus – new research at the University of Toronto shows that morning people are actually happier and more satisfied with life in general. In other words, early birds are not only annoyingly chipper in the AM, but they remain so throughout the entire day.
So, become a morning person – you will get stuff done and become annoyingly happy.
But if you have a hard time waking up early, I suggest you get a cat.

This is the icy “FEED ME” glare that greets me at 5:00 AM.

Cats are morning people.
And cats have no mercy.
You WILL succumb to the magic of mornings.

But hey, mornings really, truly ARE magical.
Here’s the proof –
Look what happened at 6:00AM at the fair on Saturday…

Yep, Wilber (shown here at less than 9 hours old) came wiggling into this world along with his eight brothers and sisters.
Now that’s a GOOD MORNING!

PROMPT: Give a little thought to your morning routine this week (unless you have children under the age of four). Then work a wee bit of creative time into those hours. Trust me, your friends and family will LOVE the new, annoyingly cheerful you!