On the Joys of Goofing Off

On Career Day at my middle school, one of the speakers was an old man. I think "being an old man" was actually his career. He spent his time traveling the world, having adventures, and burning the names of places he'd been into his walking stick. A couple of weeks later I was listening to a Cubs game, and they were interviewing him in the broadcast booth. This sounded like the career for me.

One thing I remember him saying was "even if you get straight As, if all you know is what you learn in school, then you're stupid." And he was right. I would be nowhere today if I hadn't goofed off a lot.

The key to it all is goofing off productively. For instance, I wrote a couple of plays during class in high school. One was a musical called "In the Absence of Absolute Truth;" it was about a guy who woke up one morning and found that everyone believed everything he said, no matter how outrageous. If he called a radio station's "traffic tip" hotline and said there was a jam because Darth Vader's TIE fighter had landed on I-285, they'd believe him. It was written out in notebook paper in my biology notebook. It didn't do wonders for my grades, but it was a better way to goof off than throwing paper at people.

I also wrote one called AT LAST, ATLANTA! It was a retelling of Don Quixote (which I probably read instead of something I was supposed to be reading) featuring a folk singer going on a cross-country quest (utilizing all the stuff I'd learned about violent traditional folk and blues music outside of class). Reading classic comedy books and finding out which version of "The Ballad of the Twa Sisters' was the goriest (it's the English one, version 10A, btw) were all examples of me goofing off - none of this stuff was covered in class, and I only rarely managed to work any of it into a school project. The idea for the title actually came out of a conversation I was having about Christopher Marlowe, a buddy of Shakespeare's that I was reading about during goof-off time (he was quite a character - a writer, badass philosopher and spy who died under mysterious circumstances. Some even say he faked his death and wrote Shakespeare's plays for him).

I've just posted that script on the Facebook page. The summer after high school I expanded it into a full-length script. Ten years later, I was standing in a field out someplace in Illinois, surrounded by fancy equipment, watching a couple of actors filming it. The short film based on that original script, At Last, Okemah!, has been making the festival circuit this year. It even won an award or two - and now the production team is trying to raise money to film a feature-length version to be filmed next year.

Once again, kids, I'm not saying you shouldn't study or do your homework. You absolutely should. But no one's giving me awards for algebra homework from ten years ago. I sincerely believe that everyone needs to goof off. The thing is, you can spend your down time throwing paper at people, running around the room and getting in trouble, or you can goof off productively. Read a book that isn't assigned (and that no one will test you on, so you can skip ahead if you get bored). Learn about something weird that they'd NEVER cover in class. I did - and you can scroll down a post or two and see the trailer for the movie that came out of it!

As for me, well, I'm goofing off right now! I really SHOULD be working on this new book....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome post! I totally agree. Congrats on your film!

Shelagh @ KinderScares

Adam's New Book: Sept 2013