Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Focus on What You Want

I read a lot of motivational-type books. In fact, I read them over and over again. Two of my favorites are the classic, "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill and the more contemporary "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne. "Think and Grow Rich" has to do with thoughts being things and how your thoughts and beliefs determine what actually happens to you. The theme of "The Secret," in my opinion, is to focus on what you want, not on what you don't want. I read these books over and over. "Focus on what you want" has become my guide.

In my own experience, sometimes I've taken on too many projects at once, juggling between many and not putting 100% of my attention to one thing. I've become much better at sorting these things out, prioritizing what needs to be done first and focusing on the one project I'm working on. I try to be organized, make a to-do list for myself every day, get assignments done in advance so that I don't have to be in a panic to produce gags at the last minute. This works for me.

I guess you have to constantly ask yourself what's the most important thing you need to be working on at that moment. Once you identify what your priority is you have to focus on it. If you're working on your own strip, or someone else's strip, or non-syndicated single-panel gag cartoons for a specific publication, you have to live and breath it; make it a big part of your life, look at it from all angles, put all your energy into it and believe that you will succeed at it.

Focus on what you want - not on what you don't want.

And, don't work completely in isolation. Get out and talk to people in the same field if at all possible, or correspond with people by e-mail or phone. Show people what you do. Send your work out to the world. Be proud of it. Here's another one of my favorite sayings: "You won't catch fish if you don't go fishing." 

Finally: Enjoy what you do.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Identifying with your Characters or Write What You Know

It doesn't really matter if you're writing a novel, a magazine article, a cartoon strip or poetry. It's easier to write about something you know than what you don't know anything about. If you've spent your life working in education, writing about students, parents, teachers and homework should come easier than if you've spent years working in construction.

As I write and submit cartoon gags, thousands of them, I often ask myself what should I be writing about? What should I be focusing on? What's easy for me? For the cartoonist or gagwriter, if you can find the subject you know and have opinions about, it'll be a lot easier for you to succeed. I spent many years working in offices, so I can relate to the whole boss/worker situation. I know about job interviews, having gone on many of them over the years. I know about salary issues, co-worker issues and all the other crazy things that go on in offices. I write a lot of business gags and they seem to come easy to me.

I also write for the syndicated strip, The Lockhorns. This very long-running strip shows, with great humor, the conflict between husband, wife and wife's mother, with a marriage counselor, friends, doctors and shopkeepers added to the mix. The thing is, I can identify with this couple, drawing from my own experience, my husband's, my father's, the fact that I now am a mother-in-law, etc. Some of these issues are: my lack of cooking ability, my tendency to spend money, my tendency to not spend money, to not have enough money, laziness, family issues, etc. There's plenty of material I can find  right around my house. It's easy for me because I can relate to it.

I guess if you're thinking about creating a cartoon strip or just submitting cartoons to various publications, you should ask yourself what's easy for you to write about, what opinions do you have, what's funny about your life. It will be much easier to write about these things for the long haul than to write about something you know nothing about. You have to be honest about it, but once you find what you should be writing about it gets much easier.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Few Books To Enjoy

This week I'd like to mention a few books I've read which may be of interest to you. They've motivated me and helped me write better. They're so full of relevant information that you can read them again and again and always learn something new.

Besides many New Yorker cartoon collections, my list includes:

* "The Cartoonist's Muse: A Guide to Generating and Developing Creative Ideas" by Mischa Richter and Harald Bakken.

* "Cartooning: The Art and the Business" by Mort Gerberg.

* "The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker" edited by Robert Mankoff.

* "I Only Read It for the Cartoons" by Richard Gehr.

* "How About Never - Is Never Good for You?" by Bob Mankoff.

* "Hand-Drawn Jokes for Smart Attractive People" by Matt Diffee.

There are countless others I've read over the years.

Send me an e-mail to: if any of these books have been particularly helpful to you and if there are others you'd like to recommend.


Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Ideas Are Everywhere!

Where do ideas come from? From everywhere. From observing what's going on around you, from overheard conversations, from reading current newspapers and magazines, from news radio, from watching TV. I carry a pad of paper and pen with me to jot down ideas. I watch people from benches on the boardwalk. I walk around New York and take in the sights of Times Square, the High Line, tourists gazing up at buildings with their cameras, signs on restaurants and in storefront windows. I also get out to more rural areas and observe what goes on in small towns, in diners, in parks, on long stretches of highway, listening to what the locals say. City vs. country. I've lived in both places. Lots of humor there. Because I often write in the library, I look at books which list cliches, proverbs and catchphrases. After several hours of writing down ideas, I let all this settle for awhile. Maybe later the same day or the next day I'll start writing. Common phrases can be twisted by substituting one or more words, especially at the end, creating a surprise. You can also use the opposite of the phrase. Finally, you can have these phrases spoken by someone in a new, unexpected setting. Again, a surprise. 

It's important to get a lot of ideas. More than you'll need. Some will become great cartoons; some will stay, untouched, in the notebook. I can't say how the mind works but having a lot of ideas to work with (I work with words) can lead to great ideas.

I think it's important to follow a regular schedule and not wait for inspiration to strike. I know I'm more productive in the morning. I'm at my desk early and because I write for many cartoonists, I have a regular schedule for who I send ideas to and on which days. I also write to-do lists. (You won't believe how much satisfaction I get when I get to cross off items from my list!) This may not work for everyone but it works for me.

To write humor, I believe you have to have a skewed way of looking at things. This is really important. You have to be critical and you have to be able to see the humor in what's going on around you. And then you have to take the big step of putting your ideas on paper and sending them out. Many won't be used. But when you get a great idea and see it in print, or online, it's fantastic!

Any questions or comments, e-mail me at: