STEVE MARTIN AND I are worlds apart in many ways. He is a multi-published bestselling author, playwright, world class banjo player, winner of multiple Emmy, Grammy, and American Comedy awards, and an avowed agnostic. I am none of these. I have, however, watched The Jerk and acted like one myself more than once so we do have that in common.
After all, who couldn’t relate to someone who had these lines in such a classic?
I know we’ve only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days. The first day seemed like a week and the second day seemed like five days. And the third day seemed like a week again and the fourth day seemed like eight days. And the fifth day you went to see your mother and that seemed just like a day, and then you came back and later on the sixth day, in the evening, when we saw each other, that started seeming like two days, so in the evening it seemed like two days spilling over into the next day and that started seeming like four days, so at the end of the sixth day on into the seventh day, it seemed like a total of five days. And the sixth day seemed like a week and a half. I have it written down, but I can show it to you tomorrow if you want to see it.
Though he has moved on from stand-up comedy to a variety of pursuits that range from bluegrass music to the collection of fine art, Martin retains his snarky wit when he talks about the art of writing. He would tell you, it’s easy to become a writer in five minutes are less. All it basically involves is something to write on, something to write with, and some words.That’s it.
For example, says the funny man, he finds it easy to write in his rose garden. “Each rose, “he says, “represents a story, so I’m never at a loss for what to type. I just look deep into the heart of the rose, read its story, and then write it down. I could be typing kjfiu joew.mv jiw and enjoy it as much as typing words that actually make sense, because I simply relish the movements of my fingers on the keys.”
Another suggestion he makes if one faces dreaded writer’s block is to borrow some words that have already worked for someone else:
The other trick I use when I have a momentary stoppage is virtually foolproof, and I’m happy to pass it along. Go to an already published novel and find a sentence that you absolutely adore. Copy it down in your manuscript. Usually, that sentence will lead you to another sentence, and pretty soon your own ideas will start to flow. If they don’t, copy down the next sentence in the novel. You can safely use up to three sentences of someone else’s work — unless you’re friends, then two. The odds of being found out are very slim, and even if you are there’s usually no jail time.
In all seriousness, some authors are so intent on ensuring they only write things that are new they never watch TV shows or read novels in their genre. They want to always be fresh and only write something no one else has. Good luck with that!
Kyle Callahanisn’t the first writer to suggest there are really only two plots for any story to be built upon: a stranger comes to town and a hero goes on a journey. Of course there are a million variations but in the end Solomon knew what he was talking about when he said there is nothing new under the sun. The trick is not to invent something no one else has ever said but rather to say it in such a way it resonates as though no one ever heard before.
Unlike Steve Martin, I have been hearing and embracing the greatest story ever told since I was a child. There is no way to count how many times I have heard that old, old story. You know, the one about how a Savior came from glory, how He gave His life on Calvary to save a wretch like me.
Even so, from time to time someone tells that story in such a way I know without a doubt it is their story. And when someone tells that story that way it resonates with me as though I’m hearing it for the first time.
Now apply that to everything you do, say, and write. The way to become a writer or anything else in five minutes or less is to say, write, and do what you truly believe in. What is truly you? What can you talk about, write about, or do that leaves no doubt it isn’t manufactured or bogus? Now take out the next blank page of your life and write something that resonates with those around you.