Bradley Tusk
8 min readNov 7, 2023

My debut novel, Obvious in Hindsight, is officially out today! In an effort to support small businesses, local independent bookstores in key cities have first access to the book starting today, with the hardcover shipping November 28 on Amazon. You can also listen to it on Audible!

On today’s episode of Firewall

How do supremely busy people find time for their passion projects? Bradley explains the long, hard and rewarding road to the publication of his first novel, OBVIOUS IN HINDSIGHT which comes out Tuesday Nov. 7 at select indie bookstores across the country.

Hugo [00:19:40] So let’s talk about work habits, how do you fit this in to the rest of your life? We mentioned the writing of the TV scripts while you’re on a safari. But as a basic thing, how did you do this? Where did it sort of fit into your life?

Bradley [00:19:55] Yeah, I mean, I started it during COVID, and I think I had, in retrospect, an emotional reaction to COVID that I wish I hadn’t had, which was part of how I dealt with it was to bury myself in work, to a point where I was taking lots of crazy risks. So I did a lot of things that got started in that period of time, some of which succeeded, but a lot which failed. So the novel got started. That succeeded. P&T Knitwear got started. That succeeded. The Gotham Book Prize got started. That succeeded. Our sort of pivot to universal school meals got started. That succeeded. But at the same time, I did a SPAC that failed completely. I did Exalt which was a religion startup that failed completely. We ran Andrew Yang for mayor and that didn’t work out. And I think that I was sort of just dealing with it by being as active as I could be. So that’s why I started working on the novel. But, you know, writing a novel is really hard. I’ve written three books now and novel was the hardest by far, because how do you structure this thing, right? Like with The Fixer, it was a memoir. It was actually really easy to write. ‘So I did this. Then I did that. Here’s another funny story..’ and the mobile phone book, while harder to write because it was more substantive than The Fixer, we did research and I plotted it out with my publisher, kind of what I wanted to cover. And then I wrote about it,.

Whereas with this novel, and you’ve read multiple versions of this, I mean, the story at one point was even much more sprawling than it ended up being. Right? And a lot of this was how do you kind of keep paring it back into something that is comprehensible and that readers can wrap their arms around? Because there were 20 more subplots that I could have gone into that for me were interesting. And so that’s kind of how I got into doing it. And then look, what I have found is, at least for me, when I have a writing project going, I am happier. Now I am still results-oriented enough as much as I’m trying to adjust that a little bit in my life, that I don’t want to just write for my own benefit. I want to be published somewhere, right? So it helps when that writing project is part of a book deal or something else. Not because of the money, because I’d be much better off, you know, focusing on something else more lucrative if that’s what I wanted to do with my time. But I know that it makes me happy, and especially with fiction. And this is kind of what was happening on the Jeep in Africa. The plot, the questions. How do you work this thing out? How do you work that out? It’s kind of going through the back of my mind at all times. But it’s funny. I’ve got, you know, obviously a very varied schedule over the course of the day or the week where the majority of my time is spent on our venture capital fund. But I’ve got the foundation and I teach and I write and I podcast and all this other stuff, and I have to sort of jump from thing to thing over the course of the day because it’s only what makes the schedule work. The only time where I really wish I could just cancel everything and write is when I’m writing fiction, because if I’m into it, it’s all I actually want to do with my time.

Hugo [00:22:56] So how did that work in terms of your actual day? Were you up at five in the morning cranking it out?

Bradley [00:23:02] No, I mean, I’m up at five anyway. What I found was if I needed to write something that I had to figure a lot of it out, then I needed a chunk of time right? Whether it was a weekend, an evening, you know, a morning from 5 to 8 or whatever it was. But if it was more just sort of advancing the plot, I could sit down for half an hour between meetings and write, you know, five pages of dialog or whatever it is. And then I also found that just over the course of the day, I was constantly kind of realizing things just and taking notes, you know, in the middle of a meeting, I’d be like, Oh, wait. And then I’d like make a quick note on my phone. So, you know, it was sort of an ongoing process.

And look, the bigger thing is I think what I realized, I was talking to my friend Rob Galligan about this. Rob’s like a super successful child psychologist and was trying to figure out how do you balance all the different things in your life. And what I said is it took me a very long time to get to this place, but there’s 168 hours in the week. I have to get everything done within the span of 168 hours. All of my work, child care, anything personal, sleep, whatever else is needed and how I divide those up doesn’t really matter. It just has to work for me. So I work out with my trainer at 930 in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. For years I had this like in my head, this like story built in so that if I ran into someone I knew, I could explain why I was at the gym and not working and then found like, it doesn’t f — king matter, right? But it took me years to get comfortable with that. And when I look at it as 168 hour block of time and, you know, having a great team that helps schedule everything that I do so obviously makes my life really efficient because I’m able to basically not spend time on anything I don’t really want to deal with. But, you know, when I look at it in that block and it’s just it’s got to get done and I’m not worried about what’s supposed to be happening at specific hours. It seems to work out.

Hugo [00:24:54] So you might be at your desk at Tusk offices. And three in the afternoon you might be cranking on your novel, that’s possible right?

Bradley [00:25:05] Yeah, totally. And you know, equally possible that it’s 6 a.m. I’m reading an investment committee memo or you know, doing diligence or something.

Hugo [00:25:13] So there’s no like 1500 words a day.

Bradley [00:25:17] No, no but I do write pretty fast. And I think I rely on that. And I think that sort of ironically, by going to work in politics instead of writing, I think actually made me a faster writer, because when I worked for the Parks Department, my first job out of college, Henry Stern was the Parks commissioner, not only did I have this personal goal that we would issue one press release per day, so more than 365 a year. But we also had a daily newsletter called The Daily Plant, and I wrote the Daily Plant and, you know, it was probably like a thousand words, 1500 words every day, right? You know, I had to make up something.. So and banging that out. And then when I went to work for Chuck Schumer doing his comms, Chuck is the most aggressive sort of politician in the world when it comes to getting attention. And so I was just pumping sh-t out left and right for him to, you know, press releases, speeches, whatever I could think of, and then a little less of that when I went into work for Mike and then I went to be deputy governor. But even then, like when I was deputy governor, I was still writing Rod’s big speeches. Like I would write the state of the state address, I would write the budget address. I would, you know, in part because I was figuring out the policies that I wanted to pursue through the writing process. But I think I just wrote so much so quickly that I learned how to do it almost the way that maybe a journalist does. And so banging out, like when I was writing the voting book, basically I did that over the course of ten weekends, I would say, and I was basically trying to do 5000 words a weekend. And it was a long weekend. But I mean, long as in not an extra day, long just like a lot of work, but I got it done.

Hugo [00:26:53] So I have two questions, two more questions, and then maybe we’ll talk about Mayor Adams for a second. Try to distill it into one single piece of advice you’d give to, like someone who’s a professional person or has a taxing job of any kind. And they have a, let’s say it’s a writing project, but maybe it’s something else, like a passion thing that they want to pursue on their own time. Try to think as specifically as possible, what’s the one thing you’d tell that person?

Bradley [00:27:26] Don’t make excuses for why you can’t do it. Just f — king do it. Right? And if it’s 20 minutes on the subway or half an hour at your desk or whatever it is. Find a way to be productive because either the words pile up or whatever it is piles up, or it doesn’t. And you could have the best excuses in the world. And great. You know what? Nobody gives a sh-t, right? Nobody wants to hear your excuses. Nobody wants to hear your complaints. Either you achieve it and you do it or you don’t. And if it is that meaningful to you, you just have to do it and just make it work no matter what.

Listen to the full episode out on Apple Podcasts or Spotify!



Bradley Tusk

Venture capitalist, political strategist, philanthropist and writer.