How to Survive Deadline Pressure
Distractions are a necessary part of the process.
Just a quickie this week to say hello from the home stretch before I turn in my book, hopefully at the end of next week.
I’m definitely losing my mind over here. As I get closer to coming in for a landing, it feels like it’s getting a little… harder? All my anxieties feel extra pronounced. But when I can push past all the attendant neurotic bullshit, I find I’m enjoying the writing.
Here are some things I’ve been doing to push past all the neurotic bullshit:
Meeting up with people, briefly. Even in this extra-crunchy crunch time, I need to get out and spend time with friends. This feels especially important after fifteen or so months of isolation, and the loss of my co-working space. I’m a mix of introvert and extrovert, and my extrovert has felt terribly squelched throughout the pandemic. And, busy or not, I have to eat. So mostly I’m getting together with friends for quick meals. I’m so glad we’ve gotten to a place, pandemic-wise, where we can meet in restaurants!
Walking. I’ve always struggled with depression, and the isolation and losses of the pandemic only made it worse. Currently I do not have a therapist, and am not on medication—I will look into these things after my deadline. But walking daily is helping. For a few years I didn’t exercise regularly because I kept getting upper respiratory infections, and then I started having problems with arthritis and chronic pain. But last fall, I asked Isaac Fitzgerald to write a piece for The Uplift, the Guardian series I was editing, about his new walking habits, which he’d been posting about on Instagram. His piece—which went viral, and inspired him to launch Walk it Off, a newsletter I recommend subscribing to—inspired me to get back into walking myself. It feels good to be outside, to clear my head, to get a much needed endorphin boost. It costs me 45 mintues to an hour of work, but without that break, the work grinds to a halt.
Singing. This is where I confess to how weird I am. I love singing. I am addicted to singing. There’s not a substance on earth that could get me higher. I’m just okay at it, but it’s not about performing for other people, although I like to do that, too. So, I mostly do it alone right now. There’s still no karaoke locally, and I don’t have the time to learn songs on ukulele and play them with Brian. So I take five-minute song breaks, finding karaoke versions of songs I like on YouTube, mostly showtunes. It really takes the edge off. I’m writing a piece for the book right now about my love for singing and how, with a singer dad, I never really learned where it is an isn’t appropriate to just break out into song, publicly. Writing this brought me back to some recordings from musicals I was in. This one, of me singing “I Loved You Once in Silence” from Camelot at 11, in sixth grade, also relates to another piece I’m writing, about how hard I worked to lose my Long Island accent after my dad remarried and moved to Westchester, where everyone pronounced their Rs. (Make that “WestchestERRRRRRR.”) The Camelot recording captures me at the very moment before I would go to town erradicating my accent. It’s kind of hilarous to listen to: “Yaw hahwt filled with dahwk despayah, and I’d nevah nevah know the flame was theyah…we flung wide ahw prison dahws…” (The actual lyrics: “Your heart filled with dark despair, and I’d never never know the flame was there…we flung wide our prison doors…”) Sometimes I remember to be self-conscious about my neighbors hearing me belt showtunes in the middle of the day, but lately I’ve caught some of them singing at the tops of their lungs, too, out in the street! One of them apologized when I passed him, and I said, “Do not apologize! Sing it!!!”
Watching television. At the end of each day since the pandemic started, I’ve needed to escape into television. I mean, I’ve always watched television. I grew up on too much of it. We were told it was bad for you and you should watch less of it. But in the past fifteen months, it’s felt necessary in away it never did before. We’ve binged pretty much everything there is to binge that isn’t terrifying, and it has been really helpful, through a dark time. Last night we streamed In the Heights and really ejoyed it. I’d love nothing more than for life on my block to become a living musical, like Washington Heights is in that movie. Preferably this would happen after my deadline, so that I’d have the time to fully take part.
Writing this newsletter. It takes time and thought, but it keeps the old machine oiled, and makes me feel less lonely. Thanks for reading it!
New installment of Personal Space: The Memoir Show, my interview series on LitHub’s Virtual book Channel! This time I got to speak with wonderful writer Anjali Enjeti about her excellent new essay collection, Southbound: Essays on Identity, Inheritance, and Social Change.