An epic cure for writer’s block

Lisa Fitzpatrick

In writing her book Healing the Heart of Your Business, Lisa Fitzpatrick has had to push through a serious bout of writer’s block, a chronic case of not good enough and recurring rounds of it’s impossible to finish. Yes, like many of life’s challenges, in writing we are often our own worst enemy. And yet she did it – she finished her book and it’s fabulous. I am in awe of the power of this woman’s commitment to keep writing, no matter what. First published at www.LisaFitzpatrick.com.au, here is Lisa’s story…

When I was growing up, I was called to the principal’s office to be commended for a short story that I’d written about narrowly avoiding a dugite snake bite whilst swinging on a swing set at the local park. It had been a close shave, having a deadly snake brushing past my feet. Apparently, my story had captured the moment well. The principal said that my story was going to be sent away to a writing competition to be judged and that it might even win a prize as it was a very fine effort. I was around nine years old and it was at a time when Enid Blyton books had consumed every waking moment for me and many other girls. I waited and waited to hear the results of the competition. Nothing ever came back. I never heard who the winners were either and I never asked. I was too shy. In addition, I was too embarrassed that I hadn’t won anything. Defining moment number one: I am not a good enough writer.

In early high school I heard about a girl my age (13) who had published her first book of fiction. I started to write my own. It was an elaborate story about a mokey pokey, some kind of strange hybrid creature that really didn’t have much purpose. I spent an entire Christmas holiday break slaving away at a book that felt directionless because I couldn’t find an ending to the story. Eventually I just gave up and put all my hard efforts in the bin. Defining moment number two added to defining moment number one: Not only am I not a good enough writer, but it’s impossible to finish a book.

My second degree at university I majored in Arts and Creative Writing. As soon as I finished uni, I wrote a manuscript based on my dad’s life. It was historical literary fiction. It was picked for a mentorship along with the prestigious prize opportunity of being introduced to the publishers at one of Australia’s top publishing houses Allen and Unwin. They read my sample chapters and told me to polish up the manuscript and resubmit it to them with the view to it being published. It was a huge opportunity only reserved for a chosen few at the time. I completely lost my nerve. I never finished it. My painful divorce at the time had broken my self-esteem so much that I didn’t have the self-belief to push through with the dream. However, I can’t really blame divorce although I did at the time. The earlier beliefs that I’d formed meant that not only did I believe that I was not a good enough writer but also that it was impossible to finish a book. Defining moment number three: Writing a book is not realistic for me with all my issues, only for other people (who don’t have issues like mine).

By now, I have realised that what you seek is always seeking you. I have never stopped seeking ways to scratch the writer’s itch that has always been there. Despite being chronically blocked, a soul purpose is a soul purpose and will persist despite our best attempts to block it. Amidst the much loved work I was doing as a coach, therapist and yoga teacher, I knew I needed and wanted to write. Even if it wasn’t good enough, even if I couldn’t finish things and even if it wasn’t realistic for me to be a writer, none of those stopped the fact that I still had a desire to write. By now I was starting to see where I had formed unhelpful beliefs about myself that weren’t true and decided to honour the desire itself.

So I started small and committed to my blog. Just once a week on a Monday, all I had to do was write around 350 words. That’s all – not an entire chapter. Just nuggets and they didn’t even have to be perfect, I decided. I made a commitment to scratch the itch on my writer’s block and see where it took me. Then I did the one epic thing that’s guaranteed to cure writer’s block. I told my virtual assistant Kari that I’d have my piece of writing for my ezine and blog ready every Monday to send to her in South Carolina. I set myself up for accountability. I might not have been able to be accountable to myself but when someone else was relying on me, I was on top of my game. It’s one of my strengths and I needed all the strength I could muster.

Every week Kari would pretty it up and then send it out to my subscribers on Tuesday mornings. Every week for the past 88 weeks, it’s been put out there at least once and sometimes even twice, a week. Come rain, hail or shine, slippery snakes, sick kids and blocks as big as Everest I’ve written a blog. Believe me there’s been weeks where it’s a small miracle that it’s happened. I now firmly no longer believe that you should only write when inspiration strikes. You need to have discipline, it’s a practice and it’s something that gets easier the more regularly you engage with the page and find your real voice.

Miracles often start from small things that you think are insignificant. I’d been writing my blog for less than a year when I was approached by the fabulous Christine Marmoy to contribute to her anthology Manifesting in High Heels. I said yes – the book stood for all the values I ascribe to – collaboration with other amazing women and more power to women. I said yes to accountability and the book went on to become an Amazon best seller in over 5 categories. It was the one small piece of encouragement I needed to finally finish a manuscript I’d had ticking away in the background. Freaking. Awesome.

In the background, I’d decided that accountability was key and thanks to my blog writing, my writer’s block was slowly dissolving. So I engaged the services of a book coach Alex Mitchell from Author Support Services. Alex was assigned to help me be accountable to write the manuscript that was brewing and stirring as a result of all that blogging, coaching, speaking and chapter writing I’d been doing. The beautiful thing is, accountability bears witness. When we are being watched and witnessed, even though it is uncomfortable at first, it has the brilliant effect of diluting fear. I can honestly say, I would have been a lot more self-conscious about revealing my manuscript to anyone let alone the general public if I hadn’t first unleashed it to my book coach.

There’s actually plenty of book coaches out there but what drew me to Alex immediately was that she truly does understand what writing a book entails. How do I know? Because on the home page of her website, she has a video of how tricky it is to catch a wild snake and put it in a bag. Go watch it! It’s exactly how it feels to write a book (especially if you’re me). It’s slippery, it’s hard, it’s awkward, it’s even dangerous! After my earlier short story about the dugite and as well as an intense personal experience with kundalini-rising, the snake held significance

My commitment to Alex was sealed when I learnt that she had also braved the wild frontier of single parenthood to two children for many years. That totally sold me. I couldn’t care less whether she’d ever coached someone to complete their book or whether she’d even been to university. All I cared about was that she got it. For those of you in business who don’t think your personal story has any relevance to your clients, think again. For those of you who believe that your life experiences are not equally as important (if not more so) to your qualifications think again.

Alex held me accountable. Poor Alex had to brave my fear of snakes so many times in our accountability journey it’s hard to even fathom. She’s had to endure my tales of woe about how hard it’s been to find time to write the damn thing whilst juggling a business, blogs, three house moves and single parenthood. I’m forever grateful to her for loyally sticking by me while I wrote Healing the Heart of Your Business. Many times, I’ve fallen short of my deadlines and many times I’ve wondered if it will ever be done. Patient, graceful and ever wise, Alex stayed the course with me. She persisted and her persistence meant that I had every reason to stay the course. My Malaysian heritage has ingrained in me the importance of saving face. Whenever I failed on one of our set deadlines, I’d recalibrate, take some breaths and keep going. Accountability to Alex was as much about keeping and saving face as it was about the need to write.

Today, a cyclone hit my township and we were warned to stay indoors. I’m so pleased I got some unexpected spare time. I polished the final edit and sent it to Alex for the final proof-read. I’ve found my fabulous book cover designer and can’t wait to share her work with you on the cover of my book. I’m so relieved I don’t have a publisher to deal with and that the world has turned on its axis enough times to change things in my favour towards self-publishing. I feel excited about the fact that the snake is almost in the bag. I can see myself tying up the loose ends now on Healing the Heart of your Business and I have to say I’m proud of it. At the end of the day, the book’s not really about me but about the message it contains about running a sustainable business for heart-centred women….Actually, it’s hard admitting this but it is about me. It’s about how I learnt to wrestle a snake into a bag despite being petrified. But I know deep down that I never would have done it if I’d kept it to myself and neglected to engage with accountability – the one epic cure to writer’s block. Sharing is caring. I’m not sure words do justice to the gratitude I feel towards Alex and the fact that I’m on the home stretch tying up the bag. I think I’ve well and truly caught the snake! He’s in the bag and I’m bringing him home.

Lisa’s book is available at www.LisaFitzpatrick.com.au.

What is holding you back from writing?  Please leave your comments below…..

The self-publishing rabbit hole: lessons learned in book-writing Wonderland

Cas McCullough Your Brilliant Un-Career

This post was written by my delightful, driven and deeply committed client Cas McCullough and was originally published on casmccullough.com.

I feel she’s perfectly captured the journey of growth and clarity that each author takes as their book slowly shows how it wants to be in the world. Have a read, it’s really worth five minutes out of your day.

62,498 words. The number stared at me and I just couldn’t take it in. Two years of my life have gone by in a blink. What started out as a revision of an ebook I’d written four years ago, has resulted in an entirely new book that has taken me down the rabbit hole, into Wonderland, complete with evil Queen and demonic caterpillars.

While my blog has suffered a little this year, I am pleased that I’ve focused on birthing my book. Rather than spread myself too thinly, I thought it wise to put energy into a project that will reap long-term benefits for small business marketers and budding women entrepreneurs.

Now that I’ve sent the book off to the proof-reader, I thought it would be timely to reflect on the process and share what I’ve learned about self-publishing.

1. Your first finished draft is by no means finished

This book has gone through no less than 30 revisions and has been reviewed and edited by loyal CMC community members, my editor, friends, my sister and my cat. In his book Author Publisher Entrepreneur, Guy Kawasaki truthfully said you’re not writing a book, you’re rewriting a book. That scared me when I first read those words but now I get it. The result is a book that clearly has the reader in mind and isn’t a rant or soapbox.

2. Your book will change as you change

To say that life has changed over the past two years is a massive understatement. In the past two years I have built a new and thriving content marketing consultancy, started a new company, created courses, programs and systems to help small businesses be more productive and effective with their marketing, survived a marriage breakdown, gained confidence, perspective and wisdom, raised and educated three boys, faced my inner demons, dealt with nay sayers and endured the behaviour of narcissistic competitors. The effect of all this on the book has been many small changes made to the manuscript over time that have reflected my maturing perspective on life, communication and entrepreneurship. Upon looking at the first draft, I now see a different person reflected in those words. Writing a book is truly one of the best self-development programs you can do!

3. Communication with stakeholders is a continuous process

I made a big mistake while writing this book. I asked 20 women entrepreneurs to share their stories, but when my life went to hell last year, I neglected to keep them in the loop. When I finally got around to sending them their edited stories, some didn’t even remember sending me the originals. I was mortified. After a pep talk by my editor I stopped beating myself up about it and resolved to get better at communicating regularly in the future. I’m still not quite there yet. There is a lot on my plate–working with clients on their content, meeting the needs of my growing boys and whipping this manuscript into shape. However, even just a quick note to your stakeholders is better than no word at all. Keep people in the loop! Note to self: practice what thou preaches!
One thing I have done is talk about the book on social media as I’ve been writing it. There’s been a lot of interest and excitement, which has helped to keep me focused and given me a boost when I’ve not felt like writing.

4. Always take time to let off steam

Writing a book is a highly intense and frustrating creative process that can leave you feeling like punching something, so it’s good to have an outlet. For me, that outlet has been dance. If I don’t get to my Zumba class at least once a week, I just don’t function as well. For you it might be running, drawing, or jumping out of an airplane! Do something that makes you feel alive!

5. You don’t have to throw a launch party the minute your book is printed

This was a big lesson for me. When you put so much time and energy into writing your book, it’s easy to forget about marketing the book. If you are so consumed in the writing stage that you don’t have time to start planning for your launch, that’s okay. It really is. While I’m a huge advocate for sharing about your book and building your platform during the writing stage (as I have done), I’ve learned that I don’t need to host a big launch party as soon as it goes to print. For now, I’m going to breathe in and out, get a few copies printed for reviewers, and after I’ve had time to plan properly, I’ll get stuck into launching the book. I was going to do a one day Amazon launch but have since decided that artificially inflating the books sales figures is not necessarily a good idea. I’ve talked to authors who have done that and authors that haven’t, and the consensus is that it doesn’t really help that much. I would hope that if my book is a best-seller, I got there on my own steam because the book was worthy of being read. Really, at the end of the day, my goal is to help women entrepreneurs reach their potential. If I help just one have a breakthrough, that’s enough for me. If I help more than one, that’s a bonus!

 

Cas’s book Your Brilliant Un-Career: Women, entrepreneurship and making the leap is due to be printed within the next two to three weeks.

Cas touches on many of the hard-to-swallow aspects of writing and publishing. It’s a journey, of learning, of personal development and of business.  But like most journeys, it’s worth every step.

Happy writing,

Alex

Grab your moment in the sun

Grab your moment in the sun

The time around your book launch is critical. It’s the easiest time to get media, even though you are probably at your most exhausted. You’ve pushed and pushed to get your final edit done, then the proofreading, the design and the printing. Frazzled but elated, you’ve celebrated with a few well deserved champagnes at your book launch, and now you would like a little nap please.

Unfortunately, nap time will have to wait. This is your moment – media want you while you are hot. The heat of a book launch burns bright but very fast, so stay onto it!

Dave Dawson, author of Salt of the Sea – tales from commercial fishermen knows how it feels. Our pep talks became more and more frequent as he navigated the final twists and turns of publishing. But once the book launch was in sight, instead of relaxing Dave grabbed the bull by the horns, cramming as many opportunities into this golden time as possible. Despite being knocked sideways by the flu, he and his incredibly supportive wife sent press releases to newspapers, set up interviews everywhere they could, and organised talking gigs.

Dave’s book is on commercial fishing, so he went along to a local seafood festival where he had a stall and shared the stage with fishing celebrities. He’s been interviewed by a glossy magazines as well as industry magazines, and is having book reviews published wherever he can. I heard him on ABC radio this week, chatting away about the book with the same passion and professionalism that drove him to write it.

Dave says, “You have to be sure you will cover your costs and the best way to do that is to produce a book of high quality so you can be confident it will be desired by your target market. You also have to promote it really hard. I know I’ve created a beautiful, well written book so that makes it easy to sell, and the marketing becomes even easier when you start getting wonderfully positive feedback from the reader.”

“Facebook has been an incredible marketing platform. The book’s page has over 2000 likes. I guess most of the fans are interested in commercial fishing so I try to post something interesting every day, even though sometimes I feel like a talking parrot. I am selling copies to Facebook fans that are complete strangers.”

So think about it. Yes, you. What are you going to do to maximise your book’s moment in the sun? Which of Dave’s strategies could you use? Where would you go to find the people who want to hear about your book? Make a list, and get planning. Be ready to grab your moment in the sun!

You can find Dave’s book at http://www.commercialfishingsupplies.com.au/

Networking – can you learn to love it?

Networking – can you learn to love it?

You are doing work you truly believe in, writing books and changing the world. There’s only one catch. You can’t change the world if no one gets to find out about you. Networking is an essential ingredient in your business success, and yet many people struggle to find the joy in it.

You know I run a not for profit networking group, the Sunshine Coast Women Entrepreneurs, which has almost 1000 members, so I’m obviously one of those people who love networking. But not all networking experiences are positive, and a bad one can really put you off if you are just starting out.

For every nightmare story of people shoving business cards in your face, there’s another of laughter, connections, support and camaraderie. So what’s the difference?

Like many business choices, a one size fits all approach rarely gives the best results. Success is found in checking out the options and finding one that suits your needs and your personality.

If you are the type who looks for meaningful one to one conversations with other business owners, thrusting yourself headlong into a room full of black suits, armed with only a handful of business cards, is likely to leave you cold. Likewise, if you have a burning desire to share your expertise and enthusiasm with everyone in the group, an hour or two sitting quietly listening to a speaker may send you home feeling unheard and unloved.

We are extremely lucky to have so many networking events to choose from. They are all as different as we are; the trick is finding where you fit in.

Ask yourself these questions to help you find what you are looking for:

• What time of day are you available? Various events are held over breakfast or lunch, at cocktail hour, midweek or on the weekends. Of course you are too busy running your business to attend everything, so when suits you best? You may well find that people who keep similar hours to you have other things in common with your business.

• What are you looking for in speakers? Do you like learning new business skills, listening to inspirational speakers, delving in to personal development, or hearing about success from those who have achieved it? Do you like hands-on activities or listening to theories and ideas? When you start looking in to the groups available, you’ll find they each offer certain types of speakers. You may find that that what is relevant to you changes at different points in your career. What interests you right now? Who is offering that?

• Who is behind the group? Do you like their style? Is the group part of another business? Is it not for profit? The personality and motivations of the facilitators will direct the personality and motivations of the group, so it’s important to find one aligned with your own philosophies.

• What kind of people would you like to mix with? Do yearn to be supported by others who are on a similar path – people that understand where you are in business and want to learn and grow alongside you? Or are you looking for a room full of potential clients, hungry for the help you can give? Where are these people hanging out?

• What communication style suits you? Does the thought of doing a 30 second pitch leave you with sweaty palms and a dry mouth, or are you the type who needs some ‘stage time’ to feel your message has been shared? Do you like to do structured activities or are you quite comfortable to grab a glass of wine and start chatting to whoever looks friendly? Each event has an agenda; some have lots of free chat time, others are heavily structured. Some put the spotlight on each participant in turn, and others focus their light only on the speaker.

Check in with yourself for the answers to these questions. Then, when you have an idea what you want, go out and sample what’s on offer! Book yourself to one or two meetings of all the groups that seem to fit you. Very soon, you will find where your kind are gathering, and where you fit in.

Remember, enjoy it! Networking can be a lot of fun if you let it. Now my kids are old enough to have a better social life than I do, I’m glad I’ve got networking to keep me out there learning new ideas and meeting new people.

This article first appeared in Business Matters Magazine on the Sunshine Coast.  The team at Author Support Services spent two wonderful years editing and proofreading for this magazine, so it was a great experience to step out from the shadows and write an article the public would see,  rather than working behind the scenes. See, even book coaches have to get out of their comfort zones sometimes!  

The hurdles real people climb to write their books – guest post by Katrina Murray

Katrina Murrary

Katrina Murray has experienced the reality of the book writing journey.

Despite the best intentions and a great plan, sometimes it all looks too hard and it can be difficult to keep going.

Katrina has shared her story to show that small steps towards the goal can sometimes work better than one giant leap

For over a year I had an idea brewing about putting a book together. I had lots of bits and pieces floating around in my head, and some even made it onto paper! Then I came to Alex’s Book Planning workshop about 18 months ago and got a really clear idea about the steps to bring my book together. I could see it all clearly, but once I came home and tried to make it happen, I became scared, overwhelmed and frustrated by the task ahead.

About six months passed as I gradually put pieces of my book together. Then one day while I was driving and berating myself for not being further ahead in the process, I had an idea. Instead of staying stuck on the plan I’d had of doing a whole book with four chapters and feeling overwhelmed by that, I could give myself permission to break it down into bite-sized pieces.

I could create four small books – a book for each chapter – and launch them first as ebooks to see whether there was actually a market for my idea. I’d launch them separately or people could pay a slightly higher price and buy them all as a bundle. Once I saw whether this was well received, I would have the confidence to combine them and launch the whole book as a hard copy.

So, even when I had only one ebook ready, I decided to go ahead with the idea. I offered one ebook straight away, and the rest by a set date. Now I had a manageable task and a deadline, I stopped procrastinating and got to work.

It’s been a super-empowering experience so far. In the first six weeks I sold 209 ebooks, with most people ordering the four book bundle. Feedback has been fabulous, with plenty of people commenting how they are looking forward to ordering a hard copy when they’re ready! Yipppeeee!

I’ve recently gone back and attended Alex’s Self Publishing workshop and am now so excited by how close I am to being able to see my book come to life in print. The whole journey has given me so much confidence. While it has taken me significantly longer than I initially planned, I’m delighted that I kept taking those baby steps until it all came together.

Katrina Murray
www.proudkiwisabroad.com