Friday, July 19, 2013

The Right Word

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”
~ Mark Twain

Have you ever run into the “almost right” word? I sure have. In fact, I’m pretty certain that I've contributed many “almost right” words to the Great Book of LifeI've also spent many an hour rummaging through my brain, books, and basement in search of the elusive “right” word.

You know, I almost listed drawers there as one of the places I've searched, but that most definitely would not be the right word. Although some drawers may, in fact, contain words… other drawers categorically do not. Whew — another word crisis averted!

Anyway, I once encountered an “almost right” word in an intake report, back when my job was giving psych assessments. There within the section used to describe the patient, the referring medical resident had written, “He reads ferociously  sometimes six books at a time.”

Ferociously? As in, “exhibiting or given to extreme fierceness and unrestrained violence and brutality”?  A word usually associated with lion-like behavior. Hmmmmmm. 

I think the word that this poor, exhausted resident intended was voraciously. As in, “excessively eager, or having an insatiable appetite for something” (like books in this instance).

Well, I happened to find this “almost right” word ferociously funny at the time. Mostly, because when you’re working on a psych ward, I assure you, the laughs are few and far between. And so, who can blame me for being absolutely tickled over this all day long? Then I went home…

When I walked into my apartment, I noticed some things I’d never noticed before — the paperbacks dog-eared and stacked carelessly next to my bed, the hardbacks strewn across the sofa, and the magazines lying mangled on the kitchen table.

Leaping Lions! The evidence was undeniable! I was, in fact...

ferocious reader.

I still am.

Because sometimes when you least expect it, the “almost right” word happens to be “exactly right”, after all.

PROMPT: Have some ferocious fun by putting all the wrong words in all the right places — or perhaps all the right words in all the wrong places. Stretch the English language like salt water taffy, bend it like Beckham, then throw it against the wall. See what sticks. For visual artists — create some color confusion, just for kicks. Is black really this year’s pink?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Yabba Dabba Doo!

Back in 2010, some old rock art was discovered in Australia.

No, I am not referring to a mint condition KISS album cover from the 70’s.

I’m talking about a fragment of cave wall displaying a pair of birds…

Birds that actually became extinct about 40,000 years ago!

Well, you know what this means, don’t you?

Kids have been driving parents up the wall with their wall art, like, FOREVER!

No, actually it means that the desire to create art has been around forever. As in, it is hardwired into our DNA.

And that is why my head nearly pops off whenever I hear adults claim that they are not creative.

Not possible.

As Lady Gaga would say —

“Baby, you were born this way.”

PROMPT: Get in touch with your inner cave child — they are YOUR walls, after all! Visual artists — practice some primitive art. Writers — a cave kid protagonist would be Flintstone fantastic!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Yearn to Learn

What if you spent the rest of the summer learning something new?

I’ll bet there's something you've always wanted to know how to do…


Spin wool

Perform nuclear fusion, perhaps.

Well, now is the time!

Learning something new is a great way to jump-start the brain’s creative engine. And as an added bonus, you can always give your newly acquired skill to one of your book’s characters.

By the way, if dancing is your new skill wish, check out this viral bit of inspiration...

and go for it!

PROMPT: Buy the book, make the call, or sign up for that class today!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

No Newbery for Mr. Clean

Barb’s Hygiene Hypothesis:

Household cleanliness is inversely proportional 
to daily word production.

Whenever I am procrastinating on a writing project, I tend to clean. I mean really go at it — as in, there are times when my kitchen island would be a fine spot for minor surgical procedures. So, if you know I’m working on a project and don’t want to pay those exorbitant hospital fees, have your physician give me a call.

Okay, maybe my hypothesis only holds true for me, but…

I once witnessed a neighbor polishing her mailbox until it became a blinding road hazard. Let me add that we live on a dead-end street 10 miles from the nearest town.

I never asked the burning why, but I have yet to see her name in print.

So there.

Well, the other day I was Googling home cleaning tips (yeah, I’m working on a novel), when I stumbled upon this gem 

“Pick any corner and work your way out.”

And I thought, wait a minute…

That’s not a cleaning tip — that’s a writing tip!

After all, the best way to get started on a writing project is to pick a 
corner — that wee wedge of an idea — and GO!

That corner may seem insignificant at first. In fact, it may seem like nothing at all, but it’s actually a big SOMETHING — a GREAT place to start.

And all GREAT writers know this.

J.R.R. Tolkien was once grading exams, when midway through the stack he came upon a blank sheet. He wrote down the first thing that popped into his head — “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” What the heck is a hobbit? he thought. But he had his corner.

We all know what happened next.

So today when I hear the sweet siren call of tile grout, wainscoting, or even… my mailbox, I’ll head for that corner and work…

No, fight, my way out.

PROMPT: In this corner is the super heavyweight champion of the world — YOUR great idea! Start there. Those filthy refrigerator coils can wait another day.

Monday, July 15, 2013



Go confidently in the direction of your dreams!
Live the life you have imagined.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Whenever I see this Thoreau quote, I always think of dinosaurs.

You see, when my son was in kindergarten, his class created a special quilt for the school auction. The students were given the demanding task of gooping up their hands with paint and squishing them onto fabric, while the quilter handled the sharp and deadly implements — needle, thread, and whatnot.

Unfortunately, my son was out sick on the grand gooping day. And by the time the quilter returned two weeks later, she had forgotten which hand was needed for the project. Only when she was piecing it all together did she realize that one little dinosaur would be facing the wrong way.

I’m sure her immediate reaction was “Oh carp!” or some such. But being a true artist, she embraced the “flaw” and even dubbed the final masterpiece “Marching to the Beat of a Different Dinosaur.”

A couple of days before the auction, she brought the finished quilt to school and showed the kids the awesome work of art “they” had created.

My son was quick to point out his handprint to me.

I told him it was adorable, of course, and then asked him if there was anything “different” about his dinosaur.

“Well, YEAH (as in Duh, Mom) —

It’s the only one going the RIGHT way!”

As you can tell by the little green dino pictured above — he was NOT referring to literal direction.

HIS way was the RIGHT way.

Ah, the unshakable self-assurance of 5-year-old boys!

And isn't that EXACTLY the kind of confidence we all need to heed Thoreau’s advice?

Especially when it comes to pursuing our art — we need to follow the call of our hearts and KNOW that OUR way is the RIGHT way.

Because when it comes to our dreams, we are actually the only ones who know which way to go.

And we need to trust that…

even when all the other dinosaurs are marching in the other direction.

Heck, they’re probably headed for the tar pits anyway.

By the way, the day that the quilter brought the kindergarten masterpiece to school, she actually pulled me aside and apologized for getting my son’s handprint wrong.

Was she kidding?


So, of course, I went to the school auction.

Yeah, it was the MOST money I have EVER spent on patchwork…

But it was worth every penny.

PROMPT: Dare to dream this week! What is the life you imagine? Then take a step  even if it’s just a tiny one  in YOUR direction.