To most people, Lena Dunham is known as a star on the hit show, Girls. To Lena, however, she has always identified herself as a writer. In this BNC Edition of #AskLena, find out her thoughts about writing a book, drawing inspiration, and going through the revision process.
A. It was harder! I think I thought it would be like writing a movie: you puke it out (at least I do) then let a bunch of smart people read it and you fix it accordingly. But a book is so much more unwieldy than that. Every time I added I had to take away and vice versa. The essays themselves were a jot to write, but the form of the book as a whole was a bit elusive. I had to trust myself and my beloved editor and hope that the thickening page count meant something good was happening. I cried when I saw it printed for the first time, happy happy tears.
Q. Do you think of yourself as a writer first?
A. I do. Always have, always will. It’s how I answer if someone on an airplane asks me what I do and I hope it will be the focus of my obituary.
Q. In the introduction to this book, you write about taking inspiration – as a writer and someone who believes her story is worth telling – from an old self-help book you found during college in a Goodwill store by Helen Gurley Brown. What was it about that book that struck a chord, and how did it inform NTKOG?
A. I loved her honesty, and the way she shared her process and habits with the reader. She made it clear what had worked for her, what had given her a new lease on life and a sense of personal power. She was the original over-sharer, lifestyle guru, and icon for aspiring professional women. And that freaking hair-do, sprayed within an inch of its life and sitting high on her head like a cinnamon roll.
Q. Talk to me about the revision process. Do you enjoy it? What happens for you between draft one and the final version?
A. Revising is pure joy. You’re working with existing material so it’s hard to get discouraged. And if you trust your editor, you have a little path of bread crumbs leading you where you need to go. I embraced revising in a new way on this book and felt the work sharpen, felt my own positions crystallize. In college I always got in trouble for not revising and I’d be a total punk, like, “my style is to be immediate. Haven’t you ever read beat poetry?” I wish I could punch my 19 year old self. Like, “it’s not selling out to add a comma and fix the tenses.”
Find more insights from Lena Dunham in her brand new book, Not That Kind of Girl – available in Barnes & Noble stores and at select Barnes & Noble College campus locations! Find your bookstore here!