The Quest for Uninterrupted Writing Time
Why it's harder (and often more expensive) than ever to find a quiet place to write
Oh, Big, Ol’ Jet Airliner…
By Rachael Mitchell
I recently read an article about a well-known author who purchased an international airline ticket for the sole purpose of finishing his book manuscript. He wrote the entire flight, arrived at his destination, stretched his legs, turned right around, and boarded the flight back to where he came from. Though I can’t remember all the details or where I saw the article, the writer’s struggle of finding time to sit down and just get his writing done is relatable.
In a similar vein, J.K Rowling, the esteemed author of the Harry Potter series, felt the pressure of summing up her epic saga in the book-to-top-all-books in a way that would satisfy her rabid fans. She knew writing at home, with kids and a dog underfoot, along with all the necessary household duties, would prevent her from giving the type of attention she needed to apply to her monumental feat. So she rented a room at a very expensive hotel in London for a couple of days providing a dual-purposed solution: a quiet, beautiful place to write with room service only a phone call away, and a hefty price tag so she couldn’t afford to dilly dally and lounge around. She needed to finish the manuscript and get it to her editor.
Writers must bring their best creative energy to their writing, but I’ve found, and these stories confirm my hunch, that a loose finish line—in the form of arriving at a destination or a hefty price tag of an expensive hotel room—are effective motivators in completing a writing task.
Recently, Jodi and I flew to our respective homes after spending a few days in Dallas launching Leslee’s fabulous new book. While the three of us were together in Texas, it was a busy few days and we worked hard. We burned the candles on both ends, so boarding my flight home to Seattle, I planned to relax and watch a movie. But first, I pulled out my notebook to look at some recent editor notes on my own book. As ideas began to flow, I found myself furiously scribbling notes all over the editor’s notes, then I mapped out a character arc and eight more chapters needed in my manuscript. On a roll, I wrote a client’s call for submissions letter and an outline for a future article I’d like to write. I accomplished more in the four-hour flight home than I accomplished in the last month.
I’m not always this productive on flights. I watch plenty of movies and read books on planes. Usually, I’m not traveling alone. But something magical happened on this particular flight. The pressure of knowing my re-entry into a warp-speed-paced family was looming along with little-to-no uninterrupted time on the horizon. So, it was time to chop-chop and get it all done right then. Ironically, Jodi had the same experience. On her flight back home, she came up with an innovative idea for her own novels and laid out a plan for a huge refresh of previously published books.
I wonder if the right amount of pressure—not too much, but enough to keep me honest—along with coming off a highly creative weekend was the right combination of inspiration and motivation to produce high-level creativity and productivity. I don’t think buying cross-country flights or renting an expensive hotel room on the regular in order to accomplish creative work will fit into the family budget any time soon. So, in the meantime, I will reserve bland rooms at the library, wear noise-canceling headphones, and eek out time here and there to cobble words together, dreaming of the day I take flight once more.
Book Reports and Glittery Dioramas
by Jodi Cowles
It’s been 20-plus years since I’ve given a book report, and I find myself wishing I could stand in front of all of you in our combined classroom to show off my tremendously awesome diorama—complete with construction paper, extensive globs of glue, and a wild array of color suitable to Leslee’s personality—I’m that proud of our work with her book!
But let me just give a quick caveat before I continue. As unknown authors, we all know (somewhat painfully) that the quality of the written product and the success of marketing and distribution efforts are two completely separate segments in the life of an author. Here at the UAC, we’ve known for months that Leslee's creative effort, the actual product (her book), was marvelous. But until we launched it on February 16th, we had no idea if our marketing and distribution efforts would prove successful. I will admit to you freely, as the UAC’s resident Amazon back-end/technology subject matter expert, I wasn’t sure how a single-author launch would go.
My friends, it went AMAZINGLY! Pink and purple, rainbow-glitter-sparkle-unicorn amazing (yes, it’s possible my 4-year-old daughter might be influencing my adjectives). But I hope you get the gist. This was our second test case of the power of unknown authors joining together to create something bigger than our individual selves. Our first anthology, published last October, had 15 contributing authors, and by using our combined micro-platforms, we were able to hit something like 12 number-one new release categories on Amazon with that book.
Leslee’s single-author book hit 6 number-one new release categories on launch day, and two weeks after launch, she was still ranking above 100,000 of all books sold on Amazon. This was all done grassroots, with no advertising spend, and no asking of friends and family to buy 10 copies to prop us up. It was simply a great product, distributed via savvy playing of the Amazon new release ranking game, and marketed through the enthusiastic word of mouth of Leslee’s friends, family, and our ever-growing UAC platform.
And I can’t conclude my book report without including quite possibly our most meaningful accomplishment. Leslee’s 16-year-old son told her prior to her book’s launch that he didn’t think she’d sell more than 200 copies. Research shows the average independently-published book sells roughly 200-300 copies in one year. So, his calculation—while delivered with the brutal, ice-cold honesty of a teenager—wasn’t that far off base. Want to hear something incredible? We blew by his number in the FIRST TEN DAYS! Take THAT, cynical teenagers around the world!
I think the success of Leslee’s book launch proves our thesis even more than our first anthology did, and I can’t wait to see what’s next! What we can do together as we keep growing, joining our voices, and developing this thing we wanted to be a part of is a ride worth watching!
Now excuse me, I need to go wash some glitter off my hands.
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