Okay, yes, I’m ripping off that title despite never having read the book or seen the movie, but it’s just so apt, isn’t it? Haven’t we all wondered that about someone or another, how he or she seems to be able to do everything, and do it well? Haven’t we all thought, “I would punch a clown to be able to accomplish half of what (s)he has?” And you don’t need me to tell you (again) what a waste of time and mental energy this all is; you know it. You just can’t stop. Because The Comparison Game is like a slot machine at a casino – anyone and everyone can think they’re just in for a second, just playing it once, and then suddenly it’s been hours, days, and you’ve hit ups and downs and have no clue how much time you’ve lost but everything sure seems shiny in a soul-sucking way.
The thing is, I’m on the receiving end of this sort of question a lot. I’ve been asked how I do so many things, or how I’ve read so many books so far this year, etc. etc. And given that this happened to me a lot last week after posting my first monthly check-in post of the year, I decided that I’m going to sit down and actually explain it. In painstaking and brutally honest detail.
Because here’s the thing. “How she does it” is often a way you would never, ever do it. Circumstances might not allow it. Brain chemistry might not allow it. Financial situations might not allow it. And forget allowing – there are a billion things about the way I operate that should never be emulated by anyone, really.
But you’ve asked. And whether or not you were being rhetorical, here are the answers to this particular FAQ and all its subsets:
1) How I Read So Much:
- I will get this out there immediately – I do read quickly. I always have. It is not always a good thing. I do have the tendency to skim, especially when I’m not particularly compelled by the text. I realized very late into Little Women that I’d completely missed the part where Beth dies. So, this has its pros and its cons, but either way, it’s my reality.
More importantly though, is this: I have built-in, dedicated time for it. Not time I make because oh I’m so good and I make sure I put reading in my schedule. Built-in, dedicated time because that is how my life works. By which I mean:
- My commute involves an hourlong subway ride each way. Oftentimes I kinda just pass out on the morning ride, but sometimes I actually do get some reading in. On the way home, however, I always, always read (except for the rare times I write in my notebook). This is pretty much the only time I spend reading during the week, unless I can squeeze in a few chapters before bed. I read almost strictly NA and lighter contemp YA during this time, and it usually takes me 2-3 subway rides per book, which means I probably read two books per week on my commute.
- I observe Jewish Sabbath. This means that for 25 hours a week – from sundown on Friday to an hour after sundown on Saturday – I do not touch my computer, phone, or TV. I do not travel. I do not cook. I do not write, including by pen. Literally all I do is eat, sleep, and read. And not eBooks, because I do not touch my Kindle either. If it operates via electricity or battery, it is off limits. (The same does not apply to passive use, to anyone wondering right now if I sit in the dark the entire time. I do not.) If we do not have company, I can usually read one book Friday night and two on Saturday. If we do, then I read less, because pulling a book out at the table is frowned upon, apparently.
If I had a driving commute, or a walking commute, I could not do this. If I were not a Sabbath-observing Jew, I would not do this. My ability to read as much as I do is about 90% life-circumstantial, and they are not circumstances most people, including probably you, aim for.
2) How I Tweet So Much:
I was actually surprised to get this question, and when I told my husband that I’d been asked it more than once (by people who seemed impressed by my ability to fit it into my day, rather than mocking as they probably should’ve been), he laughed and said, “Did you explain that it’s sort of like breathing for you?”
I didn’t, because that sounds super sad, but it’s kind of the truth. Tweeting, for me, is not hard. It is not time-consuming. It is not something I spend time thinking about doing before I do it. (A lot of my tweets probably make that really clear, tbh.) It is a thing that, for me, is easy and fits easily into my day, because it is not taxing on my brain and I don’t have anxiety about it and I have an iPhone.
Here are things that are not easy for me: Fast drafting. Writing an articulate book review. Writing outside my genre. Reading outside my genre. Writing a good query letter on my first shot. Writing a synopsis. Taking crowded city buses. Learning how to drive. Dieting. Exercising. Using Instagram. Reaching out to potential mathematician-authors as required by my job. Stopping myself from blowing up at someone when (s)he’s upset me and I’m stressed out. Writing in a literary style. Making phone calls. Being in a car for more than fifteen minutes without worrying I’m going to get sick. Knowing I have to get in a car for more than fifteen minutes without worrying I’m going to get sick. Maintaining a respectable attention span for the duration of a movie. Reading the classics. Using a foreign language to speak to somebody fluent in said language. Asking for promotional help. Writing extroverted characters. Writing parents. Scheduling doctors’ appointments I need to. Running. Vlogging. Blog posts on writing advice.
WTF is my point?
Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, their things that come naturally and their things that don’t. You can waste so much time beating yourself up wondering why something comes so easily to someone else that doesn’t to you. Or you can maximize what does come easily to you, make the most of it, and realize that you probably naturally kick ass at something that person struggles with like crazy. As far as skills go, given the choice between effortlessly writing beautiful prose and effortlessly writing a funny tweet, I’d probably take the former.
I make the best out of the latter.
(And, here’s what I actually answered one of the times I was asked, because I think it also helps explain how my brain works: “The only way I can multitask is to constantly multitask, like take breaks from one thing by doing another. If I take an actual break, like to watch TV or something, I’m screwed. But twitter keeps me going in the same direction, if that makes sense. Ditto blogging.”)
And all other “How Do You…?” questions are going to have similar answers: I focus on what I can, not what I can’t. I prioritize the things that work for me, that fit into my day. That isn’t to say I don’t challenge myself. I’d hope everyone who’s read my books would back up that I work my ass off to write different perspectives and settings and stories. I leave my house at 7:30 AM and go to sleep around 1:00 AM and am reading, dayjobbing, writing, copy editing, and blogging for almost that entire time. But my life isn’t like everyone else’s. I do not have kids. I do have whatever “enough money” is. I do have a supportive husband who cooks and cleans on top of being a lawyer. I do have a multi-tasking brain. My nightly six-ish hours of sleep are uninterrupted.
- I do not factor exercising into my week, because I don’t do it.
- I don’t factor cleaning into my week, because I don’t do it.
- I only have to factor cooking into my week when my husband works too late to do it.
- I barely factor showering into my week, because I don’t care.
- I barely factor socializing into my week, because I say no to it 98% of the time, except on Sabbath.
- I do not factor in doctors’ appointments, because I do not make them, to the point where even when I considered therapy at a point this year, I ultimately decided not to go because I was too stressed out at the thought of adding a new obligation to my calendar.
- I do not factor in childcare or sick children or any of those things because I do not have kids.
- I’m also a pretty lousy daughter, sister, and aunt, if I’m being pretty honest.
- And I’ve lost all my friends who require phone calls as part of friendship maintenance, because anything that requires the combination of privacy and a wholly singular focus literally does not fit into my day and I cannot make it do so except on the rarest of occasions.
So, surprise – I’m not particularly hygienic, I am privileged, I’m overly reliant on my husband, and I’m kind of an asshole.
And all of that also contributes to how this “she” does it.