Look at the Birdie

I’ve been reading outside the lines lately. Trying new authors. Trying not to be so snobby when it comes to literature. For months I’ve had a collection of short stories sitting on my desk (along with about ten other fiction and non-fiction books) by Kurt Vonnegut. But it was only after Ben put a single story in front of me that I couldn’t resist reading the rest of the book. Look at the Birdie is a collection of unpublished short stories, collected over the years. In contrast Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House is a collection of the stuff that actually sold. And I’m not surprised that after reading both, I’m more drawn to former. There are certainly great stories in both, a few not so great stories too. It surprised me after all my years of reading that I had never come across his work before. And this is the rapturous delight of reading – when an author can open you into the world of his or her mind, experience, thoughts that you never had. TV can only rarely do it. Films are a bit better at it. But what is special about reading is that it is so personal. The characters exist in your head as you imagine them, prompted by a word here or there. Your interpretation is different because good authors don’t ever tell the whole story. You walk away with a sense of emptiness, of a new whole in the universe opened, that only another story can fill. And it continues. This was how I felt reading Vonnegut.

THIS IS NOT CHICK LIT

This is not Chick Lit

Ben didn’t give really me a Valentine’s Day present. But that’s okay. I didn’t want one. Personally I hate Valentines Day — this one particular day that when you are supposed to buy things for the person you love. The first part I detest is the buying part. The second part I detest is the social acceptance this one prescribed day is more special than any other. Not to worry, I feel the same way about Christmas.

Ben did get me a present though, but two days before, which to me was way more delightful; especially because we agreed no presents. He got it because I needed it at that moment. The moment when I was struggling to get my story right, to say what I needed to say about a certain type of woman. He bought me a book called “THIS IS NOT CHICK LIT.”

I love this book. I am walking around with this book in my hand like it is a political statement. I’m only on the fourth story; they are good, not as good as other stories I’ve read, but good. It’s what this book stands for that I care more about. Women writers who are writing about something more than:

White girl in the big city searches for Prince Charming, all the while shopping, alternately cheating on or adhering to her diet, dodging her boss, and enjoying the occasional teary-eyed lunch with her token Sassy Gay Friend.” – p 1

Chick Lit has it’s place alongside trash tv and romcoms. Fun, playful and light. I liked Sex & The City as much as the next girl. But is that it? Is that all that women are these days? Is that all they can read about? The numbers say yes… I want to believe no. There is nothing healthy about chick lit – it’s just sugar. It tastes great, but then you come down from the high and are left with nothing meaningful and feeling a bit robbed (and as a side note: too much sugar creates a perfect acidic environment for cancer cells to grow.) Literature is meant to expand us, take us to places we haven’t been, connect with deep, scary, beautiful emotions — that has always been it’s job.

I think maybe Ben bought this book for me secretly for Valentine’s Day. But this is slowly starting to look like Ben is really getting to know real me  – surreptitiously getting me an anti-chick lit book as a non-Valentine’s present. Okay Bubba, you’re getting it. xo

The Big Idea

In advertising the “big idea” is gold. In an interactive agency, it’s sometimes easy to get swamped in the execution and forget about the idea, the purpose, the creative strategy. But the opposite is also true, and there is nothing that infuriates me more than those who come up with ideas with no concept of how to execute. Because ideas are just words on paper until you make it real. And I believe that good ideas are a dime a dozen. Lots of people have good ideas. In fact I’ve had about five good business ideas in the past twelve months, I’ve had personal project ideas, like dearttc.ca, I’ve had ideas for promoting non-profit organizations and I’ve had ideas for about a hundred short stories.

But the reality is, as I plug through draft#7 of my current short story, that it’s one thing to have an idea and its a totally other thing to make it happen, to make it all make sense, to make sure it makes sense to other people who are seeing or reading it without any context whatsoever.

As Ben read my most recent draft of my story I finally broke and just told him what I was trying to say. And it wasn’t coming out in the story. He found what I was trying to say was quite compelling, when I said it out loud. But he didn’t get it in the execution. So the moral is that while ideas do matter, what matters more is how you execute it. Because an idea is nothing unless it is made into something. Executing an idea is a million times harder than coming up with idea in the first place. I could sit on my ass and tell the world I have all these story ideas, written on cue cards and in journals. Really compelling shit. But it means nothing if I don’t actually turn it into something. Something that people actually get. And whether it’s an advertising microsite or a short story it’s a hell of a lot harder than you might think.