The secret to writing a successful humor blog….

… is something I know nothing about. Nevertheless, I can’t count the number of times each week people come up to me on the street, at the unemployment office or in the women’s locker room at my gym, and ask me about my blog. Why just last week, there must have been almost two people who approached me. Now that I think about it, he was holding a cardboard sign and seemed more interested in a cash donation to some cause.

My point is that people email me all the time asking me about my blog and how I accomplished all my success. In full disclosure the two most frequently asked questions are “how did you get my email address?” and “will you please take me off your distribution list?” But a close third is “Tim, how do you write such an entertaining weekly humor blog?” Actually, in retrospect, I think the majority of them were not so much asking “how” do I write my humor blog as “why” (on earth are you writing a humor blog)? But people (and by ”people” I mean my two teenage daughters) often ask how hard is it to write a humor blog each week, where do I get my ideas from, and when will I take them to the mall.

Why do I write this blog? As most of you know, I have been at this blog since the mid-1980’s – about 12 years before Al Gore invented the Internet. Back then I just made photocopies of my blog post and taped them onto people’s big block computer monitors – very labor-intensive work. In hindsight, I think it may have annoyed a few people, particularly when they were in the middle of inputting quarterly report numbers into a spread sheet.

Of course, the main reason I do it is for the love of writing and only secondarily for the money. As some of you may have forgotten, when you first clicked on the link in your email to read one of my blog posts, my blogging software surreptitiously inserted a tiny piece of code onto your computer which links my blog post directly to your online checking account. Each time a reader clicks on the link to read my weekly blog post, $5.00 is discreetly deducted from their online bank account. A small price to pay for the gift of laughter, I think. And I never deduct this fee more than once per week, even if you visit my blog more than once. That would be unethical.

But I don’t only write my blog for the money. I also do it to annoy people who don’t share my left-of-center world view. And let me tell you, every day I am learning more and more just how many of you are out there.

It’s not easy sticking to the discipline of writing a weekly humor blog. Every week I have to start over from scratch and think up an entirely new way to embarrass my wife. Where do I get my ideas? Well, mainly from old newspaper columns written in the early 1960s which I calculate most of my readers have never read. I simply update their article by dropping in references to Glenn Beck, the Tea Party and Global Warming, so that people won’t notice that it was actually written by Art Buchwald back in 1971. But every once in awhile I actually do have an original thought. Fortunately, it usually it passes in a few minutes and I stick with the stuff that works – other talented people’s writing.

Because there are so many blogs out there, most people think it must be easy to write one. By one count, there are now more blogs on the Internet than people on the planet. My guess is that some of those blogs must be written by lemurs and baboons. But enough about Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. Some cynics have advised me since most people only read the first paragraph of my blog before bailing on my posts, that I should just write an opening paragraph and then insert Latin boilerplate for the rest of the blog. “Nobody will know the difference,” they tell me. Personally, I find that cynical idea insulting and offensive. In fact, if you ask me, lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat more than I ever could have imagined.

So you want to know the secret to writing a successful humor blog?  And why is it you’re asking me this question? Clearly if you’ve been reading steadily over these past few decades, you know that when it comes to crafting brilliant satirical humor, I’ve no clue what I am doing. You should have figured that out back in 1992 when I titled my post for the week “My thoughts on the Civil War” and simply copied and pasted the entire Gettysburg Address into the post. Five people commented that it was my best humor writing they’d read in years.

Still the more time I spend writing this weekly blog, the more I realize there actually is a system to my creative madness. That system mainly involves staring blankly at my computer screen … for long stretches of time. Writer’s block is a common experience for most writers. I sometimes find myself spending hours of my employer’s time just sitting idly at my desk waiting for inspiration to hit.  Usually it never arrives and the result is the weekly humor blog you have become familiar with. But every once in awhile, an idea comes to me that I find brilliant and hysterical – but then I decide  “nah!” since I really don’t want to be sued by the Daily Show for stealing their great idea.

Much of my time involves taking an original idea I came up with, pounding out a very rough first draft, massaging it repeatedly, editing exhaustively, re-writing it a third and fourth time, before arriving at the most important step in my creative process. Starting all over from scratch. So if you think most of my humor posts are lame, be thankful I didn’t share with you drafts 1, 2 or 3. I often read my rough drafts to my kids as punishment for when they misbehave. When they see me approaching with a copy of my latest draft, they typically grovel and whimper something about promising “never to do it again, Daddy” and begging me not to read to them.

Below is a detailed breakdown of the critical tasks associated with writing a successful humor blog. Of course if you attempt your own blog, your division of tasks may vary slightly from those listed below – but only slightly.

As you can see, writing a blog involves much more than simply coming up with an idea and typing – it also involves a lot of time staring at a blank word document, typing furiously, printing it out, and then crumpling up said printout into balls and throwing them in the garbage. Creative humor writing requires a sustained mental focus and inspiration – the kind I get by watching You Tube videos of drunken people falling, updating my Face Book status and playing with my giant purple magic fun ball (right). Writing a humor blog is also a great way to get my laundry done, mow my lawn, work out, pay bills or organize my sock drawer as a way of effectively avoiding the bleak reality that nothing even vaguely funny can be located within a 5-mile radius of my cranium. If you’ve read one of my blog posts that you felt was particularly lame, chances are the storage shelves in my garage were very well organized that week.

You might ask “has it all been worth it?” When I first started this blog back in the late 1960’s, I have to confess, I had very few readers – particularly since there was no such thing back then as desk top computers or humor. But over the years, the readership steadily grew (and by “steadily grew” I mainly mean “grew taller,” because the readers were growing up – something I have yet to accomplish). Below is a chart comparing the readership growth over the years compared to the readership growth I had forecast for VFTB: 

You may notice that the gap between my conservative forecasts and the actual readership growth has been dramatic. I’d like to modestly point out the steady upward climb of the readership forecast year over year. (Don’t pay attention to the yellow part of the graph. Focus on the pretty grey bars.)

After all these years, I am sometimes still surprised by all the critical acclaim my blog has received. Here is just a sampling of some recent comments from distinguished hypothetical journalists:

-       If you’re looking for really funny social commentary and clever, thought-provoking insights into this thing we call the human condition, all I can say after reading View from the Bleachers, is… keep looking. – Deanna Martin, Dallas Evening Star Telegram

-       Before I found out about Tim Jones’ View from the Bleachers blog, I thought all blogs were just dull, wordy web sites where the blogger just pontificated on obscure meaningless topics that only he/she cared about. And then I read View from the Bleachers. I stand by my previous comment.  – Lee Runnells, Harper Conrad Publishing

-       At least it keeps the boy out of trouble. God knows he’s not qualified to do much of anything else in this world.  – Betty Jones (Tim’s mother)

You can read more embarrassingly glowing praise for this column here. (Perhaps just embarrassing.)

Writing a weekly humor blog can be a gut-wrenching, soul-searching experience – riddled with agonizing mental blocks and tortuous dead-ends where sometimes the only escape is a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream and a vintage Wallace and Gromit video. But it’s comments like the ones above and the feedback from thousands of imaginary readers like you that keeps me writing week after week. How long will I continue to write this blog? I guess it all depends on how long before people start noticing those weekly $5.00 deductions I’ve been funneling from their checking accounts all these years to support my  blogging habit. To me, it’s been worth it. Hopefully, those of you who are bad at balancing your checkbook feel the same way.

That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

© Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2010 – 2011

Like my stuff? Sign up with your email address to receive my weekly humor posts straight to your email inbox!

Email:

Tags: , , ,

  • Published On May. 22, 2010 by TEJ
  • 4 Comments


    1. Drew Fisher
      5/22/10

      One of the things a writer learns first, Tim, is that when an idea comes, and words take shape, there’s usually someone who has already said it, and said it better. [This opening sentence has been lifted in its entirety -- except for the "noun of address" -- from the speech I gave at my NBC retirement party last year]. That having been said — and there is no more useless phrase than “that having been said” — your blogs have a unique freshness and originality. Also, most of what I read on the Internet is barely coherent and usually composed in open defiance of accepted grammatical norms. Norm must be delighted to read your superb grammatical writing . I am certain, of course, that your sense of humor has been refined by your association with my brother, the inventor of humor. As he is my younger brother, imagine my ordeal at having to live the first several years of my life without humor, before Steve invented it. He knows full well how much humor is appreciated by society at large, as he has been forced to live the last two decades or so in a foreign country. Keep up the good work, Tim, and each day give thanks that you do not have to blog for a living, especially about money.


    2. 5/24/10

      You sit at your desk at work staring into space? That’s what is going on when your door is closed? Then, what is making those loud, frantic keyboard sounds? Angry squirrels?

      Signed,
      Your Boss


    3. 5/24/10

      “But it’s comments like the ones above and the feedback from thousands of imaginary readers like you that keeps me writing week after week.”

      Lol. You’ve got the funny part down alright but perhaps you need to learn to market your blog. 9 months should put you at least in the alexa top 100k range (not 17 million range) and give you comments galore. Would you be interested in guest posting on a topic related to blogging on my site about blogging (link above)? Let me know via the site contact form.

    4. Thanks for wasting another perfectly good quarter hour of my workday, Tim! ROTFL

    Add A Comment