Last week, I promised that I would deliver three things:
- No matter how bad it is, I will bring some form of original artwork to this newsletter.
- I will complete a book outline — a real one, and I will share the summary of the draft here.
- I will get eight hours of sleep on Friday night.
The wheels skidded around a bit as I procrastinated on Thing #1 and Thing #2. After an overnight flight to Boston and on to Wellesley Thursday night, I managed to complete Thing #3. But thing #1 and Thing #2, proved elusive.
To be perfectly honest with you, I didn’t start Thing #1 or Thing #2 until after I started to draft the newsletters. Seriously, as I write this paragraph, I still have not pulled together a summary of my book draft (I have a rough outline…ish). So, after much hemming, hawing, thinking and talking, here’s a rough summary of what I would like to write a book about (sweet greens and honey bees this feels terrible to write!):
Okay, hold on, first I need to digest why this feels so gosh darn difficult. It’s difficult because the idea of writing a book feels arrogant. If there’s one thing that makes me feel absolutely ignorant, it’s the idea of putting pen to paper to write something longer than a few paragraphs that may prove useful to other people. Time and time again people ask me if I am writing a book, and I always say something along the lines of, “Yeah, I’m working on figuring out what to write about.” Others say they can’t wait to read “my book”, to which I reply, “Thanks, what would you want me to write about?”
"Oh, you know..."
No, actually, I don't.
The fact of the matter is, I know some things, and I don’t know anything else. I read about a lot, I talk about even more, but structuring ideas in a format that is linear and coherent for pages and pages on end feels … obnoxious. I don’t know enough to do that. Then, I’ll sit down and read someone else's book and see that it’s really a collection of experiences linked together with research (and perhaps a little blood, sweat, tears and ruthless editing).
Some books are more research-dependent than others. But that’s really all a book is — a series of semi-obscure or completely obscure references strung together in a compelling way with a (hopefully) strong, complete narrative arc.
See?! I know that, and yet, for whatever reason, even as I sit to write this newsletter, writing a book feels insane. I have written at least 100 pages worth of material in the past year, but I cannot sit down and write a book. I know I am not allergic to large-scale projects. I like doing research. I’m not afraid to fail. I don’t have imposter syndrome. Even if it’s 100 pages of writing that I am proud of and that I print at the local copy shop so I can let it collect dust on a shelf — I’ll consider it a success. So, what’s stopping me?
It’s that “proud of” part. It’s the internal judge and jury that look at every idea that flits through my head and says, “Nope. You can’t. No one will read that” or “That’s not a real thing.”
By now, you realize I’m stalling. Okay, *gulp*, time to go in for all the marbles this time. Here’s the summary … wait, I need to go read about what a good treatment looks like. After all, it can’t be too long … sheesh, everyone thinks I want to write a novel. I don’t. Okay, I'm still looking … eh, forget it. I’m making up my own (this may only land at Kinko’s anyway):
Summary: This book is about everything and nothing, but since no one wants to read about nothing, it’s about something.
Aaaaarrggh. What does that even mean!? It doesn’t mean anything. Okay. Try again.
TITLE: (How to) Live A(n) (Ab)normal Life
Summary: Go to school, become a professional, join a company, get married, buy a home, have some kids, work for 35 years and … live … a … normal ... life. That was the prescription set out for millions of children born in the 80’s and through to the early 90’s. That prescription underwent a steady dismantling over the past thirty years, fundamentally changing what education, home, relationship, family, work and, ultimately life all mean. “Family” no longer represents solely the people in your immediate environ. “Work” no longer means gainful employment at one company for 35 years. “Education” is no longer a set period of schooling before entering “the real world”. “Home” is no longer something you own. “Married” is no longer a status one needs to have to avoid crippling social stigma. These changes have introduced fear and anxiety but also opportunity and a dismantling (albeit slowly) of the sexist, racist and xenophobic pillars that propped up the status quo. (How to) Live A(n) (Ab)normal Life is a collection of lessons learned over the course of 35 years of living an ordinary life through (extra)ordinary times, taking unexpected paths through academic institutions, newsrooms, a design institute and beyond. Rather than explore the intricacies of each institution, the book is a collection of wisdom — lessons about how to practice the alchemy of turning success into failure, how to heave mind over matter, make home wherever you are called on to make it and embrace living a(n) (ab)normal life.
Oh, sweet mother of all things written that is terrible. Seriously. It’s horrible. But it’s something. It’s a start, and really, that’s all I need.
Okay, on to the five…
The Disappearing American Grad Student: "At the undergraduate level, 80 percent are United States residents. At the graduate level, the number is reversed: About 80 percent hail from India, China, Korea, Turkey and other foreign countries.”
Why do we still commute?: "There are many reasons to believe commuting is stupid. It wastes resources. It's bad for the environment. It's unproductive time that we're not paid for. It costs us money. It's stressful. It's associated with higher rates of depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease, divorce, death, and a whole host of other maladies. We report we hate it more than anything else in our routines and that we're happier when we get to more regularly work from home. Why, then, must office workers continue to do it?”
One of the most important stories I will read all year: I live right near El Camino, and I have always wondered about the RVs parked there.
The problem with those ‘inspiring’ social media posts: "Leaders do need to inspire and motivate, but they never succeed by spouting unclear generalities.”
Krista Tippet interviews Ellen Langer on Mindlessness and Mindfulness: "Most people are just not there, and they’re not there to know that they’re not there."