he phone is ringing, the laundry needs to be folded, and one of the kids just scribbled on the living room wall with a black Sharpie markeróI donít have TIME to write! My boss expects the reports on her desk now, the sales meeting is in five minutes, and I skipped lunch againóIím too BUSY to write! The reasons to put off writing can be longer than your grocery list. But, help is in sight. Take a few minutes and let Kelly L. Stone show you how you can carve out that precious time to do what you loveówrite.
Kelly L. Stone started a successful writing career while holding down a full time job. Her articles have appeared in Family Circle, Writerís Digest, Cat Fancy, and others. Her first novel, Grave Secret, released in Sept. 2007, earned a three-star review from Romantic Times, who called the book "powerful" and "well-written."
Kelly earned a master's degree in counseling from Florida State University and is a licensed professional counselor. Her nonfiction book for writers, Time To Write: More Than 100 Professional Writers Reveal How to Fit Writing Into Your Busy Life, will be released Jan. 1, 2008. Says the American Society of Journalists and Authors about Time To Write: "Her many examples demonstrate that no matter what your current lifestyle and obligations, you can always find some time to write some."
WOW: Kelly, welcome to WOW! Weíre excited to have you with us! I was poking around on the internet before our interview and I noticed youíve had stories published in several anthologies, including Cup of Comfort for Mothers and Daughters and Chicken Soup for the Sister's Soul. It seems you have both a passion and a gift for writing personal essays! How did you get started writing in that form?
KELLY: Itís a pleasure to be here at WOW!! Thanks for having me!
I have always written as a way to understand what is happening or has happened in my life. So, the stories about my family and my experiences of reconnecting with my estranged sister and mother seemed to be a natural fit for anthologies.
After I had a couple of publications, I developed a three-step method for writing anthology essays that sell. Using that technique, I went on to sell several more essays to anthologies. Thereís an article on my website that outlines this method, and I also teach a workshop on the subject.
"I have always written as a way to understand what is happening or has happened in my life."
WOW: Was your experience with being published in anthologies the catalyst for your idea to write a book that incorporates the voices and wisdom of many successful writers into your new book Time To Write: More Than 100 Professional Writers Reveal How to Fit Writing into Your Busy Life?
KELLY: The catalyst for Time To Write developed over a long period of time because I wanted to be a writer very badly, but I couldnít figure out how to fit writing into my life. I felt I was too busy, just like everybody else. Yet, every time I went to the bookstore and saw a new novel out by a new author, it would get me wondering.
I wanted to know how ordinary people with ordinary lives and responsibilities and obligations could go from being an unknown writer to being a published author, and even a bestseller. How had they found the time to write the books that made them successful while also living their day-to-day lives? I wanted to know exactly how they did it. Those were my questions, but I couldnít find the answers.
Then I read somewhere that successful people, not just writers, would often get up early and do their own work before they tackled the day job that paid the bills. So, even though I worked full time and had all the responsibilities and obligations that adults have these days, I started getting up at 3:30 a.m. and writing for two hours before I left for my job. (Yes, you read that right: 3:30. In the morning.)
"I wanted to be a writer very badly, but I couldnít figure out how to fit writing into my life."
I conceived the idea for Time To Write after I started getting published. When people found out I had written a novel and had articles and essays appear in anthologies and national magazines, and that Iíd done this while also holding down a full-time job and managing my other obligations, their jaws would drop, and then theyíd usually say one of two things: "Where did you find the TIME?" or "Iíd love to write a book, but Iím too busy." That sort of thing.
It dawned on me then that most people had the same questions I didóhow does a person fit writing into their very busy life and do it consistently enough to get published and establish a career as a writer?
I realized that a lot of people let their writing dreams flounder because they think that if they work and have other responsibilities that writing HAS to take a back seat to all that. Or, thereís this other assumption that writers who are really successful are independently wealthy, have a rich spouse that supports them, or that they have reams of un-obligated time on their hands. None of the 104 writers I interviewed for my book falls into any of those categories.
"It dawned on me then that most people had the same questions I did..."
So, thatís when I decided to write the book that would answer the question of how successful writers did it, and I also wanted to dispel the myths about writers, and show aspiring writers that yes, you can work full time and have a family and everything else and STILL get your writing done. Thatís what Time To Write is all about.
I wanted to show people that it is absolutely possible to find time to write no matter what. I think so many aspiring writers fall victim to this idea that you have to have huge blocks of time in order to write, or that you need a mountain cabin where you can seclude yourself on weekends or vacations in order to get any writing done. Itís simply not true. Successful writers weave the act of writing into the day-to-day business of living. In Time To Write, I show readers how to do that.
WOW: Iím curious... Did your psychology background inform the techniques you recommend to writers to help break down the excuses and blocks that keep us from showing up at the page?
KELLY: Absolutely! Iím a huge advocate of "write what you know." So it was a natural for me to use my experience as a licensed counselor to give advice about how to overcome blocks and excuses for writing.
Excuses and blocks are really just a mindset. A big success strategy that I focus on in Time To Write is using the power of your attitude to adopt a different mindset about writing so that you can motivate yourself to get it done. One way you do this is by creating what I call a Vision of Success. Your Vision of Success is where you ultimately want writing to take youóeither you finish your family memoirs, or you get on the New York Times bestseller list, or you publish a chapbook of poemsówhatever. Whatever it is, that Vision of Success will motivate you to keep going. It will inspire you even on days when you donít feel like writing.
"Excuses and blocks are really just a mindset."
Most of the writers I interviewed use some variation of a Vision of Success before they were successful to encourage themselves to keep at it. They also revise their Vision of Success as they go alongófor instance, one bestselling writer I talked with said that initially, her Vision of Success was to get published. Then, after she made the USA Today bestseller list, she revised her Vision so that now sheís shooting for getting on the New York Times bestseller list. So, creating a Vision of Success is a tool that will help you throughout your writing career.
Goals are also very important. The successful writers quoted in my book all set writing goals. All of them. This can be in the form of writing a certain number of words per day, or getting a chapter per month finished. People need to find what works for them and capitalize on that. I discuss various strategies in Time To Write for doing this.
As a licensed counselor, I believe that goals are the foundation of success in any endeavor. Setting goals doesnít have to be an agonizing experience. In Time To Write, thereís a plethora of examples of professional writersí goals and a worksheet to help readers create their own goals based on an easy method I was taught as a counselor. These goals then make up your Writing Action Plan. If readers use these templates and set goals and make a Writing Action Plan like I provide in Time To Write, theyíll get results!
"...goals are the foundation of success in any endeavor."
WOW: Youíve done such a great job of putting this "time tool" together for writers! I have to say, Time To Write is such a departure from your first book Grave Secret. Was it difficult for you to switch gears from fiction to nonfiction?
KELLY: Itís interesting how Grave Secret came about. Portions of it are loosely based on true events. So, I had elements of this story that really happened, and then I wove a fictional novel around those true events. (People have been asking me which parts of the novel are trueófor the answer, I invite you to read my sisterís review of the book thatís posted on Amazon.)
Switching from the novel to Time To Write wasnít that difficult because nonfiction is a bit easier for me to write. I guess thatís because with nonfiction you have a book proposal thatís under contract with a publisher whoís bought the book based on that proposal, so itís pretty cut and dry what needs to go in there from the get-go. And you already have your outline and a few sample chapters to get you going.
With fiction, you write the entire book first and then try to sell it, and there are a million directions you can go at any given time during the creative process.
WOW: It mustíve been a wonderful and inspiring experience to work with so many diverse and talented authors. How did you choose the authors for your project?
KELLY: Youíre right! Writing Time To Write was one of the most inspiring experiences Iíve ever had!
Whenever I set my sights on a new goal or challenging task, I study people who have done something similar and attempt to emulate what they do. All of the writers that I interviewed for Time To Write have achieved great success in the writing arena; I look up to them because of their literary success. So, I chose them for that reason, because I admire their dedication, discipline, and the fact that they have managed to make their dreams a reality. And I have to say that it was a genuine pleasure interviewing all those authors.
It was truly inspirational to hear their stories of perseverance and passion. They have all worked very, very hard to get where they are today and they deserve every ounce of success they have earned.
"I study people who have done something similar and attempt to emulate what they do."
WOW: You have so many great writers who contributed advice for your book! What were a couple of your favorite quotes or anecdotes?
KELLY: All of the writers contributed such invaluable advice and wisdom that itís hard to select just a few favorites. But I loved this tip on finding time to write from bestselling novelist Robyn Carr (The Virgin River series): "Find a reasonably low stress period of time when you wouldn't typically be in high demand and claim it for yourself." Thatís excellent advice for people who are really struggling to carve out some writing time every day. Look for some time that is already free, and write during that time.
Another great tip for carving out writing time in a busy life is from bestselling novelist Tara Taylor Quinn (In Plain Sight). She was describing how, before she was career published, she made time to write every week and also kept up her other obligations.
Her comment stresses the importance of making and adhering to a writing schedule. She said, "I was more flexible [before I was published] as I had other responsibilities that sometimes had to take momentary priority, but I always looked at my week, and at each individual day, and before the week began I knew what time slots during the week I would be writing."
Some of my favorite quotes in Time To Write have to do with writers talking about how much they love to write, and that they write not because they want to but because they have to. I call this a "Burning Desire to Write.* Jodi Picoult (Nineteen Minutes) summed it up when she said, "I couldnít not write."
"...It finally dawned on me that the world already had a Tolstoy, it didnít need another one; which is when I decided to tell my stories my way."
I also liked this quote from bestselling author JoAnn Ross (No Safe Place). I think her words are inspiring because they demonstrate that all of us have something important and unique to say. "One of my many college majors was literature, and for several years I doubted I could write a novel because Iíd never be Tolstoy. It finally dawned on me that the world already had a Tolstoy, it didnít need another one; which is when I decided to tell my stories my way."
I deeply admire the level of determination and dedication that these writers have, and how the creative process is ongoing, all of the time. You donít just write one book and then youíre done. Bestselling author Sandra Brown (Chill Factor, Envy) talked about how when one book is finished, thereís always the next to write, and then the next and the next, even for the most successful and accomplished writer.
All writers eventually face the blank page again, over and over. She said, "The only way to write a book is to put words on paper, and whether youíre a bestselling author whoís got thousands of readers, or whether youíre writing your first book, you can still only put one word on the page at a time. Thatís the only way I know to do it, is to keep your butt in the chair and put words on paper."
"Time to write isnít something you have. Itís something you make."
WOW: I must admit; Iím guilty of saying, "When I have more time, Iíll start my next project." But I think Iím beginning to realize that time isnít going to drop into my lap, I need to make time for what is important to me. Do you have any excuse busters you can share with our readers?
KELLY: Youíre absolutely right! Time to write isnít something you have. Itís something you make. You make it by scheduling it into your day. Sometimes, it might have to take the place of something else, rather than something else always taking the place of writing. This is where your attitude and your Vision of Success come in. When you find yourself saying or thinking, "Iíll do it when I have the time," STOP! Step back and ask yourself what you are really saying. Really listen to that internal message. When you put writing on the back burner over and over again, youíre telling yourself that writing isnít important, that your writing dreams arenít important enough to put at the top of your To-Do list.
A really good excuse buster I cover in-depth in Time To Write is imposing deadlines on yourself, even though no one is waiting for your work. The successful writers I interviewed used this technique to get their work done. You want to finish a novel? Okay. Give yourself a deadline to finish the outline, finish chapter one, a deadline to write "the end," and so forth. Novelist Hilary Norman (Compulsion) talks in Time To Write about her process of setting mini-deadlines for herself throughout the entire writing process as a way to stay on track.
Also, actively work to overcome avoidance to writing. As humans, we have an inherent tendency to resist doing whatís good for us. In psychology, this is often calledóno big surprise hereóResistance. You know that writing will make you feel great when you get it done, but you still go vacuum out your car instead. Thatís Resistance, and you can combat it. Thereís a worksheet in Time To Write that will help you identify and overcome your Resistance to writing.
"Give yourself a deadline to finish the outline,
finish chapter one..."
WOW: In your book, you also talk about the importance of a writer holding herself accountable. Just short of wearing a shock collar, what do you suggest a writer (like me) do to stay focused and not get distracted?
KELLY: Staying focused, not getting distracted, and holding yourself accountable are really three separate issues, all of which I cover in depth in Time To Write and offer strategies for tackling them. If simply staying focused is a problem, one success strategy is to write in mini-blocks of time. Get an egg timer and set it for twenty minutes, thirty minutes, or even ten minutes. Set it, then write like mad for that amount of time, then when the timer goes off, reward yourself. Go have a cup of tea or switch the laundry or do whatever it is you think you need to do. Then, go back and write for another twenty minutes until the timer goes off again. Bestselling author Beverly Barton, who has written more than 60 books, told me that she wrote in very short increments like that when she was first starting out because she had a number of obligations including a job.
In terms of distractions, well, many of the writers I spoke to actually plan for their distractions! If you think about it, you can probably list what your distractions areókids, spouse, neighbors, a ringing phone, e-mail, etc. So, in Time To Write, I give strategies for handling all these.
An important piece of managing distractions is to work your writing schedule. Why? Because not only does it get you the writer used to writing at a set time, it also eventually trains everybody around you that at such and such a time, mom-the-writer isnít available. Youíve got to take your writing time seriously first so that others will also. Adhering to your chosen writing schedule is a good tool for accomplishing this.
Holding yourself accountable: many of the writers in Time To Write spoke of using a reward system as a way to hold themselves accountable. Merline Lovelace (Ex Marks the Spot and The Hello Girl, coming in March 2008) described it as a "carrot/stick" approach. She explained that if she finishes her chapter, she can go shop or do whatever she wants to do. But if she doesnít finish the chapter, she keeps her butt in the chair and keeps writing. Many of the authors I interviewed use a similar technique of rewarding themselves for writing a certain amount each day.
You also have to look at whether or not you are making writing a priority in your day. If you set a schedule, are you working it? If not, you should examine why. Maybe that schedule isnít the ideal one for you. Instead of giving up, switch to another schedule (thereís lots of examples of professional writing schedules in Time To Writeóan entire chapter is devoted to writing schedules, so thereís something for everyone!)
WOW: Your book is filled with so many practical and encouraging tidbits to inspire writers to carve out time to write! Iíd love to have you share some of your favorite tips.
KELLY: There are so many great tips in Time To Write that itís hard to choose just a few! Hereís a sample:
1)If you get sucked into surfing the internet or composing email during your writing time, write on an Alpha Smart instead, or have a second computer that is not connected to the internet.
2)Give yourself deadlines to finish your projects, then work backwards and figure out how many pages youíll have to write per week to meet that deadline. Then every Sunday night, schedule the writing time into your week to write those pages.
3)Reward yourself for getting your writing done. For example, "If I write for 30 minutes, I can watch Dancing with the Stars."
4)Identify when your most creative time is, then capitalize on it by writing during that time. Youíll get more writing done in a shorter amount of time when you write during your peak.
WOW: If you had one single message you would want readers to take away with them after reading Time To Write: More Than 100 Professional Writers Reveal How to Fit Writing into Your Busy Life, what would it be?
KELLY: No matter how busy you are, you can find time to write! My book will show you how!
WOW: I know our WOW! readers will flock to buy your book in January! I plan to put it on my post-Christmas list of things to buy after I return all the lame stuff! Do you have any fun events scheduled for your launch?
KELLY: Yes! First, Iím kicking off my Time To Write newsletter in January that will feature tips and ideas for making time to write, above and beyond whatís included in my book. There will also be a Q&A section where readers can email me their dilemmas with finding time to write and Iíll make suggestions. So, I hope everyone will rush to my website and sign up for my newsletter. www.kellylstone.com The first 50 people who sign up will be entered into a drawing to win a free copy of Time To Write.
Next, Iíve started posting Time To Write tips on the forum board of bestselling romance author Eloisa James, so I hope your readers will stop by and post a question or comment. Ms. James was one of the writers I interviewed for the book, and she gave some great advice and invited me to participate in her forum. So please check it out http://eloisajames.net/board/.
Iíll be presenting a workshop based on Time To Write at the Romantic Times Booksellers Extravaganza in Pittsburgh in April 2008. The workshop is titled "No Matter How Busy You Are, You Can Find Time to Write." Iíll also be signing copies at the Saturday book fair.
Last, Iíll be doing book signings around the country, and my publicist is in the process of booking those now, so I hope everyone will stop by my website and check out the ďappearancesĒ page where Iíll have all of them listed and updated as things get scheduled.
WOW: It sounds like you have a lot planned to market your book! And I know itís also important to "get back on the horse." Do you have another book in the works? If so, can you tell our readers a little bit about what they can look forward to next?
KELLY: Iíve working on a sequel to Time To Write that will focus on how to maximize writing time by using the power of the mind. Also, Iíve got a para-normal romance novel in the works.
WOW: Now, this is coming from a list-making diva... And I always start asking this question in December. With 2008 just around the corner, do you have any resolutions for the New Year?
KELLY: Yep, the usual suspects: 1) Exercise more. 2) Eat less chocolate. 3) Write more books. (If history repeats itself, only #3 will come to fruition!)
WOW: Your list looks similar to mine, but Iíd never include less chocolate! Kelly, thank you so much for such a fun and informative interview! Iím so inspired, I think Iíll take a shot at making time to write an outline for my next project today!
Readers, grab a copy of Kellyís book when it comes out January 1stóitíll be a great way to start the New Year "write."
You can visit Kelly online at www.kellylstone.com. For appearance scheduling, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Annette Fix is an Editor for WOW! Women On Writing, an author, and spoken-word storyteller based in Laguna Niguel, California. Annette's memoir, The Break-Up Diet will be available Valentine's Day 2008.