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Lighten Up! This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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A quick survey of the work on TeenInk.com leaves me feeling down. How melancholy teen writers are. Page after page of angst-filled, angry, whiny drivel! The day I wrote this, for example, the most popular unpublished fiction piece was about a boy whose father had died. The story was ­decent, but this kind of writing is incredibly common. What are your lives like? What causes these teen writers to craft so many stories about depressing subjects like prostitution, murder, and rape?

Whatever happened to the short story writers of the Strand Magazine (to which Arthur Conan Doyle contributed his tales) or the essayists who wrote about dogs, smoking, and the cakes that their wives made? (Humorist James Thurber wrote about all those things. Good stuff.)

Have teen writers simply not read much comedy? If not, then I recommend Oscar Wilde, P.G. Wodehouse, James Thurber, George Bernard Shaw, David Sedaris, Stephen Fry, E.B. White (who was well-known for his light-hearted ­essays before he became a children's author), Eric Newby, David Mitchell, Peter Cook, Al Franken, Douglas Adams, Mark Twain (he wrote more than Tom Sawyer), and Rowan Atkinson.

Or must we attribute this dismal trend to that old bastard, teen angst? Do these writers just have so many feelings that they can barely contain themselves and must vomit them onto paper, lest they pop? If that is the case (and I think it must be), then for heaven's sake, mix it up! I say this as much for my sake as a reader as for yours as a writer. Don't spend all of your lovely, fluffy, and ultimately endearing energies ­writing about how messed up the world is or how few people understand you. Write something about “Gordito: The Crime Solving Dog,” or “The Time I Ate Thirty-Nine Pies.” Such stories are bound to tickle at least a few humor glands.

Now, I am not saying that angst has no place in writing. Of course it does, especially on a site like TeenInk.com. Indeed, angst is a feeling as legitimate as any other. But it is not, as many of you think, a personal pain. Have you read Catcher in the Rye? You probably enjoyed it because it's incredibly easy to relate to the main character. The reason is that Holden Caulfield experiences what every single adolescent does: angst.

I certainly experience angst. Occasionally, I feel down, friendless, and rejected. What do I do when in these funks? I read something by one of the aforementioned authors. Then I suddenly remember that the world is a pretty entertaining place and, regardless of its reason for being, life is pretty all right. And I feel the same feelings but amplified when I write anything humorous.

Not that writing humor is easy, mind you. Oscar Wilde and George Orwell agreed that humor is the most difficult of all prose. But it is also often the most accurate and powerful.

Now, please, write something funny. I really want to read it.

Editor's note: If you too are looking for a laugh, check out the fiction starting on Page 31.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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Sunshineyday said...
Oct. 11, 2009 at 8:49 pm:
unfortunately, some kids think sad writing is always more powerful. so they write these depressing non-rhyming rambling poems for show, and more mature poets know that this is just lazy writing. I find ways to express myself with light, hence my name sunshineyday. An experience poet can work his/her words to make a piece from many vantage points, not just "sad, sad,sad" like Eeyore from winnie the pooh.
 
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bee<3 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 24, 2009 at 8:19 pm:
ditto! people focus on the negatives wayyyy too much. but i'm guilty of it, too. just look at the poetry that i've written. and i used to think i was positive and up-beat! maybe i sould try to be more of an optimiss...
 
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Natalescence This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 22, 2009 at 1:46 am:
Agree, agree, agree! I think the main thing that is blocking teens from writing humor is we think that the things we find funny, other people will think is stupid-- but that definitely shouldn't stop us.
 
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lonewolf This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 15, 2009 at 11:14 pm:
I totally agree, writing about depressing things can only feed those depressing flames within yourself and others. I think there should be more light-hearted articles on here
 
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