Do you need noise?
I do.I only recently discovered this need for noise, or at least for the right kind of noise.
As a high school teacher and a mom of four, I guess I've acclimated to working with noise. (Check out my Roaringmoms Blog post from February of this year.)
Today the need is most crucially felt.
I sit down to move forward on The Prom List. Those imaginary teens living in my head are more persistent than the real ones I live with. The only way to shut them up is to write it down, right? My biological teens are not home. The day is young, so I get the tea and clear a spot on the desk, settle into my big comfy chair and--
Fred Binx coughs up a hairball. For ten minutes.
Then the overhead banging starts. (I'm still trying to convince my kids that our upstairs neighbors are avid exercises, but I assure you, banging is the correct term here.)
Next comes the ticking. I've lived with that wall clock for six months now. Was it always so loud? Every second ticking away like an irritating reminder that my life is, too, while the page is still blank.
I need cover up noise. Music won't work because I will sing along. I can't sing along and write at the same time. At some point, the brain synapses would cross, and my angsty characters would start belting Bon Jovi. Not a good fit.
Television. That's it.
My television is in the living room, down the short hall from my office. The noise will float in, but I won't be distracted by the screen. Perfect
There's just one problem. Just Like Heaven is on. Now, I realize there are dozens of other channels, but come on! It's Mark Ruffalo and Reese Witherspoon. Just Like Heaven is one of the best overlooked, underappreciated romantic comedies of all time. I can't just keep flipping channels past Mark Ruffalo and Reese Witherspoon. What self-respecting romance authors does that? Besides, what better cover up noise than one of my favorite funny love stories? I mean, I am composing funny love stories. It's gotta be fate, right?
Just Like Heaven plays in the background. I heat up the tea. I check on the cat and clean up the barf, wash my hands and...
"The power of Christ compels you. The power of Christ compels you."
I run back to the living room. Father Flannigan missing Reese with his holy water in an attempt to exorcise her is one of the best scenes. It's followed by the wanna-be ghost busters and "Napoleon Dynamite" channeling her spirit.
And I'm done. I give in. I sit down and watch one of the best overlooked, under appreciated romantic comedies of all time. Sigh. What else am I gonna do? Yes, I'm a prepublished romance writer, but I'm a hopeless romantic first.
So it's an hour later and I haven't fulfilled my noise need. My tea cup is empty. My angsty characters are in panic mode. And my page is still blank. At least the banging has stopped--for now.
Maybe I'll hire someone to kick a soccer ball against the wall or bicker with his sister in the kitchen. My empty-nester writer friends often wonder how we single moms get any writing done at all. I now have an answer for them. It's all the noise.
We all remember our firsts, don’t we?
I remember my first face-to-face pitch with an editor. It just so happened she had already received and read my original query before our scheduled appointment. She started the meeting with, “I enjoyed the humor of the first three chapters. I’m excited to read more.”
Humor? Oh, great! Now I have to be funny.
I hadn’t realized I was writing anything funny. I wasn’t really trying to make readers laugh. Of course, I wasn’t not trying to make them laugh. If that were the case, the meeting with the editor would have been really tragic.
I raced home after the conference and did a humor check on the rest of the manuscript. Do you know how stressful it is to try to be funny? Sucks the fun right out it.
Melvin Helitzer, in his book Comedy Writing Secrets, claims that humor is basically a way to make ourselves feel superior. It’s our way of saying, “At least I’m not that poor sucker.” We make fun of the elites to bring them down to our level. We make fun those below us to maintain our higher status.
But what about those of us who don’t actively try to create humor, we simply recognize it? In everything. Even inappropriately. Like during sad movies or moments of marital crisis, or funerals.
For example, one day my middle-schoolers were discussing some kid from school that my daughter said would never be able to get a girlfriend because he was a bad hugger. My son nodded in somber agreement. He grimaced, and the both held a moment of silence for the fate of the poor sap’s social life.
“Now, wait a minute,” I said. “How can he be a bad hugger?”
They demonstrated. I still didn’t get it.
A few weeks later, the school I worked at held an assembly where they showed an inspirational video about an amazing individual who had accomplished great things in life, even though he was born with no arms.
See what I mean? Completely inappropriate. Not nice. But kind of funny. In a twisted sort of way.
Those kinds of thoughts fly through my head on an hourly basis. Sometimes they even fly out of my mouth.
While I might think or say things that make people laugh, Lord help me if I try to be funny. When I was about nine years old, I came up this hilarious joke and retold it at every opportunity. Here it is:
What did the man say who had corn on the cob, creamed corn, and corn bread for dinner?
Boy, this sure is a corny meal.
It still makes me laugh, but for a different reason. I laugh at my own idiocy.
So what is it about people like me? Am I searching for superiority? Do I have a deep-seeded inferiority complex? Maybe humor is my stress reliever. Maybe it’s my love language. Helitzer says it is impossible to hate a person with whom we’ve shared a laugh. Maybe it’s my unifier. Maybe there is simply something wrong with me.
I don’t know, but it comes down to this. I hope you enjoy reading my stories. I hope you smile and laugh and breathe in joy. But for God’s sake, don’t tell me I’m funny. It just stresses me out.
Dee Linn loves words. When she was in the third grade, her exasperated teacher told her she'd probably talk to a pole, if she happen to be sitting beside it. Not much has changed except that now she says it in writing. She is a single mom of four, a teacher of teens, a cheater at board games, and a lover of life. She's a Kansas girl, but travels to all kinds of places in her head with characters living there, some of which she's sure she's created. Some, she's not sure how they got there. But they are way more interesting to talk to than a pole.