Featured Writer on Wellness: Amy Kathleen Ryan

Filed in Writers on Wellness by on December 4, 2014 • views: 1108

AmyI find I get very stiff if I sit in one position for too long.

I’ve had neck pain for years, and I have to be pretty careful of my position. Also, I’m very antsy. I have trouble sitting for longer than about twenty minutes at a time.

The Problem of Sitting Too Much

I’ll always find an excuse to get up, make some tea or a snack. This interferes with my output and concentration, and until recently I thought there was no solution, but I’ve found one!

I recently purchased a treadmill desk, and I walk at a rate of about 1.5 miles per hour when I write. Because I have young children I have only about three hours to write on weekdays, and the treadmill desk helps me focus because I no longer have the urge to stop writing out of antsy-ness.

The only drawback to this is that now I feel obligated to write at home instead of going out to coffee shops, which is what I used to do. I can get a bit of cabin fever that way, but I think that’s more a result of having very young children than anything.

The Elusive “Big Hit”

In this age of Amazon reader reviews, Twitter, and blogging, I sometimes find the internet to be a bit of an emotional minefield. Also, I’ve always had hopes that I would write a big hit, but that kind of market success has still eluded me. I consistently get very good reviews, but they haven’t yet translated into sales.

And then sometimes I read a book that has become a huge hit, and I’m very discouraged to find that it’s not particularly well written. I never have trouble when I read a bestseller that deserves success. I’m honestly happy for a hard working writer who gets well deserved attention, accolades, and money.

But when someone is rewarded for mediocre writing, that rankles a bit.

When I was just starting out, I would obsessively check online reviews of my books, but lately I’ve learned to let that go. There is always going to be someone who doesn’t like what I write. Even if I read ten positive reviews, it’s always going to be the mean ones that stick with me. That gets me down, so now I avoid reading reviews online of my books.

And regarding how to cope with seeing huge hits that aren’t well written, I just stop reading them. I can usually tell in the first chapter when I’m reading something that could have used more revision and editing, so I don’t buy it. I put it down and move on to something that deserves my attention.

That way, at least my reading life doesn’t contribute to any disappointment I might feel in my career, and it becomes a source of entertainment, education, and inspiration.

The Darkest Moment: Poor Sales

There have been plenty of reasons for self-doubt. My first book didn’t sell well at all, and despite good reviews, it went out of print within a year and a half of publication. That broke my heart, but it was a lesson for me that careers are long.

It’s best to be focusing on the book you’re working on now. Very few writers have a winner right off the bat. Most of them have a few disappointments before they create their hit. I’m always encouraged that each of my books has done better than the last.

The One Thing That Kept You On Your Path: an Irrepressible Creative Urge

I have a fairly irrepressible creative urge. I’m always thinking about stories and getting ideas when I’m out in the world. I’d probably write for fun if I didn’t do it for money.

I’m very lucky that I can write for a living, and it makes me proud that I write for teens. No one needs good books more than people suffering through high school.

Advice for a Young Writer: Understand How Much Work It Takes

The hardest part of learning to be a writer is understanding how much work it takes to write something publishable, and then to not get discouraged by the amount of work ahead of you.

I think what separates professional writers from those who never find their footing is that the professionals are very hard workers, and they care more about the end result, the book, than their own psychological comfort.

If it takes twenty revisions to get a book right, we do twenty revisions. We don’t let our egos get in the way.

* * *

Amy Kathleen Ryan is the author of six young adult novels, most notably The Sky Chasers series, which has been published in over fifteen countries. The first novel, Glow, was chosen by School Library Journal as a Best Book of 2011, and both Spark and Flame have been highly acclaimed, including a starred review from Kirkus. Amy lives in Colorado with her family and two little dogs.

Find more about Amy and her books on her website, Twitter (@AmyKathleenRyan) and Facebook .


glow-new-1Glow: If a violent battle destroyed the only world you’ve ever known, would you be brave enough to save who was left?

Waverly Marshall’s dreams are suddenly destroyed by a violent attack. In one pivotal moment, Waverly and her fiancée Kieran are separated by millions of miles in deep space, and find themselves at the helm of dangerous missions where every move has potentially devastating consequences, and decisions of the heart may lead to disaster.

Pulse-pounding and addictive, Glow is the first novel in Amy Kathleen Ryan’s riveting Sky Chasers series. Available at IndieBound and Amazon.

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Comments (6)

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  1. Chere Hagopian says:

    Thanks, Amy! Good advice. I’m not sure I could do a treadmill desk, though- unless I’m aiming for a spot on America’s Funniest Home Videos. Writing requires too much concentration to walk at the same time (for me and my uncoordinated self, anyway). I might be able to use one of those under-the-desk bicycle pedaling gizmos. Maybe! And I agree with you that teenagers need good books to help them stay sane through high school. Thank you for providing them!

  2. Thanks, Amy. Your reluctance to read posted reviews of your work reminded me of a colleague at the university. She used to get her husband to cull through her student evaluations and pull out all the “poison penn letters” so she wouldn’t pay more attention to the few of those that the large number of positive evaluations. I think you’re wise. That sort of ruminating can keep us from plowing ahead. Thanks, JP

    • Amy Kathleen Ryan says:

      John, I used to teach and I remember a couple comments that stung. In fact, I think writing is much easier job than teaching was. I’ll leave it to the heroes like your wife.

  3. Jill Swenson says:

    Great essay and guilty of sitting too long.

    • Colleen says:

      Thanks, Jill, and Amy. Me too—so hard to avoid when you write often!

      • Amy Kathleen Ryan says:

        Maybe you’d find you like a treadmill desk too. When I bought mine I had 30 days to return it if I didn’t like it.