What Do You Meme?

What Do You Meme?

Meme of cat face
Image by DivvyPixel from Pixabay

Following close behind cat images and cat videos, the internet has turned into a meme-generating machine. And you can’t deny that you’ve shared one or two – probably in the past week. People find images that spark the message they want to share, and they add the appropriate text. Often, one image ends up expressing a variety of emotions and conversational topics. Because pictures? Yeah, that whole “thousand words” thing is genuine.

But there’s more to memes than meets the eye.

Have you ever found yourself taking a few extra moments to study a meme? Not because you feel the original author (artist?) did a fantastic job with PhotoShop (or whatever program they happen to use). No, it’s something more. Maybe it’s the picture. You could care less about the words – even if they make you laugh/think/cry/grit your teeth. The image the person chose bores into your brain and sparks a glimmer of imagination. Your writing brain starts churning out a story the longer you stare.

Or maybe it IS the words. The phrase twists and turns inside your mind. Dialogue for a character? The main theme of a tale? An opening line? The description of the world? Whatever it is, the writing starts flowing. Before you know it, you have a short story, a novella, an entire novel. From a meme.

Sound crazy?

Inspiration comes from EVERYWHERE. And you never know what’s going to catch your imagination’s attention. Is that the purpose of a meme? Probably not. I doubt people are sitting around their computer thinking, “I’m going to help a writer out there get a story off the ground.” (I mean, MAYBE they are. You never know) Does that mean you can’t start combing through social media feeds LOOKING for that tiny bit of inspiration? Of course not. Because memes are laid out differently than simple photos. They include someone’s point of view. And it may differ from yours – which is what you need! It gives you a glimpse into a character’s head. It lays out a world you don’t exist in. And it challenges the way you think.

I’ve pulled ideas from funny memes that turned into horror stories. No, that’s not what the original author intended, but that’s where my brain took things. Because turning things on their head is what writers DO. And I’ve looked at serious memes and made comical stories (one was accidental. You know how characters take on minds of their own). Sometimes the words did it, other times the images, and now and then the two together. But it’s made me look at memes in an entirely new light.

Memes are a GOLD MINE for writers.

Okay, yes, some aren’t worth a second glance. And the ones with grammatical and spelling errors make me cringe. But when I get past that (or mentally correct them), I find fresh ideas to add to my list. And writers NEED ideas. When your brain dries up, leaving you without a resource, you feel empty. A writer HAS to leave themselves open to the possibility of finding inspiration anywhere – even in a silly social media tradition.

(And, yes, that means you can look at the cat pictures and videos, too. You can always add more cat-centric literature to the world)

Written Word

Written Word

One of my personal bookcases.

Look at the image above and tell me what you see – what you really see if you look close. I could get dozens of answers, but I doubt I’ll get the one I’m looking for. Yes, there are all of the following:

  • Pictures
  • Stuffed toys
  • Old type-set tiles (if you actually said that you have incredible eyes…or you’ve been in my house, and I might be a little scared if I don’t know you)
  • Books

Those are easy answers, though, and they aren’t answers stated by true writers. What do I see?

A million possible story ideas.

Okay, yes, there are hundreds of stories sitting right, there – I know that (and, yes, I have hundreds of books. I refuse to subscribe to that nonsense that you should own less than thirty books; that is absolute crap). What I’m talking about is the fact that each one of those books contains the possibility of sparking hundreds of ideas in and of themselves. Not the fact that each story is based on a story itself – we all know that there are no original stories – but the actual words themselves.

Every written word!

Crazy, right? It’s true, though! I have seen a word or phrase in a book and felt that shiver of inspiration go through me. In the past month, reading two different books, I have felt the spark for THREE different short stories from just a handful of WORDS! The words weren’t even integral to the plots of what I was reading! Something in the order they were arranged connected the right synapses in my writing brain, though, and BAM! Idea central!

It can be that simple if you stop and think about it. After all, writers and first and foremost READERS. We’re fascinated by words (if we weren’t we wouldn’t be writers). We’re drawn to words like magnets, and we focus on them everywhere around us. I have friends who came up with stories after seeing signposts along the road!

So before you do something insane like whittle your book collection down because some insane person thinks thirty is a rational limit (seriously?! Only thirty?!), think about what you could be sacrificing. There is inspiration potential lurking on those shelves, waiting to be found. If you give that up for the sake of…okay, I can’t think of any reason a person would sacrifice that kind of gold mine. Seriously, there is always somewhere you can stack up more books. Get rid of something you don’t need like extra shoes or clothes.

Brain Fuel

Brain Fuel

Meal Prep on Table

Ah, meal prepping – two words that are the very bane of my existence. The concept of buying out Costco so you can rush home and spend the entire weekend (what a waste of good writing time!) cooking the EXACT SAME FREAKING MEAL one thousand times and then turn your refrigerator and freezer into an ad for Doomsday-Preppers-R-Us is ridiculous. Who in their right mind wants to eat the same thing day-in and day-out?! Have you people not watched every movie or read every book warning against such pablum?!

Stop the madness!

Still, I acknowledge that it is important to put fuel in our tanks so that we can continue to function, and our brains need fuel so that we can continue to create our writing. I also acknowledge that when we’re up to our eyebrows in our fiction and the words are flowing like waterfalls, we can barely remember to stop and go to the bathroom (don’t laugh – you know you’ve been there). Hell, I’ve lost an entire day before when I was on a roll – looked up and couldn’t figure out why it was still dark out and had to be informed it was now night, that I had typed all day, and could I please move my ass and do something “constructive” (that wasn’t my current relationship, needless to say). Getting into that creative roll is awesome, but starving your body is bad. Looking like you’re preparing for an impending Apocalypse is also bad, and denying yourself any variety in life? You got it, super bad.

Luckily, I’ve found a compromise.

First, you find a significant other who likes to cook. Just kidding (although, seriously, it’s awesome, and I highly recommend one). I do a half-ass meal plan each week on Sunday night. I have a planner where I write out what I’m going to have for the week – JUST THE WEEK – for breakfast and my snacks (my fiance’ makes dinner each night, so that’s up to him). This saves me from having to think about things in the morning when I’m still waking up, and it gives me a structure for the week when I’m planning my work. Lunch is often leftover from dinner, so I don’t worry about writing it down, or I have a few staples I can rely on and rotate through, so I’m not stuck eating the same thing every day. No two weeks have been the same yet, so I don’t get bored.

Second, you find a few recipes for breakfast, snack, and dessert that make multiple servings and rotate through them. That will give you extra you can keep in the fridge without stacks and stacks of those silly meal containers. I have a growing list of recipe cards, and when I finish off one Rubbermaid container, I make something new. It works out great, and, again, I’m not getting bored. Also, I’m usually only making one or two things at a time, which only takes about an hour out of my day (max) – not the entire weekend. It’s usually an hour I need to get up and walk around and stretch, anyway, so it works out. The fridge only has one corner taken up at a time, and I get to keep my work on track – everyone wins.

It really is that simple!

We need variety in life – not just as writers, but as human beings. Most of us have routines, regardless of what kind of work that we do, and those routines can take a lot out of us. Whether you thrive on routine or not, it wears you down. You need to have a little color and dance in there to make your life meaningful.

So put down the thirty pounds of skinless chicken breast that is going to take away your entire Sunday to grill and consider just getting a few cans of tuna…unless you’re hosting a major get-together to celebrate an accomplishment. Then I say let’s hit Costco!