The Writer's Connection, SM
a publication of The Virtual Writing Coach SM
In This Issue:
2. Publisher's Note
3. Writing Humor
4. Getting into Action
The Writer's Connection explores the creative process of writing and the interplay between thoughts, feelings, and actions. We are an interactive community of authors and readers who share ideas to enhance our knowledge, skills, and experiences in writing fiction in any genre, but our emphasis remains mystery and suspense thrillers.
Published monthly, the Newsletter offers writing tips for authors, coaching suggestions, editing, and marketing information.
Topics are presented from the perspective of Keith Barton and represent only his ideas on producing your first manuscript, and are provided to the general public. Because we are an interactive community of writers, other viewpoints are welcomed and may be printed in future monthly newsletters with permission from Keith Barton.
2. Publisher's Note
Dear Writer's Connection Subscriber,
This month features information about writing humor.
3. Writing Humor (An Excerpt from Retirement from What?)
As I close on my third year of monthly newsletters for The Writer’s Connection I’m at a loss as to what to write at year-end which is a mixed blessing for many of us. For some, it’s a time of excitement and new beginnings: children with tired eyes walking around the Christmas tree in a daze; for others eyes filled with tears as we remember Christmas past and loved ones who filled our hearts now sorely departed. Rather than end on a somber note and in the interest of fighting writer’s block, I offer a short story about retirement which I hope you will find humorous and lift your spirits.
Retirement From What?
Don’t believe the crap that financial analysts tell you about having enough money to sit in hot tubs the rest of your lives overlooking a sunset high on Cialis. Madison Avenue has such a myopic view of the aging process and seniors are stereotyped as oversexed teenagers with nothing but time on their hands. I don’t know about you but I’m sick and tired of being told that I don’t have the brains to figure out what to do with my money, time, and relationships.
To listen to the drug companies, there’s a pill for every ailment. A right of passage is to have your own pill box to replace your MP3 player. Throw away your Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey CDs (the vinyls were tossed in a garage sale long ago). Today you are SENIOR, and PROUD of it. Take that handicapped sticker and display it proudly around your rearview mirror. Claim memory loss when you cut in front of someone in the checkout lane. Load your basket with six gallons of Blue Bell ice cream. To hell with the doctors who want you to monitor your cholesterol every six months. And by all means make sure you take your Metamucil. God forbid if your stools are hard as bricks and you become a modern medical miracle during your next bowel movement.
The opposite ads about seniors are just as nauseating. I’m reminded about the ARMY ads, BE ALL YOU CAN BE. We’ve got former presidents jumping out of airplanes, aging movie stars racing Formulae One cars, 70-year old studs seducing anything that moves, workout facilities in nursing homes (have you ever seen anyone on these machines?) Yes, the “I am Senior” mentality is equally ridiculous suggesting that we need not pay attention to our health and “throw caution to the wind.” My favorite commercial is the couple who pretend to have a bad connection on their cell phone as their son is trying to check on them and they’re in Vegas dressed to the nines and ready to party. They have this sheepish grin on their face as if they’re going to commit some immoral act on the strip.
So the question begs: Retire from what? For those of you who have done little with your life thus far and played it safe, chances are you will notice very little difference when you retire. Your life will continue in its own predictable way: coffee (decaf of course), paper, check your stock portfolio (if you have one), call a few friends over for pinochle, talk to the “grands” and go to Lubys for dinner. For those of you who enjoy intellectual pursuits you will continue to study, read, learn, and challenge your thinking. The old expression “use it or lose it” is true. Remember the anti-drug commercials, “This is your brain—this is your brain on drugs.” Well research has shown that the aging brain is the product of genetics, wiring, chemicals, and exercise. The frontal cortex, where learning takes place, continues to light up with bright reds and orange hues on fMRIs in seniors who engage in mental activity. For those who choose a more passive lifestyle, like curling up with the remote control, your brains might register a magenta color somewhere between unconsciousness and awakening.
So here you are. It’s the big day. The party was a smash success, complete with balloons, hyperbolic speeches, war stories as you look around at the younger faces, trapped in a Jules Verne, time warp between the world of work and retirement. You’re driving home with your mementos in an Office Depot file box rattling in the back seat of your gas guzzling SUV, with the radio turned to the “oldie” station. Suddenly it hits you at the next traffic light when this oversized teenager with the boom blasters rattling your windows that you’re out of place—kind of like a Republican in Hollywood. Your random thoughts surreptitiously land on the question: What the hell am I going to do now? Your heart begins to beat faster, your hands feel clammy, you have trouble breathing, and you reach for a Xanax to quell the panic attack that’s about to overtake you and kick this punk’s ass next to you. Your mind drifts back to 1952 when you were middle linebacker for your varsity high school team and that zit-faced low-rider pepped up on steroids next to you needs to be taken out. The light turns green and you realize you’re back from the Land of Oz, rolling along that familiar road home.
You pull in the drive way of your carefully manicured lawn that you pay $100 a month for the kid next door because your lawnmower didn’t pass the emission control test last year. You carry thirty-eight years of work in a 2 x 3 x 2 cardboard box through the front door and sit it down on the coffee table. A note awaits you that your wife of forty years has another date with her personal trainer—Armando. Your college graduate with a degree in sociology is mesmerized by Cartoon Network, while eating a bowl of cheerios in front of your plasma TV. Your faithful companion, Brinkley, barely raised his head to acknowledge your presence (Brinkley is also older and requires special dog food for his slower metabolism). You freeze in front of the mirror, looking at a man twice your age in the early stages of obsolescence.
You go to the fridge and remove your favorite beverage, a Shiner Bock, pop the cap, and coax Brinkley to join you on the back deck overlooking your sparkling pool that Ernesto keeps clean for $200 a month. The pooch barely raises his head as if to say, naw, you go cook in the heat, old man. Sitting next to the spa, you take a long swig from the dark brown bottle while perusing the professionally landscaped “yard of the month,” wondering WHAT THE HELL AM I GOING TO DO NOW?
Your thoughts drift back to your first home when you were on all fours plugging grass in the backyard. The wife was putting a new coat of paint on that wooden duplex you rented for $125 a month because you agreed to mow the lawn to save another $25 from your $1000 monthly graduate student stipend. Life was an adventure and you hadn’t a care in the world except grading the next exam for your dissertation professor. Yes, this was BK (Before Kids) time, and life was good. Somewhere between BK and SWK (Still With Kids), thirty-eight years of work intervened and changed your life.
1. Write a short story about something funny that happened to you or a family member. Use exaggeration and hyperbole to heighten the mood; visual metaphors are also helpful.
2. Read Dave Barry's books on the environment; you can locate his books on Amazon.com. He is hilarious and will keep you in stitches.
3. Rodney Dangerfield was the quiessential comedian of his day on the subject of finding humor in everyday events and ordinary people. Look at some of his comedy reruns and movies and notice the absence of curse words or vulgarity.
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Keith Barton, Ph.D.
(c) Copyright 2010 A. Keith Barton, Ph.D.
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About Keith Barton, Ph.D.
Dr. Barton received his Ph.D. in 1972 from the University of Texas at Austin and has been a practicing therapist for over thirty years. He is currently enrolled in MentorCoach and is accepting new clients. He has been an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina, consultant to Fortune 500 companies in executive development, founded and managed Texas Community Living Ventures, Inc., in 1986 for providing group home services to persons with mental retardation, and has been running a clinical practice in Northwest Houston since 1990. He writes part-time with the goal of completing one novel a year. His desire to coach others derives from his passionate interest in helping others become attuned to their creative powers of storytelling.
Dr. Barton has training in coaching, cognitive and family therapy and health psychology. He has published articles, made presentations and conducted workshops about:
Anxiety and achievement
The relationship between psychology and spirituality
Copyright by Virtual Writing Coach and Keith Barton, 2001-2010.