Authors: Amy Poehler
Tags: #Biography & Autobiography, #Women, #Humor, #Form, #Essays, #Entertainment & Performing Arts, #General, #Performing Arts, #Film & Video
For my bold and beautiful boys.
LIKE HARD WORK AND I DON
T LIKE PRETENDING THINGS ARE PERFECT
I have learned that about myself. And I don’t have any fear of writing. I have been writing my whole life: stories and plays and sketches and scripts and poems and jokes. Most feel alive. And fluid. Breathing organisms made better by the people who come into contact with them. But this book has nearly killed me. Because, you see, a book? A book has a cover. They call it a jacket and that jacket keeps the inside warm so that the words stay permanent and everyone can read your genius thoughts over and over again for years to come. Once a book is published it can’t be changed, which is a stressful proposition for this improviser who relies on her charm. I’ve been told that I am “better in the room” and “prettier in person.” Both these things are not helpful when writing a book. I am looking forward to a lively book-on-tape session with the hope that Kathleen Turner agrees to play me when I talk about some of my darker periods. One can dream.
It’s clear to me now that I had no business agreeing to write this book. I have a job that keeps me shooting twelve hours a day, plus two children under six. I am going through a divorce and producing many projects and falling in love and trying to make appointments for cranial massage. All of these things are equally wonderful and horrible and keep me just off balance and busy enough to make spending hours alone writing seem like a terrible idea. Plus, I am forty-two, which is smack-dab in the middle. I haven’t lived a full enough life to look back on, but I am too old to get by on being pithy and cute. I know enough now to know I know nothing. I am slugging away every day, just like you. But nonetheless, here we are. I’ve written a book. You have it.
Everyone lies about writing. They lie about how easy it is or how hard it was. They perpetuate a romantic idea that writing is some beautiful experience that takes place in an architectural room filled with leather novels and chai tea. They talk about their “morning ritual” and how they “dress for writing” and the cabin in Big Sur where they go to “be alone”—blah blah blah. No one tells the truth about writing a book. Authors pretend their stories were always shiny and perfect and just waiting to be written. The truth is, writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not. Even I have lied about writing. I have told people that writing this book has been like brushing away dirt from a fossil. What a load of shit. It has been like hacking away at a freezer with a screwdriver.
I wrote this book after my kids went to sleep. I wrote this book on subways and on airplanes and in between setups while I shot a television show. I wrote this book from scribbled thoughts I kept in the Notes app on my iPhone and conversations I had with myself in my own head before I went to sleep. I wrote it ugly and in pieces. I tried hard not be overly dramatic, like when I wrote this poem in Social Studies class at age thirteen:
At this very moment I am attempting to write this preface in the dark while my oldest boy, Archie, sleeps next to me. He is dreaming and talking, and I am turning down the light on the screen as I write about how hard it is to write. Writing a book is awful. It’s lonely, even with Archie beside me and my editors nagging me. During this process I have written my editors e-mails with subject headings such as “How Dare You” and “This Is Never Going to Work” and “Why Are You Trying to Kill Me?” Most authors liken the struggle of writing to something mighty and macho, like wrestling a bear. Writing a book is nothing like that. It is a small, slow crawl to the finish line.
Honestly, I have moments when I don’t even care if anyone reads this book. I just want to finish it.
If you are reading this, it means I have “finished.” More likely, it means my editors have told me I can’t keep tinkering anymore. I will take this time now to thank you for buying this and reading it and eventually turning it into a feature film with Kate Winslet/Katy Perry/Katie Couric as the star.
Let me offer this apology. Please excuse this self-indulgent preface. I know what I am doing. I am presenting a series of reasons as to why you should lower your expectations, so that you can be blown away by my sneaky insights about life and work. I am a grown woman. I know my own tricks! I know how good I am at bemoaning my process and pretending I don’t care so that my final product will seem totally natural and part of my essence and not something I sweated for months and years. One of the things I have learned about me while writing about me is that I am really onto myself. I have got Amy Poehler’s number, I’ll tell you. I also learned that writing topless tends to relax me. Go figure. Life is a mystery.
While writing this book I made many mistakes. I kept a copy of Nora Ephron’s
next to me as a reminder of how to be funny and truthful, and all I ended up doing was ignoring my writing and rereading
I also kept a copy of Patti Smith’s
nearby, which was awful because her writing is beautiful and poetic and how dare she. I also read and reread wonderful books by wonderful women: Rachel Dratch’s
Girl Walks into a Bar
. . . , Sarah Silverman’s
, Mindy Kaling’s
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
, Lena Dunham’s
Not That Kind of Girl
, Caitlin Moran’s
How to Be a Woman
, and Tina Fey’s
. All are superb and infuriating. My dear friend and
Parks and Recreation
cast-mate Nick Offerman had the nerve to start and publish his book
Paddle Your Own Canoe
in less time than it took me to write this preface. I congratulated him when he presented it to me and then immediately threw it in the garbage.
I made other terrible mistakes while I tried to write this book. I asked people who have already finished books for advice, which is akin to asking a mother with a four-year-old what childbirth is like. All the edges have been rounded and they have forgotten the pain. Their books are finished and in their libraries, so all they end up talking about is how you need to “stick to your guns” and “not let the editors push you around” and that “your title is important.” Stick to my guns? I am hiding from my editors because I feel so guilty that I haven’t worked hard enough and given them something genius or interesting or new. My title is important? Well, I am screwed, because right now I am vacillating between
The Secret 2
Mosquitos Love Me: A Woman’s Guide to Getting Her Funk On
. The only people I can stand to read right now are Pema Chödrön, who reminds me that life is messy and everything is a dream, and Stephen King and Anne Lamott, who are two of my favorite writers on writing. But now that I think of it, both of them are funnier than me, so they can tie their sixty-eight books to their ankles and go jump in a lake.