words words words

I subscribe to Restaurant SmartBrief’s daily newsletter to stay current on foodservice trends (and, let’s be honest, watch for the thrilling appearance of ads I’ve written in their natural habitat); the quote-of-the-day feature is worth scrolling down for, too.

I think back to high school me, who didn’t have the internet. She did have her bulky Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and an urge to scribble down meaningful words. This habit came in handy in college when, as an RA, I could impose my obnoxious optimism on a captive audience of freshmen. (But, guys! You CAN become the change you want to see in the world.)

2003. Such a simpler time. There are too many words now and they start to lose their meaning. We live online in a land of quote overload. Inspiration is forever at the ready.

There it is!

There it is!


One day in June, I caught myself deleting multiple newsletters I’d flagged because the Q-O-T-D had hit the mental spot. I noticed a trend: They were all about perseverance. 

“Everywhere I look,” I thought, “things are literally telling me: DON’T GIVE UP.”

Creative work is hard, y’all. So much time spent feeling like you suck. (Maybe all of the time, forever? I heard an interview with certified TV-genius Norman Lear, who said—at age 94—that he still doubts himself. Still.)

You may get the occasional little nugget of outside affirmation. You treasure this nugget and for a while it energizes you. But soon enough you’re back to the daily grind, and daily grinding will wear down a happy nugget until you’re left with just a shriveled grape-nut of self-doubt.

(You’ll even find yourself doubting your nugget-based creativity analogies. It’s rough.)

But that’s the game. It’s nice to be reminded that so many quotable notables have played it too. So. In honor of that, here’s some annotated scribblage:

It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.
— Babe Ruth, baseball player
pretty obvious, right? but he should know. imagine B.R. pointing his famous finger AT YOU.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
— Calvin Coolidge, 30th US president
oh dang, Calvin! we just got served. (successful men without talent: also a thing.)

Jumping at several small opportunities may get us there more quickly than waiting for one big one to come along.
— Hugh Allen, musician
but, like, big ones are nice too.

Be as you wish to seem.
— Socrates, Greek philosopher
this one tickles my brain. that was Socrates’ whole deal, though. makes sense.

Growth demands a temporary surrender of security.
— Gail Sheehy, writer
shut up, Gail. (this one makes me whiny. sorry, Gail. that’s on me.)

The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.
— Sven-Goeran Eriksson, athlete and sports executive
I imagine a name like “Sven-Goeran” is a barrier in itself. way to overcome, S-G. 


show me the fever, into the fire, taking it higher and higher

Apropos of nothing, here’s a short essay I wrote about David Wain. Just in case the internet wants to know more about my thoughts on comedy. (Which, you might? Stranger things have happened.) I wrote this for my entry into the NBC Writers Workshop this year, to answer the question “Whose comedy do you think is underrated?”, but the sentiment could apply to any network. Hypothetically. 

If I could only experience one subset of the comedy family tree for the rest of my life (which, you know, is like choosing just one color out of a rainbow. Cheesy, but true), it would probably be David Wain.


(right, though?)

It feels odd to say that a comedian and filmmaker with 20+ directing credits, a cult-hit Netflix series and a hilarious sketch show in each of the last three decades is “underrated.” He isn’t underrated to me or to other comedy fans and pop-culture nerds, but somehow David Wain still isn’t a household name. I’m afraid he’d fail the does-my-mother-know-him test. Which is such a shame, because his work cozies up so nicely to my sense of humor. The first time I watched Wet Hot American Summer, I was just starting work as a camp counselor for gifted high school students and lusting after a coworker who was as sweet and unassuming as Coop. We had instant inside jokes for the rest of the summer. It was perfect. Then I found Stella when I was in my mid-20s and starting to form my comedy sensibilities, and the paradox that something could be so smart and so, so stupid felt just right to me.

That’s what I find brilliant in all of his work—it’s absurd and subversive and broad and subtle all at the same time. The over-the-top misdirection that turns a tired joke cliché on its head. The slapsticky physical gags that in no way serve the story. The entirely silly but still somehow sweet love stories. Plus the cameos. Oh, the cameos!

I love that a core group of writers and performers he works with have been together since their days at NYU. As a girl who gets to spend many a weekend making up funny things with her friends, I am envious beyond words when I see groups of funny people who get to do that for real (i.e. for a living). That’s the dream, right? Working together to make something original that makes people laugh.

He’s not as well known as some of the actors in his movies—Jon Hamm! Kristen Wiig! Paul Rudd! Amy Poehler!—but I think he deserves to be. (Cheesy, but true.) When he was on You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes recently, Pete asked, “What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about creating comedy?” David gives a long insightful answer, but the takeaway for me was: It’s not just about being funny. It’s about doing the work.

That’s the dream.

Image source here.


I have 118 saved drafts on my blog. This may sound startling, but it doesn’t surprise me at all. I’ve earned a black belt in not-finishing-what-I-start. I’m an Eagle Scout of procrastination. The Miss America of over-commitment… You get the idea.

So tonight, eager to blog but anxious over starting anything new, I dove (dived? duve?) into a few of those drafts. Sidebar: The difference between “anxious” and “eager” was drilled into my brain by a journalism professor in college. For example, “I’m anxious to go on vacation” means you’re scared to travel, not excited, though a majority of writers/talkers get that wrong. I couldn’t tell you with confidence what I wore to work a week ago, but I remember this little nugget of syntax correctness. Brains are weird.

Back to the drafts. (Backdraft.) It’s like opening a time capsule, reading these things I started but never shared with anyone else. Seeing where I didn’t quite finish my thoughts or polish them to my liking. (I am, after all, a gold medal winner in the perfectionism decathlon.)

The unedited, untitled draft below made me very happy. It’s a cryptic little nonsense poem, but I deciphered that I wrote this after watching the Oscar-nominated animated shorts at the Moxie in 2014:

An inspiration sandwich with a side of delight

A city full of anthropomorphized inanimate objects conspiring to help a blue umbrella find love

A squirrel looking for his lost scarf encountering modern philosophy

An OCD French robot in a mechanized future learns to expand his life for the sake of a lost dog

Got in my car, smiling wide, “That was so effing magical!”

(Feb 19, 2014)

The_Blue_Umbrella_(2013_film)_posterRead without context, it feels like fever dream ramblings. But I like it; maybe it’s a story I’d like to know more about. If I weren’t me.

This happy accident of reading down the rabbit trail of discarded effort led me to rewatching the short below. The one about the lovestruck umbrella. One of the lovelier of all Pixar shorts, which I’d completely forgotten existed. (And chances are you’ve never seen, since it screened before Monsters University.) Oh! And it wasn’t even nominated. It was on the shortlist of honorable mentions.

They didn’t win, but they did finish. So maybe none of it was ever wasted time. And now my drafts count reads 117.