How do you start your day?
How do you end your day?
I bet that if you walk through the motions, step-by-step, you can pretty much rubber-stamp habits like preparing for bed or waking up to go to work.
Like, for me, going to bed might be mapped out in steps like this:
- Check the doors to make sure they are locked
- Turn out the porch light and the light in the Foyer
- Tell Fairchild (our Butler), that I will have tea in the library prior to turning in.
- Set the thermostat
- Get undressed
- Use the bathroom
- Brush my teeth, etc.
All of these—except for the smart-ass and fictitious ‘Butler’ comment—I don’t really have to think about.
I do them automatically, and I bet if you mapped out your morning or evening habits, you would probably be able to say you do them automatically too.
What about your morning commute to work? Do you have to think about it? Or is it automatic?
Unless you’re like some people I know who use a G.P.S. to get everywhere, all the time, (and you know who you are), your drive to work is probably automatic. You don’t have to think of the low-level details required to get there.
How does this happen? How to we train our brains to utilize ‘automaticity’ with certain tasks or behaviors?
That’s right, practice. The behavior of repetition. Repeating a task over and over will help you train your brain to do it automatically.
Without thinking about it.
That makes sense to most of us. But how do you change a habit or better yet, develop a solid habit?
Willpower is a Finite Resource
Relying on sheer willpower to develop a new habit is not necessarily a good idea. Willpower, according to the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, is a finite resource and it suffers depletion after use.
A study actually done on this phenomenon called “ego-depletion,” shows that after willpower is exerted in one area, it becomes harder for an individual to exert it in another.
Have you experienced this?
With the understanding of this new knowledge of “ego-depletion,” it would seem wise to slow down your habit changing and apply it in a more focused way.
If you’re like most people, you probably come up with more than one New Years resolution, right?
Then you try to apply these new behaviors all at once.
“I’m gonna go to the gym everyday…”
“I’m gonna eat more salads.”
“I’m gonna stop drinking, smoking and drugs.”
“I’m gonna write some clean comedy.”
That seems like a small list, but according to the behavior studies, most people have 10 or more resolutions and those who tried to implement and develop these habits all at once, would soon fail miserably at all of them.
Focus on One Task at a Time
One way to really ensure that you will have a high rate of success on developing a new habit is to focus developing only one at a time.
If you slow down and take one habit at a time and give it your complete focus and attention your odds of experiencing ‘ego-depletion’ are drastically reduced.
So if you want to “wake up earlier” or “write some clean comedy,” then try doing only one of those for a month. That’s right 30 days of only one habit.
Although some studies say it takes 60 days to fully develop a new habit, other studies say habits can be developed in 20 days and since we are focusing on one habit at a time, 30 days seems practical.
If you actually applied this and did it for a year, you could make a lot of changes in your comedy writing and in your life, overall.
Start ‘Habitualizing’ Right Now to be Funnier
Today or tomorrow, write down the 10-12 new habits you want to apply to your comedy or your life.
Choose which one is most important to you or most needed.
Then spend the next 30 days implementing it by writing it in your daily calendar and making it an appointment.
Really map it out!
Say for example I want to be funnier in my everyday life. I know through experience, that one of the easiest ways to be funnier is to utilize the Double-entendre comedy structure. Simply put, using the secondary meaning of a word to respond to a comment from someone. They say something with an intended meaning and you respond with the comedic meaning of the word or meaning of the phrase in its entirety.
If I decide that I’m going to sharpen that sense or strengthen that muscle in my comedy, I would practice with random sentences, then find a word in that sentence that could have multiple meanings.
Then I would write a few lines in response to the original line using the comedic interpretation of the word.
For example, if I was in the grocery store and the clerk said, “Did you find everything you were looking for?”
I might respond with, “Well, I found the wine and some candles, but I couldn’t find a soul-mate… you had Mahi-Mahi, but I’m not into twins…”
Or try to write another line in response to “Did you find everything you were looking for?”
“Everything? Can you tell me where I could find a hot chick who digs bald guys who jerk-off and eat hot pockets?”
If I did this every day for a month, with five random lines, without fail, I would be a sharper, faster, funnier writer in no time. Plus I would have a habit developed to do it everyday.
With 12 months in the year and 12 Major comedic joke structures, applying habits each month could make you one Hell of a writer in a year.
Get to Work
So what are you waiting for? Now that you have a process and an understanding, select those habits you want to change. Implement your focus and start changing the way you work, by developing new habits to become a better comedy writer.