I’ve always considered myself a lucky person. When things go wrong — and they do for me as much as anyone — I think to myself, Wow, that’s weird that my car battery died / my kid threw up / my e-mail got hacked. I’m usually such a lucky person. When I have bad luck, I happily file it under “anomaly.”
And being Irish doesn’t hurt.
But even with my good luck, I was unprepared for the e-mail I got on a snowy Sunday afternoon in early March.
“Good afternoon, Kristin,” it began. The sender — a stranger by all accounts — introduces himself as a former teacher and principal and refers to an article I had recently contributed to School Administrator magazine about social media in schools. He went on:
“Now working in book publishing, I invite you to consider publishing a book with us, one that explores the subject of your article more fully. That’s assuming, of course, that you’re not already under contract with another publisher. It would be a real pleasure, Kristin, to work with you on such a book.”
Forget feeling lucky — I was stunned. (And amused at the suggestion that I would be under contract with another publisher. Clearly, this friendly stranger knows nothing of my barely-fitting-it-all-in life of work and family and kids and groceries and laundry. No, generously kind sir. I’m not working with another publisher. I’m barely keeping up. You’re serious about this book thing?)
There is a long, winding story I could tell of learning more, and saying yes, writing-writing-writing, editing and drinking way too many late-night peanut butter cookie milkshakes from Sonic. But there are also a few things I learned about myself on this part-lucky, part-crazy road…
- I can be out of the office. (And this is big.) The only way I was able to write a book was to use leave time from my day job and dedicate each of those days, at home, exclusively to the book. I’m a reliable employee with a healthy family, and five-day weeks have nearly always been the norm. This project changed that, with almost three straight months of four-day weeks. Many times I felt disconnected from my colleagues and the everyday hum of an office. And I usually felt some degree of crushed by fitting four days into five, week after week. But I learned this: I can be gone when I need to be gone, and nothing will burn down. (Really!) Once my leave balances are built up again, I will remember to take the time I need and not worry so much about being gone.
- I can balance distractions. Working from home on an independent (lonely) project is isolating. Jumping on Twitter or e-mail to get outside of my own head is only natural. But turning on the TV or starting some housekeeping initiative — no matter how small — was a day killer. Setting a clear goal for each day kept me motivated enough to stay on task. And allowing myself breaks short breaks to check my Twitter feed or walk around the block kept me from drowning in my own overwhelm. Even with an enormous mountain to climb, it’s wise to pause every so often and look around.
- I can re-learn the Oxford comma. I happily shed that extra piece of punctuation in high school journalism, and I haven’t looked back. But my publisher required it in the manuscript, forcing me to lead a double life for months: Book Author Kristin including that comma before a coordinating conjunction in a series, and Normal Kristin in my regular job and life without it. Somehow I actually managed to include it or drop it at the right time, most of the time. This still amazes me, as it hints that I could maybe re-learn other deeply ingrained habits, too. Whoa.
- I eat candy with abandon. Especially when I’m home alone with just my laptop, my dog and unyielding pressure to produce. And most especially when I’ve already bought the Easter basket candy, but Easter is still five days away, and I can always secretly go to the store buy another bag of Whoppers robin eggs.
This list barely scratches the surface of what I’ve discovered on my book author journey. I’m learning to own my authority. I’m learning to brand and market myself. I’m learning to push way outside of my comfort zone and ask people I barely know to get behind my ideas. And I’m learning the joy of collaborating with people — often strangers — who are thrilled at the chance to tell their story.
Right now, I appreciate the simplicity of the four lessons I’ve shared above. They are truths about me as a person, and as a professional — and reflecting on them now is a good reminder of just how lucky I am.