100 Hours of Humo(u)r – Hour 4: The World’s Biggest Myth About Writing and Humor

By Dave Fox

100hours-logo4Some people are showing up for these “100 Hours of Humo(u)r” because they want to be entertained. Others have loftier goals – of learning how to write hilariously. Then, there are those in the middle – who have humor writing aspirations but are meek about pursuing them because they’ve fallen for an unfortunate myth.

So before I launch into any heavy-duty humor writing tips, I want to talk in this hour’s article to that middle group. We need to clear the air on something.

Being a “gifted” or “talented” writer, and having a “natural sense of humor,” are overblown concepts. And at the risk of sounding melodramatic, I believe they’re destructive ideas. They scare people who aren’t yet so far along on their writing or comedic journeys into believing a chosen few of us were born with a superpower they don’t have.

People sometimes tell me I’m “lucky” to be a good writer. They mean this as a compliment, but what they’re suggesting is I just kind of wandered out of my mother’s womb one day and – *poof* – I got to become a professional writer! Effortlessly! How lucky!

Luck is what happens when you win the lottery. Skills, we get good at through practice. Would you tell your doctor he or she is “lucky” to know how to do brain surgery? Would you tell your auto mechanic he or she is “lucky” to know how to fix cars? Muhammad Ali was not the greatest boxer in history because he was lucky. He got that way by training, working out, and getting punched in the face a lot in his early days.

Far more than a gift, writing is a skill. It might come more easily to some people than others, but like playing an instrument or a sport, or working as a computer programmer, plumber, pastry chef,  or rocket scientist – the more you practice, the better you get.

The same holds true for humor. Again, I’ll concede it comes more naturally to some people than others. Some people are born or raised with personalities that ooze quirkiness. Some have attitudes or outlooks that enable them to spot humor more readily. And, for reasons I’ll explain some other time in the next 98 hours, if you happen to have Attention Deficit Disorder like I do, that puts you at a distinct advantage in the comedy writing world. But regardless of whether you have such good fortune, humor is a skill you can learn and improve upon over time.

So as we catapult ourselves into this 100 Hours of Humo(u)r debacle, if you’re interested in reaching new levels of literary or comedic awesomeness, please gently tell your writing insecurities they need to go elsewhere. Learn what you can from the free tips here, or buy yourself a present and splash out for my online humor writing course. Enter the contests – even if you think you have no chance of winning. Maybe winning isn’t the point. Maybe the point is, this weekend, you let go of the “gift” myth and start practicing.

Write. Rewrite. Welcome constructive criticism with an open mind. Exercise patience with this gradual process. Do all of that – over and over. That’s how you become a great humor writer.

So hey, if you’ve got writing and/or comedic aspirations, enjoy the mayhem. We’re in hour four of a 100-hour humor rave. Have fun. Learn stuff. And if you’re in Singapore, please send beer and pizza.

Published on Saturday, March 2, 2013

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