David Sedaris: when you get a laugh, write it down

The writing process begins far upstream from the moment that you sit down to pen a draft. The prime directive is that your writing must be interesting — and to produce interesting writing you need a repository of interesting ideas. To build that repository, you need  a habit of capturing interesting ideas when you meet them. 

David Sedaris says that the same is true for writing humor. Everyone has a story to tell, he says. You just have to find it. One technique is to simply notice when something you’ve said gets a laugh — and take a note. That laugh is a good signal that you might be onto a good story. 

When you’re talking to people — notice what people laugh at. If you tell a story and someone laughs, and then they ask you some follow up questions, that’s a pretty good indication that that might be a good thing to write about. 

Carry a notebook. Make note of those times. I do. There are plenty of times I hadn’t thought to write about something but I find myself in a situation and I’m talking about it and it gets a nice laugh. And I’m so grateful. Pull out my notebook, write it down. And then maybe it works. But even if it doesn’t work it goes onto a list of possible stories to write later on. 

David Sedaris, from his course on Masterclass

If you don’t write it down, don’t expect the idea to be available to your memory when you’re sitting down in front of a blank page. Brains don’t work that way. You need a system to snapshot those interesting moments. 

If you need help developing your system, Tiago Forte’s Second Brain system has worked well for me.