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)

Cue it Up

Cue it Up

Playlist of records
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

The ancient Greeks divided up inspiration among nine different Muses, crediting their influence for the creativity that flowed over the known world. Terpsichore held dominion over music and dancing. So the Greeks felt music held the same importance as poetry and comedy. Probably because separating music from writing is damn near impossible. And when you’re stuck, mired in writer’s block, Terpsichore lies in wait in the wings, waiting to assist you.

Simply put: Turn on the radio.

Nowadays, finding inspiration has myriad forms. Music lurks everywhere, in every form. CDs reside in hefty binders or stacks against the wall (don’t deny it – you know you have them), records have returned to weigh down shelves, and computer drives hold decades of MP3 files. Not to mention the variety of streaming services open to people – free or paid. If you can think of it, there’s a station for it. Type it in, and you have music blaring from your computer, laptop, or phone.

I’ve said before that I refuse to work in the vacuum of silence. The music calms my brain, but it also helps me when my writing brain locks up and refuses to work. I have playlists designed specifically for inspiration. They’re chock full of songs that take my breath away and energize my imagination. They transport me into different places, different times, even different worlds. They drop the curtain on the world around me, giving me a chance to breathe and reorient myself with what I’m struggling with. And they jolt electricity through my imagination, sparking new ideas into my writing.

Magical playlists? I guess you could say that.

The funny part is, none of the lyrics have every prompted a story idea. I don’t take inspiration from the words, from the scenery (a lot of the entries on the playlist come from Broadway shows), or even the original concepts. It’s the feeling generated by the music that does the trick. And I know you have songs that engender that feeling in you. Music that gets into every nerve fiber, causing you to freeze up. You find yourself in another place – somewhere YOU created – feeling emotions only your writing brain has words for. Maybe it’s the beat, or the harmony, or something less definable. You just have to stop and let the power sweep over you.

And then the words flow – so fast your fingers can scarcely keep up.

Maybe that’s why the Greeks felt there were demigods behind inspiration. It’s an immediate rush. Or, sometimes, it’s perfect quiet. Other times, you break down completely. The music provides the emotional connection your brain needs to break down that wall blocking your creativity. Or it ignites the imaginative spark in the first place. The rush is crazy, and when you “wake up” from it and see how much writing you’ve accomplished, you’re amazed.

Everyone needs that playlist.

Think over the songs that resonate with you. Start setting them aside into their own playlist. Organize them into the order you need – or leave them on shuffle. (I get some amazing results when I do that) Keep it labeled so you can find it the next time you need a jolt of inspiration. And each time you stumble over a new piece, add it. Will the songs have any kind of cohesion? Of course not. Will people look at you strange if they hear that particular playlist? Probably. (Mine bounces from classical music pieces, through musicals, to modern instrumental pieces, to hard rock, some pop, a couple 80s – it’s a crazy hodge-podge and I love it!) It doesn’t matter. If it resounds with your imagination center, that’s what counts.

And the next time writer’s block rears its ugly head, sit back and cue up the list. You’ll clear the obstruction in no time.

Shoveling…Something

Shoveling…Something

Writers are often told to sit down and write something – anything – at all times. All writing is just “shoveling sand into the sandbox” so you have something to work with later. It’s a beautiful thought, and, in theory, it works great. It stops you from working too hard at finding the perfect turn of phrase, and it get can you around writer’s block.

In reality? It doesn’t always work.

Sometimes, you look down and realize that what you’re shoveling isn’t sand – and you are never going to build a sandcastle out of that mess. When there are extenuating outside circumstances intruding and overriding your brain, you get blocked in other ways. In that case, there does come a time to set the shovel down.

I mention this because I’m facing such a time myself. Pain has invaded my entire brain, and everything I put down is absolute crap – literally. There’s nothing redeeming about it, and simply throwing words down to get words down is more frustrating than helpful. Writing when you’re frustrated?

Bad idea!

All I’m going to end up doing is erasing everything later – waste of time. So what do you do in these situations? You read. You read your previous work. You read someone else’s work (don’t edit someone else’s work – that isn’t fair to them). You read cereal boxes. Just engage the creative part of your brain in another form.

And let the sandbox have a break – the sand will be there tomorrow.

The Autopilot Concept

The Autopilot Concept

My I Love Kickboxing gloves

Admission: when I first conceived this post, we weren’t in lock down. I considered holding off until orders were lifted, but A) that could be another couple of months for some, and B) I realized there was no reason. After all, it is entirely possible to find ways to exercise in the comfort of your own home. So onward!

Yeah, I know: some of you cringed when you saw the “E” word. After all, as writers, our place is sacked out in front of our computers, shoveling sustenance into our mouths (when we remember to do so). And I used to abhor the thought of taking an hour out of my day, too (not to mention the very idea of getting into anything resembling gym clothes and going in front of other people).

What changed?

For one, a lot of surgery. I have the fortune of inheriting really bad genes, and my body hates me (not a joke – it does…but that’s a post for another time). Some of those procedures came with physical therapy and therapists laughing hysterically (turns out, I am also a freak…and not in the way I knew). Since I didn’t want to keep repeating that process – anymore than I already had – and because I wanted to stave off some of the nastier aspects of my body destroying itself, the E-word was the solution.

Now, before you jump to any conclusions, this had nothing to do with weight loss. I’m a major advocate of loving your body, however it looks. I don’t believe in starving yourself, I definitely don’t believe in depriving yourself (I eat normal food, and I have never turned down anything), and I think all fad diets are absurd. None of my surgeries were related to weight; they really were bad genes, as well as terrible job conditions.

Moving on: I discovered that the gym really wasn’t so bad, especially because I walked in with the indispensable accessory of headphones (you people are introverts – I know you own them).

MAGIC!

I suddenly had an entire hour of privacy to live in my head! Once I had figured out the various machines, my body could go on autopilot, and my brain was FREE.

I get SO MUCH writing work done!

I can unravel scenes that I was blocked on, design characters, sketch out plots, work through dialogue – whatever I need! I just program whatever playlist is most appropriate into Pandora, and I’m all set. With the volume set high enough, even if someone tries to bother me, I’ll never hear them (and I have a great resting bitch face which tends to discourage people).

I did branch out from the gym, and I joined I Love Kickboxing. Even there, where I can’t wear headphones (they play music throughout), and I need to listen for the exercises to be called out, I still get work done. During the bag rounds, my body knows the movements, and my head goes off on its own. When I’m frustrated about a scene or short story that won’t work, punching a bag is the best therapy in the world!

Still not convinced?

Have you noticed how much geek swag is out there?

Above are my actual kickboxing gloves. I deliberately bought two sets of 16-ounce gloves, and I painted them with Harley Quinn’s symbols. My gym bag has a flerken on it. I have a headband with the Cheshire Cat grin. I have a Venom tanktop and a Lion King top and short set.

People, they cater to US!

Yeah, it’s a little harder to workout right now. My kickboxing classes are now via Zoom, and it’s shadowboxing instead of with a bag (it’s a little weird). Instead of using an elliptical, we’re walking the dog around the neighborhood on nice days. It’s also using the Nintendo Switch and our Ring Fit Adventures and Fitness Boxing games.

They still work the same: the body knows what it’s supposed to do, and while it’s exercising, the mind can do something else. You’d be amazed at what you can accomplish while you’re on autopilot. And if you get a little added benefits from the exercise itself, well, that’s not a bad thing, is it?

Just give it a try – see what comes of it. You’ll be glad you did, I promise.