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Leonardo Trait
Angie Dixon : Laugh. It Makes Your Face Look Better.

An Open Mind

Laugh. It Makes Your Face Look Better.

By Angie Dixon

"Angie, you look really cute today," our receptionist, Cynthia said as I stopped at her desk on my way back to my office.

"Thank you. I wake up every morning and say to myself, 'Self, we have to look cute today."

She laughed. "You don't say, 'We need to be funny'?"

"Of course not. I *am* funny. Cute I have to work on."

This conversation took place at my last "real" job, over ten years, two kids and 80 pounds ago. I'm not so cute as I was then. But I'm still funny.

I've had a few conversations recently about my sense of humor; conversations with very old friends and very new ones alike.

These conversations got me to thinking about how humor interacts with everything else in our brains to enhance, or maybe even produce, creativity.

I think a big part of being creative is looking at things from a slightly skewed point of view. If you think about it, that's what humor is, as well.

A few years ago I wrote a female investigator mystery novel. It fit the genre perfectly except that, well, it didn't have a very strong plot. But it had the witty banter down pat. What I learned from that experience, aside from the fact that I don't know how to plot a mystery novel and probably don't care to learn, is that being funny, for me, is a natural offshoot of being creative.

If I'm really using my creativity tools — if I'm thinking about the what-ifs and the possibilities and the consequences of doing something one way and not another, then creative ideas are rolling off my brain on a regular basis.

Sure, I have times when I don't "feel" creative. I sit down and do creative exercises or start writing anyway, and I "get" creative.

That happened this morning. I've been very sick and haven't written my column yet. I really needed to do it this morning. I knew what I wanted to write about, but I wasn't "feeling inspired." So I sat down and started writing, and ideas are flooding my medulla oblongata, or whatever area of the brain gets flooded with ideas.

And most of my ideas have humor in them, because I have a good relationship with humor.

It's not that I make reservations at fancy restaurants and take humor out for calamari and cocktails.

But when something is funny, I laugh, and I let my brain play with the humor and have a good time.

The other night my son was reading my upcoming book and started hooting, which in Arkansas is a term for laughing very, very hard.

He said, "This is great, Mom!" and read me something I had written: "I don't believe curiosity killed the cat. I think it was bludgeoned to death by someone with no imagination."

Jack is 11. If he thinks that's funny, it's because it is. And I intended it to be. But when I use humor in my creativity, it's with a real purpose behind it.

If I can make you laugh at something, I can get you to think about it. And I believe thinking is the most important tool in the world.

A lot of people think of me as primarily a funny person, and I like that. But I've had, by anyone's reckoning, a very difficult life, and sometimes still do. I'm a walking poster child for the "successful treatment of mental illness." Success not counting the years of very serious illness and the occasional very painful relapses. I sometimes feel like screaming, "If I'm a success, what do the failures look like?" But overall, I have a great life. It's difficult, but life is difficult. Mine is treat.

Still, I rely on laughter in my life to get me through. A few months ago I lost *everything* on my hard drive, and only had backups of about 70% of it. I was distraught for some time, but finally realized I hadn't had that bad a day. The guy who cut the wrong wire that day and shut off power to half of New England — *he* had a bad day. I'd just lost most of my hard drive, but this guy was getting death threats.

I feel as if I'm rambling a little today, but I really am going somewhere, and I'm going to try to tie this up with three points about creativity and humor.

  1. Creativity and humor are two sides of the same thought process. If you can think creatively, you can think humorously, and vice versa. If it's funny, it's creative, and if it's creative, there's probably a way to make it funny.

  2. Creativity and humor are what makes unbearable circumstances bearable, and great circumstances excellent. If I couldn't create, if I couldn't laugh, I would be miserable even in the best of situations.

  3. Humor is sometimes a shield, but even when it is a defense, it's also a sign of an extremely sharp intellect. It takes a really smart person to be incredibly funny.

I hope as you pursue your creative ventures over the next little while you'll stop to think about how funny things are, just in general. I mean, really. Life is funny.

Enjoy it. And laugh at it. What else are you going to do with it? •

Copyright 2006 Angie Dixon. All rights reserved.

Angie DixonAngie Dixon is the alpha Jill of All Trades, author of "The Leonardo Trait," and runs a web site for multitalented multitaskers. More »

08/14/06