Hi Reader 👋 -
Happy Thursday. It is Fake Spring here in Chicagoland: that time of year when it is warm for several days in a row and then BAM. Snow hits. But it's a reminder that spring is, indeed, around the corner. In theory. Maybe. Or we'll see snow until April.
I know a lot of people struggling right now. Layoffs have been bad. The job market is brutal. Budget cuts everywhere; people are asked to do more with less.
I thought back to the early days of the pandemic, when I was stretched to my limit. Schools closed. Isolated. Exhausted all the time. I felt defeated because anything I did seemed to fall short of what I could do.
If this is you right now, give yourself permission to take a step back from what you "can do."
What you can do assumes that you're at your best. None of us are meant to exist under constant stressors.
Focus instead on what you must do. What's the bare minimum needed to get through the day?
And if you can carve out a small amount of time for something that makes you happy (even 15 minutes), do that. Writing, exercising, painting, whatever. Prioritize that "you time" over everything else.
I have dozens of filled journals from my high school and college years. Mostly filled with young adult angst, I'm sure.
I fell out of the journaling habit for a long time and deeply regret that now. When my oldest son was born in 2009, I picked up daily writing again in the form of a (now private) blog.
But writing in a blog is different than journaling. Even though my audience was small, I was always aware that someone could read my work. No matter how open I tried to be, it was still filtered.
A few years ago, I started writing (by hand! gasp!) in a Moleskine Daily Planner. My goal is to fill one page per day, briefly recapping the prior day.
Lately, I've been on the lookout for a similar writing product that incorporates AI. I'd love for AI to surface patterns in my life. But the product must have the ability to export my daily scribblings (since you never know when a company might flounder). I'm still on the hunt.
I love reading and it's also one of the hardest things for me to fit into my day.
I'm most productive in the morning, so I preserve that time for deep work. By the end of the day, I'm exhausted and would fall asleep after a few pages if I tried to read. And in the middle hours, I'm doing client work.
I used to listen to audiobooks as I drove my kids to/from day care. But now they're all in school and ride the bus. I still listen to audiobooks when I take walks outside, but it is currently winter.
But I found that I could commit to fifteen minutes in the morning. It's not enough time to really dive into a novel, so I usually read either poetry or short stories.
It's a little different than what I mentioned above — finding time for something you love — only because I know that reading will also make me a better writer. So, in a way, it's a professional commitment alongside being a personal one.
My fifteen minutes are blocked off on my calendar: that brief window before the entire household wakes up. I drink my coffee, write in my Moleskine notebook, and read.
- Why Everyone Feels Like They're Faking It | The New Yorker
- How to Become a Professional Writer | McSweeney's
- Failing Upwards | Me, Substack
That's it for this issue of Tinkering! See you again in two weeks.
Anna Burgess Yang
P.S. If you're enjoying this newsletter, please forward to a friend. Sharing is caring. Or you can buy me a coffee and fuel my writing habit.