Inspiration To Write Can Be Found At Any Moment
Carla’s Writing Process, Ideas and Inspiration
Lynn Welch: Did you just wake up and say “Hey, I’m going to write a book about How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids“? What determines your book ideas and how did you decide on this most recent book?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: I was out hiking with my husband (without our kids!) when the idea of this book came to me. I had written two previous parenting books, and I was working as a parent coach, so my brain was deep in the parenting world. I had also been paying attention to The New York Times Best Sellers lists (hey, a girl can dream!). I knew that profanity was popular and, as soon as I got a little head space in the mountains, it all came together.
That’s how most (but not all) of my book ideas came to me—months of seemingly unconnected thoughts rambling around in my crazy brain, and then eventually, an idea strikes.
To be totally honest, most of my ideas don’t work out. Either I can’t quite make them work on paper, or my agent doesn’t love them (and I really trust her). I probably sent her five or six book proposals before we landed on this one, which she liked.
Techniques and Creativity
Lynn Welch: What are your steps in writing a book? For example: ideas, notes, research, outline?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: First, I have a bunch of random, unconnected thoughts, questions, and ideas bouncing around in my head. Eventually, a more cohesive idea comes together, usually when I don’t have access to a pen or paper. Once I get a general idea of the book written down, I work on an outline.
From there, I dive into the research to flesh out the chapters and fill in any gaps. I need a lot of time to read and think and re-read and think some more and take notes, as that’s a big part of my process.
I work from my outline, and then dive into the writing. I know some people write the chapters out of order, but I can’t do that. I have to keep the narrative flowing in the right order, so I start writing from the beginning and work my way through each chapter.
Lynn Welch: When are you most creative and do the majority of your work?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: These are two different questions. I am most creative when I am outside, moving my body, so I try to go for walks, runs, or hikes almost every day. My brain works best in the morning, so I try to get out and move around as soon as I can.
I have also found that I need a few solid chunks of time to get thinking and writing done, so I try to get my tushy in the chair for at least an hour or two of writing every week day.
Drafts, Edits and Publishing
Lynn Welch: How long does it take to write the first and second drafts and to fine-tune the manuscript?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: The stronger and more detailed my proposal is, the faster I can get through the manuscript. The first draft took almost a year to finish, and then it was about six more months to fine-tune it. A lot of this depends on the timing of your editor and all the other chaos going on in your life—and there is always chaos. Tweet This
Lynn Welch: In the book you mention the 6 Truths. How did you arrive at that magic number? What goes into the decisions that create the book’s structure?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: I landed on six truths because that was the number of points I wanted to make. That’s really it—nothing fancier than that. As far as the book’s structure—I work hard to create a narrative that makes sense to the readers, a logical argument that will be easy to follow. Oh, and I do what my editor says. 🙂 Good editors are crucial to every aspect of the writing and publishing process.
Lynn Welch: Are subsequent books easier to have published? Why, why not?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: I wouldn’t say they’re easier to get published; it really varies depending on the book you’re writing, what’s hot in the publishing industry, and what’s been recently published. A few publishing houses said they would have been interested in my book, but they were in the process of putting out a similar book.
What I would say is that as you get more familiar with the process, it becomes a little less anxiety-producing.
Lynn Welch: What are the benefits of publishing with a major publishing house, as you have?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: Depending on the publishing house and your book contract, there is the potential for a bigger advance and more help with publicity. Of course, there’s no guarantee, but that’s the goal.
The Book Launch
Lynn Welch: How important are the following when publishing and launching a book: proofing, editing, marketing, social media, newsletters? Do you hire anyone for these tasks or do them all yourself?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: It all matters. It all helps. No one can do any of it perfectly, so we all do the best we can to work on as much as we can. Having a good editor is crucial (my publishing house provided that), and I hired a virtual assistant to help me with the social media and newsletter, and she’s amazing.
Also, I worked with the amazing Lisa Tener to flesh out and refine my book proposal, and there is no question that her insights, advice, and suggestions strengthened my proposal immensely and were key in helping me sell the book to a major publishing house. I highly recommend that authors—even experienced authors—work with professional book coaches, editors, etc. at every stage of the process.
Lynn Welch: What have been the most successful strategies to launch and promote your books?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: My current book is just now in the process of launching, so I’m still learning which strategies are the most successful. In all honesty, I didn’t even know a book launch was a thing for the first two—I thought you just wrote a book and the publisher gave it a cover and then it magically sold a million copies. I really had no idea.
This time around, I’ve been learning as much as I can about how to build a platform—my email list, social media, speaking gigs, etc. According to the experts, your email list is the most important aspect of your platform because you own it, so I’ve been trying to put out emails 1-2 times per month. I’m also working hard to get excerpts and posts published, and to book speaking engagements.
Carla’s Insight on Social Media, Email Lists and Engagement Tweet This
Lynn Welch: How did you develop your email list and social media following? Any advice on that front?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: Engage with your community. Write and share useful information—on your blog, in articles, on social media. Be generous with what you know.
In addition, engage with your followers. Show up for them. Comment on their posts, answer their questions, and share your process and experience. Be a real person in their lives, and they’ll do the same for you (and hopefully buy your book, too).
Lynn Welch: Does social media play a part in your writing career?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: Oh man. Social media is the ultimate double-edged sword of my writing career. The connections and relationships I have made online are the reason I have a writing career in the first place. I’ve made friends with other writers, learned about online publications, and connected with editors, publishers, and potential readers.
However, social media is also a major distraction for me, and it can definitely distract me from my writing if I’m not careful. Having said that, I’m not leaving social media any time soon, but I have cut back on my personal use—mostly for my sanity.
Lynn Welch: I’ve heard it said from various sources to ask your “tribe” (social media following / email list) what information they want or need. Is this urban legend or do you test the water before you go all in on a book idea?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: I don’t think this is urban legend—I have some friends and fellow writers who reach out to their tribe for book ideas. However, I don’t. I have found through trial and error that my best writing comes out of whatever I’m struggling with the most. My books have to come from my experience in a very authentic way, or I just can’t stick with the writing. That deep connection to my reality feeds my curiosity and my desire to write, so that’s where my ideas come from.
Mindfulness and everyday application of your writing
When You Practice What You Teach
Lynn Welch: How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids employs mindfulness tools for parenting. In what ways did you find yourself applying any of these tools to the writing and publishing process?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: What a great question. Curiosity and self-compassion are two aspects of mindfulness that are also central to not losing my sh*t with my kids, and to my writing and publishing process. Staying curious about and interested in my own experience—what I’m thinking about, what I’m struggling with, what’s working in my life and parenting, and what’s not—helps me figure out what I should be writing about.
In addition, publishing is hard and rejections feel bad. I’ve had to find ways to be compassionate with myself throughout the process, or I’d probably walk away from all of it. Remembering to treat myself with kindness when I feel frustrated, stuck, overwhelmed, or dejected helps me stay in the game.
Lynn Welch: What specific steps in the book did you use while writing How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t with Your Kids?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: The strategies that are the most relevant to my writing have to do with basic self care, or as I call it in the book, Sh*t I Have to Do If I Don’t Want to Lose My Sh*t With My Kids. Although in this case, it would be Sh*t I Have to Do If I Don’t Want to Lose My Sh*t With My Writing. If I don’t get enough sleep and quiet time on a regular basis and move my body every day, I can’t function, much less parent or write.
Finding Your Voice as a Writer
Lynn Welch: There is a lot of advice out there about stress, self awareness, being mindful, self care, etc. It strikes me that one of the things that makes How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids stand out is a strong voice. How did you develop that voice?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: In all honesty, the voice in this book is my voice. This is how I talk. I’m sarcastic and silly, and yes, I swear. Although not in front of my daughters.
It wasn’t so much that I had to develop my voice as I had to re-find it after it was buried under years of writing for academia. But once I realized I could write a book in my own voice, it all flowed out of me and it was so much fun.
Writing Tips for Aspiring Authors Tweet This
Lynn Welch: What books, blogs and media publications do you recommend for aspiring writers?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: I recommend that aspiring writers read as much as they can in the genre they want to write in. If you’re trying to write a parenting book, read the parenting books. If you’re trying to write a YA novel, read those.
Spending time reading in your genre is crucial; it will give you ideas about what, and how, you do and don’t want to write, and all the various ways to share your thoughts.
Lynn Welch: What advice do you have for writing a book proposal? What did you do first, the proposal or the book?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: For non-fiction books, I always write the proposal first. Given that you sell non-fiction books on proposal, I don’t recommend folks write the entire book first. (Unless you are so desperately in love with your book that you can’t bear not to write it, but then you’re still going to have to go back and write a proposal based on the book.) So, yes, I always write the proposal first, and I only write the book once I have a book deal.
There are a lot of great books out there about how to write a non-fiction book proposal, so that’s a great place to start. And again, the more work you put into your proposal, the better shape you’ll be in when you start to write the book.
Lynn Welch: In your opinion and experience, what does one NEED to make it in writing?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: One needs to write. You have to write and write and write some more. You have to write even when it’s hard or it’s overwhelming or boring or confusing. This is the most basic requirement, and if you don’t like writing, or you only want to write when it’s easy or you have a great idea or everyone likes your writing, then you’re going to have a hard time establishing a writing career. Which is also OK, because it’s hard work with no guarantees.
Parting Words of Wisdom for Writers
Lynn Welch: What are your top pieces of advice for aspiring authors who are just getting started?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: Get clear on why you want to write. If you’re in it for the money or the power or the prestige, then you should probably look into another career. However, if you just have to write and you have something to say, then by all means, write. Because if you have the writing itch, there’s no other way to scratch it.
Also, remember that not everyone is going to love your writing. Some people will love it, but some people will despise it, and that will be OK as long as you’re clear on what you’re writing and why you’re writing it.
Lynn Welch: Having a prolific writing career and knowing what you know now, what, if anything, would you do differently?
Carla Naumburg, PhD: This is a great question. I think the one thing I would have done differently would be to spend more time talking with other authors and learning from their experiences—both good and bad—earlier in the process.
It would have been helpful to me to have a better handle on the reality of book selling, writing, and launching before I wrote my first book. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when we can learn from other people’s successes and challenges.
Carla Naumburg, PhD, is a writer, speaker, and clinical social worker. She is the author of three parenting books: How to Stop Losing Your Sh*t With Your Kids (Workman, 2019), Ready, Set, Breathe: Practicing Mindfulness with Your Children for Fewer Meltdowns and a More Peaceful Family (New Harbinger, 2015), and Parenting in the Present Moment: How to Stay Focused on What Really Matters (Parallax, 2014). She’s appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, CNN, and Mindful Magazine, among other places. Carla is a sought-after public speaker, and she lives outside of Boston with her husband, daughters, and two totally insane cats.