Episode 198 #RoomforTwoPrincesses

  
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-56:21

We’re interviewing Julie Lythcott-Haims this week and you won’t want to miss it, because 1) she wrote an amazing, best-selling book called How to Raise an Adult and then followed THAT up with a memoir, Real American, that the New York Times Book Review pretty much thought was amazing and is now drafting the sequel to Adult very much on her own terms; and 2) she could very easily have become Jess’s arch-nemesis, and vice versa.

If they had been totally different people.

If they had been less open, less willing to see possibility in a scary-sounding situation.

If they’d let fear and jealousy win. But they didn’t. So two writers with authority, each releasing a book on raising children to be independent in nearly exactly the same moment turned out to be a recipe for collaboration, not catastrophe. The lesson? In books, it’s really almost never winner-takes-all.

We talk about how they pulled it off, how Julie transcended expectations with her memoir and why it’s so important to resist the call to write something that isn’t what you want to write.

Episode links and a transcript follow—but first, we’re giving away a set of three LitStarts, little books of writing prompts created by the Writer’s Grotto that Julie talks about during the podcast, to—a subscriber to this weekly shownotes email! Which means you’re very likely already entered to win. If you’re not, just click below, sign up to get our free weekly behind the scenes from the podcast and get your name in that hat.

(and if you know someone who would really LOVE to win those—please forward this email and help a fellow writer out.)

LINKS FROM THE PODCAST

Lit Starts

Half a Life, Darin Strauss

#AmReading (Watching, Listening)

Julie: Wildhood: The Astounding Connections between Human and Animal Adolescents Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, Kathryn Bowers

Jess: Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol, Holly Whitaker

KJ: How Could She, Lauren Mechling

Andy J. Pizza’s Creative Pep Talk Podcast, especially episode 259 - 20 SURPRISING AND SUPER POWERFUL PROMPTS THAT WILL MAKE 2020 THE YEAR YOU DO YOUR BEST WORK EVER!

Our guest for this episode is Julie Lythcott-Haims.

This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwritingfor details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s Inside-Outline template.

Find more about Jess here, Sarina here and about KJ here.

If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.

Transcript (We use an AI service for transcription, and while we do clean it up a bit, some errors are the price of admission here. We hope it’s still helpful. Sometimes. transcripts may appear a few days after an episode has aired.)

Episode 197 #HowtoWinatPR

  
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-48:51

Marika Flatt is the founder of PR By the Book, an independent publicity firm dedicated to working with authors, publishers and books. Their tagline is “from author to influencer,” and we talk about that process—and how your goals as an author (sell books, get speaking gigs, sell earlier books, increase name recognition, even sell products or services) change how you might work with a publicist, and even whether you should work with a publicist at all.

And if your book is still very much a WIP, we’ve got you covered with what writers can do before our books are ready to start establishing the kind of backstory (I refuse to call it platform, because there’s so much more to it) that makes that writer-publicist teaming really work later in the game. Marika even has a DIY program for authors to help us figure these things out without a major investment.

We also got this great reminder: “If your book soars, all those people will be there to buy your next book.  If your first book crashes but people connect with you as a person, you still win.”

Episode links and a transcript follow. If you’re excited to listen, please consider supporting the podcast with a small monthly donation. Our sponsor pays for production—but you people pay for our time, and your support is what makes us want to keep coming back every week.

Upgrade to Supporter

As always, this episode (and every episode) will appear for all subscribers in your usual podcast listening places, totally free as the #AmWriting Podcast has always been. This shownotes email is free, too, so please—forward it to a friend, and if you haven’t already, join our email list and be on top of it with the shownotes and a transcript every time there’s a new episode.

Get New Episode Emails

LINKS FROM THE PODCAST

#AmReading (Watching, Listening)

Marika: My Life in 37 Therapies: From Yoga to Hypnosis and why Voodoo is Never the Answer, Kay Hutchinson

You Are My Brother: Lessons Learned Embracing a Homeless Community, Judith Knotts

KJ: Life and Other Inconveniences, Kristan Higgins (reviewed on #BooksThatWon’tBumYouOut)

Sarina: The Cuckoo’s Egg, Cliff Stoll

Our guest for this episode is Marika Flatt. Find more about her at PRbythebook.com and find her Author-to-Influencer DIY program HERE.

This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. So—if you’re struggling to find your way through your book, to get past the soggy middle or chapter three or find the throughline that carries your nonfiction home, check out our sponsor, Author Accelerator, at https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwriting, where you’ll find everything from exercises to help you hone in on your novel to ideas for creating a nonfiction framework to book coaches who could be your key to making this the year that draft is finally done. Bonus link from the intro: Pat Walsh’s 78 Reasons Your Book May Never Be Published and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might.

Find more about Jess here, Sarina here and about KJ here.

If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.

196 #WhereDoestheTimeGo

  
0:00
-39:19

It started with a question in the #AmWriting Facebook group: How do you get it all done?

And the answer was, of course—we don’t, no one does, we push things off until tomorrow or we put out fires all day and then frantically write until late in the evening or we drive our children around for hours while chastising ourselves for not making better choices.

But really, you all said. Really truly when do you write? And how d you put it first? And what do you do when you don’t or can’t? This is us, three full time writers and also parents (all of teenagers), talking about the push and pull of looking like you’re at home and available when you’re not, and how the awful truth is that sometimes you are, and how we control what we can and scream hopelessly into the void at what we can’t. (That’s just who we are.)

We realized we’re each good at some parts of this and not others, which means we can take a little inspiration. We can protect our time, do the important stuff first and cut ourselves a little slack. And we can always, always recognize that it’s what you do the day after you feel like you really lost momentum that matters most.

Episode links and a transcript follow, and that’s pretty much it for this week. Of course, a #WriterTopFive will go out to supporters Monday, and the topic will be a total surprise (heck, it’s a surprise for me too) but we promise it will be practical advice you can use that we probably need too. If you’re a fan of the podcast—if we’re offering, say, two grande mochas worth of advice a month, please consider supporting us for actually less than that. $7 a month, and we promise we’re not coming for your coffee.

Upgrade to Supporter

As always, this episode (and every episode) will appear for all subscribers in your usual podcast listening places, totally free as the #AmWriting Podcast has always been. This shownotes email is free, too, so please—forward it to a friend, and if you haven’t already, join our email list and be on top of it with the shownotes and a transcript every time there’s a new episode.

Get New Episode Emails

LINKS FROM THE PODCAST

#AmReading (Watching, Listening)

Jess:

The Wilderness Idiot: Lessons from an Accidental Adventurer, Ted Alvarez

A Wolf at the Table: A Memoir of My Father, Augusten Burroughs

Dry: A Memoir, Augusten Burroughs

KJ:

Toil and Trouble: A Memoir, Augusten Burroughs

Sarina:

Great and Precious Things, Rebecca Yarros

We love our sponsor, Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE, and if we were being coached right now we would probably somehow be managing to pull off better time management, because time is money in more ways than one, and when you invest in your writing career, it’s a lot harder to make excuses. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwritingfor details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s Inside-Outline template.

Find more about Jess here, Sarina here and about KJ here.

Follow KJ on Instagram for her #BooksThatWon’tBumYouOut series: short reviews of books that won’t make you hate yourself and all humanity.

If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.

The image in our podcast illustration is by KJ, who totally wants credit.

Transcript (We use an AI service for transcription, and while we do clean it up a bit, some errors are the price of admission here. We hope it’s still helpful.)

KJ:                                        00:01                    Hey fellow writers, KJ here as we launch into an episode that’s ostensibly about how we get all the things done. Spoiler alert, we don’t, and I’m having a really depressing winter on that front. BUT—I can tell you that one thing that can help you shift into really prioritizing your work is to invest in it, and to make a commitment to another person to work through challenges both on the page and in the calendar. Our sponsor, Author Accelerator, matches writers in both fiction and non-fiction with book coaches who can help you go from stuck to done no matter where you are in the process. Find out more at authoraccelerator.com/amwriting. Is it recording?

Jess:                                     00:43                    Now it's recording.

KJ:                                        00:44                    Yay.

Jess:                                     00:45                    Go ahead.

KJ:                                        00:46                    This is the part where I stare blankly at the microphone like I don't remember what I'm supposed to be doing.

Jess:                                     00:50                    Alright, let's start over.

KJ:                                        00:51                    Awkward pause. I'm going to rustle some papers. Now, one, two, three. Hey, I'm KJ Dell'Antonia and this is #AmWriting. #AmWriting is the podcast about writing all the things - fiction, nonfiction, pitches, proposals, really as I do say every week. This is the podcast about sitting down and getting your work done. And oh boy, today is it ever the podcast about sitting down and getting your work done!

Jess:                                     01:28                    I'm Jess Lahey. I'm the author of the Gift of Failure and I write about kids, and I write about substance abuse, and I write about so many fun things at places like the New York Times, the Atlantic, and the Washington Post. And I'm currently editing my next book, which will be out in 2021.

Sarina:                                 01:46                    And I'm Sarina Bowen, the author of 30-odd romance novels. And I have a deadline on March 10th, guys. So this is a great topic for me today.

Jess:                                     01:56                    This is so timely because we all have various deadlines that we're working towards right now.

KJ:                                        02:04                    Wait, I haven't introduced myself yet, people won't know who I am. I am KJ Dell'Antonia. I am the author of The Chicken Sisters, a novel coming out this summer and How to Be a Happier Parent, which is out in hardback now and will be out in paperback this summer. So big summer for me. Mostly at the moment you'll find me on Instagram, but I'm also a pretty regular contributor to the New York Times and a few other places.

Jess:                                     02:30                    You've been getting some really fun book talks lately, Missy Instagram.

KJ:                                        02:34                    I have been. It's my series called #BooksThatWon'tBumYouOut and it's all books that won't bum you out. Because I felt like I needed someone to recommend those books to me. And one of my things for the year is start the things you wish other people would do. So there we go.

Jess:                                     02:52                    I love it, I absolutely love it. So we should talk about what our topic is for today and why it's our topic for today. Do you wanna talk about that, Sarina?

Sarina:                                 03:00                    Well, what we really do all day is try to figure out where does the time go. And we all have children and other responsibilities besides writing.

KJ:                                        03:14                    And someone asked us...

Jess:                                     03:16                    Yes, someone asked about this in the Facebook group, too. Someone said, 'It's all nice and good when you talk about the broad strokes, but we want the nitty gritty, like how you're actually getting the work done with all the other things you have to do.'

KJ:                                        03:31                    Right. And we had this great exchange in there in which we sort of all went back to, well, you know, when our kids were little, things were different. And I sort of ended that exchange thinking, well, and that's true when the kids were little it was harder. And yet as I look - I've actually been keeping track of my week and I'm realizing, okay, when the kids were little, I had a babysitter. So I had dedicated work time. And at the moment I have made the mistake of not, and my work time is looking super pitiful at the moment. So yeah. Let's dig into what we actually do all day and when we do it.

Jess:                                     04:15                    Since you've been such a good Doobie and kept track of your time, why don't you go ahead and start?

KJ:                                        04:19                    It's been really depressing, guys.

Jess:                                     04:20                    You informed me on a text the other day that I was a 10 minute time-waster.

KJ:                                        04:27                    You did, you did. You sucked my time away with a tempting text, that granted I should never have looked at. No, one of you start and I'm just gonna do a little ugly math.

Jess:                                     04:42                    See, here's the thing. I feel really bad about this because my reality is different. We all have kids that overlap, but I only have two of them. One of them is in college and he's actually even away this semester. He studying away from his college so he's even further away than usual. And then I have a 16 year old kid who is so sort of self-directed and doesn't want much to do with me, except for this week he's been really sick. So this week has actually been a busier week than usual because I've had a lot of interviews, I've had a lot of obligations, phone calls. I've got a bunch of travel coming up and before I do that, I have these conference calls with the organizers. And so it's been a lot of that this week. And there's been a few things I've had to move around because I've had to pick him up from school when he's like 'I can't stay, I real feel horrible.' So this week has been, you know, dicier than usual. But for the most part, I'm sickeningly flexible because except for like these three dogs that get bummed out when I leave the house or when I move around the house. I have a ton of time to get my stuff done. So I'm not very helpful. But when I look at what I was doing when my kids were little, you know, again, it was really different. I didn't have a babysitter, but I did have friends that I traded with a lot. I had neighbors close by and my kids would run off to their house. But on a nitty gritty day to day basis, I'm just gonna make people mad. I sleep in, I'm not a good morning person. I get up and shuffle into my office, which is 10-12 steps from my bedroom. I sit down and I work until I'm done working. And then my 16 year old kid doesn't even come through the door until four o'clock in the afternoon when the bus gets home. And at that point he doesn't actually want a ton to do with me until dinner time. So there you go. I'm sorry.

Sarina:                                 06:43                    You know what though, Jess...

Jess:                                     06:45                    I feel bad that I'm not contributing.

KJ:                                        06:47                    You should not feel bad.

Sarina:                                 06:48                    No. First of all, you're not allowed to feel bad. But secondly, I actually do hate you, but not for the reasons that you think.

Jess:                                     07:03                    Let me say one other thing, which is that, I am very, very lucky in that I work fast. And I credit a lot of that with working with KJ for the couple of years that I did the column at the New York Times because I didn't use to work so fast, but I'm much faster now. And so when I actually sit down and get focused, I work really, really fast and I think that's been one of the saving graces. Even when I was teaching full time, I'd get up crazy early, get home from school and then sit down to do the other work, which was not only the grading, but also the article writing. And when that happened I was working really fast. So I will add that caveat in that I'm a pretty fast writer.

Sarina:                                 07:46                    Well also, the boundless energy whereby this week you're editing a book and also removing wallpaper from a room and then painting another one. Like I just want to like weep when I hear about this.

Jess:                                     07:58                    That's my fun time. I mean, I've said it before, weeding or gardening and I can't do that in the winter here in Vermont. So I've been removing wallpaper and repainting a room that I promised I would repaint when we first moved in a year and a half ago. I'm finally getting to it. And that's how I relax.

KJ:                                        08:13                    Is that your point of hatred, Sarina?

Sarina:                                 08:16                    Sort of. I think it's the boundless energy, but it also might just be focus, because I have as many work hours as Jess does probably. I mean, today alone, my husband has made me two meals and a latte worthy of Italy.

Jess:                                     08:51                    What KJ is trying to say is that sometimes having people in your space is difficult.

Sarina:                                 08:55                    Yes, it's true. I also have a kid home from school today, so you know, good times, but it's not the hours that I'm fighting against so much, as getting my hands around the business itself all the time. I need to like silence everything and write a couple of hours a day, which is hard when my email inbox is like one of Dante's circles of hell and I literally every day don't know what to do first.

Jess:                                     09:25                    That's something that mystifies me about your work flow - is you're getting so many words written, but you're also managing the business of self publishing your books, which blows my mind wide open. So I'm actually really curious and I know a lot about your schedule. I'm really curious as to how a daily workflow works for you.

Sarina:                                 09:45                    Well, when it works, it's because I do those words first. And that's been really hard for me lately because of that inbox, and I know that if I look, there'll be some fires to put out in there or people who want answers and it's really hard for me to ignore that, as like a pleaser. As my personality type wants to get back to people right away. But if I do, it's just done. So I've actually had to make silly little rules for myself. Like when I'm drinking my Italian worthy cup of coffee in the morning, I can't look at my email right then. I just can't, because I'll get sucked in. And I'm like, 'Oh, it'll just take a second to answer her and then I'll start to wonder like, Oh, I wonder what the numbers looked like after that latest promotion.' And then I'll go look at them. And it's really hard because that's working as well. Like that's work and it arguably needs to be done. So I'm wrestling the writing and the business all the time. And what really does not get done is like painting a room or even maybe vacuuming it, because that's just got to go. Like when this topic came up, you know, how do you guys get it all done? I immediately thought of JK Rowling and her quote, 'You know, but you don't understand I live in squalor.'

Jess:                                     11:10                    Well and you know, on the other hand, again I like vacuuming and so there are certain things that for me - well the reason I like painting, and the reason I like vacuuming, and the reason I like cleaning is that when I'm doing those things, I'm plugged into an audio book. Or, even better I'll drag my laptop into the room where I'm painting and I'll watch a television show, or a movie, which is like crazy luxury. So for me, that ability to turn my brain off and listen to something else while I'm actually getting something done for me is incredibly satisfying. And if you think about it, I was talking to someone about this this morning, I can point at that wall and say, 'Look, I did that. It is done.' Whereas with my edits, no one knows, it's this big morass of words and no one knows what was there and I can't point at anything. It can be tough cause my husband's a physician and he's out there saving people's lives, and my son's out there learning things, and I'm sitting here at home. So that's my thing is being able to point to something and say, 'Look, I cleaned that today.' at least makes me feel like I got something done. Especially when the edits aren't going well.

KJ:                                        12:31                    Well maybe my reason for hating you will make you feel better because my reason for hating you is that you are so extremely good at protecting your time. And some of that has to do with the number of kids, and where we live, and the flexibility and stuff like that. But you don't let people dump 47 dentist appointments, and extra carpool, and I really want to get my hair red on the bottom can you drive me to Fairley and pick me up again three hours later. And also, the guy is coming to fix the heat in the bedroom and I feel like you're much better about, 'Yeah, no, sorry people, you can't do that today because I'm editing. And my whole week has basically gone to that/health stuff that I can't deal with.

Jess:                                     13:25                    But partly that has to do with the kind of kid I have, too. I mean, I have a 16 year old who basically goes up to his cave time room and hangs out in there and does his stuff in there. And if on the rare occasion he needs a haircut it doesn't take three hours. So no, I get that. But I, on the other hand, I also don't have joiners and even when my kid was a joiner. You know, for example, when Benjamin did cross country, he would tell me which meets to go to cause he knew full well I was not going to all of them. And I think that's important. Then if I knew he said to me, you know, please come to this particular meet, you know that's important to him and then I showing up means something. But yeah, I guess you are right.

KJ:                                        14:15                    Well, that's what I'm getting out of this. I really did, I wrote down my time from when I got up until when I sort of stopped working for the day. And Monday I didn't do because I forgot it was Monday, basically. I did work, but I forgot it was Monday cause it was that kind of week. We are recording this during Martin Luther King week. So I forgot Monday, Tuesday I had total writing town of an hour and 50 minutes and total work time of three and a half hours because two kids had dentist appointments and I went to the dentist and then one kid looked at the dentist and I think I'm going to barf and the dentist said, 'You sit over there and don't touch anything.' So I ended up even having to reschedule that kid's dentist appointment in a burst of true inefficiency cause to me if you don't take at least two people to the doctor or dentist at a time, you've completely blown it. I sort of came home and I did (I mean props to me, I'm going to take this one) I do write first. I write first almost no matter what, after the things that I have been unable...

Jess:                                     15:24                    And you write outside the house, too.

KJ:                                        15:26                    No, I do sometimes. Yeah.

Jess:                                     15:29                    You're so good at that, though.

KJ:                                        15:30                    So that's what I'm looking at is like, okay, I had an hour and 50 minutes of writing time and total work time of three and a half hours. Because carpool, because I made dinner, because I drove someone to hockey, because I took a Spanish lesson. What I'm looking at is what time in there could I have probably gotten back. And the answer is maybe the dentist appointment - and my partner does do a lot of those things. So it just depends. I need to speak up. Carpool I could work harder, because I ended up with carpool every day this week, so I could work harder to make that not happen so well. Cause Wednesday was much the same thing, except they were my doctor's appointments and I can't really do anything about that. I have issues, and I have to go, and then I'm depressed, and that doesn't help. But again, I did come home and I did right first.

Jess:                                     16:31                    Actually I want to break in here cause I think listeners need to know something important. When you say carpool it's because - if I still lived where we live, where you live, I would be having to do a lot of that driving because where we live does not have a bus to take the kids to the high school. So there's this requirement of someone to go down a town away and pick up the children. And you know Finn has a bus he can take everyday now, but if I was still living there I would at least once a day have to jump in my car and carve an hour out of my day to go get children.

KJ:                                        17:10                    But if I were meaner, I would make the children sometimes do other things. And I've been so much better about this this year, but I could be better still. Like you know, you could go to the library, or in one child's case there is a bus. It doesn't get the child all the way home, but instead of being an hour round trip, it would be a 20 minute round trip. But the child doesn't want to take the bus. And part of me is like, well, once I'm in the car for 20 minutes, I might as well pick all the other children up. And that's how I get stuck with carpool all the time. And then I have a sick kid and other people had sick kids and that stuck me with carpool all the time. This is not been a good week, but it is sort of forcing me to go, 'How am I contributing to this not being a good week?' And some of that is saying yes to things that I could either pack into all the same time or just say, 'I'm sorry. You're going to have to sit at the library for two hours until your dad's ready to come home.' I could do that. I could do it more. I do it some.

Sarina:                                 18:20                    Well, I have found and it's a little lesson that I keep learning over and over again. That even when I think I'm paying attention to these details and getting my hands around this. Sometimes, in fact, usually, there's more attention I could be paying because the answer's in there somewhere. You know, I knew going into January that I needed to get words first and I wanted to get it, and then I was not getting it, and I would end up getting my sticker at like 10:30 at night, having sat down to work sort of at 7:30 in the morning. So obviously, lots of slippage going on there. And I really had to say, okay, why, why does this keep happening? It's not because we're not smart enough to get this job done. It's something is blowing us up every day. And it was me going into my inbox, just for something quick.

KJ:                                        19:24                    Yeah, that's killer.

Jess:                                     19:27                    It's Twitter for me.

KJ:                                        19:28                    I agree. You can't do that. I am actually so resolute about this. So onto this morning, when I didn't have a doctor, or a dentist, or anything, and in theory I would have been back home and sitting at my desk at 8:15 ready to write. Except that when I went out at 7:30 to feed the mini ponies, we were startling one mini pony short of a pair. That's not normal. There should be two. So I sort of followed the evidence, and looked around, and fortunately there was not a mini pony laying and hurt anywhere. He had broken through the fence and burst down and headed down to our barn. So, I had to stop, take the child to school, and then I had to come back, repair the fence, strip the wires, rewire the fence, go down, get both the ponies again, because in the interval the other pony had gone down to the barn and put them back. So, at that point I kinda gave up on the week.

Jess:                                     20:32                    I don't know, if you had been Sarina, you could've been dictating your book the entire time you were doing all this work. Cause it appears that Sarina's getting her words in through alternate means recently, which is also just infuriating to me. I mean inspirational, yet infuriating.

Sarina:                                 20:52                    It doesn't really work quite like that, Missy.

Jess:                                     20:56                    I'm just impressed by the whole process, cause it's something that I just haven't been able to do and I'm just impressed. That's all.

Sarina:                                 21:14                    I don't actually dictate the prose of my book, much. Instead, when I need to work out what happens next in a book, like I do my pre-writing this way. You know, so I'm walking around Lebanon while someone's having a violin lesson saying like, 'And then he has to run into her in this place and it's awkward because of this thing and then...'. You know, but it's not words that I can save.

Jess:                                     21:40                    I think actually what I enjoy most is the image of you all bundled up talking to yourself as you walk around high school track in another town, talking about the plot of your book. I enjoy that image very, very much.

Sarina:                                 21:58                    Well, good. But it really helps.

KJ:                                        22:03                    I mean cause one of the things I gain from sitting down and doing this thing where I sort of every half an hour wrote down what I did and how many words I ended up with - was that actually doesn't take me that long to get a fairly large amount of words. I wrote 2,700 words in two and a half hours today. But part of that is because I had pre-written, a little of it I pulled out of an old draft and was able to drop in. And this was all pictured. Like I knew what was going to happen. I knew what they were going to say to each other. I knew who the people were, I knew what I was doing. So I was both sort of heartened and disheartened by how little actual time it would probably take me to finish the draft. And yet how slowly I am accomplishing it.

Sarina:                                 22:55                    You know what though, when I worked on Wall Street, we had a daily profit and loss. Everyday you would have a P and L and the boss would walk around at the end of the day, and look at everybody, and you would say up 25 grand or down 10 grand or up 50 grand. And then every few months you would have like a career day. You would be able to look at the boss and say, 'I made $700,000 today.' And then you would walk away after that and get your overpriced glass of wine or whatever and think, what if I just came to work on those days?

KJ:                                        23:32                    What if I just wrote bestsellers?

Sarina:                                 23:34                    Yeah, but that's the thing about your 2,700 words in two and a half hours. Like the stars and moon were in perfect alignment for you to get that. And that's why I look so carefully at what is my average take over time? Because you can't put that pressure on yourself all the time. Like just because your day theoretically has two and a half hours in, it doesn't mean you're going to end up with 2,700 keepers.

Jess:                                     23:59                    What's been really noticeable about that, Sarina, is that this month I have worked every single day on my editing and there've been some days that I haven't worked a long, long time. I've been having some of those brain cramps that KJ talks about sometimes where she's like, 'Ow it hurts. I want to go do something else.' And I feel like I'm wrestling my brain to stay on the page, but just the fact that I worked every single day means I think I'm going to hit my deadline at the end of this month. Or at least I'm going to come within a couple of days if I go over. And I think that just comes down to the fact that even if I had a couple of really slow days or low work sticker days, that they're all there and that something got done every single day. And that's really helping me more than I thought it would. I thought, you know, Oh my God, this is going to be a grind. I'm going to have to sit down for six hours a day this month to get it done. And that hasn't been the case. I just have to sit down every day.

Sarina:                                 24:58                    Yeah. And you have to forgive yourself when you can't. Like I'm finding myself in the odd position with the book that I'm working on now that I know a lot about how it ends, but it turns out that the beginning was a little bit mysterious to me. Which never happens, it's usually the opposite. And so I've been so frustrated with myself about not knowing how to get to that point in the future. And you can't rush that cogitation time. So I could tell you all my tricks for writing books in the passenger seat of the car while the kid is doing his karate. But it doesn't matter if I'm not ready to like spit out chapter four.

KJ:                                        25:44                    Agreed.

Jess:                                     25:45                    I have been noticing that you mentioned earlier that it's been harder for you to get your words done every day. And I have been noticing that your text with the word stickers coming in later in the day than it usually does.

Sarina:                                 25:56                    Yeah. That's cause I'm spending the whole day thinking, 'But why are we doing this in chapter four?' And trying to move the steering wheel in ways that it doesn't want to move. But anyway, that happens. And when I know what I'm doing, then I really just have to sit there and let it happen. Like at the end of our podcast we talk about what books we've read and I won't have one today because I finally figured out some stuff about chapter four and I don't want to walk away.

KJ:                                        26:27                    You're reading your own book, in your head.

Jess:                                     26:29                    I'm actually about to have to do that again just to get the big picture because I'm at the point in editing where I'm trying to drop in a few pieces here and there and when I do that without going back through the whole book, I end up repeating myself. Like not even realizing that I already said that. Or you know, this feels so brilliant right now. Oh, that's because I already wrote this entire section and it was 20 pages ago. I think it's so hard for that reason, though. I think it's so hard to get back in any kind of flow because you're trying to dip into something that you wrote six months ago. And that's what's proving really mentally challenging for me. Cause I've now made that mistake a couple of times. Writing something that I realize is two paragraphs before. But what I'm actually doing right now is a fun thing (I say fun sarcastically). So in books by big publishers that are not academic books, you have to do this thing at the end called key phrase call-out where you go back and you find a little key phrase and then you go to the end and you give the little key phrase and then you give the reference for the key phrase. And that's what I'm in the middle of doing now. And there really isn't anything more boring than that. Very, very few things anyway.

KJ:                                        27:51                    Wait, but that sounds like the kind of thing you would normally have sort of done at the same time.

Jess:                                     27:58                    Yes. So I have traditional end notes because I was using that citation manager. Well that's the kind of thing where I can have a movie playing, or I can listen to the BBC's Pride and Prejudice for the 3,000th time while I'm doing that kind of thing. And that makes the process a little bit happier for me.

KJ:                                        28:29                    I don't know if we've learned anything, because these fall into the category of, as Sarina said, lessons we just keep learning. But, I'm taking away that I need to protect my time and heck, at least I'm good at not looking at my emails and texts.

Jess:                                     28:59                    Actually, KJ, I have to tell you. I actually was being interviewed for something yesterday and I referred to you and I referred to How To Be a Happier Parent because the person was asking me about how she was feeling like her time was just being stolen away from her and how much time her kids were spending in extracurriculars. And I said that one of the most meaningful action points from How To Be a Happier Parent was about talking to your kids about if you commit to this thing, here are the things you're not going to be able to do. And as you went through, I think when one of your kids was thinking about doing an extra sport or something like that. And I said, 'You know, that's one of the things that yes, we have to keep relearning this, but it's also important to talk this through with our kids. If we're going to say, you know, our kid wants to do another team sport, and you say, look, your parent works as a writer and your parent is going to have to drive you back and forth. So let's talk about the things that you won't be able to do with the time. And let's talk about the things that are going to be difficult for me to do with my time.' And I don't think that means we're selfish. I think that means that we're teaching our kids that it's important to value their time as well. And that was sort of the point I made to the journalist and when phrased that way, it's about teaching our kids to value our time, allowing ourselves the ability to sequester our most valuable bits of time for the work that we want to do the most. And that just means we're taking ourselves seriously as professionals. So that's my big takeaway. I'm giving everyone permission to tell their kids that they can't do another team sport because they have to be able to get the words written. There you go. Well and I also like Sarina's point about having small rules about the coffee. I happen to have small rules. My rule is the opposite of hers. I'm allowed to sit at my desk and have breakfast and my coffee while I look at Twitter, but as soon as my breakfast is gone, I have to shut down Twitter and get to work.

KJ:                                        30:57                    Having these little practices is important. For me it's basically no phone till I take kids to school, because I just will get derailed so easily by a work text, or a work email, or something. Our mornings are so calibrated that five minutes later is a problem. So that's one and I didn't think about that anymore. And then no email until after I've got the words done. That's another one I don't think about anymore. And it's a little bit of a luxury. I don't have an editor. If there's something I really needed to check, I would, but I don't have to. So, I'm used to those I wasn't giving myself credit for those.

Jess:                                     31:41                    One other small thing that also works for me is my rule generally is morning is for the words. So if I'm scheduling a dentist appointment, if I'm scheduling an interview, or one of those conference calls I was talking about I say I'm available anytime after noon and just the morning is not available. That's just for the words.

KJ:                                        32:02                    Yeah. I just have to cut myself a little more slack this month, for whatever reason, for basically every appointment known to man. I apparently at some point last fall looked at it and said, 'Well, January would be good for that.' With the result that every week is like orthodontist, and hair, and dentist, and chiropractor, and I have all my followups. And that was not a question of choice. That was a question of timing. And just endless, endless stuff. Plus, it's hockey season. It's the only sport that two of the three children that are still at home play. Things will get better when it is no longer hockey season.

Jess:                                     32:47                    That was my November, my book will be turned in. So November is just wide open, schedule all the things. And I paid, man, I paid in November. That was tough.

KJ:                                        32:59                    That's a lesson I wish that I would learn. But yeah, I don't know. I mean they gotta do those things sometimes. It wouldn't be any better in February. I don't know if it's better to mash them all, but boy it is frustrating to look at a week and go wow, every single morning somebody has an appointment to do something at eight o'clock. Because that's when I make mine. Cause you can get them done, and then you can get them to school, and about half of them my partner takes. But sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't.

Jess:                                     33:33                    Alright. Sarina, you have anything to add before I move on to the reading stuff that you didn't do?

Sarina:                                 33:41                    You know, I actually realized that I did read something. Should I kick off with that?

Jess:                                     33:48                    Oh, sure, sure.

Sarina:                                 33:49                    I read a beautiful novel named Great and Precious Things by Rebecca Yarros, which comes out in February. And she does angsty, emotional, military heroes in sort of a crossover between romance and women's fiction.

Jess:                                     34:08                    Okay. That sounds really good, actually. I read something that I think I'm going to be lending probably to KJ I'm assuming. I picked it up at the Vermont bookshop in Middlebury, Vermont, and it's called The Wilderness Idiot: Lessons from an Accidental Adventurer. It's by Ted Alvarez. And Ted Alvarez is an editor for Backpacker Magazine. And it's really, really fun. They're sort of short pieces so you can dip in and out. And it's really, really funny. It's making me laugh a lot. I really liked it.

KJ:                                        34:48                    Well, I read a book that I am going to be passing on to you, Jess. I read Toil and Trouble by Augustan Burrows. And it is so much fun. It's basically what if David Sedaris believed he was a witch and do I need to say anything more than that? Because it's awesome.

Jess:                                     35:08                    So Augustan Boroughs, you know, I've been a fan of for a long time. I was just really worried because Wolf at the Table I didn't love, even though he wasn't trying to be particularly funny in that book because it was about his abusive dad. So I was concerned with Toil and Trouble; it sounded a little off the rails to me. Like Augustan Bouroughs is convinced he's a witch, but I'm so glad that you liked it because I wanted it to be good.

KJ:                                        35:33                    I do like it and I don't care that Augusten Burroughs is convinced that he's a witch. I enjoy that about Augusten Burroughs. I appreciated that. Yeah, it totally works in this context, I think.

Jess:                                     35:47                    Cause as far as I'm concerned, Augusten Burrough's book Dry is my favorite addiction memoir ever. I love that book so much. And I'm an Augusten Burroughs fan, so yeah.

KJ:                                        36:02                    Alright, well that's our episode. What we really do all day and today we spent about an hour recording this. I spent the preceding hour prepping tomorrow's episode fully. That's the other thing about actually tracking what you do is you end up with little notes that say things like, 'Wrote Instagram story about pony escape, half an hour.' and then you are forced to realize that seems like nothing - it's not nothing.

Jess:                                     36:39                    Well, I actually kept track of how much time it took me to get this one email address that I really needed to work, to work. And it took me over three and a half hours of my time to get an email address to work.

KJ:                                        36:53                    It's not like you were looking for somebody else's email, just to clarify. You have this email address that people need to email you at.

Jess:                                     37:05                    I needed it operational and it just wouldn't work. And it turns out that it wasn't my fault. It was on some weird blocked list at Squarespace. But yeah, three and a half hours just to get a stupid email and then, you know, you just get frustrated and then you're all cranky and you're yelling at your family because you can't get the email address to work. So that's fun.

KJ:                                        37:47                    Alright. But really, it probably really is always something.

Jess:                                     37:50                    Yes, it is. And for those of you who haven't visited or been to the #AmWriting Facebook page, if you want to be a part of that, anyone can be a part of it. And it's where this question got started. And there's a lot of details there that KJ, and Sarina, and I added to that thread about where all the time goes and how we spend our time. So between that thread that's over there and this podcast, I think we've sort of covered the topic, but go on over to #AmWriting group on Facebook, which is now a couple of thousand really cool writers. I have to say some really cool people over there. So until next week though, keep your butt in the chair and your head in the game. This episode of #AmWriting with Jess and KJ was produced by Andrew Parilla. Our music, aptly titled unemployed Monday was written and performed by Max Cohen. Andrew and Max were paid for their services because everyone, even creatives should be paid.

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