Results of Improv

Improv has been a moving force in my entire adult life. After much encouragement, I’m doing the damn thing. I’ve been going to jams at Third Coast Comedy club and volunteering in trade for classes. The more I go, the more funny morsels I find.

Reading that last bit may have you thinking that I find inspiration everywhere. It’s not true. The Muse of Inspo isn’t real. I blame Pinterest for most of its demise in everyone’s search for right party snacks and the perfect shade of gray to paint their kitchen.

Depression often tells me that I have nothing original to say. It lies and tells me I won’t ever be funny if I’m not self-depreciating first. Being funny takes practice and patience and… timing.

So, I’m going to share a thing I’ve been giggling at to myself over the last couple months. The point of this kind of writing is for my brain to live somewhere else for a while. It’s not self-deprecating. It does put a bee in the bonnet of some fifth graders and builds a higher pedestal for my cats.

You may not like it but don’t worry – I don’t need you to.

My Cat Is Smarter Than Your Fifth Grader

Hi, I’m Britt, the self-appointed advocate for the kid-less cat people in your life. We’re very bored with hearing about how smart you fifth grader is. I’ve been summoned today to tell you the truth… My cat is smarter than your fifth grader.

Yes, it’s an outline. Your fifth grader’s teacher told me that parents like these when there are curriculum changes and book reports on the horizon.

My cat makes its own schedule.

  • It doesn’t need to send me a Google reminder every time it naps.
  • I never have to worry about if it got enough sleep.
  • It’s already taking a nap after eating breakfast AND sleeping through the night.

My cat doesn’t talk back or complain.

  • We ignore each other unless we both need the blanket I’m using.
  • It doesn’t ask me awkward questions about the things it heard on the bus coming home from school.
  • There’s no noise about tummy aches or brain freezes.

My cat doesn’t seek validation, drugs or hugs.

  • It can’t use a phone to call a drug dealer or plan a party while I’m out of town.
  • The only time it requests interaction is when I have leftover milk in my cereal bowl. No, my cat isn’t lactose intolerant.
  • It looks to other felines to debate the need for another season of Jessica Jones.

My cat understands my privacy needs.

  • It doesn’t ask me why I’m buying another coloring book.
  • It doesn’t ask me where I take its poop every three days.
  • It doesn’t enter the bathroom while I’m in there.
  • I do occasionally get an escort to and from the potty because Queens recognize Queens.

My cat is a minimalist.

  • It regularly knocks things over that I have but don’t need on my shelves, or in my life.
  • It only needs two toys but your kid clutters the house.
  • It has a 4-collar capsule wardrobe.

My cat is generous.

  • It brings me dead animals.
  • I’m a terrible cat and enjoy animal sacrifices.
  • It makes sure we match by transferring its hair ONLY my freshly laundered clothes.
  • It only vomits when I’m not home.

As you can see, my cat is smarter than your fifth grader. The takeaway for your life right now is to rid yourself of that fifth grader and get a cat. If you have a dog AND child, well… I can’t even right now.

I’m blocked.

I’m in a weird place creatively. I want to make and build an entire world around this one idea but I’m stuck with characters. I can’t find a way to strike a balance between protagonist and antagonist. I can’t decide on how the mission or plot should develop and I get distracted on substories that may (not) be related to the piece.

Here’s a quick list of things I’ve found on the internet to help people who are stuck like I am right now… I’m not sure what I’ll start with but it’s fine. I’m fine. I’ll write my way out eventually.

  • Walking through a physical place that is similar to a scene in your story.
  • Have characters talk through a scene. Write dialogue only or record yourself talking in two different accents to get the point across.
  • Eat something that isn’t poisonous or detrimental to your health.
  • Read something from someone you admire that isn’t on the internet or social media.

What do you do when you’re stuck?

It felt like lightning.

Last night an artist that I am a fan of did a secret show. Josh Ritter took the stage at Analog, picked up an acoustic guitar and sang out love, excitement, and inspiration. There was a short question period and I asked the first one: How does your creative process work?

He talked through it, sharing how he gets a melody and then adds the words in his head. He writes it all down when he gets a minute, sometimes without with travel and parenting mercies.

Mid-discussion, he asked how I write. My heart fluttered and I felt a little bit of vomit in my mouth. This guy is in town to play the Ryman and asking about my writing process. I paused – Oh, what? He was still looking at me. I blurted a bit about my poetry, how the second and third stanza comes quickly, and how it’s usually never in order.

He understood. He quoted Cohen, “If I knew where the songs came from, I’d go there more often.” Sometimes we don’t know how long a piece will be, or how it will impact us. He told me, reminded me and the room that the process really only matters to us and it can be different every time. Inspiration can often feel invisible to us but it’s there, waiting for us to make something of it.

After a few more questions and songs, I got pictures with him. He thanked me for the question. He asked more about what books I’m reading and what I’m writing. I gave him a witty line about how I write what paying my bills and the premise of my fiction piece. I was gobsmacked when he smiled and asked more questions about where I am with the fiction.

My husband was beaming with pride when shared how surprised he was that such a dark premise came from my head. He talked with him about his current hit and how I was shocked he knew the words without me sharing it with him. The three of us talked together about how nice it is to be partnered with someone smarter than you. He hugged us again and we left.

It was humbling to hear someone sing so poignantly and be invested in those he was singing to. I wasn’t the only one who felt this. The room was a buzz of adoration in every direction.

As I write this, I’m still beside myself with what could be some sort of external validation. It could be the residue of gratitude that experiences like this fill us up with.

I know it’s the pinnacle of every choice I’ve made up until that point but with more reflection, I get more questions. How do I continue the magic of that interaction? How will I know when it’s my turn to invest in someone, even if for a fleeting moment?

If you know, I’m here to listen and receive it.