FOR EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON
© By Al D Squitieri
King Solomon, thought to be the worlds wisest and riches man, wrote in the Book of Ecclesiastes: There is a time for everything under the sun
a time to be born and a time to die .A time to sow, and a time to reap. There are many reflections listed, but the one that fits my present need is: A time to weep, and a time to laugh
As a non-fiction writer for twenty-three years, I have been published in most genre: technical, religious, political and my forte, humor. The choice has not always been adamant. I bobbed like a cork on a sea of indecision and disenchantment. The fuel was ill-advisement from others, and self-deception.
As a boy in East Harlem, I would dream of cartooning as a freelancer, living on the beaches of Maine and Cape Cod. I would fulfill a creative urge and satisfy a desire to make people laugh. Writing was never a part of that daydream, as I stumbled into the craft at the age of 39. After 23 years, I still find the going slippery.
My first taste of publication was a letter-to-the-editor, where I poked fun at some much-too-serious letter writers. More of my letters caught on and I was given a by-line with a weekly column entitled: Funny Side Up. It soon found space in a dozen East coast weeklies, and half dozen small digest magazines across the country. The original title has been borrowed many times over, but the content is unique.
Enter Jobs comforters: Why are you wasting your natural talents of communication on silly stuff? Dont you realize humor and those who write it arent to be taken seriously?
These seeds of doubt were planted, and soon gave growth to frustration, resentment and guilt. The taunting continued: The world is a mess: people are confused, lonely and hurting. Get serious man, do something worthwhile!
I reluctantly took their advice. My first national non-humorous publication brought a check for $250. That was followed by a dozen more, eventually increasing to $400. At $100 per page, The Homeowners How-To Magazine (Popular Science) paid well, and that two years under the experienced eyes of editor Jim Liston, taught me to write concise, understandable copy, an important item to Jim, since Do-it-yourselfers had a hard enough time with the tools.
Still, there was something missing. As a Licensed Master Plumber by day, and a writer by night, I was reaping great cash rewards, but little creative satisfaction. I needed something more creative, more intellectually challenging. More romantic - whatever that meant?
Ignoring Mr.Listons warnings of never seeing another $400 check, I gave up the lucrative field of technical writing, turning to inspirational writing. I wrote three articles that sold to small magazines, newsletters and weeklies. A Christmas piece had appeared somewhere each of seven years after I wrote it. But the predicted checks were $60, $30, and $20.
By that time I had self-published my anthology of Funny Side Up columns. The first small run of 250 copies sold out within a few months. When I tried to place them in a hometown Religious bookstore, I was floored by the owners remark: Sorry, we dont have room for humor books, regardless of its wholesome material! No room for humor? Must we be so solemn? Theres too much seriousness in religion already, in fact, theres too much religion!
That coldness cooled me on religious writing, and I focused on the inspirational. There is a difference. Religion is someones idea of reaching God through a written doctrinal stand or specific denominational bent. Inspirational writing is similar to this piece, which I hope will give inspiration, hope and a desire to keep keeping on. I cant separate my spiritual life from my writing any more than I can remove the eighty or more references to laughter, joy and happiness found in my Bible.
Is humor needed? Editors say yes, and beg for it. Doctors claim it is the best medicine. Is humor literature? Does it matter to those who enjoy it? Should the humor writer be taken seriously?, I hope not, or well all drown in our pomposity! Can anyone write humor? I doubt it. Im sure it is a gift, one that has to be developed and refined. It is called technique, timing or delivery, depending on the conveyance used. Tragedy and comedy are separated by a fine line, like the clown on a high wire, a tense but funny situation
Humor is also harder to write. It takes a greater depth and breath of melancholy, and the ability to sense the obscured comedy within the seriousness of the moment. The humorist uses a microchip of irony, and exaggerates it into the most hideous form, similar to looking at ones self as a distorted mirror image in a fun house. It is somewhat true , yet ridiculous.
. New writer, learn to write for yourself. If you are happy with your chosen genre, stay with it. If youre in a serious season presently, ride it out, but be aware that seasons change, and you must change with them. Follow your drumbeat, even if the rewards are only letters and phone calls from those you have lifted from depression, or cheered through loneliness and sorrow - or allowed a moment to forget the pain of terminal illness.
A season to laugh is welcomed by everyone, especially after one of weeping. So write-on funny one, we that weep need you, if only for a season.