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Ten Thousand Flowers and the Advice I Didn’t Take

I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while, but I am a chronic procrastinator and the calcified layers of habit that had formed around not posting here made it hard to break through to actually posting here. But right now I’m convalescing from a car wreck (no bones broken but lots of bruising) and the pain has diminished enough that I can focus on writing for long enough stretches to bash out a blog post.

So. Of the five classical senses, drawing flowers only really engages sight and touch. (It would be pretty weird if it engaged the sense of smell.) Hearing gets left out unless I focus on the scritch scritch scritch of the pen on the index card. Because of this, I like to have something going on to engage that part of my brain. For a while, I was watching shorts and movies by RiffTrax, because I was familiar enough with them that I didn’t have to glance up at the screen very much. (Many of the shorts are just riffers versus authoritative disembodied voices anyway.) More recently, I’ve started using podcasts. One of the first ones I glommed on to was Bill Corbett’s Funhouse, hosted by Bill Corbett of RiffTrax fame. In it, Bill, his co-host Brandi Brown, and at least one other panelist discuss a topic, plug books and movies and other media that they liked and offer advice to listeners who write in.

So I wrote in.

This is what I sent to the designated email address:

Dear Funhouse Crew—

I’ve gotten myself into a mess, and I need some advice on how to get out of it.

Back in 2011, I embarked on something I called The Ten Thousand Flowers Project. The object is to draw ten thousand flowers on index cards and give them away to people. (I can’t really draw, but I don’t let that stop me.) I am quite convinced that I was hypomanic at the time, because I was churning the things out at the rate of ten a day, and figured I’d be done inside of three years. Then the Wheel of Bipolar took another rotation and plunged me into depression, and I was lucky to get one flower a day done.

Since then, I’ve been diagnosed (bipolar II, the less exciting sequel to bipolar I) and treated and have the worst of my symptoms under control. I have been making flowers at the steady rate of two a day, so I should be done in about a decade. (I’ve even started listening to the podcast while I draw.)

And here we get to the mess. I’ve been great about drawing, but absolute SHIT on the “giving them away” part. When I first started the project, hypomania convinced me that all I needed to do was set up a website, set up an address to send a SASE to, put up my flowers on Twitter (@wonderbink) and then sooner or later it would all go viral and I wouldn’t be lacking for interested people. I can tell by the way you’re shaking your heads right now that you understand why this particular strategy did not work. I started working up the nerve to hand out the flowers at various events where creative people gather. (I actually gave a flower to Bill at DragonCon, though I doubt he remembers.) That’s made a significant dent in the backlog, but I currently have over TWO THOUSAND FLOWERS in untidy stacks by my bookcase, waiting to be distributed. And the things are still stacking up at the rate of two a day.

I’m in a bit of a Sorcerer’s Apprentice situation here. Any suggestions on how to get out of it, short of quitting altogether?

Thank you kindly,

Sheila the Wonderbink

I didn’t expect much. I kept drawing flowers and kept listening to the podcast and then along came Episode 14 – Pea Sea, wherein they discussed political correctness, top ten movie lists, and a kid’s anime starring a polar bear who runs a cafe. After an interlude by Joseph Scrimshaw about Mary Poppins Returns, they got to the advice portion of the program, wherein they discussed a letter sent in by someone calling herself Sheila the Wonderbink.

The first one to speak up was the guest star of the evening, Bryan Miller. He urged me to see the project through to completion and suggested I put a stamp or a sticker on the back so people would know the significance of the flower. I thought these were both grand ideas and vowed to implement them.

Then Brandi stepped up to the mike and gave a very different take. She urged me to forget sunk costs and give up the project entirely. Bill seconded the motion.

This was my visceral reaction:




Nuh-uh. Nope. Not.

Upon a second listen, once the outrage had died down, I noted that Bill and Brandi were urging me to quit if it was making me so miserable. Which it isn’t, really. If it was, my reaction would have been enormous relief rather than digging my heels in. So even if I didn’t take the advice, it was still good advice because it forced me to think about how important this project is to me.

As for the advice I did take, I used the mailing labels I already had on hand and found that they were a perfect size for putting on the back of a 3″ x 5″ index card.

I go through a lot of them.

The sticker reads as follows: This flower is part of The Ten Thousand Flowers Project. Thank you for your participation! www.wonderbink.com/10kflowers

So, has my problem been solved? Nope. I still have over three thousand flowers drawn and less than a thousand given away. I have gotten a couple of SASEs in my mailbox from a gent who also listens to the podcast, though, so that’s something. And right now there’s not much I can do in the handing out of flowers, given I’m using a cane to get around and I really need both hands free to give away stuff with.

But in the meantime, I can still draw. Think I may do that now, actually.

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