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How one humor writer went from 0 to 30+ published bylines in just one year

...And how you can, too.

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Sometimes it’s hard to understand why anyone would want to be a writer. As journalist and screenwriter Gene Fowler once said, “Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”

Or, as novelist Paulo Coelho once wrote: “Writing is a socially acceptable form of being naked in public.”

OK, I don’t like being naked in public. But I do have a passion for humor writing, and recently, I’ve started publishing my work. In the past, I was always writing funny bits for family and friends. I found outlets for my humor as a marketing and communications executive. I wrote everything from press releases and community magazine articles to awards ceremony speeches and ad copy. I crafted fake ads that never saw the light of day, parody commercials created from outtakes, satirical awards, and retirement speeches as well as funny out-of-office replies. Frankly, I was surprised that human resources didn’t send me a pink slip. But clearly, humor was my métier.

Eventually, I started writing general, satirical pieces about things I found funny. Grocery shopping on Thanksgiving Eve, summer camp for adults, kids’ homework assignments, a family trip to an eco-lodge in Costa Rica. These essays became the basis for a satirical holiday newsletter – and when people I didn’t even know started asking to be put on our family’s holiday newsletter mailing list, I started taking myself seriously.

 

“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of your pants to the seat of the chair.”

Mary Heaton Vorse, American journalist

I spent a lot of time with the seat of my pants in the seat of my chair. But that didn’t mean I was writing anything. After the pandemic set in, and I finished binge-watching Tiger King, The Great British Baking Show, and Schitt’s Creek, I went down more rabbit holes than Bugs Bunny.

The internet is my procrastination of choice. In mere minutes, you (I) can go from reading a thought-provoking, well-written article about the human condition to clickbait about Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker channeling vampires in their blood-sucking new selfie. Not to mention laundry, petting the cat, snacks, scrolling Instagram, and playing solitaire.

It’s also a great tool, not just for correcting grammar and typos (which you should always check before submitting, trust me) but for research. I have looked up everything from how many cicadas make up 4 pounds to how much blood was used to create the elevator scene in The Shining (Between 200 to 300 gallons, in case it comes up in any party conversation or trivia contest). But you shouldn’t use “researching a piece” as an excuse for not putting finger to keyboard and actually writing.

I had surfed around before the pandemic and thought it might be fun to take a class from The Groundlings or Second City. I had subscribed to receive notifications about upcoming classes but had always resisted enrolling. The thought of fighting traffic to get to class wasn’t appealing and, quite frankly, I was intimidated at the thought of actually having to put my work up against other, probably funnier, writers.

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Then I got a notification from the Groundlings about a virtual class. The class, about creating memorable characters, was being taught by actors Ben Falcone and Melissa McCarthy. The cost was minimal. I signed up.

That class was magic. It was fun, funny, and interactive. Of course, we strayed from the curriculum, but I didn’t care. I was learning little tidbits about creating characters and having fun.

After that first class, I went back to both the Groundlings and Second City websites and discovered that both companies were now offering online classes. I immediately signed up for Writing Satire for the Internet, Level 1 with Second City.

 

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