A Course to Help Writers Find Their Voices

I read a statistic in the New York Times that said 81% of Americans, when polled by a small publisher, admitted they had a “book in them”. I’d say, from my incredibly informal research (by that I mean, my life) this seems right.

Most people I meet, when we get to talking, tell me about they book they’d write—someday—if time and space and money and “life” ever permitted them.

Here’s the saddest part of that statistic—most people will never do it.

Writing is really hard.

Some of what makes it difficult is logistics—questions like, “Where do I start? What should I include? What do I leave out?” But most of what makes it difficult is the sort of invisible resistance that seems to show up anytime we try to create something.

find-your-writing-voice

I work with writers on a daily basis and the biggest obstacle they are facing when it comes to writing is not a lack of skills or expertise.

The biggest obstacles they face are things like:

  • Distractions
  • Insecurity
  • A fear of insignificance
  • Uncertainty about their voice

In fact, most of the writers I work with—even those who have never been trained as writers, but are moms or lawyers or executives or business owners or teachers—are far more gifted as writers than they give themselves credit for.

They could write a book someday. They should write a book someday. They will write a book someday—if they can get over the obstacles I listed above.

Here’s the craziest part about all of this.

I have two degrees in writing. I have a bachelor’s degree in Writing and a Masters in Teaching Writing. I could put together lesson plan after lesson plan filled with the skills of great writers. But learning those skills won’t help you as much as you think they will.

At least not if you didn’t understand your purpose as a writer.

Not if you don’t understand the why behind your writing—who you are and where you fit.

Not until you discover your unique voice.

This is the predicament I found myself in a few years ago.

I had been writing for as long as I could remember. I had gone to school to be a writer, had started a blog and learned everything I could about narrowing the focus of that blog and growing my platform. I had followed dozens of other writers and tried to learn from what they were doing.

But at the end of the day, I didn’t know who I was as a writer.

I didn’t understand what made me different.

And because of that I would say to myself, “well, there are all these other people who are better writers than me, and they’re saying the same things I want to say, so what’s the point? Why should I even try? Why would I keep writing?”

What was stopping me from writing wasn’t that I didn’t have the skills to be a writer. It was that I didn’t understand:

  • Where I came from and how this was connected to what I wanted to say
  • What made my message unique from everyone else’s
  • How I could connect in an authentic way with my audience—without being cheesy, but without being totally self-centered
  • How to keep the creative energy flowing

That’s why I created this course for writers.

After working with writers for the past several years—and being a writer myself—I finally decided I wanted to do something to help.

I wanted all of us to be able to live into our brilliant and beautiful voices.

So I developed a set of lessons and assignments to help writers uncover the unique voice already inside of them. My approach has four parts (I developed these intuitively, based on the questions hundreds of writers were asking me and the questions I was asking myself).

The parts went like this:

  • Where do you come from?
  • What do you want to say?
  • Who do you want to say it to?
  • How can you nurture your innate creative spirit?

What I found is, when I could help a writer answers these four questions for themselves, all the other excuses and blockages and supposed “obstacles” keeping them from what they wanted to write simply faded away.

It didn’t always come easily (nothing important ever does) but when I could give them a little support, they were far more likely to make progress.

It was important to me to make this material accessible to as many writers as possible.

So, I decided to film the whole thing.

I invited my friend Raechel over to my house and guided her through the process, one-on-one. She’s a gifted communicator and I knew she would benefit from the curriculum I had created—and that others would benefit from listening to her process the information.

I also created a 42 page workbook to walk each writer through the process.

And here’s the best part—after months (and really years) in the making, I get to release this resource to the world in about two weeks.

This course is going to help you:

  • Know where to start when it comes to writing
  • Overcome the needless obstacles getting in your way
  • Generate and re-generate creative energy
  • Answer the questions, “who am I?” and “why does my voice matter?”
  • Connect in an authentic way to your audience
  • Understand your message

Ultimately, I hope this course gives you the confidence you need in who you are as a writer to continue on the path to becoming the writer you were always meant to be.

Check out this video to learn more about the course. If you’re interested, visit the page and sign up to learn more. Also, if you know any writers who need to discover their unique voice, please pass the message on to them!

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The Real Reason You Feel Powerless to Change Your Life

Honestly, I’ve spent most of my life feeling like I didn’t have the power to change my circumstances.

My romantic relationships would always end in heartbreak and despair, but I figured that was just the “way it was” with love. Best case scenario, I figured, it was that way for everyone. Worst case scenario, it was something about me that I couldn’t help.

Maybe it was predestined—I would never have a happy relationship.

power

When it came to money, I was never poor necessarily, but never lived in abundance. I was tight with finances, all the time. I had hard time being generous and rarely could afford the things I wanted.

Everything was “too expensive”.

Again, I figured this is just how it was with money. Some people were born rich. Others were born poor. A lucky few would be able to afford the things they wanted, but most of us would just have to adjust our expectations.

That was just how the world worked.

I felt this way about most things in my life—career, calling, location, environment, friendships—like there was very little I could do to improve my circumstances. Things just were the way they were. I would just have to deal with it.

I watched a documentary called Rich Hill.

The film follows the lives of three families trapped in extreme poverty—poverty beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. I understand there are layers and layers to poverty—and please hear me when I say I am not trying to simplify it—but the thing I identified with most wasn’t their circumstance.

It was their reaction to their circumstance—a feeling of extreme powerlessness.

They said things like, “This is just the way it is,” or “We’ve just been dealt a difficult set of circumstances…”

The truth was they had been dealt a difficult set of circumstances. But I could see how they were also surrendering the very power available to them to change those circumstances and re-imagine their lives.

I didn’t experience this insight from a place of judgment. I experienced it from a place of compassion.

I do this too.

It made me start thinking about how often I give away the very power I have to change my circumstances. Obviously, I don’t have total power over my life, but I do have tremendous power if I’m willing to recognize it.

Most days, I catch myself surrendering the very power I’ve been given.

The closer attention I paid, the more I realized specific ways I do this. Here were a few things I noticed.

First of all, I say yes when I mean no.

Any time we say yes when we really mean no—whether it’s to an addiction, an obligation, a function, a committee, a non-profit, an event, a good cause, or a bad habit—we give away a little bit of the power we have to shape the life we want.

It might seem like the smallest thing, but it is not small. Those tiny decisions add up over time.

Second, I find myself giving in to compulsions.

Compulsions are decisions we make without thinking. These are the things we know aren’t good for us—and if we stopped to think about them for a second, we wouldn’t do them—but we don’t stop to think about them, so we do them anyway.

This is the ice cream at midnight—out of the tub, with a spoon. It’s obsessively checking your cell phone (that’s mine) or stalking your ex’s Facebook profile.

This is addictions—like cigarettes, television, alcohol, caffeine and shopping—or even things like exercise and dieting.

When we give into our compulsions, over and over, we sacrifice the power we have to make what we know are the right decisions—the decisions that lead us to freedom.

Third, I take the easy way out

You know that feeling in your gut when you just know the right thing to do? You know you should tell that person the truth, confront someone in the wrong, speak up about something you’re feeling or noticing, or just walk over to a person who is having a bad day and say hello?

Here’s what I’ve found: when we respond in obedience to those urges, they lead us out of a crisis or into opportunity.

The problem is, all too often, we take the easy way out.

We think to ourselves, “Oh, he or she will never know the difference if I don’t admit the truth,” or  we find a way to get around the conflict instead of confronting it head-on. We justify not talking to the person having a bad day by saying we’re too busy and have to get going.

But every time we take the easy way out, we surrender to a reality we don’t ultimately want. The easy way out is never as easy as we want.

Fourth, I worry more about others than I do about myself

I don’t know about you, but I find myself in conversations with people, or just in relationships, thinking more about what matters to the people around me—what motivates them, what hurts them, what they want and need, what they’re thinking and feeling—than I do about my own wants, needs, thoughts and ideas.

In the process, I sacrifice a really important part of myself.

There’s nothing wrong with caring for others. But if we care for others at the expense of caring for ourselves, we sacrifice the power we’ve been given to shape our lives and ourselves.

Finally, I live in fear rather than love.

Dr. Carolyn Leaf—a researcher who has been studying the brain for decades—says fear and love are mutually exclusive. We can’t experience both at the same time.

In other words, when I’m living in fear—fear of what other people think of me, fear of not having enough, fear of leaving others behind, fear of being left behind, fear of success or fear of failure—I don’t get to experience the profound love that is meant for me and that motivates me and drives me to become love for others.

Fear steals our ability to love—and along with it, it steals our ability to shape our circumstances and surroundings through the power of loving ourselves and loving others.

Anytime we surrender to the notion that we have no power, we abandon the great power we have.

And ironically, even in that surrender, we shape our reality. If we believe we have no power, we will live powerless. It is only when we wake up to the great power we’ve always had that we’ll discover our innate ability to move, create, shift and change our world.

Everyone Should Write A Book

Not everyone would agree with me about this, but let me just put it out there: everyone who desires to write a book should write a book.

  • Not just those with big platforms.
  • Not just those who are trained as writers
  • Not just those who “have something to say” (we all have something to say)
  • Not just celebrities or famous people

Everyone. I truly think everyone who desires to write a book should write a book.

write-a-book

I was reminded of my conviction on this topic a few days ago when I was talking to a friend who has always wanted to write a book. Her husband has been published and she shares a love for books but when I asked her to tell me a little bit about what was stopping her from writing a book, she gave a familiar list of excuses.

“There are so many writers out there who are better at this than me. Why would I waste my time writing when they can produce something so much better?”

“Speaking of time—who has time to write a book?”

“I don’t have a platform or a following or even a blog.

“A publisher would never pick me up. I don’t have an agent.”

“I wouldn’t even know where to start.”

Part of the reason these excuses are so familiar to me is because I work with writers on a daily basis—most of whom are far more talented and qualified than they ever give themselves credit for—and they might as well record these excuses and play them on repeat for me. I hear the same thing, over and over again, day after day.

But there’s another reason why these excuses feel so familiar to me.

Because they are my same excuses.

I’ve written four books with my name on them, and a few more for other people. I’ve had a publishing contract. I’ve walked a least a dozen writers through the process of drafting and editing a manuscript. I have a blog and “platform” and a few people who follow me regularly. I get a fair number of emails from people thanking me for my writing.

And still, seven out of ten days I wake up thinking:

“Am I sure I’m really making a difference? This is hard! Is it really worth it? Do I have time for this? Will I ever make any money doing this? Do I need an agent? Do I need a publisher? Am I a good writer? What do I have to say? Where should I even start?”

This only reinforces my belief: everyone who desires to write a book should do it.

Writing a book is not easy. In fact, it might be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And while the logistics of it get easier each time I attempt it—I understand the process, know what to expect, have some strategies to help me—the weight of it hasn’t changed. It’s emotionally and spiritually challenging and engaging.

And yet, just like any difficult thing in my life—marriage, friendship, work—it is changing me, slowly, transforming me, growing me and maturing me into the best version of myself.

I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Think for a minute about the other difficult things we do in our life. Marriage is a great example. If you told me you desired to get married someday, I would never tell you:

“Oh, no, marriage is only for the really qualified and prepared people. Also, it’s never going to make you any money, and it’s going to take up all your free time. And, to top it off, there are thousands of other people out there doing marriage way better than you could ever dream to do it, so you should probably just skip it.”

Instead, I would tell you—if you desire to get married someday—go for it!

I would warn you that marriage can be challenging and might even encourage you to start investing in your understanding of it. Go to therapy, read books, practice dealing with conflict in your current relationships.

But then I would tell you to buckle up and get ready to enjoy the ride. Marriage, like book writing, is not for the elite few.

It’s for everyone.

So who cares if you never get published or if it’s the worst book ever written. Everybody’s first book is their worst book. And the sooner your get your worst book out of the way, the sooner you can get to your next one.

Who cares if you’re qualified or endorsed or followed.

Who cares about a publisher or an agent or a platform.

Honestly, that stuff is the easy part. It’s the writing that’s the hard part. If you build it [write it, same thing] they will come.”

And even better than that, in the midst of all of this, if you choose to abandon your excuses and get started writing, you’ll find something far more valuable than the most profound book ever written. You’ll find yourself on the page—that beautiful voice and brilliant person you knew was there all along.