My post day is Tuesday.
In Oh My Fog last week, I posted about flight delays and other random trials and tribulations of travel. But despite that post, I’m actually one of those cheery people who never complain much about the unexpected delays, mishaps and disruptions that we all experience when we travel by trains, planes and automobiles (and why not add, ships while we’re at it, since my 5writers colleague Helga is about to embark on her own big adventure via cruise ship).
Besides, I usually can get a lot of writing done when I travel.
So I hate to complain about travelling. I feel privileged to be able to travel, and I’m not just talking about having the financial wherewithal to do so. Travel these days requires more than just money. Perhaps even more important is good health, a supportive friend or partner, an abundance of good humour and, at least at our house, a great petsitter.
When travelling last week, my only genuine worries related to the things I was responsible for: namely remembering my passport, not losing my boarding pass, not setting off the metal detectors while going through security at the airport, not cursing myself for wearing over the knee zip-up boots (thank-God-they-weren’t-lace-ups).
Mostly, what I was responsible for last Monday as I waited out the fog at SFO, was writing.
The thing we are all supposed to be madly doing every single day from September 5th to February 5th. To prove to ourselves, to prove to our families, our friends, our readers and anyone else who gives two hoots about it, that we are disciplined. That we can write to deadline. That we can pop out a novel from conception to completion in a mere five months.
So for me, all things considered, despite crying children, unhappy passengers and an abundance of fog, last Monday turned out to be a great writing day.
I actually had fun.
But, (wistful pause) I wish I could feel that same way about writing every day.
But I can’t, damn it.
Since we started this crazy challenge, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the old adage: 1,000 words a day. But that’s just not me. And while we’ve had ever so much helpful advice along the way, including Silk’s ‘arithmetic’ post (if you’ve read her most recent post, you’ll know that according to Silk’s latest arithmetic, she’s going to have to ratchet it up a wee bit: Silk figures she needs to pop out 1500 words a day, each and every day, right through Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day…
Does someone else see a problem here? This challenge isn’t supposed to be a chore, it’s supposed to be cathartic, liberating, inspiring. Even, dare I say, fun.
So about 5 minutes ago, when I was halfway through this somewhat recycled post from last week and rummaging through my brain in the hopes of hitting upon a hot new topic to blog about this week, I came up with the word ‘fun’.
The other F-bomb.
As in: “Are we Having Fun Yet?”
For me, that phrase is inextricably linked to carnival rides in the rain. I grew up in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver British Columbia. It rains a lot in Portland. In Vancouver, don’t even go there. You absolutely do not want to ask a Vancouverite about the weather in November. Or January. Or, come to think of it,- at least during this past year,- in April, May or June either. (Now you know why I’m in California right now).
But I’ve paid my dues. I’ve done rain. Lots of it. And tonight, I suddenly remembered one of those blast from the past moments. The sensation of riding on a carnival ride in the rain. Dont ask me why, but all of a sudden, this image of a Tilt-a-Whirl popped into my brain.
Put your hand up if you remember the Tilt-a-Whirl?
For those from Europe, apparently they called it ‘The Waltzer’ over there. Now do you remember the Tilt-a-Whirl?
Yeah? We’ll I’m glad, because I’m beginning to think this writing challenge is a bit like being on a Tilt-a-Whirl ride in the rain.
My recollection of this particular experience is so vivid it is almost frightening. I can see the huge metal ‘capsules’ shaped like cereal bowls standing on end. Only these ‘bowls’ had some sort of seat inside. Sometimes the seats were padded; other times, just plain hard metal.
I can visualize the Carny,- the operator of the ride- slicked back hair and nicotine stained fingers. He inspects our soggy paper tickets before he lets us through the gate where we hop up a short flight of metal stairs and run onto the platform where the capsules rest.
All the kids want the red one.
Just like a box of Smarties, (the Canadian equivalent of M&M’s), everyone wants the red one; no one wants the green one. So we all run. Fast. We want to be the first to claim the coveted color-of-choice capsule. The red one.
Giggling, we slide onto the seat, only to feel droplets of rain soak through our jeans. The seat is wet! Ugh! But the operator is already at our capsule now, bringing down the restraining bar, locking us in. A flutter of nervousness runs through our tummies. And then, with a creak and a rumble, the ride slowly starts in motion.
And that’s when the fun begins.
Now, just to make sure I’m not ‘mis-recollecting’, that I’m not making all this up, I indulged in some not very scholarly research to back up my childhood memories of the Tilt-a-Whirl (thank you Google; thank you Wikipedia) and that is how I discovered the perfect quote to use in this week’s post. Because in about two nano seconds, I learned that Herbert Sellner, who apparently invented the Tilt-a-Whirl, applied for a patent with the following description:
“A further object is to provide amusement apparatus wherein the riders will be moved in general through an orbit and will unexpectedly swing, snap from side to side or rotate without in any way being able to figure what movement may next take place…”
Wow! Cosmic man!
Do any of my 5writer colleagues doubt the aptness of this description? Especially when you factor rain into Sellner’s quaint description of the intended object of the Tilt-a-Whirl. As in stinging drops that splat against the face and wet strands of hair that smack against the cheek like a whip.
But back in the Tilt-a-Whirl, that’s not what you’re thinking about. You do not have time to think right now, only feel, because the ride is going faster. And faster… and faster… and faster. And then the Carney shouts out:
Are we having fun yet?
And, after a short pause:
Do we want to go faster?
A shriek goes up from the twirling riders. You brace yourself, gripping the restraining bar tighter, but with each new tilt, each new crack of the whip, you end up slammed against the hard metal side of the capsule, or crushed against the friend or sibling sitting next to you.
As the ride whirls faster still, some laugh hysterically, some turn white with fear, some turn green with – well, you know what happens after that.
But still the Carney calls out:
“Are we having fun yet?
Do you want to go faster?”
Fear, pride, bravado, foolishness whatever, most of us (the ones that aren’t puking or crying) yell out: Yes!
So for me, I’m all about the Tilt-a-Whirl. If I’ve learned anything from this 5writers challenge, the ‘fun’ isn’t in the discipline of popping out the obligatory 1000 words a day. For me, the fun is having ‘fun’.
We all differ on what we call ‘fun’. Fun is a dinner with friends. Fun is a game of golf or tennis. Fun is a surfing lesson on a sunny day in Hawaii, or a wickedly hilarious attempt to mount a horse when your jeans are too tight. Better yet, watching your husband try the same thing. Fun is ordering a pizza so you don’t have to cook dinner or do dishes. Fun is eating popcorn and singing ‘How-do-you-solve-a-problem-like Maria‘ at Sing-a-Long Sound of Music. Fun is ordering a special ‘cake’ and singing Happy Birthday to your 17 year old dog .
Sometimes, like the Tilt-a-Whirl, fun is a little scary. Sometimes fun is a little uncomfortable. But fun is not boring. Because if it were boring, it wouldn’t be fun.
For me, writing has to be fun. I willingly confess I’m a Tigger, the boisterous, tigeresque friend of Pooh and Eeyore, Kanga and Roo, in A. A. Milne’s Winnie-The-Pooh books.
Research confirms a Tigger is filled with great energy and optimism. Though mostly well meaning, a Tigger’s actions can sometimes lead to chaos and trouble for both a Tigger and a Tigger’s friends. A Tigger undertakes tasks with gusto, only to later realize those tasks were not as easy as Tigger originally imagined. A Tigger acts on every impulse and leaps before he looks. A Tigger ‘bounces’ and, according to his Disney bio, ‘Tigger’s bouncing is a pure expression of his utter zest for life.’
This Tigger will not sit alone in a room, writing the obligatory 1000 words a day. Some days, this Tigger will write. Some days, this Tigger will play. Some days this Tigger will write and write and write until the wee hours of the morning, but only because this Tigger is having ‘fun’.
This Tigger likes riding the Tilt-a-Whirl in the rain.