Discover more from Amie Kaufman: Finding North
Finding North: September Issue
Making time for fun (and food) 🍜
Note: The recording above is a reading of this newsletter — there’s no different content, and it’s not produced, so you’ll hear the occasional stumble, or sounds of daily life in the background. If you’re someone who needs or prefers to hear their news, then I hope it’s helpful.
Hi there! I’m Amie Kaufman, NYT and internationally bestselling author of The Isles of the Gods, Illuminae, Aurora Rising, These Broken Stars, and many more books besides. This newsletter is the place to learn about my latest releases or events, and to follow along behind the scenes as I find my way through writing, and through life.
Hi, my friends.
I’m writing to you from one of my favourite places in the world — Vietnam. This is my fourth time here, and as always, I’m soaking up history, eating incredible food, meeting new friends and generally having a wonderful time.
I’ve also been pretty intensively editing Isles 2 while I’m here. I spend a lot of time on the road — more than three months this year — so I have a lot of experience finding the balance between work and rest. This month, that’s what I’m going to talk about — I don’t think it’s something we discuss enough, and in the silence, some really unhelpful myths about the pain of creative life pop up instead. So, let’s get going.
What I’ve Been Up To
Every day while we were in Hoi An, we played in the pool with our daughter, Pip. She was really unsure about getting in the water, but we made it fun at every stage. We sang songs (ask me about my improvised 63 verses on what various sea creatures like to do all day…) and we played games, kicked and splashed and chased and hammed it up, and watched as slowly but surely she climbed on in and learned to swim. By the end of the week, her confidence was sky high.
What’s true for my four year old is true for all of us — we do better when we’re having fun. We make more progress, we get better results, and we enjoy the journey.
So why do we have this societal myth about the suffering of artists? It’s so common to see creatives of any kind — though authors are the most familiar territory for me — talk about how when they’re on deadline they shut themselves away, they work untenable hours, they forego sleep, they eat terribly.
Now, I understand how this overwork happens. When you’re deep in stress over any sort of deadline, there’s often an instinct to do one of two things — either completely avoid the problem, or put your head down and motor forward at all costs, regardless of whether that’s the correct approach. Twenty books into my career, one thing I know for sure is that simply doesn’t work.
I was on the phone discussing Isles 2 edits with my editor when I found out my deadline was much closer than I’d anticipated. Paper shortages and other factors are changing publishing calendars for a lot of people right now. As she kept talking about what we’d need to do, I reached across my desk, grabbed a post-it, and wrote myself a note:
Rest. Be smart. Don’t fall into the trap of rushing.
And then I stuck that post-it right on my screen, so that as soon as the call ended, I’d see it, and make my plans accordingly. Because just like my kid in the pool, I do better when I have fun. I make more progress, I get better results, and I enjoy the journey. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel the urge to rush, when there’s a lot to be done. What it means is that I set up a deliberate conversation with myself about how I’m going to proceed — in a calm, measured and serene fashion. And I can honestly say I’ve done exactly that.
I’ve been working each day while I’ve been here — alongside eating incredible meals every day, exploring the alleyways of old town, getting daily massages and spending a day at cooking school. (Sidebar: The instructor took one look at my very first task and said “Your husband cooks at home, yes?” Yes.)
Now, obviously most of us don’t have the option to holiday in paradise while we do hard work. I don’t either, 99.9% of the time! But we do have the ability to make whatever it is we’re doing that much more pleasant — even if it’s just making our writing place a comfortable and welcoming one, or making sure we’ve got nourishing food, or setting an alarm so we regularly pause to walk around the block. Rest is never, ever a waste of time, and it’s not something to be earned. Rest is something you always deserve. And when you think about it, why would you not do those small things to make your work more enjoyable?
I’ve been resting as I worked, and the result is that as I move into editing the last part of the book, I’m still having fun, I’m still full of energy, and I’m still having those a-ha! moments when a solution arrives that solves several different problems at once. When my brain’s tired, that simply doesn’t happen.
I’m feeling very passionate about this right now, because I’ve just finished writing course modules on rest and filling your well — this is something I’m planning to teach, either late this year or early next. For now, if there’s one thing you can do for yourself today to recharge your batteries — put on a song you love, call a friend, go for a walk and admire the nearest nature — this is your reminder to do it.
What I’m Writing
I’m in the home stretch on Isles 2 edits! By the time you read my next newsletter, the book will be off to copy edits, where some poor soul will be pointing out all my sentence fragments, continuity errors, and asking themselves the big questions, like “Why, after all this time, can she still not use a semicolon correctly?” From there we’ll go to typesetting, and the moment when the book really starts to look like a book.
Speaking of looking like a book, I’ve seen the cover. It’s spectacular. I made a loud noise when I opened the email, and had literally no notes. It’s just the most gorgeous piece of art, and I love it!
I’ll be sharing the cover here before it goes up anywhere else — and same for the preorder offer. Keep an eye on your inboxes, because I hope that cover reveal will be happening in my next newsletter.
What I’ve Loved Lately
I recently listened to Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, and it was absolutely fantastic. It’s narrated by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who has confirmed my belief that the right narrator can elevate an already brilliant book to a new level.
My friend Marie Lu (whose books many of you will love) recommended this one to me, and told me that the less you know going in, the better. I couldn’t agree more. Read it or listen to it, and be immersed. It’s not long, but it’s beautiful, meditative and with Ejiofor’s narration, almost hypnotic.
News and Events
If you’re in Melbourne, you can come see me andat the Wheeler Centre on October 13th for a Choose Your Own Adventure set in space! We’ll be storytelling live, and I can’t wait. Lili is one of my D&D players, and we have such a good time making things up together.
On September 22nd, Melbournians can also come to a writing workshop with me at Story Studios Australia.
And finally, you can catch up with the latest episode of thepodcast, where we did an entire episode of spoiler questions for The Isles of the Gods.
And that’s it for this month! I’m off to finish this book, and then plan a fantastic camping trip in the van for afterwards — I’ll tell you all about it in my September issue!