Don't put the one before the other
warning: flashing gif at the end
Hello all! I’m so pleased by the response to last week’s spooky book roundup; several of you have commented or written in to say that you’ll be checking out books from the list! Before I dive in this week, here’s a great recommendation from a reader:
This is a great roundup, and once again I lament that I can no longer use your client list as a handy TBR. Have you read Helen Oyeyemi's White is for Witching? It's an absolutely stunning House Horror and also a People Are The Real Monsters horror (sort of). I also love it because it is formally experimental-- she blurs between POVs in a wonderfully unsettling way. Anyway, if you haven't read it, I fervently recommend it. Hope you're having a nice weekend. - Lauren Bajek
This week I wanted to talk about the difference between doing the work and imagining the work done.
I thought about this topic for a few reasons this week, but chief among them this morning is the notification I got from my favorite place to waste money, informing me that the planner I’d considered buying for next year is back in stock. For about half an hour yesterday I browsed back and forth on the website, adding it and deleting it from my cart. I watched the video on how to use the Hobonichi Cousin, imagined which pen I’d use for which day.
This kind of #plannerporn is all too familiar to those of us who struggle with brain weasels and imposter syndrome. Facing a new year — even a new year that is a full two and a half months away — it’s tempting to think about all the tools we’ll use to accomplish those shiny New Year’s resolutions. What heights will we reach with the right planner! What accomplishments can we crush with the perfect set of washi tape!
I see the same thing on the writer-internet all the time. What tools have you used, ostensibly to help you plan your novel, that have become full-blown procrastination techniques? How many times have you written your acknowledgments in your mind on days that you haven’t written a word?
Do you have one or more pinterest boards for your novel(s)?
Lest you think I’m making fun of those of you who fall prey to this particular procrastination technique, rest assured, I’m not. I’m in exactly that same genre. But one of the fun things of the last year as a freelancer—and I’m coming up on a year, soon—is that I’ve had to learn to love the horse.
By avoiding the horse we learn to fear the horse. (It’s possible my metaphor is getting away from me.) But the longer you spend not doing things—the longer you spend saying “I’ll take care of that soon” or “it’ll keep for another day,” the bigger the task seems when you turn back to it. The more frightening. It’s nicer to imagine the day when the cart is there. Much less frightening.
We love the cart because the cart is pretty: the cart is painted and shiny and full of cool stuff (all the words we’ve written, all the money we’ve made, all the things we’ve achieved.) But the horse—the smelly, recalcitrant, annoying horse—is what gets us the cart. Freelance work has been an entirely different ballgame than agenting; even though I was working from home for last four years of agenting, being my own boss was a completely different animal.
This year I’ve learned that my best months, money-wise, are the ones where I’m actively engaged in my work, rather than waiting for it to roll in. The months since I started doing this newsletter on a regular basis have been some of my best, and most fulfilling. Doing things like keeping track of my time and blocking out portions of internet-free work and all those incredibly basic pieces of productivity advice have helped me to do the work. I’m no longer so fixated on the cart that nothing gets done.
Have I accomplished every single one of my New Year’s resolutions? No. But I’ve crossed off some. And I don’t have a fancy planner (though I do have a lot of fancy pens.) Do the work, whatever that looks like to you. Learn to love the horse.
Do you have a question about writing, publishing, books? Is there something you want covered in this newsletter? Do you long for my thoughts on the Sally Rooney discourse? Leave it in the comments or in a reply to the newsletter!
THIS WEEK IN HOCKEY
Hockey’s back, babey! This week I could talk about how the Caps’ newest infants did extremely well against the Rangers, or how the promised fighty-fight-fight against Tom Wilson never materialized, but I’m sorry. My brain is empty, the only thing I have thoughts for is this video:
What then, indeed? An Emmy for Nastya Ovechkina. I also recommend you check out this amazing ad from PK Subban and Scotiabank: Hockey For All.
Kumail Nanjiani’s Feelings by E. Alex Jung (Vulture)
So that’s why he’s showing me how to do shoulder presses. I’m seated at a weight bench, and he instructs me to press the dumbbells, squeeze upward, and really focus on that mind-muscle connection. We do some lateral raises (for the shoulder caps). His heart isn’t really in it, though, in part because he doesn’t want to be the workout guy anymore. The past year left him vulnerable and pensive, questioning his role in his own pillorying. He realizes he’s experiencing a hot-celebrity version of what women, fat people, and disabled people experience on a daily basis. Even though his physical transformation was driven by personal angst, his public image had become a larger-than-life projection, a giant before-and-after billboard. His body was either a symbol of toxic Hollywood standards or #goals #fitfam #fitspo. He was something to criticize or defend, aspire to or take down.
Dave Chapelle’s Betrayal by Saeed Jones (GQ)
Watching Chappelle contort himself to justify ashy ideas about gender, queerness and identity is harrowing, because the only thing more brutal than someone saying hurtful shit is someone saying hurtful shit moments after making you laugh, moments after cracking you up in a way that’s both fun anddeeply needed, moments after making you feel like you all got free together. America has only gotten better at trying to kill me. Laughter is no joke, which makes the betrayal, years in the making at this point, all the more devastating. I feel like a fool to have rooted for Dave Chappelle for so long. Things were easier when the men who wanted to hurt me just said so at the jump.
Putting Borges’ Infinite Library on the Internet by Jonathan Basile (ElectricLit)
Jorge Luis Borges, when he published “The Library of Babel” in 1941, denied his own originality. In the introduction to The Garden of Branching Paths, the collection containing the story, he wrote, “Nor am I the first author of the tale ‘The Library of Babel,’” and referred his readers to an earlier essay that traced the total library back to the Ancient Greek atomists. Borges’ short story imagined a vast universe-as-library, thought by its inhabitants to contain every possible 410-page permutation of a basic character set, enough to express some version of every work ever written, and everything that ever could be. Borges found this idea of language as a purely combinatorial process in a short story by German proto-science fiction author Kurd Lasswitz, who could have found it in Lewis Carroll, Cicero, or Aristotle. When I created libraryofbabel.info, an online version of Borges’ dream or nightmare, I was another link in this chain, a conduit for a self-repeating idea.
Columbus Blue Jackets’ Elvis Merzlikins tries to move on after death of Matiss Kivlenieks | No One Here Knows I’m a Vampire: A Spooky Matt Berry Reading List | The “Cats” musical drove Andrew Lloyd Weber to get an emotional support dog. | Squid Game’s Apocalypse Is Now | The Ted Lasso cast on the real-life people who taught them to believe | Lightning Notes: How Andrej Sustr captured Beijing through his lens
This has been A Faster No, a dispatch on publishing, writing, books, and beyond. You can support the newsletter here. If you purchase a book from any of the links to Bookshop.org I get a small commission at no cost to you. I am available for developmental editing and editorial assessment services via Reedsy.