On her wildly popular blog of all things culture, pop and otherwise, Luvvie Ajayi covers a bit of everything: from tech to shoes, race, the Kardashians, and politics, no topic is off-limits to her incisive and direct wit, "and there is never a shortage of people and foolishness to judge." Jenny Lawson wrote the bestselling Furiously Happy, a genuinely funny book about her lifelong struggle with mental illness, and the forthcoming You Are Here: An Owner's Manual for Dangerous Minds (March 2017), a coloring book of sorts promising humor, advice, and inspiration.
In this Amazon Book Review exclusive, the two got together to discuss I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual, Ajayi's collection of essays full of no-nonsense advice and admonitions for one and all, her manifesto on how not to be a jerk.
Jenny Lawson: You’ve been judging people for some time. Was there one incident that made you think it was time for you to write a book? If so, what was it?
Luvvie Ajayi: I take pride in the fact that one of my superpowers is my epic side-eye. And the fact that I’ve turned this gift into this book I wrote and I’m proud of is really cool.
I got the idea to write this book when a “journalist” plagiarized my work in 2014. People e-mailed me saying they were reading a piece that sounded like it was written by me, because I do have a distinctive voice. I go to read it and surely, this person had lifted three paragraphs of my work, without quotations or credit. He simply used my words and made them seem like his. So I go on a massive rant on Twitter, letting him have a piece of my pissed-off mind. And this man’s response is to say he didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to do that. That just made my brain wanna explode in disbelief.
So I wonder out loud, “Did some of us get a limited edition handbook that others didn’t get? You know the one that gives instructions on how not to suck?” Then I had one of those cartoony lightbulb moments. I realized THAT was the book I needed to write. That was the book the world needed.
Fun fact, I can pinpoint the exact moment and time that I got the idea for my book:
Did some of us get a limited edition handbook that others didn't get? You know the one that gives instructions on how not to suck?— Awesomely Luvvie (@Luvvie) August 4, 2014
JL: In the long list of things that one could do better, what’s the one that everyone should start doing right now?
LA: Right now, today, at this moment, you can start doing better. By stopping hashtag abuse. Use your pound sign for good, and don’t put thirty-five hashtags on one picture. For the love of all that is good and not annoying. Stop it now. Save the hashtags. And tell that aunty you have on Facebook that I said this.
JL: What’s the most overrated Do-Better act?
LA: People think that when they are in the presence of prejudice, them not contributing to it by being silent is them doing better. We pat ourselves on the backs because we didn’t laugh at the racist joke or the homophobic slur or the sexist insult, as if a lack of participation somehow dismisses us from the wrong that’s happening. The impact of our silence in the face of injustice is implicit approval. It means we tolerate whatever it is we’re allowing to happen in our presence, and that makes us accomplices.
We do better by ensuring that we hold our loved ones and friends to task across dinner tables, in locker rooms, and even on social media.
JL: You’ve said that even you’re not safe from your side-eye. What do you judge yourself for most?
LA: Yeah, I deserve judgment a decent amount. I judge myself the most for my inability to be on time. It is like in my pores for me to be late to places, and I think it’s because I’m Nigerian. Too many of us act like punctuality is our kryptonite. I even started my book with a chapter on this. Look. I’m always late because I underestimate how long it’ll take me to get ready. Or how long my commute will be. But then there are times when I’m late for conference calls, which makes no sense. I gotta do better, man, and I am hanging my head in shame until I do.
JL: Your book is full of advice, but what’s the message you hope your readers take away from it?
LA: My hope is that when people read this book, they see it as the good angel on their shoulders, telling them to make better decisions. But mostly, I want people to finish reading I’m Judging You and feel like they MUST leave the world better than they found it. And that they can still laugh along the way.
JL: Blogging helped me find my voice and audience, but writing books surprised me in that it was so much different. Have you found any connections and/or serious differences between blogging and writing a book?
LA: Blogging has been the reason for so many great things happening in my life, and it is what proved to people that I was a good writer. It is how my agent found me and it has been the best résumé I could ask for. These last thirteen years of being a blogger prepared me so well for this book since I’ve built up the habit of writing. That came in handy when it was time for me to sit down and pour words from my pen to paper.
Even so, writing a book is a different challenge. It’s like climbing a mountain made up of twenty-four hills, and they need to be linked by something. But it is something that is more tangible, as people can hold on to it. For me, that is what I am most proud of. Thousands of people will be listening to my voice (on the audiobook), reading my words on their devices on their commute, or holding my book in their hands. I’ve created something that could potentially last on this Earth longer than I will.
Writing a book was my championship match. I won!