Friday, October 12, 2007


A guy who cracked up at his own jokes was Red Skelton; he could not get through a routine without breaking up. Carol Burnett comes to mind as well, as she had terrific laughing jags on camera--recall the Gone with The Wind sketch? The dress made from the drapes? Coming down the stairs. Then there was Steve Allen, a cackling Tonight Show host of the first order--bright, intelligent, a man of many talents. He wrote a number of mysteries, played the piano, wrote some lyrics, and of course married well. In any event, a recent thread on a chat group I am a member of got into the question of Writing as Hard Work, Serious Business, or FUN. I can't stress enough the importance of "having fun with it."

Have fun with it. No matter what your passion, your profession, your aims, goals, dreams. Fun gets a bad rap. People confuse having fun with it as having some sort of less than serious aim. How hard is it to write humor? Harder than drama for most of us. Still, in the act of writing, if it is painful...if it is tearing you up and giving you ulcers, try kicking back and examining YOUR attitude toward the "work" and the pages you are "hammering" out.

Attitude is the one string we can play on, dance on, do acrobatics on. Our personal attitude toward our work often needs adjusting when our first impulse is to say all those around us are the ones needing an attitude adjustment. Certainly so when I start a new class. I have to adjust my attitude to them, and not the other way around if say I want to be "relevant" to be "real" to them. If my attitude is to hide away my entire personal life from my students, that's one approach and attitude that will get one kind of response. If I do the opposite and open myself up too much, that's another. If I find a middle ground, that's another still.

My attitude toward writing was soooooooo damn serious when I started out. I could not have fun with it. Then I decided to write a spoof. Writing a spoof of a mystery, suspense, men's adventure, romance, or a combination of these (toss in horror for good measure), FREES one from the constraints of serious writing. It brings you to a new awareness of what you can accomplish as well. No one knew it at the time of its publication, but the first book I ever done sold was a spoof entitled Sub-Zero (about how much money I made on it is in the title). It was not published as a spoof, as the editor didn't "get it" but it taught me so much about what "they" mean by commercial. I had a blast, a ball, a great load of fun writing Sub-Zero and thereafter, by loosening up, I went on to begin writing two books a year. Now am always including the tongue-in-cheek humor and never holding back on the FUN element in the story, and always seeking the comic relief elements.

Have a FUN-filled writing weekend,

Rob Walker

1 comment:

Judy Douglas Knauer said...


Rob Walker is to writers what Norm Cowie's drop of water is to seeds and I'm not talking fertilizer here. I'm thanking Rob for the fresh air of erudite, commonsense advice that without him/it we could all let ourselves become Ernest Hemmingway. I know our writing is a serious business, but clicking onto Rob's blogs and/or emails is the down-to-earth best writer counseling I've found. You don't even have to check your health insurance policy to see if his wisdom-sharing is covered.

Some of us (I know I am) may be suffering from the October issue of Third Degree and in particular Mark Terry's column on book promotion and return on investment. (Nothing at all against Mark or anyone who has the time and expertise to write articles for 3rd Degree or Clues, for that matter.) My dime's worth is this: I'm spending $294 a night pre-hotel tax to stay two nights this Friday and Saturday in Chicago because I was invited by the Illinois Woman's Press Association to join authors at their annual book fair from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, at the downtown Cultural Center. It's costing me big time to promote a novel that's been around since '03 and is a POD that convention booksellers won't handle unless I hand them the books and B&N will only "stock" it if someone orders it. However, this book continues to open doors to me - sometimes with me stupidly kicking and dragging my feet - and present offers I never saw coming. How can a writer turn down an opportunity to talk to readers and maybe sell some books and get their name out there in downtown Chicago? Maybe I'm not on top of things, but to me that's second to New York! And, yes, I'll probably never see black ink in my writer account - BUT WRITING NOVELS IS WHAT I LOVE. It IS fun, as Rob reminds us, but it's also much more, as we all know. It's the A-B Positive donated pint we require to live.

Again a personal thought, but do we need panels and columns on the "reality" of the writing life to discourage amateurs/beginners/
semi-pros in order to unglut the lines at the prime publisher counters? Oh bless us father for we have sinned... (humor, remember humor per RW).

I can't put a five-year limit on my investment in writing, whether I make it big time or not. I am physically and spiritually unable to ever say oh, well, I guess this writing business is just a hobby, because that investment is NOT just in dollars and commonsense, it's in my heart and soul.

Give a listen to Rob Walker every once in a while. To be honest, I was looking on my "saved stuff" for some woe-is-me writing a novel takes more than three feet of research and 10 months, so that I could email it to my pain control doctor who is (Assyrian and escaped Iran - yes, I know. I hit a goldmine) and the "main" character and information coordinator (for lack of a better term - we signed a collaboration agreement, but I am doing all the writing), who gave me another steroid lumbar injection this morning after telling me that the second Flying Kite book is out. Yeah. Imagine that. He wants to see "our" completed After all, I retired from paying work last December. So under that pressure and with the "investment" article weighing on me, I sought out Rob. Well, he didn't give me a woe-is-me. He gave me the truth as I should be seeing it. Danka, Rob!

Become an Ernest Hemmingway..
.without the gun. I believe the gun alternative is HOPE.

Judy Douglas Knauer
and I just joined Mary Gruner's wonderful Book Shelf