The 6 Worst Things You Can Ever Say to a Writer
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My literary agent is pitching my book to publishers. As you can imagine, my nails, cuticles, and all other bite-able bits are bitten off. Completely. I’m afraid to step into a nail bar for the inevitable lecture and judgment. This is crunch time. The numbers are solid on social media, my chapters have been read, reread, and reread another dozen times. Criticism has been sucked up and actioned. Now it’s time to let my bookbaby go and be pitched. I feel like that girl sitting at prom waiting for someone to ask her to dance. I got a great dress, had my hair done, followed make-up tutorials on YouTube… but I’m sitting there in the twinkly dark very much alone. And pregnant.

I feel a tremendous mommyhood parallel to this whole writing process like so many before me. Like I had a child and have dropped them at nursery – all normal, right? Except it’s a nursery that judges, comments on, and rejects your baby. Kicks them to the curb.

This is my baby. The one that came out of my head instead of down there. What if they hate her? What if she’s not funny enough?

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m pretty carefree but I’m also a bit of a dramatic worrier. (some extreme gemini traits.) And what do we do when someone is worried? We offer up help and advice and try to remedy or “fix” the situation. So, in between the sob sessions when I get early rejections (already) back from my agent, I’ve taken the time to jot down some advice I’ve received. Verbatim. No, really…no exaggeration. The thing you’ll notice about the advice is that it’s almost all the worst things you could ever say to a writer.

  1. If they don’t want you, you don’t want them. Thanks mom but this isn’t me trying out to make the higher level of playing the clarinet. I obviously want them. They have all the power here. Hard to take a higher stand.
  1. You’ll find a window somewhere. Sure I will or a catflap? Or maybe I can sneak into the building via the garbage collection room and camp outside the publisher’s door to… patiently wait? Or is that stalking? Anyway, what’s another 10 years. I can still call myself a writer, right?
  1. I hope you get rejected. Ummm thanks, daddy. Yes, I get that it’s character building and I should see every setback in life as a beautiful opportunity to grow… but I’m tired. And worn out. And I love her. I love this baby proposal I birthed and I can’t have someone tell me that her ears stick out or that one eye is bigger than the other. It just might break me. I’ve been living off the smell of the oily rag of hope for two years. Isn’t that enough?
  1. I have a printer at home. Okay, so I’m not making fun, but really guys…a printer at home? Even if it’s a printing press, or a 3D printer, it really means you have copies and copies of your own book lying around at home. And no, that’s not an appropriate goodie bag stuffer at a child’s birthday.
  1. Why don’t you write for a magazine? Because I’ve been blessed enough to have done that already and I really have my heart set on seeing my published book out in the world. (And on bestseller lists.) Dropping from your dream from book to an article feels like slow waltzing the history teacher at that prom night. Just wrong. Or is that just me? Maybe I shouldn’t be so hasty to reject the history teacher with a combover and damp hands…
  1. Just do X, Y, or Z. (Insert latest social media platform.) Yes, I know I should be all over YouTube, the boss of Pinterest, spanking it on Snapchat, and have my own magazine on Medium. There are many roads to Rome. But you know what? When you’ve got a toddler, a baby, and a bump, you stick to whatever route you can manage. If you’ve read my “Pomodoro” This http://sarasadik.com/pomodoro-parenting-blogging-just-aka-pomodoro/ post you’ll know that I only ever have 25 minutes to do anything and I’m so busy peeing (due to the 32-week old bump) that it’s kinda hard to be all over social media when I generally like and comment from a toilet seat. Or locked in a closet for three seconds.

So, readers, any positive words of encouragement you may have will be better than the above. Oh, and prayers.  Anyone who does both will get a free signed copy of the book…if, no no, when it comes out!

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“Pomodoro” This
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I’m a headless chicken. I’m overly dramatic and overly emotional and I freak out whenever whatever the situation. It’s not a permanent state of being but more like a fleeting emotion like a whiff of baked bread. Only the scent isn’t pleasant. Point is, my freak outs are brief but significant. Oh, and that is not due to pregnancy hormones because I’m pretty sure I’ve been like this since I was seven.

In the midst of trying to write a book and parent one child and try to get pregnant with the next child (last year), a friend of mine introduced me to the Pomodoro technique. This technique is essentially a time management method developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The technique uses a timer to break down work into 25 minute intervals with a 5 minute breather. (Wikipedia) Basically every headless chickens dream because we, (hey, I’m in the HC Club too) need this time limit and guidance otherwise we’d be sure to waste half our day talking about tasks and “researching” aka how to focus.

It’s worked for me. Well, so far. I’ve written over 70 posts in the past year, grown my brand, and am something of a voice for other mamas to express what we’re all secretly thinking! I like being able to quantify my progress. You know, beyond calling my dad and having him tell me, “You are vivacious.” He applies this word to everything.

So I decided to Pomodoro up my parenting style as well. Here’s a quick lowdown on what it is and some tips on when and where to apply it. PP is any manic mom’s way to deal with the issue at hand. In 25-minute time chunks. With 5-minute rest periods… you know, for pee breaks.

  1. BEDTIME ROUTINE: Bed, bath, dinner, story time. Basically everything involving coming home after an activity until you can put them to bed, turn off the lights, and watch Netflix. It’s really okay if they sleep with shampoo still in their hair and if the Winnie the Pooh story they love so much is suddenly only one page long.
  1. BIRTHDAY PARTIES: You go, you take a gift and say hi. You waste 15 mins in the parking lot lecturing your child that when you say it’s time to go they respond with “okay mommy” and not with the usual tantrum. And you’re done. Check it off the list.
  1. COFFEE WITH PUSHY MOM WHO HAS WAY TOO MUCH TIME AND WANTS TO BE YOUR FRIEND: Pretend to mix up locations, take a “work call” half way through, and intentionally mention the one younger child you have left at home so that you can have a valid escape route/reason to leave after 25 minutes.

A large part of PP for me has been balancing a toddler, a baby, and a bump with a blog, writing a book, and a little downtime with hubby, but I guess it boils down to being in the moment and trying not to multitask too much. Well, unless you’re behind on writing… need to buy tons of birthday gifts, and have kids with fevers. That’s when you proceed to have a breakdown and call your mom for some sympathy. Immediately.

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Intro to my ‘Shelf Life’
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So after a rather unfitted job hire and surprising job offer and acceptance from both sides I spent a few years at the Prime Minister’s Office reporting to people whose life story I would have been more suited capturing in interview form. Or psychoanalyzing.

Shelf life is an insider’s look into what it takes to get the story from your favorite author’s laptop to your bookshelf. I’m currently trying to get a book deal. Let me tell you, it sucks. I’ve drank WAY too much coffee along the way (and I’m still really, on the way … or so I hope) but here’s what I learned so far:

  1. Set your own deadlines and stick to them. A blog a week for me was what I was going to do. So, I did it. For a year so far – May 10th is my blogversary! How does time fly? I’m actually kinda impressed with myself. Mini steps and mini goals.
  2. Persist, Persist, and Persist. Sure, I had….ummm HAVE good days and bad days and moments where I really miss the stability and certainty of my 9-to-5 (really a 9-to-3) job at the Prime Minister’s Office. Then I look down at what I’m wearing (typically torn jeans a tank top and Converse), look at my nail color (dependent on my mood like most other women), and remember that I am too much of a free spirit and a creative soul to be caged!
  3. Talk about what you’re doing. I started committing to what I was doing because I said I was doing it. Be the fat guy in the buffet line who tells people he’s on a diet. People love calling other people out and will wait for him to snatch up a greasy mini burger before asking how’s the diet going? DO NOT GIVE INTO YOUR CRAVINGS. These “cravings” for a writer are distractions. Don’t give into them.
  4. Find an amazing support group. Okay, one shoulder to cry, bitch and place all your self doubt on. I’m in love with my editor for that. She has my back and has quieted my fears and doubts and distracting conversations all along the way. She has really been an integral part of this journey. Almost as much as coffee. Okay, more. She makes me start off every Skype call with, “Hi. My name is Sara Sadik and I am a writer”. Fact.
  5. Take a minute and breathe. You got this. You chose to do this. Did Anne Lamott complain? Sure. But then she breathed, had a sip (bottle?) of wine and got on with it.

Feel free to get in touch if you’re an aspiring writer and would like to bitch, cry and embark on a journey of self doubt together.  I’m always up for making new friends!

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