What I learned from Joan Rivers

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In reflecting on Joan Rivers’ passing, I thought a lot about what it is about her I liked. Certainly, I am thankful for her pioneering efforts for female comedians as well as her life-long advocacy for the LGBT community. However, in Ms. Rivers later years, her openness about her life and struggles really made her much more than a great comedian. In addition to being funny I’ve really come to think of her as a teacher as well. The much lauded episode of Louie, wherein she berates Louis C.K. for not knowing when he is lucky, is one that transcends beyond just the life of a comedian, as the lessons she teaches could be applied to any artistic endeavor. 

Over the past year I’ve been whining and complaining about how long the submission process has been, and I’m pretty sure if I did this in front of Ms. Rivers she would smack me upside the head. She’d point out that I not only finished a book, but that I managed to write and rewrite it to a point that I landed an agent. That, in and of itself, is something few people accomplish. She’d find my excuses for not working on book 2 equally unacceptable. In “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” the documentary about her, she showed just how hard she works at being a comedian and television personality every day. Given how long Ms. Rivers has been in the business, it’s very easy for us to just believe that people would call her to do her act or appears on television. However, this was not the reality. Instead, she was constantly marketing herself and crafting new material. Why? Because she knew how easy it was to fall out of the lime light. Ms. Rivers’ career had numerous ups and downs, but she never let that stop her from working.

I never met Ms. Rivers, but I certainly respected and admired her. Now that she has passed, I can no longer wait for her to someday walk into my life and set me straight. I have to  listen to the words she’s left behind instead. So I’m going to try to not only recognize how lucky I am now, but also stop looking to the world to pave my way toward being a success as an author. I need to get back to working on making my own success. That’s what I learned from Joan Rivers.