I had no idea I didn’t know what it meant to be a “stan.” I did not even know the word existed (apart from being the name of Dorothy Zbornak’s ex-husband on Golden Girls).
It is rather refreshing to discover something I never knew I didn’t know. I got a double dose of new knowledge. I know a new thing. And learning the thing even exists for me to know reminds me my knowledge is limited. Somehow the reminder of my limitations expands my way of being in the world. What a gift!
In case you, like me, did not know about stan, I will share. Stan can be used as a noun or verb and is a slang term representing the portmanteau of stalker + fan, denoting an overzealous fanatic. As in, “I am a Bea Arthur stan” or “I stan Bea Arthur” (to stick with my Golden Girls thread).
I learned about stans while attending a ticketed virtual event through Book Soup, an independent bookstore in Los Angeles I patronized while visiting my sister. It was not within my purview of young adult and middle grades author events. Rather, this author encounter consisted of actor Robert Downey, Jr. interviewing Colin Jost of Saturday Night Live about Jost’s new memoir.
I had no idea what I might get out of the event other than the refreshing feeling of doing something different and some entertainment. I have felt so compelled to make meaningful use of my time that when Robert Downey, Jr (referred to by youthful stans as “RDJ” in the chat–where I learned about stans) opened by wryly asking Colin Jost if he thought it might be frivolous to be out peddling his memoir right now, I immediately felt relieved. That is exactly how I felt about this guilty pleasure–it was as frivolous a way to spend time as chewing bubble gum or flipping through magazines.
Guilt quickly turned to delight as the conversation unfolded around surprisingly relevant-to-me content including study skills, note taking, and even writers’ notebooks! Jost shared he used to walk around with a small Moleskine notebook in his back pocket and a pen in a front pocket, but now he uses the notes feature in his phone to record things like sketch ideas, inspiration for stand up comedy routines, and even a list of things people suggest he watch.
This idea of keeping a “watchlist” intrigued me. It came up again near the end of the event when RDJ asked Jost, “How have you kept your creative side alive during quarantine?” Jost responded he has spent time watching and reading things that he loves from way back. He went on to explain that he finds inspiration here.
RDJ pointed out that we so often think about creativity in terms of output that it is significant for Jost to share what an important role input plays in creativity. It is so often in the spaces where we are open to receiving input that we are able to generate new ideas.
There is something inspiring about learning how much there is to learn.