I began studying what is required to be a writer more than 20 years ago. The thing I heard from teachers was that I needed to do it daily. It needed to be as much a part of my life as eating. I developed the habit of writing daily, even if I wasn’t always certain where I was headed or even if I felt like I was truly in the mood. There came a point in my development where sitting down to write was as much a recreation to me as watching TV, reading a book or playing video games.
There comes a point as a professional when what you do is simply what you do. It’s beyond questions of how or why. You reach a point where what you do becomes so self-evident that the questions just fall away. So when aspiring writers ask me how I turn out so much work, where my ideas come from, how I edit my work or how I decided on my voice, I really am at a loss for how to answer. All I can say is that I write about cycling because I write about cycling.
I’m aware that anyone who says that deserves to be punched in the face.
Just be gentle when you do it, ‘kay?
So my colleague (?), friend (?), fellow blogger (!) Fatty over at Fat Cyclist has released a collection of his best work. “Comedian Matermind: The Best of FatCyclist.com” spans a three-year period with the beginning of the blog in 2005 and taking the reader up only to 2007. As a survey of the entire breadth of the blog, it’s a failure. But that’s because it was meant to focus on a far smaller slice of the blog’s history. At 312 pages, one might mistakenly think it represents that aforementioned overview of the entire blog. As I mentioned, it isn’t. Holy Gutenberg Bible, Batman! That works out to a bit more than mining 100 pages of usable prose per year. Now, the average blog post takes up three pages in the book, but that’s still a record of more than 30 memorable posts per year.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is what it means to be a writer. Most blogs I read don’t post 100 pages of material in a year, much less 100 pages worth saving.
It was fun revisiting posts that were making me laugh seven years ago. And I can tell you, I didn’t laugh a lot in 2005, but Fatty helped keep me sane. When you consider that there’s at least one good laugh per page, Fatty’s achievement becomes all the more apparent. The title of Comedian Mastermind may sound like a typical bit of comic hyperbole, but I hereby attest that it is exactly true. His ability to find comedy at every turn leaves me wondering why Bill Maher hasn’t hired him as one of his writers.
No, really. Why the hell not? He’s that good.
Fatty could have done the safe thing and just reprinted a bunch of old posts. That would have been understandable. And perfectly acceptable. Instead of just doing a cut and paste of the chosen posts, Fatty gives each one fresh consideration. The upshot? We get introductions and footnotes. As a man who has read his share of footnotes, I’m willing to assert that no other set of footnotes, in aggregate, is funny. These footnotes go back an annotate the text, revealing additional layers of information and meaning, making seven-year-old jokes morning-break fresh. They are a feast of hilarity unto themselves.
I’m desperate to quote my favorite moments in here. It would be the wrong thing to do. Years ago I attended a double bill of Richard Thompson and Crowded House. Thompson came on first and about mid-way through his set he began playing the opening bars to the big Crowded House hit, “Don’t Dream, It’s Over.” I dissolved into giggles. He then confessed that it’s always been his dream to do a show for an audience who doesn’t know him and to do all the songs of the act he’s opening for, hoping they all get up and leave after he’s finished. I thought I was going to pass out because I couldn’t breathe due to my uncontrollable laughter.
So that’s why I dare not quote him. To steal any of the wonderful moments in the book would be to play his songs. Fatty has also had some fun with the organization of the book. He’s organized the book into how-tos, fake news, epic rides, open letters and more. It’s an amazing reminder of Fatty’s incredible range as a writer. He has the capacity to be funny whether writing about the misadventures of pros as well as his own misadventures.
Here’s the part that infuriates me: He did all this while holding down a full-time job and being a family man. That’s just not right. You shouldn’t be able to write something funny after having delivered a full work day to your employer and then play husband and daddy before going on to turn out 1000 words on why floor pumps are a sign of how this is still a 19th century sport. I envy him that ability.