You may think that after six Playboy covers and eight tell-all books about motherhood, marriage, and MTV mayhem that Jenny McCarthy has bared it all. Think again. In her latest book Bad Habits, she unflinchingly exposes the most intimate aspects of herself in a humorous, yet deeply moving, portrait of finding faith and enlightenment in a modern world. I recently sat down with our friend, and New York Times best-selling author, Jenny McCarthy to discuss the naked truth behind writing a book and how to avoid “cock blocking” yourself from achieving your dreams. No boundaries here…
SF: What made you decide to write this book?
JM: “The idea came from kind of being retrospective about faith and how, in today’s generation, everyone’s kind of like looking for enlightenment somehow. My own search to break out of Catholicism, or just even expand from Catholicism, happened when I moved to L.A. I was just so tired of feeling guilty. I’d rather examine all the good things I did during the week than all the bad things. I tried to expand all the good things I did. So I left and started to just go on some weird journey of going to Indian sweat lodges and psychic book shops. I kept trying to find a door. Like Pink Floyd would say, there’s got to be something bigger on the other side.”
SF: Does writing come easy to you because you’re basing it on personal experience? Do you ever get stuck?
JM: “Yes, I do get stuck. Even though I am coming from true experiences, imagine your whole life, which moments do you choose? Which moments will move the story? Which moments will have the biggest impact? So it’s tricky, because I’m so ADD that I write for the ADD person. I keep the action going. I can’t read a book that says, like, ‘The wind was blowing and I felt the scent of lavender that reminded me of my childhood,’ I’m like, ‘Bitch, what’s going on? Let it go, walk in through the door, let’s get it on.’ So that’s how I kind of write. So I keep you interested.”
SF: Do you have any advice for those suffering from writer’s block?
JM: “Take a break. I put a lot of pressure on myself, because I have an instant gratification problem. So I’ll pretty much say, ‘I Have to write 10 hours today,’ and I’ll write 10 hours. I wake up the next day and I’m like, ‘I’m going to write 10 hours again today,’ and I force myself even if I think it’s shit. Even if I’m like, ‘I smelled lavender and it reminded me of the rose fields writhing…’ because even though I know when I go back I’ll be able to spice it up or lose it and have enough material to lose it. So it’s kind of like I work myself through it along with taking a hiatus for a day. During that day I will sit and daydream and just connect to the force, if you will, or whatever anyone wants to call it, because I feel like all the information is there. And all of a sudden I’ll get an idea with my third eye.”
SF: Does writing get any easier after 8 books?
JM: “Yes and no, because I’ve become a better writer. In the beginning, I didn’t know any better. I had a lot of fragments and run-on sentences. But what I’ve realized is that the most important thing in being a writer is your emotional connection. So now I’ve gotten a little bit better with going, ‘I can’t start a sentence with “but” like I used to!
“Sometimes it gets harder. There are so many people that want to write books and they become overwhelmed. They keep putting it off. They don’t know how to do it. They don’t know how to start it, and that’s the worst cock-block you can have is just delaying. So the tips that I always give people are to write out 40 chapter titles. So, like, for Belly Laughs I was like “Blowing out Your Vagina,” “Porn Tips,” and I just had all these little things. And then I pretended, like for “Porn Tips,” I would email my friend,‘ Dear Julie, oh my god, I woke up today, my tits were huge, I don’t know what to do.’
“So then it’s very conversational. When people want to sound smart, they get into trouble. What you should be worried about is, ‘Am I emotionally connecting to the audience? Am I real? Am I raw?’ Because, I’m sorry, I don’t care if it’s a book or an interview on TV, if you’re not authentic people can smell bullshit a mile away now.”
SF: With an adamant refusal to hold back when it comes to detailing your personal trials and tribulations, do you have any barriers when writing?
JM: “The biggest challenge is my instant gratification problem. Sometimes after I make a deal and my agent goes, ‘Get on it,’ I’m like, ‘Eek!’ So I sit down and I see the blink blink blink waiting. It’s just a blank page and I know I’ve got to get up to 55,000 words.
“So that’s where people get stuck, too. They’re looking at the overall, and I always have to go back to the present moment. My goal today is 10 hours, so just start writing. Again, even if it’s shit, you’ve got to keep going. Otherwise you’ll be stuck forever.”
SF: Do you have your books planned out beforehand, or do you ever encounter a topic in the midst of writing a book that changes the whole course?
JM: “I do not have things planned out. I always know, though, in the chapter what the point I’m trying to make is because there’s nothing worse than a story that goes nowhere.”
SF: When you write a book, is there a specific impact that you really hope it has?
JM: “For each book I sit down and go, ‘What is my motivation, what is the message that I want people to take away?’ And with Belly Laughs my first one, it was: oh my god, everybody lied to us women. No one told us about pooping on the table and I can’t believe that no one told the truth. My message is going to be, ‘A) you’re not alone in the disgusting things that happen to your body, and this is the whole truth and nothing but the truth,’ so that was my motivation. And then as the books went on they went into autism; it was really uncovering a truth that no one has talked about.
“With Bad Habits, it’s about everyone’s search in their life. Faith, to me, is the biggest search of all. I feel everyone needs to lean on a higher power of some sort and my book literally ends with, you know what? Who cares what religion you choose, if you want to worship an elephant and it puts you in a state of grace, then (f’ing) worship an elephant. I will take the person worshipping the elephant more than the c**ts who are Catholic.
“So I really tell the story of this young Jenny. I really tried and eventually found what worked for me and made me a better person. So I hope people read it and go, ‘Oh my god, I totally get what she means, there’s some things I don’t agree with sometimes and it’s so judgmental but I’m hoping that what my religion inside me is telling me is true and I should follow that.”
SF: When was the last time you got really embarrassed? Or have you?
JM: “That’s a good question! I know… it’s been a really, really, really long time since I’ve been embarrassed. Let me try to think, when I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m so embarrassed….’
“I don’t think there is. I think it’s really humbling when you look like an asshole.”
SF: What are your favorite books that you read?
JM: “I don’t read any fiction, I don’t like anything that’s fake. Except boobs.”
SF: While you were writing Bad Habits, what was the strongest emotion you had during the creative process?
JM: “I talk about being like 6 years old and standing outside, this was before religion class or catechism, and I remember looking up at the blue sky and having this incredible connection to —whatever you want to call it, the universe, but just like the higher power. I just felt an insane amount of love. It was home. Then I got into religious classes and was taught a lot of belief systems that then made me walk home from school with my head down because I was scared to look up at the sky. I lost that connection because it turned into god-fearing.
“But it’s really a coming of age story of a little girl trying to follow the rules and deciding to break them to see if there was something bigger and better out there.”
SF: What’s next for Jenny?
JM: “I was daydreaming today about it because I’ve probably gone on 60 different dates in the past year… I do have some fascinating amazing stories that need to be told. So, that could be next… the disasters of dating.
I for one, hope she writes it. I’ve read them all and I’m never at a loss for laughs, insight and even a good cry. I do usually find myself at a loss for words as my jaw hangs open.
This is fantastic advice for any writer, at any point in their career, as we all search for honesty and resonance in our work. Thanks for your insight, Jenny!
Don’t forget to snag her book…
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