Finding the Funny

I recently read an insightful novel about the writing life and creative process. It’s called How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti. In the book, she points out that the key to good writing is finding the funny, which I take to mean locating the ironic or even more difficult to define types of humorous situations in life and then translating them onto the page. In my own creative experience, I have found that I often don’t fully realize the humor of an event until I am translating it onto the page. I very much agree with Heti that the best writing locates the odd humor in life, a perspective that might not even exist in the experience alone but only comes by way of art’s translation. However, I would expand on Heti’s idea by pointing out that such an effect is not limited to humor. Good writing also locates the sad, the happy, the sexy, the hopeless. Life is full of situations in which we expect one feeling, but find another creeping in. Perhaps we grow used to ignoring or even battling these uninvited and inappropriate emotions, like outbursts from a drunken guest at a funeral, but good writing remains open to them, channeling such feelings onto the page, a gift.

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