Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Everything I Know About Writing I Learned from Dr. Sheldon Cooper

Who is Dr. Cooper? Was he a writing professor who inspired me to think outside the box? A former lover who jilted me and I eviscerate in fiction? Is it the name of my sister’s cat (who by the way, is trying to kill me)?

Actually, Dr. Cooper is the main character of a popular US TV comedy called “The Big Bang Theory,” and in honor of the name of the “Big Bang” book tour, I wanted to give this ode to Dr. Cooper.

While I know the show is available internationally, first, for those of you not familiar with the sit-com “The Big Bang Theory,” it centers around two roommates (Dr. Leonard Hofsteader and Dr. Sheldon Cooper) who are physicists at the California Institute of Technology.  (I don’t think the university is ever really named in the series, but it heavily hinted that it is Cal Tech.) Of course, there are the numerous humorous situations contrasting their brilliance with social awkwardness--particularly with Sheldon’s obsessive-compulsive personality and Leonard’s love affair with the intellectually average resident across the hall. I’m usually not a fan of sit coms, but this is a very clever and witty show.

So we can all enjoy the antics and inspiration of Dr. Cooper, I’ve included some video files that correspond with the lessons Sheldon has taught me. (and for the record, the clips are rated between PG and PG-13). 
So.. off we go.

1. You are the best writer in the entire world and no one recognizes your brilliance. Just kidding. You suck. BAZINGA!

Sheldon is so “robot-like,“ Bazinga is what Sheldon says so people will know he is kidding. The point is---as writers, we tend to either take ourselves too seriously or not seriously enough. Writing stories may be therapeutic, but it’s not the place to build your self esteem or find religion. While writing does help us discover things about ourselves (and thus making it a highly personal venture), regardless of success or failure, we must remain grounded. The bottom is line is that there will always be writers who are less talented than you who will become famous and there will always be writers who are more talented than you who will never be financially successful. That’s unfair, but that’s life. Compare yourself with others and you’ll always be…well, “Bazinga’d”

And here’s Sheldon to remind us:

2. Don’t try to be what you’re not.

Find your voice. Don’t try to write a vampire story because vampires are hot right now. Or erotica because it’s hot right now (pun intended). If the writing is forced, the reader will know it. I believe God has gifted everyone in different ways. Embrace those gifts. Don’t look at what others have done.

This leads to one of my favorite exchanges when Howard--trying to be what he was not--dressed up to go to a Goth bar. But first, he needed to stop at Walgreens to buy more eyeliner. This leads to one of my favorite exchanges:
Leonard:  I think they're going to get beat up at that Goth bar.
Penny: I think they're going to get beat up at Walgreens.

3. Readers like to use their imaginations. Let them.

Sheldon’s co-worker Howard lives with his annoying mother. However, the viewers never actually SEE Howard’s mother, they only hear her (Similar to the way viewers never saw “Marist” in “Frazier.”) The best part is this allows viewers to use their own imagination---the images in their minds are better than anything a special effects crew can dream up.
Yes, use description. Yes, use it well. Yes, make your characters real…but realize at the same time, less is sometimes more.

4. Don’t drink if you can’t hold your liquor.

Poor Dr. Cooper. Such a lightweight when it comes to alcohol. Of course, what this means for writing is that you need to know what you do well, and what you don’t. Don’t be afraid to look at yourself with a critical eye. Work on “problem” areas, and get feedback from other writers whose opinion you trust.

And don’t drink before giving speeches, or it may end up on YouTube:

5. There are always plenty of ball pits.

Ah yes, those big ball pits that children love to play in, probably blissfully unaware of how many germs they are spreading. It’s far too easy to become stingy with ideas. We’re afraid that creativity is like a swimming pool---we will eventually drain it dry. Actually, it’s more like an ocean that ebbs and flows and rises and falls. The more we exercise our creativity, the more we have.

As Dr. Cooper shows---there are always plenty of brightly colored ideas to use. No need to worry about running out…until it’s time to go home.

Thanks for letting me take a bit of a diversion here. You can find out more about me on my website, 

Thanks to all our wonderful blog hosts.
I’ll leave you with this tribute to the best of Sheldon Cooper--BAZINGA.
Happy new year.