Jerry Seinfeld is one of the most prolific comedy writers of all time. While he is most known for his eponymous sitcom, Seinfeld has produced multiple standup specials, hosts the popular Netflix series Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, and recently published a book of his work. This tremendous output isn’t an accident. Jerry has spent decades crafting a systematic approach to writing.
In an interview on the popular Podcast the Tim Ferriss Show, Seinfeld shared the nuts and bolts of his writing practice. Here are the 7 best pieces of writing wisdom from Jerry Seinfeld.
In today’s type A society, “the perfectionist” is a lauded title. Often one step removed from genius. A fraternal twin to the savant.
The perfectionist is a rare breed of person. He is the innovator with the tenacity to see an idea through to its most complete form. She is the artist who is ceaseless to a fault. Never stopping at “good enough”; daring to push beyond greatness.
At its worst, we view “perfectionism” as a highly coveted “flaw”. A top shelf foible.
Just think of the stock response when a potential employer asks for your biggest weakness:
For me, the late-night talk show has always represented a shameless form of star worship. How could a serious consumer of culture enjoy it? The fake laughter. The manufactured drama. The over-the-top host. It all screams phony!
But recently I’ve reconsidered. Talk shows are one of the few remaining forms of oral storytelling consumed on a wide scale. Sure, they may be canned and corny, but they offer actionable lessons on how to create character, build anticipation, and empathize with an audience. …
The year was 1968. Chaos enveloped the globe. In the United States, civil rights and anti-war activists clashed over the escalating conflict in Vietnam. The assassination of political and civil rights leaders like Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King spread distrust and panic amongst the populace.
In Europe, Soviet tanks rolled in the streets of Prague as the Kremlin tightened an iron grip around its empire. Student protestors poured into the streets of Paris, nearly shutting down the French capital.
John Lennon and The Beatles felt this mounting tension. As the calendar year turned, the band departed to India for…
What do we do with suffering?
This is a question Nick Cave — author, musician, and Bad Seeds front man — can answer better than most. The death of his son inspired his last albums, Skeleton Tree and Ghosteen- two highlights in an impressive and expansive discography.
Last month, Cave experienced another tragedy with the passing of his lifelong collaborator Anita Lane. Following the event, a fan wrote to Cave asking if there is value in suffering. And wondering if there is anything we can do to stop from being crushed beneath it’s unbearable weight?
He had this to say:
How do you write an engaging story?
One that sounds smooth and relatable — the type told around pubs and campfires- rather than the stiff, cold ones that can find their way on the page?
In his latest book, Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk gives writers a recipe to create more natural, engaging stories. He distills this recipe into three forms of communication:
Description — Man walks into a bar
Instruction — Walk into a bar
Exclamation (onomatopoeia) — Viola!
See the three forms come together in the paragraph below:
A man walks into a bar and orders a margarita…
I recently stumbled across a TED Talk from actor Ethan Hawke. In the presentation, Hawke cites the ability to play the fool as the essential part of the creative process.
It’s a role we’ve all played at times in our lives — especially if you’ve chosen to do creative work. In a world full of fools, we are perhaps the biggest fools of them all.
This may sound like a slight, but it shouldn’t!
During the 90s, The Simpsons writers’ room was a mecca for up-and-coming comedians.
Legends like Conan O’Brien, Greg Daniels, and Pixar’s Brad Bird cut their teeth working on the show. While many notable writers filled the chairs, one name towers above all in Simpson’s lore- John Swartzwelder.
Critics consider Swartzwelder the most prolific writer in Simpsons history. He was one of the chief architects of the show’s golden era. His sense of humor is so unique, writers call jokes in the same vein: “Swartzweldian.”
Do you remember Kindergarten art class?
For me, it was magic. I can recall memories of staring in awe at a blank page. Filling it with splashes of colors and patterns. And proudly displaying my crude (and likely crappy) work to my parents. It might not hang at the Louvre, but it sure as hell hung on our refrigerator door. The little dude above was one happy camper.
Flash forward a few years…
Last night I completed my 100 day writing challenge. For over three months, I plopped down by my laptop and hammered out at least five hundred words.
I did this under the pretense that showing up every day would make me a better writer — or at least suck a little less (see image above).
Did the challenge help achieve this goal? I like to think so, but I’ll leave that to the discretion of the reader.
The experience did teach me a few lessons about building a writing habit, coming up with ideas, and managing the highs and lows…