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Amy Shearn
Content Lead for Writing @ Medium // Editor of Human Parts // Novels: Unseen City; The Mermaid of Brooklyn; How Far Is The Ocean From Here

Oh, hi! Here is a long term project I’ve been working on about long term projects:

And here are some regular old blog posts about being a person in the world:

All Hail Emily Dickinson, the Quarantine Queen
Pandemic Parenting: A Hair Story
In Praise of Terrible Dresses
Everything is Made Up Anyway

And: Profile header lettering by the wonderful Sam Zabell ❤️


THE LONG HAUL

Walt Whitman worked on ‘Leaves of Grass’ for four decades. Do poets have a unique relationship with patience, perhaps?

“Self-reliant, with haughty eyes, assuming to himself all the attributes of his country, steps Walt Whitman into literature” -Walt Whitman on Walt Whitman

In 1850, Walt Whitman started writing Leaves of Grass, a sprawling work of free-verse poetry that he would keep working on until he died, 42 years later.

As I write this I’m inching towards 42 and just last night my son said to me, cheerfully, “You’re probably about halfway through your life, huh?” I thought about all the life I’ve lived in 41-and-a-half years and how honestly really a lot has happened — I mean, I started as a baby — and all the things I might do and write in the next 42 years.


Will Leitch, author of the novel ‘How Lucky,’ on balancing writing with parenthood (and everything else)

GIF illustration: Save As / Medium, Source: Getty Images

It’s a common concern among parents who are writers or want to write: how to find the time, and maybe more crucially, how to make the time when so many other things vie for your attention. But as Will Leitch puts it, “If I don’t write, I’ll be of no use to anyone, just like my wife would be miserable if she weren’t working at the job that she loves. We want everyone in this house to be happy.”

Will Leitch is a father who writes multiple pieces a week on Medium (follow him, why don’t you!), founded Deadspin, has…


HUB TALK

Medium writers share their Covid writing journeys

Photo: Tara Moore / Getty Images

In our latest Hub Talk, we asked “How has the pandemic affected your writing?” In the responses, a common thread surfaced — for many, this time has been a surprising conduit for creativity. Despite all the constraints of our quieter lives, many writers have uncovered some pretty profound lessons about creativity — along with ingenious tricks for staying focused.

Here’s a few highlights. If you have something to share, add it to the responses of the discussion here!

1. Break big projects up into smaller bites

March 2021: I finally revisit my immature book from a different angle — write articles, share them on the internet to help…


Tips for staying focused on your creative work, from ‘Indistractable’ author Nir Eyal

Photo: francescoch/Getty Images

In these very working-from-home times, distraction seems to have reached epidemic levels. “I want to focus on that big project at work, but my attention keeps getting siphoned away into smaller but more urgent tasks,” said a colleague of mine who is actually me. Whoops.

Luckily, Nir Eyal, the bestselling author of the book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life, shared his best advice on staying “indistractable” in a recent interview as part of the Medium in Conversation interview series.

Eyal has tons of great advice on the subject (which he often blogs about here…


😴 Today’s tip: Tape your mouth shut when you sleep.

Ah sleep, that beloved and sometimes elusive state! So cherished by adults, so dreaded by children, so crucial to everyone’s wellbeing. If you’re having trouble sleeping through the night these days, the problem might be this: You’re breathing through your mouth.

As Vivek George writes in Elemental: “While many of us use our mouth to breathe, this is actually the primary role of the nose.” Breathing through our mouths when we sleep can lead to poor sleep quality, snoring, even increased risk of cavities and elevated blood pressure. The solution…


THE LONG HAUL

Sometimes there’s a fine line between a spiritual quest and a self-destructive obsession

Jay DeFeo’s “The Rose”

“Only by chancing the ridiculous can I hope for the sublime.” — Jay DeFeo

There are Long Haul projects that end up taking much much longer than the creator intended — like Dorothy Richardson’s novel Pilgrimage, or, ah, my own intermittent studies of Long Haul projects. And then there are those that were always meant to take forever and/or however long it takes.

I think I know, a little, how you keep going when a project ends up expanding, and I know this because I write novels and novels take a really freaking long time to write. And the thing…


💡 Today’s tip: Change your lighting.

We all have those days when everything just feels dark. Here’s an easy way to literally lighten up. Nicole Herzog, who happens to be the senior office manager at Medium, knows: Change your lighting, and you’ll change your mood. Herzog has managed the lighting in offices, events, and beyond, and thus is uniquely aware of the way that, as she writes, “lighting is everything. I truly believe that a good or bad time is dependent on the lighting of the space.”

So light a candle, or turn on your favorite lamp, or invest in…


📋 Today’s tip: Replace your notebook with notecards.

Everyone has creative ideas, but, unfortunately, many of us also have an inner censor that likes to yell at us about how dumb all those ideas are. Over on Creators Hub, book author Charlotte Bismuth reveals how she outwitted the harsh internal voice that had her destroying her own notebooks for much of her life. Her solution is surprisingly simple: “I’m delegating some work to index cards instead. The drawback of notebooks, of course, is that it’s hard to turn back the pages or work with the contents in a dynamic way.”…


🌲Today’s tip: Find some “forest loneliness.”

Daily life can be so very, well, civilized. Sit inside. Look at computer. Follow rules of polite human behavior. Blah, blah, blah. Sometimes, as Kristin Wong writes in Forge, you need to shake things up with a little break from being civilized. For Wong, this means taking long walks in the woods, in search of “the calm feeling of solitude that overcomes you when you’re in a forest alone.” Of course there’s a German word for this: waldeinsamkeit, which translates to “forest loneliness.”

That calm sense is a close cousin of awe — which…

Amy Shearn

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