I hadn’t planned on writing another newsletter for summer, but the reaction to my last missive inspired me to pen another post. The May/June essay was by far the most widely read thing I’ve written in a long time. (I tried to contact everyone who got in touch. If I missed you, know that I’m deeply thankful for your support.)
The big news is that I finished Book 3, the still nameless final installment of the Dark Horse Trilogy. The two-hundred-plus-pages are sitting in an evil pile on my dining room table staring at me, while I catch up on other tasks before going back and creating a second draft of the manuscript. I’m avoiding the book, if only for a little while, to gain some distance before I dive in and start editing.
Over the years I’ve been asked repeatedly “why do you write?” I already have a perfectly good “day job.” I’ve also been asked, “Do you sleep? Watch TV?” The answer to both questions is yes, a little. But writing is my priority. I started writing fiction out of a sense of self-preservation. When we co-founded our company twenty-two years ago, Jessica Berg and I could count on one hand the number of women who worked in public affairs. Although we’ve been lucky and had a few wonderful male supporters and mentors, the stress of being a trailblazer and just the general conditions of working in politics and crisis communications is a lot to manage. I transitioned to public affairs from the journalism world, where editors routinely smoked and drank themselves into an early grave thanks to the stress of making deadlines. If you go back two or three decades and look at the obituaries for Associated Press (AP) editors, few of them made it to 65 years old. All of the cigarettes and three scotch lunches caught up with them. Political consultants are not far behind, drinking their way through one bad press cycle to the next. I was beginning to see how easily I could follow that path, if I didn’t do something.
A decade and five novels later, writing has stayed a consistent focus for me, even if it has had to play second fiddle (or third) to work, marriage and children. It’s also been a lifesaver, offering me an opportunity to lose myself in my imagination and use creativity as a way to nurture myself through stressful times. Jeff Tweedy, a singer and songwriter known for his work with the band Wilco, as well as a published author, was recently a guest on a NYT podcast where he recommended “disappearing” as an important part of being creative. Tweedy says, “I think it’s kind of what everybody wants all the time, is to be free from worry, unburdened by a sense of self. That’s what I think of as disappearing.”
His description is exactly what is happening when I write. I disappear into the words, into the places, into the moment I’m trying to create. The abrupt changes the pandemic caused, along with the realization that I have a daughter leaving home in a year for college, has only reinforced my commitment to writing. Having something that is indisputably mine is a critical part of being happy. I’m not suggesting that everyone go out and become a writer, but I am suggesting that everyone find a passion and lean into it. Learn something new, carve out space to play music, garden, cook, hike, climb mountains or kayak in the Bay. The remedy for feeling adrift during the long years we walk this earth – the thing that will anchor you to this world – will be that passion. By looking for that special thing that connects you to this world – and helps you disappear – you are inching closer to becoming your true self, which is an amazing experience. If you’ve ever read my novels, you know that my lead characters undergo all kinds of near-death experiences and transformations that allow them to truly know themselves. Luckily that kind of truth is something we can all experience; we don’t have to just read about it in books (well-maybe minus the near-death experiences).
I hope you find something that becomes your passion, a pursuit that allows you to stop time and step off the merry-go-round of life for a few hours. I also hope you will follow me and my writing adventures by signing up for my newsletter and check out my novel 48 STATES, which I just published for the first time on Amazon’s Vella platform. If an entire book is too much of a commitment, maybe this chapter-by-chapter format will be just the thing for you! The story is separate from the DarkHorse Trilogy and imagines a very different trajectory for the United States.
Send me a note and let me know what you’re doing to keep busy this summer. I’ll be at my writing desk, getting Book 3 ready for publication by the end of the year.