What My First Book Taught Me About Writing Books

My writing career is unusual in that it started early. When I was 18, I wrote a book proposal for a non-fiction book, to explore the lives of overachieving girls and how many young women in high school and college are hyper-ambitious, at the expense of their physical and mental health. I landed a book deal with Simon and Schuster, and Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls, was published in March of 2009, when I was 20.

I learned so much during the process of writing the book and having it published.  One thing in particular that I learned is really serving me as I work on my new book, Tell the Story You Want to Live. Live the Story You Want to Tell.

In this book, I'm encouraging the reader to develop awareness of the story they're telling themselves, about themselves.  For me, I need to keep my stories to myself.  For virtually every section of this book, I have a personal anecdote that I could share: an experience that inspired my argument or pushed me to think about something in a new way.

I'm keeping these anecdotes in my brain box, because this book is not about me. It's nice when non-fiction authors offer enough of a look at themselves to give them credibility and likability as a narrator. But there's a fine line and a hard limit on how much personal sharing non-fiction writers can do before it's oversharing.

With this book, I'm going to err on the conservative side when it comes to writing about myself. After all, a book is forever. A print book is an extremely static medium.  

On the internet, you can share whatever you want. Personally, I am very candid over at my website Befriend Your Glowing OCD Brain, about my experience with OCD. In general, I'm candid on the internet. Because the internet is the Flubber of mediums; you can add to it and change it. Its survival relies on constant updating. And it's less formal.

The internet can be screenshotted, but a book is basically a stack of bound screenshots.  They're frozen in time.  So, I'll be choosing my words carefully this time around.

Tell the Story You Want to Live. Live the Story You Want to Tell.

I'm writing a new book. It's really thrilling. The working title is Tell Yourself the Story You Want to Live. Live the Story You Want to Tell.

I’ve been curious about this topic for years: how do the stories we tell ourselves, about ourselves, affect our behavior and ultimately how our lives unfold? Why do some people see themselves with unabashed confidence, whereas others with similar talents and traits feel like losers? How do small stories that we tell ourselves ("I don't eat Indian food" or "I'm not the kind of person who goes camping") ripple into other areas of our lives?

I've just finished writing the book proposal, and already, the research has been fascinating.

Here's my favorite nugget of insight so far:

Our brains are wired to mitigate uncertainty and create order in the world.  When something bad happens and you blame yourself, your brain thinks, “Oh, the world isn’t so uncertain. I caused this. This negative event wasn’t random; I did it. I suck.” Our brains reward us with a hit of dopamine for reducing the perceived level of uncertainty in the world.  It’s the same dopamine rush when you see you have new “Likes” on Facebook or Instagram

Even if you’re incorrect about whether the event was your fault, the reward center is triggered because the Mammalian brain loves control. 

If you find yourself repeating a negative story—or even clinging to it—it’s because your brain was wired to reward you for doing just that!

Stay tuned for more updates on the writing process and more of my favorite nuggets of research.

*My* Passion Project

One of my great passions in life is talking to people about what they're passionate about, and exploring how young professionals who don't know what they're passionate about can figure out what they're passionate about, and build careers around that passion.

I've spent almost a year on a quest trying to figure out what I want to do in the next phase of my career. I will always write.  I love writing, and I make a face when I talk about writing that prompts others to remark, "Wow, you really love doing it, don't you?"  When I'm writing and it's going well, I go into a state of flow. It's bliss.

Lately, I have felt called to be of service to others.  I have a rather unusual skill set/ body of knowledge and I am starting to do something with it. I have struggled in the past with a rather severe case of OCD, that I make daily effort to manage and take care of. In 2012, I had a period where I was simply incapacitated by OCD and anxiety.  Today, I'm happy, healthy, and high-functioning, and I want to share what I've learned.

I'll be blogging regularly at OCDCoaching.com. I'll be speaking at schools and colleges about OCD, and how everyone benefit from learning how to react to anxiety, fears, and self-defeating thought patterns in new and better ways. I am also offering coaching services to individuals with OCD one-on-one. 

I think the process of learning how to live your life when you have OCD is really, really interesting:

For example, say that you have OCD and you have a routine for when you leave the house that makes you feel comfortable (checking to make sure the space heater is off, the stove is off, the lights are off, the faucets are not running, etc). But when you're on the sidewalk outside your house, you freeze: you're not feeling confident about that space heater. It could still be on. 

Instead of going back inside after you've already left the house to double-check that you unplugged the space heater or blew out the candle, you shrug off the fear.  Instead, you say, "Okay, so I may have left the space heater on. I don't know.  My brain feels really tangled over the issue. Okay! I'm going to go about my day.  I feel super uncomfortable right now, but whatever. I don't really care."

A slightly silly illustration: you can treat your OCD like a pesky little nuisance, like a small purple monster or a raging toddler, that is going to follow you around sometimes. Since it's going to come along with you and potentially make a lot of noise, it's helpful to learn to talk to it: "Yes, I hear you. You have something really serious to say! And I'm sure that whatever you're worried about is a huge problem, like worst case scenario.* I encourage you to talk all you want, and get this out of your system. I'm going to keep going about my day."

*You don't have to fully believe this part, that you're fine with the worst case scenario happening. It would perhaps be terrible if the worst thing your OCD worried about, happened.  You probably have some evidence that 99-ish percent of the things you worry about don't happen.  But you're not reassuring yourself right now at this moment--that just makes the loop of worry worse. Instead, you tell yourself, with fingers crossed behind your back, that you don't care if the worst possible thing happens.


But sometimes something really amazing happens: when you accept that the worst possible thing could happen, the fear often fades. The fear seems less serious, because you took it seriously but didn't freak out about it. If you have the opportunity to see that what you worried about didn't occur, it's awesome: it's rewarding to see that you took a risk, and it paid off.  The whole fearful episode was just the error-and-danger detection center of your brain having a little electric storm.  No cause for concern.

If you do this over and over again, it can rewire your brain.

When you do this enough times--when you paradoxically accept your OCD fears, and see them to be just as they are, erroneous brain messages--it teaches the "fear-and-danger" center of your head to quiet down.  If you don't acknowledge or validate the OCD thoughts, they lessen in intensity and frequency.

Which isn't to say that doing this isn't hard.  IT'S SO HARD. You have to put systems in place to practice good self-care so you don't go insane from discomfort during the process. You learn to "just ride it out." Eventually, you get your life back.

I advocate a "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach to OCD. Personally, I am always going to have OCD. It fully sucks. But because I can't make my OCD "go away," I live with it, working to be as happy, as joyful, and as flexible as possible in the process.  When I'm anxious, I say, "Okay, I have OCD, and I feel super anxious right now." And then I get back to whatever it is that I want to be doing.

I want to help others recover from OCD, and to arrive at a place in their lives where their priorities, their interests, and their desires make up most of their thoughts.

This is an early version of the website.  I'm excited about the direction that I'm taking. My basic goal is to be helpful to as many other people with OCD as possible. Learn more about the "glowing" OCD brain.

The Teflon Mind

Over the weekend, I was mentioning to a friend that one of my strategies for managing anxiety, negative self-talk, and "What If?" thinking is, "Okay, so I'm having that thought…"

A thought can occur to me, I can acknowledge it, but I make an effort to not validate its content or have an emotional reaction to it.  Instead, I say to myself, "Okay, so I'm having that thought…" and I continue on with my day.  After a little while, you get pretty good at identifying what thoughts add value to your life, or require your attention, and which ones are just chatter or needless fear.

I have like ten things in my toolbox--ten phrases that make my day-to-day life easier--and this is probably #1.

I told my friend about "Okay, so I'm having that thought" and she managed to make it even better.

"I like the idea of the 'teflon mind.' You just let the thoughts roll off."

I'd heard versions of this before: specifically, letting your thoughts be like grains of rice in a rainstick, and making a conscious choice regarding which ones you focus on.

I like the "Teflon mind" even better. I like the idea of picturing unnecessary, even uncomfortable or frightening thoughts, as beads of oil in a Teflon pan, and letting them roll off without a trace.

It's not easy, of course.  But if anything makes rewiring your brain easier, it's having a good visual.

Modern Love

I attended a beautiful family wedding in Florida last weekend.  Two young people made vows on a hot April Saturday night with a setting sun as the backdrop.  It was Pinterest-perfect.

Naturally, that weekend my sister and I ended up discussing relationships and marriage.  Neither of us are at a point in our lives where we see getting married as something that will (or should) happen soon. Personally, I am still figuring out what kind of person matches me best and what I want in a partner.  Meanwhile, Allie has it figured out:

Allie: "I'll get married when Netflix becomes a person."

Me: "So basically, you want someone who knows what you want before you do and who doesn't care if you fall asleep while they're talking to you."

Allie: "Yes."

Me: "Well actually, you fell asleep while I was talking to you last night, and I didn't mind."

Know When You're Lucky

Joan Rivers was a hilarious, deeply gifted performer who broke barriers for women comedians. Much is being published about her life, work, and legacy.  

She also left another, smaller legacy, in the form of a monologue-like line, about knowing when you're lucky, during a guest appearance on an episode of Louie.  In an episode titled "Joan" (season 2, episode 4), Joan Rivers and Louis CK are doing guest performances at the same Trump casino in Atlantic City and Rivers gives Louie advice about the challenging life and career of a working comedian and why they do it because “it’s a calling.”

When I’m lucky, my brain recalls this monologue and I have an opportunity consider how lucky I am in that moment.

You know what's wrong with you guys? You don't know when you're lucky.  Appreciate where you are, for God's sake. It goes up, it goes down... Know when you're lucky!

"Know when you're lucky!"

"Know when you're lucky!"

Waste Time, Not Energy

“I believe in wasting time, not energy.”

This was the prime quote from, by far, the best conversation I ever overheard two people having on the subway.  It was between a pair of guys who boarded the 1 train near Columbia University, and as we rode the local train all the way downtown, I pondered how to put that very idea into practice.

To make a broad generalization, fast-paced, high-functioning people probably also tend to be overthinkers and they can be derailed by all that thinking. But they know that their minds are rich with great ideas and capable of a lot of really great, productive brainstorming... when the time is right. So how can they train themselves to waste time (if they see fit), but not their precious energy?

I have a few strategies in mind:

1. Keep the thoughts slow first thing in the morning.  If you get great ideas in the morning, for sure, write them down!  But like the lyrics to the lovely Jack Johnson song “Banana Pancakes,” wake up slow.

2. Is a problem or something that’s causing you to think immediate, as in, in front of you, or requiring action or strategy at this moment?  Alternatively, if you need to brainstorm on a problem or issue, do you have a pen and paper in your hand?  If not, thinking about it is probably tapping your energy reserves and not moving you closer to the solution.

3. Don’t talk to people who aren’t there.

(Doesn’t this one blow your mind?!  Alas, I can’t take credit for it.  My mom taught me this one, and I think she heard it from someone when she was in her early twenties)

4. Keep in mind that you are not your thoughts.  There is a fun, easy exercise in the book the Untethered Soul: Say “Hello!” in your head.  If you can hear that voice, then clearly that voice is not you.  Your internal monologue is simply a ceaselessly chattering roommate.  In an ideal world, we’d all train ourselves to learn to quiet our inner roommate (or at least teach them to only say nice, encouraging things).

5. Simply be aware that you can be capable of depleting your own energy levels.   That awareness alone might be enough if you want to create new habits of thinking (or rather, not thinking) so you can preserve your stores of energy for doing what you do best as you go about your day.

Growing as a Person

Today, while sitting in an independent coffee shop in my neighborhood, reading 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (no joke--blog post to come), I realized that I was wearing the "hipster outfit" that I'd worn as a joke, for dress-up, about a year earlier.  Black jeans, black boots, black turtleneck, pin-straight hair.  It's funny how we change and evolve.

Outpost Cafe in Brooklyn. An excellent little place to read, and an excellent little place to be a hipster, or just be yourself.

Outpost Cafe in Brooklyn. An excellent little place to read, and an excellent little place to be a hipster, or just be yourself.

Earlier this month, I announced that for me, April was the new January.

Then, April turned out to be intensely challenging.  Nothing exceptionally bad happened... but I had to summon my strength and manage my mood in some pretty major ways.  

But a friend helped spin it in a positive way for me.  A friend--the same friend--totally caught me off guard over negronis on a casual Friday night out by mentioning that he was divorced. (I had no idea! I always thought he was an unattainable Manhattan bachelor.)  

Why did you get divorced? I asked.  

He said, among scores of other reasons, because they "stopped growing as people."

April was really hard for me, but it was also the most growth-filled month of my life.  I have never done so much growing as a person.  And that little nugget of knowledge--that we can take a challenging situation and reframe it in this positive way: This is so hard, but I can learn from this, can make something really dark into something really beautiful.

With that in mind, perhaps we can hope that the sheets of rain cascading over New York City will result in some really exceptional flower beds for the month of May. 

My Comfort Zone: the Stuck Zone

I have this weird love affair with Atlantic Avenue.  It’s possibly one of the ugliest roads in Brooklyn.  I know this intellectually, but I find myself pulled towards it.  I recently started running “seriously” and I find myself ending up at Atlantic Avenue during my cooldown walk, when my brain is surging with feel-good chemicals. I stare down that huge road throbbing with angry traffic and honking horns and gypsy cabs, and smile like a total idiot.

A big part of why I’m smiling is that I’m looking in the direction of Target.  There is a Target on Atlantic Avenue at the Atlantic Terminal Mall. And I love Target.  I go to that mall all the time.  I’ll think of one little thing I need that could be obtained relatively easily in my neighborhood or even on the internet—almond milk, the Neutrogena sesame oil I like, a DVD of the Big Lebowski—and make it into an expedition to Target. To me, Target is like walking into a hug.  Something about the lighting makes me feel totally at peace (despite that there are screaming children—and sometimes even screaming mothers—everywhere). And something about that lighting makes me want to buy everything in the store.  I love going there.  And I have to stop. Because I live in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, with incredible shopping and cultural attractions, and I am spending three-hour chunks of time going to a cookie cutter shopping center to buy cosmetics.

I recently attended a deeply powerful meditation workshop over the Easter weekend that I spent visiting my family in upstate New York.  After the lesson, during the discussion portion of the program, someone in the audience said something really funny and powerful that has been echoing in my mind: “My comfort zone sucks.”  He went on to elaborate, “I should call it ‘the stuck zone.’”

That’s what Target is for me.  It’s the stuck zone.  It feels great to go there, because it’s easy and it’s familiar and it feels good.  But it’s in the same vein as eating the same thing every day or always listening to the same songs from your “Recently played” playlist on your iPhone or curling up with Netflix to unwind after a long day at work on a nearly daily basis: it feels nice and restorative, but it’s really shrinking your life.

When I need to buy something, I need to remind myself that I’m a published author at work on her second book; I should buy whatever the hell it is as quickly as possible so I can get back to work, rather than making a three-hour production out of buying soap because I find big box stores comforting.  If I just need to get out of the house, I can look on Yelp for an independent coffee shop in my neighborhood that I haven’t tried yet and go there with a book. And if I have a three-hour block where I genuinely need an active leisure activity, there are plenty of horizon-raising things in this city for a single gal to do for an afternoon, like picking for treasure in vintage shops in the East Village or East Williamsburg or strolling around historic neighborhoods to admire the architecture.

Is your comfort zone really a stuck zone? What will your strike from your life?

I intellectually understand that Atlantic Avenue is ugly as hell.  So is my comfort zone.

I intellectually understand that Atlantic Avenue is ugly as hell.  So is my comfort zone.

Is It Fate... or Something Better?

Last week, someone asked me if I believed in fate.  I didn't have a succinct answer at the time, but now I do.

I don't believe in fate.  Fate seems reductive to me. A little boring, actually. But I do believe that the universe wants us to be wildly successfully and works to set things in motion in that direction. Similar to fate, but a little more fun and requiring more participation on our part. 

That's what I believe.

I also really like the message on this kombucha bottle...

I also really like the message on this kombucha bottle...

I Sound Like Emma Stone

    Yesterday, three different people told me that my voice reminded them of Emma Stone.  Two of them were kind of apologetic about it, which I was quick to put a stop to, because it’s like, “No, win for Liz!” I love Emma Stone.

    And then, I had a story that I shared with them, that’s worth sharing here.

    When I was looking for a room to rent in September 2012, I found a great little spot in East Williamsburg, a trendy neighborhood in Brooklyn that still has a little bit of grit to it.  The apartment was in a big, old apartment building that seemed divided between young professional renters and people who had lived in the neighborhood far before a pair of skinny jeans ever strolled down the sidewalk.  The building itself wasn’t in perfect shape, nor was the apartment, but it was still great: the room had pretty parquet floors, a fire escape, and a view out onto the street.  It was small and it didn’t have a closet, but it looked wonderful and I wanted to live there.  It was a room in someone else’s two-bedroom and the roommate who already lived there and had the lease seemed sweet: she was a nice, young professional who had just turned thirty (I was 23 at the time).  

    She and I chatted about our shared interests (yoga, good cosmetics, New York City real estate).  As our conversation was winding down, I took one last look at the pretty hardwood floors in my future bedroom and was gearing up to tell her I wanted to take it.  And then she said:

    “You know what?  You sound exactly like Emma Stone.  It must be comforting to you, as you go through life, that if you were ever murdered in a really interesting way, Emma Stone would play you in the movie.”

    When roommate relationships—especially those that started on craigslist—go bad, people tend to ask you if there were any red flags.  I couldn’t move into this apartment because if this relationship were to go bad, it would be entirely my own fault because this was ONE HUGE RED FLAG.

    Which is a shame, because it was a beautiful room.  I still think about it sometimes, because I love fire escapes and hardwood floors. And life in New York City is basically one ongoing acute case of real estate jealousy.  Still, I’d rather be Liz, and enjoy living my life with my Emma Stone voice, rather than worry that any night my roommate might kill me and only hope that Emma Stone will play me in the movie they make about it.

"Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson


Over the summer, I listened to the Steve Jobs audiobook. When I finished it, I hadn’t felt that kind of sadness upon coming to the end of a book since I read Catcher in the Rye in high school. I knew then that I’d never again have the opportunity to have every sentence be fresh and new to me, and I legitimately struggled with that.  Steve Jobs is that good. Now, I like to listen to the audiobook over again while I Swiffer my apartment or do dishes or fold laundry and I get jazzed by hearing parts of the story of Steve Jobs’ life.  

Like almost every person under 30 who considers themselves “a reader,” who owns Apple products, reading this book had been on my to-do list since it was first published in fall 2011.  I skimmed it, and, like many people under 30 who consider themselves “a reader” do from time to time, I pretended to have read this book in social situations where Steve Jobs (as in, the biography) came up in conversation.

Thank Goodness I hadn’t actually read the book then, because when I start talking about Steve Jobs (the book or the man), I can’t stop.  

At times in this impressive biography, Steve Jobs embodies the definition of a real life “evil genius,” a calculating inventor toying with his creations (and frequently, other people). And yet at other times in the story, Jobs is so passionate and brilliant that I truly wish I had followed his career more closely when he was alive. 

Steve Jobs was also the embodiment of someone who truly loved his work.  In fact, he was so invigorated by his projects at Apple that when he was in the hospital, he was happier and could more easily cope with his cancer symptoms when his team at Apple gathered for meetings in his hospital room (and not just because they were a distraction—because he loved Apple).

I have to restrain myself from going on about Steve Jobs.  Instead, here are some of my favorite nuggets of surprising information from the book:

  1. Steve Jobs, for all his bad PR, was extremely sensitive and intuitive, and he listened to his gut on important business decisions.  He was a huge proponent of meditating to connect with one’s internal wisdom.  He told Walter Isaacson that meditating and slowing down your thoughts is hard at first, but very worth it.
  2. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates had, understandably, public duels and debates as long as they were both known in the technology industry.  Some of the things they have said to each other are hilarious.
  3. Steve Jobs struggled with disordered eating his entire life.  If he had been female, odds are good his eating disorder would have been publicly discussed.  He would go through periods where he would only eat apples or only eat carrots, and I believe he categorically didn’t eat animal protein.
  4. Steve Jobs loved Bob Dylan and also became a fan of the Black Eyed Peas when he launched the iPod and used the song “Hey Mama” in the first iPod ads.
  5. The idea for the iPad came before the idea for the iPhone, even though they were launched in reverse.

Seriously, read the book. I’m listening to it for the third time now.  It’s beautifully written, and if you listen to the audiobook, the narrator’s voice is like chocolate for your ears. The collective effect of the story is inspiring and motivating, and it gives you a new, huge appreciation every time you “swipe to unlock” your iPhone.

The Q Train is Coming Because I am Lucky

I have a bachelor’s degree in English literature and I can read literary fiction in two languages (English and French).

I need that as a preface, because I can’t stop raving about Katie Couric’s anthology, “the Best Advice I Ever Got.” I recently raved about the book to two new acquaintances at a networking event and they gave me a little flak for my low-brow taste in reading material. Thus, the necessary preface.

kc cover.jpg

That said, this book has changed my life. It’s a simple concept: Katie Couric reached out to her network of famous, successful friends and acquaintances and tapped them to share essays about, of course, the best advice they ever got. Michael Bloomberg discusses the immense value of showing up early in business and in life, Anna Quindlen wrote on overcoming fear, Billy Joel crooned about doing what you love, and Biz Stone (co-founder of Twitter) submitted a 140-character essay.

My favorite three essays in the book are by Mario Batali, Suze Orman, and Tony Hsieh. The Tony Hsieh essay is one that I reflect on almost daily and has changed my outlook on life.

In his essay, “Be Lucky,” Zappos founder Tony Hsieh writes that when Zappos interviews job candidates, they ask job seekers how lucky they are, on a scale of one to ten. Hsieh goes on to discuss a study where participants were asked how lucky they were on a scale of one to ten, and then were given a broadsheet newspaper and asked to count the number of articles. The study participants who identified themselves as being luckier were much more likely to read the first article in the newspaper that read, “There are 37 articles in this newspaper. Go to the test proctors and collect $200.” The less lucky study participants counted the articles and went home.

It’s a fascinating topic to ponder: if you consider yourself a “lucky” person, are you more open to opportunities, more observant, and generally happier? I’d make the argument that feeling “lucky” is in the same vein as feeling grateful—being aware of and thankful for all the bounty in your life—and scores of researchers and writers have discussed the many mental, emotional, and even productivity-related benefits of being grateful.

So, I have been making an active effort in recent months to consider myself a “lucky” person. It started one morning over caramel macchiatos in a Financial District Starbucks. I was having breakfast on a Saturday with a friend from college (on the heels of having just read “The Best Advice I Ever Got”) and a beam of light hit me. “We are so lucky,” I said. “We have apartments, we have jobs, we’re young, we have no major life problems, and we have our entire lives ahead of us. We are so lucky.”

That was October, and since then, I’ve been making an effort to observe how lucky I am and practice luckiness. When the Q train pulls into my local subway station just as I walk down the stairs, eliminating any wait for the train, I think to myself, “The Q train is here because I am a lucky person.” When I need a latte and I see that there is no line in Starbucks despite it being peak hours, I think, “Wow, there’s no line and I’m really lucky today.” I’ve been buying Powerball tickets once a week and while I’ve never won more than $4, the ritual of buying the ticket, chatting with the deli guy, and returning to check the ticket the next day foments an atmosphere of luckiness.

I’m deeply curious to see how my new “lucky” lifestyle will play out this year, interpersonally, financially, and professionally. At the very least, when the Q train comes, I’m getting places sooner on a literal level.

An Open Love Letter to Evernote

Dear Evernote,

What was my life like without you?  What did I do with my to-do lists; time-sensitive reminders; the funny thing a friend said at lunch that I “needed to write down”; the wild and fuzzy concepts I’ve dreamt up for disruptive startup companies; the endorphin-high ideas that came to me after a nice, sweaty run; the screenshots from web-sites that I’d want to see later to research an interesting company; and the web-sites that I’d bookmarked to peruse later?  What did I do with all these things before you streamlined them into one place?


Sometimes, these things were simply forgotten; I have snippets of at least five creative non-fiction essays in obscurely-titled Microsoft Word docs in the catacombs of my “Documents” folder.  But I’m generally very organized, so I could keep track of all my reminders, action items, and “brain ephemera,” but it was all very disjointed.  I wrote things down in that month’s Moleskine (I plow through those beautiful pocket-sized notebooks), I used the “Reminders” app or the Alarm app on my iPhone for timely action items, I jotted things down in the Notes app on my iPhone, I maintained a folder on my computer called “To Do Tomorrow” with screenshots of web-sites that I needed/wanted to revisit, and I bookmarked non-urgent, non-work-related web-sites I wanted to read sometime on my Safari reading list. Keeping track of everything required .8% of my resting brain energy.


You, Evernote, have turned it all around.  You have streamlined all of these things into one beautiful, intuitive interface and you’ve made me a more organized, productive person in the two months that you’ve been in my world.  My MacBook springs to life in the morning and I’m greeted with my auto-launching Evernote account, which presents my day’s projects, the list of zen-like things I thought of last night after yoga class, and a reminder about that important thing I need to turn around by noon.  Your design and user experience is so wonderful, I feel like I’m reading the menu at Cipriani when I’m faced with the Evernote note to call my dentist to make that appointment to have my cavity filled.

Evernote, you are like Pinterest for my brain.  That’s how I describe you to other people.  Except you organize the parcels of my brain to make me more efficient and productive (the same cannot be said for my Pinterest board about chairs). You deserve to be a megamillionaire of the Bill Gates variety.  I would bet my iPhone that you will be a household name within two to three years.  I hope you remember me when you’re at the top.



PS. I’m honestly not even really joking here.  Download Evernote, you’ll get it.


Homeward Bound: A Book Young Women Must Read

I cannot remember the last time I wrote a “fan letter” to an author. I reach out to authors of books I’ve enjoyed with some regularity, to share my praise and to extend an invitation to have coffee or lunch sometime to talk shop. But I can’t remember the last time I wrote an honest-to-God fan letter to an author, without any reason other than to say: Your book really, really moved me and I want to thank you.

Last month, I wrote a fan letter to Emily Matchar.

Emily Matchar’s book Homeward Bound: Why Women are Embracing the New Domesticity shines a light on a huge trend that I’m not sure had yet been addressed or debated in a public way. 

Remember the female ideal of the early 2000s? On Sex and the City, Carrie Bradshaw used her oven to store her back issues of Vogue magazine and spent many nights sitting at her desk at her window, pounding away at her laptop. Sure, she never could have afforded her lifestyle, but the entire show’s narrative—literally—was structured around Carrie working on her newspaper column. In the early to mid 2000’s, popular actresses starred in movies and on TV as female protagonists with demanding, aspirational jobs.  Katherine Heigl alone played an urban upscale restaurant owner, an executive assistant to a CEO, and a TV producer (in two different movies!).  In How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, Kate Hudson embodied young female ambition playing Andie Anderson, who had her master’s in journalism from Columbia and was disenchanted with her job as a columnist at a glossy Manhattan-based magazine where her editor wouldn’t let her write about politics. 

Today, author and journalist Emily Matchar makes the argument that young women are passing on cosmopolitans at after-work networking events to stay home uploading lovingly-edited photos of homemade baked goods to their blogs.  Matchar writes of young women who grow their own vegetables in whatever outdoor space they have to call their own, who have learned how to make their own cheese, and who have taught themselves how to can their own food and make homemade fruit preserves. Frequently these young women fantasize about leaving the city for the country, and memoirs by women who have done so are the new chick lit.

I have never made so many notes and exclamation points (!!!) in the margins of a book.  The crux of Matchar’s argument is this: in light of a recession of historic magnitude that has made meaningful jobs harder than ever to find, and in light of a generally scary time for America, young women are “taking shelter” and finding comfort and satisfaction in labor-intensive domestic tasks. Matchar makes an interesting connection that because today’s young people have been raised with so many digital toys—and the workplace is so reliant on computers and email—that young people are desperate to make things with their hands after work.

But there are some big problems here.  If this phenomenon is truly rooted in a generation of young women who feel unsatisfied at work and have lost interest in their careers, knitting by night is an extremely short-term solution.  While it’s critically important to have hobbies—I’ve built part of my career on the importance of this message—we don’t want the calming effects of stewing homemade strawberry jam to deter the next generation of young women trailblazers from thinking big!  Even if they are fed up with their “day jobs” (I hate that term), young women could be using their time after work to make important connections with other talented young women, to write a brilliant novel, or to launch a startup! One caveat: that startup ideally shouldn’t revolve around food products made in small batches or handmade crafts.  It’s not the best business plan.

Matchar explores how some young women are conflating their career ambition and new love of cooking/crafting, and they decide to build careers in domestic tasks that are unlucrative by their very nature. Some young women believe that they could launch their line of hand-sewn aprons, build Etsy stores that will provide full-time employment, or make a living off their “lifestyle” blogs (because Ree Drummond does).  Matchar devotes an entire chapter to the false idyll of Etsy and notes that those who are able to make $30,000 or more annually from their Etsy stores are frequently working Goldman Sachs hours.  Matchar also shares the unsettling truth that “owner of a successful artisanal soap company” (looking at you, Orange is the New Black) is a career path as aspirational as trying to be a Hollywood starlet. 

I would argue that this book is the most important contribution to the debate about young women, feminism, and work in years.  (Sadly, I think Lean In must be excluded from the conversation in light of the organization’s recent intensely paradoxical ad seeking an unpaid intern).  Our society may be at risk of losing members of the next generation of pioneering career women who are becoming too consumed by the (discreetly political) hobbies they use to salve their displeasure about their current situations and the national economic and political situation.  

Matchar says that it’s fine to have homegrown hobbies (which is reassuring: I spent the summer grilling pizza with my garlicky homemade bread dough).  But modern young women need to channel more of their energy to take charge and take action when it comes to finding meaningful work that will satisfy, in the long run, much more than any homemade zucchini muffin.

Seriously, read Homeward Bound.