As told to T. Cole Rachel, 6256 words.
Tags: Acting, Writing, Comedy, Inspiration, Process, Independence, Beginnings, Time management, Multi-tasking.
On creativity as a design for lifeActor, writer, and entertainer Nick Offerman illuminates his own unlikely career trajectory and explains how true creativity—and knowing how to do things with your own two hands—can lead you to a happier, more fulfilled life.
I know that you are in the middle of a cross-country tour. Are you really just alone in a car, driving across the country?
I am. It’s a true solo tour. I really enjoy the spartan experience of just me and a guitar and a backpack. The theaters are often taken aback when I pull up to the loading dock in a sensible rental sedan. Sometimes I have to talk my way past a security guard and say, “No, I’m the guy on the marquee.” They say, “You look like one of his roadies.” They often wonder where my posse is… but as we all know, a posse costs money.
I’m curious about the evolution of your creative life, as you are someone who does many different things. When you were a kid even, did you have a sense that you would be an entertainer?
Not really. I grew up in a small Illinois town called Minooka. It was the ’70s and the early ’80s. In hindsight, I’m aware of what a cultural vacuum I was in. By which I mean, all we received in my sphere were the main three TV networks and some top-40 radio stations out of Chicago. More importantly, I never had any cool influence, no aunts or uncles or older friends handing me the good shit. When I got to the theater school in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, all my peers had grown up with the benefit of older relatives that were cool. So once I was 18 and I got to theater school, suddenly I found my people, I found my flavor. I was going to be a weirdo.
But yeah, growing up I’d never dreamed of anything like this… I knew that I liked making people laugh, I knew that I liked entertaining people, but because of the disconnect culturally, it never occurred to me that I could get there from where I was. When I would watch TV or see movies, I would never think that’s what I want to do. How can I get on that path? Even when I went to theater school, I was so rural and bucolic in my thinking that I thought if things went well, I could get to Chicago. Then maybe I could get paid to perform in plays professionally. That would be an incredible career peak.
So then I did that and I was 23. Then I said, Gosh, there’s now more options that have become available to me. This is crazy.
The landscape of my creative life unfolded very organically for me. I never got to look at the map. Instead, I sort of keep filling in the map as I go…
I think, holy cow, I made it over this mountain pass and now here’s a whole forest of writing books. I did not see that coming. Holy shit, this is fantastic.
Do you remember when acting first felt like a real career for you?
Well, I guess there were a few different points. The first step was just taking the terrifying plunge of moving to Chicago, to the metropolis, and taking a swing at it. Thanks to my training and some lucky connections, I started getting small jobs at big theaters. Right away, I got hired at the Goodman Theater, which is kind of the big playhouse in Chicago. I was in a Shakespeare play in a role with like three lines. But I got the job because they needed a fight captain to be in charge of all the fight choreography, which was a particular skill I had. So there were moments of like, Okay, I’m getting a paycheck in my chosen profession, which is notoriously difficult. This is very exciting. Now, how can I get more lines? How can I get better parts?
Then two or three years into Chicago, that started happening, where I started getting better parts at bigger theaters. Then suddenly, like my third year, I had a really good year. I won a couple awards and had some really great leading roles. So that was another moment of, like, “Holy cow, that is astonishing. I didn’t see that coming. I’m happy just to have a couple of scenes and now I’ve got a trophy.” So then, with each step of achievement, a new terrifying door would open. After I had that good year, then I said, Shucks, I can either stay here and continue trying to have years like this, or I can go even farther—I can consider moving to New York or Los Angeles. So I did that and it was very scary because… well, I moved to Los Angeles and there was so much unknown.
I was right to be scared because I got to LA and I didn’t have a very good idea of what I was doing at all. That led to a couple of years of just casting about aimlessly in the dark until I finally started to get a little bit of TV work. At that point, I likened my career to a very slowly rolling snowball—sort of zig-zagging down the hill and coming to rest at the foot of an oak tree now and again. But by the time I was in my early ’30s, I had met Megan Mullally, my wife, the legendary actress from Will and Grace. I was working pretty steadily as a guest star. I was like a journeyman character actor.
At that point, my life had so far exceeded my wildest dreams. I’m Mr. Megan Mullally, I have a nascent wood-shop where I’m making heirloom furniture. I’m getting paid to work on shows for a week or three weeks at a time, like the West Wing or ER or Deadwood. This is crazy, I can’t believe how far my life has surpassed my dreams. So then you can only imagine when Parks and Recreation happened. My mind was just absolutely blown and it sort of continues to be blown. It’s been about a decade since that show started. So I presume if I play my cards right, maybe I’ll have a few more stages of, Holy cow, I can’t believe I got invited to go hiking with the Dalai Lama! or something like that.
So much of your personal work has been about creativity or the encouragement of creativity. I think that’s how I first became aware of who you were, by seeing one of your videos about woodworking where you were building a canoe and talking about the pleasure of making things with your own two hands. Throughout your early years as a struggling actor, were you also always doing that kind of work?
Well, yeah. That’s the thing, I refuse to be settled with any sort of wisdom or foresight. I’ve just been a very lucky stumbling donkey, like most people. You just follow the opportunities that are available to you. So sometimes you become a successful, certified public accountant. You say, Okay, I love adding numbers and I can raise a family on this income. This is a happy life. My own stumblings, the doors that were open to me, just happened to lead me in that direction. For example, as a teenager I needed to put some money away to go to college. So I got a job framing houses and I loved it. I really took to it. I loved working outdoors, depending on my own brute strength, climbing all over a skeleton of lumber and hammering framing nails, and cutting rafters. There’s a daredevil aspect to it that I just loved. I got paid three times what my friends were getting paid to flip burgers. So immediately I was like, Well, this is incredible. I grew up in a family that uses tools and so I just come by that honestly. I never set out to be a nailer, but now I can suddenly afford a really nice cassette player for my Subaru BRAT.
That continued into the world of theater. I was able to build scenery for wages, while I was also trying to make a go of it as an actor in Chicago. I made a good portion of my living being paid to build scenery.So inadvertently, I was developing my tool skills and becoming more and more accomplished in working in a shop with woodworking techniques. By the time I reached my late 20s in Los Angeles, things weren’t going as smoothly as they had been in Chicago. I couldn’t find the same kind of scenery building jobs, where they would let me still go audition for acting roles.
So I had to turn to independent projects. I built decks and cabins in people’s yards. I started using timber framing techniques, big post-and-beam structures with mortise and tenon joints. Again, I sort of backed into it and said, “Wait a second, I’ve learned this joinery now. This is how heirloom furniture is made.” I think I was 28 years old. I said, Wow, I can now build fine furniture. It was the opposite of having it in front of me as a goal. Instead, I backed up and bumped into it and turned around and said, shoot, I’m going to be a woodworker. This is incredible.
Did you have a space to work out of? How were you doing it?
Well, at first I just had a small kit. I was well accustomed as a scenery carpenter. In Chicago, I had a tool kit that I could take on the train. Fortunately, my career lined up with the advent of kick-ass cordless, battery powered saws and drills and reciprocating saws and whatnot. So when I was building things in people’s yards, I just had a kit in my pickup truck. Eventually I got a shop space to work out of. It was right around then when I had the furniture epiphany. I said, I’m going to get a shop and just build commissioned furniture pieces. I just made sure to give them a long lead time in case I got an acting job.
So that’s when I had my first shop space. At first, it was rather humble and I had to split it with a sculptor. Then over the years, I was able to kick the sculptor out, he was not a good neighbor. For about 20 years, I’ve had this warehouse space in Los Angeles. I have it tricked out now, so when you walk in, it feels like you could be in the middle of Illinois. It’s got a really rural feeling to it. It’s a wonderful escape from the superficial world of show business that occupies a lot of my days. When the crappy, consumerist studio heads get me down, I just drive over to my shop and make some chair legs, and suddenly I’m healed.
How did you end up touring as a solo performer and doing stand up?
Again, it happened quite by accident. I had written a couple of funny songs on the guitar for Megan to make her laugh. After a lifetime of slowly teaching myself the guitar and hoping to one day get to entertain people with enjoyable songs of my own, I wrote some songs for her. When Parks and Recreation sort of took off, the show was especially popular with young people. Then colleges mistakenly began to invite me to perform stand up for them.
At first I would say, “No, I’m a theater actor, I don’t do that Rodney Dangerfield thing.” But then after the third or fourth invitation, a switch flipped inside me and I said, “You know what? There are some things I would love to say to 2000 young people. Yes, Ohio State, I will perform my standup for you.” Then I just sat down and started writing my first show, which was called American Ham. I wrote some songs. I’m not a talented composer, so I have a couple of friends who help me. I’ll write the lyrics and then they’ll take care of my melodies. I just really took to it, especially in this current lifestyle, where it’s like a circus act and I have five plates spinning at all times.
Touring as a solo performer is just much friendlier to keeping those plates spinning. I still look forward to the next time I get to perform in a play. A few years ago I did a production of Confederacy of Dunces at The Huntington Theater in Boston. There’s nothing I love more than a beautiful production of a theater piece. That’s where I cut my teeth as an artist and to me, that’s the most satisfying. It’s like if I was an athlete that played in four different professional sports, but I grew up as a tennis phenom—nothing beats getting back out there on the tennis court and feeling the racket in my hands, as it were.
Does the experience of doing the show change radically from night to night? Does the show evolve?
Absolutely. Obviously, from night to night. Even if I play in the same city, every night is different. It’s a different group of people. You are a day older as a performer. Whether it’s performing as a comedian or in a long run of a play, it’s a fascinating life study and something I think you have to learn pretty quickly if you’re going to survive, let alone succeed. Megan taught me a great lesson from doing long runs on Broadway. When she was young, her mom used to take her from Oklahoma City to study ballet in New York and they would go see Broadway shows. Her mom was great, and she would hang out with her outside the theater after the show. So, Megan got to meet cast members and theater staff.
Megan talks about how she would sit in the audience of shows like Cabaret or Chicago and how it literally changed her life. She was so swept away and bewitched by what was happening on stage. She said, “This is what I have to do with my life.” Now when she finds herself in a Broadway show and it’s performance number 179 and it’s a Thursday night and maybe she’s had a little bit of a cold and she’s just like, “God, the last thing I want to do is get on stage and do this dance number,” she simply remembers herself as a little girl. She just thinks—what if that little girl or boy is out in the audience tonight? I have to give them the magic every night. It’s not about me and how good I feel or not, every night it’s up to me to inspire and deliver whatever the medicine may be to this particular audience.
I had this happen to me last night, actually. I played in Lincoln, Nebraska. Wonderful sold-out crowd, so generous and enthusiastic. In this beautiful big auditorium. I was tired, I had traveled in from Los Angeles. Even on my best night, I’m never a virtuoso on the guitar. I’m always a little bit clumsy.
What I’ve learned is that as long as I deliver my material with gusto and with passion, the audience gets it. They’re not here to see Eric Clapton. They’re here to see this clumsy donkey of a man who they trust to hopefully inspire them and make them laugh.
So I’m playing songs and a couple of my songs have chords that are challenging for me and I’m just massacring these chords. In my head, I’m berating myself and saying, “You idiot, you suck! This is terrible.” But I know enough not to let the audience know that’s the case. So even while I’m flagellating myself inside, on the surface, I’m singing. Then after the show, I meet people and they say, “Thank you, god, that was so great. We had so much fun. I never laughed so hard!”
Then I think to myself, “Idiot, don’t you see?” Always remember they don’t care that you suck at playing a B-chord. All they care about is that you’re there to make them laugh.
In my continuing education across all the hats that I wear professionally, the most important lesson is that all you can do is your best and you should just try and do that with the best intentions. I’m working on my fifth book right now and I’m always daunted. I love reading and listening to great writers. I’m always thinking, What business do I have writing a book? I listen to George Saunders and Rebecca Solnit and these incredible brains and hearts and again I think, Where do I get off thinking I should write a book?
The thing to always remember is that they’re also human and they also are thinking that. When I’m finishing up a book and it’s time to turn it in, it’s always the same. You have to stop and be done with it. You can keep editing your book, you can keep writing your novel, you can keep cutting your TV show or your film in the editing room in perpetuity throughout the universe. You can literally keep cutting it for the rest of your life. Some films famously have done so, usually to their detriment. But at some point, you have to say, I got to turn this in. I made this piece of art because I needed to make it for myself. The point of it is to let people see it or experience it. Warts and all, I have to turn it in. If I don’t put it in front of people, then it’s like committing the sex act without ever arriving at completion. There’s a sense of futility to that. No. You’ve got to wrap it up at some point.
How do you manage to keep so many plates spinning without it making you feel crazy?
In terms of my own career path as it were, right now if things go well, if nothing crashes and burns, I’m probably booked for about the next year. For an actor, that’s incredibly wonderful. That’s a very fortunate place to be, because acting is a job that does not bring any security with it. Even if you’re doing great, you’re only as good as your last box office. Even if you get a wonderful plum gig, it’s going to end. So on the one hand, I absolutely bristle that I’m tied down for the next year because of the adolescent part of me that wants to be free. What if I want to get on my motorcycle and ride across the country and have some cool adventure? Thankfully, I have enough perspective to know that’s okay.
I’m able to understand that I’m much better off having a year of creative work in front of me. For me personally, one of the keys is simply variety. Even just looking at my work as an actor, I’m able to choose between film and television shows, stage work as a theater actor or performing as a standup comedian. So even just with those four options, that keeps a lot of spice in my professional career. But then you throw in researching and writing books and working in my wood-shop. Even just working in a wood-shop, I’m very spoiled. I don’t have to build kitchen cabinets for people. I can go in and build ukuleles, I can build a canoe, I can build a kitchen table. I can build them a motorcycle out of wood if I so chose.
So even though I am tied down on the calendar for a year or more, it’s all stuff that I love doing. I very rarely find anything to complain about professionally. Usually, my only gripe is that I could use a nap.
Tell me about what drew you to a project like Making It, which is literally all about creativity and the making of things just for the pleasure of it. I feel like a lot of people only express their creativity, or the urge that they might have to make something, simply by buying something. They feel creative in what they buy. I love the fact that Making It really is just about making things in a very pure way.
Well, once again, I’m the lucky doofus who happens to be able to swing a hammer. The show is the brainchild of Nicolle Yaron and Amy Poehler and the smart ladies who run her company, Paper Kite Productions. It’s a show that is just absolutely in line with my overall ethos. You hit the nail on the head.
We have been tricked into thinking that purchasing things is a creative act.
That has allowed us to no longer pay attention to where our raw materials are coming from, and what is happening to the harvest of raw materials on our planet, which is how we’ve gotten ourselves into the deep trouble that we’re in, especially in terms of ruining our climate. Everything ties back to the fact that the human species used to live in accord with nature. We understood as agrarians that if we want to keep feeding our community from this piece of land, then we need to cultivate and harvest in a way that allows the land to keep producing, in fellowship with us year after year, forever. We’ve long since left that idea behind for industrial, corporate farming, which only asks, “How can we churn as much money out of this piece of land as possible?”
In my own small way, I feel like Making It is leaning right into my own lifelong soapbox theme, which is: stop buying crap. Pay attention to where things come from. If you need a belt, I bet you can find somebody in your neighborhood who’s making belts. If you need a stained-glass window, if you need delicious lasagna—find someone who makes it locally. On the other hand, maybe you would like to become the person in your neighborhood who makes stained-glass windows or that raises incredible grass-fed beef.
I feel like hopefully, we’re at the nadir of this cultural phenomenon of consumerism. I’m an optimist, and I know I’m a little naïve in saying this, but I hope that we’ve reached the bottom and that we’re now going to begin to head back towards raising our livestock in accordance with nature, rather than factory farms. Paying a little more for our shoes and our goods and understanding that’s what it costs so that people can make a living and they don’t have to work under slave labor conditions. To me, a show like Making It is part of the medicine, it’s part of the solution to what the world needs. Literally, if we’re going to continue to survive on it as a species.
I’m also often struck by how many people are made to feel, particularly as they get older, that being creative is an activity that’s somehow no longer accessible to them. I have writing students who will say, “I don’t have anything to write about, my life is not interesting,” and they will often be the ones who end up writing the best, wildest stuff.
Absolutely. My favorite Wendell Berry novel is called The Memory Of Old Jack. There’s this great section where he talks about how we’ve been tricked as a society into thinking that working with our hands is beneath us. It’s that terrible way of thinking that anything—whether it’s crafting or woodworking, gardening or farming, anything that involves getting dirty or using tools in a way that might give you a blister, even just making a mess on your kitchen table—is somehow beneath us. Like, “that’s something you can hire people to do for you.” That’s all part of the consumerist message. “Don’t fix your own back porch, hire somebody to do that. That’s for laborers.” When in reality, that is something that we can learn to do as human beings, it’s part of the incredible magic of being able to line up our consciousness with our prehensile thumbs. It’s about being able to coordinate tools and materials to make origami, and grilled cheese and so forth.
It’s everything across the board—to be able to make furniture, to be able to make a three-piece suit. That’s where the wizardry lies in our humanity.
But You make a great point. For anybody who says there’s no opportunity for creativity in their lives, I say, “Look, here is one leaf from a sycamore tree. Look at this leaf. Now, talk to me about it.” Or even, “Here is a pencil. Let’s look at a pencil. Where did this come from? What does this remind you of? What does this make you feel?” Inspiration and creativity are all around us. As long as you are a human being and you understand that we have unlimited fascination, you can make something.
You mentioned to me earlier that you are also currently in the research phase of working on a new book. That part of the process is luxurious—having the time and space for the book to tell you what it wants to be.
It really is. I have learned from a lot of the writers that I love to have a sense of limits. That something that’s very important to a satisfying life—to set limits for oneself. The best evidence for that is here in the information age with the internet and with smartphones. There are a lot of jobs that you can literally work at 24-7 if you so choose. That’s wonderful when it comes to accumulating wealth or achieving as much advancement as possible in your chosen profession. But it’s terrible if you want to also enjoy things like human relationships and me time and just mindless entertainment, things like walking in the woods or watching a TV show or going out for an incredible meal. You can always strategize ways to be more productive, but at what cost? So setting limits for oneself is good.
To me, setting limits is one of the keys to having a successful life—a life not measured by one’s bank account, but measured instead by hugs and satisfying meals.
Nick Offerman Recommends:
I think anybody that works creatively has the body of work that inspires them as a foundation. Musically, I always recommend Tom Waits to people. Not nearly enough people understand that Tom Waits is the greatest songwriter of our age. My favorite of many favorite albums of his is called Mule Variations. Specifically, it’s full of these great themes and it’s so beautiful and rousing. But there’s two songs on that record that I love specifically. One is called “Get Behind The Mule,” and it’s just this thumping sort of gritty work shanty that says if you want to live right, every day you got to get behind the mule in the morning and plow. There’s another song in that record called “Come On Up To The House”, which to me encapsulates all of these ideas that I try to communicate to my audience and my readership. The idea is that consumerism and capitalism have drawn us away from a sense of fellowship and community. We are encouraged to stay home and buy everything off a computer and have it all delivered. This song is saying that life is always going to be hard. The human condition involves hardship and disease and tragedy, as well as joy and triumph and love. But when things are rough, when you’re having a tough time, come on up to the house, we’ll take care of you. We’ll put dinner in front of you, we’ll make sure you have a beer or a hot chocolate. Just come on up to the house and that’s where everything will be okay.
My wife’s band, Nancy and Beth, is an incredible unicorn. They’re sort of impossible to describe. Just go to nancyandbeth.com and check out their music and the music videos that Megan directed. She is such an inspiring artist and such a unique, groundbreaking personality. I may be a little biased but everyone that runs across them agrees with me. She is gorgeous, she sings like an angel. The harmonies and incredibly strange and attractive aesthetic that she achieves thrill me to no end. Really gets my blood going.
In the realm of books, obviously, I can’t stop talking about Wendell Berry, I always tell people to start with his short stories. There’s a book called Fidelity and there’s a book called Watch With Me. His body of work is so full of common sense and it is presented with affection and humor. He’s just a great writer from the Midwest that can move you and make you laugh and remind you what’s great about humanity. His essays are incredible. He came to light with a book called The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture and that’s a really great place to start. His poetry is gorgeous as well. It’s all of a piece. He’s really prolific and he’s my hero.
I also always recommend the books of Michael Pollan. His huge rock star hit was The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, but he writes these really human books from a journalist’s point of view, where he asks specific questions. The question behind the Omnivore’s Dilemma was, where is our food coming from? Is it good for us or not? What has happened to our national and global cuisine? Across history, there was a sense of what you put on the dinner table being healthy for your family. We have literally lost that sensibility. Many people no longer come to the dinner table for one thing. Secondly, many people no longer read the ingredients or actually worry about what is in these brightly colored packages that they’re purchasing at the grocery store. All of this is symptomatic of how we’re being led straight to hell in a corn syrup hand-basket. But all Michael Pollan’s books are beautiful and moving. They all ask similar questions. His last book is called How To Change Your Mind. It’s about the research around hallucinogens and how they’re actually incredibly beneficial for helping cancer patients deal with their mortality and helping people deal with addiction. He’s a beautiful writer.
In the world of fiction, I’m over the moon about Margaret Atwood, who is best known for The Handmaid’s Tale, but all of her work has an incredible presence and sensibility to how human beings can easily get in trouble with our tribal and religious behavior.
Those words bring to mind George Saunders, who happens to be a good friend of mine. I profiled him in my second book, which is called Gumption. George writes mainly fiction and he has an incredible novel called Lincoln In The Bardo. He’s sort of like Vonnegut, just an incredibly original thinker. His books are so full of humor and empathy. He sort of scathingly makes fun of us as human beings, but then turns around and puts his arms around us and says, “But there’s still hope because despite the mistakes we keep making, we are also still in touch with love. As long as we have love, we have a chance.”
Another recommendation is Wilco. Jeff Tweedy is so prolific. He had a band called Uncle Tupelo in the ’90s and then he famously has been the front-man of Wilco for a couple of decades. I’m just besotted with their music, with his songwriting, with his voice and his guitar playing. He continues to explore the human condition and he’s an incredible proponent for human rights and for equality. He is masterful at examining his own foibles, his own flaws and wringing the humanity and pathos out of those. He has a beautiful family that I love. As we grow older, he writes more and more about trying to be good enough for his beautiful family. That’s something I find really moving. We’re both about 50 years old and that’s something that occurs to you. It’s like here I am, I’m 50, I’m doing my best. Is it good enough? Am I doing my job for my family relationships? Am I taking the hand of cards that I’ve been dealt and fulfilling what life has set me out for me to achieve? Am I being good enough to those who I want to feel my love?
You know what? I just noticed that, by and large, my list of recommendations is dominated by white guys. They’re pretty wonderful white guys but still, that fact is not lost on me. So I want to shout out Laurie Anderson as well. I saw her live in 1989 at the University of Illinois and her sense of humor, her intelligence, her creativity, and a sense of play that she puts up the stage and into her performance…her delightful, original music and spoken word pieces, it just transcended anything I had ever come across. Sitting in the audience, I thought, “You can go on stage and do something like this?” She pokes fun at us in such a gentle way, while trying to steer us in the right direction as a society. I really look up to Laurie. She is so generous and welcoming. When you meet someone like Laurie and find out that they consider themselves human beings just like us, that’s really inspiring and gratifying in its own right.
This is a bonus recommendation. I just finished the newly Pulitzer winning work of fiction by Richard Powers called The Overstory. It’s an epic, sweeping novel. The reason I bring it up here is because, as a woodworker and as a kid who grew up in the woods, I trip out on trees. Trees are my jam. I’m obsessed with trees. This novel has six different storylines about different people who are super into trees for one reason or another. So it’s total tree porn for someone like me. It also gets into all of these issues about how the reason humanity is in trouble as a species is because we have long since ceased listening to trees and paying attention to nature and our place in nature. It touches on this idea of how people of all walks of life are ignorant to that fact. We’re so egocentric, we’re so solipsistic and narcissistic that we think we’re the center of the universe. We think okay, I’ve been put here to exist in this world that revolves around me. How can I influence the world so that I get as many blowjobs as possible? Then how can I get a cheeseburger? We’re so out of touch with the idea that we’re just part of life. We’re just one of the collections of molecules of this vast, teeming, expansive life that is on our planet.
I was really moved by that because when looking at my own life path and my career of creative work, I find it inexplicable. I never set out to write books or to become a touring comedian. But by allowing my doors to remain open and not succumbing to conformity all around me, it somehow happened. The conformity of the world that says, no, you shouldn’t do that. That’s risky. You shouldn’t try and pursue a life in the arts coming from Minooka, Illinois. People just don’t do that. But instead, leaving the opportunity open, it happened. You know, I’m not self-absorbed or crazy about myself. I own a mirror and I’ve seen magazines, so I know where I rate and I can apply that to all aspects of my life. But for whatever reason, with my foibles, with my human flaws, people seem to have an appetite for my content.
So I can get up on stage and say, “Hey folks, here’s some writing. Here’s some ideas that I worked really hard on. I hope that it makes you laugh and also inspires you.” They clap their hands and say thank you for those ideas. I don’t come away from that thinking, “Man, I am the best at ideas!” But I do come away with a deep gratitude and humility saying, I am so grateful that this is working. By sort of adhering to the theme of this wonderful novel, The Overstory, it fills me with hope that I have a chance at having a satisfying life. By allowing the purpose that life has for me to unfold. Rather than being so egotistical as to think I can steer the world.
So perhaps if I’m succeeding and if I’m happy, it’s because I have the good fortune as a donkey to let the world steer me in my labor. I let the world show me the path and sure enough, it happens to be down into the bottom of the Grand Canyon. That’s an awful nice place to work as a donkey. I obviously am very grateful to have a life in which I get paid to be creative. That keeps me minding my manners and it keeps me in a pretty damn good mood.