Astronauts have to climb into the rocket. Mechanics have to get under the hood of the car. Writers have to sit down and write. But it’s complicated. Here’s my process:
This process takes about a week to six months. Then I’m really ready to write.
Does this sound familiar? Hello? Is this thing on?
Oh, how rude of me. In case we haven’t met yet, my name is Leighann Lord and I’m a standup comedian. That’s relevant because half of standup comedy is writing. The centerpiece of that is my Set Book.
A comedian’s set book is like an athlete’s playbook; a singer’s songbook; an artist’s sketchbook. My Set Book began as hand-written notes on index cards and today is a 300-plus page Word document that begins with a Samuel Taylor Coleridge quote: “People of humor are always in some degree people of genius.”
I no longer print out the whole book, just the sections I’m working on; making notes with the pens I bought at Staples.
While I abstain from the writing versus typing debate, I’m a big proponent of making technology serve the art. The note pad app on my phone is the sticky note that will never accidentally be thrown away. Dictation is the butterfly net that captures my fleeting thoughts. And that’s important, why?
Because the one reliable weapon I have against the tyranny of the empty page is An Idea. Sometimes it’s a whisper in my ear. Sometimes it’s a smack upside the head. Either way I know that when An Idea presents itself what it wants from me, initially, is to say: “Yes, I see you.”
And once seen, I must gather it up and nurture it with my time and attention. That makes sitting down to an empty page not scary, but necessary. That doesn’t mean easy.
That blank page can be the ring where we fight or the floor where we dance. But it’s also where we puzzle out together what the idea wants to be with me: A joke? An article? Another book? I don’t always know, nor do I assume. But I love figuring it out. And that’s what makes me climb into the rocket; get under hood; sit down and write.