Larry Kahaner

Archive for the tag “writing inspiration”

Writing Humor is a Fool’s Errand

By Larry Kahaner

Some time ago, I told all 6 of my followers that I was moving from writing non-fiction to fiction. I kinda sorta lied. I still write non-fiction because people pay me money to do so. Truth be told, I still like doing journalism and in some teeny, tiny way maybe it does some societal good.

However, scores of articles and two thriller novels later, I’ve turned much of my attention to writing humor. For the most part, I’ve taken my skills in writing short-form journalism to writing short-form humor that looks like real, honest-to-goodness journalism or, at the very least, sober non-fiction. It’s not fake news; it’s fake-fake-fake news. There’s a big difference.

After all these years of being serious, I can now be not-serious, and it’s quite liberating. Plus, it makes me laugh, and these days I need all the yuks I can get.

Humor writing is difficult. As the saying goes: “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” This quote has been attributed to a ton of people from actor Edmund Gwenn (He played Kris Kringle in the Miracle on 34th Street) to Jack Lemmon to Groucho Marx to Stan Laurel. I’m not taking sides on this. The other thing I know is that ‘comedy comes from pain.’ Again, lots of humorists, a fancy name for comedians, have said this including, most recently, Jerry Seinfeld in an interview with Howard Stern. (Look it up yourself.)

Obviously, I am not an emotionally well-formed person, because I make jokes out of just about everything, especially what I find particularly painful like how the US is coping with the Coronavirus, (God Returns from Vacation… Boy, Are We in Trouble);  science bashing, (CDC Sending Magic 8-Balls to Schools to Help Decide When to Open) and racial discrimination, (I Had to Tell the Hula Dancer on my Dashboard that it Just Wasn’t Working Anymore).

You’ll be happy to know that I am annoyed or angry at a lot more than these subjects so there’s plenty of water in the comedy well for me.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that humor is profoundly personal and depends upon where you are in life, your upbringing and sometimes what you had for breakfast. What one person finds funny, another finds in poor taste. Indeed, they may find it highly offensive, and how dare I make light of horrible things like the Coronavirus?

Hello, haven’t you been listening? I make fun of everything. It’s how I cope.

There’s another aspect to humor that I’ve discovered – along with everybody else who thinks about it for even a minute. You can open more minds with humor than you can by being serious. Witness Alec Baldwin playing President Trump on Saturday Night Live or almost anything that George Carlin (RIP) has said.  

(Pro Tip: Satire is powerful. Snark is less effective.)

Anyhow, check me out at https://medium.com/@kahaner.  

It’s where I hang out these days and write stuff you may or may not think is funny. Nah, you’ll be laughing – either at me or with me. Don’t actually care which.

Larry Kahaner has been a serious writer and journalist for decades. Now, he’s not — serious, that is.

Why Do So Many People Write at Starbucks?

By Larry Kahaner

Why do so many people write at Starbucks?

The answer has to do with me going to Nevis.

View of St. Kitts from Nevis with rainbow bonus.

View of St. Kitts from Nevis with rainbow bonus.

Let me explain.

Brain researchers don’t quite understand it all, but they’re learning more and more about something called ‘neuroplasticity.’ This is the brain’s ability to change neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behavior, environment, thinking, emotions and, of course, an unfortunate conk on the noggin. These changes in neural pathways and synapses determine, among other things, our creativity.

This means that your brain actually changes its functional structure based on your thoughts, environment and the other items listed above. What does this have to with writing? Simply put, by changing our neural pathways and synapses we can be more creative in our fiction as well as non-fiction writing. One way to do this is through a change in scenery.

I recall many times having trouble figuring out the approach to a feature article I was writing. Getting away from the office, even for a short while, really helped solidify my thoughts. The same went for my non-fiction books. Getting away always worked. A change often led me to ‘aha moments’ and I could see a whole book’s organization and structure in my mind’s eye for the first time.

Dune_Shacks_of_Peaked_Hill_Bars_Historic_District

Dune shack of Cape Cod.

Consider the Dune Shacks of Cape Cod. These ramshackle huts built for washed- up-on-the-shore sailors have offered help to the likes of Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, e.e. cummings and Jackson Pollack. Before modern science stepped in we thought the structures’ powers lay in solitude, beauty and the sound and smell of the surf. People used the word inspiration. Sorry. It’s just that it was different – very different – from where the writer/artist usually lived and worked. Not only was the scenery dissimilar to home but the shacks had no running water, electricity or other everyday amenities. How’s that for different? They still don’t offer creature comforts and you can enter into a lottery to try one for yourself.

You’re probably thinking that we writers have always known that a change in environment is good for our writing. Now we know why. The science is solid.

Writers often thrive in artistic and literary retreats. It’s not that the environment is so conducive to writing – although it may have to do with not having to cook your own meals or handling everyday family tasks – but, again, it’s that it’s different. A good pal of mine just returned from such a place where he clocked about 4,000 words a day while in residence. He claims his output was due mainly to being relieved of his daily household chores, but I’m going with the science.

By changing our environment, we change what we see, what we smell, how we feel and what we think. This helps to get us out of our brain ruts which have been worn deep by doing and seeing the same things day in and day out. Scientists now tell us that these ruts are real and not imagined. Leaving these ruts puts us on new paths of thinking and understanding and that’s always good for writers, fiction and non-fiction alike.

I can tell you right now that being on the island of Nevis is helping my ability to churn out new thoughts and ideas, and not just about writing. At the risk of being too obvious, Nevis is very different from where I live outside of Washington, DC. Nevis is lush and warm. It’s a roundish, volcanic island with one extinct cone in the middle, Nevis Peak, which is often shrouded in clouds. Yep; it’s different.

n p[eak

Nevis Peak

But you don’t have to get on an airplane to get the same benefits of being in a different place. It doesn’t take much.

Sometimes I just move my laptop to my dining room table and that helps clear the cobwebs. Other times I sit in Starbucks and enjoy some flashes of writing fervor. It’s not the coffee or the slow internet that wires me for greater word output.  It’s being out of  my everyday office.

Instead of grinding away in the same digs, change your venue. Even small changes in your work environment can move your writing to new places.

What if the US were run like a corporation and a madman was in charge? Check out my latest thriller USA, Inc. now available in eBook and paperback. Money-back guarantee. 

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