I started the Inspiration Interview Series because I wanted to know more about the people who share their work with the world and inspire me to practice courage, be creative, and dream big. Jenny is one of those people. Meet my friend Jenny!
Jenny's new book, Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir just hit the stores last week! It is warm and funny. Hilarious and heartbreaking. I loved every single page. Neil Gaiman's endorsement on the back of the book says it all:
“The Bloggess writes stuff that actually is laugh-out-loud, but you know that really you shouldn’t be laughing and probably you’ll go to hell for laughing, so maybe you shouldn’t read it. That would be safer and wiser."
And yes, this is her review in People Magazine! Check out those stars!
To celebrate the launch of Jenny's book, I'm giving away three signed copies. To win, just leave your name in the comment section.
Now, I'm so happy to introduce you to my good friend, Jenny! As you can see from her answers, she's as wise and soulful as she is funny.
Questions on Vulnerability, Authenticity and Courage from The Gifts of Imperfection
Creativity, innovation, and truth-telling can be very vulnerable in our culture which is why we often feel deeply inspired when we see it. We’d love to know more about how you find the courage to share your authentic self and your work with the world.
1. Fill in the blank: Vulnerability is __________. Terrifying. As liberating and rewarding as it is, I still feel terrified when I let my guard down. I’m always worried people will realize I’m not as good as they think I am.
2. What role does vulnerability play in your work? I write for a living and most of my stories are about how I’ve managed to humiliate myself in some way. There’s something about confronting these stories and finding the humor in them that gives me the courage to embrace them fully rather than run screaming from them.
3. What does authenticity mean to you and how do you practice it in your work? I try to be authentic and genuine in my writing because otherwise I create a false history and I think it become obvious to my readers that I’m hiding something.
I recently blogged about some mild self-harm issues that I was dealing with and I was terrified of what the response would be, but was shocked to find how unsurprised people were. I’m not sure if that’s just because people expect me to be a little off in general or if self-harm is just far wider spread than any of us realize.
4. Is perfectionism an issue for you? If so, what’s one of your strategies for managing it? In general I’m more of a slacker. If everyone gets fed and no one loses a limb I consider it a successful day. I did have a problem with perfectionism when I was writing my book, however, because I was aware that it was going to be out there forever and I couldn’t change it once it was printed.
I must have changed it up a thousand times before someone finally told me that I would never be fully happy with the book and just needed to let it be imperfect, like me. It was both very profound and also sort of insulting. More of the first though.
5. What inspires you? Laughter. Whenever I’ve had to deal with the most difficult moments in my life I’ve turned to laughter to make it okay. Helping other people to find the laughter in my (and in their) own tragedy is my gift.
6. What’s something that gets in the way of your creativity and how do you move through it? I constantly deal with writer’s block because of self-doubt. I’ll have periods where I’m certain I’ll never write another funny word and that’s the most unsettling feeling. It just makes me more scared and then makes the writer’s block more obvious.
It’s a terrible vicious circle. I try to give myself time whenever I feel those blocks and I allow myself to just be unfunny for as long as I need. I try to save up funny stories in my draft file so that I can still post even when I’m in the middle of an unfunny crisis.
7. Describe a snapshot of a joyful moment in your life. Last week it was Easter and I’d hidden confetti eggs all over the lawn. It had rained so the red dyed eggs stained everything they touched but it didn’t stop me, my seven-year old and my husband from running around the yard, lobbing bloody looking eggs at each other. In the end it looked like there had been a massacre. A hysterically fun massacre.
8. You push limits. You take on taboo subjects. You say the totally crazy things that most of us think (but would NEVER admit thinking), you cuss like a sailor and talk about clown porn, and you’re totally irreverent and anti-PC. What people love about you is also what triggers people and makes you a target. How do you deal with the criticism and judgment? Have you found a way to stay open to the good feedback while filtering out the mean-spiritedness?
I’ve been really lucky that I have a strong community around me that keeps me sane so when criticism comes I can usually ignore it. Right after I obsess about it for an hour. Then I go in and change the comment from “Your (sic) so stupid” to “I wish I could be you” and wait for the person to leave another comment saying “I DIDN’T SAY THAT. I HATE YOU.” Then I change that one to “YOU ARE MY BEST FRIEND.” Then they usually never come back.
9. We're "in person friends" and I think of you as a somewhat shy, very humble, and incredibly wise friend who spends enormous amounts of time and energy doing philanthropic work and walking with people through shame and stigma to find their self-worth. I see the friend who gets on the floor with my six-year-old son and explains how rocks form and then sends a surprise package with the rock that’s become his favorite (and that he takes to show-n-tell every month). Do you think people know this side of you? How are you different than what people might think?
I think people see my “bizarre/strange facet more often than they see my “semi-normal around small children” facet, but no one can ever see every part of you. Which is probably for the best because there are some parts even I don’t want to see.
10. Do you have a mantra or manifesto for living and loving with your whole heart? It’s nice to be important but it’s more important to be nice.
Now, for some fun!
From James Lipton, host of Inside the Actor’s Studio
What is your favorite word? Tintinnabulation
What is your least favorite word? It’s a tie between “moist” and “panties.”
What sound or noise do you love? My daughter’s laugh.
What sound or noise do you hate? The fire alarm which I have set off almost every time I’ve tried to cook.
What is your favorite curse word? F*ck. It’s the most versatile of all of the curse words and it fills in whenever you need any sort of modifier.
From JL’s Uncle Jessie Meme
A song/band/type of music you'd risk wreck & injury to turn off when it comes on the radio? We Built This City On Rock and Roll. It literally makes my scalp itch when I hear it.
Favorite show on television? Archer
Favorite movie? Love in the Afternoon
Best concert? Lalapalooza ’92. Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Red Hot Chili Peppers…it was amazing.
If you could have anything put on a t-shirt what would it be? “I apologize in advance for disappointing you.” I actually made and own that shirt.
Favorite meal? Cheesecake and eggrolls. Or cheesecake filled eggroll, which I’ve never actually had, but they sound awesome.
A talent you wish you had? I wish I could play the piano.
Dream vacation? Egypt. Or my bathroom. Depends on how my anxiety is doing that day.
What’s on your nightstand? A lamp and a samurai sword.
What’s something about you that would surprise us? I’ve never had a one night stand.
From Smith Magazine’s Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs from Writers Famous and Obscure (http://www.smithmag.net/sixwords/)
Your six-word memoir: I didn’t know that was illegal.
Congrats to Susan (Kerry K), Gina P., and Cheryle W!