Believe people when they tell you what they’re going through: a Q+A w/ Greg Mania

Featured image x Pete Medrano

 

Sinclair: What are some things you are currently working on?

Greg:  I’m always juggling multiple projects on top of writing satirical columns for Out and covering books for PAPER, but right now, I’m focusing on a series of writing workshops that I’m going to be teaching for Personal Disclosures alongside other guest faculty that includes literary luminaries like Roxane Gay and Chloe Caldwell — pinch me!

Sinclair: You mentioned a book project in your Vulture feature and that it talks about your journey from “New York City nightlife to comedy.” Tell me more about that.

Greg: The book is a memoir that catalogs growing up closeted in the middle of New Jersey to finding myself immersed in the world of NYC nightlife to go-go dancing to carving a space for myself in the comedy/writing world and everything in between. I got the idea for it right after I graduated from Hofstra in 2013, but didn’t start writing it until 2015 when I got laid off from a job I had at the time.

I was living in Harlem and was a part-time student at The New School, but I still dabbled in nightlife here and there. Eventually, I pursued writing and comedy full-time, but I wanted to chronicle my time as an active participant in the nightlife scene. It really was my life for a few years, and it had a tremendous impact on me, both creatively and personally.

My agent and I have gone through revision after revision for the past year and we spent the summer revising the proposal, so the project is finally ready to be shopped. I’m typing this with one hand because my fingers have been perpetually crossed on the other since the proposal started going out.

Everyone, no matter how many accolades they’ve accumulated or how long their string of hyphenates are, struggles with self-doubt. I think remembering that everyone contends with a set of self-imposed limits is a comfort. You’re not the only one. – Greg Mania

Sinclair: What’s your writing process like? Do you put yourself on a schedule? Are you kinda all over the place?

Greg: I’m not one of those writers that can stay up all night and write. No, no. My brain shuts off by seven PM — I can barely compose a tweet by then. I like to write first thing in the morning and do as much as I can until I’ve squeezed out enough material to the point where I’d rather stop instead of forcing it.

I don’t have a word count quota or anything like that. I write what feels good, when it feels good, and retain the discipline necessary to see a project to the end.

Sinclair: When it comes to mental wellness, where are you are healing today?

Greg: I don’t mean to brag, but I’m a triple-threat — but, like, not in the talented way. I’ll never be cast in Chicago. I mean that I live with depression, anxiety, and OCD, peppered with the occasional PTSD that resulted from a fire in the apartment building I used to live in in Harlem. I live with all of these and not a day goes by where they don’t make their presence known.

It’s sort of like a relay race: my depression will run up and hand the baton to my anxiety, and it’ll be my anxiety’s turn to monopolize my brain, and then my anxiety will hand the baton off to my OCD, rinse and repeat.

I’ve grown up with a slew of phobias as a kid and I went through therapists like a can of BBQ Pringles, but we never really knew what was “wrong” with me; I wasn’t diagnosed with anything because every therapist thought it was a “phase.” I had my first panic attack at 13, but didn’t know it was a panic attack until I was diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder at 20.

It was really bad at 20; I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t leave the house for months, and almost had to take a semester off from school. but with the help of meds (shout-out to Lexapro!), therapy, and learning about what I was living with, I was able to find a way to do just that: live with it. Don’t get me wrong, I still have bad days  and I still struggle, but I’ve accepted my mental illness as a part of me. It doesn’t define me, but it’s still a part of who I am, and I’m open and honest about that.

I used to hide during anxiety attacks. Now, if I’m with people, I’ll just be like, “I can’t breathe — I’m having an anxiety attack — just let me close my eyes and take a few deep breaths and, in the meantime, please try to win this round of 90’s sitcom trivia so we can win some free pancakes.”

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Photo x Chris Callaway

Sinclair: What is something we often get wrong when talking about mental health?

Greg: I don’t think people understand the severity of dismissing it as “stress” or a “rut” or a “bad mood” or any other kind of casual language that diminishes what someone is going through mentally and emotionally. People literally die from it. If left untreated or ignored, the consequences can be fatal.

Trust me, I’ve been down that road, and eventually I knew I had to get help. Therapy saved my life. I think the key here is to listen. Believe people when they tell you what they’re going through and, if you can’t empathize, offer support.

Sinclair: What’s something you wish you could say to your sixteen-year old self?

Greg: ENJOY EATING JUNK WHILE YOU STILL CAN.

Sinclair: What’s something you’re working to unlearn?

Greg: I apologize way too much. I always assume I’m an inconvenience and think that every time I ask for something, no matter how respectful I am or how many times I re-read a draft of an email before I send it, the person I’m asking something of is going to host a press conference about what a nuisance I am.

I need to stop apologizing and just ask for what I want, while remaining respectful, of course, but without thinking I don’t deserve this or haven’t earned that.

I know that all of this amazing and I’m grateful for it every day, but sometimes I still feel like that unemployed writer who used to sit at home, struggling to make ends meet and overdrafting on shit like toothpaste. – Greg Mania

Sinclair: Who do you go to when you’re needing support and guidance?

Greg: I have a few close friends — they know who they are — but my boyfriend, Pete, is honestly a miracle. I say that because he’s still with me even after witnessing me spontaneously burst into tears at places like Boston Market.

Listen, I’m a mess, but he’s shown me unconditional love and his support knows no bounds. I can express my fears and desires, unfettered, and he’ll never judge me, only encourage me and remind me that I’m stronger than I think I am.

Sinclair: What’s one challenge you face in your work that you’re still working on navigating?

Greg: Getting paid. I work part-time as an office administrator because, unfortunately, I can’t pay my rent in exposure.

Sinclair: When was the last time you practiced self-care and why is self-care important to you?

Greg: Last weekend! My parents live in the woods so I like to go there and just get some quiet time. NYC is frenetic by nature, and that energy sticks to my bones, so I need to go somewhere where I can hear my thoughts and shake off all the stress that’s accumulated in me, both mentally and physically.

Sinclair: What’s something that’s been bringing you joy lately?

Greg: MY FAVORITE BATH BOMB FROM LUSH.

Sinclair: What’s something that’s been pissing you off lately?

Greg: THAT LUSH DISCONTINUED MY FAVORITE BATH BOMB.

Sinclair: When was a time where self-doubt was at its worst for you during your career and life journey?

Greg: I would be lying if I said I don’t struggle with self-doubt on an almost daily basis. I feel like such a hypocrite because I’m always my friends’ biggest cheerleaders and pride myself on being able to help them navigate through their self-doubt, but that’s because I’m seeing them through a pair of eyes that’s not their own, so, of course, I see their unbridled magic and the joy they bring to the world– but it’s a little hard for me to see it in myself sometimes.

Listen, I finished a book and my agent is now shopping it around to publishers; I earned my master’s degree; I co-wrote, co-produced, and filmed my first feature-length film last year; my pilot script just won an award and has been nominated for another one, in addition to it placing in a few other competitions; I get to write for some great publications; I’m about to teach a writing workshop alongside authors I’ve been a fan of for such a long time now; and I get to do this interview with you!

I know that all of this amazing and I’m grateful for it every day, but sometimes I still feel like that unemployed writer who used to sit at home, struggling to make ends meet and overdrafting on shit like toothpaste. I forget to stop for a minute and enjoy the view.

I’m always thinking one or two steps ahead because I have a voice inside my head that sounds not unlike the one I heard as an insecure, closeted teenager who struggled to have his voice heard growing up. Some days, I can ignore it and keep going. Some days, it’s too loud for me to ignore, so I curl up in bed and re-watch Ugly Betty, and then, I remind myself that there’s always tomorrow.

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Photo x Pete Medrano

Sinclair: What are your unshakable values and when did you become clear on them?

Greg: Be kind no matter what. If I just start there, everything else will fall into place.

Sinclair: Who are a few amazing people that we should follow and why?

Greg:  Follow Personal Disclosures on Instagram. They recently hired me to teach a series of writing workshops but they’re a media company founded by a group of writers from The Second City and they produce a podcast that I’m obsessed with. It’s storytelling at its best.

Sinclair: What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone struggling with self-doubt and feeling like giving up on their dreams?

Greg: I just spilled my guts a few questions ago about the intense self-doubt I still feel from time to time, so I think it would be a little hypocritical of me to divulge advice on combating it but look, I’m not giving a TED Talk so here it goes: everyone, no matter how many accolades they’ve accumulated or how long their string of hyphenates are, struggles with self-doubt. I think remembering that everyone contends with a set of self-imposed limits is a comfort. You’re not the only one.

Sinclair: It’s years in the future. You’re on stage to accept an award for your life’s work.  What’s your five word acceptance speech?

Greg: This is for my cats.

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Greg Mania is a New York City-based writer and comedian who is best known for his satirical columns for OUT Magazine. His work has also appeared in The Huffington Post, PAPER, BULLETT, Posture, LADYGUNN, CREEM, Baron, among other international online and print platforms. He’s also an award-winning screenwriter, and has recently co-wrote and co-produced his first feature-length film, Deadman’s Barstool. He’s a recent graduate of The New School, earning an M.A. in Media Studies with a concentration in creative writing and screenwriting. He’s currently working on his first book. Instagram. Twitter. Website. Personal Disclosures.