Bad Writing Habits

Posted: February 1, 2012 by S. Trevor Swenson in General, Me & Mine
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I have terrible habits as a writer. Oh, I know all the things I’m supposed to do. I just never do them. It’s a pity, as I seem to excel with bad or self destructive habits. The drinking? Going strong since 1984. Smoking? I took that up for a New Years resolution the very next year. I routinely read what good writers are supposed to do. What I read makes perfect sense, and I intend to do it, I just seldom follow through.

One thing that I keep meaning to do, but I have difficulty remembering is to carry a notepad with me and write down the ideas that pop into my mind. In class this isn’t such a problem as I have paper and pens in front of me and rather than concentrating on what I am paying the teacher to lecture me on, I write cute and clever anecdotes about Irritable Bowel Syndrome or UFO/Alien Abduction. I learned quickly and sadly that classes that involve facts, formulas, procedures, science and math are usually the classes I need to be paying close attention to. I can literally hear my mother’s voice “Maybe if you spent more time paying attention and taking notes and less time writing your little novellas about poop and drinking, you wouldn’t be failing algebra, biology, medical dosages, chemistry.” (Sadly, this list of subjects goes on and on.) Like many mothers, my moms disapproves of a great many things that I do. The truly irritating thing is, that she’s frequently right.

Certain places are conducive to good comedy writing, but I am often too wrapped up in the negativity of the experience to take good notes. I remember what I can and sometimes the pieces come out strong…sometimes not so much. Doctors waiting rooms are generally good, as are buses and trains. Grocery stores and laundromats run a close second. I’ve never taken notes in a bank as I feel “watched”. I don’t need some over zealous cop sticking a gun in my face after suspecting me of writing a lengthy, 250 word stick up note/essay. I had an excited police officers gun in my face just a couple months ago and the experience was surprisingly not the roller coaster of thrills, chills and spills that I’d hoped it would be. An armed robbery suspect had run into my building, and the Blue Meanies burst into my apartment with guns drawn looking for him. I didn’t even have a clever remark to make like they do in the movies. I merely obeyed the officers instructions and after he took the 9mm out of my face and left, I calmly changed my underwear and made some Tension Tamer herbal tea.

Sometimes I think of the same funny concept over and over during specific moments or in specific places, but then I forget to write it down. Recently for example, every time I use the bathroom at work and have to wash my hands afterwards (like the little sign says) I have been thinking about where I read someplace that a person should sing an entire version of “Happy Birthday to You” while washing their hands to insure that you have washed long enough. I got to thinking that perhaps people sing too quickly. Like how we counted for hide-and-go-seek as children before adding the “Mississippi clause” to the rules. One had to count “One Mississippi…Two Mississippi, etc”. Of course the kids who had little regard for fair play quickly turned Mississippi into a one syllable word, so we’d have to hide more quickly. I came up with the Sinatra/Lounge Lizard version of “Happy Birthday to You” to be quite certain that I was killing all the nasty germs after my urinal experience. I don’t just blurt through Happy Birthday, dry my hands and go. I take a few minutes of scrubbing like a surgeon while working the imaginary supper club where I am crooning. “Hey everybody, how are y’all tonight? You’re a great looking crowd….I’m a little late tonight to the Porcelain Lounge because I had some crazy woman wake me up late last night. At 3 in the morning there was a pounding on my hotel room door, pounding, pounding, pounding, and this was at 3am. Finally, I had to let her out . Ha ha! But seriously folks, you are a gorgeous crowd. Anyone celebrating a birthday or anniversary out there tonight? Yes, you sweetheart? How old are ya honey? 67? Oh, God bless ya. Let’s give this young lady a round of applause, huh folks? This first number is just for you, sweety….”Happy Birth-day….to yo-o-o-u doobie doobie doo. Thank you folks, thank you…Happy Birthday tooooo  you-ou-ouou….Happy BIRTH-day dear….what’s your name, honey? Dear Marie-eee…..Happy Birthday…to-o-o-o-o. you…let’s hear it for Marie on her special day. Thanks, folks and don’t forget to take care of your waiters or waitresses tonight…You’re beautiful…no really…Thank You….”

By the time I’m done my hands are quite sterile, and on the rare occasion where I lose myself in the day dream, and sing out loud, some poor fellow waiting to drop a deuce will pound on the bathroom door screaming, “Uh, hey Ole Blue-Eyes,  You coming out this week, or you gonna sing “Summer Winds” next?”

I should probably invest in one of those mini tape recorders and speak into it when oh-so-clever ideas pop into my head.   “Idea for a sitcom….two paralyzed hospital patients have to share a room and one is a black democrat, the other is a white racist republican…hilarity ensues…possible name “Bedpan Alley”.

The problem with that is that I hate the sound of my own voice and it makes me cringe while robbing me of any and all creativity when I hear it played back. The other reason is on the rare occasion I witness people who speak into those little things, I think they should be arrested and sentenced to hard labor for gross and willful pretension.

I really need to find a way to get into some better habits as a writer.

Comments
  1. The thing I hate most about my bad writing habits is that they’re all cliche. How disheartening is it to have trouble writing, and your troubles constitute bad writing?

  2. I am picturing you singing lounge style now LOL

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