Nightmare in Nanking
The first thing I noticed when I walked into Iris Chang's Sunnyvale, California, apartment was the fact that her kitchen counters are completely devoid of clutter. No toaster oven, no canisters, no cooking utensils, no coffee maker. Nothing. Just gleaming countertop.
Later I discover that this minimalist approach extends throughout the rest of her small apartment--which she shares with her husband, Brett--and permeates her everyday life. Chang eats simply and healthfully, eschewing coffee, tea, soda, candy or junk food. She hates shopping and the very idea of "acquiring things." She steers clear of parties. She swims several times a week and takes nightly walks with her husband. The two have put off plans of buying a house, though they could afford to.
All of this is by design, she tells me. While many of her friends have spent their 20s buying things, nightclubbing, and riding the emotional rollercoaster of the dating scene, she's been able to focus on what's most important to her: her writing. "It's so easy to fill up your life with extraneous materials-too much information and too much clutter," she says. "If you're singleminded in your focus, you can really achieve a lot."
Obviously, this philosophy has worked for her. At 29, she already has two critically acclaimed books to her credit. And there's every indication that her second book, The Rape of Nanking, will enjoy some degree of commercial success as well.
If she can keep avoiding life's clutter, there's no telling what Iris Chang will be able to accomplish in her 30s.
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