How to live life on a need-to-know basis

Photo by <a href=”">Dim 7</a> on <a href=”">Unsplash</a>
Photo by <a href=”">Dim 7</a> on <a href=”">Unsplash</a>

Recently I offered this piece of unsolicited advice to an author whose first book had just been published: Don’t be constantly checking your Amazon rank. Limit yourself to thirty times a day.

That was only sort of a joke, since I had a feeling this author was likely to check fifty times a day. In truth I meant zero times a day. That’s probably unrealistic for first time authors, but if you want to know the truth I haven’t looked at my Amazon page, let alone the ever fluctuating sales rank, for the last three books I’ve published. …

Can I retire now?

“essays for $1200” on March 24, 2021 Jeopardy

A few weeks ago, on March 24 to be precise, my decades-long writing career reached its apex. No, I did not win a major prize, receive a giant royalty check, or see my bestselling novel turned into a blockbuster film (or, better yet, a landmark cable series). I was a clue on Jeopardy.

Specifically, something I wrote was a clue on Jeopardy. It was under category of “essays” in the $1200 box.

I said I shouldn’t. For now.

Photo by Noah Buscher on Unsplash

Last week I wrote about feeling like I was too old to write about my life. It was kind of a toss-off post, a last minute effort to come up with something to say as my deadline neared. I didn’t expect much to come of it, but it seemed to touch a nerve, making it all the way to Medium’s Human Parts magazine as well as the regular blog.

Several people messaged me or left comments saying they were sorry to hear I wouldn’t be writing about myself anymore and hoped I would change my mind (which was very nice…

This Is Us

I used to be known for personal writing. Now I can’t bear it.

Photo: novales5 / Getty Images

I’ve recently had a revelation that should have been obvious but for some reason wasn’t; the older you get, the less charming it is to tell stories about yourself.

As someone who spent at least the first half of her career mining her life for interesting/funny/embarrassing/emblematic-of-larger-cultural-phenomena anecdotes that I could write up for magazines or whip out at dinner parties, this sparked a bit of a crisis. Who am I if can’t take my daily micro-dramas and recast them as zany antics for fun and profit? What happened to the girl who could turn a bad date into a 1,500-word…

Why have I been working as a writer all this time when I could have been selling mugs?

You know those moments when you look up from your life and realize, with breathtaking clarity, that it’s exactly the life you dreamed of when you set out on your journey? You know what it’s like to feel years of hard work and ambition suddenly coalesce into deep satisfaction, as if the vision board you put up in high school has vaporized into your own personal pixie gas?

Professionally speaking, I can think of three memorable examples of this feeling: getting published in The New Yorker for the first time, receiving a fan letter from someone I was a fan…

I still love Los Angeles. Will I ever be able to go back?

A black bear visited L.A.’s Eagle Rock area on the evening of March 3, 2020

I awoke Thursday morning to the news that a bear was roaming the streets of my old neighborhood in Los Angeles. At that point there was only one photo in circulation, a shadowy image of a large black bear moseying past a garden wall in the northeast L.A. enclave of Eagle Rock. By the time I caught up with the story, the bear was already the subject of countless social media posts and even had its own Twitter account, where it was tweeting jokes like how angry is your cat that it has to stay in?

Microphone Settings Are Making Me Crazy.

Photo by Jonathan Farber on Unsplash

As I discussed a few weeks ago, I have a podcast and it’s taken over my life. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, since roughly nine tenths of the American population now have podcasts and are apparently able to juggle that work with other responsibilities. But I’m not always the best monotasker, let alone multitasker, so every day is a battle to not completely screw up in some way.

With the U.S. population at approximately 333 million, my above-cited data would suggest that 33.3 million people do not yet have podcasts. …

The only thing in hotter demand than a Clubhouse invite is a coronavirus vaccination

In this photo illustration, the message “Hey we’re still opening up but anyone can join with an invite from an existing user!” for Clubhouse’s waitlist is seen displayed on a smartphone screen
In this photo illustration, the message “Hey we’re still opening up but anyone can join with an invite from an existing user!” for Clubhouse’s waitlist is seen displayed on a smartphone screen
Photo: Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

If you’re prone to FOMO — that’s the Fear of Missing Out — there’s a new horror show in town.

The exclusive, invite-only social media app Clubhouse lets people gather in virtual rooms to talk in real time with real people about pretty much any subject you can think of — provided it’s on an iPhone. Launched less than a year ago, it was humming along mostly under the radar until the last month, when a couple of high-profile users hosted a couple of highly attended talks: for instance, Elon Musk chatting with Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev on February 1…

Sunday’s snowstorm turned the world into art

New York City, February 7, 2021

Last Sunday in New York City and throughout much of the northeast, snowfall stripped the color away. It had snowed long and hard just a week earlier but something about the texture of this storm made it uncommonly beautiful, maybe so beautiful that it knew color would only get in its way. The sky was gray and everything else was a subtle shade of that same gray. The buildings, the cars, the people, the animals; they looked like carved sculptures, marble against marble, only the red brick retained enough pigment to penetrate the…

The company of my contemporaries is the only thing making me feel like I’m not crazy.

Photo by Orlova Maria on Unsplash

Last week an old friend phoned me out of the blue. He was listening to my latest podcast episode, he told me, and had felt compelled to hit pause in the middle and call me talk to about it. Like me, my friend is a Gen X writer who’s dealing with the effects of an industry that’s reinventing itself in ways that don’t necessarily favor people of our vintage and older. The person I was interviewing on the podcast was a Baby Boomer writer who spoke frankly about being past some definition of his prime. …

Meghan Daum

Weekly blogger for Medium. Host of @TheUnspeakPod. Author of six books, including The Problem With Everything.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store