The Improv Playground of Deranged Spontaneity

Where thoughts run free…

A penny for your thoughtsI’m back at the keyboard trying to put together a sentence. Woo-hoo! Got one! Now, where do I go from here?

Down the page, of course, keyboarding my way through a bramble of thoughts.

Ouch! I wish they’d stop needling me. Yet, they continue pushing their prickly points. Bramble! Bramble! Bramble!

Translation: What’s trending on Twitter? Did the dog poop in the house?

Two tangential thoughts, different, yet similar: digital distraction and doggie dysfunction. Although, my arthritic dog’s prognosis is better than mine.

She lays on the rug in the family room, old and broken, a fixture of decline. Her gaze holding onto a moment.

I’m always, sort of, almost there — Butt on the chair. Thoughts up in the air.

Focus is a temporary condition as variable as the Comcast channel lineup, which changed again.

Comcast and I have a lot in common as I shift my line of thought to the next thing, away from the “this” thing–completing a piece of work and summing up what I don’t know yet.

Up seems to be the theme, as in “up in the air” where my thoughts float searching for an anchor.

Will they land upstairs in the shower or downstairs in Dog World?

The shower equalizes me, prepares me for the real world, while in Dog World, my thoughts run free chasing tangents.

I don’t know when they’ll come home again.

Guessing is as good as it gets. It’s my specialty, along with mind travel, to escape the voices in my head. Will they ever shut up?

And we’re back to the “up” theme. But, that will change.

We’re seesawing in the improv playground of deranged spontaneity. No rubber mats here to cushion a fall or audible hecklers. Only internal voices taunting me, vying for attention.

“Hey! Hey! Pick me!” OCD Voice screams.

“Forget her! She’s boring!” ADHD Voice says while spinning around.

Instead, I focus on the keyboard in an attempt to ignore them, but it’s hard in the silence of the house–the house always wins. If I stay, I lose.

I leave in a daydream and find a time when I mingled with people, not dogs–before I joined the ranks of the underemployed.

As a member of the “too many hours in the week club,” today is a non-working day of sedentary discontent, idling without a schedule to reel in ADHD tendencies.

I embrace distractions that lead me through a parallel world where time speaks softly from a faraway place. “Come back,” she whispers, in a tick-tock way.

Of course, I ignore her and continue corralling wisps of thoughts as nebulous as clouds.

Whoops! Another thought gone. Another thought wrangled, ends up on the page.

Every day is a contest between thoughts I catch and the ones that get away.

Is there flypaper for the brain?

This inquiring mind wants to know, as I meander toward the end, wondering when the last period will leave a mark.

White House Pulls The Plug On Meals On Wheels

Caution Elderly CrossingConsidered a non-essential item in the White House budget, the Meals on Wheels program will likely be terminated along with grandma — “Whose life expectancy exceeds her value to society,” according to the budget overview.

“Non-essential spending on people who’ve outlasted their expiration date will be shifted to essential budgets like the military, to help pay for wars caused by Trump‘s early morning Twitter rants.”

A White House aide cited the President’s recent tweet on North Korea and China as a reason for the increase in military spending.

Trump Disses China

“We started an office pool in the West Wing on who will attack first,” but then refused to reveal the country on which he placed his bet.

He told reporters that Trump’s poor diplomatic skills also factored into the budget increase “because of POTUS‘s tendency to insult world leaders not amused by him.” The aide emphasized the importance of shutting down non-essential programs to maintain a strong military “by killing off the weaklings that are almost dead anyway.”

During a recent White House briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer justified the White House’s decision on Meals on Wheels. “The President’s goal is to shift government spending from old people programs like Meals on Wheels to the youth-centric Parking Space Restoration Plan that eliminates handicap parking and wheelchair ramps.”

Reporters responded with aggressive handwaving and yelling in an effort to ask follow-up questions, which ended abruptly when Spicer threw a shoe at a reporter who spoke out of turn and got a timeout in the back corner of the room.

The briefing resumed a few moments later despite Spicer’s inability to locate the shoe he threw at the reporter. “It’s unbelievable,” he said. “That I can’t find my shoe… and that money is wasted on failing programs like Meals on Wheels…”

He continued. “Feeding people who have no interest in living or eating is a counter-productive use of public resources and an unnecessary drain on the Federal budget. Look, no one’s thriftier than I am,” then he lifted his shoeless foot and wiggled a toe through a hole in his sock.

“I’m thrifty but at least I can feed myself. Old people need to get with the program or leave the planet,” he screamed. “They need to get their ass out of bed, grab their cane, hobble down to the corner market and buy their own damn food. No one wants to watch them eat anyway,” he said, then made an “ew” face.

“For years, public resources have gone to the deadweights of society, people who no longer contribute to the workforce or their family. No one wants to hear their kids complain about grandma’s wheelchair always getting in the way.”

Maria Gloom, a 90-year-old great-grandmother enrolled in the Meals on Wheels program was invited to watch the briefing from the green room. A career government analyst for over forty years, Maria agreed with Spicer’s assessment. “He’s right,” she said. “I’ve got no family and don’t deserve to eat. Why the government continues to waste money on me I’ll never know.”

“It’s true. She’ll never know,” said a Meals on Wheels spokesperson on hand during the interview. “Maria suffers from dementia. Since there’s no one else to care for her, the government is her family now. And it’s unconscionable that the government to whom she’s devoted her life wants to take away the program that keeps her alive–”

“So, I can feed my cats,” Maria interrupted. “Meals on Wheels pays for my damn cats. How’s that for government waste?”

The Meals on Wheels spokesperson noted that Maria didn’t have any cats.

“I used to,” Maria protested. “Until the pussy grabber took them away.”

Spicer wouldn’t confirm or deny what Maria Gloom said but added, “Look at her. She’s all wrinkled like my Nonna.”

A public outcry against the White House budget prompted Maria to tell reporters. “Just give my money to veterans. They deserve it more than me.”

To which, Spicer responded, “We’re purging funds for veterans, too.” Then, he concluded the questioning, grabbed his shoe from a reporter’s mouth and left the briefing room.

A Draft From My Fleeting Thoughts

Jenny looking out the windowI tried writing a blog post today and ended up floating through social media sites, adhering to the parameters of my short attention span.

On Twitter, I attempted to write 140 characters of prose for the 1st-line Wednesday hashtag game. Instead, I wrote 116 characters, which included the hashtag #1linewed, falling short of my 500-word goal.

Writing is hard. I know this and have accepted it, embraced the work ethic required that I haven’t yet mustered.

I castigate myself every time I get distracted and end up on the Internet. “You’re better than this,” I say.

If only I listened to myself.

I know I should disconnect when I’m sitting at the computer or use a distraction blocker to keep my focus on the screen, but I don’t. I allow the allure of whimsy to attract me.

I allow my thoughts to get stuck in the dusty light of fleeting things and end up writing something only 116 characters long, not worthy of the word “accomplishment.”

Why do I let myself slip into this redundant behavior of idling nothingness, the place self-control gives in to a quick digital fix? Why do I embrace the instant gratification of a social media high after which I drop into a hole so deep I can’t climb out?

Why do I allow my attention to mindlessly float in a sphere of whimsy? A conscious coma in which my thoughts slip into a montage of talk show appearances where I promote that book I never wrote.

Fantastical mind-wandering thoughts that float in my head like pond scum, eventually get stuck in the drain suck of inertia where passion nods off.

A sudden reflexive jerk snaps me back to another meaningless hashtag game, the rush of instant gratification gone as soon as I leave the page.

Nothing gained from my mindless wandering. Just fleeting thoughts of fancy that embrace you while you drift, then slip away.

Drifting is pleasant. Writing is painful. It’s black and blue. Dark and light.

It’s acceptable human torture when you’re not in the zone. Getting there requires discipline and a workable routine. That’s hard to harness when you’ve got time to squander on a week off (without pay).

A rigid time-constrained schedule keeps you within the designated lines on which you need to write. Without them, you fall off the document into the gray moat around the page.

How do you discipline yourself?

Do you have a regular writing routine?

America Elects Its Next Celebrity President

Trump Thank You TourIt’s not surprising that Trump won the election. Americans love reality television. Millions of viewers tune it to watch Survivor every Wednesday night, others can’t survive without their Tuesday fix of Dancing with the Stars. When the election mutated into a spin-off of The Apprentice, Americans couldn’t get enough of Trump’s on-the-trail antics, some of it funny, some of it scary, yet entertaining all the same.

The media also embraced the campaign’s carnival-like atmosphere, analyzing Trump’s tweets and monitoring his rallies, waiting for him to say something outrageous that would drive the 24/7 news cycle. Every day, it seemed, a Trump narrative dominated the headlines, stealing airtime from Hillary. Even when Trump wasn’t the focus of the news, his response to Hillary’s bad press became news when he inevitably stepped on the story with one of his blunders.

“This one will sink him,” the talking heads predicted, first during the primaries and then the campaign.

“He’s the Teflon Don,” another shot back. “Nothing has sunk him yet.”

That turned out to be accurate. No matter how outrageous or inflammatory Trump could be, his supporters stuck by their guy. He was entertaining, wasn’t politically correct (to a fault). He spoke to them like a friend and was somebody they wanted to have a beer with. His recognizable face and brand made them feel warm and fuzzy. They knew this guy. They had watched him on TV: The Apprentice, the Miss America Pageant, and Access Hollywood. While Hillary became ensnared in a character battle with Trump that brought out her greatest weaknesses, Trump was celebrated for his. “It was just Trump being Trump,” the guy who was everything that Washington was not.

He was the anti-presidential candidate. Though his negatives were higher than Hillary’s was, it became an asset for him, not for her. He was, Mr. Reality TV, was supposed to be outrageous and politically incorrect. That was his brand.

The Clinton campaign made a grave error using character as their focus of the campaign. Character was her greatest weakness, his greatest strength… because he was the likable reality TV star, she, the dishonest wonk, according to Trump and his supporters. The Clintons underestimated the power of a reality TV star and the audience that adored and trusted him. Even if Trump supporters thought he was a clown, he was a clown they knew. They didn’t really know Hillary, even though she had been active in politics for many years. They had heard about Benghazi and Monica Lewinsky. Knew they shouldn’t like her. But not until the email scandal and Trump’s branding of her as “Crooked Hilary,” was her character transformation complete. A complicit media that had an appetite for demonizing Clinton, assisted in propelling the narrative that Trump had created.

The media fell in love with Trump, the rating’s magnet; they adored him, even when abused by him, and overlooked facts for the sake of audience market share. They followed Trump’s Twitter activity more than leads on his questionable business dealings and character flaws. Had the media latched onto Trump’s taxes as firmly as Hillary’s emails, Trump may have been forced to release them before he takes the Oath of Office on January 20th.

I thought the media would have learned their lessons from the campaign. But they continue to allow Trump to drive the narrative, dictate the script, while they report on every tweet. They treat him like a TV star, not a president-elect. They embrace his weaknesses: his thin skin and erratic behavior, to bolster their ratings, instead of reporting on how his flaws could adversely affect our country and the world. They want to cultivate favors with the new president-elect, not alienate him.

While we watch Trump captivate the media with his outrageous statements: his bigotry, bullying, xenophobia, and sexism, as he flip-flops on his campaign promises (mostly overlooked by the press) — America loses its soul. Because they elected a celebrity they thought they knew, but really didn’t know.

The media and their audience focused on Trump’s shenanigans instead of his backstory: his global financial ties, not vetted, Russian involvement in the election (and possible coordination with the Trump campaign) mostly glossed over, along with the Trump Foundation and Trump University.

The media didn’t hound Trump to release his taxes and his supporters didn’t care if he released them or not. They believed Trump when he told them that he was under audit and that the “dishonest media” was out to get him, would crucify him if he released his taxes. By defusing the media’s influence, questioning the veracity of every negative story about him, Trump became the media authority, the only honest news source according to Trump. Because of his recognizable brand and power of celebrity to “grab them by the pussy” or “do whatever the hell I want,” he seduced the American people, who idolized their TV star, and convinced them that he would “Make America Great Again,” despite not having substantial plans to backup his claims.

Because the media embraced the notion that Americans wanted to be entertained, not informed, we are now involuntary participants in a reality TV show, unlike anything we’ve seen before. No one received a call from central casting, and yet we have accepted our roles as the electorate in a Trump presidency.

As in all reality TV shows, there will be winners and losers. However, if President-elect Trump’s cabinet picks are an indication of what to expect in future episodes, there will be no winners, except for the star and cast of the Trump POTUS TV show that will run for four consecutive seasons on every station.

We will be a captive audience whether we like it or not.

Writer’s Block: Blame It On Trump!

Trump 60 Minutes Interview

I had every intention of writing a blog post but that same old dread enveloped me like a noxious fog — President Trump.

Eye twitches.

I tried to calm myself by meditating: ohm, ohm… Oh, my God, President Trump.

Throat constricts.

I tried taking a walk to get inspired: Trees, birds… Trump.

Brain freezes.

I’ve got nothing, I said. Any thoughts? I asked Myself, usually a very good listener and purveyor of good advice.

But she wasn’t helpful this time. “I don’t know,” Myself said introspectively. “Maybe write something about Trump.”

“But that’s depressing,” I grumbled. “Thinking about Trump makes me grumpy, or dare I say, Trumpy. You know I haven’t written anything in months because of Trump.”

Myself just sighed. She knew that Trump’s bigoted, unhinged comments stifled my creativity and provoked me to yell at inanimate objects like the shoe I just tripped over.

“What the hell, shoe!” I yelled. “Are you trying to kill me?”

The shoe offered a laced up rebuke. “You left me here,” it said. “… abandoned me like all the ideas you’ve scribbled on torn pages in your notebook. This one is on you, missy!”

“But, but?”

But, there were no more buts. The shoe was right–literally.

I had no business yelling at anything and went on an apology tour to all the inanimate objects in the house.

I realized that being depressed and stuck is exactly what a bully would want from the ladies he’s grabbed by the pussy, metaphorically or figuratively.

It didn’t matter. If I allowed Trump to victimize me from afar, my voice would be silenced–exactly what Trump would want.

So, I’ll do my best not to get Trumped and rant in run-on sentences with protruding cartoon eyes. It only upsets my blog who stares at me blankly, sputtering nonsensical words across an anemic-looking page.

“Damn it!” I screamed. “Write something smart!”

At which point the sidearm of my chair slapped my wrist and said, “Stop choking the monitor!”

“My God. I’m a monster!” I unclenched the computer and wiped my fingerprints from the screen.

“Sorry blog. This anger thing is unconscious and scary pervasive. I need to get a grip without getting a grip. Use my hands for good, instead of evil.”

“The power of Christ compels you” to purge the beast and write.

But write about what? Puppies or politics?

I love puppies but their cuteness is wasted on words, best captured in video or pictures.

I love politics but lately just see the giant orange burrito spew guacamole on TV. It sends me on a taco spending spree to crush them in the compactor.

No, I need a Trumpectomy, to turn off the TV and get Trump out of my head. Once there’s nothing left of him, I’ll be able to write again.

Now, if I only could think of something to write about.

Has your writing been Trumped?

That Awkward Moment – Writing A Blog Post Then Promoting It.

PERFECTION IS A FANTASY

Once you finish writing a blog post and then publish it, you panic.

You see a word or two you want to change, a sentence that could be phrased differently.

And you think. Who would want to read this? It’s crap! It needs another revision. You backslide into “this isn’t good enough syndrome,” and get stuck in the weeds.

Literally and figuratively.

Writing IS like weeding. You’ll always find something you want to pull and toss.

Stop oppressive gardeningAfter bagging hundreds of dandelions you caught choking the life from your somewhat greenish lawn, you’re ready to drag the bag to the curb. You grab it, then stop.

You spot a dandelion at two o’clock. It taunts you. “Come and get me, plucker!”

“Me, too!” another one screams.

“And me!” laughs Dandelion #3.

You drop to your knees and continue yanking and bagging. Every time you think you’re done, more dandelions appear.

The same is true with writing. You’ll always find a weedy word you want to extricate from the page.

But don’t let your proclivity for perfection paralyze you.

Your post may not be perfect. But, Damn it! It’s close enough.

Restrain the obsessive beast in your brain by setting a deadline before you start to write. When you reach the deadline, stop and say, “I’m done! Really done. Now, what?”

It’s time to promote your post.

CLIMB OUT OF YOUR SHELF

The brain

The brain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How does a writer reprogram their brain from writing to promoting?

For a writer who’s thrilled when anyone reads her work, the thought of promoting it can be terrifying.

But don’t give in to your fears. Push past that fluttery feeling in your gut and seek out other like-minded souls on the Internet.

Join Twitter, FacebookPinterest and other social media sites.

Find your tribe: people you want to hangout with. Join a writer’s group on Facebook.

After you find your tribe, don’t bore them by only talking about your writing. Join the conversation.

Just like at a cocktail party, if you meet someone who talks at you, not with you, you make excuses and walk away. You avoid self-absorbed people who tell you how great they are. The same is true with social media.

Don’t monopolize your tribe mate’s time by promoting your work. Promotion is NOT one-sided. Promotion IS interactive. Make friends. Say hello. Share a post. Ask them about their day.

Then something amazing happens. Your tribemate cracks a joke. You LOL. And someone shares your post.

The more you meet people and engage them, the more comfortable you’ll become with social media. After a while it will be fun… maybe too much fun, maybe a bit addictive. That’s when you need to take a breath.

Learn to manage your time, so you don’t stay online for hours, or days, and lose focus of your passion. Take a break. Quit the Internet. Reboot your brain and write!

 

This post is based upon the recent Twitter chat, “How to Overcome Self-Promotion Anxiety As A Writer,” hosted by Amanda Chiu of Atomic Reach #AtomicChat.

Thanks again for inviting me to be a guest on the last chat of the year.