Melissa Foster Is The Most Productive Person I Know. Here's How She Does It. Interview by Lynn Spreen
Melissa Foster is the busiest and most productive person I know, and she is a joyful spirit. She is an author, artist, mentor, motivator and mother of six (!), and I wanted to know how she does it. What do her days look like? How does she motivate herself, keep track of everything, and maintain work/life balance? In spite of all her other activities, Melissa was kind enough to answer my questions. You can learn more about this amazing woman by visiting her website.
1. Do you have any particular strategies to get the most out of your body and mind, for example, avoiding certain foods or alcohol, or a diligent exercise routine?
I am a list maker and scheduler. I plan everything from making school lunches to calling my mother–seriously. I cherish my writing time as if it were what makes me breathe. I gain clarity by not being overwhelmed, and while running the Women's Nest, developing WoMen's Lit Cafe, rewriting a book for Jenny Bent, and releasing COME BACK TO ME (in November), scheduling is the only way that I can maintain my focus. As for exercise and eating, I was a vegetarian for ten years and just this past summer decided to begin eating meat again. I can no longer claim a "clean" diet. I'm a candy fiend–Skittles and Starburst help me through my rough patches, and ice cream is my fall back support system. I am an avid exerciser, mostly because I don't like the way my body aches and complains when I don't use it.
I think it's very important to take time to rejuvenate your body and mind, no matter what your chosen profession is–from stay-at-home mom to neurosurgeon. If you don't find time to rejuvenate, you'll eventually run out of emotional energy, which will lead to less productivity and creativity.
2. Do you have a daily work routine relating to your career? What does that look like?
Oh, yes, that's easy. It's been the same since 2006. I write from 9am until 2pm Monday through Friday, September through June. From 2pm until midnight, I spend time with my children, while weaving in marketing and my social networks. During the summer I regroup, plan, market, strategize, and enjoy my family. During the summers exercising is the start of each day – three miles each morning. During the school year, my exercise comes in later in the day.
3. What do you like about your home office?
Everything. I work best when it's just me, my computer, and a radio. I need natural sunlight and few distractions in order to climb into my characters' minds and pour their actions onto paper. My home office allows me to spend more time at the keyboard (no travel time to and from the office).
4. Do you have any help, i.e. staff of any kind? If so, what do they do?
I keep lobbying for a wife, but my husband hasn't agreed to that yet. I have two assistants that I can call upon to do a bit of marketing if I need help, but primarily, I handle everything myself. I'm a bit of a control freak, and it's very important to me that whatever information I am putting out to the public comes directly from me. I don't allow anyone to do my social networking or respond to my correspondence. I love interacting with readers and other authors–that's one of my favorite parts of being an author.
5. Do you ever have days you don't feel motivated? If so, how do you re-motivate yourself? Any tricks?
This sounds very cliche, but I am always motivated to write. I do, however, sometimes have scattered moments where I have 15 different items on my to-do list and I stare at it like a deer in the headlights. What I do in that case is to micro-manage my time. I'll break it down into small increments of time so I can have a focus — For example, allowing myself 45 minutes to write an article, then penciling in 25 minutes to answer interview questions, then 10 minutes to tweet, etc. Once I have a plan, it's easier for me to attack.
6. Do you ever worry about work/life balance? If so, what do you do about it?
Absolutely. I think any successful person has that concern, male or female. Life is about balance, but it's also about being kind to yourself. In this business, in many ways it's feast or famine. I have either way too much work all at once, or just enough that I can fill my time, which always feels more like not enough work, lol. The way I handle the "guilts" is to insure that I'm making up for the time lost. For example, lately, there are many nights that I work until midnight helping aspiring authors get a grip on how to handle their social media, writing, marketing, whatever it might be. I'm either on the computer or on the phone.
What I do to make up for that is set aside time that is only family time. There are no cell phones or televisions at dinner time. We plan weekend outings as a family, and I leave my cell phone in the car on many occasions. When I talk to my children, I look them in the eye and listen, really listen. These are the things that make a difference. No one wants to feel like they're interfering with their mother, sister, lover, or spouse's day. Everyone needs time and attention. It's planning that time, apologizing when it simply can't be had, and understanding that whatever crazy schedule you have at the moment, will not be forever. Then, make the changes in your life that will make you feel less guilty, and give you more time with your family. I have written several articles on prioritizing and "mommy guilt", and they're on my website.
7. What kind of calendar(s) or calendar system do you use?
I am horrible at calendars. I try to use Google calendar, but I always do really well for a while and then it all falls apart. I have two VERY large calendars. One hangs on my fridge and one by my desk. I'm a sticky-note girl and an alarm-girl. I set an alarm on my phone for everything from picking up my children from school, to blog tour appointments, then I cross reference that to my two calendars, and I am never fully satisfied unless I have a BIG yellow sticky note on my computer that alerts me to my appointments. And yes, I do have a sticky note on my bathroom mirror that says, "WALK" 🙂
8. Do you have any hobbies?
This is a difficult question for me to answer, because I feel as though helping others is my hobby. While some get joy from collecting things or riding horses, I get joy from helping others see the positive side of life and feel good about themselves. I used to scrapbook, but I haven't had time to do that in the past two years. I have painted (Google "Kids Murals By Melissa"), but writing has taken over the time I used to devote to painting. I enjoy reading, but usually save reading time for midnight until one a.m. I think I'm in a funny stage of life where I realize that there are many awesome writers out there who work just as hard as I do, but they don't know what to do after they write a book. I enjoy helping them learn the next step.
9. Do you consider any day of the week as a day of rest?
Lol – a day of what??? I usually don't write on the weekends, but I don't rest on those days, either. If I'm not writing, I'm not good at sitting still. I like to do family activities, going to fairs, taking walks, doing anything other than being inside.
10. Finally, Melissa, what would you like to tell us about your writing?
You might have noticed that I'm a genre hopper, which is something that traditional publishers don't care for. For that reason, I'll be working with my amazing agent, Jenny Bent, to traditionally publish my suspense line of books. Jenny and I will also work together to continue independently publishing my women's fiction line.
Megan's Way, which was my debut novel, is a work of literary fiction, and is currently being adapted to film. Chasing Amanda, my second release, is a suspense novel, and my third book, Come Back to Me, is contemporary fiction–an international love story/tragedy (not romance). Come Back to Me will be released in early November, 2011.
I'm excited about all of the endeavors I'm currently involved in, from writing new manuscripts to launching the WoMen's Literary Cafe, but what reallythrills me is being connected with readers, reviewers, and other writers. I'm inspired by the comments and emails I receive from readers, and by the writers who are finding their way into the world of publishing. I'm excited to see each new writer learn and succeed, and to hear from readers about the things they love–and hate–about my novels. The literary community is an exciting one, and I'm proud to be part of it.
Melissa Foster is the award-winning author of two novels, Megan’s Way and Chasing Amanda. She is the founder of the Women’s Nest, a social and support community for women, and WoMen’s Literary Café, a literary community. Melissa is currently collaborating in the film production of Megan’s Way. Melissa has written for Calgary’s Child Magazine, and Women Business Owners Magazine. She hosts an annual Aspiring Authors contest for children, and has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Melissa is currently working on her next novel, and lives in Maryland with her family.
Melissa's interests include her family, reading, writing, painting, friends, helping women see the positive side of life, and visiting Cape Cod. A portion of every book sold is donated to Provincetown Cares.
Melissa enjoys discussing her books with book clubs and reader groups, and welcomes an invitation to your event. For more information and to contact her, please visit her website.
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