by Carol Brennan King April 3, 2020
I was just a kid when this happened, and as I look back, I am so glad that I grew up in a Reader’s Digest family. Anyway, as I always did, as soon as my parents had read the newest edition of the Reader’s Digest, magazine or book, I grabbed it and holed up to read it myself.
I remember nothing else from this particular issue, but this one article. The writer had cancer, and he decided he was going to fight it with everything he had. One thing he had control over was his thought life, and I think he must have been a naturally funny guy to begin with.
Either that, or he was up close and personal with this verse in Proverbs: Proverbs 17:22, ‘A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”
You may have heard the first part of that verse, the merry heart doeth good like a medicine , but maybe you didn’t know where it came from. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wrote those verses among many more in the book of Proverbs well over 2000 years ago. But I am getting side-tracked.
Anyway, the writer of my article in Reader’s Digest decided he was going to test the veracity of that verse, and he immersed himself in all things funny – films, jokes, books, even comic strips. And you might not be surprised that he emerged at the other end of his cancer battle healed. Was it his treatment? I don’t know. I do remember, he wasn’t given much hope at the front end. He believed the humor released endorphins, and the endorphins helped his body defeat cancer.
So why am I telling you all this. It is a dark time in our nation’s, no, the world’s history. But we don’t have to live in that darkness and sadness and dread. We are forgetting one of God’s greatest gifts to us: humor.
Your writing assignment for this next week is to write something humorous – even tell a tale on yourself if it would make someone laugh.
I can hear you say what I said long ago: I am not funny. I cannot tell a joke to save my life, so how can I write humor.
Let me refer you to an article entitled How to Write Better Using Humor by Leigh Anne Jasheway at https://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-mix-humor-into-your-writing
She talks about the five basics of subtle humor: 1. The K rule, 2. The rule of three, 3. The comparison joke, 4. The cliché joke, and 5. Funny anecdotes and stories.
Then she covers five ways to put the basics into practice. The first thing she says here is to be strategic. Or don’t spread jokes everywhere. And nonfiction writers, she says that you can integrate humor in titles, sidebars, visual illustrations or anecdotes – funny stories about your subject.
She also says that you need to use humor sparingly, unless you are writing an entire book meant to be a humorous take on a subject. Use humor to make a point or to illustrate something, a character trait perhaps.
Now this part is key to why I am suggesting you tackle humor this week, and I am going to quote our writer. “When using humor in writing about a difficult subject – your own illness, for example – your first responsibility is to give your readers permission to laugh. Find subtle ways to let them know that not only is it OK to laugh, but you want them to.”
Here is an example of what could be part of a chapter in a book I have written so far only in my head.
Fishing with Tommy
It was around 2006 I think. Jim and I had gotten into the habit of renting a s
small cabin or cottage on a lake in the summer for a week. Then we invited Jimmy to bring his family for part of the week and Amy and her family for the rest of the week. Beth just lived to far away to come for just a couple days.
This time we found a cottage on Indian Lake in the Poconos. It was a smallish lake which I liked. And really very quiet. The cottage came with a canoe and a paddle boat for two. Tommy must have been feeling generous because he asked me if I wanted to go fishing with him in the paddle boat. I say generous because no one except my husband had ever asked me to go out on a lake in a paddle boat, to say nothing of fishing.
Of course, I said yes. But that was before I said that I couldn’t put anything alive on the hook. So that meant that he had to put those nasty old worms on my hook every time. I say every time because it seemed like all I had to do was cast my line into the water, and I got a bite.
Then one of two things would happen. It was actually a fish that I reeled in. But the fish was not anywhere near a legal length. So Tommy kindly took it off and threw it back in. And then he had to put a new worm on the hook.
Or, those silly fish would snatch that wiggling worm right off my line and get away. Of course, they played with the line enough in the process that I thought I had a big one and yanked it in. Empty again, no worm and no fish.
Another problem reared its ugly head then. Tommy had spent so much time baiting my hook and taking baby fish off from it that you want to guess what he caught? Not a blessed thing. I think maybe we were out there 20 minutes, and I heard him ask quietly, “Do you think we ought to go in? You must be tired after cooking all day.” And we did paddle back to shore in the dark of sunset.
And he never, never, ever asked me if I wanted to go fishing with him again.
So have at it my writing friends. Hope to hear from you this next week.
And remember, Proverbs 17:22, ‘A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”
Who needs dry bones at a time like this?