Article

By Jean Sramek
August 28, 2002

I never really got that whole "cabin in the woods" school of writing. Don't get me wrong, if someone offered me a cabin in the woods, I'd be all over it, but as far as inspiration goes, remote tranquil locations are just not my bag of tea. As a humorist I write from life, and pine trees aren't that funny.

Case in point: the mixed metaphor I used in that last paragraph. I once heard a woman say "it's just not my bag of tea" on a Duluth Transit Authority bus, which I was forced to ride that day because my car was in the shop. The woman was yakking about movies or salad and had helmet-hair and eyeglasses with oversized frames and stems that attach at the bottom of the lenses. "Some people like it," she said, "but it's just not my bag of tea." I treasured that overheard opinion and have laughed about it approximately bimonthly for the last 5 years. It's hard to find good mixed metaphors, and the last place in the world you should be shopping for them is a cabin in the woods. Try the laundromat, or the Food Building at the Minnesota State Fair, or a mandatory staff meeting which you are attending only because you didn't have time to fake your own death that morning. That's where the good stuff is.

I went to a cabiny writer's retreat for a week--one of those places where no phone, radio, TV, newspaper, alcohol, or crazy talk are allowed--and I did get a bunch of writing done but only because I brought along projects I'd already started. What I got from a week devoted to writing was time, but the place didn't really float my teabag if you know what I mean.

Making humor is mainly a matter of paying attention to life and writing it down. Uninterrupted time, peace and quiet, clean air and productive sleep, yeah, all those things are good for the body and soul, and by extension the ability to write, and by extension cord the ability to write humor. But the place to write humor, for me, is anywhere I am likely to brush up against the itchy damp underbelly of life.

(p.s. Jackpines are funnier than white pines.)

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