Wednesday, October 30, 2013

How a Woman in her Thirties Did It

I didn't let a lot of people know I was writing The Take Back of Lincoln Junior High when I was writing it, but the few people I did would look at my little baby girl, my gigantic preggo belly, and say, 'I don't know how you do it!'  It was always lighthearted, and was always answered with, 'I have no flipping idea.'  And that was that.

Anna, saying hi to her baby brother. A billion years ago.

I realize now that when people said that-- 'I don't know how you do it!'-- there was a hint of unintended sarcasm.  'Yeah,' they could have continued. 'That's so cute that you have a baby, are about to have another one, and actually think you're going to write a book.  I mean, you are adorable.'

When the publishing thing happened, it was a slow process.  Rejections, then acceptances, then a very fortuitous meeting with the woman who is now publishing my book.  The rest is, well, I wrote about it here.  Publishing a book has been a long, but very rewarding process.  

Now, the comments have changed.

Well, actually, they haven't changed.  I still get, 'I don't know how you did it!' except there is no edge.  There's no condescension.

'No, seriously,' people (particularly moms) now demand. 'How the eff did you do it.

But the answer is different.  I know exactly how I did it, so here it is.  The good, the bad, the ugly.  I am documenting this for posterity, but also so other women in their thirties can use this list to publish their own proverbial book, whatever that may be.

1.  Logistics

Let's just get this part out of the way.  The only snide comments I've gotten about publishing a book have been around me being a stay-at-home mom. 'I wish I had time for that.'  The implication, of course, being that a stay at home mom has so much extra time on her hands, since she doesn't go to an office to work.  

Here's what I'll say:  There are lots of wonderful things about being a stay-at-home mom, but extra free time is not one of them.  

Right, guys?

Here's how I logistically made the book happen:

  • I was a crazy person about naps.  Still am.  When writing the book, I had Anna on a two-nap schedule.   I NEVER let her nap in the car.  I NEVER skipped a nap in order to participate in some sort of activity.  As soon as I got her down, I wrote.
  • L traveled a lot during the time I wrote the book, and this was during the time that Anna was in bed for the night by 7:00.  On those nights, and there were lots, I had a choice.  I could either sit on the couch with a glass of wine and unwind with some TV, or I could write.  Nine times out of ten, I wrote.
  • I let things go.  As in laundry, house-cleaning, and sleep, all things that I most definitely could have used my 'down' time for.  I chose to write.
The moral of the story is that I found and made the time.  You, too, can do this.  It might take lots of work, and it will definitely be a sacrifice, but if it's something that makes you happy (and writing makes me happy), then quit your excuse-making and make it happen.  

2.  Reality

When I was young and dreamed of being a writer, I embraced the idea of the writer's life.  Long afternoons in dimly lit cafes with my pen, paper (laptop, later), a steaming cup of tea, and my thoughts. While I'm sure that is the reality for some writers, it isn't for most.  I will never forget when I heard Khaled Hosseini speak after he published The Kite Runner (P.S.  Have you read And the Mountains Echoed?  Beautiful.)  He had a young family, was a successful full-time doctor, but wanted to try his hand at writing.  So he woke up at 4:00am every day for two years to make his book happen.  

Once I let go of the idea of what writing a book should or should not look like, I learned (as Jane Hamilton once said) to enjoy the process.  During the times when I wrote, I saw it as 'my time'. I ignored any distractions.  No one messes with Momma's time.  

Alright, fine.  One person could mess with Momma's time. 

3.  Goal-setting

I am not the type of person who has a hundred projects going at once.  I'm also not the type of person who says she's going to do something but doesn't do it.  Goal-setting works for someone like me.  My goal for finishing the book was simple:  GET IT DONE BEFORE YODA GETS HERE.  

Because I knew very well that that once he got here all bets were off.  (And man, was I ever right about that.) The first draft of the book was done about two weeks before he arrived.  Challenge completed.

4.  Defining Success

This was a crucial part of the process for me, and maybe belongs as #1.  Writing a book has always been my dream.  Always.  Writing is a part of who I am, and how I process the world.  I don't pretend I am the greatest writer ever (and if I ever did, the proofreading process was humbling to say the very least), but I always had a bigger picture in mind, and it was this:

Someday, I'm going to tell my kids about the importance of following their dreams.  I'm going to tell them it's okay to take risks.  I'm going to encourage them to be brave, to put themselves out there, even when it's scary.  

(Mimsydotes.  Seriously.)

And I want them to look at me, their mom, and see an example of someone who has done just that.  I don't have any expectations for the book.  I don't care if I make a ton of money (though that would be nice), I don't care if it's a huge flop (though that would suck a little).  

That is not the point.

The point is that I had a dream, and I worked my tush off to make it happen. In my eyes, and hopefully the eyes of my children, I'm already a success.  


  1. Again, you are an inspiration to me. I want to work harder.

  2. You ARE a success. And a great mom. And a great friend. So proud of you!

  3. Thank you for being so real and honest. And thank you for admitting it was hard work! Of course it is worth it though. So proud of you. :) (P.S. Can we talk about how gorgeous you are in that last picture?!)

  4. I am so proud of you, and I'm not surprised at all that you were able to accomplish this. I've always envied your ability to maintain your priorities, even with distractions (whether the "distractions" are adorable children and maintaining an awesome home, or bud light and house parties circa 1998). Love you!! You really are an inspiration.