I was surfing You-Tube the other day, and found Steve Harvey giving an inspirational message, which surprised me. After a few more clicks, I found Jim Carrey giving a Commencement address. As the minutes turned into hours, I found more and more comedians that were also GREAT motivational speakers. (Bill Cosby, Ellen DeGeneres, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, and more.)
My mind started racing; trying to understand how some of these people who have been doing comedy for 30 years or more, were now able to give such inspiring messages. It had just never occurred to me before that the people who make us laugh also had the skills to make us cry or to stand up and cheer! I have no logical reason for limiting their abilities in my mind. I am a writer, photographer, graphic designer, and web designer. If you think about it, I’m sure you can also list several things you do, besides writing.
The longer I pondered this, I came to the realization that what makes most comedians funny is their ability to poke fun at human nature. We laugh at them because it helps us not to take ourselves so serious. They observe everyday events from a different perspective. I found myself wondering if any of them also wrote books and surprise, surprise every one of them also write. (That was me, being sarcastic, in case you couldn’t hear that while I was typing.)
Now, I’m not saying all writers can become comedians, there are other skills involved as well. But, on the other hand, I do believe we can learn from their undying devotion to finding the humor in almost every situation. It seems many comedians either become suicidal (depressed) or they become wise and share that with the world. Often, they do both. They go through a phase of massive depression, but they keep pressing forward and then eventually, BOOM! They learn enough to change the world around them. Isn't that what we all want, in some form or another? We want to leave our mark, we want to share our gift, we want to change the world!
I wrote an article a few years ago, about dyslexia. In that article, I described the differences between a verbal thinker versus a picture thinker. Most people are verbal thinkers, they have an average of 2 to 5 thoughts per second. Picture thinkers (those with dyslexia) have an average of 32 thoughts per second. They do not look at things as just black and white, but also 64 shades of gray in between. If someone calls a dyslexic person slow, they are just wrong. The effort they put into their thought process is often hundreds of times more complex than ours. If you ask me what 2 plus 2 is I sure hope I can answer faster, than someone working on 986 times 986 divided by 64. If you know the answer to that, just nod your head, I obviously wasn't talking about you.
Many people have the same mistaken notion that to write you must be born creative. They are just as wrong. Most Comedians are not dyslexic (although Whoopi Goldberg is,) yet they learn to see things differently. They literally train themselves to see outside of the box. This is where we can learn from their experiences. I know from my experiences in photography, I tend to write visually. If you have experience in sales, you no doubt have some people skills that you can apply to yours. If you're an athlete, you have a different perspective on health. If you are a composer, your knowledge and understanding of music is light years beyond my own.
The key to being successful in your writing efforts is NOT to exclude the other parts of your life. Embrace what makes you different. If a comedian was to study you for a day, what would he or she pick up on that might make others laugh? Is it your attention to details? Is it how clean your house is? Or maybe how many different hobbies you do have? Many, if not most, writers start writing after they’ve spent years doing something else. For those of you who wanted to be a writer from the very beginning, I salute you. But even as a writer, you are still more than just mere words. You are a son or daughter, a Father or Mother, a male or female.
Learn from your experiences and observations. If you can make people laugh, great; if you can make them cry, even better. Make people see what you saw and feel what you felt, that’s what makes a great writer. Until my first wife of 30 years died while I was writing I could not actually write about those types of emotions. Strangely enough, during my mourning period, I didn’t write at all. I associated my writing as not paying attention when she needed me most. It had taken several months before I realized that her death was not the end of my writing, but the beginning.
It does not matter if you had a terrible childhood, or you were raised by millionaires, your experiences are still yours. Use your other skills to improve this one, be your own kind of comedian and study people. (My definition of a cheap date is to go to the mall and watch people, then make up funny stories about them.) If you want to write, then write. If you want to dance, then dance. Be true to yourself and write what’s important to you.