Friday, June 21, 2013


Kids have RULES. They just seem to show up with them. If you don’t have children yet, never say that you haven’t been warned.

I was blindsided by this fact a number of years ago when I was minding my own business on a Sunday afternoon. Out of the blue, my offspring appeared at my side. “Your favorite color is yellow, Mommy,” Daughter said.

“No, it isn't, Honey. My favorite color is blue.”

“Nope,” said Son, jabbing his thumb in Daughter’s direction. “That’s hers.”

“Well, Sweetie, people can have the same favorite colors.”

“No they can’t!” Daughter pipes up.

“But… you just don’t get it,” I stammered, then tried to explain that there simply aren't enough colors to go around — that even if you parceled out every conceivable hue, the human eye couldn't see those billions of shades…
No, I was the one who didn't get it. I was being reassigned.

“You get yellow,” Son said. They both stuck out their chins.


They crossed their arms.

I was going down. Sure, they were under three feet tall, but I was outnumbered. And this was apparently THEIR WORLD, and these were THEIR RULES. It was a battle I could not win. Or you might say I was just too yellow to fight it. So I simply shrugged and thanked my lucky stars that I hadn't been assigned orange — orange and I DO NOT get along.

For the next 10 years I would receive yellow cards, yellow flowers, yellow hair ribbons, yellow placemats, you name it — if it was a gift, it was yellow. And I must admit that in some small sunshiny way, it made me appreciate all the wonderful yellow things that the world has to offer.

However, it wasn't long after my reassignment that I saw the dynamic duo approach my husband as he blissfully read the morning paper. Yes, ignorance is always blissful.

Uh-oh. I knew that he and my son shared the same favorite animal. I couldn't bear to watch — I left the room. I was yellow, after all.

Later I came upon my husband sitting at the kitchen table. Defeat hung in the air. He stared off into the middle distance and slowly shook his head. “Birds,” he said. “I got birds.”

Ouch. Tough break, Babe.

PROMPT: Make up your own RULES and create about them. If you write fiction, this is a great opportunity to make a wacky world where office memos must be sung at the top of your lungs, or Fridays are “bring your pig to work day”. If you’re an artist, make up some new rules about color. Like, maybe, everything that is supposed to be blue must be painted yellow… Just DON’T send it to me.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

100,000 – That’s all Folks!

"You birds have 100,000 bad drawings in you—
start getting rid of them now!"

These are the words that Chuck Jones heard on his first day of class at the Chouinard Art Institute.

I don’t know if the rest of his classmates took the instructor’s advice seriously, but Chuck certainly did. In fact, he got busy knocking down the bad drawing count that very day. Good thing, too. When a studio opportunity came knocking, he was ready to answer the door. The rest became “What’s up Doc?” history when Chuck created Bugs Bunny, Road Runner, Porky Pig, and the gang.

Chuck never forgot that opening line, and he repeated it often over the years. In fact, The Chuck Jones Experience in Las Vegas features a manhole cover labeled “100,000 Bad Drawings”. 

Everyone should have one of those.

Obviously, Chuck and his teacher knew that practice trounces talent every day of the week and twice on Sundays.

A lot of folks out there won’t even start churning out their 100,000 bad drawings, poems, science projects, whatever, because they tell themselves something like this —

“Sure I’d like to be a great artist, writer, scientist, auto mechanic, whatever, but I just don’t have the talent for it.”

Well guess what, Cupcake – you were born with no talent for walking either.

None. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

I mean, if someone had offered you a billion dollars to walk 5 steps at the age of 5 weeks, you wouldn't have gotten your diaper to clear even a one-inch hurdle.

Welcome to the 100,000 rule.

I’ve raised two children and have witnessed the process firsthand. Trust me when I say that you had at least 100,000 bad steps inside of you. 

And trust me on this one, too — you never said, not even once, “Well, Snap! I have absolutely NO talent for this! Good God, I’ll never make it as a walker! I am DOOMED to butt-scoot for the rest of my days!”

You didn’t say any of this, but I know exactly what you were thinking…

You see, my daughter was a late walker. She didn't take her first step until she was a full eighteen months old. Apparently, she had other priorities – like focusing her brain development on all things language rather than the motor cortex. So here’s the thing — she was speaking in clear, full sentences before her toes ever touched the floor. She was like those babies in the e-trade commercials back before there were e-trade commercials. It actually used to creep my mom out a bit, but that’s another story…

Anyway, when my daughter finally had enough of crawling headlong into the coffee table, she pulled herself up and did what you did way back when.

I have the entire “falling flat on her face scene” on video. Then it got a little weird.

After she pulled herself up, but before she took another one of her 100,000 bad steps, she shouted —


I kid you not. 

Over and over again. 

As any parent will tell you, her 100,000 bad steps were over in a flash, and from her moves on the basketball court, you’d think she was born with stepping talent. She wasn't. But she believed.

You did, too. And I’ll bet you said exactly the same thing she did – you just weren't able to say it out loud at the time.

Say it now.

100,000 times.

PROMPT: Be a believer! Get some of those bad drawings, paintings, poems, stories, songs, and science projects out of the way today… one baby step at a time.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Filling the Well

I’ll bet that you've been pretty busy since September.

I know I have.

I've completed 56 new fiction and nonfiction projects for the education market. Many thanks to all of the awesome folks who've provided me with those fabulous assignments!

And I've posted 205 times for all of my mind-bending friends. Many thanks to all of you who have taken time out from your busy lives to read these noodly missives!

Well, school’s out for summer…

And summer is the perfect time for filling that well of creativity.

So this summer, I’m going to post a “Best of” of sorts at the Good Ship Elbow.

That way, should you feel the need for a jump-start, there will always be one here for you.

Meanwhile, I’m going to fill up on experiences that are sure to fuel my writing for the next academic year 

I might finally learn how to play the guitar,

I’ll probably dust off that rusty French,

And I think I see a chicken flock in my future.

I know for certain that there will be lots of fun and travel with a couple of the greatest teens on the planet...

And it doesn't get any better than that.

PROMPT: How do you fill that creativity well of yours?