Friday, June 6, 2008

Comedians and Writers Alike

I had a nice little article written up about Common Courtesy and how we should practice using it. It's a lost art form, you know?

Instead of posting it, I decided on something not as long and maybe that could hit home with a lot of folks. Writing, whether it is a hobby or a profession, is a personal endeavor. Much like being a stand up comedian, it can be sink or swim.

Here's the thing: You can be a good comedian and never get out of your home state. You can be the next George Carlin, but nobody other than the locals know your name. You can have the energy and imagination of Robin Williams and the delivery of Bill Cosby, but that guarantees you nothing.

Word of mouth can take you somewhere. But, more often than not, the right person at the right time has to be there when you are bringing the house down and people are doubled over in stitches from laughter. It's the Big Break Theory.

You could toil in the bars and the local theaters for years before someone of merit stumbles upon you. It's happened liked this many times for comedians (and musicians as well). It just takes that one moment in time when all the planets seem to be lined up and the stars are their brightest and the pretty blond in the first row REALLY is making eyes at you.

Just like that, you can become an overnight sensation.

But, what about all the work you've put into it; what about the many nights of sleeping in a hotel where the roaches may as well be paying guests; what about those nights of sitting up, writing jokes, hoping one day one of them will be your calling card, your 'Get er done'? Is the time spent honing your ability to write and tell jokes worth it? Is the time spent learning new ways to deliver the punch lines worth the wait?

I'm sure they are.

But, wait, I'm not done. What about those times when no one laughed at your jokes and your ten or twenty minute set feels like it takes a year? What about when you hear someone heckle you because they don't think you are funny? Is it worth it? Is it worth those near crushing blows to keep doing it, one gig after another?

Many successful comedians will tell you it is well worth it, even when no one thought they were any good. Pay your dues—that's what they'll say.

Writers, well that's different, right?

Nah, I don't think so. There are so many similarities to writers and comedians.

Comedians tell jokes, writers write and somewhere along the way, someone told them they could be good at it, that they should try to make it in the business, that they should do amateur night or submit a story to a small e-zine.

So, they did. Maybe someone thought they were funny enough to ask him or her back for another appearance. Just maybe someone thought that story you wrote was worthy enough to be placed in his or her magazine, even if it is a For the Love market, where you didn't get paid.

See the comparisons?

Let me take it a little further. Maybe you spent many nights staying up, writing that story in hopes that it will be the next big thing only to be rejected time and time again. It's like playing the clubs and not getting into the big auditoriums. It's kind of frustrating and disheartening. Yet, the people who came to the shows or read your stories liked it. But, how much can fanfare take you if the big time backers weren't willing to take a chance on them or you?

How many years and rejections are spent following the dream of being a well-known writer, if not well paid? How many frustrations and thoughts of quitting cycled through your mind after yet another 'no' on the resume?

But, then it happened. Someone somewhere read your story at just the right time and it was what he or she was looking for. Much like the comedian on stage caught the eye of someone a little more prominent in the business, some editor or publisher saw something in your story, in you, to give you a shot.

The next thing you know, you're a published writer and folks begin to ask you for stories. You may have even made some money at it.

Now, was it worth it? Was it worth the brain racking, the rejections (after rejections, after rejections), the editing, the re-writing, the staying up until four in the morning working on something because you don’t want to lose the groove you were in? Was it worth the folks saying you might want to give it up and try something else? Was it worth it all?

I can’t answer those questions for you, but if you want to find out, then put the pen to paper or put your fingers on those ASDFJKL; keys and get to typing. But, no matter what happens, promise yourself one thing for me. If someone says you can’t do it, don’t give up. If someone says that your story is utter crap, don’t give up. If someone says they wish they had two copies of your story so they could do some rather unholy things to the paper it was printed on, just smile and let it go.

Learn from your mistakes and move on, but never give up. Do you think Robin Williams gave up? What about Larry The Cable Guy? Eddie Murphy?

How about folks more to our liking? Do you think Stephen King gave up? Gary Braunbeck? Jack Ketchum?

I think you get the picture. It’s hard work and sometimes you need to laugh about it to keep from crying about it. But, if you persevere, you just may get somewhere.

I’m AJ and I’m out.

1 comment:

  1. Dogged perseverance is maybe the most important talent a writer (or any artist) can have. Wise words my friend. Wise words.