Blog Posts

How to Cope With Clueless Questions, Crass Comments, and Crazy Conjectures

Note: I'm re-upping this one from 2013, as it seems a useful follow-up to the Robert Caro post. Also see this piece on Advice for Academic Couples (excerpted from my book The 7 Secrets of the Prolific.) - Best, Hillary Oh, the things people say to writers! “What do you ...

Biographer Robert Caro on How It’s All About Perspective

Most books (and many theses and other projects) take years to produce, and that's a simple fact. And yet, the "When will you be done?" question can bedevil new writers in particular. (Even worse when it's phrased disrespectfully, as in: "What? Are you still working on that thing?") That's why ...

A Big Part of Time Management is Learning How to Decline Unwanted Invitations…

...which writer Harold Pinter knew how to do LIKE A BOSS.

RIP Billy Dawg 2003? – 2019

We lost our cherished Billy Dawg last week. He died at home, surrounded by love. Here is a picture his dog sitter sent us. She captioned it: "Here he is motivating me to complete my senior project!" (Like mom, like pup!) Billy was (we think) at least sixteen years old ...

The “Tiger Mom” Revisited

I've written before about Amy "Tiger Mom" Chua and her odious 2011 book The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, the thesis of which is that you should punish, humiliate, and otherwise coerce your kids into being high achievers. As I wrote at the time it was published: A few ...

Slow Down to Speed Up! Also, Bonus Moving Story.

Sorry for the hiatus - we wound up moving on somewhat short notice. Now we're (mostly) settled in a bee-you-ti-ful new apartment (still in Kalamazoo), so it's time for another newsletter. After the move, I was surrounded by mountains of boxes, mountain ranges of boxes. It would have been easy ...

Perfectionism is All Lies and Oversimplifications, Part One Million

This tweet has it all, from a perfectionist standpoint: It: Sets an impossibly high standard for success. (You should be as successful as Apple's Steve Jobs, etc.) Is shaming. ("What's your excuse?") Makes specious comparisons. (Between you and these ultra-successful outliers, most of whom also achieved their success decades ago, ...

Roll Over Beethoven!

At a recent performance of Johannes Brahms’s First Symphony, the conductor told how, when Brahms was just starting out, the elder composer Robert Schumann praised him to the high heavens. Here’s the story: Brahms was only twenty years old and as yet little known….Robert expressed his admiration first in a ...

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