THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 148: Laura Nicole Diamond, Writer and Lawyer

Welcome to THE BALANCE PROJECT: a series of relevant and refreshingly candid interviews featuring inspiring and accomplished women talking about balance. I’ve always been curious about how women I admire manage the tragically glorified “doing it all” craze. So I asked them. As I suspected, no one really does “it all.” Everyone’s making sacrifices somewhere. And that should make us all feel a little better. I hope the conversation will be steered toward that reality rather than toward the flawed and dangerous assumption that we should try—or even want to try—to perfectly do “it all.”

By the way, looking for THE BALANCE PROJECT novel that was inspired by these interviews? It’s here.

No. 148: Laura Nicole Diamond, Writer and Lawyer

Age: 46
Where I live:
 Los Angeles, CA
Job: Writer and Lawyer
Kids: 15- and 11-year-old boys (and, as of 1 year ago, a 19-year-old foster daughter, who was a youth refugee from Central America and now on her way to citizenship)

headshot_mediumHave you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
My major career change was motherhood.

I was working as a civil rights lawyer until my first son was born. The non-profit law firm where I worked allowed me to take a generous, unpaid leave. I thought I’d be raring to come back after three months. But to my surprise, my priorities shifted; I needed more time with this tiny creature. After a one-year leave, I came back part-time. But after a year or so, with a feisty two-year-old demanding attention at home, I decided to put lawyering on hold. It was a difficult decision, because I had long dreamed of being a lawyer, and I didn’t know if it would be hard to return to law after leaving. I made the decision to do what was right for me in that moment, and trusted that if the time came to return, I would make it happen. The beautiful irony is that leaving the law gave me the time to write, and led to my writing career.

After ten years away, I felt the pull to practice law (part-time) in addition to writing. I began working with a friend and former colleague. Law is a good counterpart to my creative writing. It keeps me grounded in something I am passionate about, gives me some structure to my time, and exposes me to new characters and storylines.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
Can something that doesn’t exist be overrated? Is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow overrated? I think it can be dangerous to imagine there is an “all” to achieve, because you can never achieve it, and end up perpetually envious of others who outwardly appear to have it all. No one has it all.

For me it is helpful to define “all” simply and narrowly. I have it “all” when I have gratitude for what I have. Health. Food in the pantry. Loving relationships. And—this is huge—having my “all” would be much more challenging without my husband, who also prioritizes family. If he were working all the time, or if I were a single parent, I wouldn’t be able to live the life I have now.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
I don’t know how some authors churn out a new book every year or two. I suppose they work harder than I do! It’s a challenge for me not to compare myself to other people. That gets back to the last answer: gratitude for what I do have.

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
I’m working on being more forgiving of myself when I don’t live up to my expectations, whether as a mom or a writer. No one is perfect.

Do you have a favorite time management tool, hack, or other strategy you use that helps you achieve balance that you would recommend to others?
The best days are those when I set realistic goals for myself and meet them. I try a half hour at the gym. An hour of writing. Lawyering next. E-mail and social media last. I feel like a hero on those days. Most days I set goals, don’t meet them, then feel like a heel. My solution: set more realistic goals, and roll with it when it doesn’t work out. Saturdays are family time. I need to recharge.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance?
From a mentor/co-worker? Time management. Decide in advance how much time to assign to a task, and when that time was up, move on to the next.
From your mother? 
“Try to roll with change.”
From your spouse?
 “Follow your heart.”
From your kids? “Play with me.”

If you had one extra hour in each day and you couldn’t work or be with your family, how would you spend that hour?
I’d like to say hiking or at a dance class. But I’d probably stay in bed reading.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
I’m trying to think of advice I’d give my 20-year-old self and I can’t. I needed to explore and learn all the lessons I did. I needed to feel like I knew everything, in order to be adventurous. I’m glad I didn’t know what course my life would take. Surprises are wonderful.

What do you hope to know by time you’re 60?
How to love wrinkles.

What part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
DINNER! I turn around every day and it’s 5 o’clock again, and I haven’t figured out what to make.

Whose job do you wish you had?
Ellen Degeneres looks like she’s having a lot of fun. But I’d like to be a great weekly columnist, like Steve Lopez of the L.A. Times, shining light on important true stories, muckraking, and prodding leaders to do right by people.

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
The president’s.

Favorite books?
This is always hard for me. The books that made the biggest impression on me at the time I read them: The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, The Mists of Avalon by Marian Zimmer Bradley, Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verges, Bel Canto by Anne Patchett, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. I could go on…

What are you reading right now?
Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz.

Biggest vices…
Activity?
 Watching The Good Wife, but that’s more of a guilty pleasure than a vice.
Food? Mexican…delicioso.
Website? Facebook.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
I need my sleep. Let’s call it 7 ½ on weekdays.

What do you read every morning?
Los Angeles Times.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: think too much.
I wish I: could sing like a Broadway diva.
My kids: are number one. I hope they know it.

Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
“Dare to fail gloriously,” is a motto I fell in love with at 16, as a drama student at the summer National High School Institute at Northwestern (go Cherubs!). I could follow it more.

Anything else you’d like to add?
One of the most wonderful parts of the experience of publishing my novel Shelter Us last June, has been becoming part of a community of writers, especially women writers. There is such an energetic, supportive, smart, passionate pulse, and it is a true joy and privilege to be part of it.

Shelter Us cover, Kline blurbAbout Laura:
Laura Nicole Diamond is the author of Shelter Us: A Novel and Editor of Deliver Me: True Confessions of Motherhood, proceeds from which benefit agencies helping homeless families become housed and self-sufficient. A native Californian, she is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania and UC Berkeley School of Law. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.

Find out more about Laura:
www.lauranicolediamond.com
Twitter: @LauraNDiamond1
Facebook: LauraNicoleDiamondAuthor

WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT WORK-LIFE BALANCE? CHECK OUT MY NOVEL THE BALANCE PROJECT!

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