Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts on motherhood in the legal profession, in partnership with our friends at MothersEsquire. Welcome Claire E. Parsons back to our pages. Click here if you’d like to donate to MothersEsquire.
Last year, I set a goal to publish a book before my 40th birthday. If I’m being honest, I had the notion that I’d like to write a book “someday” for years. When I turned 39, the coming milestone forced me to me ponder how easily another decade could slip by without progress if I didn’t commit to a plan.
You see, I am a lawyer, wife, mom, and active community leader. I don’t have much extra time. Despite this, one of the best life changes I have made has been to start writing consistently. In about five years, I went from writing an occasional article in a legal magazine to founding my own blog and writing two books. I made good on my birthday promise last year and, as an unexpected bonus, I have a children’s book coming too.
How did this transformation occur? As in all things, time, patience, and consistency really pay off. But for me, the biggest shift came from slowly letting go of limiting beliefs. When I started writing about topics other than law, these categories of doubts frequently echoed in my mind:
- I didn’t have time.
- I wouldn’t stick with it.
- Nobody will care.
- I had more important things to do.
- It is too much work.
Fortunately, my blog and book are about mindfulness and compassion. Those practices helped me push through these initial doubts, so I didn’t quit. After five years, a bajillion LinkedIn posts, more than 100 blog posts, and two books, what have I discovered? The doubts were wrong. Here’s what I learned when I committed to consistent writing and took steps to make my goal of writing a book a reality.
I wanted to make time. Though I didn’t have gobs of extra time, writing and publishing my own content was fun so I made time for it. This usually meant devoting evening or weekend hours to writing. Sometimes this caused stress, but it usually recharged me, since it forced me to focus on something separate from work and family. As my frequency picked up, so did my efficiency. And, I learned time-saving tricks, like repurposing content or writing in phases so I could make progress even in a few minutes.
I took pauses and breaks but always came back to writing. Admittedly, life and work didn’t always allow me time or energy to write. If I had a trial, family illness, or life change, the only option was to take a break or slow down. Each time, I’d worry that my ideas and energy wouldn’t return but they always did. In fact, the time away from writing would often cause a flood of ideas and productivity. Over time, I realized that pauses for rest were part of an overall solid pattern of steady writing.
People cared. The most shocking thing I discovered from consistent writing is that other people cared about what I had to say. My blog doesn’t have a million followers. My book is not (yet) a bestseller. But, my blog has a growing following, and my book has sold many more copies than I expected. I’ve gained friends, business connections, and amazing opportunities through my writing. Many readers have told me that my weird stories and struggles have helped them think about life in a new way or made them “feel seen.” As someone who started writing just to get out of my head, I never expected to touch anyone else’s heart. Learning that I could is my favorite part of writing.
There weren’t more important things to do. As I mentioned, when there truly were more important things to do, I did them. In general though, writing didn’t compete with my prime life or work objectives. It’s not like I had to debate preparing for a deposition or writing a blog post or whether I should get my kids a bath or bank words in my manuscript. Most of the time, the choice was between writing and Netflix or mindless scrolling on my phone. I can’t claim that I always make the wholesome choice in this regard, but the point is that sometimes writing is the most important thing to do.
It was worth it. It took me decades to learn this truth: I am allowed to waste my time. I’m a grownup. It’s my life. Even so, it’s easy for lawyers to worry if our efforts will “go anywhere” or “have any impact.” I’m here to say that there’s value in doing what you love even if it’s a waste of time. It’s liberating to be who you are even if it isn’t expedient. Though I have earned economic incentives from my writing, they pale in comparison to the noneconomic (and truly priceless) things I have gained, like increased confidence, a better understanding of myself, and stronger connections with others. Those are the ingredients of a happy life. Given this, I declare with confidence that the time I spent writing was worth it.
So, why should you care? If you are reading this, you may already be thinking about writing or some other crazy cool goal. But, maybe, like me, you have your doubts. You have voices in your head that tell you it’s not the right time, or that AI will make writing irrelevant, or that you don’t even know how to get started. I can’t pretend those voices aren’t powerful or that life doesn’t sometimes get in the way. I’m not here to tell you to be anything other than what you are.
But, in case you’re wondering, I have found great value from following the weird path. There’s magic in doing that thing you always wanted to do just because you wanted to do it. There’s more in your head and your heart than you realize. There are even some amazing people out there who are waiting to see what you — you — have to offer. I learned some beautiful lessons on my journey to write my book while practicing law and raising kids. But I wouldn’t have learned any of them if I let writing a book stay a “someday” idea. The lessons and the benefits came when I committed to writing as a practice so that everything else in life didn’t get in the way.
Claire E. Parsons is an employment, litigation, and local government attorney at Wood + Lamping LLP in Cincinnati, Ohio. She’s also a certified mindfulness and compassion teacher, the founder of the Brilliant Legal Mind blog, and the author of two books, How to Be a Badass Lawyer and Mommy Needs a Minute. To learn more about mindfulness, compassion, mental health, and writing, follow the blog or connect with Claire on LinkedIn.
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