Category: Writing

beets
Sep
13

The Money Beets

I subscribe to the Money Beet Theory of writing as defined by Dwight Schrute in The Office.

Put the good stuff up front. What’s in it for the reader? Don’t tell them about you, tell them about themselves. What’s in it for them? Where do your common interests lie? Where can you build a bridge? Put your most compelling reasons/best arguments up front. Hooke them early. Don’t be shy, we all know why we’re here. And for goodness sake, run a comb through your hair.


Apr
22

Let It Be Junk

I was talking with a friend the other day. He’s an incredibly insightful life coach with a fascinating backstory who’s been attempting to write his book for over a year. He mentioned he’s tried to start 3 times, but he just gets stuck. He doesn’t know where to start. He spends 45 minutes and only comes out with a sentence.

 

We set aside the book talk and just chatted. He in the middle of a story about how he moved from his day job, which would be a dream job to most, into being a coach and the period of intense dissatisfaction he felt he stopped and said, “That’s the start of my book!”

 

While he was talking about the things that mattered to him, a turning point in his life, he knew. Why couldn’t he get there on his own – it was his story after all.

 

It turns out his mother was an English teacher. Every time he sat down to write he heard her in his head. “Don’t start a sentence with but or because. Is a lot one word or two? Don’t end a sentence with a preposition.”

 

I asked him if he gave himself permission to suck. The answer was no. I told him that I had a secret fear that one of my ghostwriting clients would see a first draft I’d written and promptly fire me – that’s how bad it is.

 

Every work of art starts with pencil lines. Every book worth publishing is gravely embarrassing in its first iteration. Give yourself a break and just vomit on the page. Stephen King says a second draft is a first draft less 10%. Get a lot out on the page and clean it up later. This is practice, not the World Series. Allow yourself to suck.

 


Apr
14

From Dream to Done

Back in the day you’d open your bottom drawer and under a pile of papers and candy wrappers would be a half completed manuscript with a coffee mug stain. Today you’d search your hard drive, but find the same thing.

 

The vision you once saw so clearly, a completed book, is now languishing. Why? The ‘why’ is the answer. The process of writing a book can be so long in the execution that the ‘why’ becomes distant and disconnected.

 

My book was due to the publisher January 17 and it was about 2/3 done in mid-November. My business was in full swing. I played with schedules, sometimes putting aside a half a day for writing, other times trying to write for an hour each day.   I felt the deadline breathing down my neck and in a fit of desperation I booked a hotel room. I told my family I’d be back when the book was done. As I squinted into the California sunshine after 4 days starting at a screen I was triumphant. I told my BFF to remind me never to write a book again.

 

What did you want to accomplish? Why were you writing the book? What pitfalls did you want to help others avoid? What did you want to add to your readers’ lives? How did you want to inspire them? Clearly during my time at The Carlsbad Inn by the Sea I lost my ‘why’. I was knee deep in the how.

 

To move your book from dream to done without relegating it to a bottom drawer or retreating from society, reconnect with your why. I could give you a big list starting with writing down your ‘why’ and getting accountability partners, and those are all good things, but the most powerful thing you can do is this:

 

Before you put your fingers to the keyboard to write, close your eyes and picture your book. Picture the reader picking it up. Picture them smiling or wiping away tears as they read. Picture the highlighter in their hand. Picture them texting a friend, “you have to read this book.” Imagine the change in their lives as a result of having read your book.

 

As my friend Mark Minard said to me on the phone today:

 

Take one year to do something you’ll talk about for the next 20 years.

 

Move from dream to done.