9780992489601-NotMyStory_Cover_3DI am so grateful that more than 3 years ago I “came out” and started blogging in order to prepare myself for when My Book Not My Story would finally be out in the world. And it did come out, in October 2014. One whole year ago. Happy birthday Book!

What I find so fascinating is that instead of getting behind my book, and building my author platform, I went off into a strange journey of trying to become a small business coach (but um, I have never run a business??). Sure, the book covers a very difficult topic and I it is not something that is easily shared randomly in inboxes, plus I needed some new way of making a living if I was no longer to run a not for profit, but business coaching?

I can still remember the exact moment when the small business coaching detour suddenly looked so appealing. I was in one of my gazillion online classes I took that crazy Year of the Book; I had signed up (yet again) for the latest 6 Figures in 6 Weeks strategy. This one was a List Build course – for the fortunate uninitiated it means how to get a biglist of people’s emails, like thousands of them. It focused on how to do an interview series, picking people with big email lists and approaching them to interview you, and if they would also consent to send out an email only advertising the interview (so not hiding it down the bottom of their usual email) to their whole list, then lots of their peeps sign up to your email list in order to listen to the free interview. Voila, your list goes from Zero to Hero.

So there I was on this crowded online call (a teleclass to the initiated) because the business woman had a HUGE list. She had made 6 figures probably in 6 years but was now well established and knocking out 6 Figures annually, and like all of the online Pied Pipers out there, she was telling us we could also be making those 6 figures by the end of her 6 week course. Anyway, there were hundreds of people signed up but probably 80 people on the call (the usual ratio between sign ups and actual attendees) and she asked us all what topic we would do our interviews on. With a huge sense of trepidation I blurted out to all the faceless strangers “Trauma and Recovery”. She asked me a little more and I stammered out my rationale for the interview series, my cheeks red and flushed. It was a completely unsafe environment for me to be disclosing about my book and its topic but I was trying to “test myself”. She just said “Buy the URL”. I felt obscurely crushed, despite her brusque encouragement.

But I couldn’t follow through with the Trauma and Recovery Interview Series concept and show up to this 6 week course with all these strangers to discuss it. I turned my back on the frightening idea of interviewing people like Babette Rothschild whose book “The Body Remembers” made so much of a difference to me as I waded through all the rippling out stages of recovery in the months and years after the assault that is the subject of Not My Story. I swapped to an Abundance Summit, interviewing businesswomen about their abundance secrets. Because like, I was going to be a Business Coach. So much more socially palatable!

I still have so many regrets about taking that decision to go with Abundance instead of Healing from Trauma, even though I met so many lovely generous businesswomen who gave their time and lovely interviews. About 300 lovely women signed up and have largely stayed with me as I have changed my message from “Start a Business!” to “Be true to your creative vision! Any by the way I wrote a book!”

With the wisdom of hindsight I can see that I dove into that crazy, overheated online business development world and bought into it with passion and a beautiful naivete. I awoke a year later with a bit of a marketing hangover, a Coaching certificate (which actually rocks) and a new job. Because the Universe is a wonderful thing it leaned towards me as I carried on my frenzied pursuit of the 6 Figures in 6 Weeks regime. In the middle of yet another expensive online program, life threw in my path the stewardship and amazing opportunity of running a small not for profit in Perth Western Australia where I live, The Health Consumers’ Council.

So now, I can write on the weekend and during the week I exercise another of my creative passions; how to make change real in the world. I am not actually any time soon going to help anyone make 6 Figures in 6 Weeks. Nor in fact am I going to make 6 Figures in 6 Weeks. I finally have permission to write books and still put food on the table doing a job I love. And actually I really love interviewing people too, especially when there is no discussion about List Sizes. Those interviews really rock.

Happy 1st Birthday #Not My Story. Here's to waking up from marketing hangovers and embracing the life of an author with a day job that rocks. Click To Tweet

InspirationThis week I treated myself to an event at our State Library. The topic was “Be Inspired” and the two guest speakers had recently been nominated for a state literary award. One was Dawn Barker, who I interviewed recently, the other Yvette Walker, the winner of the award. Yvette’s book Letters to the End of Love was on our Bookclub list this year, so it was a kind of Book Club outing. (Yes I am going to interview Yvette as soon as I can!).

Both authors were wonderful speakers, eloquent in their love of reading and listing off their favourites and igniting so many memories for me. It felt like a warm fire in my chest, reminding me just how much I love reading, words and writing. It seems I had somehow forgotten this, as my reading diet has become so much more about non-fiction and self-improvement.

What was more electrifying was Yvette’s description of how, step by step, her characters became more than sentences, more than depictions, and became independent beings. I had never had this alchemy of writing process explained in a way that I could relate to. Visualise. Perhaps actually do! The possibilities opened up by a free evening talk seemed limitless.
There’s nothing like the generosity of artists, sharing their time and insights – have you been to an inspirational event lately?

EmailsHands up if you are constantly overwhelmed by emails. Right, that looks like pretty much everyone. I want to share with you something that I learned over a year ago and it really has changed my life.

I finish every day with an empty inbox. Or at the most, 5 emails. It has completely changed my life and allowed me to feel SO much less distracted and stressed.

I agree that emails are both a chaotic and wonderful source of information and are very useful to keep. But they are not a substitute for a to do list, and they multiply like rabbits if left to their own devices. Do not leave them to their own devices! Here are three simple steps you can follow to wrest control back form your tyrannical inbox!

1. Set up Directories

Every email provider allows you to set up directories. So set them up. You know the most relevant categories for the work you do. Set them up and file emails away once you have actioned them. Done!

2. Deal with the backlog.

If your inbox has thousands of emails, this is going to take WAY too long. So create a directory called “Archive” or similar. Then, select all your emails. Move them to Archive.

Magic. Empty inbox. It will absolutely change your life. But – should you ever need something vitally important, you can just search for your email and voila it will appear. It is out of your inbox but not out of your life, should you need it.

3. Turn your email off!

Yes you really can turn your email off several times a day to get stuck into a concentrated piece of work. People can wait more than half a day for information. It won’t kill them. If they desperately need you, they will text you or call your landline.

Try an empty inbox at the end of each day.  It really will change your life, or at the very least reduce the number of shiny objects competing for your attention.

To your reduced overwhelm and increased creativity!

about-dawn-barkerI am delighted to be able to share my latest interview for the Fabulous Women series – the lovely Dawn Barker.

I well remember when her first book Fractured came out; as it dealt with severe post natal depression I was already interested; and the fact that she is a Psychiatrist intrigued me enormously. Her latest book Let Her Go tackles the complex issue of surrogacy.
When I interviewed Dawn the Baby Gammy story was splashed all over the press and we touched in the issue of surrogacy briefly; but as Dawn’s book covers altruistic surrogacy the main point emphasised was the effect of surrogacy on the children and how they must be uppermost in the consideration of the surrogacy debate. Dawn has since written a thought-provoking article featuring three altruistic surrogates in a recent article for the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend Magazine.

The interview with Dawn covers a range of questions regarding the writing and publishing process as she experienced it, for her two books. Dawn’s generosity and transparency in answering these questions was a joy to me. It highlighted the wonderful generosity of writers such as Dawn and how their experiences can provide insight to those of us who are still on the path. I hope you enjoy the interview – you just need to click here to access it.

In the interview I talk about the self-publishing process which at the time I was still finalising. I am delighted to say that book is now finished and available. If you want to find more about my book, click here; but please note the respectful trigger alert as the book tackles the issue of sexual assault.

VirginiaWoolf

If you want to write, write.

Virginia Woolf

It’s been one whole month of Morning Pages. At the risk of boring those who are already doing it, the Morning Pages is a keystone undertaking of the Artist who undertakes to be part of the 12 Week Artist’s Way program.

It’s really, really simple. You get up half an hour earlier than normal (ok already not so easy) and you write three pages, longhand. You just do. It is a bit like tuning up; washing away all those things that are bugging you and clearing the pathway.

For me, the hardest bit is the half an hour earlier bit- and making sure I have time. But I figure having gone to Julia Cameron’s site to be reassured over and over that that there are no rules, no right way, it’s also ok to do Morning Pages when juddering along on a bus. It’s best if you do them when you first get up, but if that is not possible well you do them when you can. Or you might even skip them. The sky will not fall in.

But why skip it? What a glorious space to have! You can write absolutely anything you wish. Whinges, dreams, externalising those incredibly annoying circular thoughts when trying to work out the logistics of the day; “I’ll take the bus just in case there’s nowhere to park my car at the train station. Oh hang on, I’ve got a meeting across town and I’ll need my car. If I leave before 8.10 I think I will make it” etc repeat and fade. I’m sure you know it well!

The handwriting seems to slow me down enough to notice that my mind has wandered mid-sentence and I’ve spliced together two competing or just plain random concepts.

It’s definitely a different process to typing. It just is.

Morning Pages are for Artists as a broad concept, not just writers. We all need an opportunity to vent, clear out the pipes and forge a new path for whatever will come.

I love getting James Clear’s blog in my inbox, recently he posted a blog with his book reviews of five and four star books (below four stars books were quietly forgotten.

One four star book reviewed a book written about a large variety of artists and what means they use legal and illegal, to be creative.

All of them, despite the huge variety of modalities and strategies – all of them made time to be creative. Uninterrupted creative time.

Can we find space in our lives just to be creative?

imageI thought I would absolutely hate it. The Morning Pages; three pages of long-hand every morning. But I was willing to give it a go, especially if it meant that I could justify a trip to Officeworks for some stationery.
My previous experience of writing a daily journal, which I did for recovery purposes every day for the first six months after surviving a home invasion and assault (see more here, with respectful trigger alert) was torture.

The Morning Pages are nothing like that! There is something so comforting and meditative of scratching pen over paper, writing whatever you like. And because it’s not a journal, it’s not an anything, it gives great freedom.
If you don’t know what on earth I am talking about, it’s Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. It’s a 12 week course for anyone, as we are all artists.
There are two tools that she created for us to enjoy forevermore; The Morning Pages and Artist Dates.

So what the heck are Morning Pages?

Three pages, written long hand every morning. It’s 30 minutes that you give yourself. It doesn’t have to be neat, or make sense or be sequential or be pleasant. It’s best you don’t read or share them. They are a way to keep on clearing everything out to allow the space for creativity to come through.

I’m talking here about the creativity in all of us. Not the specific skill of writing or painting or drawing – but the skill of being here,  being playful, being responsive to this marvellous experience called life.

And Artist Dates?

They are a weekly excursion you take by yourself-no taggers along mind- no children, lovers, partners, friends; just you and your inner artist. Your inner artist has been looking for your time and attention and will not thank you for bringing another person, so they have to be, yet again, gooseberry.

Dates can be anything at all. Not necessarily a virtuous trip to the Art Gallery to see some serious art – although if that is what your heart yearns for, then do it; but really anything that takes your fancy, including a lovely walk somewhere beautiful.

Are you feeling the call?

Is there something in you that is feeling the intense urge to let out your creativity? I have found this to be a painful urge many, many times. There is nothing like the relief of letting it flow. Do yourself a favour. Get a copy of the Artist’s Way and start to let it loose.

Jane_Austen_coloured_versionHappy National Writers’ Day! OK, so that is National as in America, and technically it was 9th August which is now yesterday in Australian time, but who needs an excuse to have a picture of Jane Austen heading the blog? Not me, clearly.

I am excited to celebrate this day, whenever it really is, by sharing another interview from the Fabulous Women of Our Time series, which takes up its theme of encouraging we women to get busy with pen and paper, and start writing!

For this interview, I spoke to Wendy Campbell of Glastonbury Books. Wendy is a businesswoman, committed community member, coach, mentor and author of a memoir On Aspiring.  She has now has developed a publishing arm to her business. I wanted to find out more, so I put these questions to her:

  • What are your community values? How have they informed your development as a leadership mentor?
  • How did the writing projects emerge from your work? How did writing On Aspiring fit in with your business strategy and vision?
  • And in turn, how did the publishing arm of your company emerge?
  • What is the one thing you would recommend for people who are keen to get started on writing a book of their own?

You can listen to the audio and download the transcript by following this link. It just asks for your name and email; there is no charge.

Have you got a book, or two, or three in you? Apparently 80% of us do, but only 5% of us get it out there. Are you going to be part of the 5%?

EndymionHaving just finished the book Final Cut: Art, Money, and Ego in the Making of Heaven’s Gate, the Film that Sank United Artists I am feeling the need to talk about creativity and limits.

I had never heard of the film until my husband bought the book and was engrossed in reading it. He passed it to me when he finished and it was a riveting tale of what happens when we allow creativity to be an unfettered process, without any limits. None. No limits of basic courtesy towards co-workers, absolutely no notion of wasteful extravagance. No practical consideration of how chasing perfection through creating more than 2 weeks’ solid viewing of footage, take after perfectionist take, could ever be successfully rendered into a watchable film. And by all accounts, no consideration of actual story telling or character; all was sacrificed to the creative altar of the visual spectacle.

While reading, goggle eyed, about the film’s gradual but inevitable slide into excess with the (presumably Narcissist) Michael Cimino directing, I kept on reflecting on the importance of imposing limits on creative endeavour.

Counter-intuitively, imposing limits seems to let something fly loose in the creative process. Take for example, poetic limitations, and the iambic pentameter some of us may remember from our school days. The great sonnets of Shakespeare, Donne et al. The wondrous creativity that was unleashed as they grappled with the limitations of the medium to create something fresh and beautiful.

Perhaps a weekly blog is not quite the same constrictive process as an iambic pentameter, but there was something about the experience of reading this book that made me appreciate anew the importance of discipline. And self-reflection. And not being an arse.

Steven Pressfield covers this so well in his book The War of Art

What I call Professionalism someone else might call the Artist’s Code or the Warrior’s Way. It’s an attitude of egolessness and service… When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication… we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron fillings. Ideas come. Insights accrete

Discipline. Regularity. The Muse. Bring it!

Seth Godin Change Quote
So… change is definitely on my mind at the moment. It got me to thinking. Are there some useful signs to pay attention to, if you think you need to change direction? The short answer is yes, there is. Here are five for you to think about…

1. You’re offering something, but people are asking for something else.

You may have had that experience where you think you are going to offer business coaching, but people keep approaching you for life coaching or career advice.

Maybe it’s the market telling you you’re like, barking up the wrong tree! There’s no shame in heeding the signals, and accepting that others seem to know you better than you do yourself.

2. You love what you’re offering, but your public doesn’t.

It is so easy to think that our latest creation or offering or product is the next best thing that everyone absolutely can’t wait to get their hands on. Sadly, is not always the case. You will know, because your client list is looking awfully lean. Ditto the bank balance. It may be time to re-orient your offerings to what people want. As Marie Forleo says; “Ignoring what sells doesn’t make you a better artist, it makes you a starving artist.”

Sometimes, you make be offering a client what they need, but it ain’t what they want. Think of full time carers for loved ones. You may have a passion for supporting carers, ensuring that they are looking after themselves and factoring in self-care. The tricky thing is, carers don’t want this, even though clearly they may need this. If you stop for just a minute you can think of quite a few things you need but don’t want (a regular exercise regime for my good self comes to mind immediately!)

3. Your niche is infinite

There is much that is said and written about defining a niche for your business. Those in America usually pronounce the word so it rhymes with “rich” instead of the French pronunciation of niche which rhymes with leash. In America therefore you can say “your niche makes your rich” and it rhymes. It’s a bit harder to pull off that phrase in Australia 😉 But however you say it, a niche is super important.

The simple counter-intuitive idea is that if your niche is “everyone” you will in fact sell less than if you articulate your niche as “I work with professional women 35-55 who are in middle management and looking to make the next move up the career ladder”.

A survival mentality will push you to want to offer your products to everyone – and be faced with the constant struggle to find enough clients. An abundant mentality will see you the making the right offering to a restricted list of the right people, and having more clients flow your way.

4. The numbers are just not adding up.

Measuring business results can be relatively straight forward with financial and social media metrics. It’s also really important to have the hard conversations with yourself. And there is no hiding from that bank balance, or from the flatlining Facebook Page report at the end of the week.

While it is difficult, this sort of hard evidence needs to be looked at honestly and with a willingness to make the necessary changes to turn the curve upwards. And that often means tweaking or downright changing what you are offering.

5. You’re just not feeling the love.

When you are working to your core strengths, you will feel in the flow, and there will be a lightness and enthusiasm hanging about your business. While you are not going to love every moment of your work, if that feeling of disenchantment, depression and lethargy just won’t shift, it could be a strong sign that you are no longer on the right track.

I take comfort from marketing guru Seth Godin, who is having the final word on this: “A tattoo is basically a forever decision. However, just about every decision you make about your business is temporary. So don’t sweat it.”

CambodiaAfter last blog I have been lucky enough to enjoy a week’s break in Cambodia, away from the rain and cold of my home town, away from my day to day life, to spend some vital time reflecting.

As well as dealing with an absence of balance in my life around my priorities, I have been battling my Procrastination Dragons. If you haven’t yet heard of The War of Art, please download and read immediately. It documents every single type of procrastination just in case you try and fool yourself that your case is “different” and “special” and isn’t procrastination. The book also highlights that procrastination is a lifetime force we need to resist. I like that; I think it’s real.

So as I have this incredible opportunity to be in another country, to learn the joy of how to cross the road without perishing, eating fantastic food, seeing all the sights from a tuk tuk or push bike – to step right out of the daily dance and reflect, I have been asking myself this question:

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?

Somewhere along the line, I came to the realisation that my business plans were just not in sync with what I really, really wanted to do.

What I really, really want to do is write. I have now about 5 weeks until my first launch for my first book – and while the link to my book contains a trigger alert warning, and will not really be like subsequent books – it is my first book.

And it’s coming out.

And for whatever reason – poor advice from mentors, the general discomfort that going public about this type of topic creates in others – I have been dissuaded from connecting this enterprise with WomenEnergy.

And so I have decided all by myself, in response to the insane level of dissatisfaction I was feeling with my business plans that this is the crazy thing I need to do. Connect my book and WomenEnergy, and get going asap on the next books!

Yes the ideas are flowing, as is the idea for the next blog, about what the current environment in publishing offers we women creatives to get our voices OUT there.

There is always room on the shelf for more. Our stories are important and they need to be told.

What would you do if you knew you could not fail?