Things I Did When I Was Supposed to be Writing My Book

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There it is! Top left corner! ACTUALLY DONE. (photo: Harper Perennial on Instagram)

Three years ago this month (March 2nd, to be exact) I posted my first piece right here on Medium. And three years ago this month (March 20th, to be exact. Yes I keep these dates in my calendar. D-O-R-K), I had my first piece accepted by McSweeney’s. These things and a wellness-decimating work ethic and stupid good fortune and many, many more pieces led to an agent, a book proposal, the shopping around of said book proposal, and me being impatient through absolutely all of it. And then, despite what my inner hate machine was telling me, I actually got a book deal. Right before my kids got out of school for summer vacation! And my first draft was due at the end of summer vacation! So to review: This is all very exciting and good and WHUT but I also AGREED TO WRITE AN ENTIRE BOOK WHILE MY KIDS WERE OUT OF SCHOOL FOR SUMMER VACATION.

You’d think that would’ve been sufficient motivation to create an airtight battle plan, delete every app from my phone (or just smash it against a rock), close every tab on my browser that had ever been opened, and buckle down with the focus of a thousand Laser Cats.

And you would be wrong.

I kept actual real-time track of every time I drifted off task (which was often and always) and, honestly, it’s a miracle this book even exists. This list represents a fraction—a fraction! math talk!—of the distraction-fueled side trips my brain went on. Good thing this piece right here isn’t public and/or on the internet so there’s no way my agent, editor, or anyone at my publisher will ever know. Whew!

  • Watch Radiohead’s entire Coachella set.
  • Watch videos on my phone from Radiohead’s New Orleans March ‘17 show. Could I crawl into my phone and go back there now?
  • Watch Mad Men clips on YouTube, specifically “Don Draper’s Best Scenes”
  • Think about Don Draper / Jon Hamm.
  • Like, a lot.
  • Research the Amalfi Coast.
  • Research hotels on the Amalfi Coast.
  • Look through images of various accommodations as if this is an actual thing I will be pursuing.
  • Google “Amalfi Coast” then hit images.
  • Google “Amalfi Coast” “NYTimes” just because. Subsets!
  • Research Airbnbs on the Amalfi Coast. I cannot quit the Amalfi Coast.
  • Peruse Airbnb in Tyrinham, Massachusetts that looks like a dream castle for garden gnomes.
  • Research Airbnbs where I live. Maybe I could just assume a different identity?
  • Buy other people’s published books. So much easier.
  • Search eBay for vintage Snoopy bags.
  • Search eBay for vintage Thom McAn wooden sandals.
  • Buy a chair off of Instagram.
  • Buy a vintage floral purse off of Etsy.
  • Actually buy no fewer than 6 vintage dresses off of eBay.
  • Almost buy a vintage full length white fur coat off of Instagram. It’s July.
  • Buying stuff is not the answer.
  • (whisper to self, “But don’t give up on it just yet”)
  • Work my way through 116 saved links on Facebook.
  • Look up photos of Alan Alda as Hawkeye Pierce.
  • Mmmmm Hawkeye.
  • Watch old Guns N’ Roses videos. Get contact hangovers and many venereal diseases.
  • Read The Curveball, which was worth every single second of procrastination.
  • Research summer cottages to buy (I cannot afford to buy a summer cottage).
  • Go with our real estate agent to look at a summer cottage to buy (I cannot afford to buy a summer cottage).
  • Read about the new Global Beauty Director for Estée Lauder.
  • Scroll through her Instagram feed.
  • Think about how great it would feel to smash up expensive eye shadow just to make pretty pictures with it.
  • That’s like $500 worth of eye shadow! (!!!)
  • Wonder what it’s like to be so tall and skinny and French.
  • Wonder what it’s like to have beauty as an actual job.
  • It is crystal clear that beauty is not my job as I sit in a recliner in August wearing the same clothes three days in a row.
  • Research moving to Sweden.
  • Research spiralizers.
  • Research new wallpaper patterns.
  • Think about wallpaper.
  • I love you, wallpaper.
  • Remember I bought 8 years ago!
  • I should do something with that.
  • Watch multiple Tina Fey videos.
  • Think about Tina Fey.
  • I love you Tina Fey,
  • dot com.
  • Wonder if there’s a place I could move to where books don’t exist.
  • Send random real estate listings to friends in an attempt to draw them into a conversation. I am so lonely.
  • Spend an inordinate amount of time researching recipes for “s’mores inspired desserts.”
  • Make none of them.
  • Google Antonio Banderas. What’s he up to now?
  • LinkedIn-stalk people, the most pathetic stalking of all.
  • Look up published writers’ websites and read things that are much, much better than what I’m writing. Spiral into doom-coated sadness.
  • Look up published writers’ websites and read things that are much, much worse. Rejoice in fleeting feelings of toxic superiority!
  • Google “How to lose fat from thighs / hips.”
  • Disappointed when none of those suggestions are “Just keep doin’ what yer doin’, hot stuff.”
  • Attempt to reserve various campsites for camping trips I have no intention of taking.
  • Take sudden interest in the history of Vermont state parks.
  • Scroll through entire J. Crew sales section. Decide that without Jenna Lyons, J. Crew is 130% dead to me.
  • Finally watch “Paris is Burning.”
  • Wonder what happened to everyone from “Paris is Burning.”
  • Read every obituary for everyone from “Paris is Burning.”
  • Everyone from “Paris is Burning” is dead.
  • :(
  • Look up real estate listings for midcentury houses across the country.
  • Consider moving to Indiana.
  • Consider moving to Ohio.
  • Consider moving to Buffalo, New York.
  • Go back to the whole Sweden thing.
  • What about Amsterdam?
  • Cry.

Against all odds, my book is actually written, done, and real! AMATEUR HOUR: MOTHERHOOD IN ESSAYS AND SWEAR WORDS is out May 1st from Harper Perennial. You can preorder from Amazon or Indiebound or Barnes & Noble or Books-a-Million. For a super duper special preorder offer (that I already regret), FEAST YOUR EYES on my author site!

Kimberly Harrington is a regular contributor to McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, the co-founder and editor of parenting humor site RAZED, and a copywriter and creative director. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, and right here on Medium. Follow her/me on Twitter.

AMATEUR HOUR (2018) and BUT YOU SEEMED SO HAPPY (2021) | The New York Times, The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, The Cut |

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