Tag Archives: humour

The Challenge of Writing Funny Stories During Covid-19

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, I have often wondered how other artists were coping with it, and how their creative processes were impacted.

In the beginning of the self-isolation period, this was all very new to us and like most people, I turned to the news to remain informed and to try to make sense of it. But it didn’t matter which channel I watched, even when the coverage was seemingly balanced and factual, it was scary. For an empathetic, sensitive person, the statistics alone drew very strong emotions.

In trying to find levity, I turned to social media only to find many people posting the same news articles that were starting to get me down in the first place. In the spirit of psychological self-preservation, I had to taper my news consumption and to self-isolate from social media.

When times get tough, I have the honour of being able to say that I can turn to my art to try to keep my mind occupied and to centre myself.

In the early years of writing this blog, I made the conscious decision that I wanted this to be a light, safe and fun place for people to turn. This was as much for the readers as it was for me. Once I reached that decision and found my voice, the stories followed without having to look too hard for them.

As the pandemic struck, I already had several blog posts in first draft, recounting the stories of stress, anxiety and unexpected humour behind the recent purchase of a home and the selling of my current home.

Finalizing those blog posts and keeping to my usual posting schedule was relatively easy. Coming up with new material after that series was surprisingly challenging.

I think it would be fair to say that for writing, inspiration can sometimes be a tricky thing. The “Eureka!” moment of a viable story idea and the discipline to write come from within. But the content that goes into the story often comes from threads of human experience.

That was when I realized how so much of my blog content is based on social interaction and how difficult it can be to write a blog post with a sprinkle of observational humour, when interactions with other human beings are suddenly scarce.

Let’s face it, when the trips outside of the house have been limited to grocery stores, pharmacies, the occasional take-out food and the curb-side pick-up of pet food and cat litter, that’s not a lot of opportunity to observe people’s foibles or for funny things to happen.

However, there was that one time I went to get a squirt of hand sanitizer which missed my hand completely and landed as a spoonful-sized cloudy blob near the bottom of my shirt. Fortunately it happened as I was entering a store that was limiting access to only a small number of shoppers at a time, so it’s not like many people could point or stare. Plus, I was wearing a mask at the time, so it’s not like they’d know it was me.

But beyond that, even if I returned to my index cards and journals to build stories based on past observations, will the posts need more setting up and explaining that these were pre-social distancing observations? Will they still strike the same chord with readers who are in the social distancing frame of mind?

But before I got too worked up in trying to make a blog post fit like a square peg in a round hole, in occasionally keeping an eye on my blogging statistics, I discovered that two past posts saw a huge spike in page views. Interestingly, they were appropriate for Covid-19 times, but never mentioned a word of it: “50 Reasons Why I Like Baking” and “Where Have All the Exercise Shows Gone?” a funny combination in itself.

Maybe there is a bit of the “Field of Dreams” movie’s philosophy when it comes to writing blog posts: “build it and they will come”… sooner or later.

Maybe writing a relatable story can be simpler than we think.

Perhaps in the same way that we’ve all had to adapt to new ways of doing things, as artists, we may also need to adapt and dig deeper to find the lighthearted stories that connect us, even in the absence of social interaction.

I sometimes wonder if in our “old normal” there was so much funny material to draw from that we didn’t have time to notice all of it. Or perhaps because of its abundance, we filtered out much of it, to the point that we may not recognize it in our “new normal”.

Either way, one certainty in life is that irony and humour are still there and will always be. We just need to keep an open heart, mind and spirit to allow those moments to tickle our funny bone, and then to do our best to share those stories with others.

Did you enjoy this post? If you haven’t already, please check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.blog. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox. Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Filed under Humour, Writing

The Housing Market Roller Coaster (Episode 3)

The moment that we decided to put in an offer on a house, the part that scared the crap out of me the most was the inevitable next step: staging my home.

In most of the pictures of homes for sale that I had seen in recent years, all I could see was empty rooms. I kept wondering if people were still living there given how sparsely they were decorated. And if they were living there, where was their stuff?

I have seen enough HGTV network shows to know that some people have a hard time visualizing themselves in a home. And frankly, I have yelled at the TV in exasperation when buyers reject a whole house because of a paint colour or because the drapes were blue.

But I do understand that during a showing, prospective buyers aren’t interested in seeing the story of André. They need to see their own storyline, and their own needs and wants for the home to strike the right chord. For that reason, some decluttering is needed.

While I wouldn’t consider myself a pack rat, I am not a minimalist either. Like most people, I have stuff.

So the burning question: where does people’s stuff go to make the house look that empty and how much effort will it take for me to get there?

Fortunately, over the last years, I witnessed a shift in my own mindset, less focused on possessions and more focused on experiences. Along the way, I have indeed been chipping away at the stuff, shredding old papers, donating gently used belonging and tossing things that were past their prime for anyone to reuse. Was that enough effort for staging purposes? Probably not.

But where it gets complicated is how much more do I need to edit out, and can I do it without throwing out my degenerating disc in between arthritic flare ups in my hands…  the joys of being over 50! Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, home, Humour

Don’t Touch the Walls!

After the completion of numerous home improvement projects over the years, it was time to redirect my attention to the walls.

When I first moved in, the paint was in good shape, and therefore wasn’t a huge priority. But as the years rolled by, I may have painted a room here and there, to freshen things up. If it wasn’t specifically with the intent to redecorate, it was usually the room that got on my nerves the worst from scuffs that would no longer scrub out.

Also, I don’t understand how previous owners could screw up patch jobs by putting matte paint over a wall finished in glossy, and vice versa. Funny enough, they took the time to match the colour perfectly (which, to me, would have been the greater challenge), but missed completely on selecting the right paint finish. Thankfully, I had enough artwork to distract the eye away from those shabby spots until I could have those rooms painted and consistently covered in the same finish.

It was only in recent years, when chasing Ivy the Wonder Cat around with the camera and taking pictures for her Instagram account, that in seeing things at her eye level, I started noticing scuffs more.

For one picture in particular, I spent a solid hour in Microsoft Paint replacing pixels to cover up a truly excellent picture of Ivy but a horrible one of a baseboard in a high traffic area.
With the help of a fantastic professional painting crew over three visits, not only did I catch up quickly but it also inspired me to finish some walls myself. It really is true how a coat of paint can quickly freshen up a place. Continue reading

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Filed under home, Humour

My Thunderous Rumbling Stomach

It seems like just yesterday, I had a stomach made of steel. When I was in my late teens and early 20s, I had a pretty fast metabolism and could eat anything and everything, any day, any time.

Where I used to be able to pack away large quantities of food and still remain technically underweight, today, a handful of potato chips is enough to have me retaining water like a sponge.

But the tide can turn from time to time. For me, all it takes is the return to a regular exercise regimen, like the one I have successfully incorporated into my routine last year.

When that happens, not only does my metabolic rate go up, but it’s like revisiting my teens and 20s all over again as I seem to be hungry… ALL THE TIME!

While logically, it should just be a case of finding an extra snack or two to tide me over until the next meal, it’s a little more complicated than that.

As much as you would think I could take advantage of the situation to indulge myself in the goodies I only consume in moderation (since I’m not technically underweight anymore), in reality, I don’t crave them when I work out regularly. The empty calories leave me hungry and wanting something else soon thereafter.

I tend to crave healthier snacks that sustain me better. If I don’t, I get so hungry that my arrival home is like a scene from “Animal Planet”, as I demolish leftover roast chicken like a lion devouring its prey. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, food, Health and Wellness, Humour, Running

The Final Cut: From Clippers to Shaver

It was on the eve of my 54th birthday, facing the next instalment in my every-two-weeks haircut when I asked myself, “Why not? If I don’t like it, it will grow back.”

I explored electric razors with the plan to shave my scalp for the first time. But when I say “first time”, the reality is that the transition to this point has been more than a decade in the making.

When I accepted that my hair was slowly slipping away due to male pattern baldness, rather than finding creative ways of covering up my slowly increasing Friar Tuck look, I started the slow transition of shorter haircuts.

My last attempt at long hair that ended up looking like Peppermint Patty was trimmed to a neat professional look. For a while after that, I took a bit of a detour into a faux-hawk look, which I consider my last actual “hair style”.

But when more scalp was peeking through the back of my head, to me, it was time. In every subsequent scissor cut, I went a little shorter every time. After that, it was the clipper cut countdown, starting with a “number four” with much trepidation.

The nervousness quickly disappeared through my immense enjoyment of the freedom from hair products and blow dryers, and in the reclaiming of time in the morning. The fact that a visit to the barber was now an efficient and record-breaking 7 minutes in duration was a pleasure in itself. Continue reading

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Filed under 50+, Humour

When Did Everything Become an “Experience”?

Back in my school days, I was a huge fan of marketing classes and thought that one day I might want to work in advertising. Life took a different spin and I didn’t end up working in that field, but I still had the opportunity to put some marketing know-how to good use in the field that chose me.

Just the same, as much as I bow to the wisdom of the marketing masters, I really don’t understand when or why everything suddenly became an “experience”.

Picking up something at the store has become a retail experience. Getting a bite to eat has become a dining experience. Music is now a listening experience and movies are now a viewing experience.

Did everything have to become an experience?

I was amused when I recently visited an establishment and noticed a poster prompting readers to tell management about their experience. The odd thing is that it was posted in the men’s washroom.

What would I have written back? Do they really want a description of my bathroom experience? (Careful what you wish for! Creative types with a sneaky sense of humour might actually take you up on the offer.)

“My approach to the urinal was a pleasant one as the aroma of disinfectant pucks filled my sinuses with a gentle, welcoming blend of lavender and chlorine.

The automatic flushing mechanism was very effective in bathing the urinal in a fresh cascade of water, reminiscent of a serene waterfall, a perfectly choreographed three seconds after I stepped away. I couldn’t have cued it better if I had flushed it myself. Continue reading

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Librarian Jokes

Not too long ago, I found a joke on social media that started with “I asked the librarian for…” and ended with a funny one-liner.

I am not sure why it struck a chord like it did, but it set my brain on an endless loop, trying to come up with one-liners of my own. While I certainly wouldn’t categorize myself as a comedy writer, I had a lot of fun with “I asked the librarian for…” as a writing prompt. This is the result:

I asked the librarian for books on comedy. She said, “That’s a funny question.”
I asked the librarian for books about joy. She said she’d be happy to help!
I asked the librarian for books about exaggerations. She said that was the strangest question ever asked in the history of libraries.
I asked the librarian for books about intuition. She said she knew I would ask that.
I asked the librarian for books about silence. She didn’t answer.
I asked the librarian for books about fractures. She said, “Give me a break!”
I asked the librarian for books about wheels. Her answers kept going around in circles. Continue reading

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Filed under Fiction, Humour