Tag Archives: Writing Tips

UPDATE: Advice from Lawyers-turned-Writers

I recently wrote a post on a NYC Bar event on parenting, writing, and “having it all.” I zeroed in on the advice for writers, but now you can watch portions of the panel discussion on Youtube! It is chock-full of insight on not only writing, but juggling a career and family responsibilities.

Part 1: 

Part 2: 

Part 3: 


Advice from Lawyers-turned-Writers

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” andAfter 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 FirstThe 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.

Setting Priorities: Balancing Writing Dreams with Reality

Aspiring novelists dream about being published and financially sustaining themselves with their writing.  But how do we achieve this with the family, financial, and other demands in our lives?

I thought about this after a particularly busy week, where there was a lot of dancing, job searching, etc., but not a lot of writing.

There were also major changes in my friends’ lives, which triggered serious reflection on my part. Many are fulfilling their dreams of becoming parents, joining amazing companies, or leading their businesses. It’s incredibly inspiring – it made me stop and think about my own goals as a writer and in life generally.

My dream is to spend the rest of my life doing what I love. I love to write and dance. I want to be a novelist. I want to teach belly dance. At some point, I want to be self-sufficient and have my own business, which may or may not be related to either.

But here’s the reality: I have a lot of educational debt. I want to start a family. I want to stay in/near NYC. How do I make it happen?

I jotted down some ideas on how I can possibly make my dreams a reality. Hopefully these ideas can help you, too:

  • Write every day, no matter how busy I am. I was up at 5am the other day, and I watched the birth of a new day from my window. Writing at this time would be a great way to start the day!
  • Cut back on the extras. I don’t want to cut back too much on dancing since this is also a life goal. But rehearsing 5x a week for 2-3 hours at a time is definitely too much. After tonight’s performance, I plan to go back to my regular schedule (2 classes a week and rehearsal).
  • Limit the social networking. Yes, that means cut back on Twitter, Facebook and G-chat! And for me, that doesn’t mean simply being a passive participant. Going “invisible” isn’t enough. I just need to check my accounts once or twice a day tops and stay off the rest of the time.
  • Enter more writing competitions. I haven’t done many of these, but I think I should work on at least one short story at a time and submit it to competitions. I’ve started using the Poets & Writers reminder tool for grant and competition deadlines.
  • Find a job that doesn’t kill my soul. Despite my educational debt, I left my big law job because I didn’t love the (stressful) work or the long hours. The path didn’t lead to a life goal anyway. It has been difficult to find work in this economy, but hopefully contract legal work will give me the financial resources I need and the time to focus on my writing.

What are your goals as a writer? What do you do to make sure you achieve them? Share your tips in the comments.

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