thisworldofhurt

This Side of the Pen (Installment One)

In children, daughters, life, Parents, Smartassity, Uncategorized, Writers, Writing on June 27, 2014 at 12:14 am

Nurture vs Nature is always an interesting topic to contemplate. There are things like creativity, analytical thinking, deep emotions, or quick temperedness that you could arguably place into the nature category. Inherited traits, passed down through DNA. Perhaps no further than a generation away, from a parent, or perhaps a grandparent. Other traits, such as reason, observation and deduction, wit or rhetoric, can be learned, developed by practice, or through submersion in the culture of others.

A creative, or even just a clever mind could very well be a natural trait passed down through the chromosomes, but a quick wit—or as I label it with my own definition: Smartassity—can be developed over time.
I’ll give you an example of how clever can develop into Smartassity if properly guided.

About three or four years ago one of my daughters had spent a half an hour mixing together her world famous “special sport drink”.  It was a swirling concoction of mashed strawberries, blueberries, orange juice—heavy on the pulp—water and a splash of milk. She handed me the bottle full of the finished product and said, “Here, taste this.”

I accepted the proffered bottle and took a drink.  “What’s in this?” I asked.

She tells me of the contents and says, “You have to pay me 50 cents for that.”

I ask, “Why do I have to pay you 50 cents for a drink?”

She looks at me with complete confidence and replies in total sincerity, “Because, you’re family… it’s half price.”

See, now that’s clever.

Now just the other day—three or four years into the future from the previous dialogue—the same daughter returns from basketball camp. My wife was discussing her experience at camp, and was reading over some of the coach’s recommendations for how our daughter could improve her shooting ability. My wife had said to my daughter, “It says here that you need to put together a repetitive shot workout. You need to get a routine where you perform a series of shots from different points and repeat it over and over again.”

“What do you mean?” my daughter asked.

“Well the coach recommends that you develop a ritual.”

My daughter sighs and says, “Well, okay… but I don’t have any chickens.”

Now that’s Smaratassity.

Brilliant! I laughed for twenty minutes. I still laugh when I recall it in my mind.

I even see some early skills developing in the younger kids. For instance, just this evening one of the younger kids called from her room in the back of the house. The conversation went like this:

Younger kid yelling from the back of the house: Mommy, Daddy, Krystal (the Guinea Pig) is going to have babies.

Older kid yelling in response from the adjacent room: That’s not possible. We don’t have a male guinea pig.

Younger kid: Yes she is.

Older kid: No she…  with frustration Just go ask mom and dad about this process.

Younger kid: I know how babies are made, but she could have met someone at the Pet Smart.

Early onset Smartassity? It is possible. She bears close watching.

All writers have varying levels of Smartassity. It comes with the territory. Now to the individual writer, the transition from one side of the pen to the other seems to happen quite suddenly. It doesn’t actually. It happens slowly over time, but the realization occurs like an epiphany. What occurs is that the writer sits around writing ever chance they can, and reading ever chance they can, and then one day they read something and say to themselves—usually out loud—“Wow, this is crap. I could write better than this. In fact, I am writing better than this… and this junk got published.”

From that moment on you will seem to have this unconscious, yet slightly conscious, brain pattern going on. You will see things, think of things, observe and process things, quite differently than everyone else. For instance:

I was walking through the mall with my wife the other day, and as we were leaving one of the larger department stores we passed a sign. The sign read: Now Hiring, Apply Within. The human brain is truly a magnificent organism, possible of thousands upon thousands of calculations at any given moment. Now I’m sure that there are countless women out there that would agree that a man’s brain does not possess this ability. Admittedly, this would be a correct analysis—at least in part—as men do not multitask well. However, we are not talking multitasking. We are talking pure lineal thought moving at exceptional speed. It is this latter brain function that kicked into overdrive moments after my optic nerves sent the upside down image of the sign that I had passed leaving the store, and my brain began to unscramble the reversed image deciphering the bunched together letters reading the words aloud inside my head: Now Hiring, Apply Within.

These are words that a normal person’s brain would register to mean: this business is short staffed and is currently accepting applications, and should you desire to apply for the job, you may do so somewhere inside this building. But I don’t have the brain of a normal person; I have the brain of a writer. By the time I had walked the twelve feet from the sign to the threshold exiting the store and entering the mall, I had begun to laugh out loud. Partly because I had thought that the sign I had just passed was one of the most philosophical signs I had ever seen, and partly because I had begun to analyze the obscure slant that the brain of a writer has on the environment in which it passes through, and I had found great hilarity in my analysis. Let me explain.

I was thinking, “Well, would you lookie there? That sign is telling me that one who is in search of employment should look deep inside one’s self to inquire as to whether they may be a suitable candidate for work at this particular establishment.” I thought, “wow, that’s a pretty deep sign for a department store. At that same instant, I had a sudden flash of similar situations where I had found humor in some sign I had read, either through the unusual perspective of my own consciousness, or the exceptionally poor grammar of the composer of the sign. Unfortunately, this seems to occur most frequently in bathroom facilities.

Just for the record: a sudden outburst of laughter—no matter how small—in a bathroom, occupied by more than just yourself, always causes a moment of awkwardness. Then you find yourself in a situation where you feel you need to either explain the reason for you laughter, or get out of there as soon as possible. Often enough I will act like a mental patient speaking loudly about how excited I am about to be out in town, and how if I’m good will be rewarded with gummy bears, and that the green ones are my favorite. Then, of course, engage the other person in a line of questions about their feelings on sweet gummy deliciousness until they feel the need to escape as soon as possible. Kinda fun actually.

Every time I notice grammatical errors on printed signs it makes me laugh anyway. I won’t say that grammar isn’t important, because it is important, but often side-stepped by weirdo thinkers like myself. Like that ridiculous test that some English teachers give when they ask students to punctuate: a woman without her man is nothing

.
As soon as my professor assigned this to my class, I knew that it must be some sort of no win situation in which gender bias must be involved. Apparently men will punctuate the phrase: A woman, without her man, is nothing. And women will punctuate the phrase: A woman, without her, man is nothing. All of the sudden I felt like Captain Kirk engaging in the Kobayashi Maru. (I’m not explaining this to the non-Trekies out there… look it up.) And like Kirk I thought outside the box and found a way out. Thank you, weirdo thinking brain. I simply responded to my English professor by punctuating the phrase: A woman without? Her man is nothing!

Not really grammatically correct I know, but I’m pretty sure that E.E. Cummings proved that grammar is more guidelines than actual rules. Just goes to prove that everyone needs a good editor. Like they didn’t’ have a big enough ego as it was. I wish I had an editor for this blog; perhaps I wouldn’t have so many grammatical mistakes. A good editor that will work for free is hard to find in This World of Hurt.

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