Not to brag (okay, maybe a little), but someone recently told me they were impressed by my productivity. The thing is, this person is the lyricist/singer for a band that’s produced 15 studio albums, selling more than 25 million copies worldwide. So, a productive person, one could argue.
This led me to start thinking about what it means to be productive, and I realized productivity is a mindset rather than a function of time. It’s this mindset that allows me to get things done, namely maintaining two full-time jobs (writing and a 9-5er) while trying to remember my kids’ names. This mindset has a slogan: not enough time is a myth.
You will never hear me saying “I can’t do it because I don’t have enough time” unless you are asking me to help you move.
Sure, there are only 24 hours in a day, but that only matters if you choose to define your life as a series of days. But what if, rather than defining your life through time, you defined it though passion? Through the things that made you happy rather than the things you felt you had to do? What would that look like?
I have a formula for all of this, and it doesn’t factor in time as a variable at all. It’s this:
PASSION + COMMITMENT = HAPPINESS
I didn’t start writing until I was 33, learning the publishing industry mostly through Google. What do I do with a completed novel? Find an agent. How do I do that? Write query letters. And so on. After 70 or so rejections, I landed that agent. She shipped my book around to all the publishing houses, where it took about a year to be soundly rejected.
Two years earlier, I never would have conceived that I’d soon be writing a novel, landing an agent, and having my book rejected by all the big publishing houses. With that final rejection, it was time to define exactly what this life path was. Give it a name. Was this a whim, or was this a passion? Did writing make me happy?
Yes, I decided. It did.
So I found the time around my already busy life to write a second novel, which took a year to finish and another year to be rejected. As did book number three. Finally, roughly eight years after that day when I began my first story, I landed my first publishing deal with my fourth book. Today, eighteen years after I began writing, I’ve had six novels published and a seventh coming out in May. And yet, I still have that day job. I’ve still managed to co-parent two pretty cool kids. I still spend cherished quality time with my partner, Jessica. I still manage to log a minimum of 250 workouts a year.
It’s not a miracle. It’s not some secret time-management technique. I do all of those things because I have a passion for them all. I love writing, my job, my kids, Jessica, and exercise. When I make the things I’m passionate about priorities, the rest slips away.
When people say, “I don’t have the time,” it’s usually just an excuse. What they really mean is that they don’t want to prioritize something into their life because it’s less important to them than other things. Sure, sometimes there’s literally not enough time to do something even if you love it (like writing a book in a week), but if you really wanted to do something, like master the guitar, you could do it. It could take years, but that shouldn’t matter.
Which leads me to the second part of the equation. Commitment. You can be passionate all you want about something, but if you don’t throw yourself fully into something, the happiness you seek around that thing will never be fully realized. Many instances when I sit down to write, there is no muse guiding me. No sense of losing time as my fingers take control of my brain and the story magically unfolds. Lots of times writing sucks, feeling more like a low-level data-entry job than crafting a piece of creative fiction. But I have to sit in that chair every day, seven days a week, because for all the times it’s not fun, I know I’m an overall happier person for it.
Next time you actually use the phrase, “I don’t have the time,” catch yourself and think about what it is you really mean. Do you not have the time, or do you not have the passion? Asking yourself that simple question might reshape how you view what it means to be happy.
I’m beyond excited to announce I just signed a two-book deal with Sourcebooks/Poisoned Pen Press for thriller novels to come out in 2022 and 2023. Here’s the announcement from Publishers Marketplace:
And, of course, THE DEAD HUSBAND is coming out this May. Stay tuned in the coming months for pre-order giveaways and contests! In the meantime, this wonderful early review just came in…
What I’m Reading:
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, Ocean Vuong (Penguin Random House, 2019) – OK, so above I wrote that anything can be accomplished with the proper levels of passion and commitment. But that doesn’t mean we can all accomplish at the same level. Sit me in front of a laptop for the next four decades and I don’t think I could ever write sentences as consistently unique and sublime as what I read in this book. In Vuong’s debut novel (he’s also a critically acclaimed poet), a son in his late 20’s pens a letter to his illiterate mother, unearthing deep complexities about his family’s history in the process. But that brief description doesn’t do justice to the transformative reading experience of this book. I haven’t been so in awe of word choice, sentence structure, and metaphors since reading Cormac McCathy’s The Road. This is not a book to skim. This is a book to read with care and intention, to absorb every word, and to witness what singularly beautiful writing looks like.
Longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for Fiction, the Carnegie Medal in Fiction, the 2019 Aspen Words Literacy Prize, and the PEN/Hemingway Debut Novel Award. Shortlisted for the 2019 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize. Winner of the 2019 New England Book Award for Fiction.
What I’m Watching:
Ted Lasso, (Season One, Apple TV, 2020) – This is a show that has no right being any good. This is a show that you see flash by on your streaming service, you recognize Jason Sudeikis in the picture and remember he’s pretty funny, and you look over at your kids (both on their own phones) and say, “We’ll give it ten minutes, then turn it off if it blows.”
Tad Lasso surprised us, so much that we burned through the first season. The premise is lame: a fledgling American college football coach is hired to be the new coach of a struggling Premier League football club, though he doesn’t even know the rules of “soccer.” There’s a twisted logic to his hiring, which I won’t get into, but suffice it to say the plot is predictable in that the doofus, naïve American ends up winning the hearts and minds of all. So why is it good? Because this is much more of a character-driven series than it portends, the writing is sharply funny and idiosyncratic, and Sudeikis hits just the right note in his acting, playing more of a sage than a doofus. Ted Lasso doesn’t require much brain-power from its viewers, yet it does deliver a genuine feelgood experience, something I hadn’t realized I’d been missing until I watched.
Bits of The Dead Husband
Up until my book launch in May I’ll be sharing snippets of The Dead Husband in this space. This month’s passage:
But back to his love of the Packers. His team made it all the way to the conference championship this year, so he and I watched it alone (he doesn’t allow anyone else around for such occasions). For the first half of the game, his profanity abstinence was tested whenever the other team made a great play or scored. Still, what clearly was going to be FUCK! came out more like FAAAAA…. He held back, is what I’m saying.
But, my lord, that second half. Things got tense, and the damn burst. The f-bomb started flying all over the place and suddenly I didn’t even recognize this kid. Moreover, the cursing wasn’t just reserved for moments of despair, but joy as well. So there I stood, slack jawed in amazement when the Packers defense piled on Tom Brady and sacked him for a big loss, when my boy, my sweet little boy, the kid who is more gentle than a baby fawn napping in a dew-glazed meadow, jumps off the couch in an ecstatic blood-rage and screams, YEAHHHH!!! SUCK MY ASS, BRADY!
Kids say the darndest things.
Update From My Cat
That moment on the Zoom call when the needy little furball jumps from the floor to the top of my high-back office chair.
Meme of the Month, sent to me by a friend
In your experience, what’s the best place to dispose of a body? Assume 185 lbs, approx. 6 feet tall, rigor mortis set in while body in a “making a snow angel” position.
This is a question I wished I’d received, but sadly, didn’t. I like weird questions. Send me a weird question this month and the best one gets an answer in my next newsletter. Write me HERE.