4 Tips for the Busy Mom who Wants to Write a Book
Updated: Dec 15, 2020
I began writing my book weeks after having my son because I had something to prove. But the journey was a lot more than I expected. Here, I share lessons I learned from that overwhelming year.
I began writing Give it a Rest: The Case for Tough-Love Friendship when my son was a few weeks old. I can recall plenty of days when I was pushing a pen across sheets of paper with my right hand as I held my son against my chest with the other, balancing him carefully so he could nurse uninterrupted.
Here’s where my addiction to hustling plays a role in the book-writing experience:
Looking back, I now understand that I pushed myself to take on such a big project as a new mother because I had something to prove. When I learned I was pregnant, I began to feel a creeping sense of suffocation—overjoyed to hold my baby, but fearful at what his presence meant for my personal and professional goals. Like many others, I wanted to write a book “one day”, and so weeks after my son was born, I began organizing, researching, and studying—focused on publishing my first book within one year.
It’s an understatement to say that writing a book is no easy feat. I roll my eyes when I read "click-baity" headlines of some new course or article with promises of showing you how to get in done in “30 days”, or offering “hacks” to help you write your book without a hitch.
What those articles don’t tell you:
1. If you want to write a GOOD book, you cannot write it quickly.
2. You might spend months simply conceptualizing the book and organizing your thoughts, without one written word in sight.
3. It’s important to be honest with yourself about why you’re going on this journey. Is it ego?
A need for credibility? Do you have a message that you are dying to share? That reason will greatly determine both your process and your results.
Here’s the shiny headline: “I wrote a book in under year as a new mom.” It’s the headline that would have women saying, “Wow, how does she do it?” or “This must be the standard. If she can do it, I can do it.”
But the real headline would read, “My marriage and mental health suffered as I went on a year-long journey to prove to myself that having a child wouldn’t hinder my identity as a productive, independent woman.”
That headline’s a little less sexy, no?
So if you’re determined to write a book in 2021, I’m going to use my less-than-pretty experience to share with you how to actually get it done (and manage your sanity and expectations along the way).
Let’s first address tactical tips for getting it done:
1. Don’t write a single word until you can summarize what your book is about in two sentences or less.
I taught high school English for nearly six years, and every time my students were about to write an essay, my advice was the same. Now, as a publicist, I often give my clients the same warning when they’re about to write a blog or presentation for a big speaking engagement.
Let’s keep it real: if you can’t clearly articulate what your book is about (without massive generalities), then you’re not ready to actually write it. I knew that I had so many things I wanted to say regarding female friendship and our inability to have difficult conversations with women we love, but I didn’t land on that exact idea until a few weeks in. If I hadn’t defined that, my book would be all over the place, trying to encompass all my ideas and whimsy. That would’ve led to not only a disorganized writing process, but a poor experience for readers as they struggle to understand what exactly the book is about.
2. Identify specific days and times you’ll dedicate to writing.
I tried stealing moments here and there to put my book together, and as a new mother I really had no choice but to piece together what I could when I could. And while it’s totally possible to be inspired at random times throughout your week, it pays to know you have a dedicated time (and space) to work out all of those ideas without distraction. This is the only way to thoroughly develop (and sometimes, eliminate) your ideas.
3. Depending on the type of book, you don’t necessarily need to write it in a linear way.
You may want to touch on several subtopics, and, after you create a loose outline for your book, you’ll be tempted to write from beginning to end. But it’s okay to expand on your thoughts for chapter 6 before your thoughts on chapter 2. As long as everything essentially flows for readers at the end of the book, you can write in any order that comes most naturally to you.
Now let’s address realistic expectations:
1. If you’re more focused on the promotion and physical product than the process and message, your book may not be good.
Seriously. If you’re more driven by being able to say you’re an author than by taking the time to put something together that you’re proud of, I’m genuinely worried about the quality of the book you’re writing. I think people fail to remember that once you put that book out into the universe, it becomes a part of your legacy. People will actually *gasp* read it, and it will be an extension of your reputation. Try to avoid being in such a rush to say you wrote a book that you ironically create something that blemishes your reputation because it’s poorly developed (and edited).
I didn’t necessarily have this issue, because I was so focused on including great research and explaining my friendship frameworks that I didn’t want to rush things. BUT because I was in such a fog from a lack of sleep and general new mom exhaustion, I noticed things I overlooked after the book was published. Despite paying someone to help me proofread, I still missed a few things. My eyes had glazed over so many times, and when I held the physical book in my hands and noticed three typos, I wanted to die. To someone else this may seem minor. But I found it deeply embarrassing and a reflection of my thoughtfulness and care.
While I’m sure I’m being a bit hard on myself, the truth remains the same: if you rush, won’t be your best work. And if that’s the case, then what was the point of pursuing the project?
2. Books don’t make you money, so if that’s your goal, stop now.
Since I’m in PR, I know that books don’t make you rich. My agency has personally represented authors and as an author myself, I know this to be true. I don’t care if you self-publish or if you go the traditional publishing route, if your goal is to make tons of money, you’re going to be disappointed.
Here’s how it works: Your book is your way in. It’s a great form of social proof that can set you up for paid speaking gigs. It’s a great thing to leverage if you want to be on podcasts or host workshops or launch a course or program. It’s also great for equipping you with tons of content from which to pull for months or years afterwards. But you’re not going to make your livelihood directly from your little book, girl. Seriously.
I recently worked with someone who randomly decided to write a book, and it was easy to see how she’s going about the process all wrong. She expects it to make her tons of money. She thinks she can bang it out in a few months. She’s creating something with a message that’s general, and frankly, a bit dated. But she’s so determined to be able to say that she’s an author that it is overshadowing other important factors. She’s a hustler, and I get it. As a woman who likes to do, move, and create, I get the urgency.
But if in our hustle (in this case: the goal of writing a book) we lose sight of the bigger purpose, we’ll miss out in the end.
This is a lesson I’m constantly relearning, and this blog is my attempt is to help myself (and others) slow down and focus on what matters in our collective resistance to “hustle culture”.
If writing a book is something you want to do—no matter your reason—then keep these things in mind as you make the journey.