Communities

From barrels of trash, to barrels of laughs

Aaron Donley: Aaron Donley is the author of two comedy books, ”Good Chemistry” and ”What We Once Called Out In Passing Clouds.” When he’s not writing, he works as the manager at Sanipac. ALIYA HALL/THE CRESWELL CHRONICLE

”I felt I wasn’t putting enough into my creative life, and I’ve been trying to give myself more grace with that. Not to put the pressure of time on myself; things get done eventually. If you put pressure to do it in a short time period, it’s stressful, but if you make it an enjoyable part of your life, you’ll be able to get it done.” – Aaron Donley

CRESWELL – Most people know Aaron Donley from his 12 years working as a manager for Sanipac, but when he isn’t doing his day job, Donley is a published author of two comedy books: ”Good Chemistry” and ”What We Once Called Out In Passing Clouds.”
”I don’t like to share this side of me very much,” Donley said. ”With work, I’m focused on that. Then there’s this silly side of me I don’t show a whole lot. I was nervous, but my wife has pushed me to share this side of me.”
Donley has always written jokes for himself and said he has compiled thoughts he’s had since high school. One early encouraging moment was when he did two versions of a history assignment, a funny one and a real one, and presented his funny version in front of the class.
”I got a big laugh out of it,” he said, and from there that has stuck with him.
His humor style is absurdist, and was inspired by Jack Handey’s Deep Thoughts skits on Saturday Night Live.
”There’s weird twists of logic to them,” he explained. ”You pick something that you don’t know what’s funny about it, but there’s something there. If you let it marinate and don’t take the surface-level joke, go deeper, and over the course of a whole day, usually you’ll get a good bit out of it.”
He added that he’ll write around 10 jokes or humorous observations, and only two of those will be good enough to keep. Along with the humorous thoughts he collected, Donley also created the illustrations for the book – all 300 of them.
It took him six months to create the drawings and another six months to compile them together for self-publishing. He said that there was a learning curve in formatting the stories, particularly with including the illustrations, but overall the barrier to entry is low.
”I don’t have unrealistic expectations,” he said. ”I have free e-books available (on his website). I just want people to enjoy them if they can. If I get some exposure that’s nice too. It’s a long process and I enjoy writing, so I’ll hopefully still be doing that in years to come.”
At the moment, Donley is also working on his first novel. It’s been two years in the making and he said it will take another six months before it’s published, but it’s going through the editing process now.
The book, ”The Star Light Inn,” is a coming-of-age novel focusing on 17-year-old Humor Thomas. He and his friends are taking a road trip through ”a post-apocalyptic midwestern United States in search of sex, drugs and a pit in Wyoming rumored to possess miraculous powers.”
The story was based on a ”morbid vision” he had about a pit in the middle of a club that has lights in it, and people are jumping into it, not realizing that they are ending their life by doing so.
”I had the idea forever ago and built a novel around it,” he explained.
Along with writing, Donley also has a podcast called ”Think Funny” that he does with his brother and best friend, as a way to reconnect with them. Originally from Iowa, he said that this is one of the ways he could stay in touch. The group, along with guests who are friends of Donley’s, talk about blending the intellectual side and funny side.
”The way my friends and I talked, they were funny people, but not class clowns,” he explained. ”They’re people who became lawyers, who are ‘reserved funny.’”
With 36 episodes, the podcast – to Donley’s surprise – is trending in the country of Brunei, right behind Seth Meyer’s podcast. He joked that they’re going to focus specifically on targeting Brunei now.
Although it’s a lot to balance, Donley said he learned that if someone really wants something to happen, there’s time to make it happen.
”At night, if you don’t watch Netflix and write or do it while the family’s watching Netflix, you can get a lot done over the course of a year,” he said. He added that he would even write his novel on his phone during gaps of time.
”I felt I wasn’t putting enough into my creative life, and I’ve been trying to give myself more grace with that,” he said. ”Not to put the pressure of time on myself; things get done eventually. If you put pressure to do it in a short time period, it’s stressful, but if you make it an enjoyable part of your life, you’ll be able to get it done.”
Consistency is key, he said; however, the challenge and frustration can come between balancing those pursuits while living his ”day life.”
”I like my day job. I like working for Sanipac. I like working for garbage and recycling. It fits me well. It’s a service industry, blue-collar, getting-things-done job and I like that. I feel really blessed,” he said, ”but given the choice, I’d rather be a writer – but everyone has their dreams. It’s managing that.”
He said the most rewarding aspect of it all is knowing when a joke works.
”When I feel that a joke works internally, no one can tell you that, you have to feel it,” he said, adding that it’s been encouraging to hear the positive feedback in the testimonials. He was able to receive comments from Josh Weinstein, executive producer of The Simpsons, as well as his childhood hero, Jack Handey.
”To get praise from him was almost better than selling a bunch of copies,” he said. ”I’d rather have that and not sell any copies.”
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