The Fragmented Brain of a Writer, or why I need a personal assistant

I don’t think I’ve met any writerly type whose brain wasn’t being pulled in several directions at once. It comes with the territory. As someone who has chosen to taken this insane path in life, I constantly find myself working on multiple projects and due dates at once. I don’t have a 9 to 5, so I am more or less responsible for making my days structured.

As of late, my brain feels broken. I do freelance work and had three articles due in the same week recently (as well as the going back and forth with the editors for each piece). For the past two years, I have been working on a novel and besides the actual writing of the book, it requires me to do research.  For the month of December, I was tied down with an annoying cough that finally was remedy by a trip to the doctor and a course of anti-biotics.

And the real kicker came this past week.

Right before I left for a week-long vacation in the Hudson Valley, I received an email saying that the 15 January due date of a translation I’ve been working on has been moved up a week to 9 January. I had lucked out in regards to receiving the email before I left, giving me enough time to grab my work, but I had to scramble and work on something I had planned to take the week off from especially since it’s holiday season. I had no intention of even taking the slightest glance at a German-English dictionary, allowing myself to veg and work on the occasional bit of the novel project (and squeezing in some much needed daytime television viewing).

Alas, my plans were slightly altered leaving me with a broken brain.

I try to keep myself organized with a calendar on my phone, virtual sticky-notes of lists on my computer desktop and other such tried and true methods. But then I started to think back to two of my years in graduate school…

I worked as a research assistant to a historian who was writing a new book. The research was interesting and the job itself did not take much of my time. I really only had one big project a semester and the rest of my time was relegated to picking up and dropping off library books and to the occasional annoyance of looking through databases for specific articles. I always wondered: “Couldn’t he do this himself instead of waiting for me to get around to it?” Of course, he wasn’t paying my wages–the university was–so it didn’t much matter to him.

I look back on this moment with a different opinion now: What a great idea! I should have an assistant also! But I suppose my wish will have to wait for the day when I’m no longer a poor and unimportant writer. Perhaps, I can even call myself an author and command my assistant to trek to the library during a freakish snowstorm in October to retrieve a most important book for me. Until then, however, I’ll just have to pull my snow boots on, one foot at a time, and bury my face deeper and deeper into my scarf as I walk through a Nor’easter before finally reaching the heated stacks of the library.

Now that I have finished complaining, I have decided to let my mind rest for the remainder of the year (maybe even go see a movie!) and resume the fragmentary life of a writer of no importance on 1 January. Fingers crossed that my brain won’t explode before I submit my translation to the powers that be.



  1. That is the problem of the day – it has only 24 hours. Asked Santa for a longer one but instead he gave me an organiser. Good feat though!

    I’m thinking about changing my job. Work as a porter in a hotel downtown London but I dream of dealing with books and language. And having a week-long stubble without having to shave every day and dress in a stupid uniform.

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