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Wayback Wednesday: Successful Writing Secrets

Successful Writing Secrets

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2004 (Originally published June 2004)

On Wednesdays, rather than rehashing a news story, I reprint one of my old columns. I've got 15 years' worth of the damn things, so there's no point in letting them sit moldering in a box in my garage. At least not the good ones.

Despite my complaints that I don't have many readers or get enough feedback from them, I actually have some great readers who write to me on a regular basis.

Some of the more persistent readers ask me if I would like to refinance my home, buy male enhancement pills, or tell me that they know of another reader -- usually a hot Russian woman -- who want to meet me.

It's feedback like this that makes my life of writing worthwhile. Of course, getting paid would make it more worthwhile, but that's a topic for another column.

But occasionally, some people say they are breaking into writing, and would like to know if I could offer any tips.

"How far out do you write your columns?" they ask.

Way far out, man. It's, like, groovy, you know.

"No, no. How far in advance do you write your columns?"

I'd like to say I write my columns weeks in advance, and that I am well prepared for any emergency. But I'd also like to say that I'm fabulously wealthy with abs you could grate cheese on.

Obviously neither are true. In fact, in true writer's fashion, I wait until the last possible minute to write my columns. At least, that's what my editors say.

So to answer the burning question, here is my weekly schedule for successful humor column writing:

Friday morning (the day after my deadline): Hmmm, I need a topic.

Tuesday afternoon (two days before new deadline): Hmmm, I still need a topic.

Thursday, 5:00 pm (7 hours before deadline): OH CRAP, I NEED A TOPIC!!

5:01: Cruise the Internet before I go home. Maybe I can find a news story to think about during the ride home.

5:10: Nothing interesting happening today. Aren't stupid people filing lawsuits anymore? Maybe I can think of something on the way home.

5:11: Ooh, I haven't heard that song in a long time.

5:14: Or that one.

5:55: Oh good, I'm almost home. Now I can relax and -- OH CRAP, I STILL NEED A TOPIC!!

6:00: There are my kids. Maybe I could write about that time that -- no, every baby does that. How about the time when -- no, she'll already have enough therapy when she's older. Don't you hate it when -- nope, too Andy Rooney-ish.

6:01: Kiss my wife hello. Maybe I could -- not if I want to sleep in my own bed tonight.

6:20: Visit the dogs. Don't bother. Every humorist does at least 12 columns on dogs, and I'm getting close to my limit. Besides, how many new jokes can I do on eating, sleeping, and peeing?

6:25: Dinner time already? Man, I'm tired. Better stop at the bathroom first.

6:30: I'm too stressed to eat, I have to think of a topic.

6:31: So what's the deal with broccoli? No, too Jerry Seinfeld.

7:30: Maybe watching some TV will give me some ideas. But just for a few minutes.

8:30: Oh boy, "Scrubs" is on. That's a great show. I wish I could write as funny as that. Hmm, if only I was a. . . uh-oh, I'd better think of something fast.

8:31: I haven't seen this one. Maybe this will inspire me.

9:00: Okay, show's over. Now it's time to get serious. I need to buckle down and find a topic.

9:05: Hmm, my desk is a little messy. Maybe if I cleaned it off, I would get inspired.

9:10: Nope, nothing there. Let's try organizing my CDs.

9:25: Nothing there either. How about picking up some clothes.

10:00: I really need to clean my office more often. Let's see, I had something else to do -- OH CRAP, MY DEADLINE IS IN TWO HOURS!

10:30: Wait a minute, I keep a file on my computer of different topic ideas.

10:31: Hmmm. Fishing? No. House maintenance? No.

10:40: Think, doggone it, think!

10:50: Ah-ha, I've got it. I'll do one about beer drinkers vs. wine drinkers.

11:00: Actually, a beer sounds pretty good right now.

11:30: (BURP) I need to buy more beer tomorrow. Now, let's see. . . what was I doing?

11:35: OH CRAP, I NEED TO START WRITING. MY DEADLINE IS IN 25 MINUTES!!!

11:55: Hurry up, you stupid spell checker.

11:56: What do you mean, "Deckers" isn't in the spell checker dictionary?

11:58: Paste it into the email, hit Send.

11:59: Whew, made it just in time. I really need to start writing these things in advance so I don't have to go through this each week.

Friday morning: Hmmm, I need a topic.
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