Anyone watch The Break w/ Michelle Wolf on Netflix? You might know Michelle Wolf as the BAMF who slayed the White House Correspondents’ Dinner (some people said her monologue went too far, to which I roll my eyes. She came correct and awesome. And who the hell booked her who thought she was going to pipe it down?) If you haven’t seen it, here it is. It’s worth 20 minutes of your time.
Anyway, I’m loving the show, although I can only watch one episode at a time because her voice is a BIT much. After the suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, she made an important point about how the culture of social media portrays only the good parts of life – our babies doing cute things, our puppies doing cute things, our awesome accomplishments, selfies where we look awesome, awesome vacations, etc. And those are all great, and they should be celebrated, and I do the same thing so I’m not judging you.
I wish I could share the clip where Wolf talks about this, but it’s only on Netflix so far (episode is called Hate it or Love It), so I will quote it for you.
“It’s okay to admit that life is terrifying and we never know what’s going to happen next. I mean, we only know 5% of what’s in the ocean, and most of the earth is ocean. That’s TERRIFYING. There are things called Goblin sharks. SCIENTISTS NAMED THEM THAT…And yet, we’re all just walking around answering the question “How are you?”, with “Good.” No, I’m not good, haven’t you seen the nightmare fish? Also, space goes on for INFINITY!
“Let’s make it okay to admit you’re not doing great, and really listen to other people when they admit they’re not either:
‘How’s it going today?’
‘Well, I’ve been thinking about 9/11 nonstop and both my legs hurt.’
‘Oh, I just cried in my car for 20 minutes thinking about how dogs can’t tell you when they’re sick. Also space goes on for INFINITY!’
‘Cool, so you want to grab a table or sit at the bar?'”
She went on to encourage people to share more of the bad stuff on social media, not only to be real and to get support, but so that other people can scroll through their feeds and recognize themselves in others. She also somewhat seriously asked for people to use the hashtag #ifeelalittlebad.
It’s a good skit, and it has a good point.
Now, I don’t like complaining, I try to keep it positive. I’ve worked for many years to be a more positive person. I realize that my life, when compared to much of the world, is pretty freakin’ awesome. But that doesn’t mean I always feel great. So when people – wonderful, curious, supportive, loving people – ask how my book is going, I often reply “I don’t know, it’s too early to tell.”
I do this because, when I reply “Not so great. It’s only sold about 15% of the copies they printed and I haven’t gotten any new press or reviews on Amazon or Goodreads in a month and my publisher hasn’t outright rejected my next book but their option has passed and they haven’t made an offer and my agent said she was going to send me a submission plan for other publishers which I thought could be good because maybe I’ll get a bigger publisher who can put more into marketing but I haven’t heard back from her in a month after three follow-up emails and I feel invisible and like I’m going to have to start all over again and why does my dream have to be such an uphill slog and I think I’ll probably be an assistant forever,” people tend to feel uncomfortable.
And of course, because people are wonderful and want to make me feel better, they say things like, “It’s still early days,” “You just need to get into Oprah’s book club,” and my personal favorite “At least you published a book.” This latter is the most well-intentioned comment that makes me want to scratch my own eyes out. Because here’s the thing, I didn’t want to just publish a book. Publishing WAS huge, and perhaps I should give it more weight, but that was never where the dream ended. I want to publish several books. I want to be a book-a-year author. I want to write full-time. I want at least one of my books to become a movie. Authors never tell you this is what they want because they feel like it’s boastful, like who am I to think my writing is good enough for that? Sp this comment always makes me feel like not only is my book not as successful as it needs to be to move me to the next stage, but I’m also ungrateful for what I have accomplished.
And this is true! I know it’s true.
This all leads to “It takes time.” And it does. But it’s not like I haven’t been working my ass off for ten years already, enduring 189 rejections and daily self-doubt. A small, admittedly naive, part of me hoped that the hard part was over. At some point, I started having this belief — deep, inexplicable belief, that I could actually feel in my chest — that this book would be huge. I knew the odds were against me, but I believed it anyway. And because of the stress of “unsuccess” and other factors, I haven’t connected to that feeling in a while. I’ve had good days, where I have a sense of humor about it and recite positive mantras and all that, where I really really try to believe again, but I just don’t feel that warmth in my chest. That belief. And I miss it.
I wish I didn’t want the things I want. I wish I wanted simple things, things under my control like, to learn how to speak German, or, to be some hot shot marketing executive, or to make the world’s best cookies. Those things, if you work hard enough, you will likely achieve. Writing, publishing, being one of the big names? I could work my whole life at that and never get it.
And I’m the most impatient person in the world, so, you know, great fit as far as career choices go.
So yes, this post has not been very positive, and I’m sure many of you will find it whiney. I had some great things happen in the beginning of 2018. My first book came out, I did my first TV interview, I did my first readings and had a big party to celebrate. My husband and I built our house, an actual dream house (not financed by my book earnings, by the way, although I giggle when people think that) and moved into it.
It was fun and exciting and stressful, and when it all topped off I CRASHED like Roseanne’s career after her racist tweet. It’s been hard. I’ve been struggling. So I’m sharing this because life is not just book parties and cute babies and sleeping puppies. When the camera turns off, the party is over and everyone is hungover AF, the baby starts crying and keeps you up for 140 hours and you don’t get to shower, the puppy wakes up and shits on your rug. That’s real life. And it’s okay to say #ifeelalittlebad.