Taking Emily Freeman’s lead to share a handful of things I learned this month, from the (occasionally) significant to the (mostly) shallow.
1. We don’t need as much food as we think for Thanksgiving.
Every year we bring so much to our communal dinners, and there’s always so much left over. This year we deliberately made less—and there was still a lot left over. We’re noticing how abundance can be wonderful, but if creating it is unnecessary and time-consuming, then less is a welcome option.
2. Planning ahead actually works.
Last November when we put up the Christmas tree, we discovered a whole bunch of lights were burned out. That’s not unusual—in fact, it happens every year, and it’s exasperating. So last November, we set a reminder to check the lights on November 15 2018.
When November 15 rolled around, we did it. So this year when we put up the tree the day after Thanksgiving, we didn’t have any cranky grown-ups or impatient kids waiting for working lights so we could move on to the fun part, which is actually decorating the tree.
3. Sweat the small stuff.
Okay, maybe not sweat it, but this month I was reminded how much the details matter. I had an unlucky run of botched appointment times—I was hours early, or a little too late, or got the time zone or even day completely wrong. Mix-ups are bound to happen occasionally, as they will anytime humans are involved, but this month I learned that confirming (and reconfirming) dates, times, places, and details is a massive time-and energy-saver.
4. Some authors are truly multi-talented.
One of my favorite books of 2018 is Harry’s Trees, and I recently had the pleasure of chatting with author Jon Cohen on the podcast. Harry’s Trees is a whimsical, warm-hearted novel, so I was shocked when I discovered Jon also wrote the screenplay for the sci-fi thriller Minority Report.
(Listen to What Should I Read Next episode 160: Books that capture the magic of everyday life, wherever you get your podcasts or right here on the site.)
5. Outlining is exhausting.
When I was on book tour this fall, I paid attention to how many words I used throughout the day. I don’t know what my personal word budget is—although, as a woman, 20,000 would be average—but I do know that as an introvert, if I’m not careful I’ll reach a point in the day where I feel like I’ve used all mine up. Talking requires a specific kind of energy, and if I don’t monitor mine, I won’t have any left when talking is required.
Now that book tour is over, I assumed I’d now have plenty of words to go around. But I haven’t found that to be the case.
I couldn’t figure out why. But then a friend pointed out that whenever I talk about my current writing project, I mention how mentally demanding it is. I’m in the middle of drafting another book, and figuring out the structure is exhausting. I’m not speaking the words out loud, but apparently tinkering with them all day is still draining.
I would love to hear if this is an issue for other authors, especially the introverted ones. If you have any insider knowledge, please tell me in comments?
6. The Bail Project.
Perhaps this sounds naive, but sometimes the amount of good some money can do blows me away. I recently learned about the Bail Project, which is doing great things with a revolving lending fund to pay people’s bail, because, as they say, poverty is not a crime.
The Bail Project started in the Bronx and recently expanded to several more cities across the U.S., including mine. Read more about the Bail Project here.
7. Teen depression doesn’t look like you might expect.
I first learned this from reading Sue Klebold’s powerful book A Mother’s Reckoning, which focuses heavily on identifying and treating depression in children. I’ve been thinking about that book a lot this fall, in part because I attended an excellent presentation, based on Lisa D’Amour’s excellent book Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood, which also addressed the topic. And a real-life situation (not in my family) led to many conversations here at home about mental health and seeking help.
To those with teens in your life: read up, friends.
8. Lisa D’Amour has a new book coming out.
I adored Untangled—it’s one of those books I wish I could download into my brain—so I was thrilled to learn she has a new book on the way. It’s called Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls, and I can’t wait to read it when it comes out on February 12.
9. Bring in the thyme.
I’ve grown herbs outside for years, yet somehow it’s never occurred to me to bring them inside when the seasons change. This year I brought in my big herb pot before the first frost, and while several of the more tender summer herbs were already dead, I’ve so enjoyed having fresh parsley and thyme at the ready. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?
What did you learn in November?