These People Did It, So Why Can’t I? (Dr. Ian Smith, Pamela Thomas-Graham and Catherine McKenzie) UPDATED!

A long time ago, I started a little series about professional people who somehow managed to write novels on the side called “He/She Did It, So Why Can’t I?”.  Here are some people that have me thinking my goal to write a novel while practicing law is achieveable:

1. Dr. Ian Smith

driansmithYou may know Dr. Ian Smith for the wisdom he shared on Celebrity Fit Club, but I was first introduced to him as a novelist.  Way back in the day—it had to be like 9 years ago—my mother took me to a book party (side note: I cannot WAIT for my future book parties!) and it turned out to be his, as he was promoting The Blackbird Papers.  Back then, he was *just* Dr. Ian a medical correspondent for NBC, so I guess he had time to squeeze in some novel writing.  Or maybe he is just one of those people who can’t decide what to do, so he does everything–in addition to obtaining medical and master degrees, he’s on a reality show, writes articles and books and lord knows what else.  Whatever the motivation, I read the novel back then, and I remember thinking that it was good.  So when I ran into him at a journalist convention (this was, of course, back when I was a journalist), I asked him when the next novel was coming out. He essentially responded never.  Apparently books about weight loss are easier to sell and he has many.  Whatevs, I only need to write one novel and if super multi-tasker Dr. Ian Smith can do it, I can too, right?

2. Pamela Thomas-Graham

PTGPamela Thomas-Graham is basically the person who first made me believe it was possible to have a full time job and write a novel (and in her case, raise 3 kids) at the same time.  Before I heard her story, I didn’t know such a thing was possible, and she’s stayed in my mind ever since.  You see, when Pamela wrote her Ivy League mystery series, she wasn’t simply a busy professional—she was President and CEO of CNBC! And she didn’t just write one, she wrote three!!  Each took place a different Ivy League–Harvard (A Darker Shade of Crimson), Yale (Blue Blood) and Princeton (Orange Crushed).  I read each of them over like 2 days.  All she had to do to make the series happen was wake up at 4:30 a.m. every day.  So I’m thinking– if a CEO and mother can manage to knock out three novels, then why can’t I, a person with a job and no kids, finish one?? (Oh, and did I mention she has a law degree?)

3. Catherine McKenzie

Catherine McKenzieOne day, one of my faithful blog readers told me that she was reading a book called Arranged.  Not only was the novel (the author’s second) written by a lawyer, but she actually still practices law, making Catherine McKenzie a current and true lawyer-novelist. Everything that I desire to be. She’s written three novels, which she talks about here yet still works at a law firm, which I know because she’s on their website here.  I haven’t read Arranged yet but it sounds like I could dig it.  It’s about a woman who is bored with dating, so decides to give an arranged marriage a try.  Clearly, problems arise.  I’m saying, if Catherine can be a full time lawyer at a firm and a part time novelist, please tell me—why can’t I???

UPDATE:  Catherine McKenzie retweeted my blog post to all of her followers!! She said “of course u can.” 😀

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How to Get It Done: 10 Tips From A Lawyer to an Aspiring Writer

DisciplineIf it sounds like this post is going to be me giving advice to myself, then you are correct.  This is what it has come down to.  Sigh.  Maybe you have figured this out, but I’ve been doing a lot of lawyering lately—so much so that I couldn’t even THINK about putting together a blog post last week.  This week things are still a bit cray cray, but I have at least used some of my creative juices.  Yup, I started my short story about an addict.  It’s horrible right now, but writing it has been an interesting exercise nevertheless.

Anyway, last week when I was subject to a bunch of deadlines I had a thought.  That thought was that I would certainly make those deadlines because if law school and lawyering have taught me anything, it’s how to be disciplined and get ish done.  Not to generalize, but I imagine that a smaller percentage of aspiring writers have mastered the art of completion the way many lawyers have.  Unfortunately, no one can write a novel without discipline.  For that reason, I have listed 10 tips for aspiring writers about getting ish done from my life as a lawyer:

  1. Just because you have completed a first draft does not mean you are done.  Edit, revise, review, scrutinize.
  2. When stressed, alcohol (despite its relaxation effects) is a bad choice.  This is because it will make you fall asleep, meaning you will cease to make any progress.
  3. Create a schedule with small achievable goals and stick to it.  Be sure to include fun on the schedule.  But stick to it.
  4. Don’t pull all-nighters.  And certainly do not PLAN to pull an all-nighter.  All it does is take you out the next day and mess up your entire sleep, digestive, and other systems.  It’s not worth it!
  5. Pay limited attention to the practices of your peers with the same goal as you (whether to complete a novel, excel on an exam or make your hours).  It’s useful to see what is or is not working for others, but you’ll never have the whole story.  You don’t where they started or what else they have on their plate.  Just re-read # 3, and keep it moving.
  6. If you find yourself reading the same line over and over again for 15 minutes or more, stop what you’re doing and go to the gym (or for a run, or put in your Insanity video).
  7. Food is a distraction.  You think you can eat and work, but you really can’t (I’m not saying that I don’t continue to try, but that’s probably because I’m looking for a distraction).
  8. Try to remember why you are working so hard.  There must be a reason, use that to drive you.  If you don’t have a reason then maybe you should be devoting you energy to something else.
  9. Do not cancel plans with friends or neglect family.  This is crucial.  What’s the point of achieving your goal if you no one to share it with??
  10. Facebook is a distraction. That is why I posted this on Facebook.  Because I want to catch you while you are procrastinating.  If you truly want to complete something, do not log onto Facebook.  Or at least force yourself to work for an hour before you do.  If that’s too difficult, start with 15 minutes and then work your way up.

Of course this is advice to myself because soon I will have to become disciplined with respect to this novel.  As I may have mentioned, I believe that in order to complete a novel I will have to commit to writing every day.  I plan to begin this exercise Nov. 1 for National Novel Writing Month (seemed fitting).  Seeing that today is Oct. 18, it’s time that I get my act together.  Til next time!

Lawyer Stress Followed By Writer Rest

I most likely published this post during the height of procrastination period, but let it be known that I am writing this late at night.  I have so much freaken lawyering to do this week, it sucks.  I try very, very hard to stay a calm force is the midst of chaos, but even I’ve been getting a little stressed out.  Like tonight (or probably last night by the time you are reading this)– it was non stop, which is cool because it makes the day go faster BUT tonight was my monthly writer’s group meeting!  I missed it last month to work on a deal, so this time when I was dismissed at 8:30 (and before you start talking ish, I started working at 5:30am ok?) I damn near ran to Bethesda, even though they had started at 7:30.

People, let me tell you, it is like a breath of fresh air sitting in a cozy living room in Bethesda, drinking wine, eating homemade treats and discussing someone’s piece in an honest yet casual fashion.  And of course reading the stories themselves truly is inspiring as well.  I haven’t written anything creative in a while, but going over someone else’s work, and being expected to comment thoughtfully on it really is motivating.  It’s also just a completely different conversation than I have most of the time.  I think in any profession, you eventually reach a point where 70% of what you talk about is somehow related to a specific field.  I remember telling someone once that I “acquired” a pair of shoes, and it didn’t even sound weird, for example.  I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad thing, but it’s certainly different from those 4 hour conversations about the problems of society that you have in the dining halls in college.  Now that I think about it, maybe that’s why college students are so politically (in the traditional and radical sense) active—they actually have time to think about the world and react!  Anyway, the point is that these meetings are kind of like a flash back to college.  They provide a chance to share your opinion on writing and metaphors and what not, but also to be reflective on life, growth and the media’s portrayal of insert-the-blank.   Ultimately, it’s a much better way to end the day than passing out on the couch with Bravo seeping into your subconscious (although that might happen anyway).

Since I really don’t have any time to read anything, attend any events or make progress on any type of non-legal project, I’m going to leave it at that.  Later dudes!