The Root: How do you organize your writing time nowadays, given the changes in your life since then (i.e., motherhood)?

Zadie Smith: The standard answer to this is, “I organize my time much more effectively,” but I’m afraid that was only an early reaction to changed circumstances, and as time has gone on, I’ve reverted back into my old, bad habits. The difference is, these days when I waste four hours looking at women’s dresses on the Internet, I am painfully aware that I’m a) doing this instead of looking after my child, b) doing this when I should be writing or marking essays (which was always true) and c) paying good money to buy the wasted time (which was not always true).

So it’s like standard-issue writer’s guilt, but multiplied by a million! The bottom line is I have much less time to write, yet sadly this does not always compel me to work efficiently. Sometimes it does, but not always.

–Read the full interview here.

P.S. Reading Smith’s NW and loving it.

Have you seen Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls at the Party on YouTube? It’s awesome. She interviews young girls and celebrates their individuality and smarts, among other things. Like concluding her shows with dance parties.

I pretend like I watch it with my girls but they’re way to young to pay much attention (not enough cartoon action, apparently) so I mostly watch these episodes alone in my room, beaming with adoration.

Here she is, interviewing a smart-girl writer.

cinching up

Yesterday I discovered a fantastic magazine. I really wanted to send one of my essays to this place. I dusted it off from my computer files only to realize it was way too long. The venue called for 800 words. My piece was 1,300. No problemo! All I had to do was chop 500 words! Which turned out not only to take all day but to be painfully difficult. I had to cut characters! To get rid of every excess word and description (even my favorite lines–my funny ones, my pets!). But, in the end, the essay was so much better for it. Whether the aforementioned magazine will agree is yet to be seen. Still, it was a good lesson. An exercise in faith. My writing can withstand—can thrive under—major word-count pruning. Good to know.

in remission

Last month, I decamped from facebook. Put my account into remission. Deactivated my pal feed. It had to do with wanting more psychic breathing room. With living my life without all the thoughts and eyes of everyone I ever grew up or went to school with. With giving myself one less distraction from writing. So far, it’s been really nice. The biggest difference is how much more I’m reading. Like, actual books. You know, instead of those million articles I used to click on every day. And I like that. This is not to say that I haven’t replaced my addiction with other internet timesuckers (instagram, goodreads, etc. (add me! I’m under lacymaybe!)), but it’s been a small step toward the life I envision myself living.

In other stepping-forward news, my oldest daughter started kindergarten last week. And my youngest will start preschool tomorrow, giving me four hours a day to write. Every. Day. Of. The. Week. Be happy for me! Or, if you can’t muster that, just be jealous. I’m almost jealous of myself—it seems so surreal. Tomorrow marks the beginning of the end of my when-I-can-spare-a-minute/mostly-Saturday writing schedule. Opportunity has opened wide—wide enough to drive a career through. And that’s just what I intend to do.

Combine this happy situation with my facebook shunning and I just might finish a manuscript sometime before the next decade.

“Schism in the soul, schism in the body social, will not be resolved by any scheme of return to the good old days (archaism), or by programs guaranteed to render an ideal projected future (futurism), or even by the most realistic, hardheaded work to weld together again the deteriorating elements. Only birth can conquer death–the birth, not of the old thing again, but of something new.”  -Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Blog at