Welcome to So Relatable, a bi-weekly newsletter featuring conversations about the creative process, suggestions for nourishing yourself, and inspiring links. I’m glad you’re here!
As regular readers of this newsletter may know, I’ve been working on a novel for almost two years. One of the book’s major plot points is an insurance fraud scheme, which means I’ve Googled “how to get away with insurance fraud” countless times, with varying levels of success. As it turns out, publishing detailed instructions for committing felonies is generally frowned upon. Who knew? (Also, sincere apologies to my IT department. I’m innocent, I swear!)
One of the reasons I love writing fiction is the freedom to simply make things up. Writing (and, for that matter, reading) is a chance to explore new ideas, experience different perspectives, and say or do things you’d never say or do. Like, for example, insurance fraud!
Making things up, however, can only get you so far. At some point your imagination reaches its limit and you need to go straight to the source. I headed to Facebook:
As luck would have it, the father of one of my best friends from undergrad was a claims adjuster for forty years. Forty years!!! She gave me his contact information, we set up a phone call, and less than an hour later I had a WEALTH of information.
I was pleased to discover that my Google skills are pretty good—my book’s plot was not only possible, but probable (give or take a few twists). I’ll have to make some adjustments to the timeline (apparently it takes longer than three months to get a million dollar settlement) but nothing that will completely derail my project. WHEW.
While it was a relief to fill in some plot holes, the best part of the interview was listening to someone talk about a world completely different from mine. During our call, he told tales about sleazy adjusters, shared stories of fraud gone wrong, and described settlements big enough to be a phone number (definitely using that line). For a moment, it felt like one of my characters had come to life.
I will always love making things up and using my imagination, but this conversation was a poignant reminder that telling the best story demands more than just me. It requires turning to other people, asking them good questions, listening closely to their answers, and respecting their experiences. When it comes to art, confirming what you already suspected is nice, but learning something new is downright transcendent.
And if what you learn is how to commit insurance fraud? Even better.
Snack of the Week
I require dessert after every meal. Sometimes it’s a handful of dark chocolate covered almonds, other times it’s a cookie. Lately, I’ve been satisfying my sweet tooth with a Hold the Dairy! Vegan Chocolate Mini Cone, a new delight I discovered at Trader Joe’s. (I’m vegetarian, not vegan, but prefer to spend my daily dairy allotment on cheese.) These cones are cute and cold, crunchy yet creamy, and completely delicious. You only need one but I like to have two or three, just in case. 🍦
Do I Have Productivity Dysmorphia? Refinery 29. “Productivity dysmorphia sits at the intersection of burnout, imposter syndrome and anxiety. It is ambition’s alter ego: the pursuit of productivity spurs us to do more while robbing us of the ability to savor any success we might encounter along the way.” Oh no. It me. 😳
The Impossible Ideals of the “Writer’s Life”, Catapult. “As time wore on, the members of my MFA cohort continued to grow and evolve as people… At first, these fully rendered people alarmed me. Why weren’t they writing? We’d talked about this! Together, between the bygone karaoke nights and subsequent sludge coffees. We were supposed to claw to the top together, legends in the making who would interview each other for Vanity Fair. Why, then, were they giving up?” Oh no. It also me. 😳
The Endless Life Cycle of Book Cover Trends, Eye on Design. “[B]ook jackets are part of a trend cycle, borrowing from looks of the past, and absorbing styles from the present.” Publishing + Marketing = Catnip for Chrissy. 😻
A few weeks ago, one my most-clicked links was Morning Brew’s new personal finance newsletter. (You are my people, clearly.) This week, I wanted to alert y’all to my other favorite newsletter from their suite—Sidekick, which features links to help you live a smarter, more productive, extra delicious life. Hm, sounds familiar… At any rate, you can subscribe here. 🌮
Thank you to Kate P. for the transcendent gift of your generous support!
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