Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Writer Wednesday: Elissa Stein

The Road to Writing

Last fall, before my latest book was released, a friend in PR suggested I join twitter, building a community to share the experience with. My initial goal was to hype FLOW’s release but conversations and interest quickly evolved. Not only did I chronicle events as they happened—the launch party, press mentions, TV appearances, radio interviews—I shared the emotional highs and lows. The thrill of 100 books at Rizzoli’s dwindling down to nothing as I signed copies for hours. Seeing my name on a dressing room door backstage at The View. Hey, hugging Whoopi Goldberg who thanked me for writing the book. I talked about the post pub crash. The waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the next big thing to happen and finding nothing. My obsessive google searches and amazon sales rank checks. I shared it all.

Early on, somebody asked what my writing practice was.
I didn’t have one.

My eleventh book was about to be published and I didn’t have a regular writing routine. In fact, I didn’t consider myself a writer. I’d been a graphic designer for years, working mostly in publishing, and I had (have) countless ideas. Through determination, contacts, and luck, one book (an anthology of vomit stories) led to more (pop culture histories for Chronicle Books). My proposals were usually a few paragraphs, well designed, art liberally sprinkled throughout. I was more about the big picture, never actually writing until I was paid. And then? Panic. I struggled with every sentence never confident I was doing a good job, always shocked when an editor would send something back with minimal changes. But FLOW was different. For months I had to submit a chapter, 5000 words, a week. It was the most intense most insane, most painful work experience I’d ever had. When I was done, writing for any reason was the last thing I wanted to do. Having said that, that writing practice question gnawed at me. And so, last October, I challenged myself to blog for 40 straight days. It’s called a sadhana in yoga—the thought being that if you commit to something for 40 days it becomes part of your routine.

The beginning was brutal. I’d wake up in the dark to write when everyone was still asleep. It would take hours for me to feel comfortable enough to hit the publish button and share my thoughts with the world. And while no one was actually reading anything I wrote, I worried. I worried about what I was writing about, how it sounded, did I need to make a point, what the point was. Every time I sat at my laptop, I struggled.
But, I kept going.

And going. It’s been seven months and, except for a few days over Christmas when I was on a cruise ship with no wifi, I’ve written every day. I’ve gotten better. I’ve gained confidence. I discovered my voice and that I have a distinct point of view. People follow my blog and are interested in what I have to say. I started posting on Huffington Post and then, last month, was asked by a friend at if I’d like to do a guest post for them. I now have blogging privileges there and am reaching a completely different audience. Ideas for pieces pop into my head, fully formed sentences appear out of nowhere. Words have become my means of communicating. Words by themselves, without the design and art crutches I relied on so heavily before.

Now, when someone asks me what I do, I say I’m a writer. Without apologies, explanations or hesitation.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thank you Elissa for being my guest and for sharing your writing story and thanks to all of you who have stopped by today. More information about Elissa and her books can be found at the following places.

Twitter: @elissastein


Thanks Again to all,

Kristin : )

If you would like more info about this series, or would like to be a guest please follow this link Writer Wednesdays: The Intro .


  1. Great post. I recently interviewed Michael Phelps and he said he practices nearly every day - his birthday, holidays. Relentless - Elissa Stein sounds like that kind of writer.

  2. *shaking my pom poms* Yay! Elissa! I'm so happy to see you here and to learn a little about your writing journey. I'm proud of you, happy for you, in awe of you! You ARE an inspiration. I met you on twitter at the end of 2009 ~ guess what? You were already a a "WRITER" and a FABulous one, at that! Thank you for sharing. Kristin, thank you for such a wonderful series. *Big squishy group hug*