Things Steve Martin Taught Me: Use Everything

This post will be about the second point, Use Everything, in the speech I’ll give later this week about the, Three Things Steven Martin Taught Me. The speech will be based on the fourth project, Keep Them Laughing, in the Toastmasters Advanced Manual: Humorously Speaking. In this project, I need to open my speech with a self-depreciating joke and then use sets of two or three joke sets throughout the body of my speech.  I have been trying to accomplish this speech for a few weeks but I continue to put it off this speech while I complete other speech projects because I’ve been having a hard time writing my own jokes.  That’s why I decided to do the speech about Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life, by Steve Martin, so I’ll build joke sets off of the examples in Steve’s audiobook to help tell my story.

I first wrote about ‘Use Everything’ a year ago, in the post, You’ll Use Everything You’ve Ever Known. It was inspired by a section of Steve Martin’s book, Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life, when he’s on the tonight show with Johnny Carson and Johnny had just completed a gag using a bow and arrow.  Johnny leaned into Steve and whispered in his ear, “you’ll use everything you’ve ever known.”  Steve confirmed that it has also been completely true in his career.  If you listen to the book you’ll hear this repeatedly. For many years, some of Steve’s act he started with as a child was used all the way through his mega success.  One of the first props he bought was a arrow through the head, which he still used when he became famous.  Others where his magic, playing the banjo, and his cowboy rope tricks he learned in his childhood job as an assistant to a cowboy at Disneyland.  He ended up using those rope tricks in his movie, Three Amigos.

When I discuss writing a daily blog or a speech every week, many people tell me about their struggles of coming up with any material. They feel like nothing is any good, or at least good enough to write a blog post about or give a speech on the subject.

My simple recommendation of ‘Use Everything’ may seem way to simple of an answer but it’s the truth.

Anything and everything, can be a blog post or a speech. You might not find it particularly interesting but you may be surprised by what others might think.  Something you take for granted could be something new and exciting to someone else. In my Toastmasters speeches, I’ve talked about the death of my father, why I’m at Toastmasters, the birth of my first child, getting engaged, being attacked by fire ants and crashing a golf cart, the equipment you’ll need to complete a half ironman, my first improv class, a year long 1 second video I created of my son’s first year, motivating people to use the Pick Four Notebook, my goal of giving a speech every week, modern meeting standards, and writing a blog post every day.

I had the same frustration when I joined Toastmasters.  When I first started writing things down, I didn’t think I had anything to write.  Everything felt boring and unimportant. The key is to keep writing. Write down as many things as you can about your life.  Write about things that have happened to you, your work, your hobbies, your dream, where you’ve traveled, or books you’ve read.  It doesn’t matter, just tell us about your experiences.  Don’t stop writing. Keep going and eventually you’ll have something to tell us.

A Steve Martin quote I recently found, sums up what we all face at any creative endeavor, “I think I did pretty well, considering I started out with nothing but a bunch of blank paper.”

Go fill those blank papers.