He who would write humorously should spend an hour at Walmart people-watching. She who would write creatively might wish to do the same thing, preferably with laptop or phone in hand for note-taking.
Anyone hoping to write creatively and freshly should take the advice of movie-maker Harold Ramis. “I tell students (on arriving at a party or similar type gathering) to identify the most talented person in the room. And if it isn’t you, go stand next to him.”
Absorb. Listen. Remember. (And above all, be quiet. You’re there to observe.)
I’ve heard of a workshop for creative thinking among executives where the participants play paintball for an hour, then brainstorm on some topic. They are given a stack of magazines of any and all kinds and given 30 minutes to find every creative slogan or motto, and to jot it down. At the conclusion, they are thrown into small groups and told to adapt the best of those mottos to their own industry.
Creativity can be manipulated. The juices can be made to flow.
He who would write humorously and has never actually attempted such before should get his notepad (the paper kind) and a pen and spend a few hours in the periodical section of the public library. Browsing through unfamiliar magazines for every cause and hobby imaginable, he will get a dozen ideas for funny pieces, satirical articles, and hilarious putdowns.
The cartoons alone will fuel his humor motor for a week.
It’s important to say what that means. What it does not mean is that you walk out of the library quoting the cartoons or the funny stories you read. Quite the opposite. Instead, you think of variations of those captions, stories, and quotes that fit your own needs.
How does that work?
Take the May/June 2015 issue of Preaching magazine, the one birthed by Michael Duduit (now the Executive Editor) and presently owned by Salem Publishing. The cartoons in this issue can launch a creative mind into a hundred funny directions….
Well, okay, this issue carries only one cartoon. But it’s a good one, of the very type we’re looking for.
Two guys are in the pastor’s office. One is sitting reading a magazine called “MDiv.” The other is leaning over his shoulder and saying, “If I had to do it over again, I would go with the master of arts in spiritual formation, discipleship, and folding chair relocation.” Ask a minister of any church. (Note for non-preacher types: MDiv means “master of divinity,” the standard seminary degree for ministers these days.)
The cartoonist is Fletcher. He’s good. We see a lot of his stuff in various publications.
When I came to seminary, exactly 51 years ago, these preacher-schools had maybe four or five degrees, mostly masters in education, theology, or music, and a couple of doctorates. These days, the masters degrees have proliferated. The variations seem endless. And some read almost verbatim like the cartoon.
So, what does the creative mind do with that? That’s easy–It starts thinking of other seminary degrees….
“Master of arts in spiritual transformation, discipleship, and mimeograph-machine operating,” we would have said a half-century ago. I operated that thing in several churches. Its demise was not mourned by anyone who ever worked it. An updated version might say “Master of arts in Spiritual Transformation, Missions, and Computer Repair.”
And we go from there….
“Master of arts in linguistics, hermeneutics, and sucking up to the official board.” (Why not say “pleasing the official board” instead of “sucking up”? Because the last item in the trilogy has to be a surprise, and slightly off the wall.
“Master of worship with an emphasis in Bach, Sibelius, and Gaither Homecoming videos.”
“Master of religious education and deacon leadership, with a specialty in conflict resolution involving the pastor’s secretary.”
You get the idea. (By the way, cartoonists do this all the time. The major reason I take The New Yorker magazine, and have for 20 years, is the cartoons. Often I’ll find one I love, then think, “Okay. How would that apply in the church?” and I’m off.)
Notice how they’re all in threes? Spiritual transformation, discipleship and–one more. The first two are normal and set up the third one which delivers the punch.
The first two must sound right. The third is the oddball in the group.
“A doctor of philosophy in preaching, leadership, and–what?” The best choice is something surprising, something that does not fit, something that would cause the minister reading this to go, “Aha! Yes. That’s me.”
“A master of arts in creative writing for Facebook and Twitter.” Is that funny? Probably not.
How about this?
“A master of arts in creative writing, spiritual leadership, and recognizing scams on the internet.”
Okay, that’s all I’ve got for today, class. Have fun with this. And don’t try too hard to be funny or creative. Just enjoy what you’re doing and those things will come in good time.