Bad Vibes

24 Nov

I was standing in line at the local food co-op a few weeks ago when I heard the man behind me say, “I always get bad vibes when I come in here.”

Bad Vibes. At the co-op? This is a store that fills its shelves with good nutrition. A store that is conscientious about the impact its merchandise has on the planet. A place of good health. Bad Vibes? Who was this clown?

I tried to envision what he might look like and was getting a redneck vibe. Then I casually glanced over my shoulder. Sure enough. He was standing next to his wife, looking completely uncomfortable, holding two items that had to have been the two least nutritious things in the entire store.

The store wasn’t giving off bad vibes. He was just out of his element.

We’re all uncomfortable when we step outside the normal cocoon of the lives we’ve built, and it’s all the reason most of us need never to do it. Ever.

But trying new things is part of keeping life fun and, as every writing coach I’ve ever known would say, “fresh.” They all enunciate the word with an emphasize on the esh, as if the word itself could generate a spring breeze. Freshshshshsh.

I do think it’s particularly important for writers to be willing to step outside their comfort zone now and then – to open our minds to something different. Something we might want to depict on paper. Something to pull our readers into. It also reminds us what it’s like to feel excitement and apprehension when doing something new. It introduces us to new people, new foods, new music, new environments, new situations; all of which we can use in our writing.

As a kid we were always trying new things—sports, art, music. But as adults we don’t. Perhaps because we’re so busy.

I’ve made an effort to try new things even as an adult, and have had strangers approach me to let me how cool they think it is that I’m willing to try something new. I suspect this translates to: “Isn’t it cool you’re not afraid to look stupid.”

And I’ve looked plenty stupid at times. That stint as an ice skater was probably highly entertaining from the sidelines, and I don’t think my cat appreciated the violin lessons. The quilting went better and there are over a dozen quilts out in the world as evidence.

I love learning new things and “experiencing” new situations when I read too, but I don’t want to read about it from someone with no experience. Someone who’s just guessing. I want the author to have been there and done that so they can describe it in such depth and detail that it feels like I’m right there with the narrator.

What about you. When’s the last time you tried something new? If it has been awhile, how about setting a goal for 2012 that includes trying something completely out of character. Something that’ll push you outside your comfort zone. You’ll know you’re there when you get BAD VIBES.


Posted by on November 24, 2011 in writing, writing craft



11 responses to “Bad Vibes

  1. johannaharness

    November 24, 2011 at 5:25 AM

    Great post, Carley. I’ve noticed this with specialty stores. I remember, a long time ago, feeling out of my element in a fabric store. The person at the counter always wanted to know what I was making. She wanted to talk about sewing. I didn’t have the vocabulary or the skill to talk about what I was doing. Then I learned to sew.

    The same thing happened to me at quilt shops, yarn shops, outdoor equipment stores, auto parts stores–you get the picture. Each time I learned something of the subject matter, the discomfort disappeared.

    Last weekend, the same thing happened at a local music store. I’ve always been uncomfortable there–alongside the real musicians. If someone tried to help me, how would I know what to ask?

    My husband and daughter are playing banjo and mandolin. The younger kids and I want to learn something too. “Show me the ukuleles–the kind that don’t look like toys.” As soon as I knew what I wanted, the store opened up to me. The playfulness and excitement of learning something new gave me access.

    This holiday season, we gave ourselves the gift of music. It’s only been a week, but someone is always playing. It turns out some things are only out of character until you make them yours.

    • Carley Ash

      November 24, 2011 at 10:14 AM

      I’d love to be at your place when people are practicing.
      One of my favorite places in the world is the corridors of the university music building – all those gorgeous sounds (yes, even the screetchs) coming from behind the rows of closed doors. It’s heavenly.

  2. Liz Flaherty

    November 24, 2011 at 6:01 AM

    I really enjoyed this post. I retired in February and the doing of new things has been the most fun (or funnest, as my grands say) part of it. I’m successful at quilting, my college class, and my exercise regime–not so good at organizing the house. Even in new things, we have our priorities. 🙂

    • Carley Ash

      November 24, 2011 at 10:15 AM

      Congratulations on retiring. I find most retirees are as busy or busier than when they worked. At least the happy ones are.

  3. Janis

    November 24, 2011 at 6:18 AM

    My goal for doing something new for 2012 is….wait for it….getting published! LOL. Kidding. Not in my control, entirely.

    You make a great point and it goes hand-in-hand with childlike imagination from the earlier blog. Express yourself in a new way.

    Very timely reminder. Thanks, Carley.

    • Carley Ash

      November 24, 2011 at 10:16 AM

      Thanks, Janis.
      That “published” world will certainly throw you out of your element.
      Good luck.

  4. Lynn Mapp

    November 24, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    Well. You’ve got me thinking. What do I want to try? There are so many things to consider.

    • Carley Ash

      November 24, 2011 at 10:20 AM

      You’re right. There are so many wonderful things, Lynn.
      I’m thinking about a couple things in the new year – weaving and stain glass. But after reading Johanna’s comment, I want to give music lessons another go. And I want to learn to speak Spanish. And I just started gardening and need to develop those skills. And I want . . .
      So many things.

  5. Kyrsten

    November 24, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    As Johanna said, kids can really get you into all sorts of new things.

    I’ve been a baseball umpire (only at the non-competitive levels), I’ve done rides at Disney Land that I never would have chosen, I’ve been exposed to music and ideas that I wouldn’t have bumped into on my own.

    This year I plan to attend a national professional conference that I’ve never attended before in a part of the county that I’ve never been to before. I’m looking forward to it.

  6. Liz Fredericks

    November 24, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    Interesting approach to pushing boundaries and exploring new things. Thanks, Carley.

  7. maryvine

    November 27, 2011 at 8:52 PM

    Did lots of things in the last ten years. New things for 2012? Right a manuscript in a more structured way. Thanks for getting me to think about new things coming up.


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