Editor’s note: This month, we bring you brief reminders from pros around the world about what or who helped them forward in their careers.

I’m thankful for a long-ago newspaper assignment that took me to the backyard woodcutting studio of a carver whose name I can’t remember but whose pile of white-pine kindling I remember well. The carver, who made and sold duck decoys for a living, said something like, “See that pile of wood? There’s a duck in ever’ piece of that wood.” He said what you do is you take a piece of wood and “Cut off the part that ain’t duck.”

I’m grateful for that woodcarver and for my New Yorker editor, Daniel Zalewski, who brilliantly, in terms of story structure and pacing, enforces the idea of cutting off the part that ain’t duck.

Also, not gonna lie: Netflix. Also, but never lastly: coffee.

Paige Williams ~ staff writer at The New Yorker, book author, teacher

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