Behind The Scenes with Allison Vesterfelt
Today, I’m so excited to share with you an interview I did with my good friend Allison Vesterfelt. She is an inspiration—a woman who speaks truth boldly, and who goes after her dreams with everything she has.
Her first major book, Packing Light, was just released, and so in honor of Ally, and to celebrate this dream coming true, I wanted to share a bit of her wisdom with you.
Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of Allison Vesterfelt’s new book, Packing Light.
1. How did you come up with the idea of your book?
The idea for Packing Light came to me at a wedding, actually. I was by myself (which was normal for me at weddings) but for whatever reason, when I watched this friend get married, I couldn’t help but feel more than just alone at a wedding. I felt a little bit alone in the world. You know what I mean? I just kept thinking to myself: This is what she’s doing with her life. What am I doing with mine?
Anyway, at the reception, a friend and I started talking about this question: What would you do with your life if you didn’t have to worry about money, or about what people would think about you, or about what your parents were going to say? And as I started to think about my answer to the question, I realized much of what I was “doing” with my life was about following the rules and pleasing other people, rather than really engaging with the world — as myself — in a meaningful way. What I really wanted to do with my life was travel across the country and write a book about it. What I was doing instead was waking up everyday and going to a job I didn’t love, but that paid the bills, and trying to maintain the facade that I was a mature, responsible, grown-up and I knew what I was doing.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized if I was ever going to do what I really wanted to do with my life, there were so many things I would have to give up. So that’s what Packing Light is really about — letting go. For me, it looked like letting go of my apartment, and all of my furniture and clothes, so I could travel across the country for six months in my Subaru. But what I found was that the heaviest baggage I was carrying was actually invisible. And I think we all have this kind of baggage, and we would all be happier if we learned to set it down.
2. What is your writing process like?
This varies from season to season. While I was writing the manuscript, I would write every morning, at the same time. I would wake up at 5am, before anyone else was awake (I’m totally a morning person) and make a cup of coffee and just get started. I would set the alarm on my phone for an hour at a time, and tell myself I wasn’t allowed to get up from the chair until the alarm sounded. Even if I got hungry, or had to use the bathroom… I would just sit there and write write write for one hour. Then I would take a break for ten minutes, and start again.
Some seasons of life (like now, for me) get really crazy, and you can’t have a consistent writing schedule. My husband and I are in the process of a move from Minneapolis to Nashville, so my “writing time” over the past few days has been literally in the passenger seat of our car while he drives. Last night I was writing until midnight while we drove because I was behind on deadlines. The night writing isn’t ideal for me, but I think the key to writing a book (or accomplishing anything hard) is that there will never be a better time than right now to do it. It’s easy to come up with excuses, and put it off, and think you’ll make time later, when life is slower, or when you have more space. But space rarely opens itself up for us. Usually we have to clear it for ourselves.
The most important thing about finding time to write is that you do it. That matters way more than the routine or time of day.
3. What was the hardest part about writing this book?
Honestly, I think the hardest part about writing a book is promoting it. The process of writing itself came so naturally to me. The story had been brewing for a long time, and I’d been waiting for an opportunity to share it with people. Getting the words on paper didn’t feel like a stretch. It felt really good. I know lots of writers who complain about the editing process, but I had a great editor who really helped me draw out the most important parts of the story.
But now that the book has officially released, I have to let go of the story and my control over it. I have to send it out into the world and hope it impacts people in a meaningful way. So even though the heavy-lifting is over, this part of the process feels much weightier to me.
4. How did you get your “big break”? (is that what you call it?)
This is a funny story, because when I quit my job, moved out of my apartment and sold all of my stuff to go on this crazy 50-state road trip, I was sure of a couple things. First, I was sure that I was giving up the option of marriage anytime in my immediate future, because I couldn’t fathom any guy who would take me seriously if I gave up all the things that made me an “adult.” The other thing I was certain about was that someone I met, somewhere while I traveled, would hear my story and be so taken with it, they would want to publish my book.
Not to spoil the story, but that definitely did not happen.
Also, with everything I now know about the publishing world — how embarrassing.
Several months after I returned from my year-long journey, I still didn’t have a book deal. In fact, I had been rejected by a few publishers, and pretty much given up on the idea of writing the book altogether. That’s why my now-husband read a post I wrote for another blogger about this trip I had taken, and although he had never heard of me before, decided he had to meet me and help me publish my book.
It’s so funny to me how we always think we know how things are going to go; and yet sometimes the biggest blessings in our life come in the package of the complete opposite. My “big break” was the both my husband and the person who would believe in Packing Light more than anybody else.
5. What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?
Keep at it. Just keep at it. My sister gave me a card this week, after the official release of Packing Light, with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson on the front. It says, “The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.” I love that, because if you’re writing (or teaching, or going to school, or doing anything at all) to impress people, or to make a bunch of money, you’ll run out of steam. Money and affirmation aren’t bad, but they just aren’t long term motivators. They’ll steer you in the wrong direction.
So if you want to write — really want to write — you’ll do it in spite of the fact that you’ll likely never make much money doing it. You might never get much attention. But if you want to write for the sheer satisfaction of making good art, keep it up. Keep at it. Keep going. It’s the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but it’s absolutely worth it.
6. How much do you love the Lipstick Gospel? (Just kidding, but seriously)
Well, let me just tell you! There are very few places on the internet where you know you can go to find supportive, encouraging, positive words that are making the world a more beautiful place. This is one of those places, and its truly special. Thankful for the heart of my friend Stephanie and all the readers and commenters who show up everyday. Your passion for life is contagious.
You can find Packing Light on Amazon, and anywhere else books are sold. (Don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon—it helps writers out immensely.)