I heard about Carrie Fisher’s heart attack on an airplane when I turned on my phone after my own flight had landed in Texas last week. I had just been reading her new book, The Princess Diarist, which she had been promoting — and my heart sank when I read the news. My friend and I had just been talking about how much we loved Carrie Fisher and how to decode her tweets a few days prior.
Just like the rest of her adoring fans, I retweeted messages wishing Fisher well and frantically checked the Internet every day for news on her condition.
Sadly, we lost her.
Carrie Fisher’s passing was one of many tragic deaths this year, but she gave us a pretty spectacular parting gift: Her final memoir.
The Princess Diarist is a sharp, nostalgic look at how Carrie Fisher came to be Princess (now General) Leia Organa in the Star Wars movies. Most of the material in the book comes from the diaries Fisher kept while filming the first Star Wars film. Like all of Fisher’s work, the book is filled with sage and sardonic advice.
Here are some of the best pearls of wisdom from the late, great Carrie Fisher, courtesy of The Princess Diarist.
First of all, keep journals!!!
Carrie Fisher has discussed her need to write down her feelings and events in her life to make sense of them and remember them. In The Princess Diarist, she says that her inner voice tells her:
In this case, it obviously served her well. You never know which moments in your life will be the standouts when you look back 40 years later — or if the small space opera you’re filming is going to wind up as a global phenomenon.
A sense of humor can get you anywhere.
In her book, Fisher recounts her first Star Wars audition. She was nervous and flustered when George Lucas asked about her career (which had barely started). She wrote, “I repressed the urge to say I had written three symphonies and learned how to perform dental surgery on monkeys, and instead told the truth.”
Fans of Fisher’s are familiar with her self-deprecating, smart, sarcastic sense of humor. She always had the perfect one-liners in interviews and on Twitter.
She had a tough life, but she could always laugh about it, and that was her saving grace. Develop a thick skin and a good sense of humor, and it can be your saving grace too.
It’s totally natural to want to be liked.
Fisher was very upfront about wanting to be well-liked. She wrote,” I am someone who wants very much to be popular. I don’t just want you to like me. I want to be one of the most joy-inducing human beings you’ve ever encountered. I want to explode on your night sky like fireworks at midnight on New Year’s Eve in Hong Kong.”
And you did, Carrie. You brought incredible amounts of joy to us all.
And in relation to that — it’s human nature to second-guess yourself.
Everyone worries that people don’t like them. When recounting her affair with Harrison Ford, Fisher wrote that she often felt uneasy in his presence — she called him a “people unsettler,” as opposed to a people pleaser. She couldn’t tell how he actually felt about her, and it made her very anxious. I’m sure we can all relate — I know I can. She mentions that she would sometimes avoid Harrison because she feared annoying him, and she chose her words with extreme care whenever speaking to him, “hyperaware of making a good impression.”
Fisher was never shy about her anxiety, always upfront and unashamed when discussing it — and that always made me feel better. I feel less alone in some of my more neurotic behaviors whenever I read Carrie Fisher’s books or interviews.
Sometimes, you need distance to appreciate something.
She writes about her difficult childhood not with anger, but with reflection. She doesn’t say she hates her father for cheating on her mother, she just states his infidelity as fact. She never gets angry about her difficult past; she never dwells on her mistakes. Instead, she only looks to the future.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, when discussing her affair with Ford, she touches on not appreciating things in the moment. She didn’t understand at the time how a sexy older man could be interested in an inexperienced teenager. She wrote:
Everyone has insecurities.
Fisher writes at one point, “I don’t believe people are across-the-board confident. If they are… well, they’ve misjudged the situation where there’s an arrogant result. Mostly people have those few things they do well and hope those things make up for the other shit.”
When I read Carrie Fisher’s books, I get the sense that she made peace with her insecurities, and it gave her a healthier perspective and sense of humor. She could accept her flaws upfront — never making excuses — which is refreshing in Hollywood. Her willingness to talk about her insecurities and imperfections proves to young women that we don’t always need to be okay. We can make mistakes.
Be yourself, and never apologize or change if people don’t like it.
In one of her diary entries, Fisher wrote:
This is probably one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever gotten from reading Carrie Fisher’s work. Everyone is special in their own way, and you should never try to fit the mold you think other people want to see. Like Fisher says, “I should let people I meet do the work of piecing me together until they can complete, or mostly complete, the puzzle…let them discover you.”
Thank you for all of your invaluable talent and endless inspiration, Carrie. May the force be with you.