Writing a Book When Life Gets in the Way

Getting Through What You Can't Get Over Book CoverI should have known when I chose the title, Getting Through What You Can’t Get OverLife threw me plenty of fresh material, as one tough thing piled on top of many little distractions. Anyone relate?

With the greatest of intentions, you plan your life around that contract, basking in the after-glow of signing your name. You cut back, say no, and schedule in ways conducive to writing the next great masterpiece. But then…life.

For me, it started right after I signed the contract in April, with the loss of a dear friend to cancer, and my father-in-law’s diagnosis of a new brain tumor. This aggressive grower would require a second surgery, less than a year after he’d been through the same procedure. Only this time, he would undergo radiation five days every week, for a period of two months. Add other appointments, follow-up visits, side-effects requiring care, and my mother-in-law’s freshly broken ribs. Let’s just say as their main care-giver, it was one rough summer. And all the while, hovering over my shoulders, the contract deadline. September 1st.

So what’s a writer to do when life wants to get in the way of the writing? You take the problems and solutions, questions and lessons, the painful and the purposeful, and you write from the heart of your struggles. But there were a few practical/spiritual tidbits I acquired as I walked that long valley. I pray someone finds a nugget of help here today.

  • Don’t discount the value of brief moments. One of the most inspiring things I’ve ever read was the story of a man who wrote an entire novel two minutes at a time, because that’s all he could muster everyday due to his job/financial responsibilities.
  • This truly is a no-brainer, but bears saying anyway–turn off the social media for a while.
  • No matter how frazzled, far behind, or feverish you feel about the work you need to do, take a Sabbath rest. I can’t tell you how many times I was tempted to pick up my computer and write on Sundays, but I stuck to my commitment to honor God with that day set aside each week. I firmly believe He honored my obedience with supernatural strength and inspiration.
  • Look at your commitments through a microscope. Are there areas you can delegate? Can you humble yourself and ask for help–then accept it? Will you stop people-pleasing and say, “No,” when appropriate? Is there something you can neglect temporarily? Are there troops you can rally to teamwork? In my case, I was able to strategize with family members. We came up with a plan and took turns driving my father and mother-in-law to medical appointments. Not everyone helped, but instead of letting bitterness add to my emotional weights, I expressed gratitude for those who were willing and able.What Satan Means for Evil God Means for Good
  • Remember, what Satan means for evil, God means for good.
  • Crawl in your Writer’s Cave. I explain the process in the post link. But to date, I’ve found no better way to gain the solitude I need when those precious writing moments arrive.

It isn’t easy to pen a book, especially when life conspires to hamper your productivity. But I must say, life holds no power over the One who created it. When I asked God for help, praising Him in advance, He gave the assist. He never let me down.

I slid across the deadline exactly on September 1st. Are there parts of the book I wish I’d written better? Of course. Writing a book isn’t easy when life gets in the way, but if it was, then everyone would do it. When you finish yours, celebrate. For getting through something many never will.

What tips can you offer to those who are struggling to meet their writing commitments?

The Juggling Act of Marketing While You Write

I learned a lot from the publication and release of my first bookInstead of dwelling on what I did wrong or inefficiently, I’m focusing on improving those areas when Getting Through What You Can’t Get Over releases in April, 2015 via Barbour Publishing.

Authors on Facebook

Mention Tiny Excerpts from Your Work in Progress

For instance, while writing my first release, if I had known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have held my enthusiasm back. I would have let my natural flow of excitement transfer into some of my Tweets, Facebook posts, LinkedIn shares, and Pinterest pins. I wouldn’t have sold to people, but would have offered a few teasers, a new sentence, a punchy line taken from my project, while I was writing it, getting people interested early. Word of mouth is still the best marketing vehicle around.

I would have blogged about the process more. (Something I just started doing on my Writing Wednesday posts.)

Authors on YouTube

Open Yourself Up to Your Audience with YouTube Videos

I would have posted a few videos on YouTube about struggles, victories, disappointments, encouragements, life interruptions, cave-dwellings, along with other writing downs and ups. Adding more visual author media to marketing efforts enhances the experience for readers. This allows audiences to read tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language, as well as words.

I would have listened to Michael Hyatt’s fantastic audio series, Get Published!, while I was writing, not shortly after my book released. Then I would have acted on many of his insider suggestions.

While I juggle writing, marketing my current book, pre-release marketing for my new one, family, friends, speaking, coaching, and the occasional unexpected crisis, I’m also celebrating a few things I did right on the first go around.

Michael Hyatt's Get Published

I Highly Suggest This Audio Series for Publishing and Marketing

I made new connections, and built some solid and life-long relationships with people who can benefit my writing career, but more importantly, are now my friends. We help each other, encourage, pray, and genuinely care about what happens to each other, more than we care about what happens with our careers.

I proved myself capable as a professional writer and marketer. Building credibility and practicing integrity at the foundation of your career provides a solid footing to propel you forward as you move ahead with new books, articles, and posts. I see myself as a slow and steady author, who will win the race through consistency and solid growth. I’d rather experience longevity, versus a fast start that sputters in a flash.

I made some marketing mistakes, but didn’t let them become catalysts for giving up. Instead, I evaluated where things fell apart, and used those insights to make informed decisions and new plans. Some things I need to cut out completely, but most only require a few tweaks, and my updated marketing plans will prove more profitable.

Believe GodBut the most powerful thing I did right the first time, and am continuing to do now, is this: I am not leaning on my own understanding. Instead, I am asking God where to invest my talents. Who are the readers? Where should I market? What is the best use of my energy? When should I time marketing efforts? How should I balance the juggling act of marketing while I write?

In the end, none of us knows the perfect marketing plan. But, those who succeed exhibit similar qualities. Guts, consistency, resolve, humility, a teachable spirit, listening ears, watching eyes, and a quitting-is-not-an-option determination. No matter how much juggling is required.

What do you know now that you didn’t know before about marketing?

Writing With a Day Job

Writing Career Plus a Day Job

Juggling a Day Job With a Writing Career?

Are you a writer, or an aspiring writer with a day job? Ever get tired trying to juggle at least two careers, (day job and writing), along with mommy, daddy, spouse, family, friend, and church duties?

If so, you are not alone. A conference speaker gave this statistic. “About one percent of writers succeed at getting published. Because most drop out of the race.” Here’s my post on that experience.

Embedded within that percentage is a smaller number of those who can actually afford to write full-time. Making the leap to a devoted writing career usually requires long-term planning, intentional strategy, and detailed tactics. Jeff Goins’ recent blog encapsulates a great way to approach the goal of becoming a full-time writer. The steps he outlines, I could have written myself. (More on that in a later post.)

But if you’re reading this now, odds are writing with a day job is your reality. Anything else may feel like something built on fluffy clouds.

So how do you bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, serve it to those you are responsible for, and after the dishes are done still find time to pursue that dream throbbing with every heart beat? Can it be done? I believe the answer is a resounding YES!

People often ask me how I accomplish everything at work and home, plus write blogs, devotionals, articles, and books. After I imagine my cluttered living room, (I’m not Wonder Woman, something has to suffer), three things come to mind. “Resolve, listen, act.”

As a writer with a day job:

Juggling a Writing Career and a Day Job

Resolve to Invest Time in Your Writing Business

A. Resolve to invest wisely.

  • Treat your day job with respect. Just because you have a higher calling, or a bigger dream, don’t discount the gift of your employment today. After all, it pays the bills, and you can glean great writing fodder from things that happen in your workplace.
  • Watch less television, and write more. 
  • Create your own Writer’s Cave.
  • Rise earlier, and allow fewer sleep-in days.
  • Write when you’re tired, energized, or just so-so.
  • Schedule writing, don’t wait until you feel like it.
  • Celebrate small victories. Fifteen minutes putting words on a screen are worthy of excitement.

B. Listen to voices of genuine authority.

  • For me, the voice of God rings truth above any other I might listen to. Early on, I asked the Best Selling Author of All Time to mentor me, and He hasn’t let me down yet.
  • Do not disregard those who have written with day jobs before you. Heed their valuable advice.
  • Seek the wisdom of professional agents, editors, and publishers. They are in their positions based on education, experience, and talent.

Writer With a Day Job Book CoverC. Act on what you are taught.

  • Be a doer — not a hearer, dreamer, thinker, talker only.
  • Keep something for notes with you always. Inspiration comes in strange times and places.
  • Make tiny goals like, “Write for five minutes before I leave for work.” You will encourage yourself with things to look forward to, and enjoy a sense of satisfaction when you complete them.
  • Keep your word. It’s better not to make a promise at work, or as a writer, than to make one and break it.

Have you read Aine Greaney’s fabulous book, Writer with a Day JobIt’s full of tips, exercises, and encouragements.

One of the One

Unseen Journey to Publication

Curves Ahead

It was not an encouraging statistic.

On a cool fall day, the speaker stood at the front of the seminar class and eroded my confidence with his authoritative words, “About one percent of writers succeed in getting published. Because most give up and drop out of the race.”

I’d waited until my forties to do anything with a secret desire to become a writer, so his gloomy prophecy almost made me run from the room. Thankfully, I didn’t let his statistical shadows deter me.

A Shadowy Path

Shadows Crowd the Writing Road

Instead, I silently inquired of God, whom I believed had brought me to this place, and asked what He thought about the publisher’s statement. The answer came as a whisper, “With Me, all things are possible.”

At that starting line in my writing career, I vowed, “I will allow God to make me one of the one percent who succeed.” Little did I know how I’d need my early resolve to navigate past future bumps in the writing road.

Writing Path with Obstacles

Obstacles Litter the Road

Practical applications were required to pave the way.

  • I devoured books on the craft of writing, the business of publication, the magic of marketing, and the art of building a loyal readership. (I’m still studying these necessary parts of the process.)
  • I turned off my television, powered up my computer, and started practicing what I learned.
  • I created a Writer’s Cave and pursued my passion.
  • I faced my Fears and wrote in spite of them.
  • I followed God’s lead when I wasn’t sure where to invest my talents.

    Hard to Know Where Your Writing is Going

    The Road to Writing is Often Unclear

I determined to follow and not race ahead of God.

  • When impatience threatened to devour my energy and time with tangled emotions, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that God controls my dream.
  • I sought God’s kingdom first, before the allure of writing success. Each day, I committed to read my Bible before I wrote anything.
  • I submitted my desires and said, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
  • I trusted God, as the Creator of Time, instead of sweating it when I couldn’t accomplish as much as I believed I should.
  • I wrote down encouragements, so when hardships threatened to swallow me, I had factual reminders that God created me to write. I kept the list close and read His positive reinforcements as needed.

Over time, the hours of study, priority-driven choices and submission to God smoothed the course. But I endured many personal trials along the way.

One shocking revelation brought the news that my dad isn’t my biological father. My youngest sister faced life-threatening illness. My grandson was hurt. Every day, circumstances fought to distract, but in between the upsets, I tenaciously wrote one word at a time. While I traveled tough terrain, I held onto my God-given mantra — I will be one of the one.

Cloudy Writing Days

A Straighter Road Under Cloudy Days

Eventually, the road to becoming one of the one straightened. My portfolio of articles grew, my speaking platform rose, and my writing improved. As I obeyed His voice, God cleared the way.

I’m steering toward my goal of being in the one percent of writers who succeed at their craft. My first book releases in 2013. Growth will span my lifetime, but I refuse to give up. If God says I can be one of the one, then who am I to argue? After all, He put me on the road to writing.

What gives you the gumption to speed ahead in pursuit of your dreams?

Crawling Into a Writer’s Cave

Light at the Mouth of the Cave

Light At the End of My Tunnel

My phone rang for the fifth time in two hours. I looked at the caller ID and groaned. Not because of the person, I love her, but she represented one in a string of many interruptions.

“I heard you were home. Wanna go shopping?”

“Can’t. I’m writing today.”

“Oh. You want to grab a cup of coffee then?”

I swallowed down frustration. But then, I remembered a policy from my day job.

I said, “Would you mind if we scheduled? I haven’t really treated writing with the professionalism it deserves.”

At work, when I’m involved in a big project, I sometimes tell everyone not to disturb me unless it’s important enough to call me out of a meeting five hundred miles away. I haven’t given writing the same care. I think I’ll turn my home office into a Writer’s Cave. Once I crawl inside and shut the door, I’ll turn off my phone. If you see a post on my social media that says “I’m in the cave,” you’ll know what it means. At home, the closed door will signal my family. Does that make sense?”

My friend connected with the practicality of my situation, and we scheduled a later visit.

So I took the leap and crossed into other relationships.

I sat my family down and told them about the Writer’s Cave. “When I close the door, let me burrow in my work. If you’re tempted to disturb me, ask yourself these questions:

  1.    Can it wait?
  2.    Would I interrupt her if she were five hundred miles away?
  3.    Would I call her out of an important meeting to tell or ask her this?

They agreed, and in return, I promised regular hibernation breaks so we could have fun and catch up. My husband and I scheduled weekly dates.

Next, I told my co-workers. As a manager, employees often assume they can call any time, day or night, working or not. I don’t mind true emergencies, but often, my phone rings over petty questions. I asked everyone, including the president of our company, to respect The Cave as they would a project at the office.

I said, “If you’d call me out of a meeting five hundred miles away, then contact me; otherwise, please wait until my return.”

It worked.

Then, I spoke with my other friends, explained the Writer’s Cave philosophy, and found they supported the decision. Every single person respected my new resolve to schedule.

Since adopting this policy, my concentration improved, my word count increased, and I’ve completed more projects. I’m a better time manager. But more than anything, by proactively guarding my time and alerting the world in advance, I’ve prevented most unnecessary interruptions without offense.

Now, people ask, “Are you in The Cave tomorrow?”

Crawling into a Writer’s Cave helped me move past unproductive habits. By speaking up, I shed light on a dark problem.

How do you maintain focus? Or, what does your Writer’s Cave look like? What are three essential items that you must take with you into the Writer’s Cave?