How I Can Help You

Isn’t it interesting how important pronoun placement is in the English language?  Take my title for instance, “How I Can Help You.”  What I mean by that statement is – help me to help you.  What I don’t mean is “How Can I Help You?”  The two sentences are totally different.  For one, the first example is a statement and the second one is a question.  The first one, is advice being doled out by someone with experience.  The second one is something said by a barista when you go for your morning coffee and muffin.

This being my 41st post, I thought I’d write a piece that included some writerly/ artist-ish advice.

So, just who the hell am I to give advice after only writing 41 posts?  Well, no one, really.  And yet, everyone, actually.  Is that Buddhist enough for you?  (Big smile.)  The truth of it is I’m a comedian, who has made a living slinging jokes.  Comedian – is the word that has defined me for the great majority of my adult life.  I’ve done comedy for well over 16 years.  When I say “done” comedy, what I mean is out, close to every single night doing spots in New York city and in 30 out of the 50 states over that last 16 years.  Committed.  Completely.  For the last 5 years of that 16, I made my full-time living from it.  Now you know.

The current word that best describes me today is writer – writer first, comedian second.  That is by choice.  The writer word has happened over the last three years consistently.  I wrote a book of essays that almost sold.  Then a second book that I didn’t like and canned.  Now, I’m on my third.  While doing all of that I wrote two spec scripts and at least a dozen scripts and submission packets for television writing jobs.  A few of them even landed me interviews with exec producers and head writers.  That basically means I know my way around writing a joke.

Now, I think you should know why I started this blog.  I wanted ONE consistent writing project to happen every day – hopefully for a year – outside of my longer writing projects.  I wanted this consistent writing to get feedback and hopefully a portion of that feedback would come from outside my existing network of fans and friends.  That’s one of the reasons that I did it anonymously.  Not because I’m someone famous, far from it, but because I wanted nothing to distract from the writing.  If a friend stumbled upon it, I wanted them to NOT know it was mine.  (At least not right away.)

So….let’s stop tiptoeing through the tulips.  Here’s what I think is a MUST READ for every single writer and artist on wordpress and in the world in general.  Period.  Read it.  Right after your read the rest of this post, of course.

I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script.  This is a piece by stellar screenwriter, Josh Olson, who wrote the film, A History of Violence.  YOU MUST READ THIS PIECE.  I am including a link to it at the bottom of this post.  The gist of the piece is this – it takes years to get good at writing or anything else worth doing for that matter.  So, a) if you’re experienced, don’t give away all your goods and your energy at the drop of a hat and b) if you’re new, don’t expect experienced people to do so at the drop of an email.  Here’s one of my favorite quotes from I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script:

There’s a great story about Pablo Picasso. Some guy told Picasso he’d pay him to draw a picture on a napkin.

Picasso whipped out a pen and banged out a sketch, handed it to the guy, and said, “One million dollars, please.”

“A million dollars?” the guy exclaimed. “That only took you thirty seconds!”

“Yes,” said Picasso. “But it took me fifty years to learn how to draw that in thirty seconds.”

Makes a salient point, I think.  For me it’s a point that I guard very closely these days.

You see, I had the “How Can I Help You?” problem for many years when I was doing comedy seriously.  The how can I help YOU problem.  I was always producing other people’s work, helping them get on stage, reading their writing, recommending them to people, etc.  AND I did this all with very little regard toward pushing myself forward and helping my own career.  I think of this as a women’s disease because unfortunately I think women fall prey to the “helper” thing far more than men.  Men help themselves first AND THEN they help you.  It’s like the flight attendant says, “Put the oxygen mask over your own face and then the damn baby…”  Sage advice.

But, now my feet are planted firmly in the How I Can Help You department and as a result, my creative work is thriving.  With that in mind, here’s who I read and help, first and foremost, and why.

Who I Read on
There are circles of blogs that I read on  Meaning the circle closest to me I read the most often.  Then I read the circle outside of that one and then the circle outside of that.  The circle that I read the most often are the blogs of people who READ MINE, comment, and like, the most frequently ON MINE.  Sorry, but that’s just the truth.  If people like a post of mine, the very first second I have available – I check out their blog.  I like things, I start interacting.  If they interact back – and this is important – and if they have focused content, I read them often.  The second group of people who I read (the next circle if you will) are the people who interact with me less, but who have incredibly focused and stellar content.  I can’t tell you how many times someone interacts with me a lot and I want to read their blog, but I can’t understand what the hell is going on.  Is it thoughts about their day?  Pictures about their world?  Cooking tips?  A paragraph blurb, beginning of something, instead of a well thought out piece?  Wait, no, it’s all of those things.  Jesus, I’m lost.  You know what I mean?  So, I read the interactors first, the focused-content-interactors most frequently, the focused-stellar-content people after that.  And if I like you, I’ll read almost anything you put up.  A book excerpt, some erotica, an auto mechanic’s handbook re-written in Swahili, it doesn’t matter.

Who I Read Outside of WordPress Blogs
Oh, my god, you read something outside of blogs?!  Yes, I do.  Mainly, stuff for jobs I’m applying for, the work of my close friends, and people who have careers worth aspiring to.  So, I’ll pick up a Stephen King for kicks and a Mary Roach because I want to understand just how she writes the way she does.  I read the scripts of my close friends in the business because I can usually learn something and they read mine.  Then I read every spec and submission guideline for shows that ask me to submit or where I want to work.  I don’t have time for much else.

I gotta get to these...

Lastly – here’s the one thing I know, as Oprah would say.  Comedians are an interesting breed.  The most commonly heard sentence in comedy from comedian to comedian is – Hey, can YOU get me on a show?  I can not tell you how many times a day I get an email like that.  Now, of course, comedians have to help each other out.  I believe in the camaraderie between comedians.  In fact, I wrote this about just such a sentiment.  As a comedian, I must have sent, “Hey, Can You Get Me on a Show” emails myself.  Actually, no, I haven’t.  I’ve sent, “Hey, I’d like to do your show” emails.  Again, the delicate elegance of pronouns.  I find that almost ALL of these “Hey, can you get me on a show?” emails come from people who have NEVER dropped me a line to say hi, they’ve never commented on a blog or a joke I’ve written, but if they’re coming to town they don’t hesitate to say, “Hey, Can You Get Me on a Show?”  No, I feckin’ can not.  Take a long walk off a short pier.  No one wants to stop everything they’re doing to help you.  Especially, a newly re-formed person who is FINALLY taking the time to work on their own creative thing.

Now, pay him or her some attention, help him or her, and my guess is they’ll go pretty far to help you.  If they don’t end up helping you, feck ‘em, move on, and go to where the love is.  But, watch where you place that pronoun because there is a generosity in the giving over of one’s time, but there can also be greed in the HOW you ask.


Sweet Mother is updated daily.  You can follow by clicking the button at the top right of the page. 


If you liked this post, you might also like:

That’s Not the Right Baby for You

Spam Email Response Day

World’s Most Annoying Lesbian Things List


I Will Not Read Your Fucking Script


Photo creds:  barista, screenplay

17 thoughts on “How I Can Help You

  1. This phenomenon exists in everything – not just work. I have always noticed that the people who have offered me help are always undemanding when it comes to themselves and it’s even possible to miss their predicaments because they are so circumspect. On the other hand, the people who demand to have all of their needs met are usually not great reciprocators (you can see where I’m coming from now…)
    Interesting post.

    1. you know, you make a very good point. it often seems the ones who you would give to until their cups overfloweth never seem to ask or do so very sheepishly and the ones who shouldn’t are very bold. anyway, the above is just based on my personal experience in comedy mainly. i find the wordpress community pretty supportive overall. altho, i have seen one arrogant blog or two. actually, that’s funny…the idea of an arrogant blog…might be a future post…hmmmm. thanks for reading, my friend.

  2. Okay, I’m one of those people who tries to help others…. But I’m also trying to help myself by blogging. Not just because every agent and editor says you have to do it to get published. (I resisted it because of that.) It’s great writing practice, and I’m meeting an incredibly supportive community of fellow writers. And that is helping me. But I also think I’m helping others by sharing my experiences and supporting them in their endeavors.

    I’m still finding my balance for content—I’ve only been blogging about 4 months. So I hope you’ll bear with me as I try to stay focused, but fresh. 🙂

    1. hey there jm, please know that I like your blog. the above post is not me making a judgement. it’s more my personal opinion based on my personal experience. the reason i say that is because i think everyone has to find their own limits and boundaries within the creative process and they are different for each person. and yep, i agree, the daily blogging is really great writing practice. glad you stopped by today. – mother

  3. I love that Picasso story . . .

    Hey thanks for the blog promo. I’ve had computer issues the past few days and haven’t been able to do squat, but I’m hoping today to be able to fulfill the requirements of the award. Awards, how we love them, how we love them. I’d like to thank . . . well in this case, you. And believe me, since I’m not getting that big publishing contract any time soon, I’ll take whatever praise I can muster.

    1. don’t even sweat it. i have an award thingy still to do too. get to it when you get to it or don’t, the link is there for you either way. hope it gets you some eyes. and it was my pleasure. i’m grateful that you read my stuff. – mother

  4. There are way more blogs than can be read. Some of the most interesting ones have been found by accident. I’m a great believer in randomness, somthing that drove my former anal-retentive colleagues crazy. As you said, the most important thing to do is read, read, read, and write, write, write. I can say from experience that many young people think writing means “r u wit me….” and cannot write a coherent paragraph. I don’t think they would catch the difference you wrote about. Good point!

    1. How true, my friend. Not enough people realize that reading is a big part of the writing craft. I can’t imagine growing up in a world full of txting shorthand. Thank god most programs have a spell check or everyone born after 1990 would be screwed! And I’m w u. I like the randomness of a lot of my blog finds. Thanks for reading it. I always enjoy ur comments.

  5. Excellent post and one most timely for me as I’m struggling to go to that next level, to fully embrace that I am a writer and now must behave like one.

    Very thought provoking!

  6. I often see the world as takers vs. givers. This is, of course, simplistic, and with everything, there are shades of gray. But I think most of us can place our friends, family, and acquaintances into one category or the other. What’s beautiful about getting older is we become more comfortable saying no. Thus, we can keep the takers in our lives, as most have other good qualities, but not be at their beck and call. Just my two cents. 🙂

    Of course, with age also comes wrinkles and saggy buns. Sigh…

    1. I’m so w u. Saying no used to be a big problem of mine. But now I find it sort of empowering. There’s a lot of strength in a no. Ok now I’m going to stop before I start to sound like a women ‘ s studies professor!

      1. Actually, now you sound like my mother. Oh, wait, she WAS a women’s study professor. No wonder your words sound so familiar! 🙂

      2. aaaaahhhhhhhaaaaa, that’s so great. i actually really loved my women’s studies classes. not enough to become a professor, but you know what i mean! that’s so funny.

  7. Another wonderful post from my favorite blogger. And you are so right. I am also a ‘giver’ who will retweet, repost and repeat everything for my friends and colleagues but when it comes to myself, I don’t want to look immodest or self-serving. It’s definitely a woman thing and I think that’s why God made us mothers. 🙂

    1. So true, Wendy. We have to let our vages – what’s the plural of vag ? – lead the way but not take over to our detriment! Grt comment ad always. Xo mother

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s