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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Inspiration and Humor: You’ve got to be kidding! - Marta Acosta

Esri told me I had to write about inspiration. I said, “Okay, I’ll write about humor.” She said, very sternly, “It has to be about how humor has inspired you.” She had that crazy look in her eyes, so I said, “Sure, of course, whatever you say, Esri!” I didn’t want to cross some chick who’s hawked beer and potatoes for a living. That beer-and-potatoes crowd runs fast and rough. I’d heard about the terrifying “French fry fingers” treatment they practiced on authors who made disparaging remarks about tubers and suds. This is why I always say something positive about beer and potatoes in each of my Casa Dracula novels, and I highly recommend that other writers also take this precaution.

So I’ve been thinking about how I was inspired by humor, and I’ve reached the rather depressing conclusion that I am not one of those inspire-y people. I don’t have an inspiration board filled with kewt sayings and pictures of kittens hanging from branches with “Just keep hanging in!” captions, even though those posters are totally awesome. I don’t read books about the wonder of writing books. I don’t write poems encapsulating my journey as an artist. I’m not a member of any groups where I actually have to meet people on a regular basis and talk seriously about writing or books.

I did like to sit in classrooms and meetings and make snarky remarks because I was bored. I tried telling people that I suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder, but no one believed me. So I guess boredom inspired me to amuse myself. I felt a social obligation to entertain those around me, too. When I wasn’t in a boring meeting, I was supposed to be doing something else boring, so naturally, I was forced to write on the job just to keep from falling into a catatonic stupor. Because, no matter how much bosses say they hate people wasting time, they hate catatonia even more.

People ask me when I decided to be a writer. The answer is never. I never thought, “Gee, I think I’d like a job with no security, no health coverage, no guarantees, and dubious social benefits.” I’d rather be an electrician, because no matter what happens, people need and will pay for electrical work. Also, people don’t go up to electricians at parties and relay in extensive detail their fantasy for a rewiring job and then say, “You should do that!”

Sometimes after people tell me in extensive detail the book they think I should write, they ask, “What’s the best thing about being a writer?” My husband says I shouldn’t keep answering, “Getting paid,” so now I just mumble something that sounds sensitive and artistic. In fact, I try to mumble the words “sensitive” and “artistic” in my response.

Back to the topic of inspiration. Whenever I’m stuck writing a passage, I play with my Slinky for a while. I like to bounce it on my dog’s head, but he only puts up with this for a few seconds. I wish he was more patient, because I find this activity both soothing and entertaining.

I also find reality television inspirational. On “Project Runway,” one of the contestants said, “Good taste is not style.” This was one of the most genius things I’ve ever heard. Naturally, I stole the line and put it in my book.

So my advice for those intent on being a writer are: Don’t piss off the beer-and-potatoes people; consider a career in the skilled trades; get a really boring job and write during the work day; learn to mumble in a way that makes you sound more sensitive and artistic than you are; watch reality television; and consider buying a Slinky.


Marta Acosta is author of the Casa Dracula novels and owner of Vampire Wire, a blog that covers the paranormal entertainment scene. Everything she said about Esri Rose is true.

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At 9:32 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Did you know that potatoes are the most widely grown tuber crop, and the fourth most widely grown crop of all, after rice, wheat and corn?

At 10:28 AM, Blogger Marta said...

Did you know that the Irish thought potatoes were poisonous and wouldn't it them at first? They are one of the Americas greatest culinary contributions to the world, after chocolate and vanilla and avocados ad tomatoes.

At 10:33 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

OMG, you just listed all my favorites!

At 11:19 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

I'm considering the slinky. The only problem--now I have the "It's Slinky" song playing in my head. For those of you who'd like to hear it, too:

At 11:19 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Do you know how to say potato in other languages?

Pomme de terre (French) patata (Spanish); panbowka (Polish); or yang shee (Chinese).

And that Americans consume every year about 140 pounds of potatoes per person?! And for Europeans it's twice that amount!!! Yikes!

Okay, enough about potatoes. Thanks for the inspiration, Marta. If I do the slinky thing, it's going to slink right down and over my poor little chihuahua's head!

Judging by this post, your books must be hilarious. Thanks for coming today and making me laugh.

At 11:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


mumbling 'sensitive' and 'artistic''s a good thing you don't mumble 'slinky' and 'dog', though that might be a good way to stop them from asking you any more pesky questions.

At 11:37 AM, Blogger Norah Wilson said...

Marta, that was a scream!

I'll confess, I'm not an inspire-y girl, either. But that's where the parallel ends. Unfortunately, I'm not multi-pubbed and incredibly funny.

Thanks for joining us today!

At 1:34 PM, Blogger Marta said...

Mo h, thanks for the song tip! I frequently get words and songs stuck in my head. A slinky song to accompany slinky activity would be fabulous!

Theresa, I strongly recommend that you trade in your chihuahua for a dog that can take the slinky treatment. Mine are two rescued German Shorthaired Pointers. One is Don Bosco de Gama and my new one is Lady Betty Von Snoggle. We're working on their Issues.

Anonymous, my husband thinks it's hilarious that people sometimes pay to talk to me now that I am a sensitive and artistic author. He would pay me to be quiet.

Norah, please don't let the pressure of the inspire-y people get you down. They are EVERYWHERE with their frickin organic paper journals and stories about how their mothers told them they could do anything. My mother told me I could stop complaining and do the dishes.

At 3:11 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I don't have a slinky. I don't have dogs. But I did eat French fried potatoes for lunch...and a falafel sandwich.

I find that telling people I meet in social situations that I write romance novels usually is followed by some sort of question, like, "How much does it cost you to get them published?"

At least that is better than when I used to answer, "I'm a Mental Health therapist." Upon which the person would walk away. (Honest. It happened so often I changed my answer to, "I work for A-- County." No one EVER asked me what I did for A-- County.)

Marta, thanks for a very entertaining post!!!

At 3:17 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Diane: They walked away? Why? You probably had the most interesting stories in the room!

At 4:13 PM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Sold! Your books just moved to the top of my "buy mac and cheese for dinner all week so there's more money for books!" list.

When all is said and done, electricians could rule the world. Electricians and plumbers. So you have light when you lock yourself away in the bathroom to read...;)

At 5:00 PM, Blogger Marta said...

Diane, eating falafels definitely contributes to literary genius.

I always like to ask mental health professionals questions about those of my friends and family that I suspect are mentally ill. Lots of times their symptoms go away when they stop associating with me, so I'm pretty sure my psychic "go to hell" messages are getting translated in their brainwaves as "get well."

Thanks, Gillian! And I completely agree with you. I don't know why so many people want to write, but no one dreams about doing something that is both useful and lucrative. In my family, being "mechanical" is highly admired.

At 8:29 PM, Blogger Louisa Cornell said...

Marta, that was a hoot! Note to self - back away from the potato people! Gotta get your books, Marta. Right up my alley!

I feel your pain, O Divine One, or at least I did. My poor late DH could stop any social conversation when asked what he did for a living "I'm a psychiatrist in the local prison system." The people who walked away were the nice ones. The ones who stayed invariably asked the most disgusting and excruciating questions and then got huffy when he couldn't answer because of doctor/client privilege. What they didn't understand was that while the prisoners perhaps had no right to that privilege, my husband did!

Then again, his favorite question usually came up after he said "I'm a psychiatrist." and I said "I'm an opera singer." The question being "Oh! Was she one of your clients?"

I have two Slinkies (is that the plural of slinky?) they are long, red, short legged and a bit overweight. My two dachshund / basset hound crosses - Adelaide and Sassafras. They don't bounce too well of my chihuahua's head, but they do tend to do the slinky slide out of my lap when they climb up there to take a nap. Does that count, Marta?

I work at Wal-Mart folks. I see humor EVERYWHERE. Just the clothes some people wear to come to shop force me to run back into the kitchen and laugh until I have to pee. I want to ask them "Is there NO mirror in your house? We sell them in furniture. Please BUY ONE!"


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