Want to Become a Writer? First Try Bartending.

From a New York Times Inside the List interview by Elizabeth Egan headlined “Want to Become a Writer? Lauren Hough Recommends Bartending”:

In 2018, Lauren Hough was a bartender at the Iron Bear Bar in downtown Austin, Texas, and a student at Austin Community College. One afternoon, between classes, she started a Twitter thread that would change her life.

“I was like, ‘Hey everyone, you want to hear some cable guy stories?’” she recalled. Her harrowing reminiscences about working for a cable company for 10 years struck a chord with followers. Not long after, Hough said, “Huffington Post asked if I could write a whole story about it.” That piece, “I Was a Cable Guy. I Saw the Worst of America,” led to her essay collection, “Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing,” which recently spent two weeks on the paperback nonfiction list.

Hough fielded calls about her book deal while at the Iron Bear: “The whole thing was bizarre. I’m on the phone with my editor or my agent and it’s like, ‘Wait, hold on, I got to get this guy’s ID.’ Or, ‘Hold on, someone’s puking on the patio.’ That’s not really how you’re supposed to conduct business.”

Hough quit her job, but she believes her bartending and work as a bouncer prepared her for her new career. She explained, “People would come up and tell me deeply personal stories. They treat you like a therapist. They don’t need a response; they just need to say it out loud. It’s a similar connection that I think you make sometimes with people as a writer. You’re their confidante.”…

The audio version of “Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing” is read by Cate Blanchett, who was an early fan of Hough’s work. “I got this phone call: Cate Blanchett wants your contact information. I hung up, which I think is the logical response,” Hough said. When Blanchett came to Austin, Hough took her to the Iron Bear, where patrons are invited to “take your shirt off and get your groove on.” The choice made sense because, Hough said, “At least I know these guys.”

For Hough, listening to the audiobook is “one of those things that helped get it through my very thick skull that this is real. It’s Cate, and she’s reading my words. I’m still trying to get it through to the sad 17-year-old kid I was that I’m really a writer.”

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