How to Say No – NEAL STEPHENSON

NEAL STEPHENSON is an author known for his speculative fiction works, variously categorized as science fiction, historical fiction, maximalism, and cyberpunk. His bestsellers include, among others, The Diamond Age, Cryptonomicon, The Baroque Cycle, and Snow Crash, which was named one of Time magazine’s “Top 100 All-Time Best English-language Novels.” He also writes nonfiction articles about technology in publications such as Wired magazine and has worked part-time as an adviser for Blue Origin, a company developing a manned suborbital launch system.

Note from Tim: By now, you know what this is: the type of email that makes me cry and smile at the same time. Herewith a lovely hasta la próxima from one of my idols, writer Neal Stephenson.

Hey there, Tim,
Sorry for the slow response and thanks for thinking of me in this context.

It has become pretty obvious of late that I’m trying to do too much, and so I started an experiment of not adding anything whatsoever to my “to-do” list, so that it wouldn’t get any longer.

The result is that the items that were ALREADY on my “to-do” list only spawned more items as I crossed them off, and so it’s a little like fighting a hydra. I am hoping that if I am ruthlessly efficient, I can one day get to the point where the list actually gets shorter instead of longer.

In the meantime, unfortunately, the “ruthlessly efficient” part of this plan means that I am turning down things like this just as a blanket policy.

Again, thanks for thinking of me and good luck with the project!

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