Laughing Stock

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Maximize Your Writing Through Mini-Joes

Writing lunatic Joe Janes is an incredible role model.

Comedy writing seems like the kind of thing folks would love to crank out, but writer's block is a demon that can infect us all. Whether you're totally stuck or just want to write more, I have the prescription: Mini-Joes.

While going through the Writing Program at Second City in Chicago, I had a very inspiring teacher: Joe Janes. Joe is a living argument against writer’s block. His most notable project is probably 365 Sketches, in which he wrote a sketch a day for a year. He has also done Seven Deadly Plays. For this project, Joe wrote a short play a day for a week, each composed in a unique location such as a grain silo, the back of a truck, or a tree. Mind-bogglingly, the plays were produced within the same week (and were wonderful). Joe is a writing Olympian.

Few writers could match Joe’s output, but anyone could be inspired by it. For me, that inspiration has taken the form of what I call Mini-Joes: shorter bouts of writing, usually taking place over a week or a month, that have helped myself and some of my writing friends be more productive.

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There are many types of Mini-Joe. The type I use most often involves writing a sketch a day for a week. I’ve applied the same idea to revising: I’ll revise one or two pieces of writing (sketches, humor pieces, or something else) every day for a week.

Sometimes I have separate Mini-Joes for different genres or parts of the writing process going at once. I might have a Mini-Joe for revising going over the course of a week while in the middle of a larger Mini-Joe (say, for cranking out 10 sketches 10) that's stretched over a month. I have a friend who is planning to use Mini-Joes to make himself draw more often. The Mini-Joe is an extremely elastic idea that could be used by fiction writers, nonfiction writers, or anyone else who wants or needs to create more.

Of course, writing quotas are nothing new, but the Mini-Joe is a writing quota with a patron saint, built-in inspiration, and an unintimidating name. If Joe Janes could write 365 sketches in a year—or 50 plays for 50 directors—surely the rest of us mere mortals can get something smaller done. 

Joe says—and proves—that writer's block is malarkey. Try doing a Mini-Joe. It's like having a little Joe Janes on your shoulder, but without the surrealism.

Mark Peters is a freelance writer and humorist who writes sketch comedy, humor pieces, and oodles of jokes.

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