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I can’t, I’m writing a book. I can’t, I’m writing a . . .

I'm working FT on "The Next Mormons" book, which means I'm saying no to just about everything else except Netflix.

Writing a book always looks this serene. Except you're in your pajamas, most of the time, and you have a stack of books with post-it notes sticking out of them at weird angles. Also you smell.

Writing a book always looks this serene. Except you’re in your pajamas, most of the time, and you have a stack of books with post-it notes sticking out of them at weird angles. Also you smell.


I said no to three people today, all for very worthy things. I’ve been neglecting this blog (sorry). It’s late afternoon and the dog has not been walked yet. (Hey, it was raining.) I haven’t made the slides for the talk I’m giving next weekend in Denver. (You should totally come; here’s the info.) And I have been chronically overusing parenthetical remarks, a known sign of stress.

I feel like the lamest lamezoid in Lametown. And yet it’s also freeing to have one priority these next few months: my book, The Next Mormons. This is the one I’ve been talking and writing about for over a year, the one about the rising generation of young adult Mormons. Depending on your age and perspective, you either see this generation as 1) the future and hope of a more inclusive LDS Church or b) These Kids Today.

During this intense process I have mysteriously found time to watch Netflix, usually while I’m walking on the treadmill or when I’m up in the middle of the night to worry about chapter 6, or possibly chapter 9. But I have stopped reading anything for entertainment. It’s like every ounce of my readerly mojo is being used up doing all the background reading I need to for this book to be what I want it to be.

Watching TV is about all I am capable of in my little free time, and I’m not sure what this says about me as a person. For someone who is used to reading a novel or two a week for fun, to suddenly quit the written word cold turkey feels bizarre. What if I am becoming Donald Trump? Wait, don’t answer that.

As a scholar and a writer, it’s a privilege to be able to mostly devote myself this summer and fall to this project. But I am still a Mormon woman, which means one word defines the experience of naysaying: GUILT. Every time I say no to someone else because I’m writing this book, I feel guilty.

Some years ago I emailed a prominent Christian writer to ask for an endorsement on behalf of one of my editorial clients. His response was a very brief and polite no, saying, “I really wish I could help out but I just cannot if I’m to remain faithful to the tasks that are already on my plate.”

What a wonderful way of putting it: he was saying no to some things to make room for the special obligation he already had to his own readers and publisher. He did not apologize. This was just his life. BOOM.

Writing a book is a selfish endeavor, and I’m (kind of pathetically) grateful I get to do it six days a week for the next months. I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled programming early next year. I’ll still be blogging here in the meantime, but largely off social media.

So. Don’t ask me for any favors right now because the answer will be no. But if the favor is that you want to come over in late October to devour some sheet cake and binge watch Stranger Things together, why, I would not refuse.