Unconventional Mentor no. 22 - Dorothy Parker
“I hate writing, I love having written.”
Dorothy Parker was a woman who knew how to write. I really struggled to pick a quote to use for this piece as there are so many brilliant, witty things that she said. She began her career as a poet but she also wrote for Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Life magazine among others. You can be sure to find a Dorothy Parker quote for most situations…
On being busy
“Tell him I was too fucking busy-- or vice versa.”
“Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.”
“I don't know much about being a millionaire, but I'll bet I'd be darling at it.”
“Heterosexuality is not normal, it is just common.”
“By the time you swear you’re his, Shivering and sighing, And he vows his passion is Infinite, undying - Lady, make a note of this: One of you is lying."
“That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.”
I’m tempted to do a whole week on her! Dorothy Parker was a founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, and instead I will be featuring other members of this group across the week. The group was known “for its scathing wit and intellectual commentary.” The group would meet up at The Algonquin Hotel in New York and discuss those in the literary scene. They were called The Vicious Circle as they didn’t hold back in criticising their peers.
In the 1930s and 1940s Dorothy Parker moved to Hollywood to be a screenwriter, along with her husband Alan Campbell, she wrote the screenplay for the 1937 film A Star is Born, which she won an Academy Award for. Dorothy Parker was a supporter of Civil Rights in America and she left her literary estate to Martin Luther King jnr. When he was assassinated just a few months after her death in June 1967, her estate passed to the NAACP. Dr King was surprised at this gift as he had never met Dorothy Parker, and the NAACP still have the literary rights to her work today. In 1927 she wrote a short story called Arrangement in Black and White which was mocking white people who claimed not to be racist but exhibited prejudice and condescension in their actions. There is a great article on NPR about how her final resting place came to be Baltimore and not the city she lived in, New York.
Dorothy Parker’s legendary status lives on today, and The Dorothy Parker Society celebrates her life and works with a website that lists her works, the apartments she lived in and places that she used to go to. The even organise tours of New York, The Algonquin Round Table tour takes attendees on a tour of 40 landmarks in New York associated with the group and finishes up with cocktails at The Algonquin. You can even buy Dorothy Parker American gin
Mentor advice: Focus on the outcome of your work, not the act of doing it.
The advice I take from Dorothy Parker is to focus on the outcome of your work, not the act of doing it. Sitting down to write, or to do anything that will take your career and business forward isn’t always going to feel good. In fact, a lot of the time it will feel like a struggle, hard work, difficult, scary or even just boring. This quote “I hate writing, I love having written.” really captures the feeling that I have about so many things I work on. I don’t always like doing them in the moment, but I love the feeling of having done them.
When I was doing my coaching qualification, I had to write about my coaching sessions, reflecting on my own abilities of coach and how I had helped my clients. I found it really hard to do, so much so that I put it off quite a lot, but the results of doing it were huge. I identified the ways that my own behaviour impacted on my clients and understanding this allowed me to improve as a coach. I’m so glad I did it and I now continue to take the time to reflect on my own behaviour as a coach as I know it makes a real difference.
If we only ever did work that we really enjoyed, then we would likely not achieve very much at all. I also find this quote helpful as we are often encouraged to do work that we love and to find something we are passionate about. This implies that we should always enjoy what we do and love every part of it. That is an unrealistic expectation to have, but knowing that it won’t always feel great, and you might even hate it, can be the encouragement you need to push through to do the work and be able to look back and love having done it.
I hated writing this piece, but I love that I have written it