“I think you should follow your dreams. Why not?”

Following dreams. Following ideas. Following funny fellows on Twitter.
Hold on, it’ll all come together…

“That’s the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats:
you make them follow you.”

Today I found this quote from Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing in a post on good books about writing via brainpickings.com. I found it entirely delightful, and so I posted it on Twitter — which in the early days I would describe as my internet scrapbook of cool ideas. This Twitter archive came in handy later today, when I wanted to remember the exact day that I discovered John Mulaney…

See, I got to see him do stand-up tonight (along with Vanessa “it’s pretty cool and stufflikethat” Bayer) at MSU, and it was everything I hoped it would be. I wanted adorably nerdy jokes with some comedy writer inspiration mixed in. The evening did not disappoint. (I even got to ask an overzealous-audience-member question about what it’s like to write “Stefon”…)

Thanks to the magic of the internet, I can trace my J.M. discovery to the exact moment of origin:

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This was almost 2 years ago. Wowsers. Tried (and failed) to find the video clip of his Weekend Update appearance online. Apparently NBC is real concerned with preventing copyright infringement of obscure episodes from 2010.

How could you not love this face?!

At any rate, I remember watching an adorably unassuming, super-smart commentary from this kid (who turns out to be an SNL writer who’s just a year older than I am…ego smash…), sitting next to Seth Meyers at the Update desk. He wasn’t a character; he was just this guy basically doing a monologue of his witty observations, with a big smile on his face (see also: living the dream).

So fast forward to 2 years later, and I’m as obsessed as ever with SNL and the idea of comedy writing. Whenever I bump up against someone living this kind of life, a little alarm goes off inside of me: I want to go to there. This idea has been following me around forever, like Ray Bradbury’s cat. (You heard it here first: If Jenksie ever gets a sibling, I’m naming her “Ray Bradbury’s Cat”)

I couldn’t stop gushing about it. To my friends after the show. To myself on the drive home. To mom on the phone, then to my boyfriend, and now to you guys.

 

Mom gets credit for the title quote, which warmed my heart more than she can know. I think sometimes my parents don’t know what to do with me…with my big dreams and my unrealistic expectations and my highs-and-lows, crashes and bursts…but instead of her usual dose of pragmatic advice peppered with motherly warnings, she just simply told me what I needed to hear:

“I think you should follow your dreams. Why not?”

(Right?)

She also reminded me how I used to love telling jokes to our preacher when I was preschool age. I was painfully shy for the first 20-or-so years of my life…and young childhood was the extreme. I remember hiding behind mom or dad’s legs whenever people tried to talk to me at church, but I’d totally forgotten that the one exception to my sheepishness was performing. If I could make someone laugh, then shyness be damned! Bring on the STAAAGE!!! (*little girl Carol Channing voice*)

Even now, I get a little sheepish when I talk about this. I feel like I have to qualify it somehow, explain that I’m not just another anybody who wants to be famous. But then I stop myself. Because that’s silly. When someone with pre-med aspirations says, “I want to be a doctor,” I don’t think they immediately feel like they have to apologize. We might go, “oooh! That’s going to be tough!” or make some joke about student loans, but we don’t doubt that it’s a worthy goal, if they can do it. (And I feel like I could do it… Write comedy, that is. Not be a doctor. Blood. Ick.)

Here’s how I tried to explain my post-show feelings to Matt:
When I was little, I didn’t believe much in Santa Claus, nor did I get all excited over photos with Mickey Mouse — but I imagine that this is the feeling of wonder that most kids experience while in the presence of their superheroes. Here is this magical thing that I love, and it’s RIGHT THERE, and it’s real… Mid-explanation, I started to feel silly again. But his answer, more sincere than it may seem on a computer screen, was perfect: “Well, I’m glad you got to sit on Santa’s lap.” And so am I.

So come along, metaphorical Ray Bradbury’s Cat. Keep following me around for a little while longer. We’ve got lots of stuff to do.