Writers often publish advice about how to write. I’m not going to do that – well, at least not this time. I don’t know what I might do tomorrow, let alone a year or two from now.
Instead, I would like to share with you my own personal habits when writing a short piece, such as a humor essay or a short-short story. I am not about to advise anyone else what to do. You see, I am not what you would call a naturally prolific writer. I write the same way I read – slowly. And oh yes, I have a mild case of Attention Deficit Disorder, in addition to genetically inherited long-term low-grade Depression. This combination makes trying to do anything complicated even more complicated, if you know what I mean. So please don’t use me as a creative writing role model. If you do, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
These are my more or less habitual steps when I’m trying to write a short piece. By the way, I love to exaggerate when I write humor. Just saying.
1. Get a good idea
2. Decide the idea is stupid. Try to think of another idea.
3. Go out for a walk or shopping or something and pay attention to everything around me, hoping something interesting will happen and that it will be something I can write about without causing trouble.
4. Surf the Internet for ideas.
5. Give up for now, sit down, put my feet up on an ottoman and close my eyes.
6. A brilliant idea pops into my head.
7. Spend the next hour thinking of ways to make that idea really funny, while watching TV at the same time.
8. The next day, think about it again several times and come up with more funny stuff.
9. Sit down at the computer. Start to write. After a few paragraphs, stop and think up a title. Try a few titles. Find one that would attract ME if I were a reader. Use it.
10. Write some more.
11. Read what I have written. Yuck! It’s awful. So is the title, which I immediately scrap, even though I have saved the piece on my computer under that title. Don’t bother to change the title of the document on the computer.
12. Do some severe cutting, pasting, adding and editing. Take a couple of hours to do this, even though the piece is only about 500 words long. Make up a new, much funnier title.
13. Get tired of doing this. Save my work and set it aside. Play a few online games of Solitaire, Wordament, Mahjong or Jigsaw.
14. The next day, read the piece again. It’s better than it was, but still not the Thurber Prize material I hoped for.
15. Do some more cutting, pasting, adding and editing.
16. Read it again. Decide that’s as good as it’s going to get.
17. Look in the ever growing stash of stock photos on my portable hard drive. Choose one or two that more or less illustrate the masterpiece I have just written, or that at least would be funny additions.
18. Post my masterpiece, with the illustration(s), online. Post links on Facebook, Twitter and every other place I can think of, and hope I get some readers. If anyone likes my work, feel flattered. If it doesn’t get much attention, threaten my computer with a fist, mutter a few words my mother never taught me and eat two double-chocolate muffins.