A Book

There are days when I wake up and think, “My, it’s been a while since I’ve horrified my editor.” Why I choose to begin those thoughts with “my” escapes me, but doesn’t it sound more genteel? Like a way of whimsically inviting agreement? And I think we can all agree that I need to step-it-up a bit. Well, I suppose you’ll have to take my word for it since not all of you are 100% up on my hobbies, of which horrifying David is actually one.

Typically, I prefer to do this with my words; however, in my defense, I’m merely allowing him to show off his editorial prowess. I create the words in my particular voice, I throw them out to the world, in some curiously random order, adding and omitting while simultaneously thumbing my nose at any sort of adherence to grammatical convention. and I do it all without giving him the courtesy of letting him know in advance what I’m about to do. I mean honestly, where would the fun be? To think he might be quietly enjoying his Sunday, thinking about how to approach his lessons at the start of the new week, sipping coffee, maybe taking a moment to pause and smile as a pleasant memory of his granddaughter dances through his head. Pish posh. I can’t have that now, not when I can mangle English! In my defense, I’m American. We’re notorious for our language skills. (And well, a ton of other things. Did this conversation just become super awkward?) Feel free to elevate the man to sainthood for 1) putting up with this nonsense for free, and 2) for not erasing all of my words and replacing them with a “This Space for Rent” notification. Although David, if you entertained such an idea, I would expect you to at least still leave up the nomination for “sainthood” comment.

As I Was Saying

On a normal day, when I’ve decided to write a normal (for me) post. I recognize I set-off a little international fire drill. I write words. I edit, edit some more, hit the “Publish” button, the post appears in your emails, and then I edit about five more times, catching about 75% of the more grievous errors. Most of you who are fairly familiar with my writing, and my abuse of English, were probably unaware until now that I even make an attempt to edit at all. Just know that I’m reproaching you for those terribly mean thoughts and that every post is actually much worse than what you actually read.

Meanwhile, somewhere in Japan, an English professor wakes up (let’s call him David because well… his name is David), slaps his forehead, and goes about addressing the remaining errors. On one or maybe two occasions he’s reported back that I actually posted something that didn’t need a cleanup. On those days (ok fine, on “that” day), I pump a mighty fist into the air and declare, “nailed it!” to no one in particular. (Ahh… that was truly a great day. Though Quincy thought the outburst was rather unnecessary, then quickly relaxed into a nap knowing it was a one-off.)

The Hubris

Well, David, (and the rest of you who go by other names – Although have you thought about switching to “David”? That would really make things much simpler for me. Think about it, will you?) I’ve decided to write a book. I KNOW! The sheer hubris of it all. Who am I to begin to think I could do such a thing? Well, before you chuff and eye-roll your bemused self into a complete state of utter contempt, I do have some genuine caveats. Hear me out.

The Caveats

Well, you know if it’s me and one of my endeavors there’s always a huge caveat or a bunch of tiny caveats that if you stack them all up make kind of a caveat mountain with a little self-sustaining caveat village, and they go a little like this… When I say “a book” I’m not quite deluded enough to think it’s going to be offered up at your local Barnes & Noble, that there will be a reading and a book signing. Don’t expect to wander off to Audible, search my name, and spend a credit to enjoy me chirping away in your ear on your way to work. Although, if you’re into Texas drawls, I’m sure that would be delightful. Hey, I promise that should I ever narrate an audiobook, I will instruct “all y’all” on important things like how to correctly pronounce all words that contain the word “oil” (which incidentally is a monosyllabic word). Unfortunately, this book won’t offer up anything important like that.

The “book” (truly an air-quote affair), will be self-published, and will simply be something to amuse myself as part of the “trying new things in 2019” adventure that I’m on. My expectations in regard to this are really for myself only. I expect to write it or to make a solid attempt. I do not expect you to read it even if you find it as your only Christmas present this year. If I do that to you, I do expect you to “say” you’ve read it, and offer up something like, “The part where, you know, you said the thing? FUNNY stuff!” (See, I’ve written your review. Please refer back to this post should you receive my “book” as a gift. You’re welcome.) I do not expect David to edit it. (WHEW! Dodged a bullet there!) I really do enough to that poor man as it is. I also don’t expect it to be long, because honestly how much do I have to say authoritatively on any subject? (FYI, that’s a rhetorical question. I don’t need feedback in the comments below on that one.)

Without diving into a lot of detail, because right now it’s merely a four-page outline, I can tell you what to expect from it. You can expect it to be written in this tone – self-deprecating humor, a ton of parenthetical asides, and my usual sass. You can expect a bit of an autobiography featuring key figures in my life from my grandparents, whom you’ve barely met in my stories, to Jay. What that should tell you then is that you can expect stories of joy, love, and profound sadness along with a solid smattering of, “What the…?” It will be about my truths; however, always keep in mind the allegory of Plato’s cave when it comes to anything I write (I’ll let you discover that if you’re unfamiliar). The truth is how I see it.

David, I hope I haven’t horrified you (or the rest of you) with my plan. Especially since you’re off the editing hook! (My, have I mentioned my thoughtfulness, nay generosity, of late?)

Oh, and I’ll still be taking those swimming lessons.

Creative? Not so much…

I’m writing this on the fly, which can only mean one thing – more typos, more poor grammar choices, more run-on sentences, comma splice errors, etc. This post will be filled with all the things that would make my English teachers/professors/English professor friends cry, and then pause and wonder how on earth I manage to communicate. Ehhh, what can you do? Editing is for err… ummm… well, I suppose it’s for everyone, but still… Not today!  Ok fine, I’ll do my best? (I’ve had sugar.  This is my second disclaimer.)

Several months ago a co-worker stopped and said something like, “Beth, you’re always doing something. I love hearing your stories.  What creative thing are you into now?” I hmmed, there was some hawing, and after some not so deep soul searching I finally declared, “nothing.” While adding in my head, “nothing, topped with nothing sprinkles and a huge dash of nothing – I was making nothing pops out of congealed nothing,” and I was actually ok with that.  I thought about writing, but wasn’t feeling it.  I perused new classes, but wasn’t feeling it. Basically, I was quite happy with reading more, and catching up on Netflix series one sitting at a time.

Sometime in February, I think, a friend of mine asked me to help assist with a play. I checked my calendar, moved some of the nothing around, and hopped on board.  Afterwards I sat in character study discussions, table reads, rehearsals, and so far three performances.  Nothing is truly more exciting than watching a production grow from an idea into a live performance with a talented cast who get better every time.

Next week we’ll have the last few shows.  If you’re in Austin (and would love to travel to Georgetown), I encourage you to come see Blame it on Beckett. We have an extremely talented cast directed by one of my favorite people, Jonathan Spear.  It’s well-worth the $15. (There are discounts for Seniors and children.)

https://www.picatic.com/event14647381531248

The 48 Hour Film Project is also going on (it ends tonight at 7:30).  This is the thing where, on a Friday evening, you get assigned a genre (ours is a holiday movie or an animal movie – OY), an object (a wrapped gift) that must be in the film, a line of dialog (something that had the word “oops” in it, but my memory is that bad that after 36 hours you got me), and a character (Charlie or Charlene Bitters, an author), and you have to write, shoot, and edit it within 48 hours.  AND it’s also something I’ve avoided since we wrapped the last one in 2013 after the unfortunate incident with the neighbor.

Well, it turns out some of the talented actors from Blame it on Beckett were going to have to miss a weekend (thus the weekend break between performances) to participate in the 48 HR project which got me talking about it again.  That’s when the writer from the previous show decided she wanted to see if she could do all of the work: writing, directing, producing, editing, music, etc. – basically, I think she wanted to see if she could get the least sleep of everyone I know and avoid merrily leaping off the ledge (she’s still alive as of this writing).  My job consists (present tense since we’re still in this thing) of turning in paper work and asking the actors if they’d like a cookie.  I mean, who doesn’t want a cookie?!?! (Apparently all the actors since I ended up with all the cookies once we wrapped.  So sad to know cookie-haters walk among us. Even sadder that there are cookie-haters in my peer group. 😦 )

The good news is that our group, Uncle Bob’s Dangerous Pants, lives again!!! (And we still got props for best name from the 48 HR folks.  WOOOT!)

Also, a beautiful thing happened that made this all seem right, yet has zero to do with creativity.  The good neighbors (mentioned in the old post) are buying the evil neighbor’s house, which means the evil neighbor is moving.  I can’t begin to express how hard it was not to do an old lady style cartwheel in the front yard and cheer (after of course crashing to the ground and moaning a bit, because my cartwheels have suffered greatly over the decades).  Instead I took the news calmly only betraying my glee at the corners of my mouth and well, by repeatedly pointing to the evil house and asking, “that house? that one right there? oh that one?”  It seems like closure of sorts.  We did our first 48 HR shoot, had that happen, then did this one, and she’s moving.

Anyway, all of that to say that I’ve gotten to do some creative things with creative people lately, and that has made me pretty happy.

But I do want to add one thing – a friend who isn’t involved with any of my improv/sketch writing life said, “you’re so creative” after I mentioned the play and the 48HR Film Project.  That was really nice, but here’s where I absolutely can’t take credit.  I am good at many things, and the bulk of them include following directions.and wrangling. You also need people like me for the things I do, but I am not creative per se.  I do not “create,” and I’m ok with not being considered “creative.”  I support.  I’m one heck of a supporter.

AND I’m very lucky to be surrounded by amazingly creative people who see the need for a solid supporter. Between all of us, we get things done, and right now I’m having fun doing just that.  Now I need to get ready to go get the paperwork turned in so we can wrap this whole thing up tonight..

Taking the Moment

I’m not a creative person. Now typing that “out loud” might elicit some “of course you ares”, and that’s super sweet, but I’m ok with it. I promise no one is going to compel you into including that in my eulogy.  The truth is my brain is simply not wired that way or perhaps it’s that my muse is on a smoke break, who really ever knows.  (I would end that with a question mark, but it’s more rhetorical (unless of course you know what became of my muse, then do tell.))  I’m left brained.  Although, judging by my grades from school, it clearly does not convey any special adeptness in it’s left brainy specialties. (Why left brain? WHY?!? It’s just theoretical mathematics. Get that X girl, get it!)

Now, that doesn’t stop me from dabbling.  For example, I can draw some of the most adorable dust bunnies with these overly-large, super-solicitous eyes (if you anthropomorphize dust bunnies, you don’t have to sweep them up, because it’s like declaring war on an endangered (endangered because I just typed it) species – this is fact). Granted, I’m more likely to doodle a series of hash marks or cubes, but that’s beside the point.  When inspired, I’m a dust bunny drawing pro.  I’ve tried improv (you remember that brief foray into personal humiliation – the one where all of my classmates were approached to move forward and I was applauded for making regular payments – my pro skill) and then I tried sketch writing (where my teacher actually couldn’t remember my name after 8 months and everyone else was encouraged to go forward with sketch shows and videos).  Now some of this stems from me being a bit odd and squirrelly, but some of it is just genuinely me not being particularly good at it and people recognizing that, (which is always a tad awkward). However, I don’t let my awfulness stop me from trying!  Go me!  I’m content to spread my badness.  Make my videos. Take photographs.  Run up on a stage where they’ve invited two people to come up and then realizing a quick game of “short straw” is going on in the crowd before I get a partner.  Write my blog and ultimately just revel in my creative mediocrity. Go Meh-ness!

But here’s the rub. (No, I haven’t been drinking.) Anyway… the rub! Not everything I see others produce is always great art either, but that whole “treat your friends the way they want to be treated” thing usually compels me to offer them encouragement.  That’s especially true if they’re trying something new or challenging. If asked I offer up my “what if’s,” but mostly I tend to say “great job!”  I make an effort to acknowledge what people are sharing and recognize that a piece of their soul lives is in their art.  Apparently, “wow, that’s right shit!” is discouraging to some.

So, last week I did something that was hard for me and then I displayed it for a small world and got crickets in return, with a couple of exceptions. My soul laid a bit bare and the cool (sarcasm) sound of absolutely nothing. By comparison, I told Facebook I forgot my breakfast and immediately got 22 likes.  Maybe the takeaway is that this is where my real strength lies – not in creativity but my slow, public descent into dementia.  Great. My dreams realized.

Where we stand at this moment – I’m done.  I’m done applauding. I’m done helping. I’m done with “the favor”. I’m done encouraging.  That thing my friend did better meet MOMA standards. If they wouldn’t display it, then don’t think I want to see it as a .jpg in an email attachment.  If it’s not on “Funny or Die;” it’s clearly not worth viewing.  If it isn’t published; it’s not worth reading. If critics aren’t aware of it, and there’s not a blurb stating “Bold!” then you’re absolutely wasting my time.

Ok fine, I suppose that won’t actually be the case, but it really feels kind of liberating and also somewhat  compound sentence-y. I made many words!

Maybe I’ll offer some advice instead of declaratives. If you have friends who have chosen to share with you – whether it’s something completely new to them or it’s old hat, then take a moment to really look, listen and acknowledge.  That’s your one job as a friend; it’s actually your most important job. I guarantee they’ll reciprocate.

To my friends who always take those moments – thank you!

Who emptied the liquor cabinet?