We’re so pleased to welcome author Nicole Baart to Writer Unboxed today! Nicole is the mother of four children from four different countries, and the co-founder of a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope. She is the author of seven novels, including, most recently, The Beautiful Daughters, “a gripping new novel about two former best friends and the secrets they can’t escape.”
Nicole Baart’s lush and lyrical writing has been called “sparkling” (Publishers Weekly), “taut and engrossing” (Booklist), and “evocative and beautiful” (Romantic Times). The Beautiful Daughters is another exquisitely rendered, haunting story that will stay with readers long after the last page.
Timely sale: The ebook for The Beautiful Daughters will be on sale for $2.99 starting tomorrow, while her other titles through Simon and Schuster will be reduced to $9.99.
Giveaway: Nicole would also like to offer a copy of The Beautiful Daughters to one commenter on this post. The winner will be randomly chosen on Wednesday morning, and notified via email.
Take Yourself Seriously (A Manifesto for Not Working in Your Pajamas)
If you believe everything you read on social media, you might begin to think that one of the biggest perks of being an author is the inalienable right to work in your pajamas. In the comfort of your own home, of course, teeth brushed and hair combed optional. Pajama pants might just be considered an author’s trademark—I’ve witnessed many a writer conduct a Skype book club or interview with “business on top” and pjs below. And while there is nothing wrong with working in your pajamas (I’m a big fan of mine, thank you very much), this is something I never rarely do
My publishing journey began when I was the first time mom of a ten-month-old. Any mother out there will be able to relate to the fog of her first baby’s first year. Everything is new and unfamiliar, sleep is at a precious premium, and you often feel like your entire life revolves around the eating, sleeping, and diaper changing patterns of the precious little despot who has taken over your life. I wasn’t writing–I didn’t have time to! But in the midst of my new mommy chaos, I found myself with the stunning opportunity to get a piece of my work straight into the hands of a respected editor. It was a chance I simply couldn’t pass up.
I had a month to write and polish fifty pages… and an adorable little rugrat who did everything in his power to make sure I would never reach my goal. Writing time was stolen time for me–moments when he was napping, an hour or two before I fell asleep at the computer every night, ten minutes or so when he was distracted with some toys. I wrote harried and unkempt, usually with my unwashed hair in a sagging ponytail and my pajama pants still on. Worst of all, I battled growing demons every day: “This is total crap. You’ll never amount to anything. What a waste of time and energy. You’re pathetic.” And as much as it hurts to admit, I was kind of pathetic. I felt sorry for myself.
One night I had an epiphany. As I stared at my bedroom ceiling I envisioned myself meeting this editor, sharing my work with her, and (hopefully) impressing her with my insight and grace. When I pictured that scenario, I barely recognized myself. Poised, confident, dressed for success… This polished, put-together go-getter was a stranger to me.
It struck me that even in the small things, in writing every day, I wasn’t taking myself seriously–and it was impossible for me to accomplish anything when I felt like such a loser. I would never show up to a marketing meeting unshowered and wearing yesterday’s t-shirt. It was time that I respected myself enough to treat my writing as more than just a hobby. It was time to treat it as a job.
The next morning I set my alarm, got up early, and brewed a pot of coffee while I took a long shower. I did my hair and make-up, put on my own version of a power suit (freshly washed jeans and a nice shirt), and spent the rest of the day feeling like I could take on the world. I even considered myself a calmer, more competent parent. A couple days later I carved out time to write by sending my darling baby boy to a wonderful friend for two mornings a week. And guess what? A few months later that same editor offered me a two book contract. The rest, as they say, is history.
A confession: I haven’t written in my pajamas for years. I know there are lots of authors who love working from home for that exact reason (and there are definitely times when I’ll do anything to get a project done–including forsaking sleep and personal hygiene when an important deadline looms), but I find I’m exponentially more successful and productive when I imagine that at any moment opportunity might call. What if today is the day Oprah decides my novel is her next book club pick? If her helicopter landed in my backyard to whisk me away for a taping of her show, the only thing I’d need to do is freshen my lipstick. I was born ready, world.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that every author needs to write with his or her hair coiffed and nails done. What I am saying is that writing is a job, a dream job, and it should be treated with the same gravity and respect as any vocation. For me, that means setting an alarm clock, dressing for success, and clearing my schedule so that I can give my work my full and undivided attention. What will you do for your dream job? We’re doing what we love, people. And if we don’t have the self respect to take ourselves seriously, how in the world can we expect anyone else to?
Maybe you’ve already seen psychologist Amy Cuddy’s TedTalk on body language and the effect of “power posing.” If you haven’t, it’s a must-watch, but I’ll (feebly) cliff note it for the sake of brevity (and link it up, of course, because you really should watch it). Basically, Amy proves that standing tall in a confident pose is dramatically more effective than slouching over your iPhone before an interview. Act confident and: surprise! You’ll be confident. Believe that what you’re doing matters, that the words you’re putting down on paper are valid and beautiful and worth reading, and people will stand up and take notice. Starting with the person in the mirror.
Over to you: Do you dress for writing, even when you’re at home? What do you do to ‘turn pro,’ even if only for yourself? Do you find it makes a difference?
Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of The Beautiful Daughters!