Top 10 Survival Tips for Writing a Book

This post first appeared on the JobTalk blog for the book and community, MY JOB: Real People at Work Around the World.


Today is the day I'm submitting my book manuscript to my 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. Tap 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 the frozen aisle
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 hygiene
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. Maintain caffeination
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.

What do you do to get through big projects? Come over to the Facebook page for MY JOB: Real People at Work Around the World, and share your top tips.