Now that I have successfully written, published, and continue to market 5 books, I am using my skills to coach other therapists who want to follow their dreams of creating their own book. For any therapists reading this post who want to be a part of my venture, join our facebook group, Therapists As Writers, or reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m super excited to post my first of many author interviews with Dr. Kristin Webb, PsyD. Dr. Webb is a licensed psychologist in North Carolina. She has over 15 years of experience in a variety of clinical settings, including inpatient, partial hospitalization, psychiatric emergency services, community mental health, and private practice. She published her book, What?? We Had Homework?? June 2020.
1. Tell us about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Before I became a psychologist, I was the director of several non-profit arts agencies: community radio stations, a children’s theater, First Night. I wrote so many grant applications that by the time I got to graduate school, in my 30s, I knew that I knew how to write clearly, to a deadline, and well (although for a long time all my papers ended with, “…and that’s why you should give me $30,000.”). From the day I started graduate school, I said that my ideal career would be to combine being a therapist, writing, and teaching. In fact, I did teach at several colleges and community colleges, both during and after grad school. Of course, teaching DBT skills is one way I satisfy my urge to teach. I have published book reviews and a paper (Care of Others and Self: A Suicidal Patient’s Impact on the Psychologist) that I am very proud of. I also have a professional Facebook page (Facebook.com/DrKristiWebb), where I write and publish the Skill of the Week each Monday morning. I like this balance of activities.
2. What was your impetus to write the book?
Going back to 2010, I started writing email reminders to my DBT skills class patients and their therapists, each week. It honestly didn’t occur to me to do anything more with these until a colleague asked me if they were collected anywhere, and that she would be willing to pay for such a collection! I started assembling the email reminders and figuring out how to package them in October of 2019.
3. Do you ever experience writer’s block? If so, how do you combat it?
Because my book is a collection of previously-written weekly email reminders, I never had to face writer’s block. Basically, I wrote one page a week, for a year. What I sometimes faced was what I call “sensitive person’s vulnerability block”: I would start to think about how the book might be received and I would freeze, or I would start to procrastinate reaching out to get permissions from colleagues to include their handouts or homework sheets in my book. I felt very audacious, just asking.
4. Who or what was your greatest teacher in becoming a writer? A teacher, life experience, self-study, or something else?
When I was younger, the idea that my writing could be improved made me mad. I knew I wrote well! Why are you telling me I can improve?!? But a dear friend is a writer and editor, and there is no question that she writes like a dream. For six years, we worked together on projects for a Board of Trustees we serve on, and once I got my ego out of the way, I began to learn from her. I would notice how she constructed lengthy emails, letters, and reports. As I became willing to learn, my writing got better: clearer, more forceful. I probably still use too many exclamation points, and I have a particular, irreverent, voice that isn’t for everyone, but I know my writing has improved.
5. For those readers familiar with DBT, how does your book assist those who practice a DBT lifestyle?
Although the book is directed at DBT skills class leaders and co-leaders, clients/patients and any therapist who works with emotionally sensitive people will find it useful. It is a way to review a skill quickly, refreshing one’s memory of what goes into TIPP, IMPROVE the moment, and other skills that may no longer be top-of-mind for some folks. It’s not the kind of book that’s intended to be read, cover-to-cover, over a weekend; it’s intended for users to dip into, again and again, to brush up on skills.
6. What did you learn while writing your book?
A professor used to say, “Never waste any of your work: every paper you write should be one chapter of your dissertation.” Overall, I really enjoyed this process. For that reason, I’m considering taking my Skills of the Week and turning them into a book; I’ve already garnered one rejection letter from a publisher! I guess I could say that I learned I could do this. I wouldn’t say it was new information, but I was reminded of how effective skills are: I used Opposite to the Emotion Action, Encourage yourself, and Non-judgment, myself, frequently, especially in the process of working with a designer to create the covers and format the book for publishing. And that’s another thing I learned: how wise it was to take the advice I was given to pay someone to format my book and help me with submission. I am so glad I heeded that advice, because there is simply no way I could have mastered graphic design in the next year.
7. Is your book self-published? What led you to make that decision?
This is a fact, not a judgment: I am a cheapskate. I decided to self-publish because I couldn’t imagine making any money from this project, and self-publishing was the least expensive way to get my book out there. I used Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).
8. How do you carve out time to write in a busy schedule?
Poorly. Even though the email reminders were already written, I had a lot of editing to do, a lot of formatting before sending it off to be professionally formatted for publication, and a lot of work to do requesting permissions. It was nearly impossible to do this work in my therapy office, between patients or when I had a cancellation – there simply wasn’t time to get my head into the writing space. I don’t see patients on Fridays, so I would tell myself, “Perfect! I can get so much done that day!” It’s really amazing, though, how many things I allowed to interfere with simply getting it done. A key for me was telling someone I was writing the book. My co-leader didn’t know, even my husband didn’t know (see: sensitive person feels vulnerable). Once I disclosed to them, and starting requesting permissions, I set a date by which I wanted to be done (June, 2020) and I felt bound to that date. There would have been no consequences if I didn’t meet my own deadline, other than to my self-respect, but that was highly motivating to me.
9. What have you found to be the best way to market your book?
This is an excellent question. I don’t know about other psychologists, but my doctoral program definitely didn’t cover self-promotion and marketing! So far, the best way has been the two DBT listservs I am on: one is the international one, the other is here in the Triangle area of NC. This week, members of two different DBT consultation teams told me team members bought the book and are discussing it! I know that there are more formal avenues to market my book, and Amazon offers help with this; I will have to wrestle with those feelings of vulnerability again.