Holes and Vettes

Carrie Does Poems
Carrie Does Poems
Holes and Vettes
/

Hi! This year (2022), I’ve decided to share a poem on my blog and podcast and read it aloud. It’s all a part of my quest to be brave and apparently the things that I’m scared about still include:

  1. My spoken voice
  2. My raw poems.

Thanks for being here with me and cheering me on, and I hope that you can become braver this year, too!


Holes and Vettes

Bar Harbor. Maine. 2022. A baseball field. 
Corvettes line up in rows, engines still
For once and owners preening 
From their folding chairs, legs poking 
Into the same grass that supports Life 
Flight helicopters in emergencies
And soccer cleats. This earth withstands so much.

It’s a yearly gathering that’s paused two years
Thanks to global disease, but now the drivers 
Are all maskless and showing off 
Their cars to locals who wander 
Between the lines, marveling. 

“I will never be rich enough
To own one,” says a man 
in a black t-shirt to a guy 
with a firebird red model. 

“I thought that too,” 
The guy says. “Work hard. 
You’ll get there.” 

The first man moves to run
A finger across the car’s hood. 
The owner flinches like it’s some kind of assault. 
“Try hard,” he repeats. “You’ll get there." 

We all try hard 
To get there,
Inventing monologues
Of worth based on materialism, 
Who owns what, how shiny
Our skins are, our hair, our cars,
Houses. We pretend like any of this
Fills up the holes we dig inside ourselves,
Inside the ozone, inside the earth. 

Darkening faces,
Double visions. Horror. 
The Vettes represent adventure 
And freedom. Not being beholden
Despite the car loans required,
The interest rates. The American Debt. 

“There are eight 
Generations of car here,” 
Says an organizer
With a yellow sunhat 
Perched on her head. 
“This is the car of dreams.”
 
American Dreams.
And that’s the thing.
Have you ever hit your head
On a poem or a wall
Or something else hard
And realized that your dreams
Aren’t actually yours? 

Have you ever felt like you’re falling
Though you are standing still on a field
Surrounded by excess and shiny paint
Jobs and pride, merciless, assaulting, 
And begged for stable ground
Before realizing you’re just making holes, too.
Maybe the holes are in a ball field, 
Or in the Earth or the ozone
Or maybe—just maybe—in your own damn heart. 


Hey, thanks for listening to Carrie Does Poems. These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in Carrie, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Eric Van der Westen and the track is called “A Feather” and off the album The Crown Lobster Trilogy.

While Carrie only posts poems weekly here, she has them (in written form) almost every other weekday over on Medium. You should check it out!

https://freemusicarchive.org/music/eric-van-der-westen/the-crown-lobster-trilogy-selection

Take a Nap Like Alexander the Great and Fight Burnout

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Take a Nap Like Alexander the Great and Fight Burnout
/

So, sometimes we burnout.

We work and work and strive and strive and juggle multiple obligations and opportunities and we just stop being fully there because we’re so tired.

Before I go on, let’s define burnout. I’m going to go with this definition because it’s not a Medium or blogger guru, but from the National Institute of Health.

“The term “burnout” was coined in the 1970s by the American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. He used it to describe the consequences of severe stress and high ideals in “helping” professions. Doctors and nurses, for example, who sacrifice themselves for others, would often end up being “burned out” – exhausted, listless, and unable to cope. Nowadays, the term is not only used for these helping professions, or for the dark side of self-sacrifice. It can affect anyone, from stressed-out career-driven people and celebrities to overworked employees and homemakers.”

That NIH article also has some nice rundown of symptoms:

  • Exhaustion: People affected feel drained and emotionally exhausted, unable to cope, tired and down, and don’t have enough energy. Physical symptoms include things like pain and gastrointestinal (stomach or bowel) problems.
  • Alienation from (work-related) activities: People who have burnout find their jobs increasingly stressful and frustrating. They may start being cynical about their working conditions and their colleagues. At the same time, they may increasingly distance themselves emotionally, and start feeling numb about their work.
  • Reduced performance: Burnout mainly affects everyday tasks at work, at home or when caring for family members. People with burnout are very negative about their tasks, find it hard to concentrate, are listless and lack creativity.”

It’s a lot like depression, right? But it’s not the same. Typically, people with burnout don’t’ feel hopeless, suicidal or have low self-esteem.

So, now that we’ve got that out of the way, how do you get some down time when you’re working so hard that you’re either burnt out or in great danger of getting there?

GETTING A GRIP AND GRATIFY YOURSELF

First you want to look at the patterns of us overachievers who tend to burn out. We often were the ‘good kids’ in school who learned that in order to get praise (and not get in trouble) you had to get all your assignments done and on time. We’re all about the goals and completing those goals.

Chilling out? Resting? That doesn’t feel goal-oriented.

We think that we can delay our gratification and keep delaying it and keep delaying it so that we can get all our goals done. Delayed gratification, we all learn in our beginner psychology classes, means we will have better success in our life. They test children about this. It’s a thing. But when we’re super focused on achieving, we burn out because that delayed gratification equates to us not realizing that we are breaking down physically and mentally.

BE CHILL AND LET GO OF THAT DAMN GUILT

And it’s not just that. We want to get a lot done and to do it well. If our work isn’t awesome, we feel like we aren’t awesome. Resting, we foolishly think, keeps us from getting all our awesome things done. It keeps us from writing, running three miles, finishing the project for work, making the perfect lunch for our kids.

It’s worse than that though. We feel guilty. If we rest, we feel guilty.

We should be working, doing, creating. We should be better than this. We don’t need naps.

TAKE A NAP, DAMN IT

Here’s a secret: Alexander the Great took naps. He still got to be called ‘great.’ Ben Franklin? Took naps.

So, the first step is to realize that.

People who have changed history actually rested. That means you can, too. If you don’t, your performance starts to get kind of crappy. You don’t want that, do you, super goal-oriented one? No, of course not.

Then you have to remember that everything doesn’t have to be a goal and everything doesn’t have to be your job and responsibility.

Make a to-do list, sure. But in that make a top priority list and focus on those.

And remember, it’s okay to not be amazing all the time, to not be reliable all the time, to not do everything for everyone all the time. It’s so hard especially when you’re struggling to survive, but you have to remember it’s okay to suck sometimes. We all do. And it’s okay to nap.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Take naps! Only get off the couch for food. No, not really. But do take a nap if you need one.

LINK WE REFERENCE

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/mystery-terrifying-big-grey-man-26996822

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW!

We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Carrie is reading one of her poems every week on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Here’s the link.

best writing podcast WRITE BETTER NOW
Write Better Now – Writing Tips podcast for authors and writers
best podcast ever
loving the strange the podcast about embracing the weird
best poetry podcast by poet
Carrie Does Poems

Writers Get Addicted to Things Not Just Drugs and Booze and Coffee

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
Writers Get Addicted to Things Not Just Drugs and Booze and Coffee
/

Hi, welcome to Write Better Now, a podcast of quick, weekly writing tips meant to help you become a better writer. We’re your hosts with NYT bestselling author Carrie Jones and copyeditor extraordinaire Shaun Farrar. Thank you for joining us.


Sometimes us writers become a little stylistic. We get addictions. We might fall in love with the ellipses or certain words. Or, we might forget things like what a comma splice is or—gasp—what a sentence is.

Yes, I said it.

Sometimes writers forget what it is to make an awesome sentence. So we’re here to quickly tell you.

LET ME SET THE MOOD.

A good sentence brings the reader into the story and grounds them or gives them information or makes them feel. It doesn’t confuse them. It shows emotion and makes the reader feel sometimes. It creates an image for your reader to imagine via detail.

YOU COMPLETE ME.

A good sentence is complete. What does that mean? It means it isn’t a fragment, but it has a subject and a verb in it and that subject and verb combine to make a thought. In grammarian fancy language we call that complete thought an indepenendent clause.

It’s independent because it can stand all by itself like a mighty sentence. It’s not broken with its leg in a cast and has to have crutches and lean onto other thoughts.

A good sentence doesn’t need other sentences to complete it like an annoying character in a rom-com.  

So a sentence fragment is an addictive little poop and it is broken or fragmented because it doesn’t have a subject (what the sentence is about), a verb (what the subject of the sentence is doing) or a complete thought.

Here is an example of a fragment that isn’t a complete thought:

            Although Big Foot sits.

Wait. What?  We don’t know what happens although Big Foot is sitting, right?

Here is a sentence:

Although Big Foots sits on top of the garbage disposal, nobody can get a good photo of him.

Here is an example of a fragment with no verb

            Smelly Big Foot, sexy Big Foot.

Here’s an example of a fragment with no noun

            Running through the YMCA like he was human and not 8 feet tall and naked.

Fragments can be fun to throw in your story once in a while for impact, but too many and you just stop making sense.

IT MAKES SENSE.

We are not all James Joyce. We do not need to replicate Ulysses, his novel of massive sentences that are all contortionists. A good sentence makes sense and doesn’t make our readers’ brains hitch up.


Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better.

How To Make Your Writing More Intense

Write Better Now
Write Better Now
How To Make Your Writing More Intense
/

It’s Writing Tip Time and we’re going to give you three fast and dirty writing tips today that’s going to make your writing more intense. Ready?

Think about your tense

What’s that mean? It means don’t be writing like things are happening now and then shift over to writing like things were happening in the past. If you want the most immediate writing experience, write in the present tense.

Here’s a quick example:

I lost feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run on Friday. I thought I might be having a stroke.

That’s in the past tense, right? We read this, notice it’s in the first person and figure that the narrator has survived because she’s telling us about this after-the-fact.

Try it out in the present tense:

I lose feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run. I think I might be having a stroke.

It’s more intense, right?

Let’s make it more intense.

Take out the distancing words.

In first person especially, it’s really hard to get away from a lot of looking and knowing and words that pull us out of the moment and the immediacy of the character’s experience.

Distancing language tends to be the words like ‘seem,’ and ‘look,’ and ‘heard,’ and ‘know.’ When I revise, I think of these words as placeholders for where I can go back and dig in more deeply in certain places.

So, let’s take that sentence again and make it more immediate.

I lose feeling on my entire left side of my body during our long run. I think I might be having a stroke.

Change that up and it looks like:

My entire left side of my body starts going numb during our long run. My left foot numbs first. Then my left hand and arm. When the left side of my mouth starts going numb, I gasp. I might be having a stroke.

You’re in there a bit more with that character now right. Is she having a stroke? What the heck is she running for? SHE IS BROKEN!

Try not to use the same word too many times too closely together.

In the example above I deliberately use the word ‘numb’ and ‘my left’ over and over again. I’m cool with the repetition of ‘my left,’ but not so much with the numb. There are better, cooler words to mix in there and grab the reader’s attention. Let’s try.

My entire left side of my body starts going numb during our long run. My left foot disappears first. Then my left hand and arm. When the left side of my mouth starts to tingle, I gasp. I might be having a stroke.

There you go!

We’ve learned three fast tips to making your writing more intense.

Writing Tip of the Pod:

Be in the present (tense). Don’t be distant. Mix up your words, man.

Hey, thanks for listening to Write Better Now.

These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in us, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Mr.ruiz and the track is Arctic Air and the album is Winter Haze Summer Daze.

For exclusive paid content, check out Carrie’s substack, LIVING HAPPY and WRITE BETTER NOW. It’s basically like a blog, but better.

Mean People Suck

Carrie Does Poems
Carrie Does Poems
Mean People Suck
/

Hi! This year (2022), I’ve decided to share a poem on my blog and podcast and read it aloud. It’s all a part of my quest to be brave and apparently the things that I’m scared about still include:

  1. My spoken voice
  2. My raw poems.

Thanks for being here with me and cheering me on, and I hope that you can become braver this year, too!


Mean People Suck

She is driving, in her car, with the sticker MEAN PEOPLE SUCK

Stuck on the bumper. She hasn’t yet peeled

The sticker off, though she promised herself

When her dad bought her the car, she would before the week was through.

Mean people suck.

But as she drives the car, at night, down the curves

Of the Mud Creek Road, she isn’t thinking of the elegant statement

Stuck to her little, gray automobile, she is thinking

Of the boy poet in her German class, the handsome one, with hair,

And how, only a half hour earlier,

He gave her the best compliment she’d ever heard:

                        If you lived in Nazi Germany

                        You would’ve been in the resistance. I am sure.

Ah. She sighs at such a compliment, better by far than a litany

Of her attributes, of the color of her eyes, the beauty of her words.

Not better than the boy poet’s hand on her thigh,

Or perhaps, his lips on her instep.

You can only ask for so much.

This is what she thinks as something darts in front of her car.

Headlights turn the fur orange.

A cat, she thinks as she swerves. A fox?

The thud is as bad as she imagines

And for five seconds she keeps driving,

Five seconds before she pulls to the side of the Mud Creek Road,

Five seconds before she tries to find the hazards.

She can’t. She can’t find them and while she looks, her body

Shakes and she tells herself:

Drive back.

            Drive back.

                        Turn around.  

She does, watching the body grow large and clear in headlight beams.

Not a fox. Not a cat. No crying little girls tomorrow

Searching for Muffin or Smokey,

No pictures of cuddly kittens posted on supermarket wall or telephone poles.

A raccoon.

Why did she think the fur was orange? Is she color blind?

Do you need glasses if you’re color blind, she wonders.

Parking parallel to the body in the middle of the Mud Creek Road, she looks.

God, he is beautiful, this raccoon, perfect mask and paws and fur.

            Move him, she orders herself.

                        Move him.

She opens the door, but the animal stirs… a slow, graceful lift of his head.

His eyes meet hers. And she knows, knows she can’t move him,

Knows she can’t take off her jacket, wrap it around his soft, bruised body,

Can’t bring him to rest in dignity by the woods. And she knows she can’t

Get in the car and run him over and over again and again,

Forcing tires over his furry bulk until the pain is over.

In her own hips,  a pain like sciatica spreads, needles sticking and

Spinning down her flanks.

She shuts the door, puts the car in reverse.

The raccoon stares.

The raccoon watches the lights retreat and despite the increasing distance, despite

The roar of other cars coming closer, the rush of blood,

Despite everything, this raccoon hears the girl yelling to herself:

            Coward! Coward…

And he agrees.

Hey, thanks for listening to Carrie Does Poems. These podcasts and more writing tips are at Carrie’s website, carriejonesbooks.blog. There’s also a donation button there. Even a dollar inspires a happy dance in Carrie, so thank you for your support.

The music you hear is made available through the creative commons and it’s a bit of a shortened track from the fantastic Eric Van der Westen and the track is called “A Feather” and off the album The Crown Lobster Trilogy.

While Carrie only posts poems weekly here, she has them (in written form) almost every other weekday over on Medium. You should check it out!

https://freemusicarchive.org/music/eric-van-der-westen/the-crown-lobster-trilogy-selection


Whip that Sexy Feta, Honey

Whip that Feta, Honey

Recipe by CarrieCourse: AppetizersCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Easy
Servings

8

servings
Prep time

15

minutes
Cooking time

20

minutes
Calories, but who is counting, really?

113

kcal
Total time

35

minutes

Stuff That Goes In It

  • THE OLIVES OF AWESOME ROASTED HAPPINESS
  • 2 cups of different kinds of olives, pit those bad boys

  • ⅓ cup of the olive oil that not just a virgin, but an extra virgin, wonder what the hell that means.

  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed up (not on booze, this isn’t drunk garlic; it’s smooshed)

  • 1 shallot, quartered

  • 1 lemon, quartered

  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme and 2 sprigs fresh oregano, hanging out together the way thyme and oregano do

  • Chili flakes to make it spicy

  • Feta that is all Honey Whipped
  • 8 ounces of feta cheese

  • 3 ounces of room-temperature cream cheese

  • 3 tablespoons of honey

  • black pepper

How to Make It

  • This is the sexy part. Find your oven. Turn it on. Do whatever it takes to heat that baby up to 450° F. I
  • Feel accomplished. Now search through the tupperware for an OVEN SAFE baking dish.
  • Put your all those olive ingredients (including the olives and chili flakes to taste) together so they can party like it’s 1999 and Prince is coming over.
  • Bake for somewhere between 20 and 20 minutes in the oven. Do not use cannabis! YOU are not getting baked. The OLIVES are getting baked.
  • But on your best BDSM gear and whip the feta. How do you do this? Not with whips, actually! I know! I know! Bummer. Just put all the whipped feta ingredients into a food processor . Pretend you’re at a nightclub and pulse it. Pulse it again and again and again. Throw your hands in the air. And do it until that mix is all smooth and creamy.
  • Find a spoon. Use it to put the feta in a bowl. Now top it with the baked olive mixture. Feel sexy while you eat it because you are, damn it. No matter what that boy said at your sixth-grade dance at the Catholic Church in Bedford, New Hampshire, you are.

Notes

Strange and Stupid Reasons People Call 911

Loving the Strange
Loving the Strange
Strange and Stupid Reasons People Call 911
/

Tomorrow there’s a big storm coming to the coast of Maine (allegedly), but if we have power and internet, we’ll be here talking about the random, strange, stupid things people call emergency services about.

Have you done this?

Dispatcher friends, if you want to share anonymous stories, feel free to message. We know you have some.

See you then, fingers crossed!

LINKS WE MENTION IN THE PODCAST

https://www.police1.com/bizarre/articles/top-5-most-bizarre-911-calls-QToCYgkLEeBW1hwD/

https://www.ranker.com/list/dispatchers-worst-calls/michaelchoi

https://www.somethingawful.com/news/leaked-911-calls/1/

https://people.com/celebrity/911-operators-tell-all-29-of-the-dumbest-calls-theyve-ever-received/

https://www.buzzfeed.com/angelicaamartinez/funny-911-calls

https://www.boredpanda.com/operators-share-most-ridiculous-911-calls/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=organic

Weird Hitchhiking Stories and How to Punctuate Dialogue

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Weird Hitchhiking Stories and How to Punctuate Dialogue
/

In last week’s podcast we started to talk about how to punctuate dialogue because we’re sexy like that. And we’re continuing that discussion this week.

A great source of how to to punctuate dialogue is from theeditorsblog.net

They are calm and lovely and explain things really well.

And for a reminder: A dialogue tag is just the bits like “they said,” “she whispered,” “he yelled.”

Single line of dialogue with dialogue tag and action

So, for this, you’ve got quotation marks around your dialogue with the dialogue tag following what was said. But before that, right before the end quotation mark, you have a comma. There’s no capital letter for that dialogue tag. Why? Because it’s the same damn sentence, that’s why, and you can’t just randomly capitalize things in there. A period goes at the very end of the action or beat.

“Shaunie is a cutie face,” she said, hoping Shaunie would look her way and smile.

Quotation Marks + Capitalized First Word + Comma + End Quotation Marks + Lowercase First Word in the Dialogue Tag + Comma (usually) + Action/Beat + Period.

You can switch that around and start off with the action/beat and the dialogue tag.

Hoping Shaunie would look her way and smile, she said, “Shaunie is a cutie face.”

Action/Beat + Comma + Dialogue Tag + Quotation Marks + Capitalized First Word + Period + End Quote

So, then you have the interrupting dialogue stuff that writers love.

This is when the dialogue is all the same sentence, but it’s interrupted by the dialogue tag. When that happens, you want a comma before the last quotation marks in the first part of the sentence and then again after the dialogue tag.

“Shaunie is a cutie face,” she said, hoping Shaunie would look her way and smile, “but he doesn’t ever notice me.”

Or

“Shaunie is a cutie face,” she said, “but he doesn’t ever notice me.”

Quotation Marks + Capitalized First Word + Comma + End Quotation Marks + Lowercase First Word in the Dialogue Tag + Comma + Action/Beat + Comma + Quotation Marks + Lowercased first word + End Punctuation (not a comma) + End Quotation Marks.

Two sentences interrupted

Or you can get all emphatic and make it two sentences because it’s dialogue. Then the first sentence has a period before the end quotes and dialogue tag. The dialogue tag ends with a period. The second quote section starts with a capital letter. Whew. That’s a lot. Ready?

“Shaunie is a cutie face,” she said, hoping Shaunie would look her way and smile. “But he doesn’t ever notice me.”

Quotation Marks + Capitalized First Word + Comma + End Quote Marks + Lowercase First Word in the Dialogue Tag + Comma + Action/Beat + Period + Quotation Marks + Capitalized First Word + End Punctuation (not a comma) + End Quotation Marks.

Whew, that was a lot. Our brains are fried? Your brains okay?

Writing Tip of the Pod

Be sexy. Know your punctuation.

Dog Tip for Life

Don’t just bark at people. It’s easy, but it doesn’t get you what you want.

LINKS WE REFERENCE IN THE RANDOM THOUGHTS PART OF THE PODCAST

https://omaha.com/news/national/roadrunner-going-faster-ends-up-in-maine-after-hitchhike/article_4ce788b0-ef17-50ea-b260-36325130663c.html

https://www.ranker.com/list/creepy-hitchhiker-stories/isadora-teich

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

AND we have a writing tips podcast called WRITE BETTER NOW!

We have a podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Carrie is reading one of her poems every week on CARRIE DOES POEMS. And there you go! Whew! That’s a lot!

Here’s the link.

best writing podcast WRITE BETTER NOW
Write Better Now – Writing Tips podcast for authors and writers
best podcast ever
loving the strange the podcast about embracing the weird
best poetry podcast by poet
Carrie Does Poems

Oh! The Horror! Baked Mashed Potato Witch Fingers (for writers and other weirdos)

It’s Halloween season and it’s time, my friends. It is time.

Oh! The Horror! Baked Mashed Potato Witch Fingers (for writers and other weirdos)

Recipe by CarrieCourse: AppetizersCuisine: vegetarianDifficulty: Easy
Servings

7

servings
Cooking time

1

hour 

Stuff That Goes In It

  • 1 large Russet potato, cooked and mashed

  • 2 tablespoons oil or vegan butter

  • Salt, to taste

  • 35 skinned and roasted almond halves

  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder or paprika

  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (optional)

  • 1/2 tablespoon cornflour (optional)

How to Make It

  • Oh, it’s a scary day when you have 35 skinned almond halves, isn’t it? It’s okay. Find a bowl, baby writer. Do not forget to look behind you as you reach into the cupboard. You may never know what’s lurking there.

    You okay?

    Is that heavy breathing yours?

    Maybe look around the kitchen one more time.

    In a bowl, put the mashed potato and oil and salt and cornflour together and mix it all up so none of the evidence (I mean ingredients) are recognizable.

    Preheat oven to 400°F. Check first to make sure there aren’t any creepy things in there like zombie heads or you know . . . spiders.
  • Find a baking tray, line it with parchment paper. Do not think about how that parchment paper is like skin in that Hannibal Lecter movie.

    Take calming breaths.
  • Scoop that potato dough out 1 tsp at a time. You’re okay. Was that a noise from the other room? A growl maybe?

    Ignore it so the tension increases and now roll that dough in your palms. Shape it so it looks like a finger.

    Look over your shoulder.

    Jump because every good horror recipe/book/movie needs a jump scare.
  • Get the almonds and put one on each of the fingers like it’s a creepy fingernail.

    Hear another noise. Check your cell to see if you have coverage. YOU DO NOT HAVE ANY BARS!

    Keep cooking so that we have even more tension.
  • Put all those fingers on the skin (I mean parchment). Do it till you’re done.

    Realize that maybe there’s a vengeful spirit here in your abandoned house where you are the last person cooking who has been waiting an eternity to exact revenge on the time when their mom didn’t let them have any mashed potatoes (which haven’t existed since the beginning of time, but whatever. Horror can have plot holes).
  • Look at the fingers. Make knuckle marks with a knife.

    Clutch that knife and turn around because you hear creepy whispering.

    Aw. There’s nothing there. Awesome!
  • Bake those fingers in a 400°F temperature in an oven for 20-30 minutes. Clutch your knife, put your back up against a wall and whimper for awhile as the silverware flies out of the drawers.

    Don’t take those fingers out until their bottoms are browned. The insides should be mushy and soft, kind of like yours right now, am I right?
  • Take them out of the oven and put them on a wire rack to cool.

    Offer them to the ghost. Make friends. Release them from their eternal quest for potatoes. Chill together.

Notes

Play Projects for Writers – Find Joy in 30 Days

The process feels completely counter-intuitive at first because it requires that you stop fretting about your ideal work or how you could ever get paid – and start doing something.

Last month I decided that I was going to write a poem a day and post them on Medium.

This was a big deal for me because:

  1. My first published writing was poems even before I went into the newspaper world.
  2. I really wanted to be a poet when I grew up.
  3. I am super vulnerable when it comes to sharing my poems (even more than my art, actually).
  4. I have a lot of hang-ups about being a poet. Poets have a voice. I didn’t think I had one for a long time. I was too poor, too raw, too lacking in a million ways.

But I called it a play project and I did it. And it was so much fun. It was fun to take a break from novels and editing and coaching and just play at something totally different, something with no expectations.

A lot of writers I work with forget to play with their writing. They spend a lot of time fixated on one project or one purpose/goal—to get published, to get to 80,000 words, to get an agent.

That’s all lovely.

Until it isn’t.

Sometimes, our hyper-fixation on goals (when it comes to art or writing) and our desire to make a living at it, keeps us from playing and exploring and growing.

Some of us don’t want to grow or play and that’s fine, too! There’s no one way to be a writer and no one reason to and a lot of us only do it to make a living.

This post is probably not for those writers though. Sorry!

So what is this play project thing?

I first saw the idea in Marianne Catwell’s book, but it emerged at least a decade ago.

According to John Williams (from his website, Screw Work, Let’s Play):

The core of the programme is getting the participants to launch a play project – a 4 week project that will be fun to do and explores an area of work or creativity they feel drawn to. 

He continues by saying:

The process feels completely counter-intuitive at first because it requires that you stop fretting about your ideal work or how you could ever get paid – and start doing something. If you are stuck on that very first question “What would I enjoy?” you will benefit hugely from this. At a later stage, you can create further play projects to move you towards getting paid.

Here’s why Play Projects are the bomb-diggity:

You get into action at last so you don’t feel powerless over your life any more

You find out what you enjoy, what you don’t, what you’re good at, what you’re not so good at – all extremely useful information for your future work direction

It’s fun – you get your creative juices going again – and this is a much better state in which to make career decisions and make them happen. As one participant on our programme said “This has affected every area of my life – people are commenting that I haven’t looked this good in ages!”

Once you’re out in the world on the move, you meet a lot more interesting people and opportunities – sometimes you even land some paid work without really trying to!

What are the rules?

According to Marianne Cantwell and Williams:

  1. Pick a project that gets you excited.
  2. Make it something you can complete in 30 days.
  3. Have a tangible product at the end — Like three blog posts, 20 poems, 3 picture books.
  4. Make time for it. Put in 30 minutes a day or just three days a week. Be all Nike ad and “just do it.”
  5. Start

The key is to give yourself the freedom of thinking of these as mini projects, as play, but focused play. And then as you do it, it’s cool to ask yourself questions like:

Is this fun?

Why am I avoiding doing this?

Holy crud, do I hate this?

And for me? I found out that I loved writing poems every day.

Actually, I love it so much that I am still doing it (with weekends off) and I’m having the best time making new friends on MEDIUM (where I’m posting those poems) and exploring new groups of writers and poets and myself.

So, how about you? What’s your play project going to be?

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