Friday, October 11, 2013

See the Light

Is one of your characters in a bit of a jam?

Is your plot thin and stumbling down the road to nowhere?        

Do you WISH you had a character and plot because right now you’re fresh out of both?

Well, have I got a deal for you.

My friends, you don’t need a pill, potion, or personal trainer.

All you need is…

a light bulb.

Yes, the good people of Tuft University have discovered that human beings who sit below a bare burning bulb solve problems more quickly and demonstrate greater insight than those forced to function under fluorescent.

Apparently, the light bulb group solved “insight” problems nearly 40% of the time while everyone else solved them at a pitiful 10% rate.

Then they did a bunch of other tests and hocus-pocus analysis and determined that their results had nothing whatsoever to do with the type of illumination…

and absolutely everything to do with our cultural notion that light bulbs and creative ideas go hand in hand.

Yep, believe it and you see it, Baby.

But don’t take my word for it.

Go get yourself some light bulb moments…

by… uh…

Getting yourself some light bulb moments.

PROMPT: Get blinded by science — try this at home.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Great Day to Get Happy


If you’re using The Mind’s Elbow to jump-start something creative today, then you’re celebrating World Mental Health Day in just the right way.

Our friends in the world of science have found that expressive writing, poetry, painting, and playing music all help to keep folks sunny and stress-free.

As a former psychologist, I would really, REALLY love for you to be sunny and stress-free EVERY day…

That said, please take note that I DO NOT recommend that you give up your quirky craziness in order to become “normal.”

After all…

If you are always trying to be normal, 
you’ll never know how amazing you can be.
 ~Maya Angelou

But if you sometimes worry that you’re a bit on the nutty side of the food pyramid…

Trust me, you're in good company 

A question that sometimes drives me hazy:
am I or are the others crazy?
 ~Albert Einstein


And I’ll bet your poetry’s a lot better, too.
PROMPT: Celebrate World Mental Health Day by taking a “health” day just to play! Seriously, this one should be a mandatory international holiday full of Frisbee, Simon says, Twister, Tag, Hide and Seek, Duck Duck Goose…

Meanwhile, here’s a great book that I’m sure would get Maya Angelou’s stamp of approval — Better than Normal: How What Makes you Different Can Make You Exceptional by Dr. Dale Archer.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mmm Mmm Marvelous!

What if you were lazy?

Ruth Wakefield was.

Yet she still fully expected those chocolate drop cookies to show up in the oven.

Her result?

The super-fabulous chocolate chip cookie.

What if you were vengeful?

George Crum was.

After a customer sent back his plate of potatoes for the third time complaining that they weren't cut thin enough, George said, “Well, have fun reading the Scriptures through these!” and sawed those taters paper-thin.

His result?

The potato chip.

What if you were messy?

Patsy Sherman was.

While attempting to develop a material that wouldn't deteriorate with exposure to jet fuels, she dropped the concoction on her shoe. She dropped a whole bunch of other stuff on it, too. But that first spot always looked brand-spanking new.

Her result?


What if you got it completely wrong?

Spencer Silver did.

He once set on a quest to create the world’s strongest adhesive. Instead, he discovered one that barely stuck at all.

His result?

The post-it note.

What if all of your mistakes were marvelous, too?

PROMPT: Take action in all the wrong ways today. Go ahead and make that plot too thin, your dialogue stiff, and your prose too wordy. The whole point, of course, is ACTION! Unless of course, you decided to work the lazy angle. Well, then…

Enjoy those cookies!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Get a Tan

I think books were my salvation.
Books saved me from being miserable.
~ Amy Tan

Currently, I am re-reading The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan in anticipation of seeing the stage play at the end of the month.

Ah, the book is just as delicious to me now as it was when I had my first taste 2 decades ago.

So, I thought I would look up some Amy Tan inspiration to share with the Elbow clan.

Here’s a wonderful tidbit I found in an old interview—

Earlier in her career, Amy and a business partner wrote industry texts for corporations. One day, she and her partner had a falling out when he informed her that writing was her weakest skill. Of course, Amy disagreed. Then she informed him that she was quitting to find success as a writer without him.

His response?

"Oh, fat chance. You'll be lucky if you make a dime."

The Joy Luck Club remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for 75 weeks and was translated into 23 languages worldwide.

I’m thinking she made that dime.

PROMPT: For even more inspiration, check out Amy Tan’s TED talk here… while I get back to Chapter 5.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Doing Time

Yeah, I've been to jail.

Okay, okay, I worked in a jail.

But, trust me, that year felt a lot like a sentence.

My task was to test the reading levels of various convicts, such that they could take classes and turn their lives around. However, the difficult part of the job was not the assessments —

it was keeping track of every single pencil and paper clip.

Death by office supplies is never pretty, after all.

But other than the time an inmate insisted that I smuggle him out when I left the joint that afternoon (Not on my watch, Partner.), jail time was pretty uneventful.

Not so, these days.

In August, our local jail saw some serious action when a guy wrapped a baggie of Aunt Mary around an arrow and fired it at the second-floor recreation area.

When questioned, Robin “Hood” claimed he was aiming at a squirrel.

"He had no explanation as to why squirrel hunting requires attaching marijuana to an arrow," said the local sheriff.


Then last week in Brazil, a woman attempted to smuggle a cell phone to her inmate boyfriend.

It may have worked too, except for the fact that the pigeon it was strapped to landed in front of the patrolling guard.

I wonder if the pigeon was arrested for aiding and abetting.

Gives a whole new meaning to the word jailbird, don’t you think?

PROMPT: Spend some time in the pen with your pen today. Perhaps you have an incarceration story of your own… ahem… or maybe you’d just like to take on the perspective of any of the characters mentioned above — unlucky inmate, desperate girlfriend, guilty pigeon… or the “high” flying squirrel.