Have you just decided you want to be a stand-up comedian or blogger? Did you figure out yesterday that you want to be famous tomorrow? Cool! You’re just like everyone else in New York/LA/America! Because I know you want to know and you want to know now (!), let me save you the time it would take to ask. Here’s how to make it in media/publishing/showbiz:
1.) Start writing/performing. You want to be a stand-up? Go tell jokes at your local coffee shop/bar. You want to write a book? Start writing in your journal every day. You want to be a blogger? Start a blog. You want to be in movies? Learn how to act by auditioning for your local theatre production or by making web videos. That’s a thing most people can do now that most people couldn’t do when I started in “the biz!” Access Hollywood!
2.) Do whatever the thing is that you want to do for free for a while. I can’t say how long. You may get a small amount of pay right from the start! That’s good! Enjoy it!
3.) Meet other people who want to do or already do what you want to do. Try to learn something from them about getting better at the actual thing you want to do, NOT about how you can quickly be rewarded for that thing either financially or with accolades. Just focus on the actual thing. This is the most important step!
4.) Keep doing the thing. If you keep doing the thing, you are going to get good enough at it that an opportunity is going to come to you. You are going to find a job listing and apply and get it or you are going to just be asked to do a thing by the person in charge of it and you will get paid/compensated in some real way that will make you feel like your hard work has paid off and you are on the right track. Congratulations!
5.) Keep doing the thing and keep meeting people in spite of the discouragements you will face. Keep getting better at the thing. Keep applying for/taking advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you. Also, have fun. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth it.
6.) Wake up 5, 10, 15, 20 years after you started doing the thing and realize somehow because of your persistence at doing the thing and your dedication to the craft of the thing you got really good at the thing and the people you met and learned from and had fun with along the way who were also doing the thing who offered you or tipped you off to more/better opportunities to do the thing, you have somehow assembled some kind of “career” as a person who does the thing professionally! WOO-HOO! You made it!!!
Finding success as a creative person requires - for most of us - going on a lengthy journey. That’s why people say they’ve “made it.” Because they traveled to the end of the long and winding road up the mountain that gets you there. Making things takes time. And it’s not fair for you - even though everyone who is just starting to make things does this - to ask someone who has taken years to carve a path for themselves out of the side of the mountain, “How can I get paid now to do the thing it took you years to get paid for even though I’m nowhere near as good at it because I just started and therefore have no idea what I’m doing which is evidenced by the fact that I’m asking you this question?”
There are no shortcuts. Put the time in. DO NOT EXPECT TO BE PAID LIKE A PROFESSIONAL WHEN YOU ARE BRAND NEW TO SOMETHING. That’s it. That’s the only answer, everyone. Just follow the steps above. I’m sure you’ll be great. You’ll know you’re good if you make it to step 6 and in turn someone asks you how they can get there faster than you did.
Addendum: A friend sent me an email in response to this saying, “I like what you wrote but I think bloggers should be paid.” I totally agree! I think comics should be paid, too. If you’re good enough to make someone money, they should be paying you out of what they’re making off you. Ask for what you need money-wise, and you’ll know when you’re not being paid enough for what you can offer. You can feel it. Just don’t expect to become a famous millionaire three weeks into your journey. That’s really what I’m saying. Accept that you need to have patience while you grow and expect things to get better for you steadily as you go along, not overnight.
Last week I was walking home around 10 pm, and I came upon a couple headed in the same direction. I was walking in step behind them when the girl suddenly veered off to the right with a powerful, stumbling gait to pick up this book off someone’s stoop. The book was titled something like “The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook,” and as I saw the girl go to grab it, I joked, “If you really had anxiety or phobias you wouldn’t want to go anywhere near that book,” because it had been sitting on the street. I don’t know why I said it. It just came out. I don’t know what made me want to reach out to this girl via a jaunty wisecrack on the street, but I do know that I inherited my tendency to always try to connect with strangers from my dad. When you exhibit the blue-collar predilection to wear our oneness on your sleeve, sometimes people look at you like you have two heads, especially in certain New York neighborhoods where pedigree is prized and the illusion of separateness upheld. But I did it, because I let my body take over, like in the ways it takes over when I’m on stage and tells me what to do, what to say, how to say it. On a Friday night, when people are a little buzzed, these larky interactions are more common. People are more willing to take chances because they want to let loose and be free.
She turned to me and said in a sweet and befuddled voice, “But I have anxiety,” and that’s when I realized she was quite drunk. I said, “Well, you might want to take a copy out from the library or buy one at Barnes & Noble. That book probably has bed bugs.” I don’t know if it had bed bugs. It probably didn’t. But it seemed strange that someone with anxiety would take a dirty book off the street, and yet I understand the pull toward any bit of literature that might help. When I was in college I had paralyzing panic attacks, and I remember the first time I saw a pamphlet inside the drug store that I thought might be the key. “Do you have anxiety?,” it asked, in looming, shaky bubble letters that were in themselves anxiety-inducing. “Yes!,” I thought. “Yes! *This* is the name of the fear that makes me want to vomit every day.” What the pamphlet didn’t tell me was what to do about it.
When the girl came away from the book, the guy who was with her looked at me with a “thank you” face, as if she’d been a handful, and that’s when I realized he didn’t really know her that well. As we walked, I asked if they were a couple, and she blurted out, “No! We just met.” I asked her if she’d ever tried therapy for her anxiety and she said, “Yeah, but my therapist tried to blame everything on my father because he wasn’t there for me when I was a kid, and I didn’t like that.” I said, “Well, everything is childhood.” She said her dad was a doctor, super loving and kind, but one can only imagine probably very busy when she was a kid. I wanted to tell her that love and obligation prevent us from assigning deserved blame to our parents. That you can still love your parents and admit how they failed you. That you can admit how your parents failed you and not love them, too. But I didn’t. Because by then the conversation had veered back to how the couple had just met. We were all walking home together now, talking and figuring it out. At one point the girl said, “This guy’s a Jew.” I laughed and said, “I take it that you’re not Jewish by the fact that you called this guy ‘a Jew.’” He laughed, she said she was Catholic, I think. The guy kept expressing that he thought his new ladyfriend’s behavior was awkward, because she kept switching back and forth between talking about them going home together, him being Jewish and her anxiety. At least I think that’s what he was saying was awkward. Maybe he meant the whole thing. The one night stand, the girl, the book, me. But it seemed to me that he was trying to admit that sometimes we’re so desperate for connection we wind up on a wild journey with a person we don’t know in order to get there. That’s what brought them together, and what brought me to them.
We got to a corner where our paths had to diverge, and the girl asked me for a hug. I gave her one and wished them well. Who knows what happened next? Me, I went to sleep with my dog. Did they sleep together? Did he end up walking her home and leaving, feeling cheated out of sex but like he ultimately did the right thing?
Did I keep that girl from the book she needed to help her find her truth? Or did our random interaction mean more than someone else’s dirty book ever would?
Listening now. Proud of you. There’s so much more I could say, but I can’t, not because I shouldn’t, I just can’t. Maybe I will after I listen. I wish I could have commented on your post without reblogging first because I would have reblogged after listening instead of while listening. Maybe I don’t understand Tumblr! But I do understand Sex and the City. I hope that helps. Oh, and that coming clean helps, too. That.
Sara Benincasa is this week’s guest. She and Dave talk about the horrors of physical abuse in a relationship, the desire to keep it secret, the possibility of forgiveness, and what to do when it happens. Also Dave wants desperately to find and harm the…
I don’t think of myself as a victim. I’m a happy person with a good family and good friends and good medication and good opportunities and a good life overall. I make some shitty decisions sometimes and do hurtful things, and I’m enormously sorry for those moments. Some people deal with real shit from the time they are born and they never know any hint of privilege or safety. I count myself enormously lucky, or blessed, or whatever you want to call it. The only religion I really ascribe to is gratitude.
So this was an unexpected thing that I did: talk about this one time where this bad thing happened. I’ve never talked about it in public before and I’m not sure why I did this time. I didn’t walk into the studio at Nerdist planning to talk about this. I think it just came out because Dave is my friend and I trust him and I wanted to talk about something other than mental health, which is what I usually talk about in these situations.
You can hear me vacillate on the episode between thinking that this is a big deal and thinking that it’s a little deal, which is what I’ve told myself for a long time. I don’t know. As one friend said to me, more women than you know have dealt with something like this. I’m not looking to guilt anybody or blame anybody but this is an experience I had and I talked about it. You can listen and make up your own mind, I guess.
I still feel weird and scared and guilty about sharing this story. One more reason to go to therapy when my Obamacare kicks in in September, I think. It’s like it happened to someone else and I’m making it up. I feel like I ought to apologize to some people in my life for this being the way they hear about this situation, but I guess this is how it came out. The power of Nerdist is a strange and all-encompassing power.
Regardless, thank you for listening to my stuff or reading my stuff or following my stuff. It is enormously validating to have one’s words and art and craft and whatever seen and known and acknowledged.
Remember when I said calling an affair “off-brand” ranks Hugo next to Weiner? Turns out, they’re basically the same guy: http://www.the-spearhead.com/2013/08/01/hugo-schwyzer-caught-with-pants-down/
You can read that link for the sordid details of his affair, and even see the texts he sent. (They’re cringe-worthy.) Apparently the 27-year-old he had a texting affair with maintains that he’s Borderline (like I guessed) and so is she. Poor them. It’s a horrible condition to have to deal with, both for the person suffering from it, and for everyone else. The good news there is, Borderlines can be treated. The bad news is, it’s very difficult to treat them. Again, who knows what co-morbidity may exist within this dude, but needless to say, he’s a total fraud.
If you’re interested in the topic of male Borderlines specifically, I highly recommend this site.
Also, if Hugo’s wife somehow stumbles across this post, I’m sorry for what you’re going through. You are far from alone. Seek help for yourself and take care of your kids. I wish you the best.
I’m not gonna give too much backstory here, because honestly I could write about this for hours if I wasn’t being careful with my time, so if you don’t have even a vague idea who Hugo is, go ahead and skip this post.
I didn’t realize Hugo Schwyzer had officially “left the Internet" yesterday until today when I tried to tweet him after quoting a recent Atlantic piece of his in something I wrote for Babble. My piece was about older men and younger women, as was his, and I agreed with the sentiments he shared on the subject. I’ve quoted Hugo’s work a couple of times, even in a post about my grandparents’ murder-suicide, which as most of you who are aware of Hugo know, he also attempted. (Many in the feminist community are outraged that he hid his attempt to kill his girlfriend and himself for so long and about the ways he has tried to distinguish the “pre-sobriety” version of himself that attempted murder-suicide from his currently sober yet obviously still disturbed incarnation.)
I first became aware of Hugo through his writing on Jezebel, but I was unaware of what was going on in January 2012, when feminists started asking to see him kicked out of online feminist spaces. I really only started to seriously pay attention to his writing this year, and though I recognized him as a narcissist immediately from his writing, I saw him as a relatively harmless one. After all, he’d been on Jezebel - why wouldn’t I trust that his work was valuable? I connected with him on Facebook in December 2012 and read more of his work via shares on that site. I have generally liked what I’ve read of his, even if I doubted the genuineness of everything he had to say.
And there’s the rub, right? I don’t know Hugo personally and I’m not a psychiatrist, so I’m not fit to diagnose him with NPD or ASPD or some other Cluster B personality disorder, but I agree that the full history of his behavior is troubling and that all the red flags are there. And yet - because I never had anything personally or emotionally invested in Hugo, I don’t feel betrayed by him, and if I examine just the words that he has written - with and without the context of his history - I can still see some value in them. Even if he is a horrible jerk. Even if he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Or if it’s a little more complicated than that. That depends on the exact diagnosis you could label him with, right? The truth of his emotional spectrum. Is he a wounded narcissist who hurts himself but can’t help hurting others? Or is he an emotionless sociopath who has feigned every feeling? Based on all the reading I’ve done about these personality types and what I know of his work/behavior, I’m guessing the former, but I can’t say for sure. (His history of self-harm - if that’s true - makes me think he might be Borderline, which also makes the sex stuff make sense.) Besides, a lot of experts believe narcissism sort of happens on a spectrum anyway (with co-morbidity and what not), which makes sense to me if you think about what core wounds really are and how they manifest into behavior.
I don’t say any of this to make any excuses for Hugo or any other narcissist/abuser, but I have known and loved (in the painful, horrible way you do love) a lot of different types of narcissists from birth on, and I can tell you that what is difficult about them is that some of what they say can be very valuable. And it is strange and confusing to know that someone with such an abusive personality can also be wise. That someone so manipulative can be insightful. That a person who causes you great pain can also give you great advice. But these toxic personalities, in the end, are in the hearts and minds of human beings. And even though I get mad all the time - every day - about the abuse of power wrought by narcissists fueled by a capitalist society in a dog-eat-dog world, I also somehow always come back to some kind of sadness and tenderness and compassion about it, too. I know that’s partially brought on by the sympathy I grew to have for all of the narcissists in my life as a child and young adult, and partially because I know that some of them - those that can actually feel - are in pain, too. Like I was during the years my existence was defined by my relationships with them. Narcissists cause pain because they have to deflect their own. It’s fucking awful and horrible, but it’s sad, too. Isn’t it? I mean, maybe Hugo was misappropriating religious language about redemption, as I just read tonight for the first time, selling his story as one of holy transformation. Maybe that’s ungodly. But still - sometimes the only answer I have - after having gone through my own transformation out of a lifetime of walking on eggshells - is that we should just pray for these people. Not even to God or a god, but just pray that everyone who needs healing be healed, perpetrators and victims alike. Because without healing on all sides, the cycle of abuse cannot end.
Is it really best to simply ostracize and ignore narcissists and sociopaths and the younger versions of those personality disordered adults at pre-diagnostic age who are sulky and lonely and in pain and sad? Isn’t that the recipe that creates a mass shooter? At some point down the line, won’t psychologists be able to intervene and make a difference before it’s too late for these people? Before they turn the gas on or grab the gun or fuck students and lie about it all?
I didn’t know Hugo Schwyzer slept with students - many of them, apparently - until tonight. And I am certainly in agreement that calling an affair “off-brand” as Hugo did (see the first link, above) puts you on par with Weiner, or maybe makes you worse, honestly. I feel like an idiot now for having quoted him about how older men should stop chasing younger women, abusing their power, when that is, in fact, what he has done. But I guess I’m left yet again looking at the bigger picture here and asking the same old seemingly unanswerable questions. Why is this man the way he is? Why has he done the things he’s done? How do we reconcile those things with what he’s written? Is everything he says he stands for a lie? Could he have been helped at some point? Will these personalities wreak havoc on humanity forever? Is redemption real?
I’m not gonna bring my phone, I thought, as I packed the bag for our trip to the beach yesterday. My daughter and I decided we’d go to Brighton for the afternoon, and with just the two of us going, that meant no one would be left to sit on the beach and watch our stuff while we were swimming. But I’ve never had a problem at the beach before, and I wasn’t going to bring anything of value.
I changed my mind, though, and packed my cell phone and my credit card. I don’t know why. Well, I know why I brought the credit card, because you just never know if you’ll need it in an emergency. But I don’t know why I changed my mind about bringing the phone. Partially it’s because I wanted to be able to take pictures, and partially it was because I wanted to be able to share those pictures - at least one – via social media. “Look everybody! We’re at the beach! Hey, if one of you was here with us, there would be enough people to take turns watching the bags!”
I knew not to bring my phone. It’s going to get sand in it, I thought. Then I thought, no, I’ve got this nice insulated bag that zips up, it’ll be fine. I had a vision of someone stealing my bag. I even thought about what I would do if my bag got stolen. It’ll be fine, I thought. The cops would get us home. I’ve got spare keys.
I don’t know why I was so fixated on the idea of my bag being stolen. I’ve never had a bag stolen from me in 13 years in New York. I’ve dropped my driver’s license on the street twice and had it mailed back to me by a kind stranger each time. A friend recently posted a story about how her son lost his wallet on the train and it was returned to him completely intact, even the cash. New York City is the safest big city in the world. But for whatever reason, I was hung up on the fact that I could be robbed, and in a sense I knew I would be robbed.