Feeling Sorry For Clouds

I was taking a walk after dinner last night. It was about an hour before sunset and the westering sun was low on the horizon but still shining brightly. A few clouds were drifting lazily by. They weren’t the puffy white cumulus variety, but rather stretched out and gray: shapeless, lacking form and definition. They weren’t associated with any approaching or departing storms, so they were most likely going to just fizzle out and dissipate somewhere to the east with nary so much as a sprinkle to show for their very existence. And I thought to myself, I feel sorry for those clouds. Is that a weird thing to admit?

These poor guys will never amount to anything. (Courtesy of weatherreport.com).

I know clouds don’t have feelings, but I couldn’t help thinking that the ones dotting the sky last night just weren’t living up to their potential, and it saddened me. If I were a cloud, I’d want to be a rainmaker, you know? I’d want to make a grand entrance, dark and stormy, and have people notice me. Unleash a few bolts of lightning, a couple of claps of thunder. Loud ones, so people would jump. I’d want to feel like I had purpose. I would love to be the cloud that dumped the first rain on a parched area in weeks: an ender of droughts, an irrigator of fields. I’d want to fill up a thirsty man’s canteen or douse an out-of-control wildfire. Even if I couldn’t precipitate, at the very least, I’d like to spark a child’s imagination. I’d want some kid somewhere far below lying on his back looking up at me and seeing a tiger or a dragon or a stick of cotton candy from the county fair. I would want to be something, anything, other than those poor clouds I saw last night, the ones who will never amount to anything.

If you’re going to be a cloud, be a cloud. Know what I mean?

Now, it’s true that I’d had a couple of rum and Cokes earlier, around dinnertime, but I swear I was lucid. Perhaps my imagination was in high gear because, earlier in the day, I’d participated in a short story writing contest. There’s a website, Writer’s Weekly, that caters to freelancers and is affiliated with Booklocker, a POD self-publishing company. Four times a year they sponsor a 24-hour short story contest – the entry fee is $5, it’s limited to 500 participants, and the top three prizes are $500, $300, and $200. Plus, there are loads of “door prizes” for honorable mentions and random entries. It’s an intriguing concept: at a predetermined time (10 AM PDT Saturday, in this case) an e-mail appears in your in-box with the first paragraph of a story, and you’ve got 24 hours to finish it. And by short story, I mean short story – it couldn’t exceed 900 words. For some reason I find novels easier to write than short stories, but they are something I want to work on improving, because it’s far easier to get a short story published in an anthology or magazine than it is to sell a novel. I had fun with the contest last year, and am pleased with what I came up with yesterday. In six short weeks, they’ll announce the winners. Fingers crossed!

I am also finally ready to begin work on a new novel. I finished No Time For Kings in October of 2009 and have spent a year and a half editing and polishing it and trying to find an agent or publisher interested in it. I’ve had a few bites but haven’t landed anybody yet, and am seriously looking at self-publishing my book now (possibly using Booklocker). There used to be a stigma associated with self-publishing (and I’ll admit, I was against it myself), but times have changed and the “traditional” publishing industry is nothing like it was even ten years ago. For a little over $500 I can get my book published, and then start marketing and selling it. That will free me up to start writing again – something I sorely miss. I have a great idea for a new character-driven novel that would take place in Seattle and Portland in 1991 and involve disaffected youth clinging to their ideals while the grunge scene+Microsoft+Starbucks  is exploding all around them, changing the Emerald City from a blue-collar town barely on the radar to a hip and trendy destination. I’m excited to begin writing again, and hope to start very soon.

Speaking of writing, thanks to all who voted in my last poll. I asked which topics you’re most interested in reading about, and the winner – with 44% – is “other.” LOL. “Current events with a twist” and “more personal themes” also received some interest, so I’ll do my best to come up with more of those types of posts.

One of the “other” requests asked for me to write about complisults again. I mentioned them briefly in a previous entry, but would love to touch on them in more depth now. Complisults are, in essence, backhanded compliments – or more directly, insults disguised as compliments. I first heard the term used on NBC’s Community and immediately latched onto it. Here are a few examples of complisults:

  • “Great haircut! It really brings out your gray.”
  • “You look thinner than usual today!”
  • “Love the Hawaiian shirt. It draws attention away from those sandals you’re wearing.”
  • “You drive the coolest minivan in the neighborhood!”

Mastering the complisult is an art form. The complisulter must deliver it smoothly and in such a way that the complisultee will confusedly believe he or she has been complimented for at least a few minutes or, ideally, several hours. They may have a nagging feeling that something wasn’t “quite right” with your words and then, at some point, they’ll have that “a-ha!” moment usually followed by a “hey, wait a minute…” It’s great fun, and I urge you to try it. Just be sure the person you are complisulting can take a joke (or is smaller than you and, therefore, not likely to be able to cause much bodily harm).

Happy complisulting!


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

25 thoughts on “Feeling Sorry For Clouds

  1. This is probably the best post you’ve written today!

    Just practicing my complisulting, how’d I do? Can’t believe that’s how your poll turned out! Strange results. Other? LOL. Good luck figuring that out.

    Your new book idea sounds really cool, so I hope now and then you keep us posted about your thoughts on self-publications and the new WIP. Have fun writing, Mark! Sounds like you’re getting your groove back!


    1. Some of the “others” were “all of the above” – which is a compliment without the slightest bit of insult thrown in, so I’ll take it! 🙂

      I’ll definitely keep y’all posted on the status of my writing stuff.


  2. LOVE the idea of the “complisult.” And I understand about clouds. I once wrote a light poem (humorous, I hope) “On the Personalities of Couds” — and one of these days, I might even get up the nerve to post it.


  3. I know I don’t comment much, but I read every entry & really enjoy them. Dare I say “look forward to them”? You have a great talent.

    The Rum & Coke part made me snort wine up my nose. Thanks a lot!


    1. Aww, thanks! Ironically, I *just* read a post of yours yesterday and tried to note it but couldn’t because I have a “private” account. Just know that I keep up with you as best I can, too! 🙂


  4. “I’d want to make a grand entrance, dark and stormy, and have people notice me. Unleash a few bolts of lightning, a couple of claps of thunder. Loud ones, so people would jump.”

    OMG, Mark….that was brilliant! It made me HOWL!

    I adore clouds, and find myself looking up at them often.

    LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! the idea of complisult! I gotta remember that one.

    Good luck with the short story contest, buddy! I bet you’re gonna win!


    1. Ron, my friend, work on those complisult skills of yours and you’ll go far, I guarantee! Thanks for stopping by and leaving another great comment. Hope your weekend was a blast!


  5. “If you’re going to be a cloud, be a cloud. Know what I mean?”

    Dude. That’s deep.

    So a complisult is kind of like a frenemy. In fact, a frenemy is exactly the type of person who is likely to use a complisult.

    Can’t wait to hear more about your new novel!


      1. Mmmm. Word porn. I love it.

        Let me try this complisulting thing…

        Wow, I love your new haircut. It really brings out your forehead.

        You’re so beautiful. I bet no one even notices you’re not that bright.

        Hanging out with you is so rewarding. It always makes me feel like the smartest person in the room.

        Hey, that’s fun! 🙂


  6. Haha! YAY for more complisult fun. Makes me feel like I’m hanging out with my passive aggressive family.
    I’d want to be a rainmaker, too. No point floating around up there not doing much of anything!


  7. Mark–
    I enjoyed the post–I LOVE clouds…in fact, we used to lay on the ground, my friends and I, and dissolve them…with our minds. It was fun. 🙂 (And to think, I’ve never once tried weed…)

    Anyway, your writing always leaves me feeling…like I just passed some much needed gas.

    (did I do that right? the complisult?)


  8. Love Jane’s complisult! But seriously, congratuations on your writing goals. I’m trying to keep myself motivated and am no where near close to completing anything. So, good for you!


  9. That writing competition sounds pretty cool. Even if you don’t win, I’d love to read your entry. 🙂

    My favorite compisult is something someone at work said one day…
    “You did a great job on that presentation. Nothing like that last time.”

    And just FYI, I read “compisult” as “compislut.” Which, to me, is a backhanded compliment that calls someone a slut.

    “Of course he asked you out on a second date! You didn’t sleep with him on the first, like you usually do.” [there is a silent “you dirty slut” at the end of that complislut]


Add Your Two Cents!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: