Have you ever watched a particularly inventive TV show, movie, or sketch and thought, "How did they come up with all of that?" It can make the idea of creating a piece seem like an incredibly daunting task. This can easily turn into fear or doubt which can hinder our productivity.
By no means do I have the answer for every potential issue, but below are some thoughts that could ease that creative burden weighing you down.
It's Not All Invented
Usually the part that seems the most difficult to invent wasn't. It was just the truth. Take the classic Christmas movie A Christmas Story. The film's writer and narrator, Jean Shepherd has publicly denied that the stories came from his childhood. And that's true...mostly. While they are fictitious stories he did use details, events, and names from his real life in the movie. The rich details are a big part of A Christmas Story 's charm. It would be pretty daunting to try to invent details as elaborate as all the ones in that movie. Thankfully, we don't have to! We can use the truth. One of the many reasons they say, "Truth in comedy," is because you should draw from things you know to be true to create the work. Because Shepherd could utilize things he knew were true to find inspiration he could use more of his creative brain power to develop this beloved classic.
The truth provided major details that would be hard to create on your own. Now all you have to do is take that truth and embellish it. Embellishment is a defining characteristic of comedy. A great example of this is the popular character Stefon from SNL. That character was inspired by a barista Bill Hader saw at a coffee shop a lot. He was the truth that sparked this fun and interesting character. Hader picked up on the barista's mannerisms and voice then exaggerated those characteristics. It's hard to come up with a character like that from scratch, but in this case so much of the hard work of developing character was already done.
You don't even have to come up with the funny part. What in the truth is already funny to you? Picking out the part that's funny to you is a useful trick whether you're writing a script about your adolescence, coming up with a character based on a peculiar person you know, or writing jokes for a topical news comedy show like The Daily Show. Take the part that sticks out to you and exaggerate it. It's that simple.
Granted, John Mulaney's brilliant comedy brain crafted great dialogue for Stefon, which brings us to the final point!
Once you have the truth and know what the funny part to embellish is the next step is to think of a creative way to express them. There are many ways to accomplish this. Answer the obvious questions. Connect dots to make analogies. Add tags to humorously describe different details. You've seen a LOT of comedy. What kind of movies have you seen other comedians make? Mine that work and learn new moves to put in your tool belt to help you craft your work.
It's that simple. Your brain isn't responsible for creating every single part of a piece. That lets you off the hook a little bit.
Letting things come naturally to you and then putting a pinch of thought to it will hopefully eliminate the emotional blocks that are keeping you from creating your own work!