Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Keeping Your Book Project Alive--While Living a Normal Life

Michelle Goodman is the author of two really good books, helpful to writers and anyone seeking a creative life. First, she quit the 9 to 5 and wrote a guide on how to do it--The Anti 9-to-5 Guide. Then she wrote another book on how to be a successful freelancer--My So-Called Freelance Life--that gives practical advice to anyone trying to earn their living by doing what they love.

I interviewed Michelle about her book-writing journey. Hopefully some of her ideas will be useful to you too--as they provide the idea for this week's writing exercise.

MCM: What do you do to keep your faith in your book projects during the tough times that hit every author?

Michelle Goodman: Enlist a couple of close writing friends to read my pages for major gaffes or holes and to talk me off of the ledge as necessary. Tape reminders of what I want to accomplish with the book to the wall behind my computer, along with any pep talks and publishing-related jokes friends have sent me along the way.

Get out of the house for some blood-pumping exercise to clear the creative mental cobwebs that seem to appear at least once a week.

Make sure the house is stocked with really tasty health food that requires little preparation, as well as several pounds of chocolate. When too spent to complete another sentence, hit the hay, even if just for an hour.

MCM: What's the funniest learning experience you've had while working on a book?

Michelle Goodman: I'm not sure how funny this will be to anyone other than me, but YouTube really saved me while writing the last book. I'd watch my favorite Buffalo Springfield, Woodstock-era CSNY, and early 70s Genesis videos as a reward after finishing each section of a chapter. Who knew Steven Stills and Peter Gabriel would play such an important role in the book-writing process?

MCM: When you are working on writing a book, how do you juggle your bread-and-butter work (regular job) around creative time?

Michelle Goodman: My regular job is being a full-time freelance writer (articles, columns, blogs, and sometimes, corporate copy). When I was working on my two books, I had to clear the decks of all other projects. It's too difficult for me--and most people--to write/edit a book 6-8 hours a day and think that I'm also going to have the time, energy, or brain juice to write something else that day.

For my first book (The Anti 9-to-5 Guide), the advance was so small that I just lived off savings during the six months or so I spent writing it. Fortunately, the advance for my second book (My So-Called Freelance Life) was a bit more substantial. Of course, things never go quite the way you plan: I landed both a regional and a national column while writing My So-Called Freelance Life and had to work on meeting weekly deadlines for both during the last couple months of writing the book.

I was working all the time, sometimes not even sleeping more than four hours a night. It was hell, but I'm glad I did it. Those columns now help sell both my books.

MCM: Thanks, Michelle, for this real-world advice. To learn more about Michelle's books click here (My So-Called Freelance Life) and here (The Anti 9-to-5 Guide). You can also read her great ideas on using a blog to boost a book proposal by clicking here.

This Week's Writing Exercise
Making your writing dream happen--what does it take? Magic, hard work, belief, all of these? From Michelle's comments, you saw how much a professional writer supports her dream--with music, chocolate, reminder notes that boost the spirit, good writing friends.

It takes a willingness to put into place this kind of good support. But it also takes a willingness to let go of something that might be blocking you, taking up too much time, or wearing down your energy.

This week, look at your life. Either chart one day, as one of my coaching clients does, to see where support is and where time is disappearing into stuff you really don't get much out of (her support list included a weekly writing group; her energy drainers were nightly evening news, long phone calls with her sister, and too many potato chips).

What are you willing to put into place for support?
What are you willing to let go of?

Stop the magical thinking about your creative dream with this book. You can do it. Just make room for it in your life.

What do you think of this? Do you agree with Michelle's suggestions--or have ideas to share with other readers about your own experiences with juggling your writing and your life?