Play to Your Strengths: A Healthy Imagination Needs Play Time

Holly's Muse Prunebutt After a Night in the Dryer

Holly's Muse, Prunebutt

Some mornings, I really wish I could pretend that I write only to please myself and honestly don’t give a Fig Newton what my readers think. Then again, the smug satisfaction of having managed to go almost seven weeks into a blogging contest without a smackdown from Dave and Prunebutt left me thinking I could get by with it – forgetting that Dave probably had a Google alert set up for “holly jahangiri” AND alexa AND “mindless metrics.” (Oh, Dave, you’re just gonna love this week’s challenge… Shall I wax poetic about Google Analytics?) Ironically, I was sitting in a Boy Scout Court of Honor when my phone vibrated and Dave’s comment on “Short Term Goals, Long Term Vision” popped up. Reading between the lines, I could tell the man was hanging out with the little people in my head – some days, he is one of them, himself – eating up all my chocolate and throwing peanuts and M&M shells on the floor of my batty belfry.

“Erma Bombeck’s gonna disown you,” he taunted. Try explaining the ensuing cross between a splutter and a giggle during a rather solemn moment in which an Eagle Scout explains why the journey to Eagle is worth it, despite the hard work and parental nagging and time away from the ‘fumes of cars and girls. I tucked the phone back into my pocket after making sure it was set to silent.

Prunebutt, the monstrous and maniacal dust-bunny that passes for my Muse, refusing to be silenced whenever he’s feeling righteously validated and knows he’s got Dave in his corner, rolled around gleefully.

Trockle trundled over and gave Prunebutt a good soccer kick for me, landing the goal in an overturned trash basket full of discarded drafts. “We have to help her, you know, before she goes completely over to the Dark Side.”

“How?” asked Irma. “They’re over there talking grown-up stuff. Analyticating.”

Prunebutt muttered something about “analyticating” sounding like a proctologist’s dream. Trockle went on practicing his soccer skills.

“You’re good with numbers, Irma. Didn’t you say math was your favorite subject?” asked Stephen.

“That was back in Fourth Grade!” cried Irma. “I’m into Theater Arts now.”

“You’re a smart girl,” said Dave. “One doesn’t preclude the other. You’re just like my recycling guy, thinking he can’t take aluminum foil because he’s collecting aluminum cans.”


“I’m just saying, it’s a shame you’d give up math for theater when you’re so good at both.”

“I thought you didn’t like numbers, Uncle Dave?”

I smirked. Try to find a good comeback for that one, Dave.

“I don’t like it when she—“ Dave punctuated the thought by pointing a virtual finger at my proboscis, “—lets Alexa and Google Analytics and whatever do her thinking for her. Besides, I happen to know she’s just pulling standard deviations out of her behind. You may be good at math, but Holly’s just a poseur.”

I sneezed, just then, hoping to rid my head of this little impromptu roast and all the people in it. Three ASMs turned their heads in unison and raised stern and quizzical eyebrows at me. I gave them my best shot at an innocent smile and a nod.

Everyone agreed that “poseur” sounded like a nasty word, and set about trying to save their author from being one. Dave, the ever-resourceful grown-up who – by virtue of years spent in Scouting Neverland – corralled the boisterous friends into a circle. He quickly tacked a hand-written copy of the Scout Oath and Law to the inside of the author’s brain, and began the meeting of her Imaginary Friends. “Wait!” cried Stephen. “We’re not imaginary, we’re real!”

Dave opened his mouth to argue the point, but just as quickly realized the paradoxical position that would put him into, and shut it just as quickly. “Virtual?”

“How about ‘Imaginative,’” snarked Prunebutt, “since without us, she’d have no imagination of her own?”

At that, Trockle kindly upended the trashbasket on top of Prunebutt, who could be heard angrily bouncing off its aluminum walls. “Mrphlsrglfrp!!”

“Hadn’t we better talk about goals, or something?” asked Stephen, looking around and seeing a huge tree frog just outside the window. It looked hungry.

“Good idea, son,” said Dave. “Would you like to start?”

“Um, my goal is to be an Eagle Scout!”

Sure it is, I mentally muttered.

“Do you have a plan for that?” asked Dave. I about lost my punch and cookies.

“Maybe I could join Boy Scouts,” said Stephen, eager to help.

“That might keep you from going the route of Little Jackie Paper,” rumbled a voice from the shadows. Suddenly, the room was filled with smoke that smelled of cinnamon and gingerbread, with just a hint of oregano and mint tea.

“Puff!!” everyone cried.

“To answer the question I know is on all your minds, it was never about drugs,” said Puff, shaking his head sadly.

“No?” asked Dave, somewhat skeptically.

“No. He just grew up. Became…an actuary.”

At that, a horrified gasp was the only sound that could be heard in my head. My own.

“He forgot what it was like to be a kid, and his imagination – along with all the creatures in it – died. Their deaths weren’t even interesting. They just shriveled up and went ‘pop!’ quietly, and almost no one noticed. So let that be your first goal,” said Puff, sadly. “Keep your imagination healthy and alive.”

“Or you’ll turn into a actuary?” said Trockle, hiding under the bed and peeping out from beneath the heavy spread.

A few seconds later, Trockle’s mother, Grunelda, stomped out from under the bed. “Now look what you’ve done! You should all be ashamed of yourselves. The poor little monster’s going to have nightmares for a week!”

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About Holly Jahangiri

Holly Jahangiri lives in Texas and claims to channel the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry and Erma Bombeck. She has known since fifth grade that she wanted to be a professional writer. Holly is a technical communicator whose imagination is allowed free rein in her short stories, children's books, and poetry. You can visit her personal blog, "It's All a Matter of Perspective," at

About Holly Jahangiri

Holly Jahangiri lives in Texas and claims to channel the spirits of Edgar Allan Poe, O. Henry and Erma Bombeck. She has known since fifth grade that she wanted to be a professional writer. Holly is a technical communicator whose imagination is allowed free rein in her short stories, children's books, and poetry. You can visit her personal blog, "It's All a Matter of Perspective," at


  1. being creative is what i live my line of work and in everyday life..creative makes life colorful

  2. Prunebutt looks like a demented cat.


  3. Hi Holly,

    Have you thought about writing comic books? Funny story!
    Sylviane Nuccio recently posted..Persuasive Writing – 3 Simple Keys to Generate Endless Traffic With Your ArticlesMy Profile

  4. Writing is so much fun, when I’m in the middle of a story or novel. I live a different life and become different people.
    Vivian Zabel recently posted..When discouragement arrivesMy Profile

  5. There was a time way back, when people would be eyeing the deserts at the back of a room during an Eagle Ceremony instead of calculating an alexa or google rank in their head like one of those nerdy girls with a techy compulsive disorder that Mom’s warn Son’s about.

    This post is what I’m talking about!!!

    Every morning, I have the option to read many renditions of the same business topics as they pile-up in my email. Most all are well written technically but have no “craft.” With all the writers available to read nowadays–today would simply run into tomorrow if a thoughtful writer didn’t risk an “out-there” thought, engage my attention and pick at the Bud-Lite parts of my brain that are normally used exclusively on weekends.

    This is the best post I’ve read so far on goal setting during this contest. I see a few of my real-time and past friends represented here. I see the foibles and mistakes I make every day. I see the humor in life along with accidental accomplishment. I see where generations understood the importance of goal setting after they no longer enjoyed oodles of childhood time for accomplishment stretching endlessly before them.

    This post is why I’ve read Holly’s blog for years. She’s OK with risking a part of herself when she writes–when she’s on her game there is no one better. I read technical articles when necessary–I read whom I like for everything else because I’m selfish with my time and experience. My everyday goal is to enjoy as much as I can about the peeps in my life and Holly is the total package when it comes to tradecraft and not simply re-posting the obvious.

    Prunebutt is my friend and ally 🙂

    • That he is, Dave. That he is. You have only to give Prunebutt a prod, and he zips over here (with maniacal glee that would be unseemly in a friend) to do your dirty work. 😉 Thank you, though. I’m glad you see all the folks my little characters were so gamely imitating – and mocking. Readers like you are what make writing fun.

  6. All that going on in your head makes my head hurt. I don’t have room for all your bouncing characters around battling with those trying to get my attention. I’ve had to begin four novels in the past four months for competition, and all four expect me to finish them. Ish.

    Wish my imagination would give me some rest time.
    Vivian Zabel recently posted..Christmas begins with musicMy Profile

    • Please tell me you’re not on NaNoWriMo hyperdrive, trying to FINISH four novels in four months! And people think I’m insane.

      I’m actually happy when my imagination doesn’t give me rest time. It’s when there’s an echo and the occasional dull thud inside my head that I start to really worry.

      You wanna borrow Prunebutt, Viv? You can house the snarky, angry dust-bunny Muse for a while. Just… don’t feed him after midnight. I think he’s part gremlin. Maybe you could have him bite Midnight in the behind, or something. That ought to be good for a novel or two.
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted..43Things: Beyond the “To-Do List”My Profile

      • No way I am doing NaNoWriMo. Do you think I’m that crazy?

        I’m just working to have entries ready before the OWFI competition deadline and have time for people to read and give suggestions. I’ve got an unpublished thriller, an unpublished western, an unpublished science fiction, and working on an unpublished YA novel. I have a short story, and inspirational article, and a poem, too.

        Nope, don’t need Prunebutt. I have enough villains and nasty beings, thank you.
        Vivian Zabel recently posted..Christmas begins with musicMy Profile

  7. I was a little taken aback by Dave’s comment (although I did think that post was not one of your best, I will admit). But this response is nothing short of brilliant. We all bow before your imagination, Holly.

    • Dave has taught Eagle Scouts. He recognizes “coasting” when he sees it, and has earned the right (by reading absolutely every word I’ve ever written, anywhere, I think – no matter how good or how idiotic) to call me on it. 🙂

      Thanks, Hadass.You have known me long enough and well enough to do the same, so your compliments mean a lot to me.
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted..Scavenger Hunt!My Profile

  8. Trockle, peanut shells AND having something tacked to your brain? Your imagination is beatig with the heart of a caged volcano.

    Well done. If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were the spawn of Bombeck and Carroll.



    • Caged volcano is right! Thanks, Mitch. 😉 So would a writer who’s the spawn of Bombeck and Carroll send you down the mouth of a volcano that was masquerading as a rabbit hole?
      Holly Jahangiri recently posted..Scavenger Hunt!My Profile

      • Probably not. Instead, she would wonder why any sane man would climb a boiling mountain, but wouldn’t take out the garbage without threats of bodily harm.



        • I don’t think that’s limited to men. I’m sure my husband wonders the same sort of thing quite often.

          I think the answer to that lies in Dan Pink’s wonderful talk about motivation (search for that on YouTube, if you missed it on my earlier post here). It’s there – it intrigues us. Climbing a boiling mountain is ever so much more INTERESTING than taking out the garbage, day in and day out.
          Holly Jahangiri recently posted..7 Links, 5 WritersMy Profile

          • But see, we’re talking Bombeck, here. She won’t care about such a thing as someone having an interest in something. You do what you’re supposed to do, or Erma is going to roast your PruneButt!

            By the way, I love garbage. I built a compost container out of a Rubbermaid 32-gallon container. It’s fun watch food turn into black gold.



          • Oooh, now I’m getting ideas for another post, Mitch!! I would love to grow my own veggies – I fantasize about having a little “victory garden” in the back yard. Unfortunately, I have a black thumb instead of a green one. I can kill SILK plants. So I’m not really SURE what I’d use that “black gold” on…

            Don’t say it. Using it on the neighbor’s dog would probably be frowned upon.
            Holly Jahangiri recently posted..Scavenger Hunt!My Profile

  9. Does Dave know he has a second existence in your head?



  1. […] first case of “creative differences.” Neeraj and Ntathu firmly suggested that I delete the post Play to Your Strengths: A Healthy Imagination Needs Play Time, which I wrote in response to Dave M.’s rather pointed comment on Short Term Goals, Long Term […]