Read this from Tina Fey’s book Bossypants and then please go buy her book. I like it so much I might come with you to Amazon and buy another copy myself.
Amy Poehler was new to SNL [Saturday Night Live] and we were all crowded into the seventeenth-floor writers’ room waiting for the Wednesday read-through to start. There were always lots of noisy “comedy bits” going on in that room. Amy was in the middle of some such nonsense with Seth Meyers across the table, and she did something vulgar as a joke. I can’t remember what it was exactly, except it was dirty and loud and “unladylike”.
Jimmy Fallon, who was arguably the star of the show at the time, turned to her and in a faux-squeamish voice said, “Stop that! It’s not cute! I don’t like it.”
Amy dropped what she was doing, went black in the eyes for a second, and wheeled around on him. “I don’t fucking care if you like it.” Jimmy was visibly startled. Amy went right back to enjoying her ridiculous bit. (I should make it clear that Jimmy and Amy are very good friends and there was never any beef between them. Insert penis joke here.)
With that exchange, a cosmic shift took place. Amy made it clear she wasn’t there to play wives and girlfriends in the boys’ scenes. She was there to do what she wanted to do and she did not fucking care if you like it.
I Don’t Care If You Like It – Tina Fey, Bossypants, Little, Brown and Company (2011)
Seriously. The book. Buy her book.
I hesitated over that headline because I think this collection of quotes is smart advice for anyone and so surely the gender of the speakers makes no difference. But some of it does address issues that especially affect women, such as sexism in the workplace.
Also, the more I thought about it, the less I thought it was necessary to use the word career in the headline. This is all ostensibly about work and careers and business but I’m taking general life lessons from it.
Actually, what exactly does successful mean either? If it means being successful at being a woman then if you’re a woman, success. I’m a man, so I’ve failed already.
And if I were the type of man who ignored advice because it’s from a woman, I would truly be a failure then. So I’m taking this advice.
I just suspect the better headline would therefore have been “Advice From”.
It’s Advice From a longish blog post that specifies it has 15 such tips, though I note they come from only 11 women: Tina Fey gets quoted four times. But my favourite of them all and the one I think is most relevant to us as writers is one of hers in which she says:
The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30…What I learned about bombing as a writer at Saturday Night is that you can’t be too worried about your “permanent record.” Yes, you’re going to write some sketches that you love and are proud of forever—your golden nuggets. But you’re also going to write some real shit nuggets. And unfortunately, sometimes the shit nuggets will make it onto the air. You can’t worry about it. As long as you know the difference, you can go back to panning for gold on Monday.
Tina Fey quoted in 15 Career Tips from Smart Women – Joanna Goddard, A Cup of Jo (16 September 2014)
Do go read the other 14. They are smart quotes. But then also go buy Tina Fey’s book Bossypants: I’ve never met Fey and don’t really know her work beyond a few episodes of 30 Rock yet the book feels like she’s sitting there with you telling you these great stories. Fantastic writing style and a huge amount to say.
I didn’t do this, but I wish I had. I’ve just been re-reading Tina Fey’s Bossypants – read my bubbling enthusiasm for it from when I first read back in 2011 – and I was really looking for a way to tell you the best bits. Or at least to say: read Bossypants (UK editions, US editions).
But a blog called Scrubly has parsed the whole book and come up with advice we can apply to everything. I’m not surprised, I admire her book just as much as I relish it: there is huge strength in the wit and the cleverness. That makes it sound technical or contrived, I think, and that’s not at all how it reads. It reads like this smart woman is two inches in front of your face and talking directly and only to you. But it does also have these great nuggets, such as the one Scrubly picks out first:
“You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the water slide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.”
Tina Fey had to learn how to stay productive and get things done on deadline mainly because of her work on SNL. When a show is done weekly there’s no time for fooling around with work. There’s no such thing as being a day late when a show airs live at the same time every week — you get it done.
And keep in mind, as Fey said, “You can’t control things by being nervous about it.”
Do take a read of Scrubly’s article but, really, Tina Fey’s Bossypants. That’s the thing to read (UK editions, US editions).