I know these are challenging economic times, but if you have any money to spare I hope you’ll join me in donating to We Need Diverse Books, an organization dedicated to ensuring that all children can see themselves in print, something we badly need in these troubled and confusing times.
I will never know the pain of so many people who are suffering during this horrific year, especially the Black community and people of color who continue to shoulder such a disproportionate burden of the failures of our society.
All I really know is that the fissures and inequities that have been widened by the pandemic, economic calamity, and institutionalized brutality of 2020 do not reflect the type of society I want to live in. We can do more to fix current and past wrongs. We should do more. We must do more.
You’re probably reading this because you’re a writer. I truly believe, provided your heart is in the right place, that writing is real, it’s important, and it matters. It sucks some of the evil out of the world and gives you power and light on the other side. It really, really matters.
The challenge is that writing alone isn’t always enough. I know it. You know it. So what do we do about it?
If you’re anything like me, a quick path to paralysis is to look at many of the (very good) long lists of things to be done, realize you can’t possibly do them all, and get stuck in a fog of choice and prioritization confusion. You may feel powerless in the face of problems that feel so vastly bigger than you.
When I worked at a hedge fund (bet you didn’t expect that transition), there was a concept that I found very helpful to help think through prioritization: highest and best use.
In other words, relative to your capacity, what is is the one thing (or two or three things) that you can do with your time and resources that will have the biggest impact on the thing you’re trying to achieve?
Now, it’s easy to just look at your spare time and bank account and carve out a little slice for your highest and best use. Too easy. Capacity can be created through personal sacrifice.
But once you carve out the amount of time and money that stings a little, what is your highest and best use as a person to create the type of society you want to live in?
What’s your highest and best use as a writer? What’s the project you should really be focused on? You can’t write everything, so what will you choose to focus on?
Don’t get me wrong, I honestly don’t always know the answer for myself. I’m reflecting a lot and I’m not as far along as I’d want to be. But I hope you find it to be a helpful way of thinking about what to focus on.
Don’t try to do everything. You can’t. Do the most impactful things you can do in your corner of the world.
In the meantime, please donate to We Need Diverse Books, and please reach out to me if you need anything. I know this is a difficult time.
Need help with your book? I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and coaching!
For my best advice, check out my guide to writing a novel (now available in audio) and my guide to publishing a book.
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Art: Seeberg Sattel by Marko Pernhart