Newspaper headlines are meant to grab our attention. Editors and writers both know the importance of “sinking the hook” at first glance.
This recent intriguing title drew me in: “Few seconds of laughs for two months of work.” The article was about a comedian and the development of one of his jokes. A new joke earned “a decent laugh” so the stand-up comic revamped it a bit and next time it got a greater response.
Seeing its potential, he continued to tweak the joke, making it more precise and less wordy. Over the next two months his joke evolved into a two-sentence bit rather than a half page story.
My writer’s mind began to make comparisons between the development of a joke and crafting a well-written piece. A creative idea comes to us and we sit down to write, getting our thoughts on paper (or computer screen). Then we go back, reread, and rewrite, paring it down so it’s readable and easy to grasp without excess verbiage.
Occasionally we decide to throw out a carefully honed paragraph because it simply doesn’t work or isn’t necessary for the piece. Even though that can hurt, we know our work was not a loss because we learned from it. We “practiced our craft” and improved our writing. The prickle of excitement that comes from our creativity settles into satisfaction at seeing progress in our written piece.
The newspaper article ended with the comedian’s quote, “No joke is ever finished.” This could also be said of our writing. However, since writing usually involves deadlines, writers develop the wisdom to know when to say, “It’s done.” At least until the editor tells us differently!