If you can write down what you are thinking, that's the only skill you need to become a professional writer. (Editors can fix your grammar and spelling.)
But writing what you are thinking is much harder than it sounds.
An amateur writer usually writes what he imagines other people think, or what other people have already written, or what other people might expect to be written. It is surprisingly difficult to capture your own thoughts in prose. And that means vast amounts of knowledge and creativity are stranded in skulls all over the world.
So I thought I would try to free some of that creativity by telling you how to write down what you are thinking.
The first thing you must understand about writing your internal thoughts is that they are dangerous. If you can't handle some danger, this sort of writing probably isn't for you. If you only write down your non-dangerous thoughts, no one will want to read them.
Danger is a necessary ingredient for humor writing in particular. The audience should be thinking some form of "I'll bet that guy's wife is going to divorce him after she reads that," or "I wonder if that put him on the TSA no-fly list" or "I wonder if his family will disown him."
Danger is why we laugh when a comedian makes fun of the powerful, because on some level we feel that the powerful could strike back if they chose to do so. When John Stewart does his bleeped-profanity attacks on the powerful, all of our danger alarms sound.
The perception of danger is what helped Dilbert in the early years. Readers learned that I had a day job while at the same time I was mocking the stupidity of management. Folks rightfully wondered how long I would keep my job. They sensed danger. And as it turns out, they were right, because senior management did paint a target on my back.
What follows is an example of dangerous writing. If I do it right, you should be thinking I can't believe he actually wrote down those thoughts
. That will bite him in the ass later.
Yesterday I was thinking about the fact that for every human skill there is bell-shaped curve of talent. Some people are extra-bad, most people are in the middle, and a few people are extraordinarily talented. This pattern seems to hold for every type of human skill from dancing to math to poetry.
So I started wondering if there is such a thing as the best masturbator in the world. I have to assume such a person exists. Clearly there is no way to rank one person's masturbation skills against another, but you have to assume some people are terrible at doing it, most people are average, but a few are - one assumes - truly sensational.
I can't decide if being a world-class masturbator is a blessing or a curse. I could see it going either way. The blessing part is obvious, at least while it is happening. But how does such a person ever hold down a job, succeed in a relationship that cuts into masturbation time, or generally function in the world?
And how would you feel if you had a world-class talent and no one knew about it? That would be frustrating. Maybe you have a friend who has an amazing job, another friend who can bench press 300 pounds, and another who a terrific artist. They all look at you and think you have no special talent. But you do!
Then I started thinking that most human talents tend to improve over the years. The best athletes are better than ever. The best engineers are better than ever. The best doctors are better than ever. And most of that improvement comes from the environment and not the DNA of the individual. For example, doctors are better because teaching methods and medical technology have improved. Athletes are better because nutrition, coaching, and science have advanced.
So what about world-class masturbators?
Well, the Internet has certainly improved their lot. In my childhood you were lucky to find a Sears catalog with a bra section. Today you can find on the Internet your exact fantasy preference, and lots of it. Your preferences can vary on any given day, but that's no problem because whatever you want is a few clicks away.
I also assume that porn sites are continually improving their offerings by monitoring customer patterns and developing more of whatever gets the best reaction. That sort of A-B testing should, in theory, take porn from "Oh, wow, this is good!" to somewhere in the range of "Can anyone find the part of my head that just blew off?"
Interestingly, while porn is presumably improving in leaps and bounds, just like every other business than can track consumer reactions and respond intelligently, the competition for porn (real humans) has largely stagnated.
Sure, people today are fitter, and they have better teeth and hair and makeup. But there is a limit to how sexy humans can be because we refuse to upgrade our personalities. For some reason we think it is noble to be true to ourselves, to "be real" instead of steadily improving.
So porn is improving every day, one assumes, whereas in-person human sexiness has already peaked. Humans are rapidly becoming uncompetitive with masturbation.
If that observation is true, we would expect to see some trends emerging.
1. Decline in marriage rates (check!)
2. High unemployment of the young who are happy living at home (check!)
3. Lower rates of reproduction where the Internet has the highest penetration (check!)
Those trends could be correlation and not causation. But my point is that for the best masturbators among us, humans have probably already become uncompetitive for sex. And as you know, humans became uncompetitive for conversation the minute you got your first smartphone.
So here's another path for robots to take over the Earth. They just have to wait until the porn industry makes in-person sex seem antiquated, dangerous, and annoying. I give it fifteen years.
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book