Deliberate Rest

A blog about getting more done by working less

Tag: book promotion

Tech Nation and “The Neuroscience of Rest”

Last week I went up to San Francisco to record an interview with Moira Gunn and Tech Nation. The interview is now available online, on their episode “The Neuroscience of Rest.”

KQED this morning

Moira is a terrific interviewer, and she started with a question about Santiago Ramón y Cajal that made me think, “Boy, she’s really read the book closely!” My second thought was, “WHAT DID I WRITE ABOUT RAMON Y CAJAL? THINK!!!”

I feel like I’m getting better, somewhat slowly, at the craft of interviews. When you listen to a good interview, it sounds just like a couple people chatting; but underneath that ease and fluency is a hard bedrock of preparation. Learning what to do in order to prepare, how to anticipate questions, and simply how to sound good, is a challenge.

For Tech Nation, I made sure to get up to San Francisco super-early, and hung out in a coffee place nearby and went over my notes.

Reviewing before my interview

I now put a lot of value in not rushing myself whenever possible. Of course there are times when you have to dash from one thing to another, but if I can avoid it, I find it makes a big difference in my mood and performance.

Anyway, I have another half dozen radio shows scheduled for the next couple weeks, and then there will be UK appearances (one hopes!), so with luck I’ll get good at this. Or at least learn to speak without saying “you know” and “ummm” every third word, which would be a step forward!

Radio day

Rest officially came out on Tuesday, and in the last several days I’ve been doing lots of press interviews and a few radio spots. Today I’ve got two radio interviews, both at Stanford’s video facility.

Radio interview

The first was with the Joy Cardin Show on Wisconsin Public Radio, and in a couple hours I go back for another interview with THINK, a midday program on KERA in Dallas, Texas.

Radio interviews are interesting craft, and I’m definitely still learning how to do them– but I do feel like I’m getting better. Radio is a medium that doesn’t reward speaking quickly, or giving long, discursive answers to questions; to the contrary, you need to be super-quick, brief, and to the point, without dumbing down your ideas or misrepresenting yourself and your work.

Radio and REST

For me, the biggest challenge is being brief, just answering the questions that’s right in front of me, and not jumping immediately to the scientific evidence or historical examples. I love that stuff, and I really enjoys sharing it; but I have to reign it in when I’m on the radio.

Doing a good interview also requires a strong dose of empathetic imagination. You’re sitting in a room that’s windowless, soundproof, and your only companion is a microphone a few inches away from your face. But answering a question well requires imagining the interviewer, and imagining the caller. It’s certainly possible to think of them as just disembodied voices, but I think your answers (my answers) are better if I think of myself as in a conversation, and recognize that I’m actually talking to people.

But like I said, a lot of good performance is craft. Be bright and upbeat. Speak clearly: all those “umms” and “you knows” and “sort ofs” that we naturally use in everyday conversation, and which we easily filter out of conversation with people across the table, are really noticeable on the air.

Keep your answers short. Let the host decide what direction the interview should go: you may have things you want to make sure you say, but they know their audience, and it’s best to follow their cue.

Use turns of phrase or keywords that are memorable and direct people to the book. (I’m going to tell hosts not to try to pronounce my full name, but instead use the short version, and pronounce it in a way that makes it easier to Google; I’ve looked at search terms people use to find my blog after interviews, and I had no idea there were so many ways to spell (or hear) Alex Soojung-Kim Pang!) Having turns of phrase that you can pull out and use is great for keeping a conversation going, and planting and idea in a listener’s mind.

Remember that even though you’ve talked about this a thousand times (and may have thought about it for thousands of days), your audience is hearing it for the first time, so you should speak to people who haven’t heard about the book or you or the argument.

And keep your answers short. Did I already mention that?

Goodreads giveaway!

REST will be out in just over two weeks, and to celebrate, I’m starting a Goodreads giveaway.

I’ll be giving away ten autographed hardcover copies of the book. Goodreads will select the winners, and I’ll send the books out after the contest ends on December 15. (They might make it for Christmas, they might not. I can make no guarantees!)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Rest

by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Giveaway ends December 15, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Head over to Goodreads to enter, and good luck! And of course, you can also preorder the book online, or look for it in your local bookstore on December 6.

The alchemy of publishing

So this showed up in my timeline this morning:

(I don’t usually check Twitter until later in the day– I reserve the mornings for more serious writing and thinking– but I was trying to track down someone, and was looking at a Twitter account with their name.)

That’s a nice way to start one’s week! And if the delivery comes in time, I’ll have a copy of the book to carry with me to Europe.

Nicole did a terrific job with the cover design (even coming up with an image that was more resonant than she could have known), and I’m really looking forward to seeing the book for real.

It’s interesting that a project that I’ve lived with for years feels “real”– or at least a different kind of real– the moment it’s bound and shipped, and escapes my control. (I had the same feeling with The Distraction Addiction.) I can talk about the book and promote it and encourage people to write reviews of it, but mine is now a representative or supporting role; from here on, the book gets to stand more on its own.

My desk at Newnham College

I’m still impressed at how publishing a book (or to a lesser degree, an article) feels like a slightly supernatural thing. A manuscript remains tentative and changeable and exploratory, no matter how long you work on it; a book, in contrast, transmutes the words and argument into something more final and definitive-feeling.

Two coffees

Of course, they’re the same words, and people will argue with them or praise them, but still, I’m struck by how I read my own words differently when they’re published.

I think it’s a bit like having children grow up: they’re still yours, but they’re more themselves, more independent, and they’re now going to have lives that unfold according to their own rules, following their own forces, and increasingly will diverge from your own. And on balance that’s good: with both people and book, you want them to be able to stand on their own, with our constantly having to defend them.

Fortunately it can happen a little faster with the books!

Speaking at the Westerkerk: Come for the rest, stay for the magnificent 17th century architecture!

I’m going to be going to Amsterdam in November to promote the Dutch edition of my new book REST, and one of the events I’ll do is a talk organized by the School of Life on November 23.

I was looking at the logistical details, and it turns out that the evening will be held at the Westerkerk, a 17th-century Protestant church that’s one of the largest in the Netherlands and looks absolutely spectacular (and has a great view of the city).

When I was younger I did a lot of choral singing at churches, so I’m more familiar performing in this kind of environment than your average non-religious person. Indeed, I find myself writing about subjects that aren’t precisely religious in nature, but do overlap with religious issues, or are explored by theologians and ministers.

And one of my favorite contemplative computing talks took place at a Buddhist monastery in upstate New York.

Talking about contemplative computing

Nothing like an audience of thousands of divinities to call out your A game!

So perhaps speaking the Westerkerk will offer a chance to reflect a bit on the religious or spiritual dimensions of rest (what a rich topic!), and at least note the degree to which rest has been seen not just as a respite or idleness, but as an opportunity for restoration and common with the divine– turning it from the absence of work into a time with its own purpose, a purpose that we often forget in our more secular world.

Too often we see rest as either disposable (which it’s not), or just as a negative space defined by the absence of work– which it shouldn’t be. Thinking of it this way impoverishes rest, and reduces our appreciation of its potential and value to us. Arguably, observance of the Sabbath provided a framework for experiencing rest as valuable, and the retreat of religious observance has left us in need of a new foundation for making sense of rest in our lives.

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