I Finally Did It!
I left my Biglaw job about two years ago and one day, a few months after leaving, I sat down in front of my computer and began a brain dump of all of my thoughts about and tips on how to succeed as a junior associate in Biglaw.
I’m not sure why I was so drawn to the topic, but I felt a pull to write about it. When I was a more senior associate, I loved mentoring younger lawyers, and once I left Biglaw and this was no longer a part of my work-life, I was looking for a way to be able to share what I knew. What I really wanted to share was advice on how to succeed and not suffer in Biglaw and how to figure out, early on in your career, whether Biglaw was the right place for you long-term.
After this initial brain dumping of information into one long and disorganized word document, I struggled to finish writing the book. Aside from wanting to share my knowledge with future Biglaw associates, I wasn’t sure why I was writing it, how I would even get it into the hands of those I thought could benefit from it, or what was ultimately going to come from it. Then, I discovered self-publishing and, after many starts and stops, getting off-track and then back on-track, and rounds and rounds of editing, I finally did it, I published my book.
No matter what type of project you are struggling to finish – whether, like me, it is a book, an independent project at work, a home kitchen remodel, an art project, or any type of creative project – I’d like to share a few lessons I learned along the way to finishing my creative project that will hopefully help you with your own creative endeavors.
3 lessons I learned from writing and self-publishing a book:
1. Projects without a deadline and without accountability are hard to finish (for most people).
You can’t force accountability, but you can find someone (or something) to hold you accountable that will help you get it done.
Oof. Sometimes I am my own worst enemy when it comes to deadline-less projects. I can be gung-ho and super focused when starting something new, but then find it hard to finish. This is especially true when the project is lengthy and most especially true when nobody is waiting for a reply or a final product.
If I’ve promised something to someone, I will always complete it on time (thanks, Biglaw, for hammering that skill home and really ingraining it in me!). However, if the only person I’ve truly promised it to is myself, I might not finish.
There are so many reasons for this. Maybe I get a little burned out from a long-term project and just need to step away for a bit. Sometimes I get to the hard part and I put it down for a while and then struggle to pick it back up. Other things come up that fill my time. And many more reasons and excuses. There’s always a reason not to finish something.
While I’m not entirely sure why, I did take a couple of long breaks when writing my book. And that was mostly ok, because there was no deadline and, technically, nobody was waiting for it. I had nobody to hold me accountable. Recognizing this, I tried to make up accountability. But I learned that you can’t force accountability.
I wrote the following in a blog post last year: “Then, in August, my book goes live for sale on Amazon Kindle!” August 2019 came and went, and the book arrived in May 2020. Oops.
By writing that last year, I tried to force accountability. But in reality, just because I said that I was going to write a book, since nobody was there to follow-up with me or really hold me accountable, it didn’t light a fire under me. I gave myself a deadline, but it was false, and I knew that, so it didn’t work.
From my experience, telling someone (or the internet) that you’re writing a book (or whatever big project you are working on that you don’t have a deadline for) can only get you so far. If you are struggling to finish or hold yourself accountable, you have to dig deep and figure out another way to motivate yourself to finish.
It wasn’t until I thought back to my reason for writing the book: I wanted my book to be the resource for junior associates and law students embarking on Biglaw careers. Just because I didn’t know these people personally, it didn’t mean that they weren’t people I could hold myself accountable to. I had to pretend that they were waiting for my book (even though they didn’t know it yet) and I had to truly believe that.
By finally deciding to hold myself accountable to myself and to those future law students and Biglaw associates who I knew would be helped by my book, I was able to finish and self-publish my book. I owed it to myself to finish what I started and I owed it to these future readers to get my book out there. That was the accountability that I needed to get things done.
2. It is scary to put something that you create out there into the world. You’ve got to do it anyway.
It can be scary and intimidating to put your creative work out there for people to freely judge, critique, not like, sort of like, love, or whatever the reaction (negative or positive) may be. Because of this, you might resist finishing.
What can you do to overcome this feeling and finally get something done? In my opinion, there’s nothing you can do to combat this feeling other than practice. The more I write, the less I care about what others are going to think (remember, I was so nervous about being judged about my writing that I started this blog anonymously!).
When it came to publishing my book, while I had some practice with this blog and posting things on here, I didn’t have experience or practice publishing something big, like a book. I was incredibly scared to publish it.
But I also felt excited anticipating what could happen. Sure, people might not buy it, but I am confident in my work and know that those people will be in the minority and when the right people do get their hands on the book, they will find it to be extremely helpful.
It might be terrifying, but you really just have to put yourself and your work out there.
3. There’s a lot more to writing a book than just writing a book (and the same goes for most creative projects).
For many projects, so much of the work comes after the big push is over; after you get the accolades and congratulations from friends and family for your accomplishment. For me, writing the book was just the first step. With plans to market the book to law schools and law firms, and to offer one-on-one coaching to law students and Biglaw associates based on the content of the book, I have a long way to go to build my business and platform.
But the momentum is now there. I have something to work from because I finished the book.
It’s not just writing a book that creates more work. Other creative projects are often the springboard for bigger things. You don’t just create something or put your work out there and sit back. There is marketing, there is coaching, there is outreach. There is simply more work if you want to do more with your work.
Even creative things like painting and music require lots of marketing and outreach. If your goal is to turn your creativity into a business or a side hustle, you can’t just create in a vacuum in your basement or in your studio apartment – you have to share it, and that takes lots of hard work.
Did you hone your photography skills and create a portfolio? Now you have to get out there, market yourself, take photos, and sell them. Did you write a killer book of short stories? You can self-publish it, but you still have to promote it or search for a publisher, or else it will probably get lost in the void of Amazon. All of this takes work.
Luckily, I learned that you can take the momentum you gained from completing the first phase and let that propel you into the second phase and beyond. For me, that second phase is bringing the book to a broader audience. Whatever your creative project is, the work likely doesn’t stop when you hit “publish” or put on the finishing touches, but if you never take those steps you’ll never find out what’s waiting for you.
How About You? What Is On Your Bucket List to Accomplish?
Do you have any projects you’ve been putting off that you’d like to finish?
If you’re reading this now (in May 2020), you’re probably in the middle of a quarantine or at least a partial one due to the coronavirus pandemic. Is now really the time to embark on or finish the next great American novel or start a new jewelry business?
Maybe yes, but probably not. You’ve likely been homeschooling kids, locked in a one-bedroom apartment, and/or haven’t seen anyone but your immediate family for months, so I’m not here to tell you how to maximize your quarantine time during the pandemic. All of that “free” time people are talking about (“make this the most productive time ever!” they say) is probably non-existent. Even if you do have free time, you probably just want to decompress and not focus on something new.
That being said, it still might be the best time for some people. If that’s you, and if you are itching to start (and finish!) a creative project, now is as good a time as ever to dive in head-first and get to it. I’d love to hear about what you’re up to and what you’re determined to finish once and for all!