Sunday, January 3, 2010

Instant Gratification

Writing rarely offers instant, or near instant, gratification. A writer may be happy with a particular piece, but what about the reading public? Even with the GFWG, barring the time put in, the piece is submitted and the writer waits a month (and soon, two weeks) for the good and the bad. So last week was a refreshing return to the past, away from novels, short stories, and picture books to write stand-up.

I had a New Year's Eve show for which I thought I'd better write some new material. Now, I've had bits take months, and in one case, years, to complete, before they felt write, and all parts click the way I imagined them. Instead, I wrote these pieces, 7 in all on Dec. 30 and 31st. I researched Fort Plain, NY, where the show was to be held, wrote some bits about the place, and actually wrote my opening line 10 minutes before the show based on something the woman who put it all together said to me.

This is where the veteran comic comes in. The two lines that I knew were the best turned out to be the best. Others I thought were questionable turned out to be questionable, and so on. Some lines had to be sold the right away (see an earlier post about a writer's voice changing the way things read on the page), but with the right trick, or nod, or inflection, the line got a laugh.

A large part of my stand-up career was the joy of writing, of creating something that worked. Part of me still likes that instant gratification, that return, that laugh, that groan, that wince at a cut to the bone. I also realized that I'm much better at spotting in my stand-up what works that what a reader enjoys or understands. Perhaps when I have as many years writing as I do performing, I will achieve that, too, although I doubt it. It should be, by its very nature, harder to do. It should be deeper, better constructed, without the performer's skills to elicit a response. Perhaps it should never receive instant gratification because it requires at least one extra step to construct.

So instant gratification will have to give way to self-satisfaction, at least until the critiques roll in.

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