Every comedian has his or her own process for writing. You try out different places, times of day, mediums or state of mind (as Hemingway said, “Write drunk, edit sober.”) and if you’re lucky, you’ll find something that works for you.
My process depends on what I’m working on. If I have a deadline, I’ll make myself sit in a coffee shop and set an alarm, telling myself, “You’re not allowed to go on Facebook until you write for a solid hour.” Though my number one place to write, despite my back’s objection, is on my couch, late at night with the TV or Spotify blaring. It helps me to have other creativity going around me.
While some people like to hand-write their material, I’m too much of a perfectionist with too sloppy of handwriting to do so. Instead, I’m constantly jotting down notes in my phone. For example, a 20-minute dog walk becomes a lot more productive if I use that time to scroll through my news apps to come up with jokes. I also try to be conscious of recognizing when a weird thought or memory could become something and jot down even the smallest idea (“Scary clown doctor pap smear?”). I may not use that idea for months, but this way there’s always something to turn to. More often than not, the moment right before I drift to sleep is when an idea pops into my head. Sometimes it’s a just a small nugget, and others, if I’m lucky, come up with a full-fledged sketch or joke. Either way, I’m prepared for it by having my phone near the bed. Plus, I’m teaching my brain not to throw out ideas.
Since we all have our own way of doing things, I asked Chicago comedians “When and where do you like to write?”
- “The room has to be quiet, I can’t write with music or a podcast playing.” @lifehysteric (Kate Connor)
- “I generally like to write at two different times — for about an hour before I go into my full time job, and late at night. Someone told me once our creative juices are flowing freely late at night.” @gregrobbery (Robert Gregory)
- “I think best when I’m on dog walks, or in the shower, or doing something else that’s menial that I can’t get out of doing. Forcing it by saying things like, ‘I have to write in the morning,’ isn’t conducive to me creating something worthwhile. Usually I just wait for it to come, and don’t try to rush it.” @LisaLaureta (Lisa Laureta)
- “I’ve never done well going to a coffee shop and attempting to write. I’m better at walking around, writing in my head, putting the notes into my phone and then later heading home and editing for brevity, grammar and clarity.” @andymboyle (Andy Boyle)
- “Early in the morning is my favorite time but I’ve been known to go on all night writing benders.” @jcpoole94 (Jeff Poole)
- “I use Twitter to test out new nuggets as premises for potential jokes.” @jennschaal (Jenn Schaal)
- “I always carry a notebook and phone so I can jot down something that comes to me. I’d like to say a nice park but usually it’s at a dive bar with friends when no one is looking or under a tree after I pull over walking.” @amynicoschwartz (Amy Nico Schwartz)
- “My best writing is done very late at night on my laptop in my room. Usually 2AM is when my best ideas come out.” @RichBakerActor (Rich Baker)
- “I like to write on stage. I SHOULD do it more, like in the daytime, but I have a hard time focusing and maintaining discipline. Nothing seems to motivate me quite like the NEED TO BE FUNNY IN THE MOMENT.” @ksilly (Kevin White)
SO Note: Monique Madrid is a comedian living in Chicago. Follow her at @moniquemadrid.
*Image via Shutterstock