Writing with Humor

“It’s not what happens in your life but how you write about it.”

                                                —David Sedaris, Master Class: Storytelling and Humor

I watched David Sedaris talk on Master Class the other night. I got hooked right away when he said that everything is funny—eventually.

Lately, I’ve been feeling preoccupied with the complexity of life, and I am also feeling less chipper. This is perhaps due to a restricted social life secondary to Covid. Not to mention the fact, I’m indeed getting older. So, when David Sedaris, sitting in a chair and looking directly at me from the TV screen, said that when we get older more and more “stuff” happens, “like you fall down.” Write about it. Of course, if I fall, I only hope I don’t break a leg. It would take a great effort to find humor in that scenario. 

I’ve written in the past about my confusion on how to handle getting older. Never mind that I’ve been a geriatric nurse practitioner most of my professional life. All I’ve learned about getting older seems useless when I apply it to myself. In fact, I wrote a post called:  How to handle this age issue in which I describe a scene where I had walked into a Weight Watchers’ storefront on a rainy day to sign up to lose the ten pounds that has ebbed and flowed across my midriff for the past twenty years. The sales lady, encouraging me to enroll in the program, mentioned that WW had helpful information on the internet. In fact, she authored an informative Blog. Then she hesitated, eyed me up and down, and asked if I knew what a Blog was? I immediately took offense thinking that she saw me as an older woman (of course I was) who, obviously, had to be ignorant of all technology. I pulled myself up stiffly and in a snooty voice told her I had my own Blog. I stormed out of the store.

At the end of my post, I mentioned that I regretted I had reacted so poorly. There could have been a teachable moment for the sales lady had I casually told her about my Blog. And laughed at the thought that I was computer illiterate just because I was older.

David Sedaris wouldn’t have been so understanding and forgiving. He wouldn’t look for teachable moments. He wouldn’t have taken umbrage either. He would’ve let the story play out—knowing the scene will become humorous—later. He thinks it’s fascinating to show peoples’ prejudices. Plus, it’s important to add the author’s own fallibilities.

Will David Sedaris’ suggestions be helpful in tweaking my attitude toward my own aging? Will showing the humor in the inevitable and enjoying the irony in what life hands me make me a better writer? And help me better handle this age issue?

Author: Marianna Crane

After a long career in nursing--I was one of the first certified gerontological nurse practitioners--I am now a writer. My writings center around patients I have had over the years that continue to haunt my memory unless I record their stories. In addition, showing what a nurse practitioner does in her job will educate the public about we nurses really do. So few nurses write about ourselves as compared to physicians. My memoir, "Stories from the Tenth Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers" is available where ever books are sold

14 thoughts on “Writing with Humor”

  1. I hope this advice helps! But I can’t laugh yet that I almost fell headlong on a ceramic floor the other day precipitated by a new sharp pain in my hip. Bursitis, the doctor said. My first reaction— not me! I’m not old enough to have that. And I don’t want to accrue new diagnoses!

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  2. This is so true! Thanks for giving me a nice chuckle to start my day. I have a bunch of random notes pinned to the bulletin board in my studio. One of my favorites is: “Old age is not for sissies.” I wasn’t even old yet when I first copied it in my best calligraphy & hung it up. Now that I am, I realize how very true this is. But we ain’t dead yet! Onward and upward!

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    1. “Old age is not for sissies” is a saying I’m using more often as I age. It’s so true.
      By the way, Barbara, I finished you book: “Riva’s Journey: a Memoir” and absolutely loved it. Loved the amount of background research you did to make this an interesting book. Your grandmother did have an “interesting” life.

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  3. I have run into the technology thing multiple times and haven’t handled it very well. Also, since I let my hair go white three years ago, I find people quite solicitous. Sometimes assistance is welcomed, but often I resent it. Must remember to find the humor!

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  4. I guess the answer is “probably!” Its a great post. And I totally understand the hot button that goes off in us when WE THINK that someone has judged us as “aged”.
    Keep going MA!

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