Y’all this is a long post, if you don’t want to read it, scroll to the end for TL/DR list of my Personal Rules & a cat picture!
I’ve been thinking about how I use my time lately, which I think is always a useful thing to interrogate. To give you an idea, I technically work three jobs:
FIRST: I assist Susanna Einstein (praise that lovely human!) at ELM – she’s my support, one of my mentors, and it’s my job to help her find clients, do admin, read slush (I’m caught up to mid-January & still have 700 emails in the inbox!), and help her with editorial for her clients. I have, since I started working for Susanna, felt like a useful human, and I have grown both professionally and personally. Some of you know me and my trajectory, but I think everyone can appreciate the importance of feeling Useful, Appreciated, and Challenged at your job! I have that right now! What a TIME!
SECOND: I AM TAKING ON MY OWN CLIENTS! Yes! I have a tiny (but growing!) client list, and it’s got five whole people on it I’m so excited about! I’m currently on submission with my first book! I decided I wanted to be an agent way back in 2012 in an apprenticeship based field and a tough job market, and I HAVE MY OWN CLIENTS WHO ARE AMAZING! I think it’s important to acknowledge that in all of our choices about people we’re building a team (both professionally and personally!). And my TEAM IS GREAT!
THIRD: You gotta pay the bills, buddy. I do bookkeeping & some other work (not editorial) for a different literary agency two days a week (and increasingly other financial work for the accountant who employs me). I’m proud of this, too! I have a BA in English, a minor in French, an MA in English, an MA in Children’s Literature, and I’ve learned (and am learning constantly) about publishing as a Business. We can talk all day about writing and editorial, but publishing is a business. It’s helped me personally as well! I’m so much better at record keeping and budgeting. I have a lot of medical debt because my body hates me, and I’m actually on top of it because of the skills I’ve learned through finances in publishing.
I’m also getting to TEACH since I’m training most of their interns. When their interns have questions about contracts, foreign rights, tax forms in publishing, I get to give that education, which is wonderful because I get to teach people, which I actually love to do. So many wonderful people have inspired me and taught me, and now SOMETIMES I GET TO DO THAT FOR OTHER PEOPLE! I’m so lucky, and I enjoy helping my future colleagues feel like they have a good foundation so that wherever they go, whatever they learn from here, they’re confident!
#frenemies #chickencat #thecrocodile – I need to vacuum that futon….. #cathair
I don’t say this to make myself sound like I have any more work in my life than anybody else (I don’t! We are all resilient and constantly moving! We are colossal and infinity and sleepy and Too Busy To Know Our Worth) or that I’m Totally Awesome (okay, but I am), but it’s helpful to me to see how much work I actually Get Done in a day, in a week, in a month. When I’m feeling overwhelmed with work and like I’m not clearing the bar, it helps to actually think about my 40 hour work week, and then the work that I put in outside of that (because how long does it take to read a book & how many pages/words/books do I read a week? THEN how long it takes to write actionable items for how to make it better in, essentially, the form of literary love letters).
But this post isn’t really about that, or at least I didn’t want it to be initially. I started this post wanting to 1) give voice to my constraints and 2) lay some groundwork for how to make my life more sustainable and 3) be able to look back on this post and Hold Myself Accountable!
Books I have actually read, so you don’t think I’ve never read any books. Trust me, it’s coming up soon…. That unicorn was a gift from my pal Anna.
How do we make spaces for ourselves, and how do we prioritize various aspects of our lives? I’m coming to the point where several rules need to be in place for my life, and you (my friends, strangers on the internet, whoever) can double up on that accountability if you’re feeling up to the challenge. Here are some things I’m doing for myself or would like to do for myself. I’m writing them down, putting them out there in the world, articulating them, so that I can’t pretend these were always my goals.
- I used to have a rule that I only read for fun on the train. So you know, I spend most of my life reading words on screens – slush, manuscripts, editorial letters. There’s something about the physical book that feels like “reading for fun.” If I’m ever reading on a screen, I feel like I should just be working, and it’s SO EASY to read my iPad on the train or, as I’ve been doing almost daily lately, bringing up emails on my phone & going through slush. I have an HOUR commute in the morning to either of my offices, and I could EASILY get through 1 book a week if I were to read for that whole hour.I’ve been so focused on work that I started reading my arc of Brandy Colbert’s LITTLE & LION in February & am only about halfway through. I started reading Yaa Gyasi’s HOMEGOING in January, and I only made it through three chapters. I was trying to read it by a book club dead line (that I have never been to because I never finish the books) and DID NOT MAKE IT. I have carried LITTLE & LION in my bag since January; it is literally always with me!I have a problem with reading what I’m “in the mood for” instead of reading books to completion – I have an entire bookshelf dedicated to books I started & have not finished (because unfinished books are not allowed to TOUCH or BE NEAR books I have loved or hated or felt lukewarm about At All)….. #readershame. Both books are REALLY GOOD, and I Want to finish them, but I just keep doing work on the subway. But NO MORE!RULE 1: ONLY READ FOR FUN ON THE SUBWAY.
- I have been trying to implement this rule monetarily, and it doesn’t work. Say, only spend $40/month on booze or going out. That’s $10/week or $20 over two weeks. I make this rule conservatively, knowing that I’ll spend more or less, relative to the events that week. The problem is actually that the Easy thing to do is say “Let’s meet for drinks.” SO MANY PUBLISHING EVENTS HAVE ALCOHOL. I’m not saying it’s a problem in the industry because I kind of like it – there’s a way that hierarchies get broken down when big time editors are drunk out of their minds and editorial assistants are scared of getting tipsy in front of their bosses. But the reality is that our bodies and our wallets are all different.I called my mom in January when I made my newest budget spreadsheet, and I told her a lot of my limitations that will help me pay my medical bills, pay what I owe to the IRS for my freelance work in 2015 (yeah, STILL paying that off, be Wary of 1099s, friend pies, & if an employer gives you an inaccurate W-2, don’t wait until it’s resolved to pay the government money, they hit you with FEES). My Moddy (bless her heart) said, “Okay, but don’t take it too hard when you don’t meet those goals.” This is weirdly the BEST ADVICE for people with debt I could give. Life happens! Social happens! You deserve some fun! If you can pay all your bills (a gift!) and have that $40 extra, it’s okay to spend a little of it on you!
Books I started & haven’t finished, The Shame!
So instead of trying to put unrealistic limits on publishing, I’m going to look at what will be in my bank account at the end of the month post-bills, account for groceries & cats, and I’m not going to limit my bank account. I’m going to limit my TIME. What’s worth it and when is it worth it?
RULE 2: ONLY GO OUT TWO NIGHTS A WEEK (maybe 3 if there’s a professional event – and any more than that, don’t consume at those events, save the money, plan ahead re: food, which you have to do anyway- rule coming soon).
- THIS is maybe the most important rule I’m instituting, except for my food rules, which are coming later. Make Time for Friends! I have some health problems (as referenced with the “medical bills”) & a lot of the time I Work Work Work and then only want to sleep. NO! My friends are beautiful humans, my family away from family, my family CHOSEN, and I want to see them!RULE 3: MAKE TIME FOR FRIENDS!
Half of this pile of books I haven’t even started! & in that Netflix envelope is Definitely a DVD from 2010 or 2011 (it’s Solarbabies…. )
- Re: FOOD, I am instituting a new thing (this weekend will be the 4th in a row) called Cooking Saturdays. As some of my friends may know, I have a lot of food allergies! And not a terribly large amount of money! And the same foods over and over again cooked in the exact same way get BORING. So on Thursday or Friday of every week, depending on schedule, I’m looking at what my restrictions are and trying to find a thing to experiment with over the weekend. Alternatively, I’m thinking about what STAPLES I use and making a lot so I can freeze things and be set for later on in the week. The goal is to not worry about food if i’m having a bad food day (If you can’t keep foods down, well you made bread Saturday that you can slowly eat a piece of, or you have frozen broth that you can drink like tea….).Friends, I literally made bread for the first time TWO WEEKS ago, and I learned how to grind/mix my own sausage the week before that. I make my broth from scratch because I’m allergic to all the store bought broth. The concept of taking an entire day wherein you don’t do any work that isn’t cleaning your space and preparing for the week in a sustainable way is LIFE CHANGING.RULE 4: SATURDAYS ARE COOKING SATURDAYS. EXPERIMENT WITH FOOD YOU KNOW (OR HIGHLY SUSPECT) WON’T MAKE YOU SICK, MAKE STAPLES FOR THE WEEK, PUT YOUR SPACE IN ORDER, AND DON’T TALK TO ANYONE WHO YOU DON’T WANT TO TALK TO.
So that’s it so far! I’m not saying the rules won’t INCREASE with time, and they’re certainly flexible as Life Happens, but I feel good about this space where I have made some actionable and achievable statements about how I want to be spending my time.
TLDR: I’m real busy & I made some rules about how I want to spend my time!
ONE: ONLY READ FOR FUN ON THE SUBWAY.
TWO: ONLY GO OUT TWO NIGHTS A WEEK.
THREE: MAKE TIME FOR FRIENDS!
FOUR: SATURDAYS ARE COOKING SATURDAYS. EXPERIMENT WITH FOOD YOU KNOW (OR HIGHLY SUSPECT) WON’T MAKE YOU SICK, MAKE STAPLES FOR THE WEEK, PUT YOUR SPACE IN ORDER, AND DON’T TALK TO ANYONE YOU DON’T WANT TO.
HERE IS A CAT!