Writing a Book: 10 Survival Tips

by | Apr 1, 2016 | Behind the Scenes

Today is the day I’m submitting the My Job manuscript to our publisher. Here’s what I’ve learned over the past several months of being at the mercy of a looming book deadline. Hint: It’s all about finding ways to amp up your stamina for thousands of hours of what I like to call, simply, “butt in the chair time.”


1. Just say no

Say no to everything and everybody. This includes your significant other, your buddies, your colleagues, even your publisher. Just tell them, “I’m in the writing cave—I’ll get back to you in 2018.” If they truly care, they’ll still be there.


2. Use your support network

You do still need to call your mother. She is, after all, the reason you are on this planet and can speak and write the language you’re deploying into the pages of your book. Don’t lose sight of your goals, however: It’s perfectly acceptable to call her from the elliptical machine while simultaneously watching TV news on mute and proofreading an almost-finished chapter.


3. Dress for success

You really only need two pairs of yoga pants; one to wash and the other to wear for three days straight. That and a few old T-shirts will get you through months and months of intense work.


4. Treat yourself

One word: takeout. Double up on anything you venture out to get: half for now, half for late tonight. E.g., make it a Footlong at Subway. My current obsession is deluxe tuna with lots of spinach and pickles. I think the vinegar in the pickles wakes me up to keep going through just one more paragraph, one more page.


5. Embrace your inner self

Dashing to the grocery store counts as having a social life. Even though you’re on such a tight deadline that you end up sprinting through the aisles and grabbing the first frozen dinner you see, this does count as having gotten out of the house and “seen” people. Don’t forget to grab some Ben & Jerry’s, too. Your microwave is your personal chef, and your ice cream is purely medicinal—it can heal writer’s block.


6. Prioritize

Your hair needs to be washed only when you’re going to see people who do not love you for your true self. You probably don’t need to see those people this year, anyway.


7. Boost your immune system

Power up on those vitamins: This is a marathon. I’m currently taking extra vitamin C and Chinese immune-support herbs and so far, so good, knock wood.


8. Keep things flowing

You’re right next to the restroom anyway, so you might as well pour gallons of water into your hard-working body in the hope of keeping your brain lubricated. And while we’re on the topic of fluids . . .


9. Keep yourself caffeinated

Consume coffee the way the world’s first connoisseurs, intended: just chew on beans all day to kick up your productivity. If you can’t handle the beans, then at least brew your joe triple-strength, for God’s sake. Your readers deserve your mental alertness.


10. Finish strong

Conversely, there is no law against what my sister Sally, an ex-bartender, calls a “end of shift drink” at midnight –when you finally shut that laptop and collapse over your manuscript.

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Suzanne Skees, author of the three-volume MY JOB series on real people in remarkable jobs, believes in the power of our jobs over our identity and wellbeing and, conversely, our ability to change our world with the work of our minds and hands. She lives by the Pacific Ocean and spends as much time as possible listening to the surf, and to silence.



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