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T. Michael Martin // How to Adult:
twitter - @TMikeMartin // @learnhowtoadult
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Peter: Hi. I'm Peter, and this is How to Adult. *laughs* Whaaa? That's not right at all.  Okay. Hi, I'm Peter, and this is goVERBaNOUN. Today, we're talking to T. Mike Martin from How to Adult. *points* There he is. Imagine this. You turn 18 and you go off into the world and you start living your life and then you discover, as life goes on, that there are a whole lot of things that everybody does and nobody ever told you how to do them.

That's the whole idea behind How to Adult: they teach people how to do the things they didn't realize that they needed to know how to do. And I think it's great. Everything ranging from the difference between debit cards and credit cards to how to cook food to how to change a flat, they'll show you how and they'll do it with grace and compassion. And humor. Lots of humor. But How to Adult is more than just a series of instructional videos, as you will find out, there's a little bit more thought that goes into it and a little bit more feeling than just, "oh let's teach people how to be functioning members of society." So, let's check it out.

Michael: My name is T. Michael Martin and I am the co-host and director of a webseries called How to Adult.

Peter: How did How to Adult get started?

Michael: In 2012, I was really, like desperately lonely, um I just didn't have any adult friends, and so I started vlogging. I'd always loved the Vlogbrothers and Elmify and WheezyWaiter and people like that and the first video I did was a thoughts from places video that was obviously inspired by John, who created thoughts from places, and I tweeted at him that night and he saw it and he retweeted it and he said it was very, very good, so that was very encouraging to me and  over the next few months, John was very supportive of my novel, The End Games and so was Elmify, Emma, who is the co-host of How to Adult. So that was really exciting and a few months later- so I started vlogging in November and in the beginning of July of 2013, I said to Emma, "hey, I'm gonna move to LA, I wanna become a screenwriter, but if John or Hank offered me a job taking out the trash, I would take that job." Emma said, "I've got this idea for a webseries"-it wasn't called How to Adult then, I think it was called Life Smarts at the time-"and would you, would you, Mike ever be interested in developing it so we could pitch it to John and Hank? And I said, "yes!!!" *laughs* So we pitched it to them, I met Hank, very nervously met Hank at VidCon 2013, a few weeks later, he said "yeah, I want to produce this." John and Hank produce it and so it's been going since February 2014.

I give all the credit for the original idea to Emma, it was, like such a good idea. I couldn't believe that there wasn't already an enormous well of online video about this stuff, but it turned out there wasn't, or at least there wasn't in one location. So, she and I listed, really, the things that we wished we had known when we were younger, and some of them we're still learning ourselves. So, we kinda, we took Emma's original idea and developed it together into what became How to Adult.

Peter: What's surprised you so far about the experience of doing How to Adult?

Michael: I think what surprised me most is how much it means to people. Like that is what feels so good. I got a message a couple of weeks ago from this guy saying he had been trying to get a job and he was totally unable to get a job. We get a lot of messages like that. But because of our resumes video, he got his dream job at a women's shelter. And I was like, wow. That feels really wonderful. Because not only, like we improved that guy's professional life, and also now he gets to help more people himself.

Writing a novel is by necessity and by definition a very inner-focused experience. I was lucky enough to work as a novelist full time for, I think about 2 years before I started doing How to Adult, but it was not good. It was not good for my brain, because you just... the same thought process that allows you to write a good novel, that kind of obsessive questioning of every decision, is also the best way to kind of become really unhappy. And so what I like about How to Adult, for me making How to Adult is all about how can I make somebody else's life better. And I love- I think the original definition of ecstasy, it's like, I think the Greek root of the word is the obliteration of the self. And you can get that sometimes with writing, if you get in that flow state, but I really think that the key to happiness if helping other people. And that's what the show, I think, is able to do at its best.

Peter: Can you walk me through the process of making an episode of How to Adult, from start to finish?

Michael: In general, I would say that the videos take 25 hours to make from conception to publication. Probably more like 30 to be honest. The way it works is either Emma or I will have an idea, or sometimes we'll get ideas from viewers. And if it's something that we already know about, then that person will take the lead on that video. Emma knew more about- I don't know how to make spaghetti sauce. I have no idea how to make spaghetti sauce. Emma happened to have recently been taught how to make spaghetti sauce, so she did the spaghetti video. So if it's something one or the other knows about, that person takes the lead with the video. If it's something that we really, really need consultation professionally on, we go to them as soon as possible. I started to write the tax video, I've done my own taxes, and then I thought, I don't want to mess up anybody else's. I'm okay- I'm not okay with messing up my own, but I'm super not okay with messing up yours. So for that video we went to my literary agency's tax accountant. Which is a very complex thing, and he was very, very good.

So the writing takes 2 hours for a simple video to 25 hours, I'm going back and forth with the accountant, trying to get it funny, but also unimpeachably informative. So that's- that's a pretty long process. Writing can be a pretty long process.

Filming- I think people would be surprised to learn how little time, in terms of total time spent, is dedicated to filming. It's almost nothing. We can shoot a video in... 30 minutes. You know, some of our shorter videos, our simpler videos, can be done in 30 minutes. So that doesn't take much time at all. I think the longest video ever was the how to change a flat tire video. And that was because I couldn't get the tire off the first night. It was too tight. Uuooa. So I had to come back the next day and do it and I was loosing sunlight. It was kind of embarrassing.

So we film it. I import the footage. I use Final Cut Pro X. I edit it, which can take anywhere from 4 or 5 hours, cause I'm not that fast, to... up to 12 hours, sometimes. Some of the more complex videos are much more hard to edit.

And then finally, I will export the video, I'll put it in a publicly shared form so that John and Hank and Emma can watch it. They come back with notes. I edit it if they would like me to. Then I upload it. I try to get it uploaded the night before. We got live on Mondays, so I try to get it done on Sunday night. I come up with a compelling thumbnail, I research what tags I should use, and then in goes live. So all in all the videos take about 30 hours on average to do.

Peter: What are some of your most favorite things about doing How to Adult?

Michael: One of my favorite things, obviously, is getting to work with Emma, and getting to work with John and Hank as well. They were for a long time- and still are, like, my creative heroes. And so I love getting to work with them. It's a privilege. I've been a nerdfighter since 2007 so, I love that. I'm hugely honored and grateful to be able to do that.

I also really like... getting outside of my head. I'm very proud of like The Endgames, which is my first book, I'm really, really, proud of the next book that's coming out next year. But it... I think that art can change people's lives. I think it can expand them and make them think in new ways and be more compassionate as they try to imagine their way into the experience of another person, even if that person is fictional. But I don't know... you don't get that sense of immediate assistance in other people's lives. So I really love that we get to help other people with these videos. Not just professionally and not just learning how to do laundry but what I try to do in our tumblr and in comments and just in the way that we put our personalities across, is reassure people that adulthood can be really fun. Like it's not this desert that is barren of joy and wonder and relaxation. I still like Harry Potter as much as I ever did, like I still go to putt-putt golf, I still have a lot of fun, and I really... so I want to teach people how to do things, but I also want to let them know... adulthood is good, it's not just taxes and DMV lines, you know?

Peter: Is there anything (aside from the life skills you teach) that you hope viewers take away from any given episode?

Michael: One thing that I often will do what I can to put in the videos is this kind of underlying... message that... your life is something you have agency over. And you should be kind to yourself. And if you need it you should go to talk therapy. Like I make jokes about that, but I'm a huge advocate of talk therapy. And you should... be funny. Like, it's okay to be funny and goofy. Like, Emma and I... we joke around with each other and we just like, we're really good friends and I hope that that comes across. And I hope that we get across the idea too that adulthood is a constructed... concept. There are things that you have to do if you live in a modern culture to get by. Like you have to pay your taxes most of the time, you have to, like take care of yourself, you have to do these things. But a lot of what we do, a lot of what we consider adulthood is a constructed by someone else concept. And the idea about How to Adult is, you can take back the agency that you have and how you define things. And it's in those definitions, which are more pliable when you approach them with self-compassion and kindness and humor.

The definitions are pliable and you control them. You get to choose what's important to you. There is a kind of pain about not being a child any more. There are things that are much more easy when you're a kid. But adulthood is okay- like it, the good thing about adulthood, it's like, the curse and miracle of adulthood is that you  get to decide what's important to you.

Peter: What's it like finding yourself working with people who you knew (or knew of) online first?

Michael: It took me about, oh God, it probably took me about two months, cuz I'd known Emma as Elmify for years and years, and even when I moved here, I moved here just to do the show. So I moved here in December of 2013, the show went live in February of 2014, but it honestly wasn't until probably April where I stopped seeing Elmify and started seeing my friend Emma. And I still kind of, I'm very very grateful to be in the position where I can be awed by the people that I work with and kind of have to check myself sometimes because when you realize the flesh and bloodedness of your heroes, it's a really wonderful thing and it's the best- it can be really scary. And I don't mean that in a bad way, like their feet are made of clay, it's just that you have to adjust your- you have to interact with them as people and not as ideas, do you know what I mean? 

I think one of the problems in life, and it's a problem that's magnified when you are working with people who you know as personas before you know them as people, it's that you compare your own first draft to everyone else's edited work, and that's just not how it is. That's a really good way to drive yourself crazy and totally feel inadequate in everything, you know. So literally when you meet Youtubers you are meeting their edited self. And it's not a manufactured persona but it's very curated, you know. Like I'm aware of what I put into videos and what I don't put into videos. So I'm sure that it's amplified when you get to another level. 

Peter: Now one of the things that I like about my interview with Mike is that he talks about giving people a sense of agency in their own lives. I think that's something that makes the world a lot more manageable when things can seem scary, or intimidating, or confusing, or anything like that. When you realize that you have control over how your life goes, even just a little bit of control, that makes things more manageable. And when things are more manageable, people freak out less. And that's a good thing I think.

And now I pose this question to you guys. What's something that you wish somebody taught you how to do before you went out into the big, bad world all by yourself. Let me know in the comments below, or on twitter, or on tumblr, or whatever social medium of your choice. Smoke signals, cuz it's getting real cold, eh I don't care, just tell me, you know how to reach me. 

Alright guys, thanks for caring, and until next time, goVERBaNOUN.