March 5, 2016
If you asked me to describe myself a year ago I would have said I was an actor. Even though at that time I'd written an album, a music video, a show with a soon-to-be SNL cast member in it, several short musicals, and had a writing residency at a major theatre I would not have said I was an actor and writer. I list these things not to gloat, but to reinforce the argument I frequently have in my head about whether or not I'm "qualified" to do something. I think a lot of folks struggle with this, but I definitely believe women are particularly skilled at it and often it stops us from making the very thing we want to make, from doing the very things we deeply want to do. So how the hell did I start calling myself a writer? How the hell did I make the leap to writing and producing my own web series, Things I Hate?
In 2012 I was working as an actor, I was with a wonderful dude, I had steady side jobs, but I wasn't feeling great. In fact, I was feeling like straight up garbage. Some days I literally couldn't walk down the block. In May of 2013 I was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease and thus began about 2+ years of going on an intense and terrifying manhunt of figuring out what was wrong with my dear bod (which turned out not to be Crohn's after all). I'm not going to deny that the whole thing was insanely hard and scary, but a lot of good came out of it. I was forced to slow down. I had to sit with a great deal of uncertainty for a long time. I spent a lot of time being still instead of being active. And one of the things I realized was that I had been doing things I felt like I "should" be doing for a long time, which is very different from what I wanted to be doing. I was scared to acknowledge that acting wasn't checking all my boxes, it wasn't making me feel jazzed the way it used to. I realized that what made me feel excited was making my own work, being in the driver's seat, and telling my own stories. But I was really scared! Scared of failing, of making something people wouldn't like, of doing something outside of my "qualifications," of making something my Mom wouldn't approve of - I mean that literally and figuratively. We often sensor ourselves or stop short because of the fear of approval or lack there of but you can't make honest work or feel fulfilled if you're trying to fill someone else's idea of what's "good." In being sick I got to know fear very intimately. And fear, while very loud and persuasive, gets old really fast when you stare it straight in the face. I was ready to do something that didn't require someone else's permission or stamp of approval. I didn't want to do something because of the end result. I was ready to make something for myself, for the love of doing it, because it was what made me feel the most alive. Even though I was sick I had the energy to write. So I sat down and got to work.
With 10 episodes in hand, the easy thing to do would have been to put them in a drawer and never look at them again. Showing those drafts to the first few readers was straight up sweaty-in-your-armpits scary to me. But I've started to understand that scary is good. Scary means you're onto something. Scary means it's risky and nothing good ever came from a safe bet. I knew I couldn't make this show alone and that meant asking for help, which I am terrible at. Here's the thing: the only way someone can say yes to you is if you ask them. It's up to you to knock on the door, to start the conversation, to ask the question. But trust me: once you ask you will be amazed at how many people start saying, "how can I help?" I started asking, people started saying yes, and before I knew it my little show was born. In fact, you can already see the first episodes here on the AV Club: (http://www.avclub.com/article/molly-anne-coogan-riffs-things-i-hate-new-web-seri-232388).
Asking for help didn't stop after we wrapped on the pilots. We've got a crowdfunding campaign going on Seed&Spark so that we can shoot the remaining episodes of season one. Raising $26,000? A whole other level of scary...but that's for another post!