This past week I've been in New York, and on Tuesday I found myself back in my old neighborhood at my old favorite coffee shop. (We moved to Nashville a few months ago for my husband's grad school program, but we lived in New York for 10 years before that.)
Sitting there drinking coffee brought back my world two summers ago, right after I'd had a baby and sold a novel on proposal (literally on the same night). I was thrilled, of course, to have sold it. But it also meant I now had to write it. And as a brand new first-time mom, writing felt the most daunting it had ever felt. I was under-slept, very emotional, and full of questions about who I was in the world now. I also felt inexplicably guilty for leaving the baby at home while I went off to write, which my breasts would remind me of by filling up with milk and aching as I tried to focus on things like narrative voice.
So I did the only thing I could: I made myself a daily goal that didn't feel too scary. I would write, by hand, 10 pages a day.
Every day after my son turned six weeks old, I found time to go to this coffee shop while my mom, husband, or friend watched the baby, and I sat on a hard, wooden stool and tried to tune out the teenagers skipping class at the nearby arts high school while I thought, Mary, you can get to 10 pages. Some days it took me only an hour; others it took me two or three.
And in this way, I finished a draft. Specifically, 90,000 words in 6 months.
Just over two years later, this week I sat in the same coffee shop and thought about how the greatest feats are possible when we tackle them in increments.
You don't have to write 8 hours a day to write a book.
You don't have to write every day to write a book.
You don't have to quit your job to write a book.
You can write a book in a few pages a day while sitting on an ergonomic nightmare piece of furniture, having slept 5 hours the night before.
The question is...do you want to?
For me, finishing my first novel meant trading in a job that didn't allow me time to write for one that did. This came with a big pay cut—I went from being a lawyer to being a tutor (which is what I did before I was a lawyer), but it was so worth it. You can hear more about that story in this video:
But not all steps toward completion are so dramatic. Equally important were all of the little choices I had to make along the way. Choices like:
I'll leave you with a quote from Julia Cameron about the power of creative decisions: Learn to accept the possibility that the universe is helping you with what you are doing... Expect the universe to support your dream. It will.