Bossypants, by Tina Fey

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Welcome to another edition of the Paper Beats World book club.  Here I talk about books I love that I think you’ll love too.  Some of them are indie books I was really impressed by.  Some of them are books I think every writer should read.  This month, it’s the latter.

Now, you should know that I think Tina Fey is literally the best person on the planet.  She’s hilarious, hard working, insane.  The best thing about her is that she’s honest, brutally honest about herself and others.  She’s also a brilliant writer.

The book is autobiographical, chronicling her life from childhood until sometime about halfway through the run of 30 Rock.  Again, Fey is very honest about herself.  She recounts, without flinching at all, things about her life that she was ashamed of, embarrassed by, and really freaking stoked over.

I would have loved Bossypants just because I love Fey’s voice.  I love to hear her tell stories.  But I learned so much about being a writer from her, and this book that I want to share with you.

Don’t let your gender stop you.

Comedy hasn’t always been a friend to women.  We aren’t slapstick, or vulgar, or any of the things that are supposed to be funny.  Except we are.  I think I’m freaking hilarious, of course, but let’s also consider Carol Burnett, Amy Poehler, Amy Schumer, Sarah Silverman, Kathleen Madigan, and a ton of others.  We are funny, and shocking, and capable of all the same things men are, (including writing our names in the snow.)

Men are smart, and capable of self control.  They are nurturing, and tender, and fully capable of writing ‘chick lit,’ romantic comedy, really anything a woman can write. Don’t let anyone tell you you shouldn’t write something because of your gender.

Do things before you think you’re ready.

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but it bears repeating.  Why does it bear repeating?  Most people still don’t believe it.  Start your book even if you think you’re not ready.  Write a short story, and send it off even if you think you’re not ready.  Start researching agents, start calling yourself a writer, even if you think you’re not ready.  You might create some really fantastic material, even before you think you’re ready.

Education is good, but hard work is better.

Fey went to the University of Virginia, where she studied drama.  It seemed pretty clear to me that it was her experience at Saturday Night Live that made her the person she needed to be to make 30 Rock, and Mean Girls.  I’m similar.  I took Journalism and Creative Writing.  But I learned writing by writing.  I wrote a book, then another one and another one. I finished two rough drafts before I ever wrote something I thought worth my time to edit. I’ve written 15 short stories this year.  I am a better writer today than I was before I wrote those 15.  So, yes, get an education if you can.  I’ll never tell anyone that an education is a bad idea.  But experience will always be better.

Friends that know you’re the type to work your ass off are even better.

Fey will be the first to tell you that she got some of the opportunities she did because of the work relationships she made on Saturday Night Live, like Lorne Michaels.  Do you think for one second anyone would have wanted to help her out if she’d been lazy, sloppy, hard to work with, or just an overall pain in the ass?  No, probably not.  Learn from that, people.  Be known as a hard worker, someone who’s willing to do what’s needed to get the shit done, and people will want to work with you again.  Those are the kind of relationships that open doors later in life.


And my personal favorite line from the whole book, by Lorne Michaels, “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready.  The show goes on because it’s 11:30”

Man, this is my new motto for life. Oh, I don’t think this chapter is quiiiite right.  Who cares, it’s 11:30, time to go! I can’t get my hair to lay right.  Too bad, it’s 11:30.  Maybe if I give this manuscript just one more once over… Nope! It’s 11:30, and it’s time to go!  I’m not saying rush, or don’t take care during the editing process.  But don’t focus on perfection, because you will never think a story is perfect.  Others will call it perfect; parents, lovers and friends will praise it.  You will still see the imperfections.  Stop, it’s 11:30.

I highly recommend reading Bossypants.  I recommend even more listening to the audio version, because Fey reads it herself.  Really, there’s nothing better than hearing that woman read her own work.

Let me know what you think of Bossypants, or anything else you’re reading that’s rocking your world.


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