Everything You Ever Wanted to Know
You asked. I answered.
Since the last AMA was very popular, I decided to do another one. Except this time, I thought in advance and collected some questions beforehand. I did consolidate some of the questions that were repeats. And, to the person who asked when I will profile Milan Kundera, well, listen. My email is on my website if anyone wants to assign that story to me. I’ll also be answering any questions you have in the comments until 3pm CT today.
Please be nice, this wasn’t proofread by my editor. Sometimes, I go it alone.
Okay, let’s do this!
How few hours of sleep per night do you generally get by on as your days overflow with multi-role multi-tasking to the max? (Asked because I admire your reactor-level energy, your self-generated momentum, your perpetual motion life that seemingly defies the laws of physics.)
This is very nice. But I’m so sorry. The the perception doesn’t match the reality. I often have days where I do nothing. I have days when I wake up and stare at the computer screen and do nothing, write nothing. I have days when my head feels empty. Days when the only thing I accomplish is answering a couple of emails and going for a run.
But yes, okay. I do tend to have a more maniac personality. I am and always have been the kid who was reading a million books. Up late doing homework or art projects. When things are stressful, I lean in. This isn’t always the best. I can tend to work and work and shut out the people and the world around me. Hyper productivity is valued by our culture. But it’s actually not good for a person.
And one of the things I’ve been trying to learn is how to be less productive. My therapist is always asking me, “What happens if you didn’t? What happens if you say ‘no’? What happens if instead you rest?” I think, like so many people, my sense of self worth tied into my productivity. And as a writer, my identity is wrapped up in what I do.
But a couple of things: One of the hardest parts about working for myself, is that if I don’t work, I don’t have income. Only in recent years have I become more stable. But writing for me is work. It’s how I feed my kids and my dogs (and yes, my cat too). It’s how I pay my mortgage. I don’t have the luxury of not working. This newsletter supports me, yes, but I still have to sell freelance articles, and books to make it all sustainable.
But, even if I did have the luxury of money, I think I still would work. (Although, I promise, I will log off Twitter if I ever become JK Rowling-level successful.) The truth is, I honestly love writing. I love what I do. I love the experience of being lost in a project. In March of 2020, one of the things that helped me find my way was hunkering down and working on edits for my second book and writing my Audible original. I loved being able to turn off the internet and escape into those worlds.
Listen, there are a lot of ways to make money that are easier than this. For years I worked adjunct teaching, writing marketing copy, ghost writing op-eds, ghost writing tweets, and so many other odd jobs. In 2018, I was offered a well-paying job as the director of content for a start up. I could have taken it. I thought a lot about it. I had no money then. But I told them that I had to do this. I had to give my dream a shot first.
And I did. And I love what I do. I truly do. I feel so lucky to wake up every day and be a writer. I love that I get to talk to people and I love that I get to write true things about the world and our lives and find meaning in all of it. I truly feel that having this job is a blessing. I worked so hard to get here. For me, to be an author, it is a dream come true. I don’t want to take it for granted.
You are so personal with your writing — which I love because it links personal context to both current events and historical references — but how does your family feel about it? You mentioned you mom was not happy when you first wrote about your sister's abuse? How is your relationship now? What do your siblings think?