I’m so excited to be talking to Kate Forsyth today about how to make time to write a book. Most of you probably know that Kate has been a successful writer for years. She’s published books for children, books for adults, works of fantasy, historical fiction; she’s truly a diverse and well loved writer.
I first saw Kate speak at the Australian Society of Authors National Congress last year and I was so inspired by her speech that I went straight out and bought her book, The Wild Girl, which I reviewed glowingly on Book Chat earlier this year. So, based on the huge response to my blog a couple of weeks ago when I shared my system for managing my writing, teaching, admin, life and mum time, I thought I should create an occasional series where I’d speak to other authors, who are also mums, about how they manage their time. And the first person I thought of was Kate Forsyth.
So without further ado, let’s jump in and find out how someone as prolific as Kate, who is published internationally and publishes new books regularly, gets it all done. I recorded our chat on video for you and I really recommend that you make the time to watch the video because Kate is such an engaging speaker. But I’ve also summarised our chat in case you’d prefer to read the highlights.
Onto the video!
What Does an Average Week Look Like For Kate Forsyth?
Kate says she’s always built her writing time around her children. She mainly writes when they’re at school, but the closer she is to the end of a book will mean she writes on nights and weekends as well.
But of course her week isn’t just about writing. Here’s a sample of what else she has on:
- doing interviews like this one
- teaching—she’s only had one weekend off in the last month because she teaches quite a lot
- in 3 weeks’ time she’s heading overseas to take a group of writers for a week’s writing retreat in the Cotswolds—wouldn’t that be fabulous for the writers!
- she’s also guest of honour at the Historical Novels Society conference in London
- book reviews, like her monthly reading roundup for Booktopia
- and she’s in the middle of preparing for two book releases, one in Australia and one in the US, so a lot of pre-publicity work has to be done
Quite clearly being a writer isn’t just about writing a book!
And How Does Kate Fit Everything In Each day?
First thing in the morning Kate checks all her emails. Then she drops her daughter at school and walks the dog for an hour—don’t forget quiet thinking time is just as important to a writer as writing time. She’s at her desk by 10am and goes through her emails again, aiming to get this done by 10.30. Then writing time begins.
She puts aside one day a week, usually a Monday, to do all the other admin type jobs, including writing articles, doing interviews, handling non-urgent emails. Also on a Sunday or a Monday, she’ll update her blog and she’ll organise all her blog posts for a month in advance. Having some kind of system to manage writing time seems to be as important to Kate as it is to me.
With So Much to Do, How Does Kate Prioritise?
Kate uses a weekly To Do list. She writes everything that has to be done on that list and at the end of the week, anything that hasn’t been done is transferred to the following week’s list. She gets a lot of pleasure out of crossing things off—don’t we all!
Importantly, writing and family always come first. She wants to be able to help her son with his homework and take her daughter to ballet as well as write her books.
So give yourself this same permission. As Kate says, it would be very easy to spend her whole time answering emails from people who want to know how to write, how to get published etc and while she’s happy to help as much as she can, she also reminds herself that she’s a writer and she can’t do everything.
What’s Changed Over the 18 Years She’s Been a Full-Time Writer?
When Kate started writing, her children were babies so she didn’t have much writing time. She’s always built her writing time and routines around her children. At first she wrote when they slept (sounds familiar!), then she wrote when they were at kindergarten. Now her kids are both at school, she finds she has more time, but that the work expands to fill the available time.
The biggest difference between now and when she started writing is social media. Back then, writers had a static webiste and nothing else. Building and maintaining an author platform now takes up a lot of time that she used to be able to spend on writing.
You have to be very careful to remember you’re not a professional tweeter, you’re a professional novelist.
How Does Kate Manage Social Media Time?
The first thing Kate does is turn off all the beeps and alerts on her phone.
To have a tweet or a beep or a phone call when I’m writing can wrench me out of the zone I’m in and that can be very hard to get back into.
Kate sections out her social media time. She knows she can’t allow social media to take over her writing time, even though it’s very seductive!
Breakfast time is spent with her daughter chatting and Kate also checks Twitter and Facebook then. She checks again after her walk and then she turns it off and writes. Before she turns off her computer at the end of the day, she will check social media one last time. I think this is such a great idea—to allocate times that are for social media and to never give up your writing time to Twitter!
I loved the way Kate said she also combines her research and social media. If she’s researching a book and she finds a poem she loves, she’ll share that on social media. If she’s reading an article that she finds interesting, she’ll share it. It takes two seconds to do, it’s relevant to her audience and it shows that she’s actively engaged in social media—but without wasting too much precious time on it.
On Being a Mum and a Writer
Kate talked about how she did everything that needed to be done with her children—the shopping, the cooking etc, rather than giving up precious writing time to these tasks, which I wholeheartedly agree with. I take my youngest grocery shopping me with on one of his days off kindy, rather than spending any of my precious two writing days at Coles.
She doesn’t do housework when the kids are at school because that is writing time—in fact she knows if she finds herself doing housework then it means she’s procrastinating and she needs to drag herself back to the computer and deal with the story issue she’s procrastinating over!
Kate’s Final Tips for Mums (and anyone else!) on Making Time to Write
Set aside a sacred space and a sacred time. This is your time to write.
Try to make an appointment with yourself for a quiet time that you can devote to writing, is Kate’s advice. And make sure you spend that time writing! I love her idea of a sacred space—every writer should try to find some such space.
Also, Kate advocates trying to write every day, even if it’s just 10 minutes. Keep stealing time for yourself to write. Kate says that most of her earlier books were written in 10-20 minutes snatches of time when the children were asleep or occupied, so it is possible to be a productive writer with very little real writing time each day.
Win a Copy of Dancing On Knives, Kate’s New Book
There is such an interesting story behind Kate’s latest book, Dancing on Knives. Kate has redrafted a book that was released many years ago under her maiden name, a book that she wrote and rewrote over many years, since she was just 16 years old in fact, a book that is very close to her heart. I recommend you watch the video to hear her talk about the story behind Dancing On Knives because it’s fascinating.
And, I’m sure many of you are also huge fans of Kate’s work. So I’m giving away a copy of Dancing on Knives to one lucky reader. All you have to do is be an existing subscriber to my weekly e-newsletter (if you’re not you can sign up here) and you need to leave a comment below, letting me know which part of the interview with Kate really spoke to you as a writer or reader.
Huge thanks to Kate Forsyth for being so generous with her advice, with her time and with her experience. I hope you all enjoyed the interview as much as I enjoyed talking to Kate. I’ll bring you another interview with another writing mum very soon. In the meantime, if you’d like to find out more about Kate, you can find her website here. She’s also on Twitter and Facebook, and is truly worth following as she uses social media so well.
Thank you Kate. And don’t forget to leave your comments below!