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Talking to Myself

Schmutter-110912

Do your family and friends play a role in your writing? Do they provide feedback and suggestions?

I give most of my articles to my wife for feedback, so she can roll her eyes and tell me they’re not funny. I think that ideally, my wife would like my columns to be made up of jokes that I hadn’t already told her when I was planning the columns. My kids don’t read my columns yet, which is great, because they’re in them, and my parents, who also show up in them from time to time, view them with a mixture of pride and embarrassment. Which is exactly the basis of a parent/child relationship anyway.

What is your writing process like? Describe it.

Before I start, I generally clear off my desk, so there’s nothing to distract me from writing. Then I clean the floor around my desk, wash some dishes, take out the garbage, dust the seforim shelves, and clean the dust out of my keyboard, and by the time I’m finished with all of that, it’s like 5 minutes to deadline. So most of my articles are written with a clear mind, but in a mad panic. I think that might be the secret to humor.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

I like the process of planning everything beforehand — coming up with all the fun ideas without having to worry about which ones actually fit, whether any of them are actually good, and how many of them I have to cut out so we can shoehorn my article onto the page without having a foldout on the bottom. The best part of this process is that I can talk to myself, and when people look at me funny, I can say, “What? I’m a writer!” I don’t even have to pretend I’m wearing a Bluetooth.

What do you hope to accomplish in your writing? What message do you want to send?

My advice column tackles questions and problems that many of us face on a day-to-day basis, though it doesn’t focus so much on providing answers. The point, mainly, is to show the asker that he’s not alone, and that everyone struggles with the same things. And often, that’s enough to make him feel better, at least until he notices that he still has the problem.

A lot of times when something frustrating happens, people say, “One day, you’ll look back on this and laugh.” My column says, “Why not today?”

Got any questions for “You’re Asking Me?” You’re not alone.

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