Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Keeping A Regular Schedule

Even though I work at home, I consider my gagwriting a full time job. I try to keep a regular schedule. Most of the thought behind planning my day has to do with the fact that I'm a "morning person."

I'm at my desk, which is located in the office I created for myself in my finished basement, at 8am Monday through Friday. This isn't difficult for me because I've realized I'm much more productive at that time in the morning than I am at 5pm. So, if I really want to tackle something important, I do it at 8am. Of course I scan my e-mail first thing. Of course I check how many people are reading my blog. If I'm starting a new project and need to get writing right away, I won't answer e-mail other than something very important. I want to get started at whatever project is at hand.

Monday is mostly a "reading day." I go to one of the well-stocked libraries near my house and read Barron's and several sections of Sunday's New York Times. If a new issue of Harvard Business Review has come out I read that, too. I should say that before I even leave the house I've read my local daily newspaper, Newsday, while eating breakfast and watching local news. While at the library, I scan the new non-fiction books and check out at least a couple, which will help me to create new gags during the week at home. My favorite book topics are business and food. But, I'm always pleasantly surprised when I read something that's on a totally different topic, like travel, or fashion, or what's trending, and I'm able to create all kinds of new material.

Tuesday and the rest of the week are generally writing days. I use the words and phrases I've written down on Monday to, create new gags. I have a regular schedule of which cartoonists are sent gags on which days. Almost all the cartoonists I work with allow me to send my gags online, which is wonderful because it's instantaneous and there's no postage involved. My week is a regular schedule of writing gags and pieces of gags in my notebook, then typing them on index cards (with a number assigned to them), compiling them for the right cartoonist, and finally, sending the gags either online or typing them on thin gag slips and mailing them to the cartoonist. Of course I write on the back of my copy who I sent it to and the date. When they're "held" I mark them "held" and by which cartoonist and the date. The gags not being "held" are then available to be sent elsewhere.

Let me say that I try to keep a regular schedule but you also have to be flexible. Sometimes a cartoonist wants a specific type of gag and wants it right away. You make time to do it, especially with a cartoonist you just started writing for where you want to make a good impression and let that person know you're serious about what you do.

I'm constantly editing and updating my gags as well as writing new ones. This is what I do. This is the work. There's a lot of rejection in this business but when you see the cartoon in print with your idea and your caption it's wonderful.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Getting Help with Word Association

I write about all types of subjects and I have my favorites:  business, relationships, eating out, heaven and hell, the Grim Reaper, prisoners and desert islands. Gags on these topics are pretty easy for me to write. However, sometimes I'm asked to write about subjects I don't have that much knowledge of, for example, biology, farming or horse racing. When that happens I have to do some research.

Usually, making a list of words off the top of my head that relate to this unfamiliar topic is not so easy and doesn't give me great results. That's when I need some help. I can try using the Internet to find words and phrases about the subject. Another idea is to find a magazine or book which deals with the topic (I spend lots of time in the library and take out books I can read at home). Anyway, I study these magazines and/or books and jot down words and phrases that could be used in writing gags. A lot of times this is boring if I'm not interested in the topic. Other times it's baffling, because I don't understand the topic. That's when I wish I were writing about business, relationships and eating out. But ultimately I plug away and do what I have to do. If the subject is technical and boring to me, many times the end result is that I won't write much worth sending to anyone. It's just not easy for me. That's when I have to revert to the simplest words and phrases, which is what I came up with before I read the magazine or book.

You do what you can do.

I must say that I've surprised myself many times as I've come up with gags about topics that I never wrote about before. When you try writing for new markets you'll soon find out what works and what doesn't. What's easy for you. And, in the process you might find a whole new area of writing that you can be great at. Anything is possible.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Breaking Through a Writing Slump

There are times when the ideas just aren't flowing. For those of us who need to come up with a lot of ideas on a regular basis, this could be problematic. I help myself, first of all, by keeping a regular schedule, which entails a lot of reading followed by a lot of writing. I read several publications on a regular basis. First of all, I read my daily newspaper, Newsday, for national and local news. I also read the Sunday New York Times. Because I write a lot of business gags, I read Harvard Business Review, Barron's and the Wall Street Journal. Because keeping up with trends is so important, I read a Long Island regional magazine, called Long Island Pulse. It's filled with feature stories about trends in cooking, fashion, dining out and sports. For the same reasons I read Reader's Digest and USA Today because they regularly discuss what's trending.

Because I write a lot of gags about restaurants, food and cooking, I read books about restaurants, food and cooking. Words, phrases, expressions, trends...all this "stuff" goes into my notebook and is the raw material for future gags. I guess it's like having a large variety of paint on your canvas before you paint anything.

When I get really stumped, I go through books of cartoon collections. For me, this has always been a sure-fire way of creating new ideas. For example, I'll see a published cartoon about a boss and a worker talking about the fact that there will be no pay raises. This leads me to keep the same setting, but write my own, original caption about the fact that there will be no pay raises. Or maybe I see a cartoon about an applicant talking to a hirer about his qualifications, or lack thereof, and I'll write a new caption about the same topic. You have to keep all kinds of resources available to you.

At this moment I have thousands of gags on my desk. Most have been sent to various cartoonists and rejected. I regularly go through these "rejects" and send them out to other cartoonists. I'm also constantly editing them and slanting them toward other markets. For example, a gag about a child and his parent can easily be slanted to be about a worker and a boss.

So I guess I can say that when I get in a writing slump I read. I read something interesting to me, take notes and, later, come back and do the actual writing. But going through cartoon collections, especially collections of New Yorker cartoons, has been a great source of inspiration.

I hope this has been helpful. Any comments or questions about this entry, contact me at:

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Just Rambling on About This Blog

People are reading this blog. I know it. They're sharing stories with me about their journey as a writer or cartoonist. They're asking questions. They're asking for advice. They're thanking me for sharing my thoughts about ghostwriting, how I get my ideas, how I got to this place in my life.

I love what I do. I love being creative. I never thought of myself as creative because I don't draw. I don't paint. I never even took an art class. But, I write, and I work with people who are amazing artists and can take my ideas and create something fresh and funny. So, I guess I am creative. I find that the funniest things are based on reality. I use past experiences and opinions about things to create cartoons. Hopefully, they'll wind up in print (or online) and that will mean that others will also be able to enjoy them. Maybe they'll make someone laugh. I get a lot of satisfaction seeing my work in print. I don't get my name on the work, but I know that the work is mine. I created it. If I look at my portfolio, which contains hundreds of my ideas published in the form of cartoons, I immediately know what the origin is. The best ones are based on my life or the lives of people I know.

Being a writer, I can work almost anywhere. I've written jokes at the beach, on my backyard deck, in the cold basement in the dead of winter where, even with the heat on, it's still cold. Right now, writing this in the basement of my home, where my office is, where the temperature outside is over 90 degrees, it's warm in here, even with the air conditioning on. I've written in coffee shops, the library, in the den of my home, in the car, on the Long Island Rail Road. I don't leave the house if I don't want to, but after several days of staying inside, I want to. Being with people gives me energy...and ideas.

I keep a regular writing schedule. I consider what I do a full time job. I'm very fortunate that I'm able to do this. I take this writing business very seriously. I finally found my niche. This is what I'm supposed to be doing.

If any of you have any comments or questions, please email them to:

Thank you for reading this. Hope it's been helpful.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Knowing a Little About a Lot of Things

I write for quite a few cartoonists, each with their own needs and requirements. I have to change directions all the time. One morning I'll be writing husband and wife gags. In the afternoon I'm writing about the business world. The next morning I might be writing about kids; that afternoon I might be writing about the things that go on in restaurants. I guess you have to be willing to be flexible. To change gears. To do the research.

I have lots of personal favorite topics. I love writing gags about desert islands, heaven and hell, prisoners, the Grim Reaper, people sitting on a beach and reading a message being dragged by a plane overhead, the dynamic between wait staff and customers in restaurants. I could write these gags all day. They seem to come easy to me. But not every cartoonist wants gags about heaven and hell, prison, the Grim Reaper and the beach. I get asked to write about topics I have no real opinion about, or rather, not much interest in. Then I have to do some research. I'll study the publication where the cartoon will, hopefully, someday, appear. This usually means going to the library and studying back issues. Sitting down in a quiet area and copying down phrases and topics I can write about. Studying the cartoons already published. If I can't get to the library, I can get all kinds of information about any topic on the Internet. I may not know a lot or have a great interest in science, for example, but I have to write gags about scientists so I do my research. Needless to say, I have better luck with some topics than others.

Some cartoonists let me write about any topic I want, as long as it's funny and, in the opinion of the cartoonist, can be drawn up by him or her and has the potential to sell. Obviously, what is funny to me may not be funny to someone else. This is the reality of the business. We all go through this.

I guess you could call me a generalist. I know a little bit about a lot of things and keep learning more every day. I read newspapers, listen to news radio, watch television news, trying to keep up with what's going on in the world. This is a requirement of a writer. I think of it as getting paid to read the newspaper.

Any comments or questions, send me an e-mail at: