Tosca lee

Tosca Lee has a glamorous job as a Senior Consultant for the Gallup Organization, in addition to being the author of the critically acclaimed Demon: A Memoir—a 2008 Christy finalist and Silver Award winner of ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year. Her next book, Havah: Story of Eve, releases this October.

For more on Tosca or her books, visit:

Isn’t It Glamorous?

My neighbors aren’t sure if I still live next door...

I’m writing this column midair from Milwaukee to LaGuardia. Note: I did not mean to go to Milwaukee. And I wasn’t sure I’d make it to LaGuardia. I was supposed to take off from Lincoln on Northwest. But I left from Omaha on Midwest. How these airlines with “west” in their names are supposed to get me east is beyond me. All I know is I was supposed to be there hours ago.

“Don’t you love it? Isn’t it glamorous?” people ask me when they hear what I do for a living.

As glamorous as B.O. As peeing at 35,000 feet in a bathroom the size of a value-sized coffin. As wanting to burn the clothes in your suitcase after wearing them every other day for a week. As glamorous as indigestion in a dingy, greasy-haired, eye-booger kind of way.

Throw the romance of novel writing in there and, well, you have the recipe for . . . uh, less glamour. Spare time spent sorting out mini-mountains of mail, or wondering when your hibiscus bloomed—and then apparently died. On the hunt for travel-sized toiletries. Picking through soiled laundry for items relatively less soiled and therefore still wearable.

Add writing deadlines and book travel on top of that . . . and some things hafta go.

Sleep, for one.

Social time.


Control over minute aspects of your life, including housework, yard work, paying bills . . . sleeping.

Eating anything that can’t be ordered off a menu by a number.


Reading, workouts, errands . . .

And sleep.

Earlier this year I walked into my Omaha office, where I am likely to be sighted as often as the North American jackalope. An acquaintance, upon spotting me, squealed, “Tosca! I didn’t know you still worked here!”

I have mastered the deer-in-the-headlight stare.

My neighbors aren’t sure if I still live next door. The hotel staff at some major chains have become my family, sending me off in the morning with, “Have a nice day!” The TSA guys at the Lincoln airport remark that it’s been a while if they haven’t seen me for a week.

I have long bought into the Superwoman myth. A local magazine once dubbed me “Lincoln’s Superwoman.” But now, as a perpetually twenty-nine-year-old single woman with bills to pay, books to write, and a home to maintain, I finally accept, in theory, that I cannot do it all. Kind of.

So I make concessions to my alleged human limits. My dog, Attila, has since gone to live with a former boyfriend. They are very happy together. I pay dogimony.

I rely heavily on my beloved, Rick, who takes me to the airport (and picks me up in Omaha when the last flight from Purgatory—I mean, O’Hare—to Lincoln cancels).

I supplement what I’m able to do myself the twenty to forty-eight hours I may be home at a time with the help of house cleaning and errand services. I rely heavily on the skills and part-time professional services of friends adept at graphic design, Web maintenance, and administrative projects. During the writing of Havah—when most of my friends were certain I had died and was rotting away inside my house—I found it made health and economic sense to hire a chef service. Three fresh meals on wheels arrived in my refrigerator each week for less than the cost of buying at a restaurant. Was it a splurge? Yes and no. It wasn’t cheaper than cooking, but neither does it make sense to work your tail off only to eat junk food and frozen dinners.

My tips for those on the edge of sanity:

* Sleep when you can. I observed my sister during her medical residency. She had learned to sleep anywhere, any time. Like a horse, she napped standing up. Be like the medical resident.
* Give yourself the gift of easy-to-tote laptops and good-quality carriers. Even if you don’t travel for a living, you can get a lot done in various places away from home in the course of a day.
* Weigh whether the hourly price you pay for help might be worth an hour of sanity.
* Keep your spaces organized.
* Treat yourself to high thread-count sheets, quality shoes, and good underwear. Trust me on this one.
* Eat nutritious, quality food.
* Exercise whether you want to or not.
* Take time alone.
* Take vitamin B.
* Drink your water. Then drink some more.
* Know what you’re good at. If you’re going to run ragged, make sure it’s doing what you were born to do.

In the absence of “great swaths of time,” as Julia Cameron calls them in The Right to Write, I find that the highest priorities really do float to the surface. That just as budgets expand to fit the size of incomes, a task will take as much time as is available. I envisioned Havah as a six-year work. But the majority of her writing happened over six months in fits and spurts sometimes days apart, one, two, and then twelve hours at a time—simply because that’s the time I had.

This can’t be healthy, or conducive to great work, I often think. But some things, like diamonds, are best manufactured under pressure. (I know diamonds also take a lot of time, but that’s the best analogy I can come up with on four hours’ sleep.)

I dream of cooking. Given a rare week at home, I’d conjure enough meals for a month. Clean out my closet. Write articles for magazines; read all the books spilled out of my book shelves and into my guest closet; concoct great plots, new ideas, collaborations.

Maybe shave my legs.


Read some of Tosca’s past travel adventures at

Tosca Lee