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Colin Jost's Book "A Very Punchable Face" Delivers Punchy Writing Insights



Colin Jost, Head Writer and co-host of Weekend Update at Saturday Night Live wrote a great memoir titled "A Very Punchable Face." Highly recommend it for all writers, not just comedy writers. Here are four passages that particularly stood out.


Quantity Leading to Quality: The Importance of Writing a LOT


"I never wanted to leave that building, and for the most part I never did. I spent about eighty hours a week at the Lampoon, and took an approach I would later take at SNL: I wrote more than anyone else because I wanted to improve as fast as I could.


I submitted dozens of pieces for every issue, and even if only a couple made it into the magazine, I was still learning from all the rejections, too. My thought process was always: Keep writing new stuff. Don't worry about what gets accepted or rejected. Just keep moving forward and keep improving.


Criticism Always Hurts, But Especially When it's Something You Deeply Care About


[Context - Writing about his early days hosting Weekend Update]


As with most punches, it hurt a lot. I took all the criticism to heart and I was really, really sad for about two full years of my life. I felt like I sucked at the thing I most wanted to do in the world, and that is not a pleasant feeling. I actually thought about quitting many times. I thought, Shit, I'm trying my best and people really don't like me. Maybe I should just quit so everyone on Earth can celebrate.


The Solution? Why Not Try Really Hard at the Thing You Care Most About


I started meeting with an acting coach. This was something I hesitated about doing for a long time because I was embarrassed. Isn't that dumb? I was embarrassed about getting help. And I was embarrassed about trying. I was scared to put myself out there and commit to getting better, because if I committed and failed then I would have no one to blame but myself...


What I realized was: I might never have this chance again. In fact, I almost certainly would never have this chance again. Did I really want to look back and think: I could have done more, but I was afraid of people would think I was lame for trying too hard?


I decided to try really hard.


(Long Overdue's two cents - this passage perfectly sums up any argument we'd make in favor of working with an editor or writing coach. Trying really hard and seeking help on your book is a decision you will never regret, even if it does feel intimidating or embarrassing at first)


Write the Story You're Excited to Write


I've learned to eliminate any joke I wouldn't be excited to say on the air, even if it seems like a "safe" joke that "will work." (I now hate the phrase "That will work." It's such a mediocre goal to set for yourself)... if a joke makes us laugh in our office on Friday night, it's probably worth trying even if the audience doesn't like it. Because why not? Even if the joke bombs at dress rehearsal, at least I can turn to Michael Che and say, "Remember when we thought that was funny.


Hey, it's scary to put a book out there into the world


But I've realized that part of my reason for doing a hundred things at once is a deep fear of doing one thing as well as I possibly could -- and failing. I've always been reluctant to throw myself fully into one project because if it doesn't work out or people don't like it, then I would have to face the reality that my best effort wasn't good enough.


(Long Overdue's two cents - This made us think of two common scenarios soon-to-be-authors run into, especially when they're nearing the finish line of publishing their first book.


Scenario 1 - So Many Projects. Along with the nearly completed manuscript, there's a separate blog, a podcast, two other book ideas, and a TV show pilot. Nothing wrong with that! But the additional projects might be a way the author is protecting themselves from potential hurt/disappointment of "putting all their eggs in one basket" and things not working out (be that book sales, reader response, critics, etc.)


Scenario 2 - Too Many Rewrites. It is totally normal and reasonable to get a little obsessive in the final stages, re-reading your entire manuscript multiple times, scouring the pages for any potential error. You've worked hard on it and want to prevent any surprises in the printed copies (again, this is where editors and proofreaders can help and ease the stress!) But if you find yourself rewriting entire chapters, over and over again, and definitely if you're flip-flopping on the ending of your book, this could be Fear sneaking in and delaying the vulnerable step of putting your beloved work out into the world.


If any of this hits home, we'd love to hear from you. Feel free to reach out to (library@longoverduestories.com) or book a free 30 minutes with us today. And check out Colin Jost's book at your local bookstore or library. But if you have to... and only if you absolutely have to... here's where you can find it on Amazon. But support local if you can!

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