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Entries in Balance (18)

Monday
Nov092009

Juggling My Head Off

Question of the day: It seems like you wear so many hats - mom, writer, blogger, etc - can you give us a little insight as to how you juggle them all? As a fellow working/writing mom, I feel like I'm starting to drown in everything!

Sure, absolutely. Let me say from the get-go, as I always say when I address this issue, that I have fantastic childcare help, so that, right there, helps me tremendously. I know that I'm lucky to have this, and I also know that not everyone does have this, so I'm always honest when someone asks me about my productivity levels: there's just no way that I could get things done without my babysitter. If you're a mom who doesn't have help, I do suggest that in some way, you ask for it: your relatives, swapping playdates with a neighbor, hiring a mother's-helper for a few hours a week. Anything that can give you a LITTLE time to yourself to focus on your writing AND the person you are outside of your kids.

But I've been thinking about this question a lot since you asked it, and I do think it's more than that. Actually, rewind: let me be clear here - there are times when I am INSANELY busy but there are also times when I'm pretty slow (work wise - intellectually, there might be a case to be made for that too :), so I don't ever want to give the impression that I'm guns-a'-blazing 24/7. Certainly, there are plenty of women who lead busier lives than I do. But, with that out of the way, I think it comes down to two things:

1) I am very good at compartmentalizing. When I am in work-mode, I'm in work-mode. When I'm cranking on a deadline, that's when I am a writer. Period. When I'm not, that's when I am a mom. This extends to parts of my day, as well as overall arcs in my life. What I mean by that is that if I'm in the thick of a book, I close my door, even if my kids are home and maybe want to hang out, and I write. (Weekends are no-work zones for me. Always.) That obligation to my work is there. Maybe I do that for three hours that day, and then I open up my door and go have lunch with my kids. Or maybe it means explaining to them that for those few weeks, mommy really has to work a lot but once she's done, I'll have a lot more time to hang around. My kids get this. They see me working, and they know that I'm there for them - I don't miss anything important, don't miss karate ceremonies, don't miss taking them to school every day, don't miss making them dinner each night, don't miss reading to them at breakfast. I do ALL of these things just about daily, but then, I can close my door, put that mommy-role aside and put on my writer hat. I guess what I'm saying is that I can turn things on and off pretty well, and that works for my family - my kids wouldn't want me hovering over them all the time, and god knows that I wouldn't want to be hovering. When I'm on a really crazy work schedule, they're okay with it because I still find snippets of quality time in the smaller moments of the day, and when I'm NOT on a crazy work schedule, I devote a lot of my time (as much as we can all stand) doing things with them. So I think in that regard, anyone is capable of this: it's about feeding all parts of yourself equally - for me, being a mother is the MOST important job in the world, but you know what, being a writer is important to me too, and my kids know that and see the pride I have in myself, and I think they are the better for it.

2) This pertains back to number one - and not everyone will agree with this - but I simply DO NOT believe that moms have to be all things to all people. And I firmly believe that moms should reward themselves for doing the best that they can - especially working moms who often feel like they come last on everyone's list, often their own. That's definitely one area in which I related to Jillian from Time of My Life, as well as Tilly in The One That I Want - they're so busy running around tending others' needs that often times, no one is tending theirs. And I think a lot of moms can relate to that. So I say - and believe - that you just try your best. I'm not the mom who is going to bake homemade cookies for my son's class dinner (if you followed my tweets last week, ha!). But does he care? Are you kidding me? NO. But am I going to attend the class dinner? Of course! There are ways that I can preserve my energy and not feel badly about myself or my parenting or my sacrifice to my job. I think that often times, we moms really fall into the supermom trap - I can be class mom, I can be a bestselling author, I can be a sexy wife, and a great chef, and a marathon runner, and...well, you get the idea - but isn't that just frigging exhausting??? Isn't that just when you want to throw your hands up and go into the basement and drink a bottle of Merlot until you pass out??? So I don't - don't even attempt that. I give what I can to my kids and my husband and my job, and when I need an extension on my deadline, I'll talk to my editor, and when I need my husband to deal with the kids, I'll talk to him, and I find the ways that I can give pieces of myself - this year, I'm class photographer for my son's class and am working on the book fair and auction at his school - so that I'm committed but not over my head.

All of this is a very long-winded way of saying that I believe in balance. I believe in asking for help. I believe in saying NO, and I believe, when you can, in saying YES. I also believe that supermom is a fictitious entity that makes us strive for something that likely won't even make us happy. I want to run the marathon next year, but honestly, I don't know when I'll find the time to train. And if I can't, and I don't, well, that's okay. I know when to limit myself, and besides, there's always next year too.

 

Tuesday
Sep082009

TMI?

I was reading Janet Reid's blog this weekend and thought that she made a really good point in this post that I've never discussed here on the blog but one that I'm giving increasing thought to and that is the fact that as the lines are blurred between authors and their readers, authors and agents, authors and editors, etc, you CAN be too public, too out-there and that it can backfire.

These days, so many of us Twitter and Facebook and blog that sometimes, I think it's easy to forget that just about ANYONE can read what you're writing. I see this on Twitter a lot - I follow some folks who really lay it all there, which, of course, is fine, but I also think that if I were scoping them in a professional sense, I might think twice. The same can be true of blogs. I'm pretty conscious about revealing details of my family or my private life here - NOT because I don't think you guys aren't awesome, but because, well, I don't know who the heck is reading this. I also try to keep any truly negative thoughts to myself (because that doesn't serve the purposes of supporting other writers) and try not to bait critics or any sort of nastiness in the comments section or elsewhere. Sometimes, sure, wouldn't I love to totally let loose? Well....yeah...but Alice Hoffman did, and look where it got her. In a heap of trouble.

And I'm not even looking for an agent or publisher. I think that if you are, you just need to remember that you're google-able, that if someone wanted to, he/she can really unearth loads of material that you might not really even realized revealed things about you. This is one reason, for example, that I keep my Facebook private - it DOES give me a safe space (sort of) to let my freak flag fly, and it's another reason that I always carefully consider what I tweet about. Yes, I'm looser on Twitter - I post inane, silly, ridiculous things, but I'm fairly conscious about not making them (hopefully) detrimental to my character. I just post things - I hope - that people can relate to, not judge me by. And I think all writers, aspiring or not, can use that reminder, you know?

Anyway, I just thought it was interesting to discuss. The lines between us all are so blurry these days that we sometimes forget that the lines are still there. But they are. Still there.

Anyone else feel the same? Watch what you say, to a certain extent, in the public domain?

Monday
Jul202009

Managing Expectations

Question of the day: My debut novel is coming out in a short while, and I'm going crazy in anticipation. Can you explain what I can expect to happen and how, maybe, I can calm myself!

Ah yes, what I like to deem the "pre-launch diet," in which you feel nauseated all the time and can barely manage a bite to eat. Been there, done that. And if you survey most authors, so have they.

Since this is your first time at the rodeo, here's what I have to say. And this is a lesson learned in hindsight, echoed by some other author friends, including Laura Dave, with whom I have spoken about this for hours on end. And that is this: be realistic in what you expect and hope for your book. This was the biggest difference in my mentality between the launch of my debut novel and the launch of Time of My Life. When you are a debut author, you almost hope for the world. Could it be made into a movie? Will it hit the best-seller list? Will your inbox be filled to the brim each day with fan mail? And I'm not telling you NOT to hope for the world, but the likelihood of truly incredible things happening for your book, are, well, slim.

Ugh, I know that some of you are groaning, saying that I'm being a spoilsport, but I'm not. I've spoken before on this blog about how the much (though not all) of the success of many books (not all, but many) is determined before they even get out of the gate. With print runs. With marketing and PR budgets (or lack thereof). With cover art. And review space. And co-op buys. I know that it sounds horrible (and maybe reckless) to say, but there is only so much that an author can do. (I really believe this, despite the fact that sure, I'm still going to be promoting the heck out of the paperback release of Time of My Life in a few weeks.) Yes, your self-promotion can make a difference, especially when you have the support of your publisher behind you, but it won't, in my opinion, be life-changing. So when I say be realistic, I'm not saying that you can hope for great things for your book. Of course you can, but also keep a wise voice in your head that is going to allow for you NOT to be totally disappointed and demoralized when the book doesn't top the bestseller list or get reviewed in People or light the world on fire.

Geez, I'm really just digging myself into a deeper hole, aren't I? :) Okay, here's another way of looking at it: when Laura (and other author friends) and I talk about what the biggest difference is between our outlooks on our debuts and our outlooks on our follow-up novels, we almost always say that, well, we're a wee more cynical now. YES, enjoy your debut for every second that you can. I'm not taking away from this. LOVE IT. OWN IT. YOU WORKED YOUR ASS OF FOR IT. But, and I can tell you from first-hand experience, manage your expectations as to the book's trajectory. NOT because this says anything about you or your book but because that is the realistic truth about the publishing world. Do all of your blog tours and Q/As and email promotions, get all of your friends to buy it (and their friends and their friends), but BE OKAY with the fact that at the very least, you are now a published author, and at best, your book does light the world on fire.

Look, this is a thrilling time for you, thrilling. And my only point here is that sometimes, authors get ahead of themselves and then wake up after the party and are, well, sad/disappointed/demoralized, for lack of better words that the party isn't still going. Enjoy the party NOW, while you're throwing it, and try not to worry about what comes next. That's all I'm saying. You're published! Congrats! A lot of the rest of it, in my opinion, is out of your hands.

/please don't throw tomatoes in the comments section/ :)

Monday
Jun292009

When the Green-Eyed Monster Rears Its Head

Question of the day: I know this doesn't sound great, but I find that I get jealous over other writers' success. Has this happened to you in the past (or present)? If so, how do you deal with it.

Ah yes, when jealousy rears it ugly head. Hmmm, well this is both a good question and a tough question to answer. The easy answer, from my perspective, is that I've never been a jealous person - always let my boyfriends (and now husband) have their freedom, always been happy for my friends' success, etc. And so, when I see other writers thriving, no, I really don't get jealous. But the hard answer is that I understand COMPLETELY why people do. (I have plenty of flaws, don't get me wrong, it's just that the jealousy bone isn't one of them.)

The tough part about our industry is that a lot of it seems arbitrary. One writer succeeds wildly while another is never published. One gets a monster advance while another barely ekes high four-figures. One has bylines all over national magazines while the other is stuck reading them in the gym. I get that. And I don't have any real answers for the randomness of the success other than to say that I promise you that every person who has seen some sort of success in this business has worked as hard as you have. NOT that this means you don't deserve the same successes, of course not, but that he/she is equally as deserving. I get asked A LOT how I got to where I've gotten, and I can tell you that the short answer is that I worked my ass off. The long answer is that I also allied myself with people I trust, got a little lucky with my timing, and never stopped believing in myself. And then there is the even longer answer: I admired the hell out of more successful writers and tried to emulate them rather than resent the fact that they earned more than I did/published novels before I did/seemed to have an easier time at it than I did/etc.

Here is the thing that I've often said and always believed: there is enough work to go around. There are enough books that can be bought and published, enough magazine articles that need to be assigned. There is simply no reason to turn on your fellow writers, cannibalize on each other. One of the best things I ever did, when I was ascending the ranks of magazines, was join Freelance Success, where you will find a bevy of writers who are happy to share their advice, support your successes and failures, and serve as a cheerleading squad as you go on your way. There, I have found a network of like-minded writers who realize that stewing over someone else's triumphs is wasted energy. TOTAL WASTED ENERGY. Think about it: when you're sitting at your desk begrudging someone's byline, are you one step closer to your goal of breaking into that magazine? Any closer to finishing up your novel? N.O. Period. I've always adopted the attitude that if someone else can do it, why can't I? There's a subtle line that you have to cross, to shift from jealousy to admiration, but I recommend it. I think that subtle shift can change your outlook entirely. 

Thursday
Jun252009

Are You Too Connected?

So something both sad and fortuitous happened to me this week (which will be no surprise if you follow me on Twitter, since I complained a lot and loudly), but that is that my 5-week old iPhone bit the big one. Do not even ask me how (I have no idea) and do not ask me about it (I may blow a gasket b/c they wouldn't honor the warranty...did I mention that it was five freaking weeks old, and despite the fact that the genius bar dude claimed I'd "immersed it in water," I had not, and I have not, and the only thing I wanted to immerse was his face with my fist...but anyhoo...I digress). 

It turned out that, with the exception of my credit card bill as I was forced to buy a new one, this might have been a blessing in disguise. You see, between the time when it completely busted itself and the time that I was forced to purchase a new one, I was completely cell-free. Yikes. I know. Seriously, try to think about this. No email on the go. No twitter while walking down the street. No Facebook while waiting on dwindling lines at the grocery store. It made my skin crawl, made me antsy. What if someone needed to reach me asap? What if an urgent email came in claiming I was anointed with, I don't know, the Nobel prize? Who knew? Not me.

And then, because I had nothing else to do but think, I thought about it. I realized that I have become the person who takes her cell phone on her 5-mile runs, who is constantly checking email while running errands, and well, I have to admit that I think my writing, or more accurately, my ability to tap into my creativity has suffered. I've said here before that I often do my best thinking when I have no choice but to be alone with my thoughts: on my long runs, during my dog walks, times when I'm disconnected...and, well, if I'm constantly plugged in, I'm never disconnected. How had I ended up like this? I hate my husband's blackberry so much I want to flush it down the toilet, and yet, it seemed like I wasn't too far behind.

So, yesterday, when I got my new iPhone (did I mention I had to pay for it?), I did something sort of remarkable. I turned it off as I walked home from the store. I let myself, well, just be. Just listening to my music, just thinking about whatever needed to be thought about, and yes, to  be honest, I think it helped my writing, since I came home and revised my draft for a good 3 1/2 hours. 

I'll be leaving it home on my runs from now on too. Who needs to check their email while jogging around Central Park? Really? Think about it. Disconnect yourself for a few minutes a day, and I think you might find that you agree, and more importantly, that your writing might agree too.

(Disclaimer: no genius bar dudes were hurt in the writing of this post, and of course, I do not intend any physical harm toward them, as I fully realize they are not responsible, so don't post comments that I'm threatening them or anything!) :)

Tuesday
Mar032009

No Longer Working for the Weekends

So, as a follow up to yesterday's post about writing blog posts on the weekends, I've also changed something pretty dramatic about my weekend behavior as of late. And that's this: I no longer check my email over the weekends. Gasp! True, my Blackberry does go off, but I almost always just tune out the emails as soon as they come in. And despite my Blackberry, I make a very conscious choice not to open my inbox from Friday night until Monday AM.

And you know what? I totally freaking love it. I am not beholden to think about work for an entire two days, and as a result, on Monday AM, just with the blog posts, I sit down at my desk totally re-energized.

In this day and age of instant technology, I think it can seem scary to ignore your email (and again, yeah, if there were a crisis or whatnot, I have my Blackberry to warn me), but I'm telling you, the world does not stop for these few days or hours. I was someone who was sort of always on-call, and it feels so, so, so liberating not to be. Honestly, if you're feeling burnt out, try it! Just knowing that I can ignore someone's request for my time or thoughts or answers for a few days makes me feel empowered and more in control of my time and schedule.

Anyone else do this? Or thinking about it? Give it a try!

Monday
Mar022009

Time Out for Blogging

Question of the day: Could you do a post about time-management and everyone could talk about how/when they fit in writing time? For example, do people who blog and write books have a schedule -- blogging first thing in the morning and writing at night, for example?

Absolutely! This is something I'm definitely struggling with right now because even though I don't spend every waking second working on my ms, when I'm NOT working on it or doing a freelance piece, which lately for some reason, I've been really busy with, I tend to like to let my brain drain, sort of like a battery that needs to deplete itself before it can be recharged. So often times, the last thing I want to do - and this means no offense to y'all, it's just about my energy levels - is write a blog post. For a while, I was really burnt out on blogging but kept at it because well, I didn't just want to stop abruptly after all of the work I'd - and you'd - put into making this such a warm, writer-friendly place for all sort of levels of writers in the industry.

So my solution has been to try to bang out a few posts over the weekend. I can usually grab some quiet computer time on Sunday night after my kids have gone to sleep, and if I can get two posts done for the week, I actually look forward to doing another one a few days later. But when I have to do them drip by drip - one each day and sort of cram it into my day when there are a million other things I'd prefer to be doing - I really lose my enthusiasm. Overall, this has definitely worked really well for me. Not only does it free up some of my time during the week, but it's also made me enjoy this blogging endeavor a lot more.

What about you guys? How do you find time to fit it in? Anyone ever get burned out like I sometimes do?

Tuesday
Sep022008

OMG, It's Crunch Time

So I got back from vacation last night - we actually came back early because we were so ready to return to real life - and I woke up early this AM with that panicky feeling that comes when you have soooooo much on your plate that you don't even know where to begin. Yikes. Can anyone relate? Nah - I'm sure that none of you out there feel so busy that you actually feel your pulse speed up when you think of everything you have to get done!

But here's the reality I recognized this AM: my book is coming out in a month! Holy freakin' crap. Which means that I have to start answering a variety of Q/As for blogs, put together a reading group guide for my publisher, stay on top of the PR/marketing stuff that's happening, check in with the movie folks who said they might have some news soon, etc, etc, etc. On top of that, my fabu hubby is throwing me a book party after my NYC reading (NYC-ers, let me know if you're around on Oct 15th, and I'll send you details!), so I'm trying to coordinate that too.

Oh, and there's all of my freelancing stuff to attend to: I love doing all of my celebrity stuff, which is primarily what I focus on these days, but now I have a slew of interviews to conduct and draft within the next two weeks.

Oh, and did I mention that we're moving out of our house in two weeks? Um, yep. For four-six months to endure construction. (Don't get me started on this one. Let's just say that I love my husband very, very, very much to put up with this!)

So...back to the point of this post. We're always discussion how we all juggle our myriad hats as freelancers, and today, here's what I did: I woke up, and started doing things immediately. While my kids' waffles cooked, I followed up on some celeb stuff and some book PR stuff on my laptop in the kitchen. Once they were settled in with my sitter, I came up to my office and fired off emails about some book club guide questions. Then I dealt with a few party-related emails. Then I posted this blog. Next, I'll take a quick walk to clear my mind (and go grocery shopping!), then I'll head right back here to keep plugging away.

For me, the only way that this stuff gets done is to do it. Now. So I am.

Anyone else wake up today - the first day after a lazy summer - and feel like everything was snowballing?

Friday
Feb222008

On the Mommy Track

Question of the day: A personal question, if you don't mind: everyone says that when you have a baby you can pretty much forget about writing for the first year or two, but it looks like you're handling it fine. How do you do it?

Wow, I had no idea that everyone says this, and if everyone does say that, I think it's a big old bag of hooey that might give women a reason to toss out their figurative pens when a baby comes along.

For me, a funny thing happened on the way to motherhood: I became more productive than I was pre-kids. Frankly, I can't even remember what I did with my time pre-kids. Seriously. I sometimes say to my husband, "What did we do? I mean, really, how did we fill our time??" I'm sure we found some way to fill it, but the sense of urgency wasn't there. For example, I'm writing this blog post right now because I'm eyeing the clock and see that I have exactly one hour before my nanny leaves, and I sure as hell better get every last thing done that I need to get done before dinner/bath/bedtime happens. Which is a long-winded way of saying that because I have fewer hours for my work during the day, I tend to make more of them than when I had as many hours as I wanted.

So I don't buy this theory that you can't write once you have kids. In fact, I just interviewed a TV actress who said that having kids has made her all the more creative because it's opened her heart and mind in so many ways, illuminating all sorts of things that she previously missed in the world. And I concur completely.

Look, there's no doubt that kids can take over all aspects of your life if you let them (or if you want them too). I'm not one of those moms who wants them too. I love my kids more than ANYTHING on the planet, but I still need to feed other parts of myself, so...I have help when I need it (a la, my sitter), and I pour every last thing into those hours that I can. Whether or not you can afford help, there are often ways to get a repreive during the day: organize a neighborhood sitting system with four other moms, in which each of you watches the others' kids one day a week, freeing up three days for your work. Ask a family member to drop in several times a week. Hire a high schooler on the cheap.

To buy into the theory that you can't devote time to the inner-writer in you just because you're a mom (or dad) really sells everyone (and everything) short: you, your kids, and finally, your work.

So all you moms (or dads!) out there, tell me, has motherhood made you more or less productive?

Monday
Jan282008

I'm Back!

Sorry for the week of silence, but, oy. The same day/night that we moved, my son came down with the stomach flu that is sweeping NYC, and well, our new place - if you smell hard enough - now slightly smells of barf. Lovely. And my daughter woke up with it yesterday. Add in sleepless nights (why do kids seem to puke only between the hours of 12-7 AM?), a dog who has let us just how he feels about our new house by occasional poops on the floor, and all of the other chaos that comes along with moving, and go figure, I haven't had a chance to blog.

But the good news is that my Time Warner guy kicked ass, so my internet has been up and running! Hey, silver lining and all of that.

Anyhoo, this is simply my way of saying that I'll be more actively blogging this week and from here on out....I'm just too brain-dead to do it today.