Mental Health Monday–A Joke Is An Epitaph To An Emotion (Nietzsche)

This is a post from 2010, when I first started blogging! I came across it the other day, and it resonated with me, so I decided to share it again with you. 🙂

On Friday, I had the honor of meeting a trusted colleague and friend for tea. I must say, he’s one of my most reliable coaches on my writing journey. Whenever I’m discouraged, I know I can go to him. He offers me unconditional support, sound advice, and tactful critiques. And he pays for dinner!

Halfway through my cup of Earl Grey, I realized not only does my friend have a knack for producing fascinating topics to explore, he also has an encyclopedia’s amount of information cataloged in his brain. One of his most remarkable talents includes an incredible penchant for remembering quotes and lines from songs and poems.

Anyway, during the course of our discussion, we touched upon emotions and how people cover them with jokes in order to suppress the pain of their impact. (In “psychiatry speak,” humor is considered a mature defense mechanism. It’s something relatively healthy people employ in the face of hardship and stress.)

My friend aptly pointed out this quote from Nietzsche:

“A joke is an epitaph to an emotion.”

What an important idea to remember. Not only is this pertinent to my work in psychiatry, it is also useful to keep in mind when I’m writing. For the most part, anger and sadness come relatively easy to me as I construct a scene. It’s simple enough to describe yelling, slamming fists, and storming out of rooms. I’ve used several terms for tears and grieving too. What I get stuck on is humor. I can do the subtle stuff, sure–the puzzled expression, the dry joke, even the comical slip and slide on an icy sidewalk. But true laugh out loud humor eludes me.

As a good friend should, my literary cheerleader triggered a cascade of thoughts leading me to action from that simple quote. So often in my writing, I am in the moment explaining the direct, raw emotion. I’m left to wonder, where is the space to incorporate a humorous reflection, a comic relief character, or a joke to lighten an overly negative mood?

My new task, then, is to scour my writing and look for spots where humor can be incorporated. I am certain including little punches of laughter and happiness will make my characters more well rounded, more dynamic, and more human.

Epitaphs don’t only have to be on tombstones.

“H” is for Humor

It’s the weekend and, in my opinion, it’s a wonderful time to relax and share a laugh. So, without further ado, here are some humorous writing quotes I came across this week:

  • Manuscript: something submitted in haste and returned at leisure. ~Oliver Herford
  • To be able to write a play a man must be sensitive, imaginative, naive, gullible, passionate; he must be something of an imbecile, something of a poet, something of a liar, something of a damn fool. ~Robert E. Sherwood
  • The only imaginative fiction being written today is income tax returns. ~Herman Wouk
  • A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. ~Thomas Mann
  • There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ~W. Somerset Maugham
  • Writing is 1 percent inspiration, and 99 percent elimination. ~Louise Brooks
  • I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all. ~E.B. White
  • No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft. ~H.G. Wells

What’s your favorite writing quote?


Quotes for Writers

I found this on YouTube the other day and HAD to share it:

People who know me, like the real, every day me, know that I’m not the warm and gushy, huggy-feely, cry at every tear-jerker type, but this moved me. Scout’s honor.

My favorite quote: The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. –Sylvia Plath

Tell me, writerly friends, which quote(s) struck you?