S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate Plus membership. Welcome back to working, I’m your host.
S2: June Thomas and I’m your other host, Isaac Butler,
S3: and I’m your third host, Karen Hon.
S1: That’s right. All three of us are back yet again to discuss our creative New Year’s resolutions for 2020, to which bad habits will we try to break? Which projects will we make sure to complete?
S2: Yes. And after we discuss our resolutions for 2022, we will look back on our resolutions from last year and share whether we followed through. Listeners may remember that we had a lot of goals last year, and so did our other co-host at the time, The Great Rumaan Alam.
S1: That’s right, and we’ll actually get to hear from Rumaan later in the episode. I spoke with him recently and grilled him about his resolutions from last year, so people should definitely stay tuned for that.
S3: I’m very interested to see how you all did, as well as what you’re going into the thick of a pandemic resolutions where, oh,
S1: all right, let’s get started. I was a little triggered there by reminding where we were at this time. OK, let’s get started for 2020, too. Karen, do you want to begin?
S3: Yeah. So one of the things that I would like to do in 2022 is make a little more time to get used to using my tablet and doing art in general. Last year, my partner got me a very, very lovely gift of a Wacom tablet. I don’t know if I’m pronouncing that right, but art has you know what I’m talking about, but I just haven’t really made the time to use it because I’ve had so many other things that aren’t drawing related at all. I’ve always really loved drawing. I was a great idea as a kid, honestly, and took like classes and stuff. But as an adult, just haven’t really had the time to commit to it. And I’ve always wanted one of these Wacom tablets and now I have one. But it’s just spent the time that I’ve possessed it, just gathering dust, so hopefully I will get to use it a little bit more.
S2: Yeah, I think this is a great resolution, Karen, in part because it hopefully means that we will get to see the results of some of these at some point. Yeah, forward to seeing what you come up with. I mean, I guess my big advice here is just to schedule the time to do it overtly, like put it in your ical or whatever, set a reminder. Be like this or this is the hour of the day every day that I do it or that that might be too much. Maybe it’s like nine a.m. Every Monday. I start the week with an hour of drawing or just like just make it into a regular thing so that whether you feel inspired to or not, you just do it. And then eventually the inspiration will actually, I think, come as a result of that. I will also say I have a friend who’s a novelist who uses drawing as part of his creative process like to kind of whether it’s to draw like a scheme from the novel to just kind of figure out how it’s staged. Or sometimes he just draws weird shapes because he’s like this. He needs to feel like this Pentagon, you know? And so maybe there’s ways to, you know, even though you’re writing nonfiction, but you’re also writing scripts, you know, to to involve it in that.
S3: Yeah, nonfiction is not what I see my future.
S2: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. But you know what I mean? But I’m just saying like, maybe there’s a way to to incorporate it in a less left brained way into the rest of your creative processes.
S1: Yeah, that is really good advice. I also think it would be useful to think of a specific thing that you would create using the walking tablet. Like, what is the thing that you don’t have now that you could make
S3: illustrations of my tabletop campaigns party?
S2: There you go. That’s a
S1: perfect example. Yeah. See, I don’t even know what that means, but one day you can show me an illustration of it. You can show me a drawing of it. And that way, it’s not just I used to love drawing, you know, which is very vague. I mean, great, but not very specific, and it’s very hard to make time. It’s not like you’re just sitting around eating bonbons, you know? I would love to do that. Yeah, no. Me too. You already you have a very busy schedule, so it’s not like it’s easy to find time. But if it’s something very specific that you think, once I’ve learned this, I will have this that might kind of motivate you a bit more or motivate you in a more directed way.
S3: Yeah, for sure.
S2: So this one’s, I think, a little bit of a doozy, but I want to get better at asking people for things. I know you’re wondering what does that have to do with the creative process? But actually, the creative process often involves asking people for things, and I get a bit anxious, whether it’s sending out pitches or asking people for favors, or even sometimes like, I need to interview someone for a piece and it takes me a while to get up the nerve to do it. Or like, I’ll agonize over the email to an editor all day. And then the second I send it, I start refreshing my inbox, you know, until they write me back. And I assume that I have destroyed that relationship by asking for too much. I mean, I had to get over doing this when doing. The world only spins forward because Dan and I interviewed 250 people, and so we were just constantly asking people for things. But like, particularly in the new year with some new stuff going on that I. Can’t really talk about right now. You know, I’ll need to be reaching out to people for things, and it just is there any way to make it a more comfortable experience or do I just need to get over the discomfort and do it? I’m going to practice this by asking YouTube for something advice.
S3: Good job. What? I’m not being sarcastic now what I what I think the best advice that I can give is I feel like this is a problem that a lot of us have, at least if the tweets that I see are anything to go by, words like Why did it take me three hours to write this email? If if you are like us, one of the people that speaks to, I think, maybe the best thing you can do. I don’t necessarily know if it’ll get any easier, but if you set aside a specific time or like day to do it, like one of my creative friends recently, like tweeted out her resolution where she would structure her week x y z. And one of the things that she did was like Monday is just to send emails just to reach out to people, just to do all the contact and all the correspondence that they need to get done, which honestly feels like a good way to do it unless something’s obviously like, really urgent and can’t wait a week to get back to it. But if you set aside a specific time to do that, it’ll feel less disruptive to your overall flow or day. Maybe.
S2: That’s awesome. I hadn’t thought of that at all. That’s great.
S1: I’m having palpitations, just thinking about that. The idea of of like and I know that this is super practical advice. I know that you shouldn’t constantly interrupt your own flow by looking at email, by, you know, allowing yourself to be interrupted. But that just the thought of it causes so much anxiety in me. Like, I just I know I should do it a little less frequently, but waiting even a day seems impossible, only really engaging seriously with email one day a week. Just I have no words. Nevertheless, nevertheless, I can relate to this question because, for example, I would rather lick my own shoes, clean them, make a phone call to a complete stranger what I need.
S2: We talk in shoes that have been walking the streets of New York.
S1: You know, maybe, maybe they’ve had a little bit of a wipe over with with the Dow, OK, OK, you know, but yeah, I will. I will go to quite extensive lengths to avoid making a phone call if I have to call a stranger and ask them for something. Or to like effectively pitch myself for a job, but it’s necessary, I know that you would find an alternative if it weren’t necessary. So I guess I would say that you should just focus on the need rather than the action. It’s never going to be fun, but if you can just remind yourself why it’s necessary, both because of the cool project that it might get you attached to, or where it might take the project that you’re working on, but also so you can, you know, pay the bills, right?
S2: June, do you have a resolution for us?
S1: I do. This year, I want to have more conversations with people. I don’t know. So between remote working, the sort of one state of post-pandemic socializing and spending a lot of my weekends and free time staying indoors, working on my book, I feel like the range of people that I interact with has really contracted. And that’s bad in so many ways, like not just for my creative work, but also for me as a person. But I have to admit, I’m not altogether sure how to do this when again, we’re all working from home. COVID isn’t over. And I have a book to write. So any tips on staying safe, getting work done and still talking with strangers?
S2: June I am surprised at this resolution, given your aforementioned desire to lick your shoes clean rather than have to talk to people.
S1: But that’s on the telephone.
S2: Oh, got it. Got it. Got it. Got it. Yeah. Well, speaking of the telephone, you know, when I was a kid and would come up to New York City, I would watch all the weird channels on my grandparents TV, you know, and some of these were public access channels. And so there were always ads for these hotlines where adults could talk to each other. And I did not understand the subtext because I was a child, and I remember thinking very clearly that such a great idea. You could just call up this, well, 900 number and have a random conversation with someone. And I sort of wish that thing really existed, particularly
S3: if film and TV is anything to go by. That is a good percentage of what sex lies are actually used for. It’s just I need to talk to somebody.
S2: Yeah, I guess so. I guess. Right. So that you can stay there and be like, you know, that stain on the ceiling reminds me of my traumatic childhood.
S3: And some will be like, Yeah, definitely tell me more about that.
S2: So first of all, I wouldn’t discount that. You actually do talk to strangers for working. You know, whether it’s a guest who you don’t know before and those are really meaningful and enriching conversations and that that is one kind of outlet, but you are talking about less functional conversations or are you just talking to people? But I’m an extrovert. I have a child who is often at the playground with strangers, kids I teach. So this is a light lift for me. It just happens automatically. But I think for you, it might be a matter of trying to find small, low stakes ways of just getting out in the world and doing shit, not saying like take up a knitting class or whatever, but like just like going to get your tea in the middle of the day or going to the bookstore or, you know, whatever it is. And then through that, just you’ll you’ll find there are opportunities to have conversations with people through that. I also think, you know, if you’re starting to get to the point where, you know, once you’re boosted, you’re getting invited out to things, you know, start accepting those invitations. You meet people that you don’t know. Just you just have to get over it and do it if you want to do it, you have to do it. There’s there’s no shorthand for doing it. You just have to actually get out there.
S1: And actually that is the rub because I am busted and I’m a terrible snowflake. I have been for a million years. I say I’ll go to things I don’t show up. I just like being on my own. I am, by nature, a recluse. And so it I’m blaming the pandemic when really it’s me.
S2: But yet you’re also the person where, like, you went to Shakespeare in the park and Andre Holland happened to be sitting next to you and you learned his entire life story. So like, you’re also someone that people feel like they can talk to and that they want to talk to. You’re a very charming person, so I think you should just go out there and do that.
S3: Are you guys like friends now?
S1: I wish it was actually. It was actually Hamlet. It was the Ruth Negga hamlet, and we literally spent one of the intermissions yakking.
S3: You should have just gotten his number just to chat.
S1: So, Andre, you want to call my 900 number, except it’s a three for seven number.
S2: Well, yeah, I just think, you know, you’re someone who’s actually like a wonderful conversationalist who people talk to. And so if you just put yourself in the get over it and put yourself in situations where that will happen, it will it will happen.
S3: It’s true. I’m obsessed with June, and we’ve only met in real life once. So that’s that’s your power. Yeah. I mean, I guess the advice that I would give is what Isaac was saying. You don’t have to do anything this big, like my advice falls into that category with like some kind of hobby, like, for instance, like a group of my friends and I are avid succession fans and one of my friends will host gatherings like at his house so that we can all go and watch and experience it together and then like chat after the show. We are all vaccinated and we’re all being safe. But like, that’s a good way to meet new people, friends, because like the first time that I went, the only person that I knew, like was the friend who was hosting the party. And then like, I met a lot of people there who you already share a common interest. You already have a friend in common also, and you can talk to them about it. I guess the flip side of the coin as far as advice goes, is if you are more introverted, if you have a partner who is more extroverted than going along with them as often, I think something that works a lot like my partner is definitely more introverted than I am and like less willing to leave the house and meet new people. But like because I think I’m a little more active and like going out, he still has managed to make a lot more new friends and meet a lot more people. So that’s those are my two advice coins for you.
S1: Thank you. All right, let’s take a quick break, and we’ll be right back with more creative New Year’s resolutions. And we’re back, I believe it’s Karen’s turn to hit us with a second New Year’s resolution. Karen, what do you have for us?
S3: A very silly and shallow NIRSAL solution, but I think also needs a resolution that tends to pop up a lot, at least if the statistics on gym memberships are to be believed. But I want to lose my pandemic weight. I’ve gained a redacted number of pounds since the pandemic started, as I think a lot of us did, and I would like to get rid of it.
S2: So I will say I actually kind of did this fairly successfully. Although I, you know, I’ve started gaining some of the back in the winter is coming in, so I’m sure that will continue. But I actually think it’ll be easier than you think to do this because of your your youthful metabolism. Like you would be surprised how like a few dietary changes and know the usual stuff like more vegetables, smaller portions, fewer desserts will probably add up pretty fast, particularly since I know that your you exercise as well. I think I could see an exercise bike desk thing in.
S3: Well, that’s my partners.
S2: So yeah, but but I do think that, you know, all that stuff aside, the the actual secret is to choose reasonable goals and habits that you can actually stick with and accomplish. And like, you can ratchet them up from there if you want to. But if you start with the high goal and then don’t meet it, at least if you’re wired anyway, like me, you’ll be like, Well, I guess it’s a doomed in Denver and then you’ll never, you’ll never you’ll never like, actually start doing it. Whereas if you start out with a reasonable thing of like, I’m a big one for me when I started was, you know, where we were like, have a glass of wine with dinner or whatever, and you’re like, that actually adds up to 10 glasses of wine over the course of the week. So I’m actually just only the
S3: seven days in a week I say,
S2: Yeah, but you have a couple. There’s a couple of nights we have more than one
S1: thing, so you got to finish the bottle, right?
S2: So then it’s like, Well, what if I just like only drank one week on Friday and Saturday nights, you know, like that immediately limited my alcohol because, you know, it’s a lot of little things like that will add up so long as you keep the goals reasonable and things you can actually stick to and enjoy.
S1: OK, this is where I’m going to be an absolute Debbie Downer. And I mean, absolutely no position to give advice on this topic. But I guess my only note would be to ask yourself why you want to do this. I know that there are all kinds of very, very, very good reasons for the sake of your joints, for your heart, for your general health. But there’s so much policing of bodies, especially of young women’s bodies. And, you know, we’re not supposed to be the same way. But that said, Isaac’s advice is excellent advice.
S3: I don’t think it’s a Debbie Downer note at all because I do think it should be stressed that even if you did gain weight during the pandemic, it’s not a bad thing. It’s what your body wants to do. And it’s not like you have to be a certain way in order to be healthy or anything like that or productive or creative. Yeah, exactly. This this has nothing to do with creativity at all. But yeah, for me, it’s definitely partially like I just there were a few months where I just wasn’t moving at all. I wasn’t leaving the house, especially because of the state of things in New York and where it’s like, I just want to start to get more active again, be a little more healthy and also make sure that all the clothes that I currently own fit me so that I don’t have to buy all new clothes. I hear that money really loud and clear.
S2: That was that was the big one for me. I mean, like, it’s like a third vanity, a third not wanting to buy new clothes and a third. I actually do have high cholesterol, so it was like it was like, you know, for me, it was like, like those things. But yeah, no, I completely agree with you, Jane. All right. I guess it’s time for my second resolution, this one. We’re going to have a hard time tracking this when it comes to next year’s retrospective episode, but. I want to be more open minded now. It is not that I think I’m all that close minded. I actually enjoy like a broad variety of art and subgenres and artists and, you know, things. But I do think as a critic and artist, open mindedness is something that you have to work at to maintain, especially as you get older and you sort of get more confident that you know what you do and don’t like in advance. And it’s really hard as both a critic and artist to remain both rigorous and open minded at the same time to explore cultural ideas and works of art. You might even be a little bit resistant to at first in order to see. Not exactly if you can force yourself to like them. So much is like you can learn from them and understand them and why people find value in them. You know, I think about something like our colleague Carl Wilson’s book about Celine Dion and all the work he did there. I’m not going to do all that work for every piece of art I’m skeptical of. But like, you know, I just want to know if you all what you all do to do that, how do you maintain an open mind or even broaden it a little bit as the as you get older?
S3: Weirdly, I think this is the exact opposite of what most people feel about social media. But I do feel like having access to the immediate thoughts of a lot of my peers in my field has helped me kind of maintain a healthy distance from things like that. One of the Big To-Do is on Twitter on film Twitter, quote unquote. The other day was like Licorice Pizza is a bad movie because it portrays a relationship between an underage person and like someone who is of age. And I was like, If that’s the only thing that you’re taking away from this movie, you are not watching it correctly, you know what I mean? Like, there’s so much more that a work of art has to offer than, like a single thing that you might find problematic in real life. And it’s also the issue of like, the fact that something happens in a movie doesn’t mean that the filmmaker endorses it like the like. The people who made The Lion King aren’t like, you should kill your brother and take power. Like, that’s not the what the lesson that people are trying to tell. And I think weirdly like seeing these very ungenerous and close minded arguments play out makes me feel more aware of needing to be or trying to broaden the way that I think about everything else that I encounter because it’s like I never want to be on that side of an argument. I never want to be the person who’s saying, like, I who’s who’s not seeing the forest for the trees, you know,
S1: I have to tell you, I’m being open minded is not my natural state. I do have to push myself and regularly ask myself if I’ve really considered the alternatives to a particular situation in the context of art. I will make an effort to do something that just isn’t in my usual wheelhouse, and I have to be very careful here because I know these art forms I’m about to mention are ones that you’re very fond of an expert in. But like anime and video games, I’ve basically never been part of my cultural diet. It’s not that I don’t like them. I really don’t know anything about them. I haven’t had much exposure.
S3: June, if you tell me about the kinds of things that you like, I will tell you which enemies you should be able to see.
S1: There we go. So it’s not like, but that’s a good point. Like, if I open myself to animate, it’s not. I’m not for swearing, never to watch live action again and or devote. I’m not going to devote every minute to finishing a game if you all suggest a video game for me. So it’s like, I want to be very, you know, you have to kind of keep it reasonable. But there’s also absolutely no excuse for me to be totally ignorant of these things. So like to answer your question specifically, is it when you have a minute pop to the library and open, for example, open up a book of experimental poetry? You might like it. You might not, but there’s only one way to find out. And in that case, at least the cost is there’s very little right.
S2: That is a great point, but also carrying on June’s behalf. What is the anime you should watch if you love cozy mysteries?
S3: Oh, that’s such a good one. Let me think about this, and I’ll get back to you.
S2: All right, great. Maybe we could do a working overtime on getting June and oh
S3: my god, I would love that. Just an anime anime. What if we just repurpose working overtime here? Is there anybody episode? Here’s our Dante episode.
S1: Here’s all about anime by episode four. It’ll be all about anime. Yeah, yeah.
S2: Well, this last episode of My Heat Metal is the best spell in five. All right, June, what’s your next resolution?
S1: All right. I am absolutely determined to meet the deadline for my book, which is in early 2023. For the moment at least, it’s way off in the future, but I feel like I could use some advice to help me do that. Isaac and Karen, I know you are both incredibly disciplined, creative people. What are some things that I should do or what should I not do so that I can stick to the deadline? I mean, the writers I know who have blown their deadlines. They didn’t do it because. As their, you know, puny weaklings. It was because, yes, they did. I mean, it might be, I’m joking, but I’m joking. But is it happened because they wanted to write like the very best book they could and they wanted to keep working on it until they felt they’d gotten there like it was kind of from a good place. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to blow the deadline. So help. What can I do?
S2: Well, I blew my deadline, so maybe taking advice from me? No, I mean, in my defense, the pandemic started three months before the book was due. But, you know, I probably would have blown it by a couple months anyway. I just needed more of an extension, which is actually my segue to saying there really is no shame in blowing that deadline and needing an extension. You don’t want it to go on forever because you’ll reach a point where you’re in violation of your contract. ED might leave it. They might want the events back. I mean, bad things can happen as a result. But if you need a couple of extra months to finish it, you should not be afraid to ask for that. Many writers get I feel like most writers I actually know of get extensions at some point on their deadline. And as long as you have something that you can show them, it’s usually a possible thing, so you should not have shame about that. Now what I would say, though, in terms of the long marathon of writing a book is, you know, you want to stay immersed in it so that your unconscious, you know, to get back to something we were talking about last week. You want to stay immersed in it’s that your unconscious can do a lot of work for you. And what that actually means, I think in this connects to something Jonathan Lethem said in our interview on the show is you want to work on it at least a little bit every day, which does not mean you are spending a four hour writing day on your weekends, every day or whatever it might mean. You write one sentence or you spend one hour thinking about it or your leisure reading is actually something related to the book and research, but you just want to not eject yourself from the stream of the book that you are immersed in because it’s going to create difficulty getting back into it. And so you will be more. You should take breaks. You’ll be more productive if you take breaks, but you want to at least touch the universe of the book every day. And that, I think, will really pay off. Mm-Hmm.
S3: I agree with the advice about like taking breaks, and I also feel like some of the advice that we’ve talked about in recent episodes about sort of being able to split up a bigger project is one of the most useful things about a book. For instance, like when I started working on mine, it felt really overwhelming until like it got divided into chapters and they had like chapter deadlines where it’s like it’s smaller, it feels more achievable and easier. And I guess the only other tip specifically with regards to getting a project like a book done on time or at least in a way that will make you feel guilty about it, is just developing like a good relationship with your editor, like being able to talk to them about what you’re doing where you are and not being too afraid to ask for an extension because it’s I don’t think that it’s too hard and fast, especially when it’s in such nascent stages, and it’s not too much of a stretch to be like I need like X amount more time. But yeah, it’s so exciting. I’m so excited to read your book June. I know, I know.
S2: I can’t wait for it. I can’t wait for it. And you know, the thing is like, I’m guessing you don’t have chapter deadlines in your in your contract and schedule, so you have to kind of invent them. You know, for me, when I was doing the part one of the book it was that I was going to write a chapter every month. And so I would do the research for that chapter. I mean, I have done a bunch of research already, but the specific research for that chapter for two weeks, I would outline it for a thought. For three weeks, I would outline up for three days and then I would write it for four days or whatever it was. It just having that, you don’t want to get to the point where you wake up in the morning are like, I wonder what I need to do for the book today. You actually want to wake up the morning and be like, I know what I need to do for the book today. And it is this.
S3: Yeah, yeah, I will say, like my chapter, deadlines were also not part of my contract, but were something that my editor and I worked on and agreed on. So, yeah.
S1: Let’s take another quick break, and when we come back, we’ll talk about our resolutions from last year and share whether we followed through on them. So stick around for that.
S3: Hi, listeners, this is a quick reminder that we always want to hear from you. Is there a piece of creative advice that you’d like to share with us? Or maybe you could use some creative advice from us? We’d be happy to help. Either way, you can write to us at working at Slate.com. Or even better. Give us a call and leave a message at three 00 four nine three three work. That’s three of four nine three three nine six seven five. And if you’re enjoying this episode, don’t forget to subscribe to working wherever you get your podcasts.
S1: And we’re back, and it’s time to review our New Year’s resolutions from last year. Isaac, do you remember what yours were?
S2: I do. In fact, I had three, because that’s how the episode was structured in the script. The first was to do more non useful writing, you know, free writing, writing purely for fun writing in response to exercise prompts, that kind of thing. The second one was to take in more culture in translation. And the third was to be less extremely online. I did okay on the first one. For a while there was like a six week period between when I handed in the first big rewrite of the book and got edits from my editor. And during that time I had a daily ritual of free writing first thing in the morning when I sat down at my desk and that lasted for a few weeks and was good. But then honestly, things got so busy after that that it just became impossible to maintain. And I feel like I’ve been going like 100 miles per hour since June, and I just I just don’t have time to do that. You know, I did a really great job with the culture in translation. The year before I had read maybe one book in translation and seen, you know, some subtitled movies, but not that many, in part because book research required me to watch dozens of American films, you know? But this past year, you know, I tallied it up. I looked at my spreadsheet and I think it ran around 20 books in translation. I watched a lot more films that were subtitled them. And so that was good. And the the third one was to be less extremely online, which frankly was a mistake for me to even attempt. I have a lot of friends I primarily interact with online, you know, it’s like actually an important social world for me. And with the book about to come out, I need to be online a lot or to promote this podcast or whatever. But what the resolution invited me to do that was helpful was to be more intentional about the amount of time I spent online and about why I was there and what I was doing, rather than just to kind of always be on Twitter.
S1: Yeah, I mean, I know exactly why you came up with that last resolution, but it strikes me as something that was particularly ill timed during the pandemic. But whatever whatever we were in this time last year, whatever phase that was because we’re, you know, we are still even know less able to be in person with friends. And if you know, cutting off one avenue of friendship, even if it’s, you know, tweeting silly things to each other. Well, it just doesn’t seem like a good thing to do right now. But having more intention, that’s definitely good.
S2: Absolutely, absolutely. So what about you, June? How did your resolutions go?
S1: So last year I said I would one make art every day to do something with the research I’d half heartedly. I don’t why I use that word, because that’s a very difficult word to say, been pursuing for years and three that I’d read more. And I did, surprisingly, at least to me, pretty well, though that’s mostly because of the middle item. I finally put together a book proposal and it sold. So since July? Thank you. I’ve been working on my book, but I’d kind of been semi seriously pursuing it since October 2020 or so. So that means I’ve been reading more. Yes, mostly for research, but I also Isaac took to heart some of the advice you gave me, and I’ve also been reading and listening for fun. And after several people told me about it, I finally tried the Libbey, which is the app that makes it incredibly easy to borrow audiobooks from your local library. You can also buy our ebooks. And I’ve listened to some things that are broadly related to my topic, but also to lots and lots of stuff with no connection whatsoever. And that has been a really great like mental palate cleanser as well as, you know, educational and entertaining. But all of this means that I pretty much stopped making art every day, though it’s December. So I’ve been doing December dailies of the kind inspired by job of the YouTube channel and lots of other social media platforms, jobs, journals. And that has been a nice thing to do for a kind of relatively short period, and I don’t don’t spend too much time on it. I just do a little collage or a little writing every night, and that’s kind of put me back in that like creative. That’s awesome. Creative moment.
S2: That’s great.
S3: That’s great. I want to see some of your collages.
S1: Well, careful what you ask for. OK, now maybe you sound like a threat. Yeah.
S2: Great collage. You have you do piteous something.
S1: If something happened to Karen, you weren’t part of our show last year, sadly. But did you have any general New Year’s resolutions and are you a maker of New Year’s resolutions?
S3: I’m actually typically not really a New Year’s resolution person. Not for any. Particular anti-war resolution in principle is just I just tend not to do it, but in my defense, maybe I can excuse myself by saying that there was a major project that I was working on, which is my book, which admittedly is not done yet. But the bulk of it has been written, so maybe I can count that as having been my resolution to work on that giant project.
S2: Yeah, I think we can count that as your New Year’s resolution. You’ve done so much work on that and you’ve made this huge, you know, life change of moving to L.A.. That’s true. The work you want to do and you know, like, I just think that’s I’m so happy for all the stuff that you’ve done this year.
S3: Well, thank you. That’s very kind of you.
S2: So now we have a little bit of a treat for longtime listeners. So last year, when we did our New Year’s resolution episode, our third host was Rumaan Alam, and he listed some of his New Year’s resolutions. And so we dispatched our own June Thomas to mercilessly grill Rumaan about his New Year’s resolutions and how he did on meeting them June. Why don’t you tee this up?
S1: Rumaan and I had a Zoom call earlier this week and I asked him about those resolutions. We started with how we’d done on his first, which was improving his discovery mechanism so that he would be more familiar with all the exotic TV shows that are that people were talking about and actually watch some of them.
S4: So here it is, a year on, and I still feel completely left out of the larger cultural conversation, I think succession is probably the great example of the moment. It’s the most salient example where I just people talk about succession and it’s as though they’re talking about a religion that I’ve never heard of. I have no idea what anyone is talking about. But I guess maybe if you if I’m going to selfishly choose to think of it this way and you can go with me, if you will. Maybe the exercise of making these resolutions is to learn something about yourself. And I think I have learned something about my relationship to television specifically, which is that I like television that’s comforting and sort of numbing, and it doesn’t have to require any sort of deeper intellectual engagement, which is why I’ve spent the last year watching the British Baking Show with my husband and really nothing else. I don’t think I’ve discovered anything. And I think I bring the bulk of my sort of inquiry into books, which is where it’s been my whole life. And this year was a great reading year for me. I did fall short of my. I had this sort of like again, like with the optimism of the end of 2020, I was like, Oh, I’ll read a hundred books next year, and I think I read about anyone. There’s still a
S1: month as we record this, you know? Well, you know, that’s true.
S4: I still there are still like three weeks left in the year. I could read 19 novels in three weeks. But I think what I’ve learned is that that’s not, you know, maybe I’m set in my ways and I’m just trying to justify it. But maybe that’s OK. Maybe this is just what I care about that that discovery is most pertinent to me when I’m talking about books or when I’m thinking about visual art and television, you know, who cares? Okay, music, I was a little better about music, but you know, again, I think also this is a broken, weird cultural times that we can’t go to see a concert or a show or even wander into a museum really in the way we did once before. So that’s my progress report there.
S1: All right. What about your second one, which was that you were going to, I believe actually, you said, sort of changed the relationship with your eye. You were going to learn to draw. How did that go?
S4: Yes. Yes, it did not pan out. It did not go well. I am willing to accept the, you know, the disappointed frown that you should give because you had such good ideas about watching YouTube and learning how to draw and that that has been really liberating for you. And you know, I actually think you were probably more influential in that particular resolution than I might have even said when we recorded, because I know you’d be someone who’s very creatively engaged in keeping scrapbooks or journals or drawing, and I admire that I do, and I don’t. I still don’t have that relationship to the eye that I wish I did. And maybe, maybe I don’t know. Maybe it’s like old dog new tricks. I don’t know. I do, actually. I do think of the hand as being a kind of important component there, and I have noted that over the past couple of years, and this might have informed that resolution to that. I’ve been very interested in writing longhand using a pencil, drafting notes, drafting ideas in a notebook has become a really important part of the way that I write fiction. So maybe that’s related. I do still wish I could draw. It seems like such an incredible party trick to me to be able to draw something.
S1: OK, your final resolution Rumaan. You said you were going to adopt a system to manage all the projects you were balancing. And of course, that’s another way of saying start a bullet journal. Did you start a bullet journal Rumaan?
S4: I am very pleased to report that I did, and I would show it to you except for holding my microphone up right now. I bought a very handsome forest green leather notebook ruled paper, and I simply started writing down everything I had to do using that code that my husband husband actually does. And he showed me like, how you move things forward to the next page and all of that stuff migrates, you know? And it is. It has been great. It has been a godsend. It has really helped keep me organized. It has really helped me. You know, I think a lot of us have this experience with the modern life where you might catch an hour. You might say, I have an hour and an expected hour. Somebody didn’t show up for coffee or, you know, you’re waiting on home for the cable guy or whatever it is and you’re like, What? What, what am I supposed to be doing right now? And when I have that notebook on hand, it answers me. It says you’re supposed to be paying for the dental insurance, you’re supposed to be calling this person. You’re supposed to be doing this boring thing that you have been putting off for months and months and months. And there is something deeply satisfying about just ticking that right off of your. List. Yeah, and it really actually has helped me in another way. I think that’s sort of like my my my job now principally is this amorphous, creative task of writing a novel and having the order in the rest of my life to make sure that I’ve bought Christmas presents or answer those emails or, you know, dealt with. Whatever niggling things we all have to do in life allows me a different kind of liberty when I sort of sink into the rule less lawless place that is a fictional project.
S2: You know, I love that he repurposed the things that were less than successful as a way of kind of like freeing himself. It was still a voyage of self-discovery. I think that’s a great way to look at it so that you don’t beat yourself up too much about things like something silly, like a New Year’s resolution. And I’m so happy sort of bullet journaling. I feel inspired by I’m never going to do that. I don’t.
S3: I also feel like one out of three is not bad.
S1: Yeah, truly,
S2: truly, totally. Well, we hope that you have enjoyed the show, and if you have, please remember to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts that way. You will never miss an episode.
S3: And please consider subscribing to Slate Plus. It’s only $1 for the first month and you’ll get ad free podcast listening for access to all the articles on Slate.com and exclusive members only segments on many slate podcasts, including working. To learn more go to Slate.com Slash Working Plus
S1: thank you to our fabulous producer Cameron Drewes. We’ll be back next week with Karen’s conversation with fashion designer Jasmine Chung. Until then, get back to work.