Tag Archives: comedy

Maria Bamford is the Best.

“It takes tenacity and courage to use a glue gun, and it’s the easiest thing in the world to criticize stuff. Click, don’t like, boo.

But if you sing out your Batman poetry to a largely hostile Barnes & Noble crowd; or if you crank out a raw, unedited skull of a granny smith apple, pop that on a Bratz doll torso, upload that to Etsy, price it high. If you think of doing a nude clown opera, you write it, you cast it and you actually fucking do it? That doesn’t show you’re insane. It shows the symptoms of being hard-working—and a huge success.

Now if you’ll excuse me,
I need to get back to La Quinta,
because I have faces to make
in the bathroom mirror.”

— Maria Bamford

 

What is an Artspouse? I want an Artspouse!

I’ve never had a partner who reads my work, or has taken an active interest in my writing. This used to make me sad.

Then I discovered there are many writers whose partners actively discourage it, saying it’s a waste of time, it would never go anywhere, that they should be doing something “productive.” They can never work in an environment free from judgement and criticism.

I am so thankful, every day, that while I’m not always helped by my family (chosen or otherwise) they have never stood in my way.

As much as I am grateful, I find that my most favorite authors thank their partners or spouses first and foremost. Those partners work with their writer, around their writer, applying their shrewd minds, asking good questions, and pushing their writer to be the absolute best they can be. As a mushy example, the writer in Stephen King’s “Bag of Bones” had his wife type out the last line in every story. I’ve been giving it some thought, and come up with a word to describe this person:  Artspouse

This might be your husband or wife, this might be your best friend. This might be someone you absolutely cannot stand on a personal level; but when you come together to collaborate on a project, the results are absolute magic. This is the person who knows what you’re going through as an artist, as a creative, as a person trying to meet a bloody deadline — and knows when it’s time for chocolate and tissues; and when it’s time to kick the door in, turn the lights on, and yell at you to get your fucking act together.

Within this sphere of your life, on this particular path, they are your partner, your ally, your battle-buddy, your greatest nemesis, your soulmate, and anything in between. They are the constant measuring stick that says you can do better, and the little voice in your ear that helps you get there.

As a test request, here’s what I would look for in an artspouse. You may assume that these wishes are expressed with an intent of mutuality (I would provide the same support I ask for):

  • Interest in the same medium — a reader to my writer, an audience to my show, a hunter to my bladesmith.
  • Complementary strengths — if I’m good at structure, you’re good at emotional resonance. If I’m good at sculpting, you’re good at interior design. If I’m a lighting guy, you’re a sound guy.
  • Matching goals — whether it’s a quest for excellence, or commercial success, or attaining a certain level of mastery.
  • Seriousness of intent — less blah blah, more pew pew. We’re always aiming for the next level.
  • Commitment to your own work — different goals on the same path. It makes sense to run together for a while.
  • Enjoyment of each other’s work — I’d buy your stuff because it’s good, not just because I know you.
  • Fearlessness —  we can argue, we can risk, we can fail, we can get up and try again.
  • No man left behind — I’m speaking at this con, and so are you. I’m getting published, you’re putting on your show. I’m climbing this fucking mountain, and you’re coming with me. And in that vein…
  • On the level — we’re about the same skill level, or same stage of our artistic  careers. Maybe one of us is slightly ahead, but will be outpaced in a moment. They might piss you off a little because they’re so talented, and you have to hustle to catch up. There’s always something to learn, always something to offer.
  • Aw, buddy — we maybe, just possibly, actually like each other. It’s 2am. Let’s get tacos and talk about that weird dream you had the other day.

What do you want in an artspouse?
Do you already have an artspouse?

Hard Work and a Sense of Humor

Hard work and a sense of humor are things that no one can take away from you. Coincidentally, they’re also the two things that will see you through the most painful of clusterfuffles. Every writer gets to the point where they’re banging their head against their desk, trying to move things forward, and the immediate instinct is to fall deeper into despair. Heroes are resilient. Know what else is resilient?

Trampolines.

Seeing the absurd or the silly in the midst of toil makes the burden so much lighter, and will help you and your characters manage the problems that drop into your laps.

Chaos, conflict, and challenge are the life-blood of stories, and no one wants to watch you (or your characters) wither under these pressures. There will always be critics. There will always be hard choices, fear, famine, pain and heartbreak. Gallows humor grants the strength to go on, and hard work finds the way out. These are both your strongest assets, and most endearing qualities. They make each character an invaluable asset to every team, squad, club, order and cult. People like this are great fun to watch, and a joy to adventure with.

Strip away everything that your characters ever needed or cherished. If they have these two things, they will be unstoppable. So will you.

Miss Tick sniffed. “You could say this advice is priceless,” she said, “Are you listening?”
“Yes,” said Tiffany.
“Good. Now…if you trust in yourself…”
“Yes?”
“…and believe in your dreams…”
“Yes?”
“…and follow your star…” Miss Tick went on.
“Yes?”
“…you’ll still be beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren’t so lazy. Goodbye.”
― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men (Discworld, #30)

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Announcement! Radio Play: Unfortunate Demonic Incident No. 271

“Some people were born with spina bifida, I was born with a demon in my head.”
-Kara, Unfortunate Demonic Incident No. 271

 

Coming soon to Sherri’s Playhouse, a radio-play with all things excellent, including (but not limited to):

  • Lovers!
  • Demons!
  • Grandmas!
  • Salad dressing!

It’s the perfect post-Halloween audio treat.

mockup

That’s not blood.

 

 

Death and Transformation in the Writing Process

Without Lauren, there would be no Setsu. This is something she wrote many years ago offline that I re-read just hours before hearing about Robin Williams’ death. It was strange to feel so overcome by loss for someone I had never met; but in a way, we have. His sincerity in each of his roles is what made them real, and what made me trust him. His portrayals in Baron Munchausen, Hook, The Birdcage, The Fisher King and What Dreams May Come will always stick out in my mind.

What a legacy of outrageous brilliance, laughter, and above all, sincerity. He was an insane hurricane — from the crazed wild winds down to the last cold, lonely droplet.

And now, Lauren’s thoughts on death and writing.

Everyone fears death to some degree. In our culture, we normally view death not just as an ending, but as the ending to all endings. Imprisonment in a black hole from which there is no escape. We usually see change in a similar vein, dying on a smaller scale—a little death to which we’re dragged kicking and screaming. Either way we perceive it as the same thing: A decision we don’t get to make that gives us no way out.

But there are belief systems existing out there that don’t consider death to be negative. One alternative is to look at death the way it’s portrayed in a stack of Tarot cards, not as a cut off point where consciousness ceases to be, but as a crossroads where transformation is born. True transformation is part of the natural cycle of the universe: Every ending leads to another beginning. It’s also about moving from the known into the unknown. But dying hurts, no matter how you do it. Change is painful…whether it’s sudden or slow. When you’re caught in the period of transition it can feel like you’ve been cast adrift. Sometimes there’s nothing more uncomfortable than feeling stuck in that waiting in-between state.

As writers, Death as Transformation is an irreplaceable instrument of our craft. It is an incomparable experience that infuses inspiration into our life, and our work. To bring paper and ink to its knees we must be brave enough to shed our familiar skin. Bold enough to emerge naked into the world again, waiting for our new carapace to crystallize and our wings to unfold. Releasing ourselves newly born into a whole new element, we must leave the well-worn husk behind. Push yourself to the precipice and bust out of that shell! Stop crawling forward in your writing—FLY.

Thank you Lauren. Thank you Robin. Thank you to everyone brave enough to walk around without armor — risking it all to make the world a little more magical.

“Sometimes a breakdown can be the beginning of a kind of breakthrough, a way of living in advance through a trauma that prepares you for a future of radical transformation.”
—Cherrie Moraga

“Every exit is an entry somewhere else.”
—Tom Stoppard

“Genius is not a gift but the way out one invents in desperate cases.”
—Jean-Paul Sartre

 

What-Dreams-May-Come

Robin Williams, “What Dreams May Come”

It’s Just Not Aimed at You

It’s really easy to write something off as utter crap. Certain products of pop-culture leap to mind, such as rap, country music, Barney, Gertrude Stein, and Stephanie Meyer’s “Twilight” series. Somehow it has become socially acceptable (and even encouraged) to reject and deride these forms of expression and their creators. The reason this list creates such avid fandom and rabid hatred can be summed up in one word: audience.

We’ve talked about audience a bit before — by writing from your heart, and writing as honestly as you can, you will eventually find your audience. When something isn’t aimed at you, it’s more difficult to see its appeal. As an audience, we search for things that resonate with us, and forget that sometimes the world as a whole can’t cater to just us. A sumptuous love story that tantalizes a teenage girl won’t be received the same way by someone who only reads gritty thrillers. Music that emerged from cultural roots of one region won’t ring true with people who didn’t share that history.

Barney was designed for children, so it’s pretty clear why college students and adults can’t stand him: they are not his audience.

The legitimacy of a creative work is defined by our life experience, our personalities, and our tastes. When you encounter a story that’s awful, or one of your friends reads your work and hates it, don’t write it off immediately. Stop and ask yourself: Who is the audience?

My play was a complete success. The audience was a failure.”
— Ashleigh Brilliant

All religions issue Bibles against Satan, and say the most injurious things against him, but we never hear his side.
— Mark Twain

 

“Retired Weapon” by Yuji Tokuda and Junya Ishikawa