Are you time-strapped or focus-challenged, but you have a book to write or business to build?
It might seem counter-intuitive – even threatening to your cherished beliefs – to imagine writing a book or building your signature business Story 15, 30, 45 minutes at a time. But that’s how you can do it.
Fantasies trap us. When we imagine writing a book or building our newest endeavor, we conjure images of languid, lush hours mulling, creating, wandering, and – eureka! – you’re writing that brilliant book or launching that extraordinary endeavor.
Everything else – your bread-and-butter work, your obligations to loved ones and friends and job, your strained back, the leaky roof – falls away for hours if not days so you can immerse yourself in Flow [Stage note: Cue in magical harp music and pixie dust.].
What happens with this fantasy? You size up Life and Time (or your self) as the Wicked Enemies, and Creative Mojo as the unattainable but desperately yearned-for Ozland over the rainbow. You can unwittingly make yourself a helpless character in your own saga.
Once you’re devoted to a dream and you’re willing to stand in love with it, consider loving that dream with a quickie practice at first. What’s a quickie practice? This idea came up in a conversation with my pal Jen Louden – either this one or another one. She said she often got “worked up” about writing her book, that it felt like anticipating having great sex.
I suggested she write her book with quickies. Never, I advised, sit down at your desk and say, “This morning I am going to write my book.” That’s daunting. It makes every writing session a performance instead of a practice.
Instead, scale your dream and break down the journey. Create a quickie practice. Do shape time with the Mind Rooms Method or another flexible rhythm and then schedule a few regular writing sessions a week – but keep them short at first.
“But my project and I need lots of time to hunker down and go deep.” True, somewhat. The human mind – when trained and primed – can thrive in extended time immersed on one project.
But many people new to working their own hours have never trained their minds to “go deep” for hours at a time. Life circumstances if not minds themselves can change in ways that make such extended time challenging in phases.
If you’re just beginning to train or retrain yourself to focus on a “big” endeavor like a book or business Story, don’t give your mind too much wiggle and squirm and wander and get lost time. Give your mind a clear intention for 30 minutes or 45 minutes. Draft ideas. Take one step. Draft one scene. Research one piece of data.
Use a timer. I prefer the Enso timer. At the end of your time, bow out.
One client is a corporate executive with two teenage kids and a spouse. When he said he had no time to write this promising book that he had only rough ideas for, we charted his weekly calendar.
Pretty soon, I helped him find 3 “pockets of time” a week to focus on his book. We started by scaling the dream. Two years later he published his book and is growing his platform.
In the process of his tracking wonder, he has learned more than book-writing and platform-building. He also has cracked open to doing business as unusual by building real relationships and having significant and measurable impact on his community.
Not bad results for a quickie practice.
Our goal with this kind of practice is not to stoke your creative genius. It’s to build your practice muscles. It’s the equivalent of playing your scales when you’re learning an instrument. The genius insights and eureka moments will follow.
It might work for you. I hope so.
Devote time this week – even if it’s 30 minutes times 3 – to your book or endeavor. Let me know what happens.
It’s one thing to fall in love with a fantasy. It’s another thing to stand in love with a dream.
Here is what I cannot stop asking myself: How do people get through inevitable challenge and create their best work? What drives them?
Really, that question has driven me for years to experiment with, research, and create just about every program I’ve made.
It’s driven me to track wonder.
There’s this: Members in our community and ecosystem are creating their best work. Like, every week. It’s a pretty astonishing year.
Jon Mertz published Activate Leadership and continues to lead the conversation in cross-generational leadership.
Questers in our Live The Quest Forum who have taken our Business Artist Pledge are launching workshops, websites, poetry & art collections, business lines.
Paula Trucks-Pape has been questing as a writer and caretaker of sustainable land.
Nancy Siebel has reshaped her business identity and brand at Keys to Change, and Susanne Christiansen has launched her beta brand at The Jewel Soul Project.
Two clients – Corporate consultant Cindy Henson and farmer & business owner Lee Rankin – coincidentally or not finished the first draft of their memoirs this season. They each started from scratch a year ago.
Through writing the book, Lee meanwhile has amped up the Story of her business at Apple Hill Farm.
But none of them are without challenges. Um, they’re writing books, building business identities, and living the quest. No challenge? That would be a tour through Paris, not a quest.
Never mind that one of these authors raises a teenage son on an alpaca farm that sits atop a frigid mountain in North Carolina. She’s used to climbing mountains.
Their challenges are our challenges.
“Making the time to write and learn a new skill has been the biggest challenge this year. Molding time by using the Mind Rooms Method has been a useful tool in carving out time and helping me to maintain focus.
“My biggest challenge in completing this draft, after tackling time and life distraction, was the processing I needed to do to get out of my own way. The commitment to drafting took me through inner terrain that combined the solo journey of a vision quest with the intensity of the dark night of the soul.”
Paula: The fear of not knowing what to do or if she’s capable.
My team and I build relationships with business artists in all fields to help them write content, shape story-based strategies to build or transition branding identities, and shape & sell captivating books.
So, we face challenges with you every week. Self-doubt. Creative impasses and brick walls. Unbidden surprises galore. The 4 Core Limitations – time, stamina, focus, bandwidth for novel idea generation.
I can group these variables of psychology, habit, and relationship into these three:
An Open Mindset (wonder, curiosity, equanimity, dot-connecting, desire to learn & grow & improve)
An Agile Handset (experimentation, step-taking, risk-taking, pivoting, recalibrating)
A Devoted Heartset (devotion, meaning, impact, relationship)
And it’s that last part – devotion – that often distinguishes fantasizers from actualizers.
It’s one thing to fall in love with a fantasy of writing a book or launching a business or owning the Story you and your business artistry must tell.
And it’s quite another thing to stand in love with your dream that really matters.
Devotion is a “profound dedication.” At its root is the word “voc” and “vow.” Your speech, your word, your promise lines up with your choices and actions.
It’s not a quality that always bull dozes you through brick walls. But it is a quality that grants you the courage, the heart fuel, to surmount unpredictable difficulties.
But here’s the curious thing about the attention of devotion.
“Learning a new craft and writing a story that empowers people was how I began the journey. By the middle or so, I realized it was about offering a gift at the completion of the hero’s journey. A way to give back from an incredible journey. I stopped worrying about what people would think about the book, and focused more on wanting this to be a great story for my patch of the planet. And that readers would leave with inspiration to try new paths or new ways that up until now were pushed away in favor of the practical.”
“I am devoted to the writer’s voice who now wakes me up with something to say. I am devoted to learning the craft of writing through sharing this story, my hero’s journey in a way that brings it to life for my readers.”
Julie said she had to let go of her old, smaller devotions and – in part because the ArtMark program cracked her wide open – assumed grander devotions related to her calling.
When you’re devoted, all of those challenges? It ain’t about the little you. Your self-knowledge extends to craft knowledge which extends to knowledge of the gift of business artistry – elevating your patch of the planet, your heroes.
Gandhi knew a thing or two about challenge. “Without devotion,” he writes, “action and knowledge are cold and dry, and may even become shackles.”
Pavarotti said that people thought his discipline was the secret to his success. “It is not discipline. It is devotion. There is a great difference.”
Devotion is a quality that my colleagues who head a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program look for in applicants.
Devotion is something my team and I listen for in potential clients.
It’s something I look for in registrants of my author’s intensive program, Your Brave New Story.
And most of these questing business artists acknowledge the buoyancy of the Pack that keeps them going.
What am I devoted to? I have wondered what has driven me through a Decade of Disruption. It’s true that during a particularly grueling time, I did gaze into my then-three-month-old girl’s sky-wide blue eyes and remembered my devotion.
Why? Because it is that singular experience, discreet as it is, that keeps cracking us open to possibility again and again.
Even amidst fires and hospitals, brick walls and blocks, storms of self-doubt and despair, empty bank accounts and broken ankles, it’s possible for you to shape if not master a meaningful creative life.
So much is possible.
Who is your Story about?
Several months ago, I felt a wee bit disoriented, having shaped part of a book proposal.
What’s it worth? I wondered. What if my agent rejects it? What if this is all a fool’s errand? What have I done with my life? Okay, I didn’t go quite that far.
Then, my five-year-old peeked in my study. She wanted to show me her outfit – a summer skirt and a short-sleever atop a long-sleever.
“I just couldn’t wait any longer to wear summer clothes,” she said as she twirled around the study. And at that moment, I remembered again why I’m writing this book, why I’m building Tracking Wonder, why I utterly adore engaging you.
After years of research and my own share of unbidden surprises, I vowed five years ago to keep tracking wonder so I could help create a world where that little girl could not wait to become a grown up (because the prospect would look so appealing!) and where grown ups could and must wonder again and again.
That’s my vow. That’s my mission. That’s part of the Story of Tracking Wonder.
I know tracking wonder is a path that works for grown-up business artists. It’s a powerful antidote to the Get-Things-Done culture, the Lean Mean Hip culture, and the Solo Genius Just-One-Thing Cult of Mastery.
And I know this book is a compact, impactful way to distribute that medicine.
I turned 50 not so long ago. I have my share of ugly moments when I am distraught and doubtful of my endeavors, but I must admit that 85% of the time or greater I am grateful for everything – the good, the bad, the downright horrifyingly hard – that these 50 revolutions around the sun have granted me in this one brief life. And you’re a big part of that gratitude.
But I tell you this story and Story because of you, not me.
The larger Story of your business or brand might or might not focus on you personally. If your brand is tied to your personality, maybe. But maybe not. If you are a memoirist, yes.
But there’s an increasing assumption in the blogosphere and among some advisors that you must be vulnerable, transparent, and personal with your audiences in order to establish rapport with them.
I think that’s a pretty faulty assumption to generalize and can make for faulty and misleading advise.
In our program on story-centered branding strategies, these questions come up a lot. So, here are a few guidelines I want to offer – and offer to wide open conversation, mind you. So, fire away your replies to me!
Be cautious of anyone advising you to be more “vulnerable” or “authentic” in your copy or content. What do they mean by those words? How does it serve your signature way of bringing your audiences to a better place? Does that approach serve your greater goals and mission? Is your larger Story about you or about the people you serve?
If you own a business or are trying to build one, your #1 job may be to elicit trust. How is your Story doing that?
“Authenticity” stems from the Greek word authentes, “one who acts upon the voice of her own authority.”“Authenticity” also is related to having “authority” over your respective craft.
It might or might not have to do with your divulging your personal conflicts with your lover or children last week.
BTW, Brene Brown’s work cracked open this fellow Texan’s heart again. But even she notes that being vulnerable does not equate to TMI. Discretion counts.
Certainly, we write and draft for ourselves. Ultimately if an author does her job of rewriting and designing a Story, then she knows that the real hero is the reader who has a moving experience by reading a memoir.
Andre Dubus III’s Townie and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and Slash Coleman’s The Bohemian Love Diaries each moved me to greater realizations about life, relationships, and death. In a strange way, I was the hero!
So, too, in personality-based brands and service provider brands, your signature personality is a distinct part of what attracts people to you and your Story.
Maybe you’re a writer or writing teacher. What does your writing, your blog, your video set, your workshops do for your targeted audience? They are your Story’s Hero.
What are you devoted to – for them?
You have a moving experience in film, art, poetry – heck, an artful advertisement – because something is awakened in you. When you tell your audience a revealing story about yourself – in a talk or in your copy – consider how you are helping someone see herself in you.
That mirroring gets to the heart of why our ancestors landed on the marvelous invention of story in the first place – to help us see how we can navigate this world.
If you’re working through a particular problem in your business or creative venture that your audience shares, then that’s a great opportunity to get downright personal and intimate.
In a book proposal, you might not want to launch into why you think your book’s provocative premise is brilliant. Somewhere in the Overview, I suggest you identify, frame, and articulate what’s the prevailing problem your premise is addressing. Even if you’re not writing a proposal, think about this for your website, your offers, whatever you claim your Story is “About.” Why? Because the “problem” feature answers the inevitable question for any book, start-up, service, product, program, or workshop: A Miles Davis “So what?”
That problem might reside in your audience’s hearts and minds. It might reside in the cultural messages they’re receiving that you think contribute to their suffering. It might reside in problems you perceive within your field that you think are misleading them. It might be all of the above. If you can claim what problems you boldly stand up to, then your bold idea might have more weight and urgency.
Do you know what this kind of problem-tracking requires? Deep imagination and empathy. You have to snap out of your own point of view and crawl into the skin (as Atticus Finch might say) of your real heroes.
Do you feel how Story moves us? How can you not be moved by this advertisement that shows even big companies are doing business-as-unusual?
You can, too, and you don’t need a 5-figure website and corporate resources to do so. You possess innately the technology of the soul: Story.
As for you, well, you are my Hero, plain and simple. I know that although you have yearnings to master this one brief creative life, you also have doubts and dark nights of despair.
I know you’re juggling bosses or employees, clients and children and aging parents. And I utterly admire the way you continue to keep living your quest, keep finessing what you make and how you make a right livelihood, and how you own the Story that burns inside you.
It’s in part because I see your actions forward that get me up each morning, diving deep, and creating to make the world just a wee bit better. That’s what heroes do, don’t they?
The smarter we get and the more we educate ourselves, the wittier a part of our mind can become at defending and rationalizing our choices.
The perfectionist mentality traps us in fantasy. If we can recognize the traps, we can learn how to release them.
Michael fantasizes about leaping from his job and becoming a speaker on a subject he knows quite a bit about. But at his first consideration of what it takes to engage an audience and gain traction as a speaker, he realizes he knows nothing about public speaking and, hence, concludes, “I don’t have what it takes to be a speaker. I’m better off in this job.”
Safe in fantasy. Safe in no-action.
The perfectionist mentality traps us in irrelevance: You’re writing a book. You learn some things about craft. You get obsessed with perfecting one chapter. For 9 months. Once you draft the rest of the book, that chapter is not even relevant.
Safe in perfecting irrelevancies.
The perfectionist mentality traps us in rationalizing inaction: A business artist is developing a new brand Story for an innovative business model. “How can I write copy for my people when I don’t yet know what they want or where they’ve been hanging out or how they’re going to find me?”
Safe in paralysis.
Perfectionism is an attempt to avoid making mistakes or appear in error. Perfectionism is not excellence. Perfectionism is not mastery.
Can you remember the last time you heard a master musician you admire make a mistake? A master speaker or teacher make an error? Have you ever watched a painter in action and recalibrate from a “missed” stroke and turn that miss into a hit? Did you admonish them for that mistake? I doubt it.
So, what makes you think your audience will rail against the imperfections of your artful program or your beta talk?
I’ll tell you what: The perfectionist mentality, which often is a defense against real action.
What’s the antidote?
Prolific prototyping involves scaling your dream to size. It involves wise failure. It involves taking public action to gather data. It involves actual marketing to gather data, learn, and recalibrate your actions accordingly.
When you catch yourself stalling in fantasy, irrelevance, or non-action, step back and ask with curiosity, “What simple action could I take to start gathering information instead of staying stuck in mind games?” “How could I create a smaller version of what I want to create to test the whole process?
Here’s the deal that I’ve discovered about my own perfectionism: When I put myself in a learner’s mindset, an apprentice’s heart set, then my little perfectionist quiets down. Why? The perfectionist thinks he knows it all – or should. My inner apprentice is cracked open with questions and curiosity. He’s dying to learn more by doing, experimenting, testing, and moving on. His lab’s a bit messy, but he’s at least released his traps. For now.
“Publishing a book is like stuffing a note into a bottle and hurling it into the sea. Some bottles drown, some come safe to land, where the notes are read and then possibly cherished, or else misinterpreted, or else understood all too well by those who hate the message. You never know who your readers might be.”
― Margaret Atwood
Paul Cohen brings a refreshing mix of spirituality, down-to-earth demeanor, and business acumen to publishing. Monkfish is where spirituality and literature meet. In 2002, Paul launched Monkfish Publishing – the seeker’s press – to whet the appetite of spiritual and literary seekers of all stripes. Monkfish has published the works of luminary teachers such as Amrit Desai, cultural visionaries such as Matthew Fox, as well as literary renegades such as Marilyn Stablein and best-selling author of The Passion of Mary Magdalen Elizabeth Cunningham.
And, oh yeah (bias alert): Monkfish published the revised and updated edition of my book The Journey from the Center to the Page – a delightful publishing experience.
So what books matter to a publisher of such works?
In this Books That Matter feature, Paul shares the book that changed something profound within him, what grimacing detail catches a publisher’s eye in a book, his forecast for the publishing industry, and the book he wants to write.
Paul: For me, the book was The Passion of Mary Magdalen by Elizabeth Cunningham, which we published. The “frozen sea within” for me was my budding “publisher-hood,” which this book did so much to release. On a more personal note, the book changed my relationship to the historical Jesus, which, for a Jewish person, is no small matter.
I remember my first experience with the actual book fresh from the printer. It’s a 600-page hardcover. I felt at a glance that the manufacturing aspects were probably okay, but when I opened the book at random, my eyes went right to a typo! We had proofread the designed manuscript over 6 times with at least 3 different sets of eyes. I won’t say it didn’t hurt, but it hurt less knowing that I—and my team—had really done everything we could to make it a great book. And it helped that it was a minor typo which most readers would not be able to detect. After all, from writing to the book’s final form, this error had eluded at least 10 readers, some of them multiple times.
The Brothers Karamazov. I was so young when I read it! Growing up, it was just my sister and me, so I had had no brothers. Maybe this book helped me fill in that gap.
The Bhagavad Gita because its themes are ever-recurring, and there is a bounty of excellent and very different translations. I especially enjoy the Stephan Mitchell translation, having read it several times.
I have been in a paper-only mode for about two years now. My preferred reader was a Kindle. I went through an e-reading phase, but when I experienced a glitch preventing me from accessing my account, it suddenly seemed more trouble than reward. I had enjoyed the instant gratification that an ebookstore can deliver, but I found I had also purchased more junk than I normally would. Since I am reading all day long on a computer in my work life, physical books just feel more balanced to me today.
Oh, brother! I think that the results of the digital revolution have basically been a wash, so far, for the traditional book publishing industry. New revenue streams like eBooks and self-publishing services have made up for lost revenues from major downturns such as the Borders Books chain folding. The next frontier is in the global distribution of books. Aided by the newest printing technology, it is now possible to avoid international shipping costs entirely by printing in the country of destination. I do predict that the burgeoning self-publishing industry is due for some shakeups. Note the class action suit for predatory marketing practices against Author Solutions, which is now owned by Penguin/Random House.
I’d like to write a book about publishing—it would be for writers but written from a publisher’s experience. I would pepper the book with the kind of advice your kind and successful uncle or aunt in the business might give you. Publishing remains a big deal for writers. Few things in life manage to be so public and private at the same time as having a book published. (Only marriage and giving birth come immediately to mind as being events of similar magnitude.) In the “good old days”, writers were ushered through the publishing process by many people in the business, including agents, editors and publicists. Today, that’s only one of many possible publishing experiences an author might have. Given the reality that the majority of writers will not have the benefit of such helping agencies, my book might be able to fill just that gap.
PAUL COHEN is the editor/publisher of Monkfish Book Publishing Company. Monkfish is an independent press publishing spiritual and literary books from a diverse range of perspectives. Genres include memoirs, wisdom literature, fiction, and scholarly works of thought. Monkfish’s eclectic mixture of spirituality books, while dealing with timeless subjects, nearly always shed light on topical concerns, and have been widely discussed and reviewed in newspapers such as The New York Times, Washington Post, Kansas City Star, and Atlanta-Journal Constitution; in the publishing trade such as Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, Booklist and Kirkus; and in the spirituality media such as Yoga Journal, Spirituality and Health and Beliefnet.
Here’s an idea: Risk failing if what you’re making as a business artist or author matters. To risk failing is to test out an endeavor that pushes you beyond your safety space.
But making extreme mistakes is another matter. An “extreme mistake” is a mistake in perception, a blind side, a faulty assumption, a broken frame.
My work with countless authors as a book strategist and consultant has exposed 7 such extreme mistakes. I’ve made them. They’ve made them. And there’s a good chance you’re making one or more of them, too.
You have a book burning inside you but you think you don’t have the time. You’re stuck in the middle of a creative mess of a book and assume there’s no way out. And publishing? Extreme mistakes to be made there, too. Some of the biggest mistakes I see authors make have to do with assumptions about process, audience, market, structure, craft, publishing, and more.
Thriving authors don’t learn their craft by chance or by not risk-taking. They learn it through messy trial-and-error and drawing upon well-honed skills.
This art is not a formula. It’s part of the inner workings of story on the page that I’ve devoted years of study to in helping myself and countless other writers create and publish books that matter.
I’ve distilled the 7 biggest mistakes into their extremes. Between the extremes, I have found middle ways. These middles ways have aided countless novelists, entrepreneurs, though leaders, teachers, memoirists, and service providers in creating, shaping, and publishing their brave books.
Join me live Thursday, June 18, 2:00-3:30 pm ET for
with Jeffrey Davis
Learn more here,
Or take your spot here.
I will not waste your time.
You’ll come away with
I hope you join me. That at least will not be a mistake.
How do you take the first step to start shaping and telling your signature Story be it in book, brand, business, programs?
Beyond my screen are tables of people – a woman with her toddler boy, two 20-something women, a dude wearing a hoodie holed up in a corner with his computer.
I’ve come to Lekker, a cafe I prefer in the Hudson Valley in part because of my experience here.
First, they make the best cup of Americano around.
The husband-wife founders have a heritage of creating contemporary Euro-inspired cuisine experiences in the valley. They love excellence, beauty, art as do I.
“Lekker” is Dutch for delicious – which is one of the owner’s cultural heritage and is the cafe’s inherent promise that they deliver on.
And the manager Brianna and everyone else on staff knows me and knows what I want.
You know what I’m doing? I’m telling their Story for them to you. Why? Because I am not a Lekker customer. I am part of the Lekker audience, and now I am an ambassador, a howling fan. I’m rooting for them.
I’ve just reviewed 5 core elements of a powerful Story.
First, what’s your cup of Americano? In this post-Starbucks era, have you noticed how many independent cafes and coffee shops are opening? I have. And they are each distinct.
I dropped in at Brewed on Magnolia Street in Fort Worth in March on my way to Austin. Why? Because their website told a Story that they brewed excellent espresso-based coffee + they served special loose-leaf teas + they live out a really cool and true mission to serve the city. The four owners – none of them with a history of entrepreneurship – set up an NPO to channel proceeds that help the city’s homeless and counter sex trafficking.
I met one of the owners and struck up a conversation. They’ve been open for 2.5 years. I congratulated her and said, “2-3 years in business is a big milestone for a start-up.” She said, “Yes it is. Especially since I had no idea what I was doing!” But she did have a dream she has been devoted to – to serve the community and to give back.
That’s a Story worth sharing.
What do you actually make or do that your fans and audience want and will pay the right price for?
It doesn’t matter how creative, artistic, sensitive, and anti-mercenary you are (because I am right there with you, brother and sister).
You must get clear on what you, your book, your art, your business, your personality brand offers that your audience perceives is valuable.
Refrain from waxing lyrical about this. Get clear. If you offer music, say it and show that your music is your signature music. If you offer coaching services, say it and say how your coaching services are distinct. If your business sells yachts or health products, say it and show how your products or experience is distinct. If you’re writing a nonfiction book, why do people need it and why this one?
Next, know yourself. What parts of your distinct heritage as founder or owner are you bringing forward? What distinct skill set have you acquired over the years that you are bringing forward? If you’re writing a nonfiction book, why you? Why not you, right?
What do you stand for? What are your core values and the key ideal to which you aspire that also lights up your fans and audience?
Then deliver something more than your actual product or service or book. Deliver an experience. Engage your peeps. Give of yourself. If you have a team, be sure every one of them is generous and giving and gets what your greater mission is about.
Do that consistently and, yes, doggedly (not with “overnight” expectations) over time – over a year, two years, three years – and you will have built a Story.
If all of this intimidates you, then take this first step: Look at what you are doing right now instead of fantasizing about what you want to do in the future. How are you delivering value right now? To whom? Ask them how you deliver distinct value. Ask them to describe your best self with three adjectives. Ask them what distinct skills they see that you possess.
That will give you good data, and it will give you practice in one of the most important facets of shaping a captivating and elevating Story: Collaborate with your audience.
As one stellar literary agent recently noted in an interview: Don’t write a book to get published. Write a book to get read.
Don’t shape a Story to get noticed. Shape a Story to captivate and elevate your audience. Build them up.
Operate from that mindset and heart set every day, and the Story will start to take shape with them.
“It would be no exaggeration to call it a state of disorientation.” – Carl Jung
That’s the question that rattled inside the renowned psychologist Carl Jung at age 37, months after breaking away from his mentor, Freud. He writes that when he examined the hero stories and myths he had amassed, he held them up like mirrors and wondered about his own life. He wasn’t, as far as he could see, the hero of his own story.
When that voice calls and says, “Look at how you’re living your life. How are you walking the talk?,” most of us reply with, “You’ve got the wrong number,” hang up, and turn up the volume on Downton Abby.
But when Jung got challenged on his own soul stuff, he didn’t hang up. He kept the line open.
Listening to that profound doubt prompted Jung to muster the courage to create the Story he knew he must write into and live out.
So let’s consider this: A consultant has an idea book to write. A father has a memoir to write. A journalist has her first young adult novel to write.
Behind every book is a Story. A Story burns inside a writer. And that Story is not the stories that buzz inside her head.
How does she listen to the true voice of doubt beyond the buzz, and how does she muster the courage to create because of that voice?
Those are questions I invite you to live with me.
Creative courage happens with ordinary choices amidst extraordinary circumstances.
Consider this scenario. “I don’t have time to write these days, not even for fifteen minutes,” a writer says. Her daughter’s ill. Her son has special needs. Her job demands most of her focus when she’s not giving it to her ailing mother or children. Her family divides time between a winter home and a summer home, and transitioning to the summer home demands considerable time and toil and prep.
She’s smart. She’s self-aware.
But the stories that buzz inside our heads have distinct patterns. They often start with “I don’t have time to…” or “I can’t…” followed by a list of reasons bolstering the stories for why we cannot advance, even incrementally, on the Story we must tell.
Those “reasons” seemingly fall into the category of unchangeable circumstances – what other people demand, the natural disaster that ensued, the ailments and illnesses and aging, our own disposition.
Buzzing stories obscure. Buzzing stories bury choice amidst the rationalizations, the seeming circumstances.
If we were to ask this same writer above how else she has chosen to spend fifteen, thirty, even forty-five minutes in a day – despite her many challenging circumstances – she might at first claim she doesn’t have time to make a choice. But with some gentle re-direction, she might realize she does.
She daily makes choices as to which people she’s responsible to. The responsibilities she chooses to uphold. The job she chooses to keep to care for her children. The summer home she chooses to transition to. The online articles she chooses to read. The conversations she chooses to have.
No judgment in making any of these choices, but buzzing stories tell us we have no choice. The voice of your Brave Story reminds you that you have choices to be brave with your time every single day. If we can see the choices we daily make in responding to circumstances, maybe we can start to make more intentional choices to write the Brave Story we must tell.
Here’s another way of viewing the stories versus the Story you must tell:
What are you devoted to?
It’s a scary question, the kind that woke up Jung. It’s scary because it shows up in your choices.
Your choices show you’re devoted to your kids. Your job. Your livelihood. And you make good choices accordingly. No judgment.
But devote yourself to your Brave Story, too. Let your daily choices for how you act, speak, and imagine show it. My pal Jen Louden elaborates on a practice I do every morning along these lines and that we do at Your Brave New Story as well. What are you devoted to? Reply in the comments below.
Try this instead: Create in integrity, not in battle. The ‘rest of your life’ outside of your creative project is part of your creative quest, too.
“You mean,” someone asked me recently, “that my creative quest includes all of that stuff?” All of it. That’s what the voice of your Brave Story reminds you.
Here’s what happened when Marissa Goudy – mother of two young children and freelance writer – chose to listen to her Story. She found the time. And she found the skillful means to advance her dreams. Here’s what she recently posted on Facebook:
A corporate consultant wants to write a children’s book. She’s drafted parts of it. But she recognizes her limits in knowledge.
She also, by the way, has two ailing parents and with shifts in the economy has met with hard times. Still, she didn’t succumb to the buzzing stories.
Buzzing stories tell us not only that we don’t know what we’re doing, but also that we’re dumb and fooling ourselves. That we should’ve figured out this writing thing in college.
That our MFA or the fact that we’re a professor or professional or published author already means that we should “get” Story Architecture – the art of shaping and sequencing a captivating story – by now.
What bunk that buzz is.
That buzz sends you into a soldier-like mentality of “Do It Yourself”-dom. Or “Figure-It-Out-Yourself”-dom.
FIOY might stand for Fatiguing, Isolating, & Overwhelming Yourself.
When you hear that buzzing story of self-doubt, replace it with curiosity about what you can learn. List the skills you want to learn. Then find the models and mentors to help you learn them.
For the corporate consultant, we laid out the skills and attributes of children’s books she wanted to cultivate. We quickly identified seven traits of writing well-suited to her disposition, intention, and audience. Then we found mentor books for her to study for express purposes.
There is joy in cultivating an Apprentice’s Mindset. You get to step into the wizard’s lab of Story-making.
She attended Your Brave New Story last year and now has a bank of Story Architecture knowledge to draw from as well. The voice of her Brave Story reminds her that she can learn, that the middle-aged brain loves to learn, and can learn deeply – more so than many of the younger, speedier processors.
Your time to write your Brave Story does not begin when the semester is over and summer starts. When the teenager leaves for college. When the aging parent stops aging. When you get healthy. When your business is stable.
One June, a late-night phone call called me away from my wife and daughter for a few weeks to tend to my father who had fallen, broken his hip, and was found straddled on his living room floor, out of reach of the phone, near-unconscious for 6 days.
A weak immunity and a weakened memory coupled with the hospital’s unhealthy environment worsened his condition. Each day I futilely tried to navigate the labyrinths of medical care and hospitals and assisted living units while my father vacillated between holding on and wanting to go.
And I wrote every day. Because I had to. Because it burned in me. Because we just don’t have much time. Because the Waiting Room is not a place to live. Because the Waiting Room is a place where something true and brave in us can die.
Do us – your friends, your family, your colleagues, your fans – a favor:
Stop listening to the voices buzzing inside your head.
Stand up for the Story that burns inside your body.
You’ll give the rest of us courage to do so, too. And that’s no small gift.
Join me for a free webinar this Wednesday.
A Free Webinar For Anyone Stuck in Writing a Book
with Jeffrey Davis
Take one of the limited 50 spots today.
You’ll come away with
Be brave. Be heard.
Do those promises make you cringe? Their simplistic nature is actually destructive. Easy promises are destructive in two key ways.
Easy promises to write a book actually can destroy your self-confidence. That seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? An easy promise to write your book destroys your self-confidence when, in fact, you don’t measure up to the easy promise purported. You start second-guessing yourself. Why can’t you write a novel in 60 days? Something must be wrong with you.
Easy promises to write a book also destroy the credibility of authorship and of the very genre being described. Can you imagine a webinar announcing, “Become a master carpenter in 60 days.” or “Get a blueprint for performing surgery.”
Yet here’s where I might contradict myself. I do offer a webinar called Brave New Author: 4 Keys to Write a Brave New Story for anyone stuck in writing a book. That might sound simplistic, but that’s not my intention.
Instead, I do have (at least) 4 keys to share that have helped author after author advance, complete, craft, sell, and ship their books.
It would be presumptuous to name myself a “Book Whisperer,” but that is what multi-book author Laraine Herring affectionately tagged me in an author’s mentorship program. I’ll take the tag.
In fact, Laraine recently sold her latest book to Shambhala Press, and she attributes her relatively “easeful” sell to the frameworks and tools I’m going to share on this Wednesday’s webinar. (Congrats, Laraine!)
When it comes to authoring a book or eBook, I don’t have all of the answers.
You know I don’t make easy promises, and you know I don’t do fluff well. I do promise real value.
These keys have worked for New York Times best-selling authors and first-timers, people with Master’s of Fine Arts degrees and newbies, art critics and homesteaders, radio show producers and teachers, VPs and CEOs, novelists and memoirists.
You’ll also receive a sneak peek into the live author’s intensive event I’m hosting this October. Here’s a peek from the point of view of participants – true heroes, in my book – at last year’s event.
Here are a few other accounts that make the promises for me:
I really love the twists you put on the various traditional approaches to story, and I found the breakdown of the story structure for thought leaders to be especially helpful.
– Laraine Herring, author of Writing with the Breath and The Writing Warrior, laraineherring.com
I am celebrating a huge accomplishment which is I finally KNOW what my book is about. After several years of hemming and hawing about what was it exactly I was going to write, I am clear now about the story I must tell.
– Lila Danielle, writer and dancer
I’m actually DOING something about this project. I started writing about a year ago and in 1 month’s time, I am light years ahead of where I was a year ago. I actually feel like I will complete this project and write a freaking book! Can’t believe it or how good it feels to write that!
– Barb Suarez, Certified Childbirth Educator and thought leader writer
I’ve seen success after success, and I’m eager to share these keys with more writers in a free webinar. You won’t hear here tired stuff like, “Write what you love!” or “Write what you know!” or “Make an outline!”
We’ll cut to the core of what works and what truly causes break-throughs (I do not use that word carelessly.).
Take one of the limited spots now.
You’ll come away with
Listen, there are plenty of books out there and plenty of frustrated writers and authors out there. Let’s contribute real value to the book world and eBook world. Let’s put your brave new book, your brave new story into the hands and hearts of people who need it.
Stand up and shape the book and Story you must tell.
If there’s someone you care about who could benefit from this webinar, consider sharing this link with them: http://trackingwonder.com/4-keys-to-write-your-brave-new-book-exclusive-webinar/
Have a question or comment? Include your voice below.
Thanks for running with me,
“We want integrity.” That’s what I claimed in our Business As Unusual manifesto film. The “we” references a growing band of us who want to change the way we do business.
And the way we do and talk about business these days hovers around brands and branding.
Branding is not logos and design and websites. Those are tools of branding. Real branding has to do with how what a company or personality purport to be about lines up with how that company or personality acts. That’s called integrity. Not “authenticity.” Integrity. Logos, design, and websites are central tools of conveying a brand with integrity or not. But they are not the brand.
Check in here periodically on updates on brand psychology, especially related to brand integrity. I want us to stay engaged, informed, and in conversation about what “We want integrity” means.
Here are two articles on the subject.
from The Jerusalem Post
Business and economics reporter for The Jerusalem Post Niv Elis reports that in talks with Google and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange last week in Israel, branding expert and marketing guru Jonathan Gabay spoke about the importance of branding in business and politics. He stated that the world of brands is transforming and the “biggest thing we are selling and will be selling is a cause,” not a product or service.With social media, everyone has come to brand themselves; brands have become more than “logos and jingles” and are now, “a way for people to help define themselves.”
from The Guardian
Professor of business psychology at University College London, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic discusses brand personality, or “the human-like attributes associated with brands” and how using human personality psychology can help brands achieve a personality change. Much like people re-evaluate their identity throughout their lives, companies must re-evaluate theirs over time. What are “their core values, mission, and cultural DNA”? Then, companies must gauge their reputation with customers. If there is a difference between how the company sees themselves and how customers perceive them, then a personality shift is in order.
I am taking a trip to North Carolina soon to deliver two engaging talks about how to excel, be your best, and bring out the best in others in this new economy. Branding is only part of the conversation.
Join us in North Carolina this June for the Tracking Wonder Tour: