war on the rocks

Entry 55: Trying to Write on a Hectic Day

February 28, 2018

Editor’s Note: This is the 55th installment in Van Jackson’s daily writing journal, “Nuke Your Darlings,” which tracks his six-month battle to write a new book on North Korea. Will he meet his deadline?

Today was hectic.  I had about 90 minutes to work on the book, and squeezed in just under 500 words.  My schedule was taken over by three meetings, two media interviews, two research interviews for the book, and last minute course preps before my teaching load resumes next week.

Everything else was predictable, but the media stuff was unexpected, as always.  The State Department’s special envoy for North Korea policy—one of the only credible advocates for engagement with North Korea still in the administration—announced he’s retiring immediately, which triggered a news cycle pontificating about the implications.  Of course I weighed in, and of course that ate up precious time.

I feel like I recovered the narrative for this chapter after yesterday, but I just wasn’t in writing mode today.  Too much fast-brain activity and human interaction made it really hard to transition back into the deep-work mindset I need to write productively.

I’ve also reached a point in the book where it’s starting to feel like a slog getting the words on paper.  I know what the story is and I wish the book were finished.  The end isn’t that far away, but I’ve been working on this book at the expense of practically everything else—especially on the research side—and there’s a lot of other stuff I want to get to.

I’m done with the part of the book that explains the origins of the nuclear crisis in a historical and political sense.  Barring a war in the next 12 months—which is not impossible—the arc of the nuclear crisis itself is also clearly sketched out.  This is the part of the project where I have to dig in and embrace the suck.


Van Jackson is a senior editor at War on the Rocks and an associate editor of the Texas National Security Review.