The Memes of our Minds

I just returned from my favorite restaurant, which is close by and where I can get breakfast any time of the day.  What was different this trip where I normally appreciate the great service and great food was that I was seated in a corner, with a view of the entire operation.  With four waitresses, two covering my half of the room and the other two on the other side of the restaurant and every seat occupied, it was a busy noon hour in the middle of the week. 

What was quite noticeable about my two gals is that one would watch the tables and when her customers left, she’d go pick up the tip money and leave the dishes behind.  She’d seat people and take orders, but cleanup was not on her agenda.  She appeared incapable of using her time well, such as taking an order, picking up dishes on her way past a dirty table, coming out with the drinks on a tray with a dishrag, deliver the drinks, then finish cleaning the dirty table.  Instead, she moved slowly, often empty-handed, almost in a leisurely manner, while everyone else raced around her.  The other waitress, my waitress, was hustling like crazy, cleaning up dirty tables, taking orders, delivering food, and seating customers.  In between, she went around with coffee for refills, tidying up behind the counter.  As a result, she was doing more than her share of the work.

Because I noticed this disparaging work ethic, I spoke to the manger afterward.  She was most appreciative that I had said something, saying that while the staff and she had made comments to this waitress, who denied her lack of work, having a complaint coming from a customer carried much more weight.

So how does this relate to my writing?  For the last decade, while I’ve done a lot of writing, little of it has been creative except those times I was in a creative writing workshop for class.  I could use teaching fulltime and being back in school as an excuse, but since listening to Dr. Wayne Dyer talk about his new book, Excuses BeGone!, on a recent PBS TV station, plus listening to that same presentation in my car over the last few weeks as I drove from campus to campus, I realize there are no excuses.  Up until Dyer enlightening me, my excuses were that I didn’t have time that I needed big chunks of time to birth this first draft. 

Bunk!  If nothing else, I’ve learned that I can do the seemingly impossible.  Once upon a time, in a different lifetime, I had worked three jobs while raising two girls, plus taking care of the house, meals and found time to write two books that year.

Ater all didn’t I just recently finish working fulltime and going to school fulltime where I got three degrees—associate, bachelor, and master of fine arts—in a seven-year period . . . with honors?  Certainly, spitting out one rough draft is nothing in comparison, regardless of what else I’m doing. 

The real problem is me.  I’ve become that waitress who isn’t using her time well.  The truth of the matter is that I’ve convinced myself that writing a first draft is like cleaning off tables.  It’s not fun, it’s time consuming, and it just isn’t my favorite part of writing . . . or so I keep telling myself.  The real issue is that I’ve come to believe that writing a first draft is work.  And yet, I do enjoy that first-draft process once I get started.

The thing is, a customer can’t be seated or served until the table is cleared and cleaned.  I can’t submit a manuscript or even talk about it as a screenplay to producers until I get that draft written.  So what am I waiting for?

Dyer states that these thoughts we create, which are called memes, are like viruses, just like a flu virus or a computer virus.  Once the virus infects the body or computer, it spreads.  So, then this meme (virus) is created by our own thought that spreads, ultimately becoming a belief. 

Let’s try that meme or two I’ve been using and see what Dyer has to say. 

“I haven’t been writing because I don’t have time.  It’s too difficult writing that first draft.” 

“Are you 100% sure that statement true?” 

“No.  Obviously I have time to write this blog, to watch movies, and do a host of other activities.”

“So what’s the opposite?”

“That writing that first draft is easy.”

“Is that true?”

“I don’t know.  I keep telling myself it’s hard.”

“Could it be you’re telling yourself the wrong thing?  That the only problem is your own original thought?”


About Diana Stout

Screenwriter, author, former English professor
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2 Responses to The Memes of our Minds

  1. divaonline says:

    Great analogy between the waitress and your writing projects. And to answer your question, yes, a blog is certainly something for the brave. But you have an amazing suit of armor. I’ve seen it over the years. Use your shield to deflect the inevitable, incoming, negative arrows. Push forward Sister Mary Braveheart.


  2. Jo says:

    Ok, Mother Meme… I am so impressed by your excellent writing skills that take me away from whatever I was doing/thinking. Let’s make a promise to each other that we will post – at least once a week – to our respective blogs and read each other’s. Ok? Ok!

    I loved reading your blog!


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