I frequently get letters from people who have no purpose in life and are devoid of any useful skill, and who would therefore like to become writers. "I have a lot of ideas," these people always say, "but I can never seem to get anything down on paper!"

That is their first mistake. We modern professional writers never use paper for any purpose except to fill out loan applications. We do all our writing on electronic computers, which we like because they have a little light on the screen, called a "cursor," invented by Nazis, which goes like this (and I quote): "blink." All day long it does this, serving as a helpful reminder that time is passing and you are not producing squat. We professional writers take a great deal of pleasure in sitting in front of our computer screens, hour after hour, trying to think of something professional to write and watching our cursors go blink, blink, blink, blink, BLINK, BLINK, BLINK, BLINK, IIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

What we are experiencing here is Cursor Madness, a problem that has afflicted many great writers such as Fyodor Dostoevsky, who was driven totally insane by his own word processor and, in a famous literary anecdote, cut off Vincent van Gogh's ear. This needless tragedy could have been averted if Dostoevsky had owned "Flight Simulator," a computer game that is extremely popular with people all over America who are supposed to be competing with Japan. Whenever you get tired of doing your actual job, you just pop "Flight Simulator" into your computer, and it puts you "at the controls" of a small aircraft, so that you can simulate all the basic activities of a real pilot: taking off; steering; and crashing into the Statue of Liberty. At least that's what I generally do, because I am feeling hostile from caffeine.

Crashing into the Statue of Liberty is a basic part of my daily writing routine, which is something that all of us professional writers have. Let's say it's 9 a.m., and I have a humor column due at 5 p.m. Here's the routine I follow:

First I get a good, solid start on some humorous topic. For example, I'll write:

"One topic that has always struck me as being very humorous is -- "

Then I usually stare at the cursor for two hours. To the untutored eye, it would appear that I'm not accomplishing anything, but a trained professional writer would notice that I am in fact picking at my toenails with a small jeweler's screwdriver.

Eleven o'clock already! Time for lunch! After a nutritious yet easy-to-prepare meal of peanut butter gouged out of the jar with a forefinger, I'm back at my computer with a fresh new idea for the introduction:

"I have always been struck by the humorousness of a certain topic, namely -- "

There! Now we are really achieving some professional results! Time to play "Flight Simulator."

What's this? Can it be 1 o'clock already? Time for lunch!

Okay, now it's 2:15, and I'm back at the computer, ready to pound this sucker out, starting with a revolutionary new concept for the introduction:

"If you're looking for a topic that is humorous, you'd have to go a long way to find one better than -- "

I'll be darned! It's 2:18! Time for lunch!

Okay, I'm back on the job, and it's 3 p.m., giving me, let's see, two hours to deadline. Time to begin the process we professional writers call "polishing," starting with some minor revisions to the introduction:

"Humor can be found almost anywhere you look for it, with one obvious example being"

Suddenly I realize that I am very hungry. But it is now almost 4 p.m. This is not a time for lunch. This is a time to get out my electric guitar and learn to play the part at the end of the chorus to the song "Sock It to Me Baby," by Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, where the guitar player goes, and I quote: "Deet deet-deet deet-da-leet DEET deet deet." It is hard work. Harder even than "Flight Simulator." But I do it, because I am a professional writer.

And now it is 10 minutes to 5. I'm in the final stage of the creative process, the stage where I look at what I have written so far and change it to:

"The other day I was thinking of humorous topics, and what came immediately to mind was"

Okay, I admit it's not totally 100 percent FINALIZED, but the basic format is definitely there. I think I'll knock off for today and put the finishing touches on it first thing tomorrow morning. Right now I need to get out of this office and have some meaningful social contact. Maybe cut off somebody's ear.