After hearing what Joshua David Bellin and Tracy Clark had to say about how they work writing time into their busy schedules, I was a little heartened to know I’m not alone feeling crunched for time. And as the kind folks at Camp NaNoWriMo have been kind enough to remind me it’s already time to sign up for the July sessions, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask Ariella Moon, author of the Teen Wytche saga, how she’s able to keep writing at the top of her priorities.
E.M. Caines: Hi, Ariella! Thanks for agreeing to answer my questions about writing and finding time to do it. Your book Spell Fire, the third book of the Teen Wytche saga, was released by Astraea Press this past December, and I know you’re hard at work at the next installment of the series. Most authors these days don’t have the luxury of just being a full-time writer. So as an author, shaman, and Reiki Master (of which the latter two help support the first), how do you manage to juggle it all?
Ariella Moon: Good question! About a year and a half ago I moved from northern California where I worked primarily as a Reiki Master and shaman, to southern California where I poured my energies into writing Spell Struck and Spell Fire. I love being an author, but I miss my healing practice. As I wrap up book four in the Teen Wytche saga, new clients are finding me.
E.M. Caines: A few months ago, I talked to a few writers about their writing and revision process, and it was interesting to see how different and yet somewhat similar everyone’s approach is. With all of your other responsibilities and commitments, how do you find (or make) the time to write? How do you deal with the days when you’ve been pulled in every direction and don’t want to write?
Ariella Moon: Writing time was much more difficult to secure when I was a stay-at-home mom, and then later when I worked part-time and volunteered for a philanthropic organization and led school art tours. My daughter graduated from college last December and now has a job on the other side of the country, so motherhood no longer takes up most of my time. I took a break from volunteering when I moved. I’m writing now while I can, because next fall I plan to volunteer with the Ophelia Project and step up my shaman work. I’ve learned to go with the flow on days when the world conspires to keep me from writing. The obstacles are there for a reason. But if I am on deadline, as I was with Spell Struck, I power through. I think it was Nora Roberts who said, “Writing will never become your business if you don’t treat it as a business.”
E.M. Caines: This is going to sound like a weird question, but when do you write? Like, do you set aside some time at a certain hour every day? Or are you more of a whenever-I-can-get-words-on-the-page sort of writer?
Ariella Moon: I have a loose schedule. The dogs and I hike in the early morning before the desert gets too hot. After breakfast I deal with emails and social media. The goal is to write as much as I can before lunch, while the dogs are still sacked out from their walk. After lunch I repeat the process. Certain days are set aside for running errands. It is important to write something every day. I rarely get to bed before midnight, and my house is often in an appalling state. I really need to hire a housekeeper!
E.M. Caines: I’ve discovered many authors take on some if not all of the responsibility of marketing their books. How has that impacted your schedule, specifically your writing time?
Ariella Moon: Marketing takes up a huge amount of my time. Not only does it cut into my writing time, but since a lot of marketing is done online, it also contributes to ailments associated with sitting at a computer for too long. Some days I just have to give my eyes, back, and wrists a break. That’s when I head to the movies or the mall or finally clean my house.
E.M. Caines: The one thing I personally think is hard for me to manage is a sense of balance, especially when the muse is happy and I’m completely focused on writing or obsessed with editing. How do you maintain a sense of balance? (Or do you?)
Ariella Moon: When I am on a writing or editing streak, I don’t answer the phone unless the call is from my mother, daughter, or critique partner, and I don’t leave the house except to buy food and walk the dogs. I become a recluse until I burn out. It’s so hard to stop when you are on a writing roll, because you never know when the muse might abandon you.
The Reiki Master and shaman side of me isn’t too thrilled when I get so out balance. Relationships falter. Spirituality ebbs. Walking used to bring me into balance. It’s essentially a moving meditation. But given the harsh conditions of the desert, and the extreme stubborn streak of Avalon, my recently adopted second dog, walking is now more a battle of wills and a war with nature than a spiritual replenishment. Because writing is so solitary and sedentary, it is important to incorporate some kind of exercise into your day and social interaction into your week. The latter is my biggest challenge. Spend a few moments each day in quiet gratitude. It not only helps ground you; it reminds you of what is truly important.
E.M. Caines: Last, what advice would you give someone who says she wants to write but doesn’t have the time to do it?
Ariella Moon: A lot of writing happens in our heads long before we have a chance to commit words to paper. Writers observe the world around them and ask, What if? Or Why? You can work out plot problems while you drive your child to school or wait at the doctor’s office. Only have five minutes? Jot down notes you’ll flesh out later. Fifteen minutes? How much of a scene can you write? Give yourself permission to walk away in the middle of a sentence or half way through a scene. The next time you have a few minutes, you finish it.
E.M. Caines: Thank you so much for your time and insight, Ariella!
Ariella Moon: My pleasure! Happy writing and reading!