INTERVIEW: The Bloggess Jenny Lawson on art, jarred cow brains, and taxidermy!

Our purview here is to plug things germane to Louisville in some way, which usually manifests itself in any of the artists, food, drinks, or politics specific to the region. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to snag someone coming through town for a brief talk, which is the case here with Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, who was just in town on Monday to promote her new book You Are Here. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to get back to us to help plug her appearance, but having had the privilege to speak with her before, I can attest to the fact that Lawson is an absolute joy and one that I can only hope to help anyone discover. Her work deals with depression, anxiety, taxidermy, art, and Texas, which you can find in print via one of her several books, or on her excellent and typically hilarious blog. We sat down with Lawson to ask her about art, dealing with anxiety in the Trump era, and Neil Gaiman!

Never Nervous: How would you describe your art to the uninitiated?

Jenny Lawson: Strange, bizarre doodles filled with equally strange and bizarre words. Black and white pen and ink drawings of the things that are stuck in my head.

NN: What went into making You Are Here? What inspired you to make a coloring book?

JL: I created most of it during a period of depression. My anxiety disorder makes me hide a lot of time and during those times I often draw to keep my hands busy.

“I created most of it during a period of depression. My anxiety disorder makes me hide a lot of time and during those times I often draw to keep my hands busy.”

NN: How long have you drawn? Would you recommend it as a form of therapy to anyone else with anxiety?

JL: I’ve done it since I was little as a form of therapy. There’s something really comforting about creating recurring patterns and letting your mind take a break from worry.

NN: What got you into writing initially? How do you feel that you’ve evolved as a writer over time?

JL: I’ve always been very introverted and so reading and writing were my primary means of communication. I’ve always had journals and diaries, but blogging helped me understand what worked or didn’t work for an audience.

NN: Relative to that, what is your process? Is it stream of conscious, or do you work through drafts?

JL: It’s very stream-of-conscious, but I often work on pieces for weeks or months before I like them. It can take years for me to complete a book, but that’s just the way I work.

NN: What kind of response do you typically get to your writing?

JL: I get a lot of people who are touched by the same things that affect me. So often they realize they aren’t alone, and that can be such a good thing.

“I get a lot of people who are touched by the same things that affect me. So often they realize they aren’t alone, and that can be such a good thing.”

NN: Is touring stressful for you, or do you enjoy traveling? Does your husband or daughter ever travel with you?

JL: It’s extremely stressful. In fact, lots of the drawings from my last book came from when I was hiding in hotel rooms. Hailey and Victor usually try to join me if I’m out for a long time, but I’m often so exhausted that I can’t do much. They’re very understanding though about my limitations.

NN: Do you have any good tour stories? Are people usually cool?

JL: Everyone is so incredibly lovely and sweet. So many of the people who come to the tour have the same issues with anxiety that I do so it’s comforting to know that if I have a panic attack people will understand when I hide behind the podium. I get a lot of weird stuff, but because I love weird stuff. I once got a live kitten and a cow brain in a jar. It was a weird night.

“I once got a live kitten and a cow brain in a jar. It was a weird night.”

NN: Have you noticed more people seeking mental health help based on the tumultuous political climate?

JL: Absolutely. It’s a stressful time to be alive. But it’s even more important to realize that we’re not alone.

NN: What has helped her cope when things in the world look bleak?

JL: The mantra “depression lies.” Also, Doctor Who.

NN: What advice would you give to anyone struggling with depression? Likewise, what advice would you give to anyone wanting to help someone else with depression?

JL: I’d tell them that it’s okay to ask for help and that it’s not something you can do alone. For those who want to help loved ones with depression I’d tell them to talk to the person and ask them how they can best be supportive. What works for one person doesn’t work for everyone, but knowing that you have someone you can talk to makes a tremendous difference.

NN: What is the most righteous taxidermy you’ve seen lately and why?

JL: Rory the Raccoon holds the highest level of love in my book. He’s so dang happy I smile every time I look at him. And he does it all in spite of the fact that he’s dead. That’s pretty damn impressive.

NN: I understand that you are a fan/friend of Neil Gaiman. On a scale of 1 to holy shit, how ready are you for American Gods?

JL: I love Neil Gaiman. I am HOLY SHIT about everything that man does.

NN: What non-writing things have you interested lately? What have you been listening to, watching, eating, or drinking lately and why?

JL: I’ve gotten into podcasts lately because I can listen while drawing or making models or art. I binged LORE and Invisibilia and now I’m listening to My Favorite Murder. So addictive.