Last night, the New York City Bar Association hosted a panel discussion on lawyering and parenting in the age of “having it all.” The panelists were lawyers-turned-writers: Amy Chua, author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother“; Emily Bazelon, senior research scholar at Yale and senior editor at Slate; and Julie Buxbaum, author of “The Opposite of Love” and “After You.”
It was interesting to hear both their perspectives on parenting and their insights on writing. Here are some tips I was able to jot down:
- Write First: The first thing you do when you wake up is write. Although writers are creatively productive at different times of the day, it might be harder to carve out time to write when we become parents or advance in our day jobs. One panelist suggested writing first thing in the morning. If that means getting up at 5:30 am, so be it. Otherwise you might find yourself scrambling for time to write, or simply lacking the energy to hit the keyboard. I tend to be more productive at night, but will give this a try starting tomorrow.
- Be Selective: Choose the things we really want to do well, then let ourselves off the hook for everything else. There’s no way you can be great at everything. Focus on the two or three areas of your life where you really want to do well, and let yourself slide for the others. For example, you can focus on your children and work on your craft, and perhaps not focus as intensely on being a faster runner. I think you can also apply this on a micro level: focus on one or two writing projects at a time and do them well.
- No Email/Social Media: Write first – check email and social media later. In an earlier post, I suggested limiting email and social media to once or twice a day. The panelists suggested no email or social media before or while you write. One of them uses Freedom, a program that blocks the Internet, to ensure she isn’t tempted to go online when she writes. I signed up for a free trial today. Blocking the internet means less time socializing online, but it also means you cannot research, use the thesaurus, etc. while you write. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it forces me to focus on writing and leave the researching/editing for another time.
- Don’t quit your day job: One panelist did quit her job cold-turkey to write, but success is not just about talent – it’s about luck, too. She gave the aspiring novelists in the room a reality check: there are many unsuccessful writers out there, and sometimes this has nothing to do with talent; sometimes, the manuscript falls in the right hands at the right time. While she took a chance and quit her job, she wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. This piece of advice is a little too late for me – I did quit my day job to hopefully find another that offers a more manageable schedule. The reality is that had I stayed, there was no way I could have focused on even my own health, let alone writing.
I’m glad I could share some of their insight, and hope it was helpful. Do you have any tips from writers? Please share them! Happy writing.