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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.

True story:

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.
_________________________________

Scott Adams
Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

Author of this book

 



 

 
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Jul 24, 2014
NSFW, but a couple of the Oglaf comics seem highly relevant to this post:
http://oglaf.com/gifted/
http://oglaf.com/gifted2/
http://oglaf.com/gifted2/2/
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 24, 2014
What was dangerous about that? Only paid up members of the god squad could surely try to bite your arse over that?

FWIW, I agree. Who needs a relationship? My hand doesn't complain if I finish quickly, doesn't want to be taken out to dinner first, and can't talk. If it cramps in retaliation, I change hands.

So yep, I'm a wanker and proud of it.
 
 
Jul 24, 2014
For those who aspire, I have one word of advice: Kegels.

Also, it's Jon Stewart, not John.
 
 
Jul 24, 2014
They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something. At an average of 15 minutes a "shot," that would mean about 40,000 sessions. At 4 times per day, it's 10,000 days or over 27 years. So, if you practice an hour a day, you could be a master at the craft by the time you're 40. I think I mastered this particular craft by 30 and doubled that effort since then. I often practice for 2 to 3 hours a day right now.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 24, 2014
Well you seem to be hitting the nail on the head, but there is one big obstacle in the way of this trend and it has to do with evolution. M-asturbators reproduce less by definition.
 
 
Jul 24, 2014
OK, the first censored word was "m a s t u r b a t i o n," while the second was "p o r n." I apologize for Scott on the s u c k i n e s s of his blog software's censorship program.
 
 
Jul 24, 2014
The mind boggles.

I'm not quite sure I get your point. Looking back on your writing (non-cartoon) career, I don't see much "dangerous thoughts" in your books. I still think the best book you ever wrote was "The Dilbert Principle," which had sarcasm and irreverent humor, but not a lot of master-level masturbational malingering. Good alliteration, huh?

Your most recent book (I can't recall the title but it had a childishly scrawled comic on its orange cover) did not shock or awe in its edginess. The part about eating Quinoa seemed to be the most controversial section. If, in that book, you had said that setting a goal of !$%*!$%*!$%* ten times a week is less advantageous to your overall pleasurable releases than the system of watching as much !$%* as you can, I could see your point.

I heartily disagree with your first sentence's parenthetical posit not to worry about spelling and grammar because there are editors who will do that. You are writing from the ethereal plane of name recognition and an already successful published-works career. Those, such as you, who are getting big bucks and large advances, can afford to hire professional editors.

That's not me. I recently got a full read of my 98,000-word thriller from an agent. I submitted the book via an on-line service. After I submitted it, I found a typo, to wit: I left out an ending double-quote mark in one sentence.

I instantly re-submitted the corrected novel. 98,000 words and one typo. But that was one typo too many. Had I found another typo, I would have resubmitted it once again. If you look at what agents/editors/publishers post, almost all say that the easiest and simplest way to get a rejection is to submit a work with poor spelling, grammar or punctuation.

As a matter of fact, I recall a certain author, who shall remain nameless, who wrote in his most recent book that one should not use 'was' when 'were' is correct, because (not a direct quote, but close) people who know good grammar know the difference and tend to discount your writing abilities if you make that mistake. Who WAS that guy? Does anyone remember?

Perhaps that author, whoever it is, should debate Scott Adams concerning this point. What fun that would be to watch.

 
 
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 24, 2014
Isn't masturbation a binary event? i.e. success/failure

Then again, maybe I see it that way because I'm not that good at it despite the 10,000 hours of practice.
 
 
Jul 24, 2014
If a bell curve exists for a given talent, then most people are average at playing the piano, despite never playing one before. Even if you include only people learning to play, everyone starts off terrible and gets better. Many stop before getting average (able to play a decently complex song).

To modify your theory and make it a little more viable, a person's brain is more wired toward a talent on a bell curve. If everyone learned to play the piano for ten years, one hour a day, their ability would fall on that curve. Some people are terrible at hand-eye coordination (brains aren't wired for that all too well) and they fall on the 'terrible' end of the curve. Some people just 'get' tonal patterns, and are FAR better, thereby picking it up faster. This kind of curve would work for anything, from communication to games to physical endeavors to business.

This meshes well with your advice to be in the top 10% of two or three things that work well together. Find those things there your brain helps you be better, in the top 10%.
 
 
+6 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 24, 2014
I agree with your points vis masturbatio.n replacing reproduction (except where intentional), but there is a little silver lining in that cloud.
Mate preference used to be based on "the best mate I can get in bed with me," (with an argument for "the best mate I can marry" if you think people are not unfaithful). Now the por.n and se.x toys industry are competition as well. I mention the se.x toys because while women don't seem to get as much from dirty pictures/videos, vibes are now better than men at a lot of things, and I have already heard of women who have become sufficiently desensitized by !$%*!$%*! that they can't get off from a human without vibe assistance.
So far, reinforcing your point. But we still like to cuddle, we still like discourse, and in my experience, the higher your "mate value," the more you value things like personality, intelligence, etc. I suspect that the next generation is going to have a lot of the sorts of folks who had trouble finding a mate before internet just going with the flow and using por.n, while the smartest folks continue to look for a human.
Basically, I think por.n is the solution to the problem posited by idiocracy.
 
 
Jul 24, 2014
I'm building a full size humanoid robot. It takes a long time for a 3D printer to do it's job, and even though I don't have a sexual motive, I'll admit that the thought has crossed my mind. Maybe I'll find the idea more interesting in a month or so when my robot is more than half of a left arm. At this point, the robot isn't competing well with masturbation.
 
 
Jul 24, 2014
I have had a related thought that I would not want to be a strip club owner right now. The competition from the Internet is going to be enough to satisfy the casual miscreant, who would rather stay at home versus park their car in front of such an establishment. On the other end of the spectrum, the pathologically perverted are not going to be able to bring a donkey or whatever else floats their boat into a club. So, who's your customer?
 
 
Jul 24, 2014
Today's blog gets me to wonder: is it possible that each person is "the world's greatest" at something (or more accurately, among the world's best), but that the 'something' either hasn't been discovered by the person yet, or hasn't been invented yet, or has been rendered obsolete. If the world's greatest !$%*!$%*!$%* for example, had devout religious beliefs that prevented him/her from discovering his/her true talent; of if the world's greatest dinosaur hunter cannot find a T.Rex to wow the world with his/her skill, these people would wind up living a life of mediocrity.

There is also another aspect to "writing down what you are thinking" that your post leaves out: having thoughts organized enough to be able to convey them. Transcribing your dream from last night, however dangerous that dream may have been, is likely not to interest others, as dreams are notoriously disorganized and symbolic on a personal not universal level. When the dream is universal (finding oneself naked in front of a crowd), THEN the potential for "being a good writer" comes into play.
 
 
Jul 24, 2014
Given that talents often have a large genetic component, I suppose this may have implications as more and more babies are conceived through sperm donation.

As for an exercise in creative writing, this post is why most writers keep notebooks that they never, ever let anyone else look at.

Scott just did the writer's equivalent of a public jerk-off.
 
 
-10 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 24, 2014
It was fine reading right up until that last sentence. Tired, really, of all your theories about how robots will take over. And this time you didn't even have a semi-reasonable explanation for it. It just came out of the blue and was a real leap of logic to boot.
 
 
 
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