On Becoming a Writer: An Evening with Jenny Lawson

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of female comedy writers.  Seeing as I am one.  When a funny female receives praise on her own comedic merit, instead of being slammed for being “too pretty to be funny” or “having a period,” it makes me want to stand on a chair and cheer.  So when my friend Alana told me that Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, would be in NYC to do a reading on the day of her book launch (aka yesterday,) I wanted to be first in line.

Let’s get one thing out there.  Jenny’s book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, is laugh out loud funny.  As in, you’ll be the crazy person laughing to yourself on the subway.  Which means you probably don’t want to read it on your Kindle.  But either way, you should buy it.

In real life, Jenny Lawson is sweet, humble, and equipped with all the searing wit you’d expect.  In spite of her well documented anxiety disorder, she handled her first reading like a pro.  Her comedic timing is spot on, and she gave eloquent, honest advice to every question that was asked.  In short, she’s impossible not to love.

I scribbled a bunch of notes on a New Yorker subscription card since I forgot a notebook.  But hey, Jenny once resorted to lipstick on toilet paper!  So writers, bloggers, freaks of nature, listen up!

On Doing Something You’re Afraid Of (and/or, Dealing With Anxiety)

Jenny was terrified to record her audio book.  So she emailed Neil Gaimon for advice, since he records all of his own audio books.  (Yes, that Neil Gaimon.) And he wrote her back.

*Pause to let the awesome sink in.*

He told her, “Pretend you’re good at it.”

And she did.  She wrote “Pretend you’re good at it” on her arm, and every time she got nervous in the recording studio, she would look at those words and find the courage to kill it.  In a good way.

On Getting a Book Deal

Most people think that Jenny went from blog to book, but that’s not so.  She started writing Let’s Pretend This Never Happened years ago as a memoir for her daughter, but was having a hard time writing it.  So she started blogging.  And that’s how she learned how to write.

I personally love this story.  Nearly every writer talks about their struggles, but it’s always comforting to hear that writing is hard.  For everybody.  Even the published.  And nobody becomes a successful writer without working their tails off.  I know this is shocking and difficult for the newer generations who are raised to think that they are special and talented because they manage to get out of bed, breathe oxygen, and tie their shoes.  Not downplaying those accomplishments, just saying, art is work!

On Dealing With Editors

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened was roughly a decade in the making.  When Jenny handed it over to her editor, she felt like she was handing over her beautiful, perfect baby.  We can all relate to that one. And then, the editor unwrapped the precious baby from its swaddling clothes, and “chopped its arms off.”

The editing process was hard.

In the end, it turned out that Jenny’s baby looked better without arms.  Not because she has a cripple fetish, but because writers need editors.  All writers.  The end.

On Getting Started as a Blogger/Finding Your Audience

Besides opening an account and you, know, writing in it, Jenny offers two tips:

  1. Find Your Voice.  Everybody has one.  And you find it by, oh… wait for it… writing!  Remember the part where writing is hard?  Where you get better by working hard at it?  See what people respond to, then do more of it.  You may try a bunch of different things before you find your voice, and that’s ok.  You’re going to learn from failure.  It also helps to read.  Seek out other writers and bloggers that appeal to you, and evaluate why you like them.
  2. Those blogs you like?  Comment on them!  But make sure your comment is relevant, eloquent, and appropriate for that blog’s (and your targeted) audience.  Maybe those readers will like your comment and mosey on over to your blog.  That’s how The Bloggess initially built her readership, and now she applauds enterprising writers who do the same on hers.  Don’t think of it as poaching.  Think of it as forming a community.

On Community

We gotta support each other, y’all. As she said, “Maybe if all the freaks of nature find each other, we won’t be so lonely.”

On Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse

On a recent CNN appearance, Jenny called for presidential candidates to outline their Zombie Apocalypse plans.  In the absence of political action, she and her family are prepared.

The original plan was flame throwers until her husband pointed out that she’d have to deal with flaming zombies.  Terrifying.  So now, she, her husband, and her daughter all have samurai swords.  Sharp (for cutting off heads,) long (so they don’t get too close,) and totally badass, she recommends that you get one too.

Can’t afford one?  Go to the mall and get a Highlander replica.  “They’ll try to tell you that there’s only one.  But no.  There’s not.”

The Bloggess signed my book, y'all!

So there you have it.  Sage advice, and probably the longest post I’ll ever write.  If you’re still here, thanks.  And Jenny, if you’re reading this, thanks. For the inspiration, the example, and being just generally awesome.

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One thought on “On Becoming a Writer: An Evening with Jenny Lawson

  1. Glad you went! I love Jenny with all my heart.

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