10/21/2010 12:19 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Making of a Novel: Just Say No

Tonight after dinner, I suggested to my 14-year-old daughter that we have some tea and catch up on Project Runway, which we haven't watched for weeks. She had a hard day today -- 8 hours of school (which includes a cross country workout) and 2 or 3 hours of homework, and she was tired. I thought tea and TV would be relaxing. "No thanks," she said, "I want to write."

I smiled because this is often exactly what I say -- at least in my mind -- when asked to do things that would take me away from my work. The list of things I don't do so that I can write is very long. And when people ask how it is that I have managed to write three books in three years (and teach and coach and raise a family), I tell them some of the items from the list:

  • I don't keep a very clean house
  • I don't keep up with the laundry
  • I don't make fancy dinners
  • I don't go anywhere on weeknights if I can help it
  • I don't go out to lunch very often
  • I don't watch much TV (my Project Runway request notwithstanding)
  • I don't read as much as I'd like

In other words, one of the keys to writing (at least in my house) is to Just Say No.