Robert Cormack

1 week ago · 5 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

chat Contact the author

thumb_up Relevant message Comment

My Greatest Writing Tip

All it takes is a little thievery and no conscience whatsoever.

 

e ¥ A A
ah wl NU swe

pa, Solk NW Wh a NW a ™ ae

 

I didn’t really steal it. I borrowed it for all eternity.” Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Earth

I want to admit something personal, something that’s consumed my writing for quite awhile now. I steal from memes. I don’t mean I occasionally see a meme, decide it’s pretty funny, and use it. I mean I derive thoughts, words — even the occasional erection — from memes.

Okay, I take the erection back. I only did that because it’s what a meme would say. I can’t help it. I’m a meme thief. I’m like Picasso wandering through artists’ studios back in the 30s. He lifted ideas with no remorse whatsoever.

I’ve envied that man for years.

I’d steal cubism, too, if it wasn’t stolen already.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. I need to fill you in on my history. I didn’t start out stealing memes. I began much more honestly by trying to copy Kurt Vonnegut. One day I read: “True terror is waking up one morning and discovering your high school class is running the country.”

When he criticized reviewers for attacking novels like someone “putting on a suit of armour to attack a hot fudge sundae,” I was doomed.

Boy, that made me slap my head in admiration and angst. I say angst because you get extremely angst-ridden reading Vonnegut. He pulls these one-shots out of his hat like rubber chickens. When he criticized reviewers for attacking novels, saying it’s like someone “putting on a suit of armour to attack a hot fudge sundae,” I was doomed.

Doomed because I knew I couldn’t really steal from Vonnegut. I’m not that good. At least Picasso could do cubism as well as the cubists he stole from. I’m somewhere between Madonna and Dolly Parton.

So I did the next best thing. I became a meme thief, a five-finger wordsmith, a real slut. As bad as this sounds, it works for me. In fact, I’d say it’s the most liberating thing I’ve ever done. I’m like Kramer on Seinfeld wearing boxer shorts for the first time.“I’m out there, Jerry,” he said, “and I’m loving it!”

Well, I’m out there, too. In my world, memes are the boxer shorts of writing. At any hour of any day, you can find them on social media. They’re so plentiful, I don’t even have to go to the usual sources like Instagram or Pinterest (although I will in a pinch).

Actually, I find the best memes (albeit unintentional) on Buy and Sell. One woman posted a pair of work boots with the caption: “Work boots for sale. Only worn once to a wedding.”

“My daughter lost her last tooth, and now we have a full set. $100 for the set. $15 each. Willing to trade for a used mattress and two dozen eggs.”

Another featured a full set of baby teeth with this copy: “My daughter lost her last tooth, and now we have a full set. $100 for the set. $15 each. Willing to trade for a used mattress and two dozen eggs.”

You can’t make this stuff up, folks. I mean, how does one decide that a used mattress and two dozen eggs is a worthy exchange for your kid’s teeth?

Or how does a guy post a signed photograph of Jesus, ask $1,000, then say, “Don’t try to lowball me. I know what I’ve got.” As Kenny Bania would say on Seinfeld, “This is gold, Jerry, gold!”

It is gold, and I’ll tell you why. It’s the very simplicity of the unexpected words. We don’t know whether we’re contemplating genius or drug dependency. Can you imagine Vonnegut reading the ads above. He’d be spellbound.

When famed TikToker, Stepanka Matto, claimed she made over $200,000 selling farts in Mason jars, that in itself was funny. But then she ended up in hospital with severe constipation after stuffing herself with fart-causing foods. Again, funny. Just not as funny as someone who wrote to her later saying, “Sort of like you using a cork to top your Mason jars.”

My point is, we’re literally surrounded by lines even Dave Barry would kill to use (if he didn’t have plenty of his own).

My point is, we’re literally surrounded by lines even Dave Barry would kill to use (if he didn’t have plenty of his own already).

That’s the great thing — at least for me. I’m not as clever as Dave Barry or Kurt Vonnegut. Yet I can go on Buy and Sell or Facebook any day of the week, and find memes or want ads loaded with satiric gold.

I even made up a meme myself. It said, “My wife went to the bank to withdraw some money. The teller remarked, ‘I can’t give you any unless you tell me what it’s for.’ I said to my wife, ‘Tell her it’s for sex.’ ‘You’re right,’ my wife replied. ‘That’s how I got my line of credit.’”

We’re surrounded by very funny things, all of which we can steal. Comedians do it all the time. When one of them says, “Have you ever noticed…” you know they’re stealing from the thief’s playbook.

Sometimes it’s not even what they heard, but what they thought they heard that’s sheer comedic genius.

It’s “found” material, and I’m sure every writer has heard a few, possibly rushing back to the office to get it down on paper.

Sometimes it’s not even what they heard, but what they thought they heard that’s sheer comedic genius.

I remember someone saying on an elevator, “She gives me indigestion.” That got me thinking about all the people we know who give us heartburn. Shouldn’t the world have a guide outlining who we should and shouldn’t eat? So I wrote “People We Shouldn’t Eat.”

Of course, it’s hard to top the guy on Reddit who tried to explain why he didn’t smoke pot before sex. “I don’t want to be the dude who ends up rimming an iguana.”

I can’t imagine anyone rimming an iguana, but it’s certainly unexpected. We need unexpected things in our lives. Otherwise we’ll never write anything funny, or unusual, or downright impolite.

I don’t consider rimming iguanas to be a benchmark, but at least we know what’s “impolite” according to Vonnegut, and where to stop.

Based on the majority of writing I see these days, we need all three (possibly with an emphasis on impolite). If you’re not inspired through the usual channels, meaning other uninspired writing, then you need to consider memes (and want ads), just to show how far you’re willing to go.

I don’t consider rimming iguanas to be a benchmark, but at least we know where to stop.

If you’re like me, though, you’re more worried about where to start. It isn’t always easy. Then again, it’s easier when you steal memes (and want ads). They’ve saved me, and they can save you, too.

So steal liberally. And don’t feel embarrassed. We’re just doing what writers have been doing for centuries. As Vonnegut also said, “We’re here on this earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”

I’d say this is very constructive farting around.

Robert Cormack is a journalist, novelist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online or at most major bookstores (now in paperback). Check out Robert’s other articles and stories at robertcormack.net

 

group_work in Café beBee

thumb_up Relevant message Comment
Comments

Robert Cormack

1 week ago #2

Ken Boddie

1 week ago #1

I aspire to writing one day without using plagiarism, Rob. You may say I'm a dreamer. But I'm not the only one.

More articles from Robert Cormack

View blog
1 month ago · 5 min. reading time

The New Normal.

Is it going to make sense if we're all barking mad ...

2 months ago · 7 min. reading time

The Visitor.

A short story by Robert Cormack. · “Acting isn’t i ...

2 months ago · 5 min. reading time

Heads Up, America.

Some crazy historical facts about pandemics you sh ...