Today is my birthday so this will be a short dispatch!
I had a wonderful chat with Stephanie Minn on The Bike Shed podcast about engineering management, how engineering and writing are similar and different, and how I balance my day job with my writing. The conversation tied in well with an article Rainesford Stauffer published this week:
“So it’s like a hobby?” Someone recently asked about my writing. No, I wanted to say. But yes, kind of. I’ve stumbled my way through this conversation many times before. Yes, I have a full-time job that isn’t related to my writing; yes, I still think of myself as a writer. Is it a hobby, a side hustle, a passion project? It’s all of those things and somehow none of them.
Her article explores how the publishing industry can be inequitable and inaccessible, emphasizing “writing is work, and like all labor, it deserves sustainable, equitable compensation.” At the same time, I appreciated her unweaving the messy threads of ambition, passion, work, labor, and hobbies at the individual level.
It’s sometimes hard for me to articulate the difference between a hobby vs. job vs. career. Some of it has to do with my internal motivations or desire for self-improvement. Other times, it’s negotiating external expectations, like the amount of time I spend and whether it’s my primary source of income.
If writing was happening in what some might call margins of my life, did that inherently make it a hobby—or was it actually what knit my life together?
Similar to Rainesford, I’ve been pushing back on the “hobby vs. job” binary. I think of writing as another career, even if it is one that lives in the snatches of time I have on the weekday evenings or weekends. Just because I don’t write full-time doesn’t make it any less central to my life. In fact, it’s the very thing that knits my life together.
This issue marks three years of nicoledonut! In celebration, I’m announcing a giveaway for a signed copy of Elise Hu’s new book, Flawless, for newsletter subscribers! Check out my interview with her in the last issue.
If you enjoy this newsletter, it would mean a lot if you shared it with friends or supported me via Ko-fi or Venmo. (This will go towards self-hosting fees and maybe a birthday drink.) Your support means so much and I’m always excited to hear from you about what you’d like to see from this newsletter in the future.
- A fascinating interview with NYU psychologist, Adam Alter, about his new book Anatomy of a Breakthrough: How to Get Unstuck When It Matters Most.
- Loved this essay by Rainesford Stauffer about whether writing is a hobby or a career: “Writing shouldn’t be so unstable that one needs another job to support it. But having another job doesn’t diminish the work of writing, either.”
- As we wrap up AAPI Heritage Month, The 19th has a great roundup of book recommendations centered around themes that resonate most with scholars, bookstore owners, and book lovers.
- Applications for the Roxane Gay Books Fellowship are open until June 22. The one-year fellowship includes working with the editorial, marketing, publicity, and rights departments of Grove Atlantic, and will directly support Roxane Gay Books in building a list of fiction and nonfiction.
- I’m a big fan of Zan Romanoff’s newsletter and I really appreciated one of her recent essays on rejection: “This is the messy middle, and it deserves more than we often give it. [...] How do you know when giving up is necessary surrender? How do we tell a story that's just: sometimes, shit sucks, man?”
Recent reads & other media
I’d heard so many great things about Matt Bell’s Refuse to Be Done and it did not disappoint! For such a slim volume, it has so many practical generative and revision techniques. I’ll definitely be keeping this book on my desk for the foreseeable future. I also read Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo (recommended in Flawless) and loved Deb JJ Lee’s gorgeous YA graphic memoir, In Limbo.
E and I watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which is probably the best Marvel movie they’ve put out recently and it’s largely because it avoids the MCU’s multiverse madness. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, however, continues its unique spin on the multiverse with incredible animation and a resonant coming-of-age story at its heart. The series finale of Succession was a masterpiece. The last season of Ted Lasso has been deeply…fine.
Note: Book links are connected to my Bookshop affiliate page. If you purchase a book from there, you'll be supporting my work and local independent bookstores!
~ meme myself and i ~
Time to bring back summer bucket lists. When you eat but forget to pay attention to the meat/rice ratio. I love my Uniqlo nylon crossbody bag!! How it feels to put a splash of white wine in a pasta sauce and then pour a glass of the same white wine for yourself. The Succession theme song if everyone succeeded and had a good time. I WOKE UP IN A NEW BUGATTI!