I think my writing has reached a new level. I can honestly say that I'm writing better gags than I wrote 20 or so years ago when I started doing this type of work. Of course, if you ask me how things are going when I'm making no sales and no checks are coming in, I may not be so enthusiastic.
When I look back over the gags I wrote 20 years ago I sort of cringe. But, in my defense, I started writing captions for single-panel cartoons not knowing what I was doing. I taught myself by studying business cartoons, reading everything I could find about how to write comedy and cartoon gags with no background doing this at all. Previously, I had written hundreds (or was it thousands?) of one-liners and sold many of them to comedy services to be used by disc jockeys, speakers and comedians. One day I realized that these one-liners could be illustrated and turned into a cartoon. My writing career changed!
Fast forward 20 years and today I'm writing gags for four syndicated cartoons and about five other non-syndicated cartoonists. The people I write for has changed considerably over the years. Cartoons, with my gags, have run in The New Yorker, Harvard Business Review, Barron's, Wall Street Journal, Playboy, Better Homes & Gardens, First For Women, Reader's Digest and many, many other top publications. The syndicated cartoon I've written for the longest? The Lockhorns. I love to write those husband/wife and mother-in-law gags (and now I am a mother-in-law!).
I plug along at gag writing everyday (at least five full days a week plus many nights and weekends). I read constantly and the phrases I jot down in my notebook become gags. I get away from my desk occasionally and actually do things, go places, observe and make comments about what I hear and see, which many times becomes the basis of new cartoons. I read The New Yorker every week and additional stories on their website, newyorker.com. The 2004 book, "The Complete Cartoons of The New Yorker," has become my textbook.
I believe that if you find the thing that you really enjoy doing the work becomes easy. It's not really work. You enjoy doing it. Sometimes I think back to all the jobs I've held since I graduated college. There have been great ones and some not so great. This work experience has provided me with lots of material (so has being married and having children). I believe my writing has greatly improved in the past 20 years and I'm writing things I never imagined I would. I continue to work at it every day.