Years ago, I sat down to begin the novel I had thought about for so long. After all, I’d read hundreds of thrillers and have been told by lawyers and judges that I write well. “This’ll be easy,” I thought.
I was wrong.
Classical music was playing softly in the background. My laptop was charged, a stack of legal pads was nearby. No one was home. The Judas Dilemma would be born in no time and my career as an author along with it.
“She was asleep,” I wrote and waited for inspiration. And waited. And waited some more. An hour and a half later, I’d started and stopped, backed up, and started over again with little progress. Writing my first novel would prove to be more difficult yet more rewarding than I ever imagined. Along the way, I learned a lot about myself as a writer and as a person:
- I am most productive in the morning.
I tried writing when I came home from work, but I found that on most days, I’d “left it all on the field” and couldn’t be very productive. I decided to rise much earlier and write in the mornings, and this proved to be the right formula.
- Writing is therapeutic.
While writing The Judas Dilemma, I was going through a stressful breakup with my law firm that would end with my leaving the firm to start my solo law practice. It was a bad time for me, but I found that working on the book was great therapy. Improving the story was a stress reliever and helped me get through the day.
- Sometimes, you just have to say, “I got nothing.”
Often, the story flowed freely and I had to force myself to stop to go to work. On other days, I’d simply stare at the blank screen, unable to type a single word. Rather than get frustrated, I came to accept those days and walk away. I found that the story always returned.
- Physical health improves mental health.
It sounds cliché, but I realized that I was much more focused and productive when I ate a healthy diet and maintained a regular exercise regimen. I’ve kept that practice even after the book was finished.
- My characters are real to me.
Though Rian, Sam, Palmer and the other characters in my book are fictional, they are real to me. As I go throughout my day, I frequently wonder how Rian would react to certain situations that I face as a lawyer today. She is not perfect and is therefore infinitely “human.” She embodies most of the qualities that I admire in a lawyer, and I try to live up to those ideals even today.
- There are people out there that will help.
Writing is a solitary and sometimes lonely venture. When I finished the book, I had no idea how to get it published, much less things like formatting and cover design. Fortunately, there were people like Jenny Milchman and Scott Pratt, both highly successful authors, who generously gave of their time to help an unknown, indie author. Experts like Derek Murphy were there to help with cover design, interior formatting and to answer the million or so questions that I had. I hope to be able to pay it forward one day and help others, as those who were gracious enough to help me.
- I refuse to quit.
I realized that I am an author, not because I have published one book, but because it’s part of my DNA. I’m not truly happy unless I’m writing and, even if no one ever reads another word that I write, I will not quit. Ever.