Book Review of Yes Please by Amy Poehler

25-Nov-2014

I first fell in love with Amy Poehler when I fell in love with Leslie Knope (played by Amy Poehler) on Parks & Rec. Leslie Knope is a city official for the Pawnee Parks & Rec department and she is enthusiastic, honest, optimistic, proud, and kind. A true role model. Then I read Tina Fey’s Bossypants where she dedicated an entire chapter to her best friend Amy Poehler where she described her as a hilarious and talented badass who stood up to the boys in the writing room. I went from loving Leslie Knope to admiring Amy Poehler. 

Kathleen here, and lately I’ve been into reading memoirs of funny ladies, who seem too young to be writing memoirs. I’ve read Lena Dunham’s Not That Kind of Girl, Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Having Fun Without Me, Kelly Oxford’s Everything is Perfect When You’re A Liar, as mentioned Tina Fey’s Bossypants. But Amy Poehler’s Yes Please kind of changed my life. I practically highlighted her entire intro describing the creative process of writing a book as pretty much torture. In fact, I hadn’t even finished the introduction of the book when I texted all of my girlfriends and told them they had to read Yes Please immediately. 

So today I want to share with you few big nuggets from the introduction alone of Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. (The rest of the book is really great too.)

WRITING DOESN’T HAPPEN IN A LOG CABIN
So recently, and it could have something to do with all the memoirs I’ve been reading, I’ve decided I want to be a writer. A REAL writer. But with that I decided I also needed a masters degree in creative writing and a log cabin to write in – essentially, I came up with a couple of big roadblocks for myself to procrastinate becoming what I imagine a real writer looks like. 

In just the first page, Amy Poehler is in-your-face-honest about how hard writing a book is. “Everyone lies about writing. The lie about how easy it is or how hard it is. They perpetuate a romantic idea that writing is some beautiful experience that takes place in an architectural room filled with leather novels and chai tea. … The truth is writing is this: hard and boring and occasionally great but usually not.” 

And Amy Poehler definitely didn’t write her book in a log cabin in Big Sur. “I wrote this book after my kids went to sleep. I wrote this book on subways and on airplanes and in between setups while I shot a television show. I wrote this book from scribbled thoughts I kept in the Notes app on my iPhone and conversations I had with myself in my own head before I went to sleep. I wrote it ugly and in pieces.” 

TAKEAWAY: Being creative is not dependent on your surrounding circumstance. It’s up to you to be creative in spite of all the other work you have to do, or the family you have to feed. Being creative doesn’t always look like a perfect vignette you can share on Instagram and that’s okay. It's easy to forget that while the outcome usually looks effortless and beautiful the journey itself is sometimes a total unphotogenic mess. 

THE DOING IS THE THING
Amy Poehler is creative because she actually likes making things and making people laugh. She didn’t start her career with the intention of becoming the next big thing or launching a six-figure business – she was just trying to get a laugh from her friends. She’s also not overly concerned with approval or perfection, and tries really hard to create without self-consciousness. But sometimes being creative is hard – anyone who makes a living doing what they allegedly love knows this. So I love when Amy Poehler says this in response to the inner-critics, the gremlins, and the creative resistance we all butt up against from time-to-all-the-time: 

“How do we move forward when we are tired and afraid? What do we do when the voice in our head is yelling that WE ARE NEVER GONNA MAKE IT? … Well, the first thing we do is take our brain out and put it in a drawer. Stick it somewhere and let it tantrum until it wears itself out. … And then you just do it. You just dig in and write it. You use your body. You lean over the computer and stretch and pace. You write and then cook something and write some more. You put your hand on your heart and feel it beating and decide if what you wrote feels true. You do it because the doing of it is the thing. The doing is the thing. The talking and worrying and thinking is not the thing. That is what I know. Writing the book is about writing the book.”  

TAKEAWAY: We’ve all read enough self-improvement books to know that life is the journey and not the destination, but Amy Poehler summed it up for me in a way that shifted my entire perspective around being present and tackling perfectionism, procrastination, fear, and uncertainty in my own business. My new mantra is “The doing is the thing.” 

BE WHO YOU WANT TO ATTRACT 
When Amy Poehler goes on to describe the kind of person she wants to be – the person who wrote really honest and vulnerable piece on the life of a creative – because it’s also the kind of person she wants to hang out with. She says this: 

“I have realized that mystery is what keeps people away, and I’ve grown tired of smoke and mirrors. I yearn for the clean, well-lighted place. So let’s peek behind the curtain and hail the others like us. The open-faced sandwiches who take risks and live big and smile with all of their teeth. These are the people I want to be around.”

TAKEAWAY: I want to be friends with Amy Poehler. I want to be a big open-faced sandwich who takes risks and lives big.

Amy Poehler’s book surprised me in the best way. She shed and shared the complex layers of who she is with humor and sincerity. She made me laugh but she also made me think. She inspired me to create, and write, and be who I am (a mom, a creative, a boss) – which are many of the things she is too.


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