Thursday, March 31, 2011

Balance Life and Writing with Kristi Holl

We writers tend to look at our work and our process as the most important thing in our lives. We read books about writing, about specific techniques that will help us write better. We buy software to help us write faster and more effectively. We look for ways to wring out every last second of the day that we can spend on our writing. In other words, we frequently overlook our lives themselves. At best this leaves us crippled in our writing.

Our lives shape our experiences, which shapes our writing. Most of us realize this. But do we stop to think about how the quality of our lives shapes the quality of our writing? Stressed lives produce stressed writing. But how can we escape the emotions and stresses that complicate our day-to-day lives? It seems as if it would be great to live in a safe, supportive writers' retreat year-round. But realistically, even the most imaginative writer I know realizes that's not going to happen. And it wouldn't be good for us if we could do it, anyway.

We share with fellow writers stories of writing through stress and dealing with writing issues like procrastination or writer's block, but when we're not with our writers group or enjoying daily coffee breaks or visits with writing friends, what do we do? I have a suggestion: we should all go to Kristi Holl's website and download her More Writers First Aid in pdf form or for your Kindle. It is one of the few practical how-to books on dealing with the emotions, stress and issues in our personal life that prevent us from doing our best writing and enjoying the process more than ever.

Kristi (I'm delighted to disclose that she is a longtime writing friend of mine) also offers practical how-to-write booklets at her site, such as Writing Mysteries for Young People and 50 Tension Techniques. Her years of experience and teaching allow her to give her readers simple, direct, easy-to-follow writing tips in these booklets. But the best writing tips are useless if you're strung so tight, or such a perfectionist, or a perpetual procrastinator, or someone who clings unknowingly to poor writing habits. Kristi's More Writers First Aid helps the writer, whether that writer has published many books or is only just getting started, recognize how she's sabotaging herself and shows her how to make wiser decisions about balancing life and writing.

I admit, I was predisposed to like this book because of the teddy bear on the cover - I know I write better when I've got a teddy bear for company. But I wasn't prepared to love it until I began dipping into the book and recognized so many of my own problems in her practical advice in dealing with burn-out, rejections, facing fears, writing in pain, and derailing our own writing. What is so helpful about the book is that Kristi doesn't write from way above us lowly mortals, telling us how to solve our problems; she generously writes as if she has experienced every problem we face, and shares how she has lived through it, or triumphed over it. Reading this book is like having a terrific visit with a friend. Even if all your friends are busy, you know that Kristi isn't too busy to spend some time with you, and help you through that rough spot so you can balance the ups and downs of life with your writing to give yourself write better than you ever thought you could, and to be happier doing it than you've ever been.


  1. Kristi lives in San Antonio these days, and believe me, if anybody knows about stress and writing, it's her!

  2. Elaine, thank you for this post. It was very meanful.

  3. Thank you, Mary - I'm so glad it spoke to you.

    You are so right, Peni - Kristi certainly knows her subject matter here! And it's a gift, the way she expresses it, and lets us as reader's know we're not the only one who's been there, but she has too and she can offer such practical, supportive guidance to get us through what she's experienced!