Entry 69: An Unexpected Distraction

March 20, 2018

Editor’s Note: This is the 69th 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?

I got jammed up today more than normal. A television news show in New Zealand (Newshub) wanted on-camera comment about Chris Liddell—a New Zealander—being appointed Trump’s deputy chief of staff. They just dropped by my office with a camera man with about 20 minutes’ notice.

I was already short on time today, but the Henry VIII-like court politics of the Trump administration has become something of a hobby as part of a different project I had cooking before this book. So I gave a quick interview. We’ll see how it turns out. I think I said something like “Anyone who serves at a senior level of the administration needs to be prepared to be publicly humiliated at the whim of his boss—just see Tillerson.”

Not a big deal, but it displaced other things I had planned for the day. There were knock-on effects.

When I do interviews—especially TV—I get amped up and focused on the moment. I’m not sure if it’s deliberate but I think it’s how I naturally ensure I can perform when I need to. The consequence though, is like being in fast-brain mode on steroids. I can’t concentrate in the way that I need in order to write well. It causes hyper-awareness—even stimulation—rather than focus.

Also, it probably sounds like a small thing, but doing the interview meant that I missed my workout, which normally helps keep me sane. I get through big projects by becoming a creature of habit.

After a lifetime of poor stretching habits, I committed to ten minutes of yoga as the first thing I do every day—even weekends—and started doing full-on yoga sessions a couple times per week. It’s made a difference. I still did my morning yoga because it’s literally the first thing I do every day, but missed the big session. Oh well. I wrote a little under 800 words today. Mostly obligatory words, but forward progress.


Van Jackson is a senior editor at War on the Rocks and an associate editor of the Texas National Security Review. He is also a Senior Lecturer in International Relations at Victoria University of Wellington, and the Defence & Strategy Fellow at the Centre for Strategic Studies.