How Author Morgan Jerkins Gets it All Done (While Having a Day Job)

Forge talks to our Medium colleague and the bestselling author of ‘Wandering in Strange Lands’ about productivity and focus. And sleep.

Kelli María Korducki
Forge
Published in
6 min readAug 6, 2020

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Morgan Jerkins. Photo: Sylvie Rosokoff

Before the pandemic relegated Medium staffers to working from home, ZORA senior editor Morgan Jerkins sat feet away from Team Forge in Medium’s Manhattan office. Every so often, she’d break the focused silence of our editorial wing with an out-loud story discussion or a throaty, infectious laugh — casual gestures of camaraderie that belie Jerkins’ parallel identity as a rising star of the 21st-century cultural canon. Her 2018 debut essay collection, This Will Be My Undoing, was a critical triumph, cementing Jerkins as a key voice in an emerging generation of critics that probe the intersections of Black American experience.

The now 28-year-old author has just released her second book, Wandering in Strange Landsa roving, investigative journey that retraces her family’s route through the Great Migration — and is working on a debut novel. In the meantime, she juggles speaking engagements and the occasional teaching job, book promotion and, yes, self-care — all while chasing the day-to-day deadlines and creative brainstorms of a full-time job at Medium’s publication for women of color.

Jerkins spoke to Forge about staying motivated, organized, creative, and sane as an author on the rise — all while balancing a demanding full-time job.

Forge: Were the circumstances of writing this second book, in terms of your day-to-day routines and commitments, any different from the first?

Morgan Jerkins: When I was writing This Will Be My Undoing, I was working full-time at a literary organization. In fact, one of the people that worked there helped me with my book proposal.

Then I started doing more contributing writing [on the side] and then I finally [went full-time] freelance. I was shuffling around a lot because the levels of support changed. And the further I got into the book, the more I had to rely on myself.

You were finishing Wandering in Strange Lands when you started working at ZORA. Why did you seek out a full-time job at that moment, when

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Kelli María Korducki
Forge
Writer for

Writer, editor. This is where I post about ideas, strategies, and the joys of making an NYC-viable living as a self-employed creative.