Ashley Nicole Black | Senior Writer and Correspondent, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee
Unsurprisingly, I start the day watching the news. Then I go to work. We often have a morning meeting where we get assignments. We tend to write most of our first drafts alone, so we'll talk about the piece and our take on it as a group and then split up to go write individually. Then I stare at the wall for a couple of hours. Then I start writing. Sometimes I get to assemble the drafts which is fun because I get to read what everyone else wrote and then combine it into one super draft. That would be a "typical day", but those rarely happen because I'm also a correspondent on the show. So I'm always trying to steal time to run over to a meeting in the field department, writing on the road on the way to a shoot, writing in the makeup chair... basically, a typical day is me running around from place to place with a running mental construction of a piece going on in the back of my head and then eventually sitting down and typing it.
[Working with a diverse group of writers is] everything. It's not having to explain every single joke or reference, it's the ability to learn from people with experiences different from my own, it's that comfort that comes from not being the "only one in the room", it's hearing a wider diversity of stories and ideas every day. If you don't work in a diverse workplace you have no idea what treasures you are missing out on.
I think you might not know [what] the "right" move [is] until after you've made it. For me, all I knew was that I was miserable in academia. When you're doing the wrong thing, your whole body rejects it. I was sad, I didn't sleep well, I gained weight, food didn't agree with me, literally my whole body was screaming for me to stop denying my real passion. I was good at it, but it wasn't my passion. When I did comedy, I just felt right. I knew it was what I was supposed to be doing. I didn't know if I was going to succeed in comedy (and if you look at who has succeeded in comedy before me, there was no reason to believe that a plus size black woman would succeed in this career!), I just knew that I would be less miserable. And I would be doing what I was meant to do. And here's the thing: you can always go back. So if it feels like you're in the wrong field, try something else. If that new thing doesn't work out, you still have all that experience from your old field that's going to help you get a job in it if you need to go back to it. Also, the economy is basically set up so that we're all going to have to work until the day we die now, so you might as well enjoy your work.
Having an improv background is a HUGE help to me. I would recommend that any creative, even if you don't want to perform or do comedy, take a couple of improv classes. Just learning how to listen, trust your own instincts, and live in the moment is so important for every aspect of creative work. My friends and I used to do a show in Chicago called "Just Great". I wanted to write for SNL one day, so every week we wrote a brand new sketch show to get the practice for what that would be like. It was so dumb and so fun and funny, and we lost so much money on it! But it felt AMAZING because we weren't waiting for outside validation that we could do something like that, we were just doing it.
[What wakes me up in the morning is that] I have a dog that needs to pee. The longer I stay in bed in the morning, the greater the chance that my floors get peed on. What keeps me up at night? Every rude thing I've ever accidentally said to anyone and wondering if true love is possible. Normal stuff.
[The best advice I can give is to] figure out how to love yourself, that makes everything else easier (if you're having a hard time, invest in professional help). Find something you love to do, and do it every day. Don't wait for someone to give you your dream job; give it to yourself. Do the bootleg, no rent, DIY version and eventually you'll get so good at it that someone will be begging to pay you to do it. Buy more underwear.
To me, forging my own path means not trying to fit into a path that already exists that someone has already successfully gone down. But getting out my machete and making my own path, and hoping people stay out of my way because I have a freaking machete.