'The 5 Habits of Highly Ineffective Humor Columnists'
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The late Baltimore Sun columnist H.The late Baltimore Sun columnist H.L. Mencken once observed, "There are no dull subjects. There are only dull writers."
In my tribute to Huffington Post-style odd-numbered self-help short lists, which appears in the space below, I hope to prove Mencken wrong: Some subjects can, in fact, be nearly as dull as their writers. Allow me to present . . .
"The 5 Habits of Highly Ineffective Humor Columnists"
Surround yourself with works by great humor columnists
It's always good to have a handy, reliable source of reader-tested ideas from which you can borrow ("plagiarize" is such an ugly word). Plus, you will have a constant reminder of the vast talent chasm that separates you from those in humor writing's big leagues.
Become a proactive procrastinator
Don't wait until tomorrow to delay developing a column idea, or actually starting to write a column. Start today by compiling a list of the little things that make procrastination fun and easy, like surfing the Web, clipping fingernails, making repeated trips to the office vending-machine room and checking your email. Then give yourself permission to embrace your inner procrastinator by taking part in at least two work-delaying activities each day.
Keep an attitude journal
Spend time at the start of each workday jotting down, and then experiencing, the fears, jealousies and feelings of insecurity that keep you from meeting your full potential.
Accept and graciously return constructive criticism
The nitpickers and losers who take time to point out your errors in grammar, punctuation and critical thinking deserve, at a minimum, a thank-you note in the form of a snarky email. Example: "Dear (name), I thought you should know, some idiot's been using your Facebook account to post ridiculous comments criticizing my work."
Visualize your career-ending meltdown
Will it be a shouting match with a supervisor, or failure to return from a sudden, unannounced vacation to the Alaskan interior? Perhaps an embarrassing display of emotion after placing third out of three entries in the columnist division of the state press association's annual writing competition for a third consecutive year is more your style.
By identifying and feeling your deepest insecurities and recognizing what they could lead to, you may gain the insights needed to head off a breakdown. If not, at least your meltdown will be more dramatic and memorable.