Friday, February 21, 2014

Just Do It

“I hate writing, I love having written.”
― Dorothy Parker

What if you want to be a writer…

but you hate to write?

This was Kate DiCamillo’s dilemma.

So, she spent an entire decade dreaming of being a writer while working odd jobs.

Like the one at Disney World where she told folks to “Look down and watch your step” all day…

Every. Day.

For all of her twenties, Kate didn't write a single word.

Then she decided

that she didn't want to say on her deathbed, “I think I could have done it.”

She also decided

That she didn't have to be talented.

She just had to be persistent.

So, she got up at 4:30 every day and wrote two pages.

And it didn't matter if those pages stank to high heaven.

Then she started submitting stories.

For most of her thirties, she collected rejection slips.

400 of them.

I’m so glad she didn't quit after rejection 392.

Because here’s what came next—

Because of Winn Dixie, Newbery Honor Book, 2000

The Tale of Despereaux, Newbery Medal Winner, 2004

Flora and Ulysses, Newbery Medal Winner, 2014

And guess what?

She still hates to write. In fact, that Dorothy Parker quote is her favorite.

So, she hangs Christmas lights all around her desk to convince herself that she’s having a good time.

Then she gets up early

And writes those two pages…

Even if they stink.

PROMPT: Decide to be persistent. Set a doable daily goal… and right away, write anyway.

Write on… and on… and on!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Happy Anniversary!

The Mind’s Elbow celebrates two years of creative jump-starts today!


And that sounds like a great reason to take the day off.

Then again…

PROMPT: If you played hooky today, what would you do? Write a screenplay about it à la Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (the top grossing film of 1986). 

You know, rumor has it that Matthew Broderick will reprise his role in some kind of sequel… but it’s looking more and more like “skipping knitting class at the nursing home” with each passing day.

Hmmm… now there’s a story!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Going for Gold

FYI: No runaway teapots were harmed
in the making of this pictogram

Tomorrow a woman from my area will compete in the freeski halfpipe.

Last week, a guy from my old hometown took on the luge.

Those Olympians are everywhere!

I mean, you could cut in front of one at the Quickie Mart and never even know it.

Unless, of course, said Olympian was a curler —

They are never afraid to yell.

Have you been watching the Sochi coverage?

I have…

like a woman obsessed.

It’s a free master class in plot, after all.

The triumphs…

The tragedies…

The backstories that make you cry.

All that delicious drama.

And of course, the comic relief…

Of curling.

PROMPT: What if you were an Olympian? What event would you choose for grabbing that golden moment? Bonus points for brilliant backstory and, of course, sweeping the house.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Most Important Meal of the Day

Breakfast aisle circa 1970

I was raised on Red Dye No. 2 and white sugar.

You see, back in the early 70s, before the granola people began serving up twigs and gravel as part of a balanced breakfast, kids had morning motivators like…


I started every single day with a hefty bowl of KABOOM.

And I’m pretty sure it was 180% sugar.

Obviously, we didn't have the Food Pyramid or that fancy new Food Plate back then.

We had the “Four Food Groups”…

and each and every one of them was topped with about six inches of refined sugar.

It wasn't a big deal.

In fact, everybody was pretty frank about it.

Those “Pops” and “Smacks” you see in the breakfast aisle today once carried the honest labels of “Sugar Pops” and “Sugar Smacks,” and get this —

Moms actually bought them!

And we actually ate them!

Of course, we were bouncing off the walls by 8:05 AM, but our schools had something called “recess” to handle that.

Truth be told, there was an unsweetened part of the morning meal —

those luscious lumps of toxic dye.

And hey, so far I have suffered no ill effects.

Sure, I can read by the glow of my intestines…

But really —

I’m fine.

PROMPT: What crazy era have you survived? Are you a part of the “no seat belts — no problem” crowd? Take some time out today to write about those years spent in the dark ages. For inspiration, pick up The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson — his hilarious take on being a child of the 50’s. Warning: to avoid embarrassment, do not read it while drinking milk (with or without KABOOM).

Monday, February 17, 2014

Creator in Chief

What originally began as a celebration of George Washington’s birthday has now morphed into a party for all the guys who have held the highest office in the land.

But before you run out to get a great deal on bed linen, let’s take some time out to honor a president who would definitely be part of the Mind’s Elbow tribe…

That is, if he were actually around breathing oxygen today.

Yes, I am talking about Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Ike took up painting in his 50’s after being inspired by the artistic dabblings of Winston Churchill.

In fact, he wrote to Churchill in 1950, stating —

 “I have a lot of fun since I took it up, in my somewhat miserable way, your hobby of painting. I have had no instruction, have no talent, and certainly no justification for covering nice, white canvas with the kind of daubs that seem constantly to spring from my brushes. Nevertheless, I like it tremendously, and in fact, have produced two or three things that I like enough to keep.”

Well, there you go.

Take it from Ike —

Create just for the joy of it, worry not about the outcome.

Heck, you might even produce a keeper or two.

By the way, he once confided to a reporter that he had more time to paint when he was president than he did as a private citizen because his day was better organized.

Okay, we can go two ways with that info —

Either getting organized means having more time for creative endeavors, or…

that whole “U.S. President” gig is basically a cakewalk.

By the way, Ike’s favorite painting spot?

A magical Harry Potterish place, in fact —

The cupboard under the White House stairs.

PROMPT: It’s a great day to be like Ike. Find an enchanting location to dabble in your art of choice. Or start planning your campaign for the nation’s top spot — that way you’ll have much more time for creating in 2017.