The Big Idea: Felicia Day
Posted on August 24, 2015 Posted by John Scalzi 34 Comments
Felicia Day is someone who for most geeks needs no introduction: Creator of The Guild, instigator of the Geek & Sundry video channel, television celebrity and of course a star of the immortal Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Now she has another descriptor to add to her title: New York Times best selling author, as her book You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) plopped onto non-fiction chart. That’s awesome, and she’s awesome, and here she is to chat with you — yes, you! — about her thoughts on the act of creating. Take it away, Felicia!
The whole point of creating is affecting other people. (Effecting? Grammar sigh.)
I am plagued with perfection syndrome, anxiety and an acute self-consciousness that makes me convinced that I have a gob of mascara under my eye when I attend any public appearance. In general, hubris is something I avoid at all costs. (The internet helps reinforce it because someone is always willing to step up and tell you how much you suck. Thanks internet!) This reluctance to be braggy was a big hurdle for me to be able to get through writing my own memoir. I mean, talking about myself, TO myself for about year to complete the thing? Then recording the words aloud I wrote to myself ABOUT myself for the audio book?! Ugh. My constant inner monologue was, “Who the hell do you think you are, chickie?” But the thing that got me through was realizing that the point of creating is not about ourselves, it’s about everyone around us. How we change others in small ways or large with what we make. Basically, making stuff is not about you, damnit.
This is easy to say in theory, but hard to sink into the bones when you’re staring at a half-completed outline on your laptop and you don’t know how to finish it and there’s a deadline looming like a guillotine above your psyche. (And you’ve just stress-eaten a whole bag of Doritos Cool Ranch and your mouth smells like a trench.) Ego is a necessary first step in making things. There’s a story or a character in our heads that no one else in existence can tell, of a jaunty spaceship traveling through a universe or a hot highlander seducing a super mousey journalist. We’re the only one who can write that moors-seduction scene QUITE like we can, so let’s get to it! (Note to self, explore this Highlander idea, sounds hot.)
But after the initial seed is planted, all our emotional baggage arrives with a jolly, “Hey idiot, reality knocking!” to dry up the enthusiasm. Inhibitions show up. Second guesses. Procrastination-reading of five other works in a similar vein leads to crushing thoughts like, “He had a robot dog in his book, I can’t do that now or I’m a copycat! I have no other ideas. I’m the worst!” I went through it all. And it cost me weeks of my writing life. Yay! But as I plugged away and started to string together my life events, especially my love of connecting with people on the internet, I noticed a thread of where the joy of creating actually lay (lie? Double grammar sigh).
The satisfaction came from other people taking what I made, crushing it into their own a psychic ball and mashing around in their heads, only to come out later in a repurposed form for their own uses. Whether just to share “this made me laugh” in an internet comment, or spur them to create a whole world of their own, impulse sparked by what I’d shared. Channeling that feeling of helpfulness and joy of sharing allowed me to get through the writing road blocks a lot easier than it had been for me in the past. Because I reframed the way I thought about the material from all about ME, to all about US.
And I realized that’s the key to getting through the hard writer’s block times. It requires creating the way we did as kids. Back when we worked for weeks to create that perfect drawing for our dads to hang on the fridge, or built an elaborate Popsicle stick sculpture we couldn’t wait to give our grandmas. That joy of expressing ourselves FOR someone we love is so powerful. It overrides all the ego crap we’re plagued with that stops us up, that makes us put down the pencil or search YouTube for kitten videos instead of working.
If you’re blocked, the root of it is probably fear. I know I was for me. Of failing. Of being mocked. Of not immaculately conceiving the perfect tale on the first draft. This is why I never wrote those unicorn stories I wanted to as a teenager, or those angsty post-college ennui ones in my twenties. I couldn’t risk not knowing the perfect path to take in order to make myself look awesome. Now, I retroactively hate that I sabotaged myself like that, because I couldn’t realize that the things we create are just a deposit into our collective consciousness. Like a savings account for humanity. Fart jokes, political essays or deep contemplative novels, all of it should be considered our personal contribution to helping us understand each other better and changing each others’ brains in ways that wouldn’t have happened if we’d never spoken up.
So when you think about creating, focus on the idea of adding to the collective Borg consciousness, if only to get over your own road blocks and make it easier to get your voice out there. Seeing how the things we express give other people the tools to fertilize the gardens of their own minds is beautiful. It’s kind of the point of being alive. (Alternative theory: Tacos).
You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s
Hear excerpts on the book site. Read her blog. Follow her on Twitter.
As a side note: Felicia not only landed on the New York Times nonfiction best seller list, but also the USA Today bestseller list (which groups all books together, regardless of subject) at #30. What was at #31? The End of All Things. I think this is pretty cool.
Wow… this lady is me, but famous! Her grammar sighs, mine. Her missing ‘that’ and ‘of’ nearly every place it’s supposed to be, my biggest editing fix. Even her personality. Eerie…. How did I not know about her?! Lol. Going to check out her blog when I’m done this comment. (Thanks for the introduction!!) I very much loved her theory behind creating. Great reminder for all of us! Thank you again for sharing!
That was an interesting read. I’m not super familiar with Felicia Day. Really only recognize her from her Supernatural episodes, but she definitely seems like a cool chick. Good for her!
For some people, you’re never extreme when you’re on the Internet. You can find others who believe what you do, allowing you to believe you’re at the natural correct position.
I got a review copy of this book a few months ago and it was a great read. I really enjoyed it. And I have only watched her in the Dr Horrible.
I started a blog a month or so ago, and I’ve been feeling a lot like this–every time I post, it’s all about me. Me, me, me. No one wants to hear that all the time.
It’s comforting to know that even famous people whom other people really do want to hear about experience the same thought process.
*I* want to hear about you, Felicia! *runs off to add another book to her reading list*
I bought a copy as soon as it came out, and read it immediately.
It’s really funny and introspective. It’s a useful window into the life of someone who’s very successful at what bothers them and streesses her out. It’s a good reminder that EVERYONE has the imposter syndrome, no matter how apparently successful.
I’ve seen a good deal of the recent stuff Felicia has done as an actor. I’m a huge fan of Geek and Sundry. I came to The Guild late, after it had finished. Now that I’ve read her Memoir, I’ll watch it again looking at all the behind-the-scenes stuff she talked about in the book.
It’s a great book, very funny!
Heh. I am a total ignoramus of pop culture (don’t even own a television set), so I have to confess that I had never heard of Ms. Day prior to this post. But I purely do love a good memoir, so while my ignorance of pop culture is likely to continue, it seems fairly certain that I’ll be learning more about Ms. Day in the relatively near future.
I also find myself very intrigued by Ms. Day’s description of her writing roadblocks, and of her perceptions of the real nature and function of writing in the world. I have always written for my own enjoyment, but have also always kept the results hidden away even from those to whom I am closest. Strongly doubt that I’ll ever reach the point of attempting to publish any of my ramblings, but I may have to reconsider the possibility of sharing them at least with family.
A little surprised how many folks here aren’t familiar with Felicia Day yet still know how to use the Internet. That’s just weird. Wait, no. You’re never weird on the Internet. ;)
Book sounds cool. Looking forward to reading.
For those of us who have struggled mightily to get students to grasp (and care about) the difference between the verbs “affect” and “effect,” and the nouns “affect” and “effect”, that first sentence supplies a really nice example:
“The whole point of creating is affecting other people.”
“The whole point of reproduction is effecting other people.”
My son and I both really enjoyed this book. It was the impetus for a binge re-watch of The Guild.
It was an inspirational story, but not the treacly kind of never-give-up-on-your-dreams inspiration. It was also a fun read, even when she was bravely discussing dealing with anxiety.
The only thing that would have made it better: including the original GamerGame post that she discusses in the last chapter. It’s easy enough to find on the internet, but would have been nice having it in the book.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Felicia several times–after the first season of The Guild, when she was sitting behind a table (right out on the floor with the rest of us nerds) and only a couple years later, when she was perched in front of a black curtain behind a very long, roped off line,. And more recently after even longer lines. She exudes energy, personality, and warmth, and she writes just like she talks–fast and sassy. Love you Felicia. Never change (except … have you heard about this new thing called a “tanning booth”?).
This is relative to my interests.
If I had to make a Venn Diagram of things I’m interested in with intersections for Felicia Day, Joss Whedon, John Scalzi and hell, lets throw in books. It would be one large circle with no other circles.
I have been fighting off my impostor syndrome with all-nighters and Diet Dew (so much Diet Dew) and this post could not have come at a better time. I’m printing it out to put by my computer. Thank you. :)
“If you’re blocked, the root of it is probably fear. I know I was for me. Of failing. ” And this is exactly why 99% procrastinators procrastinate (including me). You made my day (pun intended) and fueled my motivation. Gotta go, tons of work to do !
Is this highlander fetish common among attractive American women, then?
…I’m asking for a friend.
I’ve started telling people who want to do something in my field (computer programming) that if they come by, I’ll be happy to help them or tutor them or make sure their project gets done. And I forget about it, since I know that most of them will never come by. It doesn’t matter how many times I tell them or how sincerely I offer to help, they’ll never come over and never get started.
Ms Day’s whole Big Idea revolves around putting aside fear, etc and just getting started. And I see it everyday. People who make excuses for not getting started because they’re worried about it not being perfect. It’s never going to have a chance of being perfect unless you finally start.
First came across her in Dr. Horrible, then started to hear about this pod series she did called The Guild about World of Warcraft gamers and their real lives (I think Leo Laporte may have had her on some of his TWiT Podcast Network shows?). Anyway, The Guild did a couple of songs for their series and produced them with fairly clever music videos, “Do You Want To Date My Avatar?” (about romance and sex in-game) and “Game On!” (a Bollywood-style number that caught “Bollywood” better than most American attempts at it!), and ended up buying both songs for my iPod. Then I started seeing her on shows like Dollhouse and See-Fee’s Eureka…..
Felicia Day is one of my favorite creators. I discovered her in Dr. Horrible and I then binge-watched The Guild in a week. I honestly think ‘The Guild’ is the best written, best-casted scripted web series I’ve ever seen, and I can’t wait to see what she’s come up with for her book.
Felicia, thank you for writing such a wonderful book!!! Your candor and vulnerability are an inspiration to ga-jillions of folks across all kinds of demographics (yes, I really am “old” … well, not *that* old …). Like other commenters, I want to watch “The Guild” again now, plus get caught up on “The Flog,” but not till I hit these work deadlines. Motivation! (P.S. – I had Scalzi sign your book when he was in Cleveland. Hope you’ll eventually visit us here on the “north coast” so I can add your autograph to his. ;-)
Reblogged this on David Macinnis Gill.
My husband pre-ordered the book for me, and I read it as soon as it came in the mail. I’m a big fan of The Guild; that’s where I first learned about Felicia. (I also really enjoyed her in Eureka and “Red: Werewolf Hunter” — badass.) It’s hard to put into words what a joy reading this was without sounding over-the-top. It’s kind of like reading a really long e-mail from a friend you haven’t caught up with in a while. I identified strongly with her awkward teenage years (I myself having grown up an awkward teen in Austin, TX) and even moreso with her struggles with adult anxiety. I’m now a lawyer who can sometimes only barely handle the stress. But somehow, now that I know that Felicia can do it, I can do it too. Thanks Felicia!
This resonated with me too. Her feelings of “what I’m doing is horrible” and procrastination I can identify with a lot. I admire her grit in forcing herself to write and expose herself to criticism. Like her and a lot of us, I need to just take some time and get something out there, making time for them.
Thank you very much, Felicia; your bravery in exposing who you are and your insecurity is an inspiration. You did it; I should be able to get past the insecurity and feeling like a faker and do it too.
@John Barnes: I agree, though I’d have said “procreating” instead of “reproduction”.
My block is definitely fear — fear of my novel being lousy, fear of embarrassing myself in front of my writer friends, fear of scathing reviews/comments, fear of disappointing myself, fear of not doing justice to my characters… the list goes on and on. Not sure if Felicia’s approach can save me or not at this point, but I’ll give it a try.
She’s so charming in everything I’ve seen her in. I will have to read this, as it sounds inspirational without being all saccharine.
Thank you for this. I’ve never had any problem writing, but I am utterly terrible at getting my writing to a broader audience, with much the same hurdles as you describe. (For example, my entry in the Nerdist/Inkshares writing contest is sucking big time, even though the novel itself is pretty awesome.) It’s good to be reminded that it isn’t about me, it’s about the pleasure some readers would get from my writing, so I owe it to them to make them aware that my work exists. If that makes sense…
Apparently, I’m the only one who remembers Day as a slayer in Buffy. I’ve loved her work ever since. Can’t wait to read this.
Superb points, Felicia. The issue of perfectionism plagued me decades ago when I was making sonic art. ‘No one’s ever going to listen to this’, ‘No one gives a crap about your inner turmoil expressed as “art”.’ On and on. Then, I realized: unlike live performances, writing / composition is an iterative process, not a finite one.
Now, I write for a living and face a lot of the issues you raised. And when I hit the roadblocks, I say to myself two things: 1. Done is Better than Perfect, and 2. I can ALWAYS do another round of edits! :)
@mfennvt: Nope, you’re not. I was late to Buffy, but I definitely recall her early role there. I think she first came to my attention as a result of Dr. Horrible, though.
@Robin Praytor: Regarding tanning booths: Hey, them’s fighting words! Some of us lasses rock the “ghastly pallor” look, and Felicia Day is one of them. Are you trying to give her skin cancer or something? ;)
To Felicia: Oh wow, I was recently doing a bit of freewriting on just this topic, of how fear and doubt can keep you from creating. I resolved after it to create more, and this post has inspired me even more in that vein.
For me, having the confidence to create something and share it with others requires some degree of lying to myself. Before I can even get word one on the page, I need to somehow convince myself that I’m smarter, funnier, and more creative than anyone else I know. Obviously, this is not true, but the lying serves as fuel for inspiration. This process is a holdover from when I played the saxophone in high school and college; the only way I could get through the stress of an audition was by turning into a total jackhole for about a week prior to my performance. Cockiness, delusion, adrenaline, (and practice, I guess) gave me the temporary ability to do something that my rational mind alone wouldn’t allow me to even contemplate.
You’re not :)
Nice to know “Vi” hasn’t been forgotten. :)
I so needed to hear this right now.
Thank you both.