how i get it done

Jenny Lawson Can’t Remember Whether She Walked the Dog

Illustration: Lauren Tamaki

Jenny Lawson, also known as “The Bloggess” for her hugely popular blog, is the author of the best-selling memoirs Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir and Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Thing, and the adult coloring book You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds. Her new book, Broken (in the best possible way), will be published on April 6. Among other subjects, Broken elaborates on Lawson’s experience with depression and ADD. She is also the owner of Nowhere Bookshop in San Antonio. She lives in Texas with her family and their dog, Dorothy Barker, and cat, Ferris Mueller. Here’s how she gets it done.

On a typical (pandemic) morning:
8 a.m.: Wake my 16-year-old daughter up for virtual school. Make sure she gets up and doesn’t immediately fall back asleep. Immediately fall back asleep myself.

10 a.m.: Wake up, vowing to go to sleep at a normal time tonight. Take the dog to pee. Take a shower. Forget if I’ve used conditioner. Use conditioner again. Wonder if I used shampoo. Start all over again. Remind myself to buy shampoo and conditioner because I’ve run out again for some reason.

11 a.m.: Can’t remember if I took the dog out. Take the dog out again.

On struggling to sleep:
I’ve tried all the normal stuff — getting on a schedule, removing all the things from the bed that are not conducive to sleep, taking walks before bed. What I have found is that none of that works. The only thing that works for me, and this is terrible, but it’s Benadryl. I have allergies anyway. I think [the sleeplessness] is a function of anxiety, because my anxiety is so high that when I get to the point where I think I should be in bed, all I can think of is all the things I didn’t accomplish. It’s the same thing that keeps me in bed in the morning after I get my daughter Hailey up. As soon as I’m up, I know the anxiety’s gonna start.

On her diagnoses:
I didn’t actually know that I had ADD for a long time because I also have clinical depression and anxiety, which can mimic a lot of the symptoms of ADD. It can be hard to tell exactly which of my mental disorders is being the biggest asshole at the time. If you get misdiagnosed with ADD (it happens a lot) and you actually have anxiety disorder masquerading as ADD, it makes your anxiety disorder jump into overdrive, and can make everything a million times worse. But if (like me) you have ADD and anxiety, you just end up trying to balance the anxiety of having ADD with the ADD meds that help lessen the anxiety of not being able to concentrate, while at the same time heightening the anxiety of your anxiety meds not working because you’re taking stimulants for your ADD. My head hurts just from trying to explain that last sentence. But I don’t think I am alone. We tend not to talk about the fact that we’re all really struggling and that generally, we all feel like a failure at some point or another. Being able to say it out loud can feel very freeing.

On writing the way that works for her:
When my mind is working really well, typically what happens is I’ll think about a chapter for days or weeks. Once I start to write it down, if I don’t like the way that I’ve written it, I have a tendency to not be able to rethink it. So instead what I’ll do is just keep it in my head until all of a sudden it’ll hit me and I’ll be like, Oh, I know how to do that. I need to do it in chronological form, or I need to do a list for it, or okay, this is the format. When that happens, I will yell to my family that I need 20 minutes, because that’s as much as I can concentrate at a time. This is a gross analogy, but it’s like being constipated, and then suddenly being able to go to the bathroom — “Oh, finally, it’s out.” It took years for me to write Broken — four or five years. I’m a slow writer to begin with, and I have periods of time when my depression gets really bad. I’ll think, I’ll never be funny again, I’ll never be able to concentrate again. I’m never going to write again. And then a couple of weeks later, it’ll clear out and I’ll be like, No, this is fine. I can do this. 

On her high inbox count:
When it comes to emails and texts and all of that, I drive normal people crazy, because I don’t even see that number. I don’t look at it. It’s always incredibly, incredibly high. I am so far behind on emails that I have left behind email accounts. I’ll just start new accounts and be like, Okay, this is my new one, and I’m just going to walk away from that one. My sister used to go through and help me answer emails or say “here’s the ones that actually need attention,” but she’s been really busy taking care of her own life and with her family. The good thing though is that, for the most part, anybody who knows me well enough to email understands that if I don’t respond, it doesn’t have anything to do with them and everything to do with me.

On her ideal lunch
I don’t drink coffee or have breakfast, because I am too tired and super out of it in the morning. So I just have an early lunch. I used to drink a ton of Diet Coke, and then I noticed my anxiety would just sort of go off the chart. So now my limit is two cans a day. That’s where I get pretty much all of my energy. That, and I eat a lot of pimento-cheese sandwiches. I’m pretty sure that I am the only person in America still eating pimento-cheese sandwiches. I think I’m keeping Big Pimento Cheese in business.

On what she wants to do post-vaccination
You’d think this pandemic was a marathon I’ve been training for my whole life, because I’m super introverted and I don’t like to leave the house. But it really has affected my ability to be creative. Normally my husband would go out of town and my daughter would be at school and I would have time to myself. Now the house is a high school and an office too. It doesn’t feel like a very creative workspace. I’m like, Okay, if I can just get the vaccine, then I can go to a hotel and get away and start working on something else. 

Jenny Lawson Can’t Remember Whether She Walked the Dog