Happy autumn/fall to all who are reading this as the weather cools down and the leaves change colors. This transition is always really hard for me as I leave behind the restfulness of summer (a commitment I’ve been keeping for the past few years is a “quiet August”) and get thrust full speed into “back to _____.” School for my kid being the most hectic among all of the transitions. We also kept falling sick in turns, so I made COVID booster and flu shot appointments as soon as they opened. It can feel frustrating to be “back” to masking and being cautious, but my immunocompromised friends remind me it’s a privilege to have had a respite from it at any time since March 2020. I hope you’ll consider getting the booster if and when you’re able. Anyway, all of this meant my book writing was pretty nonexistent for the first part of September. And I have 70,000 words to deliver in March 2024, so there’s literally no time to waste. So how do I approach a momentous project like this? First, I try to adhere to the rules of Essentialism (doing less)–I try to say “no” to everything that isn’t book-related or in service of me writing the best version of my book. This is probably the hardest part of it all, as a woman of color who has been socialized to always be “helpful” and “never say no.” Second, I try to set small, small goals.
View from my kitchen table writing at 6ish AM
A successful writing day for me is one hour of getting what was in my early morning brain on the page. It’s rarely beautiful or even coherent, but I believe that for me, my best work is massaged (kneaded? beaten?) out after many edits. I can barely stand to read anything I’ve written until after I’ve had significant space from that initial morning download.
It’s imperative I get those words down before the rush of getting a kid to school on time begins, otherwise I mostly have to write the day off (pun unintended) as a non-writing one.
But there’s a lot that’s not in my control. Most of all, time to think.
The book Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner by Katrine Marçal was a fundamental reminder (among others) of how much the space to think and create expansively is gendered and geared towards privileged, able-bodied, cishet white men and more recently, privileged, able-bodied cishet white women. For the rest of us, it’s snatches of borrowed time, feverish notes scrolled on grocery receipts in between juggling all the plates.
I wrote Inclusion on Purpose in lockdown while homeschooling a three-year-old. I gained a chronic backache in return (among other ailments.)
Threeish years later, I’m writing Uncompete with a seven-year-old school-going kid with a full social and activity schedule, while also trying to integrate various facets of my life into the mix.
Lack of social structures in so many western societies exacerbate this gender gap so much more and I know so many brilliant women who find it absolutely impossible to find the expanse for any creative endeavors. I know I’m struggling with this in writing my next book; it’s not that the ideas aren’t there—it’s just that the first time I have a moment to really explore them ends up being at 3 AM (when it’s dead quiet in the house), but if I’m up to write then, there’s no way I can get a child to school.
If there was ever a case to build and reward a collaborative—not competitive society—it’s now. Just as I’m living through the fallout of the latter daily.
Anyway, for now, the one hour or so per morning of getting words on the page seems to be working. Sometimes it stretches out to more than that, but my commitment is that one hour. The part I enjoy the most is getting to interview amazing people for the book! I’ll share more about that in future editions.
How do you tackle big projects, when time feels tight? How do you make time for creative endeavors? Please send me all the tips!
And meanwhile, please keep well and healthy!