How To Be An Artist – Interview with Jenny Lawson

“I am a very strange but entertaining woman who will make you feel better about yourself by comparison.
I fight with depression and anxiety and a host of other disorders,
but my strongest weapon is a dark and baffling sense of humor.
And a chainsaw. Just in case zombies turn up.”
Jenny Lawson

Mental illness and comedy. The two usually don’t walk hand in hand. Well… not in public, anyway. However, Jenny Lawson changed the game forever.

Here is (finally… it took me longer to put this together than I anticipated) our interview with Jenny Lawson and a short (I’m lying; it’s a long.) introduction so you can find out how she became “The Bloggess” of our hearts.

I desperately wanted to do a post and an interview with Jenny Lawson. Not only because she’s one of my favorite writers, and best friends (Shhh she doesn’t know it yet.) but also because mental illness is still something we talk about on a hushed tone and it still gives us the feeling of inferiority towards others; the healthy ones, the normal ones.

“Like my grandmother always said, “Your opinions are valid and important.
Unless it’s some stupid bullshit you’re being shitty about, in which case you can just go fuck yourself.”
Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

How to be an artist?

Every artist has a different journey, reasons, and agenda. However, one common thing seems to link together many of them no matter which part of our world they were born or raised; Mental illness.

I wanted to talk about this issue not just because Jenny is one of my all-time favorite artists but also because it affects approximately one in four people and it’s the third leading cause of death in many countries around the world.

Yet, admitting to having issues is still a taboo. Because while talking about mental illness got more accepted over the years; It still brings shame when said it out loud publicly. To me, the escape, guidance, and aid are and always were books, movies, and travel (They came into my life in this order.).

For some reason, I was always drawn to artists who had mental issues, or a great deal of pain to deal with.

Although, the second probably triggers the first and vice versa. I loved their art before I would know more about their personal life. Frida Kahlo, Camille Claudel, Niccolò Paganini, Sandro Botticelli, Endre Ady, Arthur Rimbaud, Robbin Williams and so on…

Some of these artists were born with their issues and some had to deal with them because of traumatic events in their lives. They all taught me how art can help me process and turn my pain into something beautiful, something positive.

I’ve seen three inspiring TED talks on the subject; Ji-Hae Park’sAmanda Palmer’s, and Lidia Yuknavitch’s unique view and words burned into my mind and I carry them with me every day. And while every single one of these artists had a different path to success there are undeniable similarities too.

Jenny did it through comedy like many famous artists before her; Robin Williams, Jim Carrey and probably the most famous of them all Charlie Chaplin. Jenny, of course, is a female and this fact itself just made me even happier after every line I laughed.

So what makes Jenny so special? She teaches you not just that you can turn your pain, your weirdness into something special but also that you don’t have to. She will show you how to accept and love.

“Don’t make the same mistakes that everyone else makes. Make wonderful mistakes.
Make the kind of mistakes that make people so shocked that they have no other choice but to be a little impressed.”
Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

Art is a form of therapy either if you’re a receiver or a creator. In her books, you’ll follow Jenny’s unusual childhood, girlhood, and adulthood not just as a grown woman but as a successful mother, wife, and author. Writing gave Jenny a way to cope and to find connections in her lonely hours.

Her blog opened not just a window for her but a huge gate to many to find a way back and to learn to laugh again.

This is why it’s so important to support, read and talk about artists, creators like Jenny Lawson, Amanda Palmer or Felicia Day. Who carve new ways for art and show us its true importance and a new way to connect with each other in a world of technology where it’s way to easy to feel utterly lost and achingly alone.

The internet can be a good place and it should be. It only depends on us how we choose to use it.

Jenny’s newest book is (2017) You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds. Her second one was Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things (2015). And her first book was Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir (2012). My first read from her was Furiously happy. I finished the book in a day and ran to buy Let’s pretend this never happened.

I laughed, I cried, I got awesome tips but most importantly I felt not only understood but it also got me into this “judgment-free bubble”.  It really gave me new perspectives and helped me to be more honest not just with others but firstly and more importantly with myself.

She Helps to accept and -she even does the impossible- made me love my flaws and craziness.  It doesn’t mean of course that I stopped working on them.

Our interview with Jenny Lawson

will give you a fun insight into her mind as an artist ( or at least I hope so). Most bloggers’ only dream about becoming a best seller author.

Find out about her first memories, inspirations, and you can also find reason number1 why I filled this post with the Grumpy Cat meme (Reason number2: They make me smile, now even better than before.)

AC.:  Since when do you write?

Jenny:  I’ve always written. I’m painfully introverted so writing is the best way for me to communicate. 

AC.:  Do you remember your first interaction with art? When did you first know you want to become a writer & why?
Jenny:  When I was in junior high everyone had an hour to write a story. When the hour was over I didn’t want to turn it in because I was too invested in it and I wanted to finish the story. It was one of the first times that I felt I was being pulled in by the words. The story wanted to be told, if that makes sense.

AC.:  What would you like to express/achieve with your work? What is your ultimate goal?
Jenny:  I often feel out of place or alone. Writing helps me get those feelings out and I’ve been so lucky to have so many others say “I thought it was just me!” Suddenly I’m surrounded by strange and wonderful misfits. It’s a good thing.

AC.:  Do you think it is better to be a writer these days or was it better in the past?
Jenny:  I think part of why I’ve found such a great audience is because social media is around and I was able to find my voice in an organic way. I’m not sure that could have happened in any other way.

If you want one of Jenny’s drawings above your bed you can buy them on Green Apple Books.

AC.:  What is your favorite genre of music to listen to while writing? Or do you prefer silence?
Jenny:  I don’t listen to music because I find it distracting but I listen to pink noise (on youtube) and it helps me focus through distractions.

AC.:  What is the most challenging part of being a writer?
Jenny:  Writing.

AC.:  What is the best part of it?
Jenny:  Having written.

AC.:  What inspires/motivates you?
Jenny:  Reading great books. A great book makes me want to talk back to the author and share my own stories. AC.:  How do you come up with new ideas for blog posts/books?
Jenny: I write about life so I usually just wait for something strange to happen. Weirdness will find you if you know what you’re looking for. It’s all about perspective.

You can, of course, find many of her finished colorings and the original black and whites on her blog.
Find your favorite, print, frame, & hang. Or just color them and relax.

AC.:  Has your style changed over the years?
Jenny:  It’s become more distinct, I think. I’ve become a bit better at editing. I used to find it hard to delete work but it’s so important to clean out the stuff that doesn’t work. Hard, but important.

AC.:  What other artists /writers influence you?
Jenny:  Right now I’m reading a lot of authors I love because they inspire me. Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman, Samantha Irby, Mary Roach.

AC.:  If you could steal credit for any great piece of art which one would you claim?
Jenny:  Grumpy Cat.

After you read her books you won’t be the same… because even if you fell into your biggest, darkest, scariest hole you’ll know you’re not alone, there is no shame in asking for help, and that one day -maybe- you will find a way to laugh the whole thing out of your system.

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A big big THANK YOU to Jenny and her awesome & kind assistant Lisa as well!

Thank You For Reading!