Inspiration and Humor: You’ve got to be kidding! - Marta Acosta
Esri told me I had to write about inspiration. I said, “Okay, I’ll write about humor.” She said, very sternly, “It has to be about how humor has inspired you.” She had that crazy look in her eyes, so I said, “Sure, of course, whatever you say, Esri!” I didn’t want to cross some chick who’s hawked beer and potatoes for a living. That beer-and-potatoes crowd runs fast and rough. I’d heard about the terrifying “French fry fingers” treatment they practiced on authors who made disparaging remarks about tubers and suds. This is why I always say something positive about beer and potatoes in each of my Casa Dracula novels, and I highly recommend that other writers also take this precaution.
So I’ve been thinking about how I was inspired by humor, and I’ve reached the rather depressing conclusion that I am not one of those inspire-y people. I don’t have an inspiration board filled with kewt sayings and pictures of kittens hanging from branches with “Just keep hanging in!” captions, even though those posters are totally awesome. I don’t read books about the wonder of writing books. I don’t write poems encapsulating my journey as an artist. I’m not a member of any groups where I actually have to meet people on a regular basis and talk seriously about writing or books.
I did like to sit in classrooms and meetings and make snarky remarks because I was bored. I tried telling people that I suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder, but no one believed me. So I guess boredom inspired me to amuse myself. I felt a social obligation to entertain those around me, too. When I wasn’t in a boring meeting, I was supposed to be doing something else boring, so naturally, I was forced to write on the job just to keep from falling into a catatonic stupor. Because, no matter how much bosses say they hate people wasting time, they hate catatonia even more.
People ask me when I decided to be a writer. The answer is never. I never thought, “Gee, I think I’d like a job with no security, no health coverage, no guarantees, and dubious social benefits.” I’d rather be an electrician, because no matter what happens, people need and will pay for electrical work. Also, people don’t go up to electricians at parties and relay in extensive detail their fantasy for a rewiring job and then say, “You should do that!”
Sometimes after people tell me in extensive detail the book they think I should write, they ask, “What’s the best thing about being a writer?” My husband says I shouldn’t keep answering, “Getting paid,” so now I just mumble something that sounds sensitive and artistic. In fact, I try to mumble the words “sensitive” and “artistic” in my response.
Back to the topic of inspiration. Whenever I’m stuck writing a passage, I play with my Slinky for a while. I like to bounce it on my dog’s head, but he only puts up with this for a few seconds. I wish he was more patient, because I find this activity both soothing and entertaining.
I also find reality television inspirational. On “Project Runway,” one of the contestants said, “Good taste is not style.” This was one of the most genius things I’ve ever heard. Naturally, I stole the line and put it in my book.
So my advice for those intent on being a writer are: Don’t piss off the beer-and-potatoes people; consider a career in the skilled trades; get a really boring job and write during the work day; learn to mumble in a way that makes you sound more sensitive and artistic than you are; watch reality television; and consider buying a Slinky.
-------------------------Marta Acosta is author of the Casa Dracula novels and owner of Vampire Wire, a blog that covers the paranormal entertainment scene. Everything she said about Esri Rose is true.