Learn from Stephen Colbert’s creative process

 In Actors, Learning from Luminaries

‘ . . . have talked about how important it is as a writer to be able to take your funny idea, boil it down to the essentials, and convey it in a funny and timely manner to a room. You might have the funniest bit in the room but if you can’t explain it properly it’s never going to get picked to air.’ Una donna usa il distillatore in laboratorio

The above quotation is from Inside Stephen Colbert’s Creative Process by Pxronin 

What’s the relevance of this quotation to you?

Simply this.

When the pressure is on, can you boil down an idea to its essentials, and articulate it simply?

Let’s agree we all can get better at boiling down our ideas when under pressure. As William Strunk and EB White have memorably written in The Elements of Style, we need to ‘Omit needless words’.

Here is a practical technique for improving your ‘boiling down’ of ideas:

Your CALL to Action/HOW to apply for this post: Find a friend’s/neighbour’s 12-15 year old and explain what you do in your work – so they understand it, and can summarise your explanation.  Reflect on how much time you needed for your explanation, and on how well the teenager understood and could explain what you do.

Consider what words you could omit. Consider what re-sequencing of words/sentences might make the explanation clearer.

Small changes can matter. Consider this statement from a print journalist: ‘Put a comma in the wrong place, and it can screw up the whole sentence’.


p.s. This is my last post for 2015. Thank you for your reading and for your comments. I appreciate it. Posts will resume in February 2016. Thank you. Cheers, Michael Kelly

Check out this prior post entitled, Before giving up on a dream

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