I’ll admit it, in my short time on this planet, I have created a lot of content — content that I have little interest going back and enjoying. While one reason can be that I have way too much to do now: creating new material and reading, watching, and listening to other (more talented) people’s work; another more restraining reason is that I’m not convinced that it’ll be enjoyable.
I believe that anything I create creatively, I make for myself, I’m the first audience member. That is how I pick my creative projects. I want my investment in time to pay off down the line. I create it with the intention that one day in the future I can enjoy it again as an audience member who has lost all connection with the initial creation process.
While that is my encouragement to put in the time and effort — blood, sweat, and tears — I don’t know when it is safe to return to that piece of work. I worry that I’ll cringe. I worry that I’ll get critical. I’ll worry that I will see all the mistakes that I’ve made before and become unable to let go. Yet, I want to look back and see how far I’ve come. I am pulled and tugged by how I want to approach my corpus of old work.
I start to wonder what successful creators and artists approach this aspect of their work, the revisiting phase.
The Producer: Don’t Treat It Like A Job
Perhaps the most famous incident of an artist claiming to have not seen his own work is Johnny Depp in an interview with David Letterman.
Johnny Depp: In a way, once my job is done on the film it is really none of my business. […] I stay as far away as I possibly can. If I can I try to stay in a profoundest state of ignorant as possible. […] I just don’t like watching myself. I prefer the experience — I mean, making the film is great. The process is all fine, but then… he’s up there. You know what I mean?
To me, there is a sense of freedom to that: to be able to create without the need to critique his work. As a copywriter, I can personally relate to that. I have a workman’s mentality to a lot of stuff I create. I don’t write a blog post to necessary go back and enjoy while sipping mai tai on a beach. I write it. I got paid for it. My obligation is done. Obligations are not enjoyments, and if you see your work as such… you might lack the fulfillment in your craft that can propel you forward.
Perhaps that’s why some may think that Depp’s work today is derivative of his best from the past. If you start treating your creations as simply work, then yes, there is never a personal reason to go back and watch it. Then again, you should think about the work you are picking.
The Fan: Make it for Yourself First
Then on the other side of the spectrum is Samuel L. Jackson. There is a reason that Jackson is in so many fantastic movies, it’s because he has a brilliant philosophy for his work.
In an interview with GQ magazines, Samuel L. Jackson said, “I like watching myself in movies….if I am channel surfing and I pass a movie that I’m in, I’m watching it no matter what. I have a drawer of nothing but my DVDs, so if nothing else, I can just go in and pull one out and put it in.”
When asked why some actors don’t enjoy watching themselves, he responded, “That’s bullshit! Actors that say, “I can’t stand to watch myself”, well if you can’t stand to watch yourself then why the f*** do you expect someone to pay $13.50 to watch you?”
Like chefs who cook food for others, that they would not eat themselves, an artist who is unable to enjoy their work should be viewed with slight suspicion. As if to say, “Oh, your work isn’t even good enough for you?”
The Critic: Identify Errors
Sometimes you look back at your work and all you can see is the mistakes you’ve made. And in some pieces, the errors stand out more clearly than others. However, it’s sometimes better to bite the bullet, watch what you’ve made, and analyze why you dislike it.
In a 2011 interview with Time Out, Lady Gaga speaks about her current relationship with her hit Telephone: “I hate ‘Telephone.’ Is that terrible to say? It’s the song I have the most difficult time listening to. I can’t even watch the ‘Telephone’ video, I hate it so much. Beyonce and I are great together, but there are so many ideas in that video and all I see in that video is my brain throbbing with ideas and I wish I had edited myself a little bit more.”
Trust in your taste. If you don’t feel the way Samuel L. Jackson does when reading, watching, or listening to your own work, ask yourself what you dislike about it. If you are blatantly ignorant, you may never learn to improve. And if it is more than just a paycheque for you, like it clearly is for Lady Gaga, then you must analyze the errors and do better next time.
The Exhausted: Take A Long Break From It
If the idea of consuming your old work is causing you to cringe, it might simply be the fact that you haven’t had enough distance from it yet.
Talking to Rolling Stone back in 1993, Kurt Cobain stated: “It’s almost an embarrassment to play [“Smells Like Teen Spirit”]. Everyone has focused on that song so much. The reason it gets a big reaction is people have seen it on MTV a million times. It’s been pounded into their brains… I can barely, especially on a bad night, get through ‘Teen Spirit.’ I literally want to throw my guitar down and walk away.”
Like eating the same meal over and over again, creating content or performing can feel repetitive. As a filmmaker, after spending so many hours in the editing room watching the same scenes over and over again, getting it just right. Once it is completed, the last thing you would want to do is sit down with a bag of popcorn and watch the movie from beginning to end. The same goes with a writer writing and a singer singing.
If you don’t take the time to put that piece aside, hide it in the dark, then you will feel fatigued from it. Your creation might be as delicious as chocolate, but if all you’ve been eating is chocolate for the past three months, maybe a piece of celery is what you need to cleanse the palate.
The Historian: Treat Your Old Work As Snapshots of Your Life
When you create something, you create in the present. You put your current emotional state into it. You choose words and form sentences in the way you currently know how. You tell stories and evoke emotions that relate to the person you are. When you look back on it, you are certain to see the changes, not only within the work but in yourself as an older writer.
“It was interesting to come back to something I’d made and find how much it had changed,” writer, George Saunders tells New York Times about revisiting his collection of short stories CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. “Though we think we are making permanent monuments against which our egos can rest, we’re actually making something more akin to a fog cloud. We come back to what we’ve made and find out it’s been changing all along. We’ve changed, the artistic context around the story has changed, the world has changed. And this is kind of wonderful and useful. It made me remember that the real value of the artistic act is not product but process.”
Like looking at an old photograph of yourself, for no other reason, revisiting your older work is a powerful way to understand the person you once were. The thing this exercise can achieve where simply looking at a picture of yourself can’t is that a picture can only show you what’s on the surface, but a piece of writing can show you want is underneath it all.
At this time, I am debating with reading some of the work I have written, that I have worked so hard on: mainly those that I have published on Amazon. They haunt me in a way… but I think I might crack it open soon and see all the problems I made, my ability to entertain myself, and the younger man who was simply trying to express himself.
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The web of my job had blossomed out from content writing. There was nobody at the time reporting to me. I just showed up and did my work, which consisted of coming up with an idea, researching the topic, writing out the content, and publishing it on the company blog. I didn’t want to think of it this way, but I was the lowest on the totem. That all changed in a few short months. Things started moving fast.
Before David left we were working on a few projects that I never fully understood. Now and then I would be looped into a meeting, but I was mainly focused on creating content and never had a say in the encompassing strategy. That was at least how I felt. After all, I was just a humble writer. I didn’t even think of myself as a marketer at the time, let alone a marketing manager.
During this period, I was getting a bit tired of the content I was writing. There was only so much I had to say about credit card chargebacks, and there was only so much an audience wanted to read about that topic.
Where I was given some freedom was when I was allowed to try different things. I made videos, infographics, and at one point even a few podcast episodes. I’m glad that I was given the opportunity to try new things for the company and I was grateful for that. In a way, I was doing growth hacking without knowing that I was doing it. I was experimenting. Throwing multiple darts and seeing what stuck. I feel I need to do that as a new employee at a young company.
My job as I saw it before responsibility was thrust upon me was to come up with a productive way to kill time. As imaginative as I was, killing time was not hard. I had content: blog, video, and podcast to produce… along with the education center.
The way Evan described it, the EDU was supposed to be this gated second blog that viewers had to enter their email address and sign up to before they read any of my writing. I like to believe that people would enter their emails. I’m a professional writer, what I produce has value. I like to believe that, but that is pure optimism.
In the EDU, there would be content that our users will find helpful in growing their business and handling payments. The question then for me is, am I creating better content than our knowledge base? Will it replace the knowledge base — also known as the support page — where we, at the the time, were using a service called: Userbase. It was there that all our How to’s and FAQs were. Will the EDU replace that and if it should, why would it be gated? Nobody was going to enter their email to see any FAQ page.
David and Evan could never seem to come to a consensus on what the EDU was going to serve. Yes, we need to produce content and we needed a lead generation channel, but we were not going to be able to create support content that is better than what the larger companies that we serve has produced. We were an add-on, they were the hub.
The EDU was aptly named because in the learning-on-the-job classroom it was my first test. When David and Evan left, the wheels for the EDU page were already in motion. Terry had spent countless hours working on it. As time went by, I began to work more closely with Terry, the front end developer. When I started in the industry, I didn’t even know what front end or back end developer was. I literally felt handicapped as a digital marketer because I didn’t know how to code. I was in a wheelchair and Terry was pushing me along. He had been a great sport the whole time and I would go on to waste more of his work hours — and that stressed me out a lot.
I remember sitting down with Terry for at least five meetings deciding how to configure the EDU so that it made sense.
Here was where I had to think about being a marketer in a whole new way. I started thinking in terms of resources and in terms of competition. What can we do and what are the trends? I went back to thinking, yes we needed to create content, but why did I have to split up my resources? Why should the blog have to compete against another entity?
I would look at blogs like Hootsuite and see that they have webinars and courses. We didn’t have a team or a department to create all the content like Hootsuite. Eventually, every company will need to be a media company on top of what they build and serve. I believe that. I love that idea because it’s such a hopeful future for us content creators.
But I can guarantee you this, before Hootsuite had their fingers in all those different projects, they had one solid blog. Before you take on another project, you make sure what you are doing is performing well. There is no reason to double down on two failing ventures. There is experimenting and then there is careless spending. I’m fine wasting my own time discovering and testing, but I’m not okay wasting others.
The EDU, which Evan and David couldn’t even come to a conclusion on the name for — was it going to be the Education Center or was it going to be the Academy? — became the bane of my work hours for probably three months. It was the first big project I had to put the hammer down on. It was not the first time I gave up on a project, but in my position at the company, it was the first time I made a decision to avoid loss of more money and resources. I recognized sunk costs and I prevented more waste.
I consider it one of my proudest decisions I made in my first quarter or even year at the helm. It was a leadership decision. I thought critically about what we were doing and decided it’s not worth doing. However, I would quickly learn that it is much easier to kill someone else’s brainchild than it is to kill your own. I was just at the start of my journey and it was already intense.
This has been based on my personal experience. Details and names have been changed in respect for privacy.
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I play hockey recreationally, which means whenever there is a game, I show up, warm up, and play. And if we are good enough, we make it to the playoffs within our tier and sometimes even win the championship.
We don’t have a coach and we rarely practice drills. All we have are 3 separate periods to improve.
We have our warm-up where mistakes don’t matter.
We have the game where each success can propel us forward to better opportunities.
Then there are playoff games or even championship games, this is where we show off what we really have.
I see writing in somewhat the same way. The more you write, just like the more games you play, the better you will be. The thing is, you won’t always get to practice on a championship stage. Not everything you write will have the same level of importance. Sometimes what you write will simply be warm up. Sometimes it’ll be an inconsequential game. You take everything you learn from those two levels and apply it to the final one: the championship.
With all that being said, here are three types of writing (or any other sort of content creating) that I am consistently working on. This way, I am able to keep track of what I’ve made and see gradual improvements over time — much like looking at a scorecard after a game.
Content You Publish Right Away
This is my warm up content. This is me experimenting and practicing a new technique. This is my honing a specific skill. This is me making something, throwing it out into the world, and seeing how everyone — if anyone — response to it.
In this day and age, we might be wary of posting something unpolished, but let’s be honest, if it’s no good, the worst thing that can happen is that it will be ignored and be buried under a mountain of other content.
Obviously I try to do the best I can when creating, but when the horn sounds and warm up is over, I’ll publish it.
Find time daily or weekly to create something you will need to publish right away. No looking back. Make it and ship it within a given timeframe.
We all have a ton of ideas and this is a fantastic way for you to start executing it and see how it can start appearing on paper. Not every idea is genius, even though you may think it is. There is no point keeping it in your head. Make it and see what the world thinks.
Content You Edit and Publish
This is the regular season game. Each piece matters because they add up to the the corpus of work you have created throughout the year. Yet, your career is not going to be hinged on this. There will be another game coming up.
Here is where you create a piece of content and put a bit more attention in polishing it up. Perhaps editing it once or twice — maybe even letting a third party review it and offer feedback. These are content that matter to you. This is where you want to push yourself to improve in one specific area. You can apply some of the techniques you practiced during your warm up and see how it fits with the overall structure of your piece.
What makes this piece different from the last is that this one will have a deadline. These are creative writing contest, guest post submissions, a scheduled publishing date for your blog, etc. Like a regular season game, there is a set schedule for when you need to produce this content and when they need to be completed.
There needs to be something that will keep you accountable to keep producing. It needs to be good, but you also need to deliver.
Content You Refine Until You Are Satisfied
This is the championship project. This is the big one. This is what you’ve been working for your whole entire career. There isn’t really an urgency for you to finish this project, but you need to be hungry to get it out into the world. It needs to be the best representation of yourself.
Ideally, this is the project that will earn you credibility and perhaps even some money as a writer. Like a championship will solidify an athlete’s legitimacy, so will this content do for you.
Yes, even though you worked hard, you can never guarantee success in a playoff situation. You are competing against all the other content out there in your niche. However, unlike sports, it’s not a zero sum game. Just because another piece of content has done well, doesn’t mean yours can’t.
Take your time with this project. Take what you’ve learned from the previous two projects and slowly apply them here: adding what has worked and improving what hadn’t.
Continue creating content from the two previous steps, while working on this one.
This is how I approach content creation with the emphasis on creating more and learning as I go. Let me know what you think of this process and whether this philosophy has worked for you as well.
You are in a group — it can be your friends or it can be your family — and suddenly someone points to you and tells everyone that you are a writer. You’ll see a few eyebrows raise up, but mostly you’ll see a room full of unenthused stares. One member of the collective will turn to you and ask, “Oh yeah? What do you write?”
I rarely feel embarrassed, but it is in this very moment, the moment before I tell people about my work, where I feel the most ashamed in my choices. What do I write? A little of everything… I write stories and I write researched articles. I write press releases and I write scripts. I write emails and I write text messages. Where do I even begin?
What I tend to say is just that, “I write everything,” which is the most nothing answer one can give.
Imagine it this way. Someone asks you, “What kind of music do you like?” To which, you respond, “Oh, a little of everything.”
While that might be true, it doesn’t entice the other person to learn more about you. Instead, you are making them do all the work. Interest can fade very quickly, but here is how you can spark it rather than defuse it.
But first, let’s understand why we gave that answer in the first place.
A Writer’s Self-defense
Giving a really broad explanation like “I write everything” is a defensive response. You are afraid that the more information you give, the more it will reveal about you — opening you up — making you more vulnerable.
Let’s stick with music for a moment longer. For example, someone asked you what kind of music you liked, and you responded with, “Folk.” A potential return for that is that the other person hates folk, and they will be ready to lay down all the reasons why they hate it.
All through my life, I have encountered people that hate the stuff I like. I’m sure you have too unless you live in a really tight bubble. And I believe that if you like something, you will stand up and defend it. However, at a random social event where I’m suddenly put on the spot, I don’t feel much like standing up for my little creative projects.
“Oh, I don’t like those,” people will say, “I don’t read. It’s boring… I’ll just rather go travel. I don’t care what other people think…”
Well… then… I guess I’m just an idiot. Sorry for not being able to amaze you.
Even before they have read any of your work — or even given it a chance — people can shut you down. That feeling is crushing. Suddenly you are in the middle of a group, with a stupid smile on your face, wondering where to move forward from that awkward exchange.
This, of course, happens with a lot of other creatives. When you find out that someone is an actor, you’ll ask, “Have I seen you anything you’ve done?” A wonderful guessing game that actors love. And since they aren’t Leonardo DiCaprio, they will feel awkward listing off their credits like this is some sort of audition for your approval.
Is there a way to remedy this awkward feeling, when you get put on the spot as a writer? Or after announcing your work in progress?
Yes, of course, there is.
Don’t Talk About Your Projects, Talk About Your Mission
What is the one job that gets criticized the most? The showrunner for a hit television show perhaps. Maybe… But in my mind, one of the toughest job in the world is being a politician. You are selfishly climbing ladders, but also selflessly defending causes. As a writer, you have to see yourself in much the same light. As much as you want to write the best work for yourself, it is really the influence, change, and reflection you want to cast upon the world.
It’s time to start thinking of your stories as more than just mere tales for entertainment. A good story is transcendent. It is designed to make the reader or listener think. It is designed to inspire. It is designed to make people feel empathy or find relatable. A story is here to change a life.
Think about the mission you want to accomplish by writing. Surely it is more than just selfishly being published, right?
Think of any good story and the theme, history, or moral behind it. There are only so many stories in the world after all, and most people have seen and heard them before. However, what matters and what last are those themes that remind people that beyond their own perspective there are many more — yours.
So when someone asks you what you write. Don’t be embarrassed that you are using a platform to express your thoughts. Don’t even talk about the writing itself or the story. Talk about the mission you want to accomplish with your writing. What in the world do you want to change with your words? Who are you wanting to inspire and influence?
Take a look at some of the most recent Academy Award winners for screenplay and see how most of them, when receiving their prize, don’t even talk about the craft, but rather, what they were trying to communicate.
You are not simply a writer, you are a voice for your readers, those who have chosen you and believe in your world view. The only thing is… they might not have chosen you yet. But there is still time. You are early. And that’s okay because what a pleasure it is for the people gathered around you that day at the random party to see you at such a humble state with such a bold mission.
Rehearse What to Say, The Next Time Someone Asks You What You Write
Let’s role play. Pretend that you are attending one of those many annual parties. Your friends happily introduce you to a guest you have not met before. You friend says, ”This is _____, she’s a writer.”
The guest asks, “Oh… what do you write?”
To which you respond not with details of your current work, but the objective you want your writing to have on the world. If you can’t think of what that may be… take a moment to really consider it. What do you really want your work to do?
There are many people writing about dragons, romance, and swords. There are many people writing about their last moments with their grandma or the dog from their childhood. There are many people writing about spies and seductive lovers. So don’t talk about that stuff… talk about something beyond that. What does your writing do besides attempt to entertain? Once you can find the answer to that, say it… and I’ll assure you, that you will feel less embarrassed as the guest will start to engage you in a deep conversation.
What other areas of being a writer makes you embarrassed? I’d love to hear it… if you don’t mind sharing.
If you like this article, you might consider buying me a beer, it helps to keep me writing.
Before we talk about results, first let’s talk about goals. Are you currently pursuing your goals? Do you even know what they might be?
If you don’t, you can even take some time and write down your top 25 goals.
Once you have a good idea of what your goals are, you can ask yourself again, “am I doing anything to achieve it?” Yes? No? Maybe?
Now here is the ultimate kicker — does any of it matter? Does any effort you put towards your goals even matter? In a year, do you expect to see any progress at all? If not, then why not stop immediately? After all, it’s better to do nothing and get no results, than to do something and get no results, right?
I heard it on a business podcasts. A highly influential person said that whatever you’re doing, make sure you are getting some results from it, otherwise, it’s useless — or some sentiment as such.
I understood what he was saying, but it didn’t sound, right. It sounded so discouraging. What’s the definition of result? How is it measured?
The same way all our goals are different, so are our result. Wait! What’s the difference between goals and results?
A goal is what you want to happen. If I say, I want to win the Stanley Cup — then winning the Stanley Cup is the goal.
However, once I start pursuing the goal, I might find that the best I can do is play for the Vancouver Canucks. That is the result. It’s great, but it’s not the ultimate goal.
Alternatively, my goal may be to publish a novel and my result is that I only managed to write a few paragraphs. Damn! Still not there yet.
The reason people like to think that it’s better to do nothing and get no results, than to do something and get no result is because they are confusing results with goals. You might not always achieve your goals, but you will always get a result if you try.
What I see in a comment like this is something along the line of, “I’m never going to win the Stanley Cup, so why should I even bother playing…?” or “I’m never going to be able to publish a novel, so why should I even bother writing a draft?”
They have defeated themselves before they had a chance to try. Yes… there is that dumb Yoda line, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Many choose do not. It’s easier. It’s safer. You won’t have results that people can point at and use as caution or mock you with it. “See, told you it wouldn’t work!”
If you are feeling a little down after hearing this, it’s okay. We all go through a phase of asking, “What’s the point? I’m not getting any results.”
That’s not true, though.
If you are doing something, then you are getting results. You might not be hitting your goals, but you are getting results. You are making things happen.
Quick. Change your mindset.
The act of doing should be the goal. Doing is the goal. Doing will lead to results and results gradually lead to bigger goals. My goal is to publish an article every week. My result, I’ve published this article. Not all goals need to be grand.
Additionally, the doing — the consistent action — will give you a better perspective of the path you’re need to go down. You’ll start to recognize challenges, obstacles, and gatekeepers along the way. You begin to understand how the game is actually played.
My goal in my early 20s was to be a filmmaker. I did it. I tried. I worked on set and I schmoozed. I realized what was required and I stopped. The result: I realized that I didn’t enjoy the journey. I didn’t meet my goal (well, I made some short films here and there, but not to the scale I imagined), but I got a result.
Of course, it is nice to have lofty goals. We all want to be world class, but it is not the goals we should strive for, but rather the results. Results are experiences. Results can be analyzed. Results can be adjusted.
Goals don’t need to be far beyond the horizon. Goals can be the steps you take each day — and the footprints are the results.
It is not better to do nothing and get no results, because as long as you do something, you ARE getting results. You might not be hitting your ultimate goal… but you are getting results, because you have created achievable goals. And they deserve to be celebrated.
Results are evidence that you have selected the right goal. Nobody knows what area in life they will succeed in. The only way to find out is to experiment and gather results.
What are your thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from you.
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Warren Buffett, the investor — you know him — had given advice to his personal airplane pilot, Mike Flint, once. He told Flint to come up with a list of 25 things he wanted to accomplish in his career.
Flint went off to do that and came back with his list of 25 goals. Buffett told him to circle his top five and put those into Group A and then circle the bottom 20 and put them into Group B. In this, Flint thought, okay… well, Group A will be my primary focus and Group B will be pursuits I take on during my spare time.
No. Group B must be avoided at all cost, Buffett told him. Flint mustn’t touch any of those tasks until he was to finish all his goals from Group A. That was his advice and you can absolutely use it too.
It’s hard to argue against Buffett. He is, after all, one of the most successful investors in the world.
Something that was number 18 on your list might be the spark or the muse to help you accomplish your number 2 task.
Let’s say my #2 goal is to be a published writer, I want to write a book and my #18 goal is to become a beer judge. Well, why don’t I use my skills as a writer to write about beer tasting? Why don’t I research about beer, review beer, and go on beer tours and write about all of it? These two goals overlap and end up propelling each other. I can, of course, write about something not on my top 25 list, but why not kill two birds, right?
If you can find ways to pair your goals, you will be constantly inspired and get a more varietal creative life. In order to be great at one thing, you’ll need to have skills and understanding in many other areas. Golfing is more than just putting, it’s driving, it’s wedging the ball out of the bunker or staying mentally focused as well as physically in shape.
If you can pair your goals together and find an interesting relation, then each goal is supported like walking, where one leg holds steady as the other lifts forward. The two goals, as you make progress, pushes each other in the direction of an ultimate goal — and that ultimate goal is your fulfillment.
Go ahead, write out your 25 top goals for your life, and then, see which ones from your top five can be linked with any of the other 20.
To me, the one that can be linked to most of the others are the ones you should pursue. It might not always be the fastest path to success, but this way, you get the most bang for your buck, this way, you might just get to indulge in the buffet of life.
One of the early stories I wrote, I had a character who received a family heirloom from his mother early in the story. Then in the remainder of the story, we never hear about this family heirloom ever again. Looking back now I wished I could have tied the family heirloom to an event later on in the story.
Your story might have many moments like this as well: where a character, item, or place is introduced only to be completely forgotten about in the succeeding chapters.
Those are missed opportunities for foreshadowing. The item didn’t create tension in any way, and if you want to write a page-turner, you’ll have to. Yes, maybe it lets the character know a bit about his mother, it was a vessel for backstory or even a flashback, but it’s not foreshadowing.
There is a term Chekhov’s Gun, a concept introduced by Anton Chekhov which says, if you show a gun in act one, the gun needs to go off by the last act. There needs to be a payoff. That is foreshadowing. It sets the stage and prepares the readers.
If an event at the end doesn’t have a setup (such as a foreshadow), it can be jarring. For example, if I did the opposite; if I wrote that the solution to all the character’s problem was to trade his family heirloom for a million dollars, but the heirloom was never introduced. Then the story doesn’t make sense.
An effective foreshadow links two events together like a joke. A setup and a punchline.
The thing is, a good foreshadowing isn’t obvious to the reader. While reading my story, the reader can assume that the heirloom was simply an inheritance that he will treasure. However, in the third act, the heirloom will return and saves the day.
Nevertheless here is what you need to do when incorporating foreshadowing into your story.
Outline first, make it subtle, don’t force foreshadowing into a story that doesn’t need it
Give some distance between introducing the subject of the foreshadowing and when it is revealed. You want the readers to be aware, but not have it close enough so that they can connect the dot themselves.
There must be a payoff: If there is a gun in act one, it needs to go off at some point in the story…
It always amazes me when a book can make me laugh. But there is no doubt that a one-of-a-kind type of laugh in life is the kind that comes from reading something, processing it in your brain, and emoting it through your body.
A great writer like any great artist or musician can make you feel emotions simply from the mastery in their craft. The problem is, there aren’t that many writers that have made me laugh through their stories.
Nevertheless, I have highlighted four of the funniest books I have read, and I’m going to share it with you today.
Michael Ian Black is best known for his role in Stella and Wet Hot American Summer, but few know him as a writer, even though he has written a few books now, including children’s books and some movies. Black also has a podcast where he interviews amazing people called How to Be Amazing, and if you look through the archives he did a revolutionary podcast series called Mike and Tom Eat Snacks.
When people talk about a book that changed their lives they usually talk about some self-help or emotionally impactful book, but this one really did.
This book is a collection of absurd essays. Some of them questions only a really famous celebrity like Michael Ian Black would know such as What I Would Be Thinking If I Were Billy Joel Driving to a Holiday Party Where I Knew There Was Going to Be a Piano and Hey David Sedaris — Why Don’t You Just Go Ahead and Suck It?
Michael Ian Black does such a great job playing with different genres in these essays such as erotic fiction, letters, and even a chapter from a novel that is sponsored by Barqs root beer. Each one of them is simply drenched in Black’s snarky humour and although I am certain it will go over the heads of some, it is all laced with intelligent observation of the modern world… or at least the world in 2008.
It’s hard for me to pick a favourite story from this book, because it’ll be trying to pick a favourite song from Green Day album American Idiot, but if I had to choose, I would say A Series of Letter to the First Girl I Ever Finger… where Black, as a middle age man, tries to reconnect through mail correspondence with the girl he had a temporary relationship with in summer camp as a child. It sounds uncomfortable, but that is the quintessential Black comedy that you can expect from this book. I’ll say no more.
Yes, that Bob Odenkirk — or better known as Saul from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. Odenkirk has had a long history in comedy, and it is so refreshing to see, even when he has achieved the pinnacle of stardom with his dramatic television role, he still give his comedy fans something to sink their teeth into.
A Load of Hooey is a collection of short stories, poetry, comics, and unabridged quotes from famous individuals, including Walt Disney, Winston Churchill and Isaac Newton.
The beauty of this book is the commentary that Odenkirk has about the lives of those that have achieved and those that strive. What’s it like to be someone creating and what it is like to be someone aspiring… struggling… and critiquing. Believe it or not, I think we all fall into one of those categories, and that is what makes it such an approachable book.
By far the story that stands out the most in this book for me is the reimagining of what it must have been like that day the Beatles wrote the iconic song Blackbird. It amplified the drama within the room between an arrogant McCartney (who is said to have written the song solo) and the rest of the band (who leeches off his brilliance).
Please, if you are looking to kill a few hours in an airport or simply have nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon, pick up this book, instead of rewatching The Office.
Speaking of The Office, BJ Novak also writes books… and they’re pretty awesome. One More Thing is a collection of stories that touches on a many subjects including celebrity escapades, relationships, and the complicated yet mundane decisions we are dared to make in our daily lives.
Novak is a compelling storyteller who is supremely witty. He finds the nuances of everyday interaction and injects it into his story, reminding us of our idiosyncrasy. While unlike Black or Odenkirk, Novak’s writing style is a bit more refined — not necessary better or worse — but I can actually see some of these stories appearing in literary magazines or in the New Yorker.
My favourite piece from this book, or at least the one that has really stuck with me, is one called If I Had a Nickel, which goes through the narrator’s thought process as he tries to figure out how he can get rich if he gets a nickel for everytime he spills coffee on himself. As someone who is always thinking of a way to make more money, this one just hit the right note for me.
This along with many other stories proves that BJ Novak is more than simply a background character in a television show and Inglorious Basterds, he is a witty writer and genuinely relatable.
I don’t understand how so few people know about this book. Let me explain. You know Judd Apatow, the guy who produced Freaks and Geeks, Knocked Up, Forty Year Old Virgin, and Girls. Apatow is a comedic legend, no doubt about it — but he is also a fan of comedy.
Since an early age, he had a fascination with comedy royalties. A memorable story is that he was once driving with his grandmother and passed by Steve Martin’s house, with Steve Martin outside. Judd got out and asked him for his autograph, which Martin declined. He later wrote a letter to Martin pouring his heart out, saying he was a big fan and bought everything he had and the least he could have done was give him an autograph. In the end, Martin wrote him back saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t know I was speaking with THE Judd Apatow.”
As he got older, the task of sitting down and speaking with his peers and idols became easier.
Yes, this includes Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock, John Stewart, Seth Rogen, Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey… and it goes on. If you have any interest in, what I feel is, the golden age of screen comedy then you need to pick up this book.
There you have it, those are 4 funny books you should read. Please let me know if you have a book that always makes you laugh. I’d love to read it.