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The Writing Process -- Read, Listen, Watch and Start!
The Writing Process-- Read, Listen, Watch & Start!!


It has long been said that 'all great writers are great readers' (or put slightly differently – "If you're a writer, you're a reader first!"). It is not only a very wise quote but a very accurate one as well. Most, if not all, writers who have risen to any prominence are all people who have been avid readers. Many of these same people have also been good listeners and observers as well.

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The Groundwork

What it sets out to do is to get you thinking, get you started on the road to believing you can, and actually doing your own writing. Because you can if you think you can. I am sure you can because so many others I have worked with have done it.

Even if you have never written before, you can do it. You have a sense of humor, don't you? Well, that's a start, now start doing plenty of reading of a wide variety of books dealing with all types of humor, writing generally and also books that simply have a good story. Everything and anything polishes your writing skills.

Humor is very subjective, however. Therefore, absolutely no one has all the answers as to how to write comedy, whatever type it is. Humor always needs to be fresh anyway-- freshly written, freshly creative and tweaked, not the same old take on stories, puns and jokes.

This article and the tips and techniques it contains are intended to moisten your appetite for the task ahead, to help you get started, not to limit your creativity or natural craziness by pointing you in only one direction.

Writing, as in so many things, is mainly about your mindset, i.e. including your thoughts as to whether or not you can do it. The truth is: if you think you canyou can! But the reverse (unfortunately) is also true: if you think you can'tyou never will!

Always keep your eye out for tips from your two main teachers as well. They are (i) reading and listening to other humorists, and (ii) your very own writing and experiences.

Why visualization is so crucial
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Visualization is so crucial in many ways, and never more so, than in the case of humor. Aren't most jokes pictures? Word pictures that is. The teller's words creating images in the listeners' minds.

The humor is not in the collection of words the writer puts together -- it's in the scene that appears in the listeners' minds as a direct result of the words! It's the skillful use of words that acts as the tool to create the image -- but it's definitely the image that causes the laughs.

The writer must create a clear vision in the reader's or listener's mind, one that causes him or her to chuckle, giggle, and smile. A writer cannot literally place a banana peel under the reader's shoe, cause her to trip over her own feet and go falling over the edge, making stupid gestures along the way. A writer can only use words to summon up situations and discourse that brings rib-splitting, bone-tickling, knee-slapping guffaws, or at the very least a giggle from the readers.

You can breathe a sigh of relief -- or some of you will! You yourself don't have to be funny at all as a person, that's simply not that important. What you have to be able to do as writers is to make your readers see your characters and situations as funny.

You should study, as soon as you can a writer, who was the expert among experts, on utilizing visualization to create and develop his characters to the level where just about anything they did was amusing, intriguing and sometimes hilarious. His characters would manipulate one another, interacting with one another resulting in tremendous comical effects. He could truly understand the human condition, what motivated people and made them tick.

His name was William Shakespeare and he lived from approximately 1564 to 1616 (a very short 52 years).

Shakespeare was a true genius when 'painting' pictures in people's minds, creating many visual masterpieces and endless characters, which still today appear as bright and involving as when they were initially written. No harm in trying to emulate him!

A great thing about the human mind, too, is that it is capable of being extremely elastic – which is a great aid to we humorists – readily accepting both distortions and impossibilities (for examples consider some of the weird and funny dreams you might have had).

The best ways to gain confidence

The very best way to gain in confidence in your ability to do something is in the DOING of IT! Okay, okay, you say, "that's all very well but what if you're nervous and fearful of doing it"? Well, friend, although I'd love to, I can't help you there, apart from telling you that you simply need to do what you may be fearful of – the sooner the better. You'll be thrilled at the confidence you then gain.

No one is saying it's easy and I understand because I once stood in your shoes. That's why I feel I have the right to speak in this way because I was once there -- thinking I couldn't, being fearful of looking foolish, thinking people would never laugh at my words.

But I did it and they did laugh and they still do! Start off small as I did. When you've done one or two (or three) small writing tasks that make you smile then you'll have the confidence to take the next step, then the next and after that another bigger step.

A number of times over my writing years I've been faced with impossible deadlines, impossible tasks (making politics amusing isn't easy – you may laugh at some politicians but they are not genuinely amusing, believe me). But because I'd been faced with 'impossible' tasks a few times (and been victorious over them) I'd built up enough confidence in myself to realize that I could complete yet another 'impossible' task if given half a chance.

I can say with confidence that it's more than likely that you will be able to as well.

It never fails to amaze me what we human beings can achieve, particularly when we have more faith in ourselves than the words of the 'knockers' who line up all too willingly to tell (or shout at) us that we won't be able to do it.

A 'Hobby' or a 'Career'?


The reward can simply be in the'doing' of something, whether we get paid to do it or not. Whether we pursue something as a hobby or as a full or part-time career can be determined either by personal choice or necessity.

Doing what you love and sharing that pleasure and knowledge with others can be an absolutely wonderful and invigorating experience – a true joy. An all round win-win situation for all concerned; (i) for you, it can not only be an uplifting emotional experience but a great financial benefit as well, while (ii) at the same time others stand to gain benefit from your knowledge, experience and passion.

You need to have a Plan

Now I'm not going to get all technical with you here and don't intend to suggest you spend hours drafting a lot of detail. BUT we strongly suggest, however, that you put together a simple plan (written plans are preferable because they focus your mind more and act as reminders of certain details and events).

There is a great old quote which goes something like this, If you fail to plan – you plan to fail! It may appear as a cliché to you but ignore it at your peril!

Also, if you know, or have any real idea of what you want from your career (or at least think you do), you're much more likely to get it than if you are just drifting and thinking "wouldn't that be nice if I did …" ordreaming of just falling into a career that will make your name and fortune.

Why not plan to model yourself after a writer you admire and whose career you'd like to emulate? Someone writing in a style which you could see yourself writing in? A writer who has achieved a level of success that you would love to reach.

But make sure it's someone who is currently active in their field of expertise – in other words a live mentor. Someone you can actually watch and listen to and maybe even ask advice of. To put it bluntly dead people cannot help you!


ë Write your goals out (basing them on your selected mentor writer)

ë Make your goals as specific as you can (these will depend to a large degree as to what stage you are at in your career – covering such items as; (a) You will write daily, (b) how many words you will write each day, (c) short and long term goals should be included.)

ë Keep to goals within your control (i.e. the level of your expertise, what area you will specialize in, your output and how often and when you will write)

ë A MUST HAVE – a time line for each goal (these can always be adjusted but at least have them).

Doing it for fun – when the reward is simply in the doing

Sometimes doing it just for the fun is enough reward and that's what you need to believe while you are starting out so you won't quit too soon!

Yes, we all need income from somewhere but nothing, absolutely nothing, happens overnight so realizing that you can still have fun writing and doing humor (before you get paid to do it) is important for your future writing career.

You could write jokes for friends, write short amusing stories for local papers or magazines. If you have a good imagination (something my parents tried to stifle in me but failed) you can create your own offbeat characters and write great stories. You could write some useful tips for a company magazine. Keep in mind that the important thing is to start writing, so your writings don't necessarily have to be humorous to start with – the important thing is the starting!

Something I found went down well is taking some of my more bizarre and interesting life experiences (especially ones I'd learned something from) and submitted them to particular magazines or e-zines. This not only helps you but other people.
Humor as a group effort

Humor writing as either a hobby or career can be a very insular existence, but it is a lot of fun on a shared basis as well. Group creation can be extremely encouraging and invigorating.

When I worked in a political office years ago, some fellow staff and I (to pass the time on late or all-night sittings/sessions) would hold joke sessions. We put together some quite good humor routines in our time while sharing a lot of fun along the way. That little bit of competition added to the fun and also prepared me for my writing future.

Often the reward is in the doing. Naturally, the reward is only increased when you share it with others, especially family and friends.

Doing it for money

There's nothing at all wrong with being paid for what you enjoy or create either. Sometimes when you feel tapped out, the need to write to pay some bills or buy something you really want (or possibly something for someone else) is the greatest motivator of all.

While writing is definitely fun for me, the benefit I receive, of being remunerated for what I enjoy doing has heartened me immeasurably at times when I really needed that extra lift.

The most likely markets

So you're asking yourself where, and how, am I going to market my material?

I can tell you truthfully that the possibilities are almost endless – but it's dependent to some extent on your own resourcefulness, originality and sense of creativity. Find the need where you live and fill it right now!

A couple of suggestions for you;

J Magazines – always need 'fillers' and/or short articles

J Special Humorous Magazines Sections – often competitions as well. Magazines and newspapers never have or get enough funny segments.

J Newspaper columns – the advantage to you is that you live in your community so your humor will be topical and fresh.

J Radio and TV – they have a lot of time space to fill and (from what I hear) are in desperate need of topical and typical news humor.

J Corporate & Professional Speaking Circuit – don't think they wouldn't want to speak to you, contact the National Speakers' Association branch in your area.

Deciding what to charge

I have no wish to dishearten you, but at the same time, I firmly believe that you must start out facing reality -- there is no benefit in self-delusion.

It's all very nice dreaming about stardom and the huge salaries made by top comedians and writers, but remember it's taken them years of practice and experience to get where they are paid so handsomely for their material.

It's better to charge less than you think is fair to start with. In that way, you are much less likely to miss out on jobs, contacts and experience. In time, you can be selective not only with regard to what you charge but whom with to work..

You could commence by finding out what other writers have charged for similar work and give a discount off that price to start with.

Starting off free?

A great way to get a start -- as a matter of act it's the best way to start if you want to commence immediately!

Don't think of it as working for free but more as 'donating' your services and as such giving yourself an opportunity to promote your skills -- that's the way I viewed it and have advised many people to do the same over the years. Never forget the promotional value of 'donating' your services.

It's all very well to insist that because you are worth something (you are) that you are going to keep your services to yourself until you get paid for them (very foolish). If you take that line, you could very well end up keeping all your jokes, stories and puns to yourself for the rest of your life. What's the point in that?

Give away a few samples – jokes, stories etc. Get feedback and input and your writing career will begin to flourish.

Building up from those small beginnings to bigger career making successes

No matter how you are making your income now, no matter what your career presently is, comedy/humor writing as a career is always possible and open to you. The big tip is to BEGIN YOUR COMEDY CAREER RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE NOW!

You may dream of making it in the clubs of New York or going to Hollywood to write for the stars (or be one yourself) but most writers start in their own home towns. Hollywood or New York may be your goal but take the clever path and built a solid foundation on familiar territory (it's wiser and safer).

In assembling your humor writing career, you start with small successes, move up to slightly bigger ones and gradually transform these into larger and larger successes as your skills and experience build.

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