Seven and Three Tales To Tell


The last few months inside of my creative space have been a whirlwind of research into schizophrenia intense enough to briefly give my the symptoms of schizophrenia, conceptualization of the properties of a Qlippothic sub-verse, attempts to sculpt the clay of wishes and emotions and background details into the flesh of actual humans.

I’m trying to write a novel. Nothing new, and in fact I think society has a quota that at least 20% of a nations citizens have to be attempting to write a novel at any given time in order to officially count as Civilized. Fortunately, the 20%–or 64,220,727 of us in the case of the US–don’t all have to be writing the same novel. Separate endeavors are fine.

This novel I’m working on is pretty ambitious. More so than I thought when I started with a neat idea and boring characters while walking through the cold one day. I quickly came up with much better characters, who I have largely abandoned, and a less neat idea that is ultimately more interesting.

I never know which of the ideas my brain spits up from the solution of creative digestive fluids that pools in my unconscious is going to stick. This one did, and I was far, far too deep before I realized the staggering amount of research I was going to need to do in order to get the characters and the world even close to correct. It was interesting research. Stuff I was already fascinated by, so I figured even if I didn’t right the novel I would learn a lot.

Several months later, I have, indeed, learned a lot. I could keep learning forever and not be ready, because that’s how these things work. That being said, I realized at some point that I was ready. Ready to write a messy first draft, anyway. I wouldn’t know for sure what additional research I’d need to do until I ran into it, and the attempt to amalgamate every real-world esoteric and mystical system ever probably wasn’t strictly necessary to start writing.

So I started writing. Or at least, I tried to, only to discover that I didn’t remember how to write. Oh, I remembered how to make the little squiggles. I could even make them manually, without using the plastic clackers hooked up to my electronic porn machine.

What I forgot how to do was tell stories. I mean, I forgot how to take characters and concepts and a plot outline–all of which I had!–and flesh that out into a the “words on a page” thing that people seem to find oh-so-essentially to novels these days.

I used to be able to do it. I also didn’t used to be able to do it. I know plenty of writers who never struggled with this most basic element of writing, but I’ve never been one of them. Taking any given idea and weaving it into a story is something I only got skilled at here, on this blog, by doing it a lot.

So here I am. I’m going to doing it a lot. Again. With a new challenge!

This one is as follows: I’m going to write three stories a week, every week, for seven weeks. Three stories seems doable. And seven…well, I have a theme here. The plan–the oath!–is to post Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, starting this upcoming Monday. Why Monday? Because that’s several days from now.

The challenge is called “Seven and Three Tales to Tell,” and if the math doesn’t work, if the poetry is a little off, if it sounds more pretentious than well-crafted…well, I said I was out of practice. Hopefully by the end, I’ll have a better name.


Writing Time?

Sad Day, Good Tea

All day long
I think about my writing
Planning my scenes
hearing the back and forth of dialogue
so sharp
you could put it in a salad dressing
dreaming up plot twists
so twisty
you could put them in a series of cocktails
then sell them to college students
for way too much

As I’m driving,
I barely see the road,
I barely hear the drone of my audiobook
which is about mindfulness
and the irony
almost escapes me
because I’m weaving words like cloth,
spinning tales like straw
into the good quality string cheese
mixing metaphors like pasta
being mixed
with other stuff

While I’m working, taking calls,
I speak to the customers with my voice
and my mind steps away
into to realms with black sunsets,
where knights, armored in stars,
fight quasars, with tortured pasts
and something to prove
to their sisters
or something

Then it’s time to write,
and I think
you know what, this might not be the time for this,
I’ve got other things to do,
like maybe I should just play cup and ball instead
that’s so meaningful, so fun, how could I resist
and I know
I don’t have a ball
no big deal
I’ll just hold this empty cup
for a while

Those Ideas

ONE up mushroom : tshirt painting, san francisco (2013)Another 37, day 12

The other day as I walked out of work I saw a neat looking mushroom on the grass. I was extraordinarily tired on this particular day because it was the morning after Daylight Torture Time day, an alternate version of Daylight Savings Time day that overlays the usual version and has exactly the same effects, except that it can only be perceived by those of us cursed to work Sunday mornings. I assure that on that day we hate all of you. Also probably other days? We’re an angry people, us Sunday workers.

I was also tired because, despite working Sunday mornings, I always go out Saturday night. Hey, you’ve got to live, even if your version of living involves Saturday Dungeons and Dragons where you play some kind of elf ninja assassin who is the scion of a fallen magical kingdom. Not that you would ever admit such a thing on a blog. Anyway, the point here is that I was very tired, but I was also in a very good mood because I was walking out of work, which is the desirable direction. Also we gained a level in the game the night before. Hypothetically.

I was tired, in a good mood, and I saw an interesting mushroom. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of writing—for evidence see…this blog post– and during those phases my brain generates a lot of story ideas. Sometimes they are passing fancies, and sometimes I fixate on them long enough to come up with an actual narrative. But they almost always seem at least mildly amazing during the moment of conception. I like to think that my brain has a filter where it only lets the good ideas through. I like to think a lot of things.

As soon as I saw the mushroom my synapses lit up and got to work. What if there was an entire region composed of just these mushrooms? Wouldn’t that be fascinating? A whole kingdom. Some kind of…mushroom kingdom! The idea danced around in my mind, and I got all the way to my car—a good, embarrassing 45 seconds—before I realized that “Mushroom Kingdom” wasn’t a new idea. Did I mention I was tired?

Not all fiction writers come up with a lot of ideas. Not all writers are even interested in coming up with a lot of ideas. People have different writing superpowers, and idea generation is just one of them. It’s one I happen to have, but I’m honestly rather jealous of people who have fewer ideas about crazy stuff and, I don’t know, naturally write rich dialogue or distinctive characters. Their grass always looks so much purpler than mine.

I don’t know what it’s like inside of the minds of other idea-writers, but I have a feeling it’s just as messy and ridiculous as it is the chocolate factory perched atop my own neck. The thing is, an awful lot of being good at something is just about caring about it. Research into expertise shows that the best violin players aren’t the ones with the most natural talent, but the ones who practice the most. Studies of genius show that the most intelligent people are always deliberately learning; they don’t just suck in information, they fixate on it. Likewise I find ideas intoxicating for their own sake, so I think about them; I pursue them. I’m sure I’m not alone.

On the other hand, coming up with a lot of ideas means coming up with a lot of bad ideas. And being fascinated by them. Certain ideas pop into the mind and seem amazing, but are either really stupid or too nebulous to articulate in a way that is even a little interesting. I make lists of my ideas so that I can come back to them later, and whenever I read through those lists I have to conclude that one of the anthropomorphic beings sits in the abstract representation of my brain and runs my creativity is, in fact, a dumbass. He probably wears a stupid hat.

Right now I’m combing through a list of horror story ideas for a horror comic I’m going to be working on with a friend. There are some pretty cool ideas in there, but there also a few that are…less cool. Here are a few of my favorites, copied exactly as they appear in the file:

  • Creepy wooden doll that is creepy in some way.
  • A horrible church, where everyone gets up to horrible things.
  • Something about a statue? Like, maybe an evil…statue. Ugh.
  • There’s something here about fog. A really good idea. About fog. I don’t quite have it.
  • A man who hates trains.

I don’t remember the moment I came up with all of those. But I can assure you that each of those ideas seem to me, for at least one, crystalline moment, utterly brilliant.

Shredded Thoughts

155/365: Cheese Grater

If you see the Buddha in the road, put him through a cheese grater.
–A Meditation


So I’m meditating now, and I think that it’s…


wonder if my timer is going to go off, because I’ve never…


thinking too much? I’m probably thinking too…


the moss arrows in Thief are pretty green. I guess moss is green, so…


really not sure about that timer; what if two hours pass and I haven’t…


I come up with my most creative ideas while walking. Or while in the shower. According to both researchers and friends of mine this is a very common occurrence. I think it has to do with the fact that the universe is perverse, and these are two situations in which very few people carry a pen. If creativity is the chocolate of the mental world, its cascading fountains seem most likely to appear whenever you are on a low-carb diet.

Meditation is a great example. If I have an intractable problem or creative tangle, there’s no way to catalyze my brain into actively trying to solve it than sitting down to meditate. The desire for no-thought is apparently really an invitation for every thought in a 5 trillion neuron radius to show up for the part. And they seem so productive. So interesting!

But you shouldn’t believe it. They only seem that way because they’re taboo. Unwanted but still desired. The forbidden fruit in the cognitive garden. And because you only see part of them. Because while meditation may appear encourage thinking, it’s an illusion. A trap. The thoughts are only there because meditation wants them to be there. Because meditation is hungry. Hungry for thoughts. In its advance stages, the meditative mind resists thoughts.

In its more primitive stages, however, it shreds them.

I can feel it happening. I can almost see it. Guides on meditation almost always instruct the seeker to watch thoughts as they form and let them pass. But you can’t just let a thought pass. Not really. All you can do is hack it off at the source. Thoughts only exist to the extent that you form them. They are like pasta coming out of an extrusion machine. They keep going until you pull the lever and make the noodle-guillotine hack its way right through them. Then you boil them and eat them with red sauce.

It’s not a perfect metaphor.

To meditated imperfectly—and the vast, vast majority of all meditation done is imperfect—is to take a knife to your thoughts and slice them into tiny little pieces, so they fall through the grating in your mind and don’t pile up and consume you. We spend a lot of our time consumed. Practice, then, is the art of sharpening your knife, to cut your thoughts into finer and less jagged pieces. Maybe, if you keep going, and if you’re lucky, you’ll eventually have a knife so sharp it will split thoughts from all the way across the room.

Is that enlightenment? I don’t know. I’ll let you know when I get there.

Undreaming Places

Chapter Two B

Now that my horror phase has passed, as we knew it must, my newest obsession is with highly creative and unusual settings. Much like horror, this is a life-long interest that never quite leaves me alone, even when it’s nestled around my brain-stem rather than trying to chew its way through the front of my skull.

Apparently, the horror imagery has left its mark. Oh well.

In any case, unusual settings have been a deep love of mine forever. I am easily bored by the familiar, and my love of fantasy stems fundamentally from the fact that I am intrigued by the possibilities allowed us by the imagination, and can’t see why anyone would want to dwell solely in the real world when so many others are open to us. This is all sounding a bit pretentious, but I think that’s what this kind of mindset does to me. Hopefully I’ll get it all out of the way here, so it won’t worm its way into my prose.

I’m definitely interested in hearing about fascinating and highly original settings people have run into, especially in well-developed worlds. For context, some of my favorite are Planescape, Fallen London, and Bas Lag.

Naturally I’m developing a crazy setting of my own. It’s very nebulous at this point, and I’m not sure which of the ideas I’ve come up with will make the cut and which will be purged, or if it’ll go anywhere at all. I started to write a story about it, but then realized it was too long and I really wanted to put something smaller and self-contained up on the blog. So I began a different story set in the same world.

Which of course ended up as the first sliver of a much longer and more intricate story. Oh well. At least it works fairly well as a stand alone. Anyway, here it is:

The One of Keys

Grownup Nightmares

Wool yes!

Darkness pressed upon me from all sides, like thousands of dull-edged blades. There is Something behind me. I can smell its breath on my neck and my sweaty-exposed back, even though I have no nose. I’ve never had a nose. It’s coming. All I can do is more forward.

I wade through the piles of slimy, squidgy things that cover the floor. Everything hates me, here. Everything wants to hurt me. I move forward. It’s all I can do. I reach a door. It is made of cold, dark metal, though I cannot feel the cold. Something terrible is beyond this door. But the Thing is behind me. I have to move forward. I reach out, and grab the handle. Then I open the door.

My old boss from the job I really hated steps out. It turns out I was in the walk-in refrigerator, and those slimy things were scraps of food waste. My boss catches me square in the eyes, and then speaks. He says, “I’m going to need you to work an extra shift. We’re really short-handed right now.”

I wake up with thick, salty fear dripping from my pores. I grope at my face and dig my fingernails into my flesh, grasping at some sensation to prove I am here. To prove I’m no longer dreaming. My brain is full of haze. It takes a minute for it to subside. When I can finally think clearly, when I finally feel like a human with rational cognition and waking brain functionality, my first thought is this:

“Wow. That nightmare was really boring.”

I used to dream about genuinely terrifying things. Vampires with slugs for teeth, and clowns that could turn into liquid and ooze under my door to get me. As a horror writer, I miss those dreams. They would be an acid-mine I could plumb for ideas. I don’t miss the fear they brought, but my adult dreams are no less terrifying. They are just far, far more tedious.

Now I have nightmares about working, or getting stuck in traffic, or owing money to creditors who won’t stop calling. Sometimes I dream I’m back in college, only no one likes me. Those are the worst.

My waking nightmares, those jagged and poisonous obsessions that sneak into my brain as I am falling asleep, are still terrifying. Probably more so than when I was little, because the demons of my creativity have had decades to sharpen their knives. But once I fall asleep, it’s all big piles of laundry, or irate customers who keep changing their minds about whether they wanted mustard. And not even evil mustard.

It’s true what they say. Fear, like artisanal chocolate, is simply wasted on the young.

The Pathological Originality Test

In the Shadow of the Wood - Finnegan's Wake, 3rd and Spring Garden St.

37, day six.

I am obsessed with originality. I coined the term “pathologically original,” or “pathological originality” to describe my particular slant on the whole thing. I like these terms. They describe the phenomenon clearly. They are engaging and easy to use. More importantly, they return only 13 and 15 hits, respectively, on a Google search. This is far higher than the number I would prefer – zero, although a negative number would be even better – but it is acceptable. It means it is not a term that is out there being used that I simply didn’t know about. It is just a turn of phrase people come up with while writing that fits what they need in the moment.

Pathological originality, not surprisingly, is not as rare as you might think. You might be pathologically original, too, and not even realize it. I know, I know, it is pretty serious. Thankfully, there are ways to diagnose this condition. Unfortunately, and I hate to be the one to tell you this, there is no cure. Pathological originality will plague you for all the days of your life, and affect everything that you do. For example, right now, this article has unintentionally taken on the familiar format of “pretending that some character trait is a serious medical condition and writing about it as if this is a direct mail letter or 11 o’clock news report designed to scare hypochondriacs.”

It is bugging the hell out of me.

So how do you know if you are “obsessed” with originality, rather than just really digging it? Please note that I am talking about “normal” obsession. I use the word the way it is normally used in casual conversation. There is also the psychological condition “obsession,” as in, the O in OCD. The colloquial and clinical conditions have some things in common, but they are not identical. The clinical condition is, of course, much much worse. That being said, I strongly dislike the idea that once a term has been claimed by the scientific community it can no longer be used in its colloquial sense. The word “salt” referred to that rock stuff that tastes salty long before scientists decided to use the word to refer to specific compounds produced by the reaction between acids and bases. Every time a scientist says “well, salt really refers to…” I want to smack them in the face and tell them to go back to building a better mousetrap.

Man, mousetrap scientists are the worst.

Back to the point(?). How do you know if you are obsessed with originality rather than just really digging it? There is a simple, two point method of determination. It applies to concepts, objects, and properties other than originality. You could, if you wanted to, substitute “originality” with “bacon,” or “My Little Pony.” Or, I don’t know, “feet.” It takes all kinds.

  1. Does your interest in the concept, object, or property exceed the amount of enjoyment you get from it?
  2. Does your interest in the concept, object, or property exceed the objective worth you believe it has?

Answering these questions honestly requires serious, hard lined self analysis. Let us tackle them one at a time.

  1. Does your interest in the concept, object, or property exceed the amount of enjoyment you get from it?

Think about that. It is tricky, because the word “enjoyment” is so fickle and subjective. It comes down to a ratio between enjoyment/pleasure and frustration/effort. It helps to work backwards. Let us say you see a movie. It could be any movie, but I will invent a hypothetical film for the purpose of discussion. It is called “Stealing All the Sevens, the Movie.” It is about a young ex-chef/blog writer who gains the ability to physically interface with mathematics, and becomes increasingly obsessed with acquiring all of the sevens and stockpiling them. It turns out in the end that the sevens were planning an assault on humanity, and this young hero’s ability was an attempt by the threes to give mankind a way to fight back. Wow. That has “cult classic” written all over it. What’s Uwe Boll doing these days?


You see the movie, and you enjoy it quite a bit. Over the next week, you think about it, and talk to your friends about it, and read an article online about the special effects. Two weeks later, another good movie comes out, and you more or less forget about Stealing All the Sevens. You don’t literally forget it. You just move on to something else. In this case, you derived a good deal enjoyment from the film, but you did not put any effort into it other than the cost of the ticket, or derive any frustration from any part of the experience.

Your friend, on the other hand, did not get off so lightly. She cannot stop talking about it. She spends time online writing about the film’s themes and characterization. She argues on Reddit about what the ending actually meant, and whether the sevens can ever really be stopped. She writes fan fiction about our inspiring but relatable hero. She becomes part of the online community. She starts a blog. A year later, and a great deal of her time is spent answering angry comments about her blog posts, writing enough fanfic to keep her fans happy, and watching bad movies and television shows just because they feature the cast and production team. She has crossed the line, past casual interest and into deeper, darker waters.

In other words, she is obsessed.

Don’t get me wrong. Obsession of this kind is not necessarily a bad thing. It can provide structure and community and focus and all that jazz. That being said, if your friend had to honestly assess how many moments of fun she had due to her interest in Stealing All the Sevens vs. the number moments of frustration, she would have to conclude that the latter far outweigh the former.

Chances are, though, she would never do this calculation. People are inclined to justify their obsessions as straight up entertainment. To admit that you are obsessed is to admit that you are a little bit crazy. For some reason, people do not like to do that. To admit you have derived more frustration than joy from something you love makes it sound like you wasted your time. It is a reasonable interpretation, but it is also wrong. There is more to life than straight up entertainment and joy. There is more to entertainment than straight up entertainment and joy. If something gives your life structure and meaning, then it is valuable. As most obsessed people know, obsession is, in many ways, superior to joy. Because it is deeper.

All of that being said, the determination of whether your interest exceeds your frustration is the easy part of the equation. Let us now turn to the more difficult part

2. Does your interest in the concept, object, or property exceed the objective worth you believe it has?

Sure, Stealing All the Sevens: The Movie is great. It might even be an underrated masterpiece. However, if you blog about it, write fanfic about it, and are a major part of its online community, you are almost certainly giving a greater amount of attention than its objective worth warrants. Again, there is nothing wrong with that. I am not saying it does not deserve this attention. The issue is, why are you writing fanfic about Stealing All the Sevens rather than, say, Doctor Who, which you also quite like? You are doing this because you like it more than Doctor Who.

Don’t think I’m not flattered.

The point here is that you put, to assign a number to it, 567 times as much work into your Stealing All the Sevens fandom than you do into your Doctor Who fandom. Even if you are a serious fan, if you are at all able to objectively assess the relative worth of these two works, you have to admit that Stealing All the Sevens is not 567 times better than Doctor Who. How could it be? I don’t think good entertainment has that kind of granularity. Therefore, your interest in the concept, object, or property exceeds the objective worth you believe it has.

In other words, you are obsessed.

The nice thing about this test is that if you fulfill one of the two criteria, you almost certainly fulfill the other. It is much easier to do this with objects and properties than it is with concepts.

Originality is important to me, and it provides me with enjoyment. Producing something original, or reading a science fiction story with a concept or conceptual twist I have never before encountered is deeply satisfying. However, the number of decent ideas for stories I have rejected over the years and the amount of time I have beat myself up for saying something remotely derivative paint a clear picture. My pathological originality has provided far more frustration than it has enjoyment.

I think originality is important. We need new ideas, new methods of execution, and new twists on old favorites. Otherwise everything will get stale. However, I do not think originality is more important than execution, or production value, or emotional engagement. I feel that originality more important than these things, but that does not match my objective assessment. My interest exceeds the objective worth I believe it has.

In other words, I am obsessed.

There are a few more ways to tell if you are specifically obsessed with originality. These are the things that I do. You may have others.

  • You avoid using cliches and popular turns of phrase.
  • You never quote anyone, be they famous, someone you know, or yourself from earlier in the day.
  • You are frightened to death of being derivative, and when someone points out, say, that your story about girl who can possess spiders is vaguely reminiscent of Animorphs, you want to slap them in the face with a mousetrap. Um…carefully.
  • You are so frightened of being derivative that when you tell a joke that gets big laughs in one social group, you are reluctant to tell it in another group because you don’t want to copy yourself.
  • You get into arguments with people over whether something that is widely considered original is actually original.
  • When someone around you comes up with an original idea or suggestion, your brain immediately forces you to come up with a more original idea or suggestion. You don’t necessarily say it out loud. You just have to come up with it.
  • You don’t wear clothing with logos, words, or geek-identifiers on them, because you are worried that people will assume you are part of a personality and interest package, and you can’t stand that idea.
  • You throw out ideas for stories or works of art because they vaguely sort of kind of remind you of something you might have heard about before.
  • You come up with legitimately original ideas, and then several days later they don’t feel original any more because you have acclimated to them. You move on.
  • You are constantly frustrated with your creative medium for its inability to deliver a fundamentally different experience, or to match the abstract and unformed idea you have in your head.
  • You have the desire to do things in your chosen medium that are difficult to engage and not entertaining, simply because they are original.
  • It drives you crazy that well executed stories are more popular than original ones.

I, for one, am proud of being pathologically original, even if it causes me great quivering piles of frustration. For example, I was going to say “no end of frustration,” and then I didn’t. Pathological originals are responsible for a great deal of the forward momentum in all fields, whether it be art, literature , or science. Because their originality frequently outstrips their execution, they often do not get the respect they deserve. There are a lot of pathological originals that show up in “most important people you’ve never heard of” lists. They tend to push their medium forward, and let other people figure out how to make it engaging or relatable.

The example that has been on my mind lately is Spike Milligan. Have you ever heard of Spike Milligan? Many people haven’t, even though he is one of the most important comedic writers and creators of the 20th century.

I first ran into Spike Milligan on the Muppet Show. My wife’s obsession with the Muppet Show is exceeded only by her obsession with Doctor Who, so it is and will continue to be a major part of my life. I don’t mind. Jim Henson was, after all, pathologically original.

The Spike Milligan episode of the Muppet Show is bizarre. When I first saw it, I had no idea who he was, other than some old comedian. He spends the episode being strange. To put it in perspective, Gonzo, the Muppet Show’s token pathological original, is very impressed with Milligan, and remarks that “it’s about time they got some sophistication on the show.” At one point Milligan is worried that he is too offensive. Kermit assures him that he is not. Then Milligan pulls down his trousers to reveal American flag boxer shorts. Kermit kicks him off stage. The longest number in the episode is a Milligan act that Kermit, in a confused tone, announces as “The Intergalactic Brotherhood of Man, Including Things. It is as strange as it sounds.

For years, this was my only exposure to Spike Milligan. I thought he was just some wacky old comedian with some kind of fringe appeal who hit the public imagination for a few years, during a period when the Muppet Show as a little starved for guest stars.

I had no idea.

I did not hear anything more about Milligan until I listened to a really excellent history of British comedy. Spike Milligan, as it turns out, was the creator and lead writer of something called The Goon Show. The name sounded familiar. It was a radio show on during the 1950s. It also starred Peter Sellers, who you might have heard of. But the genius behind it was Milligan. The Goon Show pioneered a number of different comedic techniques, as well as the use of sound in radio. It was also the source of the world’s funniest joke, which I just learned right now. Without the Goon Show, there probably wouldn’t be a Monty Python. Without Monty Python, there wouldn’t be…I don’t know, gravity. Certainly modern comedy as we know it would be very, very different. Also, lumberjacks would be taken more seriously.

Milligan preferred rehearsals of the Goon Show to actual performances, because that was the first time he said the jokes out loud. By the time he said any joke again, he was already tired of it. Often times, Milligan rewrote jokes over and over and over again, just because he was bored of them as soon as he heard them performed. That is the purest example of pathological originality I have ever heard of. I am going to have to work pretty hard to top that. If you are a pathological original, you might have thought that, too. I don’t think I ever will top it, but I want to.

By the time Milligan was on the Muppet Show in 1978, he had been doing comedy for almost forty years. In all of that time, he never settled on a style. He never stopped experimenting. Of course he was weird to the point of near inaccessibility. How could he be otherwise? If everyone “gets” what you are serving, then you are not really being experimental, and you are not truly being original.

Now we get to the painful part of the article. At least, it might be painful. A lot of people believe they are original. You can believe anything you want. Thankfully, we live in the information age, and these things are testable. An internet search for “originality test” was very disappointing. Most of them required pitching an idea to someone and having them judge if it is original. That is fine, if you have someone you trust, but I am looking for a test you can do yourself. There are a few others, but they are multiple choice. Let me repeat that, as it bears repeating. The originality tests. Are multiple choice.


Fortunately, there is a better way. There is one I have been using for years, to test if the phrases I come up with are legitimately original. I will be up front and say that this test only applies to people whose originality lies in the area of words and writing. For a visual artist, or a musician, you will have to find your own tests. I do not understand those fields well enough to create a test for them. Okay, here it is. Without further what have you, I present:

The Pathological Originality Test

Come up with five different phrases you think are original. Google them, one at a time. If there are zero or only one or two unique hits, congratulations! You are original! Wait, wait, wait, no you are not. There are a few rules you have to follow, or else it doesn’t count.

  1. The phrase has to be short. No more than five words. It is easy to come up with a unique phrase of ten or twenty words. In fact, a twenty word phrases is more likely to be unique than not.
  2.  It does not have to be perfectly grammatical, but it has to be coherent. It should be the kind of thing you would actually say. “Monkey tired wash pizza flatworm” is obviously not going to have any hits. It doesn’t count.
  3.  It has to be interesting. This is subjective, but it is easy enough. It is also the most important rule. You are not just trying to beat the system. You are trying to demonstrate to yourself your own originality. It has to be something you might want to write about, or that you might click on if it was the name of a blog post.
  4. If it is a phrase that is interesting because of the way it is worded, you are done. One example: I came up with a name for a food blog that I liked a few years ago: The Scourge of the Seven Seasonings. Zero hits on Google, so it counts. It cannot be rephrased, because it is interesting specifically because of the phrasing.
  5. If it is a phrase that is conceptually interesting, then you need to reword it and check it a few times, to make sure the idea is original and not just the precise wording. The one I just came up with is “bananas don’t like yellow.” I find that mildly amusing. Zero hits. I also tried “bananas hate yellow,” “bananas hate the color yellow,” “bananas don’t like the color yellow,” and “a banana’s least favorite color is yellow.” Zero hits on any of them. Apparently no one else is interested in how bananas feel about their own color. People have very strange priorities. In this case, you can exceed the five word rule. You are just trying to determine whether or not the concept is original.
  6. No proper nouns. It makes it too easy.
  7. A fun variation on this that I play for laughs sometimes is to try it with domain names. I’ve been playing this game for years, long before Daniel Tosh started doing it, and still no one out there has snagged It’s a sad, sad world.

If you passed the test, then congratulations! You now have some small and arbitrary evidence according to some random guy on a blog with no credentials that you are legitimately original! Assuming you want to, and everything else in this article jived with how you think about yourself, you now have my permission to call yourself pathologically original. Of course, there is a pretty good chance you’re more comfortable coming up with your own phrase. In any case, welcome to the club! We don’t have special jackets or a secret handshake, because, well, I’m sure you understand.

We are happy to have you, you poor bastard. May god have mercy on your soul.