Don’t try this at home

The Outsider Art Fair in NYC is on this weekend, and I am wishing I were there instead of here. I originally set out to write my thesis on the current definition of outsider art. Because we don’t celebrate outsider art in Canada, I needed to understand what it was before announcing that Canada had arrived at the party a century late.

I was particularly interested in hearing a panel discussion at the Outsider Art Fair called Paranoia and Creativity because I am currently  writing a chapter on the myth of the mad genius. This myth is deeply embedded in our culture, despite a dearth of scientific evidence that such a connection exists. It reinforces the stereotype that a life of psychological torture is the price one must pay for creative genius and for some reason we are enamoured with this idea. More (much more) about this later.

The progress on my thesis is slow because I am suffering from “cabin in the woods” syndrome. I remember this illness well from attending university in pre-Internet days. I spent many useless hours dreaming about living in a remote cabin, with no textbooks, no deadlines, and nary a care in the world. I would also think of hundreds of “urgent” chores that had to be done before I could get to my desk – anything to postpone a long day of studying. Like writing this blog.

But now we have the Internet, the biggest playground in the world. So, I have spent countless hours Googling remote cabins – like the one in this photo – where I could work on my thesis on a patio bathed in warm sunshine, birds chirping happily in the trees, and maybe a glimpse of the ocean (or the desert) when I look up from my laptop. But since I am here and not there, I am easily distracted by other things that cross my mind, such as how to make my down pillows like new again.

The online experts advised me to simply stick them in the washing machine and dryer. You wouldn’t dry-clean a goose, so why would you dry-clean a goose down pillow? Made sense to me. I decided to do this last week and stuffed two pillows into my washing machine. Ten minutes later I discovered that the machine had overflowed, the floor had become a pond of soapy water, and water was pouring out of the light fixture in the room below. Yikes! I lied to the washing machine repairman who came to investigate the problem. I told him that I was doing a “big load” when it overflowed, but not that I had stuffed the equivalent of 65 geese into the washer. Anyway, I had to lug two incredibly heavy, wet pillows to the laundromat and finish the job in a commercial-sized washer and dryer.

I now have something else to do instead of writing. I am shopping for new pillows. Mine are as hard as bags of cement and they smell like a farmyard. I was a costly experiment – to both my bank account and my pride. I will never do that again. I will find a more constructive and less expensive way to waste my time.