My secret to writing a book while juggling life & work

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I´m writing a book.

I´ve done this before. Many times. 18 to be exact. In fact more times, if I count the unpublished manuscripts too.

I´m not saying this to show off, believe me. At 53 I´ve had plenty of time to write in my life. It´s what I do. That´s the only reason I know for sure I can pull it off. And yet, every book is different.

Lorraine C. Ladish books 1

Some of my books in different languages

I mainly write non-fiction, which comes more easily to me, and I thoroughly enjoy it. But I´ve also written and published fiction, which I also love.

The practical difference between both types of writing for me is that, in general, a fiction book is written first, and then sold to a publisher. A non-fiction book, for the most part, is sold to a publisher first, based on a proposal and then, once the contract is signed, you sit down and write it.

There is always a deadline involved. That deadline can seem far, far away when you agree to it. But as the days go by, it can feel like it´s picking up speed, sprinting right at you.

I recently had a conversation with a colleague. She´s publishing her book with a major publisher. I told her she didn´t seem very excited.

“Well, now I have to write the darn thing!” she exclaimed. “I have a business to run, kids to raise … When am I going to carve out the time to actually write it! But on the other hand, this IS what I always wanted! Or is it?”

I know the feeling.

If I could just take off to a faraway island with no internet connection and write my book for six months. Ah, that would be bliss.

But for the most part, reality for writers is different.

We don´t write books for the money. The advance doesn´t cover the cost of child-care and a several-months-long stay at a resort in the Bahamas. We do it because we love writing. And so, we find a way to write our book while still getting on with life.

The real reason behind my productivity

My books on my bookshelf – I keep them as a reminder that I got this! (c) Lorraine C. Ladish

There is never the perfect time to write a book
I´ve not written a single book in ideal conditions. I would write late into the night after a day of translating someone else´s writing, or after a day of penning articles. I would write when I was depressed, broke, pregnant, after having a baby. I would write an hour here, an hour there. I would write sitting inside a playpen with my toddlers to make sure they didn´t go experiment with the kitchen knives as I focused on my laptop screen.

This book I´m writing now for HarperCollins is no different. It´s a non-fiction book about embracing our age. I´m passionate about the subject.

But, again, I´m writing it while I also get on with life and business.

Stuff I´m juggling while I write: being a mom to three teens and tweens, which is a full-time job already, managing my business Viva Fifty Media, writing for sites like NBCNews, AARP and Mom.me and shooting videos and taking photos for sponsored content.

I´m also menopausal and feeling it, which means I can wake up bone tired, exhausted, on any given day, and then my productivity blows.

But I have a deadline.

I was going to go on a retreat, for five days, check into a hotel. My husband, also a writer, suggested that. I thought it was a great idea. I did that once when my eldest was a baby, so I could finish a novel that I later sold to a publisher. It was money and time well-spent.

Then, recently, my dog chewed up my favorite pair of seeing glasses. All $700 of them. So I decided that I would forgo my writing-in-a-hotel experience so I could buy myself a new pair of glasses. After all I need to see what I´m typing, right?

But I also had to figure out a way to make writing my book a priority without losing my mind and without  affecting my work and business.

What it really takes to be successfully self-employed

Commit to the words on the page (c) Shutterstock

So here´s how I´m doing it
First of all, before I even started to write, I divided the total word count I´m committed to by the reasonable number of days I think I can work on my book weekly. I calculated how many words I needed to write each day to make my deadline. It came to fewer than a regular blog post. Heck, I can do that! My anxiety levels dropped and I felt like I was in the saddle once again.

Now for the logistics.

I work from home, always have, and hopefully always will. I get up in the morning and take the youngest kids to school. The eldest walks to and from high school, yay!

I then go to my yoga class. Yep, I´m just not a morning person, so I start my day off with yoga instead of writing. My husband, also a writer, gets his writing done even before he has coffee. To each their own.

Then I go straight to the library or to a nearby bookstore and order brunch. I turn off my wifi and my smartphone and open my laptop. The key here is that I associate the library or bookstore with writing only my book. Nothing else. No social media, no answering e mails. I even have an out of office responder letting everyone know I´m only checking e-mail twice a day. They can text me if it´s a life or death situation.

I write while listening to soft music with no lyrics. It could be two hours, it could be three. But there I sit, typing away until I have nothing more to say.

Because it´s a non-fiction book, I´ve divided the chapters into different word documents. That way I can work on the one I´m most inspired for on any given day. It makes it so much easier.

When my time is up, or the idea-well is dry, I drive home, take a shower, maybe put on some makeup.

Then I continue with my to-do list for the day. I pick up my youngest from school and work on my other projects while she does her homework.

And so it goes, day in, day out. (cont. below)

What it really takes to be successfully self-employed

I´m way past the halfway mark already. And the words are flowing. As long as I keep it up, they will continue to flow. As Picasso said, “inspiration exists, but it needs to catch you when you´re working.”

And guess what, I´m already thinking of other books I want to write after this one.

Writing begets writing. That´s why I was inspired to write this blog post today.

And I hope I inspired you to find your method to write that book, whether you have a real or self-imposed deadline, without losing your mind, your job, or even your family!

Make a plan to write your book and get it done, however it works for you, then stick to it. Time will pass whether you do it or you don´t. I say you do it!

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8 Comments on “My secret to writing a book while juggling life & work

  1. I so much appreciate your advice on your blog post. About two years ago, I completed writing courses for a children’s picture book, a publishing course, and attended a children’s writers workshop. Unfortunately, I had to put my writing project aside to deal with my dad’s health issues and other business matters even though my project was always on my mind. Currently, I am seriously thinking on cutting down on other work related projects, so I can focus more on pursuing my dream of publishing a children’s picture book and spreading my literacy message to Latino children and Latino parents. Thank you so much for sharing your writing journey to meet your deadline! Love learning from experienced writers and entrepreneurs. 🙂

    • Ah, life is never ideal for our passion projects. I read that Bertrand Russell wrote The Conquest of Happiness when he was actually sick and depressed. It´s a matter of making it a priority. I also have scaled back a bit on freelance work, otherwise something´s gotta give. But most of all, it´s about setting aside time and energy on a daily or weekly basis – whatever that looks like for you – and do it until it´s done! Sending inspiration your way!

  2. This is great, Lorraine. I’ve always thought about writing a book. So many people have told me I should, too. My excuse was,”when would I have any time to do this?!” I guess I can’t make any more excuses! Thank you! xo

    • Oh, Denise, yeah, there never really is “enough time.” My dad has written all of his books against all odds. My husband writes at the crack of dawn and then tackles everything else. He used to write in the car between photo assignments when he was an active photo journalist. I dream of that day when I can just write books or … maybe not. 😀 Perhaps I would not write if I had the time! 😀 – GO for it!

  3. I only wrote half a book, but it required tons of research, interviews and such. As you know, I did it while managing two bootstrapped businesses and a home. My best trick was to take Friday’s off by not scheduling any meetings or calls and head to the same cafe. There I would turn on my OOO and turn off any social media distraction and close my email. Email is my biggest time suck, for sure. Just like you, I found I could get in the “zone” if I wasn’t at home or the office but in a place that was just for the book. My husband also helped on the weekends by arranging to take our daughter for several hours while I worked on edits.
    Not sure I could pull off this system again, but it worked for that book!

    • If I know something is that no two books are the same and no two (or more) times when writing them are either. I prefer to write regularly (close in time) or I lose my flow. But as you say, if the system worked then, it was a great system! I can´t wait to see what you do for the next one, because I´m pretty sure there will be a next one!

  4. Wow! I really like the way you broke this down. I’ve had ideas written in a notebook, but I haven’t even begun with the meat of the book or books! I’ve got three boys myself, a ministry, a new business to run, and well, you know home life–cooking, cleaning, and everything else in between.

    I am going to implement your little plan on how you split up you writing to make it easier to achieve. Thank you so much for writing and sharing this!

    • I hope you do! There is never the perfect time to write a book. 😀 … And each person is different. Every book is different. Wishing you inspiration and most of all, consistency!

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