A Christmas Carol: The Sleepover Edition

Astoundingly, I have not been blogging about this year’s production of A Christmas Carol, my musical retelling of Dickens’ classic.

To be honest, it’s been a scary rehearsal process, starting with the first night of auditions.  Why?  Because instead of the 20 or so adults I needed to perform the roles and sing my not-very-easy songs, I got eight little girls and a handful of teens and adults, most of whom had not done theatre in a while.  And on top of that, several of the adults dropped out the first week of rehearsal; I’m sure they were daunted by the prospect (as you will see).  I’d hate to think they thought it was not going to work.

Usually in community theatre when one does not have the cast one needs after auditions, one gets on the phone and recruits people.  But I was not in the mood, and on top of that I was up to my earballs in designing the nation’s largest regional burn at the time, if you will recall.

And so I made a fateful decision: we would use the performers we had and screw all those people who didn’t bother to come to auditions.  This meant, of course, re-envisioning the entire piece.


I decided to invent a frame story—I know, I know, but hear me out—about Natalie Fairgood, a spoiled, horrible little rich girl, who was born on Christmas Day and resents it because she feels as if she never gets enough presents.  That’s why, she says, she celebrates the week after.  This year she’s having a sleepover with all her friends, but she’s been forced to invite the daughter of her mother’s personal assistant, Jessica.

When the show opens, Natalie’s grandfather shows Jessica into Natalie’s bedroom and chats with her a moment before leaving her to wait for the other girls, who are somewhere in the huge house.  When they enter, Natalie immediately begins taunting Jessica, ending in  a meltdown because Jessica is holding one of her dolls.

Grandfather intervenes, and when he offers them storytime to chill them out, Natalie demands a ghost story.

“I have just the story,” he says.  “I read it every year, and I’m reading it now.  I’ll read it to you.”  They all sit, attentively, and he begins: “Marley was dead…

Figures emerge from the shadows and begin to narrate as well, and soon we are back in Scrooge’s tale.

As the show progresses, the girls go from being passive listeners to Grandfather’s reading to observing the action directly.  Soon they are taking part in the story, using toys and costume pieces from Natalie’s shelves as they become guests at Fezziwig’s party to shoppers on the street to Young Cratchits.

By the time we reach the Finale, they are fully empowered to join Grandfather in telling the story themselves, and that’s the point: we celebrate the power of story, how we listen to stories, become part of them, and in turn pass them on to the next listeners.  Hearing a story changes us.  Telling a story changes us.

And by the end, both Scrooge and Natalie have changed.  And so have we.

Script now available upon request.

A pome

No one mourns the armadillo,
No one sighs, so o’er-woe’d.
No one plants the yew or willow
Where he lies beside the road.

Hm. I think it needs moar verses.

edited: changed “grieves” to “mourns” because euphony

edited again: changed “died” to “lies” because euphony

Lichtenbergianism: a new frontier

No, I haven’t written any more on Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy, and no, I haven’t done any more work on the book proposal.  But I did establish a new front in my battle for world domination.

As I posted the other day, I bought the domain name for Lichtenbergianism.com and started a trial website at Squarespace.  Within 24 hours I had ponied up for a business website; within 48 I had a new email address and a MailChimp account.  Soon I shall have a new Twitter account.

(The MailChimp account means you can sign up to have a digest email of the week’s blog posts sent to you every Saturday, i.e., you can procrastinate about learning how to make procrastination work for you!)

Now if I only had actual content for the website.  Hey, I’m working on it—every day is a glorious flood of SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATION as I figure out what it is I have to offer and how to put that before the public.

Lichtenbergianism: WHAT HAVE I DONE?

I have done a thing.

Why have I done this thing?  Because if I am seeking world domination, I have to have a platform.  Yes, I already have this platform, but I want to keep my private thoughts on a separate plane from my benevolent despot thoughts.

Here is the problem, though: WHAT THE HECK AM I SUPPOSED TO PUT ON THIS NEW PLATFORM?  Talk about an ABORTIVE ATTEMPT.  Just jump in there, man, and don’t count the cost.

As has been often noted, it’s not the jump that kills you, it’s the SUCCESSIVE APPROXIMATION.

So let’s think this thing through.

  • If Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy were ever published, of course we would want to tie it in to Lichtenbergianism.com as a marketing ploy.
  • The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published [EGGYBP] encourages you to have an online presence before your book is published.
  • I can begin to promote the idea of the book and any auxiliary services such as speaking engagements, workshops, etc., as part of the book proposal.
  • Especially if I were able to begin doing workshops and such even without the book being published, Lichtenbergianism.com would be the appropriate base.
  • With the new domain, I can keep emails about Lichtenbergianism separate from my other personas, e.g., my personal life, my burner life, etc.
    • This would also give me a separate Twitter account with which to begin seeking my minions for world domination.
  • Filling the new domain with… what, exactly?… would force me to concentrate on exactly what: blogposts, linked articles, tweets, etc.
  • Arrrgh!

You should tell me what to put on the new site in comments.  We’ll call it focus group testing.

In other news, I have done some serious work on getting the book proposal done.  Next up: get serious about finding an agent/publisher.


I’ve been reading The Fire Starter Sessions, by Danielle LaPorte, as one of the potential competitors for Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy.  It’s not really a competitor, but it is a very good “get off your butt and do what you love” kind of guide, so I’ve been reading it and journalling answers to the worksheet questions at the end of each chapter.

The worksheet for this last chapter, “The metrics of ease,” though, has me flummoxed.  Here are the questions:

  • What exactly needs to get done in your life and livelihood?
  • What’s your competency level for each activity?
  • Which of those activities actually makes you feel strengthened?
  • Which of those activities doesn’t really light your fire?
  • What can you do to develop these strengths and interests?
  • What three actions will you take this week to condition and nourish your true strengths?
  • What three actions will you take this week to decrease your time spent on activities that drag you down and don’t feed your true strengths?


I’m kind of reading this book to get a grip on how much I really want to be some kind of workshop leader/TED Talk sort of thing, and so this chapter stopped me cold.

What exactly needs to get done in my life and livelihood?  Empty the dishwasher, walk the dog, clean the litter box, cook some meals.  Honestly, that’s about it.  The rest of it—blogging, composing, writing, volunteering, Camping with the Hippies™—is completely optional.  If I stopped tomorrow,1 it would not make a sound in the forest.2

So then the rest of the questions become moot, don’t they?  Do they?  Should I forget that I literally have no obligations other than to wear pants and not smell in public and pretend that she’s asking about what I wish I were doing? (Or do I?)

Understand that I am not indulging in self-pity.  I am honestly at a loss as to how I should answer that first question in terms of planning my third career.

More work is required.


1 I am not stopping tomorrow.

2 For those who are just joining us, I am retired, in the sense of “Governor Nathan Deal moved the Governor’s Honors Program from the Department of Education where it had been for literally 50 years to his own Office of Student Achievement and didn’t care to move the director of the program with it.”

About those goals…

I’m using a piece of software called Scrivener to write Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy, and a very good piece of software it is, too.

One of the many tools it offers is the ability to project word count goals and to see how you’re doing in the current session.  If you tie your session goals to your putative finish date, it will tell you how many words you need to rip out in that session in order to stay on track.

Because of one Camping With the Hippies™ or another, I’ve been a bit slack in writing:


7,500 words for today in order to “finish” by tomorrow. That’s okay.  I have to reset my total word count goal upwards anyway: each chapter is working out to be around 2,000 words, and that’s before I go back and work in charming illustrative anecdotes from all the Lichtenbergians.

N.B.: I could too do it, if I wanted to.  So there.


Lichtenbergianism: Pitch perfect

Today in our continuing book study of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published [EGGYBP], we look at the pitch.

There are two kind of pitches: 1) the elevator pitch, which is over by the time the elevator gets to the next floor, and 2) your long-form pitch. [p.70]

I keep trying to come up with a snappy elevator pitch:

  • Art & Fear only funny”?
  • How to Write a Novel in 30 Days for slackers”?
  • Twilight, but well-written. And no vampires”?

Perhaps, as the authors1 also suggest, my subtitle is the elevator pitch: “procrastination as a creative strategy, or how I stopped worrying  and learned to love doing it wrong.”

“The Mouse Whose Name Is Time,” by Robert Francis—click to read the whole amazing poem

The long-form pitch is no less simple.  It’s supposed to be a paragraph or two, but still under a minute.

How about:

In 2007 a small group of creative amateurs founded a society dedicated to celebrating their procrastination and found, to their amazement, that their productivity improved. Now they share the secret of their success with nine “precepts,” ways to re-organize your thinking about how you create and why.  Sometimes counter-intuitive and usually amusing, their strategies distill some of the most obvious secrets of the creative process to free you from your own mindblocks.

Hm.  How about:

Sure, you can buy a book to help you cure your procrastination, but why would you? Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy frees you from the worry and the guilt—and shows you how to use your bad habits to become more productive in your creative life.  No matter whether you’re a writer, an artist, a composer, a programmer, a gardener, or any other creative type, the Nine Precepts of Lichtenbergianism will give you ways to rethink your creative habits and give yourself permission to succeed—by failing!

That’s better, and more in sync with the tone of the book.

Tomorrow is better!  That’s the motto of the Lichtenbergian Society, a group of creative men who bonded over their shared tendency to procrastinate and found that they became more productive because of it. Now Lichtenbergian chair Dale Lyles shows you how you, too, can stop worrying about your bad habits and learn to love your own creative process.  Whether you’re a frustrated writer, artist, composer, gardener, or programmer, you’ll find new ways to think about how you create and why, from Task Avoidance to Successive Approximation to Ritual to Abandonment—if you give yourself permission to fail, you give yourself permission to create.  It’s that simple!

One more:

Are you a creative genius?  No, only Mozart is a creative genius, and you are not him.  But you are creative—yes, you are, admit it—and you want to overcome your fears and your bad habits so that you can write that novel/paint that painting/compose that song/program that app.  Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy gives you nine Precepts, ways to restructure your thinking about how you create and why so that you can just get to work and create the work of your dreams. But not today.  Tomorrow is better.

And I’m spent.


1 I keep saying “the authors” because it’s easier than typing out their names: Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry.

Lichtenbergianism: Titles? We don’t need no steenkin’ titles.

From The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published [EGGYBP]:

A common mistake authors make is choosing a title that has a particular meaning to them but that no one else understands.


I mean to say.  Lichtenbergianism.  What could go wrong?

I will admit to having been told already that the title sucks and won’t survive an agent/editor/publisher.  I will resist while I can, of course, because the whole core of the book is how the Lichtenbergians became more productive through the use of the Nine Precepts (although of course the Precepts are ex post facto developments).

The subtitle of the book, I would hope, makes the purpose of the book clear: Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy.  My feeling is that the silliness of the main title becomes attractive when attached to the subtitle, i.e., the browser is distracted by the weird, incomprehensible title, then sees the subtitle and laughs, yeah, I need this book.

But I am not the expert, the authors of EGGYBP are, and they suggest a couple of strategies here.  The first is to create a “title pool” of words that could go into your title:

  • procrastinate, procrastination, procrastinating
  • create, creative, creativity
  • put off, hold off, postpone, protract
  • don’t start, tomorrow…
  • finish, finished, finishing

Then somehow you’re supposed to find that perfect title out of all those terms.  (They also suggest checking Google Adwords to see what will result in your book being found, but that involves creating an account which involves “budgets” and “payment” and all that stuff.)  Here are ten:

  1. Don’t Create, Procrastinate!
  2. Never Finish Today (what you can put off tomorrow)
  3. A [Poem]* Is Never Finished: *painting/song/novel/garden ( a riff on the Paul Valery quote)
  4. Be Creative… Some Day
  5. Be Creative… Tomorrow
  6. Hold That Thought! : a guide to creative procrastination
  7. Lord, Make Me Creative, But Not Yet (a riff on St. Augustine’s sly prayer about chastity)
  8. Tomorrow Is Better: procrastination as a creative strategy
  9. Back Burner Creativity, or Creativity on the Back Burner
  10. Moseying to the Finish Line: creativity is not a race

Okay, there are a few in there that I could tolerate were an agent to hold a book contract to my head.

Another strategy from EGGYBP is to “get lots and lots of opinions.”  I realize that anyone reading this blog has already had their brains infected by Lichtenbergianism, but try to forget that perfect title and give me your opinions in comments.  Who knows?  This could be that moment when Bugles Sang True finally became Gone With the Wind.

Task Avoidance: Artist Trading Cards

I am trying to sketch a visualization of William Blake’s Inn nearly every day, but what that means is that I’ve been staring at a collection of raw materials on my drafting table every day, and today I was forced—forced, I tell you—to create an Artist Trading Card [ATC].

Here’s the main idea, from a post I wrote several years ago.  (tl;dr: 2-½ x 3-½ cards, decorated and labeled, then traded or given away.)

I doodled with some a couple of years ago:

These were labeled as Destructive Series; there were more, but I’ve given them away.  The concept for these was to splash out some kind of Abortive Attempt onto the card, then “destroy” the image by blanking part of it out with glued-on paper.  (The third one turned out so nicely that I didn’t destroy it.)

Today I started a series called Indeterminate Objects:

So, a great way to waste a half hour while avoiding work on Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy—or greatest way to waste a half hour while avoiding work on Lichtenbergianism: procrastination as a creative strategy?