Eight Questions: Interview with Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess)

Eight Questions interviews with artists of all kinds

Jenny LawsonJenny Lawson is a columnist, blogger and #1 NYT best-selling author. Her personal blog (www.thebloggess.com) is extremely popular although no one knows why exactly. She’s been featured on Gawker, Salon.com, Mashable, Babble, The London Times, The Washington Post, People, O Magazine, CNN, Time Magazine, The Today Show. MSNBC calls her an “internet rockstar” and Forbes repeatedly lists thebloggess.com as one of their Top 100 Websites for Women, and Katie Couric calls her “Hilarious.” She is a repeated finalist (and an occasional winner) in the Weblog awards for Best Writing, Most Humorous Writer, Best Design, Blog of the Year, and Lifetime Achievement. She was recently named The Huffington Posts’s Greatest Person of the Day and has fooled many people into thinking she’s very important. Her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, is an award-winning #1 NYT best-seller and spent more than half a year on the NYT best-seller list.

What is your daily creative routine like?

After I get my daughter off to school I get back in bed and read something funny to get in the mood. Then I play on the internet a bit and if I’m lucky I’ll get some good writing in. I tend to write a lot in the middle of the night. I spend time with my family but they’re used to me pulling out a pen and jotting down something I thought was funny. I’m sure it looks ridiculous to other people. Especially since I often am writing on the tablecloth or my own arm.

What does your writing space look like? What are some of the must-have devices and apps that make up your writer’s toolbox? 

We converted the dining room into my office and it’s filled with weird taxidermy and books. I depend a lot on the notes I take on my phone, my online thesaurus, and dozens of pictures on my desktop of things I want to write about buy haven’t found the right way to tell the story yet. I tend to have more things in “draft” than I do “published” and even when I do publish I try to edit half of whatever I wrote out.

How did your book deal come to be, and how has that changed your blogging (if at all)?

I embarrassed myself at a conference and an agent (one who I’d listened to and then run from during her panel because I was so overwhelmed) saw it all happen and looked up my blog to see what was wrong with me. She told she thought I had a book in me and I told her I did but that it was a family history book I was just writing for my daughter. She convinced me to send her a chapter (Stanley the Magical Squirrel) and then kept insisting it would be a bestseller. She was right. Turns out there are a lot of weird misfits out there who could relate to all my irreverent awkwardness. It was nice to find out how not alone I was.

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What sorts of boundaries are there in your writing? Do you find yourself having to censor stuff on your blog for any reason, and if so, why? Or conversely, have you ever written something which you wished you HAD censored?

I never write anything I think could be used against my daughter by shitty 14 year olds. I never write about anything Victor and I are currently fighting about. I never write anything that isn’t approved of by the people I’m writing about. When my first book came out my friends and family all got to read it before it was published and I told them I would take anything out they wanted. To their great credit, the only thing that happened was that they offered even more stories and photos of the things that were hard to believe were actually true. I think the key is that whenever I write I make fun of me the hardest.

I once censored a post after a few people thought it was a bit over the line, but then afterward those same people yelled at me for censoring myself so I’ve pretty much learned to let things stand and let my reputation speak for me. I’m lucky in that even when people disagree with me they’re usually very kind and that helps me to learn different perspectives.

Who are some of your strongest influences?

Neil Gaiman, David Sedaris, Amy Poehler, my mom, Victor.

What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned since you first started blogging? And how has your blogging most changed since the early days?

Always write for yourself. That way even if everything falls to pot you’ll still end up with a bunch of diary entries that you’ll enjoy one day.

Don’t think of yourself as a brand or do things to court advertisers.   You’ll just end up muting the uniqueness of your own voice and the writing become a job rather than a passion.

When I first started blogging I wrote in article style because I wrote for the Houston Chronicle. Then I found my voice and started The Bloggess. My writing continues to change, but that makes sense because I continue to change.

Given how subjective humor is, how do you deal with the people that just don’t get you, think you’re too crass, or any of the other criticisms you’ve heard over the years? In other words, how do you keep stuff like that from affecting your writing? 

If you make something than no one hates, no one will ever love it either. If there aren’t people who aren’t put off by my writing then it’s too bland to be interesting. Some of my favorite people hate my blog and that’s okay. It’s not for everyone.

What is the best creative advice you’ve every received? 

“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” ~ E.L. Doctorow

What’s next for you? Any more books in the works? 

ABC is looking at turning my last book into a tv show, which is odd, but flattering. I’m finishing my second book now. It’s called “FURIOUSLY HAPPY” and it’s a humor book about mental illness.

What do you want your legacy to be? 

I’d like to think that when I’m gone, some people will still search out my writing and giggle. Making someone laugh while beyond the grave would be my little piece of immortality.

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About David Wright

Dave is the co-founder of Collective Inkwell, in which he and Sean Platt re-invented serial fiction. Hailing from the quaint town of [REDACTED], Dave's renown for putting children in jeopardy (in his fiction, anyway) has made him world famous.

Comments

  1. Thanks! Just wasted way too much time looking at weird stuff.
    But it was fun, so does it count as time wasted? I think not.

  2. Jenny is literally the funniest person I’ve ever read.

    For example: http://thebloggess.com/2011/06/and-thats-why-you-should-learn-to-pick-your-battles/

  3. A Bloggess TV show???? AMAZING!!

    I love her sense of humor 🙂

  4. Annamarie jenkins says:

    HA! I would love to be casted as Jenny’s character if ABC follows thru on those plans.
    She’s an inspiration

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