Why deadlines should be on Fridays

Six weeks ago I set a May 1st deadline to send a new book draft to my editor and a few others. It was my first time sharing since early in the process.

When I set the deadline, I'd written ~2.5 chapters that felt right and many more that didn’t. So I set an additional May 1st goal: have four great chapters ready to share then too.

I’m happy to say that both deadlines worked. On May 1st, I sent off four chapters I felt anxiously proud of. The feedback has been positive and helpful.

I also learned something unexpected in the process.

It turns out that my round number deadline of May 1st was a Tuesday. Which meant that last Tuesday night, I accomplished my major goal for the week. Woohoo!

But once that box was checked, my work ethic tanked. The rest of the week I struggled to follow my normal discipline. I couldn't convince my brain to get back into gear.

This week was much better. I was focused and happy with what I was writing. Phew.

I haven't set a date for my next deadline yet. When I do, I’ll pick a Friday.

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One of my inspirations for coming to LA was a book called City of Nets: A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s by Otto Friedrich.

Part of the book describes how many of Europe’s most important writers and composers came to Los Angeles in the 1930s and '40s to escape the Nazis and the war. Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Bertol Brecht, Igor Stravinsky, Thomas Mann, and others came to LA around this time.

I was surprised to learn that some of Adorno and Benjamin's key texts -- theories the world still considers dangerous -- were written in Los Angeles. Reading them, you would never guess. They feel as far from the sunshine as something could possibly be.

A notable figure in City of Nets is the novelist Theodor Dreiser. He came from the Midwest, not Europe, and was one of the most popular and controversial writers of his day. He’s most famous for the acclaimed novel Sister Carrie.

I learned this week that Dreiser wrote his most popular novel in 1920 in the same house where we're staying in LA.* And it's not a big house. There aren't many places to put an office or study. Which means there's a good chance I’m writing my book in the same room where Theodor Dreiser wrote one of his. How cool is that?

*The book is called "An American Tragedy." Initially I thought, “Oh wow I’ve got to read it!” And then I discovered that it’s nearly 1,000 pages and Dreiser is famous for writing extremely long and detailed descriptions of things. Taking a raincheck for now.

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I’ve never been to Burning Man. And I turn 40 later this year, so my window for going is closing fast. But almost a decade ago I had the privilege to meet Larry Harvey, one of Burning Man's founders. It was a memorable experience.

It was the early days of Kickstarter. One of the first trends on the site was people launching projects to make “art cars” for Burning Man. There were so many that someone from Burning Man reached out. I spoke with a woman named Marian the next day.

A month later, Marian emailed again. Larry, founder of Burning Man, would be in New York. He wanted to meet. (“We won't be functioning too well before 11 am though,” her email added.)

Larry came to the Kickstarter office in the Lower East Side a few days later. He wore a white Stetson hat. He had dark leather skin and his blue-green eyes seemed like they were lit up from another world.

I don't remember exactly what we talked about, but I remember the feeling of it. I liked him instantly. He listened and asked good questions. We talked big ideas. We sat with two of my coworkers in our makeshift kitchen-conference room for well over an hour. 

After he left, my colleagues and I looked at each other. Umm, did you feel that? Yes, we did. We all had a strong sense that we’d just met someone extraordinary. 

I’ve been fortunate to meet many incredible people in my life, but few made an impression like Larry Harvey. Two weeks ago Larry passed away at the age of 70. Rest in peace, sir.

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The world is too wonderful to leave Sup Y'all on a down note. So, as always, we close with good music. 

I've been loving the new album from Eleanor Friedberger, called Rebound. Sly, smooth, and surprising. Give the first four songs a try.