“When writing an academic essay or a speech, always start with a joke, anecdote, rhetorical question, or quote that ties into the theme of your essay or speech.” That was me, what I said for 20 years teaching English to teenagers. I wanted to open up this blog with a joke that relates to the topic. I mean, take my own advice right? I’ve never been one to just know jokes or be able to remember them off the top of my head so I went googling for a joke that ties into the writing process. My search came up with “how to write jokes,” “the parts of a joke,” and “unjoking your jokes.” Me being me, well, of course I found myself spending an hour looking at the technique of joke writing and what exactly does “unjoke” mean? To my pleasure, it came from Seinfeld, one of my all-time favorite shows about how Seinfeld deconstructed stand-up comedy in the 90’s with a show about nothing.
I thought to myself, ‘self, you can write a joke, NO PROBLEM!’ Just research the techniques and strategies and then write it. Then, everyone will think you are SO smart for writing your own joke as a lead in to discuss the writing process. My inner self always has a lot of confidence that never translates to my outer self. They seem to be in constant battle with each other.
One of my favorite articles on writing jokes I came across had a list of seven things to think about in the title. Anyone who knows me well knows that I will click on anything where a list is involved. I love to make lists daily and oftentimes I have lists of lists of lists working. The other appealing thing about this article was the author not only gave me a list, but he started out his article with a joke about writing jokes. Now come on, this guy wasn’t even one of my students in the last 20 years! He asked his readers if they had their shoebox full of bar napkins with the jokes written on them before they started to go through the list. This guy is my spirit animal in that he even had a picture of himself on this site and had a note to click on his face or his tie to find out more. What do I love more than lists? Clicking on a face, but then you tell me I can click on the tie? YAS!!!!
The best part was while I was excited to read through the list of seven things to help me write my joke, the writer is joking as he is giving the seven things to do. I mean, talk about an article about joke writing! He does get serious later in the article by explaining less is more when joke writing and typically there are two sentences introducing people to the joke then the punch line and there needs to be a punch word. I’ve never heard of the punch word before but they do exist in every good joke.
Now don’t forget, my purpose of this blog was to write about the writing process. I’ve been on a bit of a serious life journey the last nine months. But this particular journey actually started way back when I was a young lass at the age of five. I wanted to be a writer all the way back then…that was forty years ago. I used to use my stuffed animals and dolls as my writing staff for the magazine that I owned called “Stuffed Animals Ink.” Yes, “Ink.” Later, when I learned how to write better, I made it ‘Ink’ instead of ‘Inc,” because I didn’t know that ‘Inc’ stood for incorporation or even what that meant. I just know I used my mom’s old magazine and saw in ‘Inc” somewhere but when I learned to spell, I thought I should take over that guys job since he didn’t know how to spell the word “Ink” for crying out loud!
I continued to want to be a writer around age eight or nine when I signed up to win a set of encyclopedias at our local fair. I know, if that doesn’t scream that I was fated to be a nerd. Guess what? It’s pretty cool being a nerd because I WON!!!! For years, I would randomly pick an encyclopedia and then flip to a page and then I’d read the article and then proceed to summarize it pretending to be a journalist on the topic. It was at this age that while other pre-teens were having slumber parties and freezing bras for the first one asleep, that I was writing about my pretend slumber parties, creating my own character of friends. Some of you that don’t know me may be tearing up right now about the sad girl with no friends who was never invited to a slumber party and had to survive on making up her own stories. Please, no need for tears my dear reader friends. I was invited to slumber parties. I went to one of them and never went again. I was also invited to pre-teen and teen parties and maybe went to one or two but then preferred to be alone to read and write and watch my TV shows. I’ve always been fascinated by stories and all the parts of the stories: the characters, places, time period, beginning, middle, and end. I used to spend my summers in my family home basement reading Sweet Valley High Books. Not to mention my dad thought I was an enigma because I would go to my school’s library and bring home stacks of poetry and literature to read. My mom and dad were WAY more hip than me and so much cooler in so many ways.
But I loved my stories right up to now, still love them and prefer watching, reading, listening to, or writing stories to actual real life. Now I feel like some of my reader pals want to dissect and psychoanalyze the poor woman who prefers those stories to real people. I’ll do you one better; I am happily married and in love with my husband and we have no human kids but instead have eight cats, our fur babies. Now many of you have probably rolled your eyes with thoughts of ‘Oh, okay, I get it now, she’s a cat lady.’ Yep! I totally am a cat lady. If I could figure out how to put a cat emoji in my blog, I’d do it now.
Back to writing, yes, I went from a five year old magazine mogul of “Stuffed Animals Ink” to a nine year old journalist of encyclopedia articles to a college student who took every creative writing course she could find. But I got married at age 18 and reality set in and I had to get that dreaded day job. You know, like everyone else has to do. So I went for teaching but found myself in advertising, communications, VP of a credit union (which is so darn funny since I really despise math like a cat hates a mouse), and finally teaching the last 20 years. Don’t’ get me wrong, I continued to write but much less than I used to when I was a child.
Back to the nine month journey, so yeah, the past nine months has been about me getting back to that kid who loved her stories. Lots of time to read, write, research, and do some art. I pulled from all those jobs I recently listed to create my own business, MYS ED LLC, where I combine education and mystery writing as well as keeping my hand in the game of education as an adjunct working with teachers. I’ve had some educational articles published and a few that are coming out soon. I’ve had a couple articles on writing published and now am working through the first pass of my first completed cozy mystery book. Talk about a learning process!
Oh yeah, this blog was supposed to be about the writing process. In actuality, this entire post IS about the writing process. At least about MY writing process! Typically my process consists of me attempting to look something up quickly, only to end up spending between one to three hours digging around different sites, taking notes, analyzing, and pondering. Next, I typically free write and see what comes out of my brain, then check it out and take what I can use. And those lists…I have to create lists; it’s my survival tactic. So I’ll list out some things my story will cover and why. I’m a planster…a combo of planner/plotter…it depends really on what I’m writing as to my approach. If you look back at this blog, you’ll see I’ve been a bit all over the map. That’s what the writing process is like for me. It’s like unfolding one of those old paper maps (you know, before we had navigational women who speak to us) and laying it out and jumping all over the place.
Speaking of jumping all over the place, back to my joke…you know the one I was going to begin this post with:
Why do paper maps never win poker tournaments?
….They always fold.