Working Hard? Or Hardly Working?
Pandemic living had me confused, but it turns out I achieved some big stuff this year.
One of many weird aspects of protracted shelter-in-place has been a strange duality around work: toiling day in and day out in the same house where I do everything else in my life, I simultaneously feel as if I am constantly working, and never achieving anything.
Maybe this is specific to freelance work, particularly in a creative field. No matter how many tasks I complete in any one of the many gigs I juggle, there are always so many more tasks I need to tackle in my other gigs—plus all of my personal writing goals. No matter how much I do, I’m never done.
There’s an added mind-fuck that comes from striving on so many different fronts all in one place, and only ever seeing colleagues and students through the screen of my laptop, over Zoom. Something about this unrelenting sameness confuses the mind. A lack of completion on one front bleeds over, mentally, to all the rest of them.
I’d allowed it to make me feel bad about my output this year—delinquent, even. Then I paused for a moment to take stock, and you know what? I worked my ass off in 2021, despite being completely out of commission for several months with mononucleosis. Although I didn’t publish as many pieces in newspapers and magazines and websites as I might have in the past, I achieved some pretty big things. Here’s a little inventory, including some links to things you can order or subscribe to, if you’re so inclined.
I updated my 2013 anthology Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving & Leaving New York, with seven new essays by Leslie Jamison, Emily Raboteau, Lisa Ko, Ada Limón, Carolita Johnson, Danielle Jackson, and Rosie Schapp. The new edition was released in April, and if I do say so myself, it’s a better book. I’d love it if you’d get it. Even if you have the original, there’s plenty new for you to read here.
Around the release of the new edition of Goodbye to All That, I published a personal essay in The Guardian about the pandemic making me miss New York City more than ever before.
I wrote and then revised my debut memoir, And You May Find Yourself: Confessions of a Late-Blooming Gen X Weirdo. This is the hugest endeavor I have ever taken on—something I’ve been both angling toward and avoiding, for various reasons, for decades—and I got it done at this weird ass time. Forget Shakespeare and Lear; maybe at the dawn of some future pandemic, someone will tweet, “Just a reminder that when Sari Botton was quarantined because of Covid (and mono) she wrote And You May Find Yourself.” 😂 (I’d love it if you marked it as “to be read” on Goodreads.)
I launched “How’s the Writing Going?” a column in Catapult’s “Don’t Write Alone” craft series. So far I’ve published interviews with Michael Seidlinger and R.O. Kwon. A new installment with Jen Doll will land in early January.
I taught in two MFA programs—Wilkes and Bay Path—plus several workshops at Catapult.
I selected and edited some essays for publication at Catapult, where I’m a contributing editor.
I interviewed some memoirists for Personal Space: The Memoir Show on LitHub’s Virtual Book Channel, and also wrote a piece to go with a wonderful photo essay by photographer Alexey Yurenev.
I took over curating the weekly Memoir Monday newsletter from founder Lilly Dancyger, and am about to add original essays to the mix, which I’ll select and edit.
In conclusion, I suppose I’m not just some lazy lie-about, or bad and my job(s). These crazy times had me confused.
I hope pandemic living isn’t messing with your mind, too. Wishing you all the happiest holidays possible given, well, you know...