As Writers, As People, Defer to Who You Are.

It’s 1:16 p.m. I’ve just gotten both the kids to nap. It’s taken me four days to re-synch them after their schedules were all off during an intense weekend of non-stop book proposal hysteria.

Saturday and Sunday, I cranked out the Overview, Audience/Market, and Annotated Book Table of Contents sections of my sixty-five-page book proposal. Roberto parented solo, and the sunrise-to-sunset thunderstorms made it difficult to do our usual method of one p.m. outdoor nap-inducement by way of wheel-propelled things. It wasn’t his fault, but targets to curse were scarce those four days as my youngest’s cute, curl-covered little head nearly fell off. I tried to keep him up and he kept nodding off, and my eldest bounced and jumped and licked windows well into the afternoon. This meant no time for me to work, the postponement of delivering my book proposal to the agent, and obviously the postponement of my career and the postponement of the massive film about my book, which would star Jack Nicholson as Dad and Ellen Page as me.


Wow. Awesome. I bet Roberto loves this fun version of me, I kept finding myself worrying. I bet he loves my constant anxiety and need to Do! Do! Do! when it comes to work. I bet he loves my inability to leave work at work. (Kid Number Two thinks I work at Starbucks.) Today, it’s back to the book proposal, but it’s also time to be wa-a-a-ay chiller. In this awesome post, Grub Street’s Daily Grub contributor Katrin Shumann really hit the Reset button on the thinking that productivity is the cure-all. Instead, the road to success is paved with moments of nothing.

Shumann writes:

We’re constantly being given contradictory advice. Modern day lifestyle gurus say our brains are overloaded with stimuli and human beings can’t function optimally under that kind of constant pressure. They tell us to slow down.

But writing coaches often advocate the exact opposite: Set yourself a daily word count goal and stick to it, no matter what. Busywork is still work, and eventually you’ll tap into something good. Get your butt in the chair. Write a book in a month (NaNoMo). Stay relevant. Don’t just write one book, write a series. Don’t just write a series, write multiple books a year!

And once you’ve got a book out there, it’s your responsibility to sell it. Write to-do lists, set priorities, aim high, don’t give up. If you’ve got an opportunity, grab it. Don’t just blog, get a column. Don’t just give talks, run a conference. Don’t just be in the paper, get yourself some national media! Go, go, go. Do, do, do! (Follow Shumann on Twitter @katrinschumann or check out her Web site:

She goes on to advocate re-shaping our work lives to fit what works for the kind of writer or person we are. I love this. I recently told my sister, who’s a new mom, not to try to be the kind of mom she thinks she should be or who other people think she should be, but a mom that mothers in deference to who she is. If she weren’t really super organized pre-newborn, she shouldn’t suddenly try to become a human calendar. Being what she imagines she should be may last for a bit, but it won’t last forever, and then she’ll be upset with herself. This advice works for writers and anyone in general.

For me, it’s taken getting older and having kids to get that not working in a way that’s à la Sarah is not sustainable long-term. How do you deal with the pressure to produce?


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