Writer Profile: Blythe Roberson
We’re back with another writer profile! Today, we are hanging out with Blythe Roberson. Blythe is a writer and comedian whose work has been published by The New Yorker, New York Magazine, The Onion, ClickHole, VICE Magazine, and others. She is the author of How to Date Men When You Hate Men (which Ashton read and loved).
Getting to know and learn from Blythe has been a dream, and we can’t wait to share her hilarity and candor with you. Enjoy this conversation about writing and life!
Eight Hundred Words: If you could go back two years and tell yourself one thing, what would it be?
Blythe Roberson: Two years ago I was finishing up my book proposal, which took me a full year to write because the entire time I was writing it I felt like I was perpetuating an elaborate lie wherein, "I have to go home and work on my book proposal," was code for, "I do not want to hang out with you right now." I was contributing to The Onion and ClickHole and performing regularly around NYC, and it was very hard to prioritize working on this thing with no real deadline over actual hard deadlines that I had every single day -- especially when I found it really hard to conceptualize a world in which *I*, a nobody, actually wrote a BOOK. So I would just tell myself that the rumors are true, in 2019 I have a book out, so you're allowed to work on a big project even if it feels fake. (Eventually I finished the proposal when I went to Edinburgh for multiple days with no real plan other than hanging out with my crush who lived there, who had not asked me to visit him.)
EHW: What's your favorite book? Why?J
BR: Just Kids by Patti Smith! I read it right after graduating college, and it was thrilling to read about Patti moving to New York and managing to create a life around committing to great art and writing so much about men who don't want to date you that YOU become a better writer in the process. It's an objectively incredible book -- it won a National Book Award -- but it was especially important for me at a time when I was bad at writing and about to move to a city where everything smells like microwaved trash but costs one billion dollars. It was a little talisman telling me that I would have to work at a bookstore and live in whack apartments but that I could someday be a punk god who made out with Sam Shepard.
EHW: Your book is both incredibly funny and incredibly serious. How did you find that balance in your work?
BR: I kind of knew what my thoughts and opinions about love and patriarchy were, just from years of crushing on hot men and from being oppressed by men, hot or otherwise. So I wrote all of those down in a giant outline first. The same goes for writing shorter stuff -- it's easy to know how you feel about something, or to sit down and think very hard and formulate an argument. Once I have that, I basically try to make sure every sentence is a joke or the set-up to a joke. This is very hard and involves a lot of groaning on my bed, wishing I had not chosen this lifestyle!! The one-joke-per-sentence thing doesn't always work, and it is something I learned while trying to get on the Harvard Lampoon, so maybe it is somehow inherently problematic, but I try to do it because -- I'll say it -- I like jokes and think they are good.
EHW: What's your favorite thing you've ever written? Why?
BR: I have a special place in my heart for a PowerPoint I perform at shows, called "Men Tell Me I Don't Love One Direction." It's about men who try to flirt with me by explaining to me that I don't ACTUALLY like the band One Direction (I love One Direction) (this is a bad flirt). It's a very fun excuse to tell audiences about One Direction and ends with a lesson of how to actually use 1D to flirt with me, called "Men Pander To My Love Of One Direction To Earn Kisses."
EHW: What does it mean, to you, to be a writer?
BR: You are a writer if you write!! It's that simple!!
EHW: How do you take your eggs?
BR: Incredibly shamefully I am a vegan!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ME, EATING YELLOW TOFU: Yum..... I love eggs.
EHW: What's your biggest dream?
BR: All I want in the entire world is to showrun a sitcom and to live in an apartment where the ceilings are not covered in tiny cracks.
EHW: How long have you been writing? Have you always considered yourself a writer?
BR: I never wrote creatively outside of school projects before I got to college. I grew up in a small, kind of conservative town in Illinois and always thought I would be President one day. Then I got to Harvard and was like (a) wow, other Democrats exist, I don't have to be the only person spreading the word about climate change; and (b) everyone else here is much smarter and harder working than I am and one of them will definitely be President. So I will do something non-competitive -- comedy! (It turns out comedy at Harvard is extremely competitive lol.)
EHW: What's your least favorite part of the writing process?
BR: The worst part is halfway through. I have never written anything where, halfway through, I don't think, "Oh yeah, this idea is just fundamentally flawed and never going to work." And maybe it's true!!! But you won't know until you finish at least a first draft. And by that point I've put so much work into it I just stick with it through edits and then publish it anyways.