This past weekend, my wife and I took a mini-road trip west. Three hours. One hundred fifty-five miles. All for a comedy show.
Was it worth it?
Yes. For so many reasons.
But it wasn't just because of the ridiculously funny routine we got to see. We'd barely started our trip--I'm talking before my bladder even started getting the too-much-morning-coffee tingle--when certain writerly things started falling into place in my head. I figured I'd share some of my revelations (some new, some just reinforced) with you today.
1) Music and movement. It helps. Pumping the tunes into your head is great, but don't forget to get the blood pumping, either. There's science involved, but I don't want to bore you with the information I'd have to Google to bore you with, so you'll just have to take my word for it.
2) Scenery. It helps. Simply changing your view can create some immediate inspiration. Needless to say, the scenery from east Tennessee to middle Tennessee doesn't change a great deal, but even seeing different buildings, trees, vehicles, or weather can help shake loose an idea that's been stuck in your head for a while.
3) Talking. It helps. Jackie (my wife) or I would see something on our drive and that one little piece of visual stimulation would inevitably transform into some kind of story. She'd start it and I'd build on it and hand it off to her so she could add in more what ifs and maybes. Before long we'd have an entire back story and journey plotted out for something as uninspired as an abandoned baseball cap. Spoiler: it's a love story with rabid groundhogs.
4) Friends. They help. We stayed with an amazing writer, Jeff Zentner (his book, The Serpent King, comes out next spring) and spent quite a bit of time talking books, movies, life, and annoying neighbors. It's amazing how inspiring it is to just hear other people talk. To listen to their stories. Seeing their expressions, watching their gestures, understanding their own three-dimensionality can do wonders for a character you're writing. And if you don't have friends? Use your pet, it works just as well.
5) Kids. They help. Jeff and his wife have the world's most interesting five year old. No joke. It's incredible to watch what makes a child laugh and what doesn't make a child laugh. Yeah, their kid would giggle when someone dropped the word "butt" into a conversation, but he'd also think through a more complex joke. He'd actually try to get the punchline, and when he did, he loved it. Not to say all of my funnies got a good laugh. I got a few squints and shrugs as well. What can I say? The kid's no fool.
6) Comedy. It helps. Even if you're not writing comedy, let yourself be entertained. Allow yourself to be amused and embrace the side-splitting pain when you can't contain a laugh. We spared no guffaws for Nick Kroll and John Mulaney that night. I sprayed the poor guy's hair in front of me with plenty of Ha-Ha spittle, I'm sure, but he didn't notice and I was too busy trying not to pee my pants to care. And when I left the show, body in one giant ache from laughing so hard, I felt good. No, great. Ready dive back into my WIP with a renewed energy.
Our trip was short. We spent about as many hours on the road as we did talking to our friends and being entertained by comedians. Leg cramps were had, bad gas-station coffee was consumed, road rage was witnessed, time was gained and lost through different zones. But would I do it all again? For me? For Jackie? For the characters in my current project and the ones in projects not even started?
Heck yeah. In a heartbeat.