seen a commercial trailer lately for a movie starring some of my
favorite people: Sarah Jessica Parker, Greg Kinnear, and Pierce
Brosnan. It’s called I Don’t Know How She Does It,
and the movie chronicles the life of a wife, mother, and professional
woman trying to juggle all the details of a jam-packed life. Bear in
mind that I am not a wife or a mother, and I recently left corporate
America behind in pursuit of full-time writing . . . but for some
reason, that movie trailer speaks to me.
I was working approximately
forty-eight hours per week at a day job at a telecommunications
company, surrounded by detail-oriented folk perfectly suited to their
surroundings, people who made their entire lives about conference
calls, status meetings and graph reports, when I began selling my most
high-profile books. Because my commitment pie chart showed The Writer
Life as my main priority, I had to figure out some way to write
those books while pedaling as fast as I could on the day job.
It’s odd how a schedule with absolutely no spare time can suddenly be
adjusted to accommodate something we really want, don’t you think? But
if I had a dollar for every time someone said, “I don’t know how you do
it!” well, I’d be typing this from my beach house overlooking the blue
I probably prayed for three
straight years, asking God to make a way for me to quit my day job and
write full time, before the details of my life moved into place and I
felt released to do just that. I revised the letter of resignation I’d
been nursing for a year or more, turned it in, and didn’t look back! I
dove headfirst into TGU (The Great Unknown).
Do you remember learning to dive
into a swimming pool? My first time, I belly flopped. The second time,
I skinned my forehead on the bottom of the shallow end. The third time,
I panicked in midair and hit the water in an awkward fetal position.
But my meticulously planned dive into TGU went fairly well this time
around. I had a book to finish and two more contracted, so a lot of
focus was required. I respond well to deadlines and the need for focus.
So I made a writing schedule on the white board in my office, created
Excel trackers, and color coded my files for future convenience. This
full-time professional writer couldn’t have been more ready for a
smooth, flopless dive.
it John Lennon who said, “Life is what happens when we’re busy making
After not even two weeks of my
new life, all my preparations and plans assumed the fetal position when
a midnight episode of intense pain, high fevers, and a ride in an
ambulance kicked off more than five months of health challenges that
nearly ended my life. Kidney stones, infections, toxic blood, three
surgeries, renal failure . . .
I’m happy to report that a
couple of genius specialists swooped in with angels’ wings, discovered
what no one else could seem to identify, and I am now regrouping to
launch Full-Time Writer Life
I’ll start by adjusting the dates on
the white board, dusting off my beautiful color-coded file folders, and
searching my desktop for notes on a contracted book that I can barely
remember at the moment!
I was sick, I (almost)
remember a phone conversation I had with my agent, Rachelle Gardner, in
which she reminded me about the shelf life of our best-laid plans when
they come up against what she called acts of God.
“These are not things we can change,” she reassured me. “So you worry
about getting well and strong. I’ll worry about the rest.” And she did.
I like to believe that
everything in life, good or bad, comes with a lesson of some kind; a
sort of takeaway that we can store in our mental color-coded file
cabinets for later use in case we need them. For my situation, my
lesson is twofold: 1) John Lennon really was the genius I suspected he
was; and 2) balancing a writer life—whether supported by a day job or
dense with freelance contracts and deadlines—requires flexibility of
thought. Something will always jump into the road to distract or
reroute you. So my best advice is to do your exercises now and limber
up! You’ll have to step back, take a deep breath, and be ready to bend.
If you find you can’t do that, I hear there’s an opening or two in