Because my sister and I drove past an airport while driving from Philadelphia to the Maryland Coast and saw this airplane take off, and it seemed like a secret government thing and maybe the idea of an awesome novel or something. It’s a cargo airline by the way.
ashmolean museum – Google Search
Because on that same trip, my sister mentioned this museum in Oxford to me, and I really want to go. Just in case I can actually make it in the next ten years, this tab is open on my phone so I don’t forget about it.
Table 19 (2017) – IMDb
Because I was surprised that I hadn’t heard of this movie when I heard it about it the year it came out. And I can never think of movies to watch when I want to sit down and watch a movie. Still haven’t watched it 10 months later.
explorers movie – Google Search
Because remember that movie with those ridiculous aliens? It suddenly came to mind, and I want to watch it again if I can find it somewhere. When I watched it as a kid, I thought I’d be like those kids when I grew up.
cat’s cradle – google search.
Because at 30 I did not know what a cat’s cradle is. Seroiusly.
lightning and thunder song – google search.
Because I heard a song on the radio that made me feel pumped up, and I thought it would be a good soundtrack for writing so I don’t fall into self-loathing despair.
Is Peter Van Houten’s ‘Imperial Affliction’ a Real Book? – Bustle
Because, obviously, I was reading The Fault in Our Stars.
bonnie raitt songs – Google Search
Because I was in a bar in Tokyo where the sixty-year-old Japanese artist/bar owner was talking to another woman from San Francisco about how much they both loved Bonnie Raitt, and I wanted to make sure I’d listen to some of her songs. I still haven’t five months later.
toyota alphard – Google Search
Because have you ever heard of a Toyota Alphard? The Uber driver that picked us up from our AirBnB in Tokyo to go the train station was driving this bizarre-looking car that I had never heard of, and I felt like I had come across secret information I did not want to forgot. This tab is supposed to be an enlightened daily reminder of all the things I don’t know that exist in other countries.
anton chekhov – google search
Because he is one of the many classic writers I need to read, and this tab is my near-daily passive aggressive reminder of my failure as a sophisticated reader and worldly, educated person.
508 canal street – Google Search
Because while sitting on a Bolt Bus in lower Manhattan, I saw this sign at a stop light and caught a glimpse of some kind of history I wanted to look up. I immediately opened a tab and typed it in so I wouldn’t forget to look into it. I still haven’t read the search results, ten months later.
whisky gogo – Google Search
Because Whisky a Go Go is apparently a historic music spot in LA that I should check really out one day.
standing split – Google Search
Because I aspire to be able to do a standing split in 2018 and having this tab open will get me closer to that.
Bio of a literary agent
Because one day I’ll get around to querying my next book proposal, and what if this random person I came across is “the one.”
Because I pretend not to use email on my phone and refuse to download the app on principle, but really can’t go a day without checking email on my phone.
I met her this past summer when we were both on a panel about avoiding burnout in a mobile-connected world. I wanted to hear more about her thoughts on work-life balance, especially since she is a writer working on so many different projects. We met at Cafe Brazil in Culver City to chat over fresh passionfruit juice and herbal tea.
How did you identify your passions and follow your dreams?
Essentially, when I was in college, I was studying fashion merchandising in hopes of becoming the president of Nordstrom. That’s the trajectory I was on. That’s what I thought I wanted to do. About my second year in school, I realized that I hated my accounting and marketing classes, and I took a fashion writing class with the fashion editor of the LA Herald Examiner, back when we had 2 papers in this city. She was black, she was smart, she was funny, she dressed well… she was who I wanted to be.
I had always written, but I never thought of it is a field. She encouraged my writing and felt my work was viable. And she helped me get an internship at Women’s Wear Daily. That internship changed my life because they let their interns write.
I loved the work. I loved that I could tell people things and introduce them to things they didn’t know. I felt smart [laughs]. And it piqued my curiosity: I always want to know about things that are happening.
So that’s where my writing career began… When I got out of school, one of the first jobs I got was at a syndicated radio show that covered urban enternmaint news. That’s when I started covering junkets and going to the Oscars… I was in my 20s, and feeling very special, because there were few, if any, young black people, and no women. It was great. I got to tell people about the films and TV shows and books that were coming out. And I had won a couple of awards about reports that I had done about black voting and adoptions. I felt like I was accomplishing something and contributing to this world.
What does the term “work-life balance” mean to you?
I think it’s a funny term for me, because my work is my life. My brother often teases me and says, “Do you ever shut it down? Everything you look at is a story.” We’ll be having a conversation and I’ll be like, “That would make a really good story.”
I have a writing life. But I enjoy what I do. I love sitting down, fiddling with words, trying to find the best words and trying to find the right angle for a story. It’s who I am.
For me, balance is making sure I take myself out of the minutiae of the business part of that writing life, to make time for walking in the morning and getting a good night’s sleep, taking time off even if I’m not going anywhere, and being cognizant to spend time with my friends and family.
My writing life includes time for self-care: To do those things that I need to do to make the work better… I set those things in place, and I’m a very serious list person. I try to adhere to my lists and make time.
Janice and I met just before election, and she discussed wanting to make time to volunteer for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, which inspired me to ask her about how people being perpetually overworked affects communities and the country as a whole:
Do you feel that we’ve become as a nation overworked and overstressed, to a point that we don’t participate in our country, communities and politics like we should? Does that have a negative effect?
I don’t know if I can answer that. I think we prioritize what’s important to us. And for some, government and activisim is only important once every few years.
I grew up in an environment of service. The church I attended growing up was all about service. I serve on several boards, because I feel that is a part of what I do. Because it’s a priority for me. It’s not a priority for everybody else. And maybe if we made it a priority and a part of our lives, things could be different.
It’s about what we prioritize…. Find what works for you. Everybody doesn’t have to do the same thing. But there is something we all can do.
What do you wish you do differently in how you manage your day and time?
Facebook is my greatest time suck, and Netflix is as well. But I do put a timer on now. I set my alarm. I give myself whatever I feel I reasonably can and stick to the time I should stop.
I think I am good at balancing because I work for myself. I learned that distractions are detrimental to my bottom line.
What do you feel you don’t have enough time for, or wish you could tackle better?
Cleaning. I mean my house isn’t dirty, but my office needs to be reorganized. I don’t even work in my office that much anymore because it’s like, “I’ll come back to this later.”
And the other thing I wish I had more time for, which is both a product of their schedule and mine, is to spend more time with my nieces and nephews.
I remember, my neice told me, “You know, we didn’t go to the beach this year.”
That’s exactly what I thought! Because I was working on a rewrite. So I wish I had a schedule that was a bit more flexible to make it more conducive to hang out with them more.
Do you have advice for someone starting a new endeavor and grappling with issues of following their passions, doing meaningful work and making a difference, while managing their time to so they can find their “balance”?
1. Figure out who you want to be when you grow up.
I think one of the greatest thing I did in the past couple of years was to go to a goal-orienting work shop that the Journalism and Women Symposium put on. And I think beyond setting goals, it’s about getting a picture of what I want my life to look like. That includes my personal goals as much as my professional goals. I want to be the kind of person who is engaged with her community and friends and family. I want to be the kind of person who works passionately on her craft. It’s up to each person… Look at who you want to be in 5 years. Who do you want to be by the end of this year? What would you like your bio for the year to say about you, the things you have accomplished? The lives you have touched?
One of the exercises in setting goals is writing a bio. If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, what do I want my bio to have said, and what from that have I accomplished?
The short answer is: Figure out who you want to be, and start working towards that and what is required for that.
2. Embrace the Shifts
The one thing that I will add is to understand that work-life balance shifts. My work-life balance is very different today than it was last year, or 5 years ago. And if we recognize that that shift may happen when we get married, when we have children, or even if it’s just year-to-year when we get a new job, we should embrace the change, and be flexible with ourselves and with it, and work within the shift.