Go Cubs, Go

All of Chicago stayed awake till the small hours of the morning last night, nail-biting, rocking back and forth on seats and couches and stadium chairs, shivering in the cold outside of Wrigley Field, being hurled from the heights of delight to the depths of woe, watching pitch after agonizing pitch of one of the closest and most torturous games that's been in the World Series. Ever (there are likely statistics to refine or contest the truth of this statement, but if you don't believe me, just ask anyone who saw the game). And after all the tension, and drama, and a 17 minute rain delay that gave everyone (by which I mean the Cubs) time to refocus and regroup, and an extra inning that turned plenty of heads gray, the Cubs won.

Chicago went wild.

History in the making, and that is all I have to say about that.

Don't Copy This

There's currently a case in the Supreme Court about... Cheerleader uniforms. According to columnist Brent Kendall, of the Wall Street Journal,

"In a vigorous debate on Monday, the high court spent an hour considering when the design elements of clothing can be eligible for copyright protection, an issue that required the justices to consider the qualities that make a cheerleading uniform what it is."

I need news condensed into simple terms, so if I asked, here's what's happening: Someone had a great design for a uniform. Someone else duplicated it. The first guy felt like he got ripped off, because he wasn't getting credit or money for his ideas. He was unhappy. Very, very unhappy.

I'm not law-savvy enough to know who is right in this argument. I do know that imitation is "one of the sincerest forms of flattery (see this kid's halloween costume)," but that getting copied feels like a rip off.

While I am a big proponent of seeing something that worked well for someone else, borrowing ideas, and sharing creativity, I recognize that duplicating someone else's work without crediting them is, in loose terms, stealing.

But it's hard to be creative on your own. That's why it's so important to work in unison, to create surrounded by other creative people, to make things that matter for important causes. If someone else does something amazing, share their work. Don't copy it. Use their idea to start your own project, but make it different, make it you, and give them credit for the original.

We go farther together than we go alone.

The Dreaded 'What If's'

At some point in your life (hopefully sooner than later), some wise person likely sat you down and told you not to entertain the 'What if's.' They're a lousy bunch of mental guests, always coming before the party is ready, and overstaying their welcome. They track mud in at the door (even when it's not raining), eat all the biggest cookies (and leave crumbs all over your new sherpa blanket), and loudly overpower everyone else's stories with tales of their own exploits (you ME, you ME, yo-ME, y-ME, ME, ME). They're not worth inviting to any get-together, small or large, because even after they leave you're stuck cleaning up the wreckage until the next time they come around. In life, if you're smart, you'll keep out the 'What if's."

In story, if you're smart, you'll invite them in.

Story loves to appeal to the imagination; good story will reach out to the reader (or viewer, or listener) and trigger the faint nudges, both the uneasy and the delighted whispers. A story that triggers the imagination is a story that pulls you in and carries you along, sparking your curiosity, and making you think and plan—story—along with it. A story that leaves nothing up to the imagination is like reading board meeting minutes: too long, too many details, and too boring. It doesn't leave any room for free space in the mind, for it to wander at will. Inviting imagination into your story is like inviting the 'What if's.' But surprisingly, in story form, they're quite docile; like the friend who always brings good wine to your dinner party, the colleague who tells you when there's spinach in your teeth before you make a presentation to the VP, and the driver in the front of a long line of cars who stops at the crosswalk to let you cross when you're carrying 5 large Bloomingdales bags. You want 'What if's' in your story.

How do you invite them?

#) Don't over-explain. One of the joys of writing story is that many times, people can relate to situations that you're describing—that means they're acting it out in their heads. If you describe every detail, they'll get tired of trying to stick to your over-demanding script, and they won't enjoy immersing themselves in the story. Bring nuance into your story, but don't describe every single blink and attitude. Fill in the big lines, but leave the little spaces blank, for the imagination to play with.

#) Watch. One of the best ways to learn to write good nuance is to observe social interaction (this absolutely is not an excuse to be creepy). Watch people talk to each other. Watch them greet. Watch them say goodbye. Watch them fight, make up, make decisions, make shallow conversation, make other people cry, make other people laugh, make gossip more interesting, make it boring, and make friends. Watch all of it, see what they do and how they do it, and practice describing it, with sparse language, but still a clear point.

#) Practice. As always, the only way that you'll get better at something is if you do it all the time. Not once a week, not every third day, but every day. For more than just a minute or two. It's a commonly accepted theory that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something.

You'd better get started.