Stuff For Wasting Time When You Ought To Be Writing

Who doesn’t love the feeling of being productive? Crazy people and communists, that’s who. You writers know what I mean, it’s the cat’s meow when you’re tapping away at the keys, singing “Taking Care of Business” in your head as you experience a jacked up level of inner-awesome at what a fricken machine you are when it comes to doing work.

But not every day is productive, is it? Not a chance, baby. Some days you slump down in your chair and stare at the screen, don’t you? You agonize over the details of your characters (would my MC really make a pass at that hunky lifeguard in chapter two?), or word choice (is bootylicious even a word?), or even whether your science-fantasy-dramedy-thriller is going to blow the world’s collective mind the way you’d planned.

Here’s the deal: some days are going the totally suck. Old school Hoover vacuum cleaners kind of suck, okay? Expressed mathematically that’s, like, suck2, or something.

Some days you are going to want to cast your laptop into the bottomless maw from whence bad writing doth never return. It’s okay though. They happen to all of us. When I hit those days I shut down Word and hit the interwebs for some fun. You like fun, don’t you? Of course you do. Unless you’re a communist, or course. Communists are nothing but a bunch of fun-hating bastards.

Here’s a list of my new time wasting/brain unwinding websites for those moments when I find myself in a sketchy neighborhood of Sucksville:

The Zoomable Scale of Everything — Want to know how big you are compared to one of Jupiter’s moons? Then come forward, young inquisitor, and prepare to be wowed!

Tom and Gary’s Decentralized Dance Party — Never have I seen two men who love partying so much. They have a portable FM transmitter–and by portable I mean one of them can wear it as a backpack–that they bring to a set location in some city. Everybody who shows up brings a boombox, tunes into the channel they’re broadcasting on, and then the mobile party ensues. More people, more music, more awesome–that’s exponentially fun, bro.

xkcd — The site’s title reads: “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.” I can’t say it better than that. This one is dripping with awesome.

Snorg Tees — These t-shirts are never not funny (unless you’re a commie).

Chart Porn — If you like the graphical representation of data then you’ll love this! no, really, it’s a bunch of charts about stuff. If that doesn’t sound fun, move along (communist).

Pottermore — I need to get trucking along in my Pottermore journey because I haven’t even been sorted yet, dude. Shenanigans, I know. From what I hear this site is to Potter fans what cake is to fat kids, so go get on that biatch and make yourself sick.

People of Walmart — If you’ve got a better place for looking at the crappy lower back tattoos of rural America, I’d like to know.

garfield minus garfield — This dude took a bunch of Garfield comics and got rid of that stupid obese cat so now John just looks like a nutjob. Genius!

r/funny — So many lulz in one place. Still one of favs.

Got any other suggestions for places to go on the internets? Holler back, girl (or boy, but not communists).

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This Is For My Friend, Sean. He Hates Imagination.

I’ve got this friend who hates fiction. Weird, right? Novels, novellas, short stories, poetry, flash–the dude hates it all. And it doesn’t just stop with made-up things in print form Oh no. Movies or television shows get him absolutely heated too. Magazines articles are okay as long as they’re conveyed in bulleted format and the sentences are capped at five words. Sans adjectives, preferably. Likewise on adverbs.

Since I found out about the dude’s condition I’ve been grinding hard on the Internets, trying to find something that will sway him to the side of things-made-up. The guy likes to laugh (I don’t get how you can like laughing but not like fiction, but whatever) so I figured I’d lay out three of my go-to funny sites–also the sites I go to when my brain stops working on a writing project–in the hopes that they’ll break the stony shell around his fiction hating heart.

McSweeny’s Internet Tendency — This site is a fricken gem but it’s just not safe for work. I was in the break room at work when I read the short story, “I’m Sorry I Bit You During My Job Interview” and this lady I work with came in to check on me because she thought I was sobbing.

Red Pen of Doom — This fella’s blog is hi-lair-ee-usPlus, he was an actual journalist at some point unlike the rest of us hacks on here who think we can write.

The Onion — You better already know about this. Subscribe to their Twitter feed and get the gist of the funny by just reading the headline.

Cracked — Funny lists? You got it, dude.

Like I said, these are the sites I usually hit when my brain decides to go on a permanent coffee break in the middle of writing. Maybe they’ll also help my friend to like fiction? II hope so.

Any others that you Internet folks think I should add?

We’ll All Laugh About This Later: Sleeping With the Fishes

Everybody has a few painfully awkward memories. You know what I’m talking about. They’re those times you think about and feel a little flush in your cheeks. The kind of stuff you hope no one saw, or at least that no one remembers.

Looking back on my childhood, I can’t help but feel like the universe heaped a few extra on me. I was always an awkward kid–the tallest one in every class from Kindergarten to high school. When other kids were shedding their baby fat I seemed to pick up a little more every year until I was the tallest and the widest kid in every class picture. But wait, it gets better. Mix that combo of fat and tall with a love of Star Wars novels and you get yourself a real winner. Sad sight, right? From there, all you need is a sprinkle of puberty pimples to build yourself a real-life nerd.

Yep. Welcome to the best years of my life.

There’s one gem in particular from those years that stands out in my memory like no other. Actually, I just lied. There are a lot of memories that are equally bad, but I can’t stand the shame of spilling more than one at a time.

It was the summer between freshman and sophomore years and I was working on the campus of my Jesuit prep school to help cover tuition. Dave the groundskeeper had just sent all of us po’ students off for lunch, and being a socially awkward teen I needed to find somewhere private where I could munch on the P B & J my mom had packed for me. With only half an hour to eat I knew I had to be fast else I suffer the stinging wrath of Dave. I hoofed it across campus looking everywhere for a place to be alone, until I spotted a shady nook under the awning of the science building. Perfect, I thought. Save for a few lonely orange cones, the place was totally deserted. I broke into a trot, aiming to claim this new hiding place before anybody else showed up.

As I got about ten paces from the spot a very strange thing happened. I sunk. No, I don’t mean that I fell or anything like that. I mean I literally sunk. You see, someone had recently been doing a bit of concrete work near the shadowy spot I had my eye on. Unfortunately for me, whoever had laid the concrete had neglected to put any sort of barrier around their work. Apparently they’d thought that a trio or orange traffic cones was enough to deter people from stepping into three feet of wet cement. No one must have warned them that I’d be on campus that day.

Here’s where you’d think it couldn’t get any worse, and here’s where you’d be wrong.

Just as I stepped in the cement–I mean the very moment that my foot hit that pool of grey muck–the foreman of the concrete crew came back from his lunch. It should be easy for you to imagine his irritation at finding a giant teen stomping around in his fresh work. Dave showed up soon after and immediately assumed that I had done it on purpose. Really, Dave? Who would do that on purpose? Nevertheless, the school shot out an angry call to my mom, who I’m sure explained the problem with her son.

“No,” I imagine her saying. “He actually does this sort of thing all the time.”

Man, what a bummer that was.

But alas, it’s not all bad. Even though the stepping-in-wet-cement story didn’t come up until I we were already married–whew! dodged that bullet!–my other adventures in embarrassment actually paid off in the long run. On one of our first dates, my wife was actually impressed by my extensive knowledge of all the goings on in a galaxy far far away (everything post-Return of the Jedi, of course). She actually thought it was cool that I knew so much about a made-up place full of made-up people. Plus, without all those shameful moments of adolescent shenanigans I wouldn’t be able to write my characters into painfully embarrassing scenes–something I enjoy doing quite a bit. And who knows? Maybe stepping in wet cement will pay off one day. We are planning to have kids, and if they’re anything like I was then I know there is going to be some cheek-flushing experiences in their futures as well.