Hiring a ghostwriter is easy. Hiring a GREAT ghostwriter is hard. The same is true for hiring any writer, photographer, or graphic designer. Just because someone is great at what they do doesn't mean they're great to work with. I've worked with drama queens, narcissists, and flakes in all fields. I've learned that no matter how gifted and creative someone is, if they're a pain in the butt to work with, it's not worth working with them. A good job with a solid creative who communicates well, listens, understands your vision, and delivers on time is far more valuable than one who only does awesome work on their timetable, when they feel like it, and according to their rules. So how do you avoid the nightmares?
It's not just the ghostwriter's job to deliver. You, the client are responsible for being accessible, or having someone who can answer questions when you can't be reached. Your writer/designer may have to delay a project or a portion of it if they can't reach you regarding a question or decision they have to make. A good client understands that changing the direction of a project, the table of contents, the focus, or the job once it's begun is fine - as long as they're willing to pay for it. Many clients hire a ghostwriter or designer and assume that flat rate covers any changes they request, as though they had an hourly employee on their staff and endless hours to play with. When you hire a creative (writer, photographer, designer) you're hiring to do a specific job with a set time frame.
Changes, additions, scope creep etc. take time not budgeted in the original agreement. So, expect to pay more if you suddenly decide halfway through a project to turn your How-to book into a novel about how-to. (It happened). When you hire a ghostwriter, think about your availability, commitment, flexibility, and budget. Are you going to be better off working with a disciplined, structured, deadline driven writer, or one who is more laid back and flexible and easy going? Know your own style and find a writer who can accommodate that. I have a client who wants to talk three times a day when he's in between projects, but then he disappears for weeks on end without a word. I can get his projects done, but not in the timely manner I prefer. He's happy with the work and pays me on time, so I don't complain, but it's up to you to decide how you prefer to work, then find the writer who can meet your style.
Back when I could run I ran 5K races. I usually came in last, often as the race committee was taking down the tables and banners and everyone had gone home. But that's not why I ran. I ran to finish something hard. The carrot I was chasing was discipline. It didn't last long. I hurt my knee, got tired of the pain and stopped running. I looked for ways to develop discipline elsewhere. I learned that finishing running races wasn't really what I wanted. At my last race, curious about what drove other people to run, I asked a woman standing next to me why she ran.
"For the t-shirts," she said. She could have just bought the shirt, or gotten the shirt when she signed up, but she followed through and actually ran the race. What the t-shirts represented to her was that she was part of an elite tribe - people who run, endure pain, and race for FUN. Whether she wore her race shirts to the grocery, or to clean house in, that sense of "being special" stayed with her. She didn't particularly like running when it was hot, hard, and exhausting. But she did love the feeling she had afterward. She basked in the accomplishment and told me the glow she felt would easily carry her through until her next race.
I'm sure if I asked everyone who raced why they did it they'd have their own reasons. Some would cite health, improving their time, or being with other runners as their motivation. What I learned from my 2-to-3 years of training, running, and racing was that I was doing it for all the wrong reasons. I learned that if you're going to do something, do it, but do it for the right reasons. The right reasons means knowing what you really want out of something, not just what you think you want.
For instance, I dated a guy in college who told me he was obsessed with old cars. He bought and sold classic model cars restoring them, and driving his current until he attracted a woman who was attracted to the car. Then he would sell the car when they broke up and start the hunt for the car and a new woman all over again. Years later I figured out (although I wonder if he did), that he wasn't really obsessed with old cars. He wanted the kind of woman who was attracted to them. The cars were just a way to meet women who appreciated classic cars.
The advertising industry has capitalized on this. They don't just sell toothpaste. They sell the white smile that attracts men/women. They're selling sex, love, attraction, not teeth whiteners. A great marketer can take any product, and tie it to something bigger, better, and sexier in order to sell it. They don't sell us things. They sell us dreams. We don't buy clothes, shoes, jackets and expensive purses to have the items. We buy them because owning them makes us feel richer, more important and more desirable.
When you know what you want you can bypass the THING that you've been told will bring you your heart's desire. Eliminating the middleman means you can go directly after the thing you truly want. If you want, as I do, to write books that change people's perceptions about life, then I can bypass the usual shiny objects around the writing lifestyle and focus just on what I want - to write the kind of books I want.
One of the hardest things to do in life is say "no," to things that distract, derail, and divert our attention from our goals. That's because a lot of us don't really know what our goals are, or what we want. When your goal is crystal clear it's easy to say "no," because we ask ourselves the simple question, "Will this bring me closer to what I want?" If I'm tempted by a soda I ask, "Will buying/drinking this bring me closer to my goal of normal blood sugar?" the answer is pretty clear. It's a much better question than, "Do I really want this soda?" (the answer always being yes).
That's why I say, "Knowing what you want is half the battle..." Why do you write? Why do you work? Why do you travel, or binge watch movies, or eat what you eat? Becoming mindful, and taking a step back to see what you chase and why you chase it will free you up to get what you really want, not just what you think you want.
Try it. You might be surprised to find that the things you've been convinced you had to have, whether skills, or clothes, or experiences, or your career or lifestyle are just masquerading as what you want.
Fame is overrated. At least I think it is. People often ask me if it bothers me that my name isn't on all the books I write. No, not really. I like being anonymous. As long as my name is on the check, I'm happy. No one bothers me or wants stuff from me. I can walk around in public without being recognized or needing a security guard.
The people who matter most to me are clients and their success. They WANT the spotlight. I don't. I'm content in my successes and where I am in life. I don't need adoring fans to shore up my confidence or convince me I'm a good writer. I know I'm a good writer. I'm not bragging. There's room for improvement, but I'm very happy with where I am right now. I do, however, love getting my clients that attention. As a journalist and editor for 23 years, I know what the media wants. I know how to prepare, pitch and sell a story. And, more importantly, I LOVE, genuinely LOVE helping people who are working towards that fame, to get one step closer to it.
Maybe if I were younger, more driven to "make a name" for myself, or get rich, I'd be beating the bushes promoting myself. But I'm not. I've learned that relationships, people, trust, and experiences are more valuable than gold, or the fleeting admiration of strangers.
If you're after that notoriety or fame, or recognition, go for it! It's a wonderful feeling to be desired, important, or valued for what you have to say, what you've written, who you are. But as a mentor of mine once told me, "Don't let the accolades go to your head, or the critics settle in your heart." He meant, don't believe everything you hear people say about you, good or bad.
Copywriting can be a lucrative business, if you're good at it. While I adore and follow copywriter Bob Bly and I buy 99% of his books, I just discovered another how-to-copy writing book I think is fantastic. Apparently so does the BookAuthority.org as they just added it to their list of the top ten copywriting books of all time. It's called The Everything Guide to Writing Copy by Steve Slaunwhite. It has 4.5 stars on Amazon from 23 readers. Relax, it just came out. Those numbers will grow. While the basic rules of copywriting haven't changed, how the information is presented can make or break a good book. This book does exactly that.
The book is divided into two parts. The first part guides you through the craft of copywriting, the tools, tips, techniques etc. The second part looks at more than 50 typical examples of copywriting and then gives you tips and tricks on how to successfully complete them. So, learn by doing. As a writer I know that the MORE you write, the better you get at writing. So many of us think another conference, another class, another book or podcast will make us better writers but that's a lie. Only writing, writing, and more writing will make us better. Like Malcolm Gladwell says in his book Outliers, it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at anything. While we can learn most tasks or skills in 20 hours (driving takes 40) to become skilled at it takes a lot more time. Yes, you need to learn the basics before or as you start practicing, but only practice makes you better.
That's why I love this book! It doesn't just give you information, but it provides a way to get you writing as well. But the knockout part of this book is that it is CRAMMED with solid, practical tips, examples, and advice. It speaks to the beginning copywriter as well as the expert.
It's a book that I'll keep around as a reference long after I've read it a dozen times.
ThesweShould you write a book? It's a question I ask all my clients. After careful consideration and thinking many of them walk away, convinced NOW is NOT the time to write a book after all. Some say I'm throwing away money by telling them they don't have a compelling reason to write a book, but I think I'm helping people prepare to write a better book down the road.
Should you write a book?
It depends. WHY do you want to write a book? This is important to know. If you're writing a book because all your friends and colleagues are writing them, then it's probably not time to write your book. You won't have the interest, passion, purpose or drive to complete it. You'll hate the discipline and tasks it demands and ultimately you'll end up hating the process. The top reasons I hear from clients who want a book written:
Those aren't the answers I'm looking for. These are:
There are more, but essentially people who write successful books are driven by a passion for telling a story. It may their personal story (business memoir), or a how-to story, or something related to their business, insights, practice. Whatever it is, they have a clear and specific reason for wanting to reach a larger audience.
For the clients who want to write a book to "make a lot of money," I have to explain that unless you're already wildly rich and/or famous, have a unique story readers can't find elsewhere (i.e., I know who killed JFK), are already a recognized expert in your field, or have endless money to spend marketing and promoting your book, that most authors won't become best-selling authors or make a lot of money. You'll be lucky to make back the money you spend on writing, editing, and publishing it. Books aren't the end goal. If you have a signature speech and want to get more speaking gigs, then a book can help you do that. A book can position you as an expert, someone the media will want to interview (but usually only if your book is traditionally published). Books are tools. They help you achieve things or get attention you wouldn't get without them. They are not the end game.
If you don't have a website, a blog, a "platform," then a book is not going to do well. People buy books to learn more about the person who wrote it and they want to know WHY you wrote it. This is where a blog, or at least a website comes in. Books expand on things you've already shared with readers. They give your followers more insight into your thoughts and ideas and passion.
Unless you're a professional writer, writing a book should come after you've clarified and examined some of your thoughts and processes in a blog. Blogging is thinking out loud. It (1) gives you a great opportunity to get your thoughts on "paper" or in a public venue where others can comment and engage. This often provides amazing insights that may cause you to shift your thinking in ways you never imagined. It's much easier to change course after a blog post than a book. (2) It helps you focus your intention and the critical aspects of what you want to say. (3) It gives you a better understanding of your audience.
Unless my client/potential client has a blog, or a speaking practice, or a focused idea for a book, then I urge them to go away and rethink writing a book. Without a platform or followers, the chances of being "discovered" on Amazon are slim to none. Trust me. I experienced that personally. Writing a book is different from promoting and marketing a book. And if people read your book and love it, without a website, blog, or other platforms in place, they have nothing to act on and quickly become frustrated or simply leave. Why shouldn't they? There's nothing else they can do. That's why a blog, even a simple one, and a website with an About, Contact Me, and Home page in addition to the blog, are so important.
That said, if you want to write a book for the sole purpose of giving it out at workshops, or to employees, then go for it. The secret is that the book has a reason to exist, a purpose. I've ghostwritten books for clients who simply wanted to leave a biography of themselves for family members after they passed on, or before they passed on. The book's purpose was to start a dialog and to connect or bring family together. That's a noble reason for writing. And that's my point. What is your reason for writing a book? What do you want it to do for you? Once you understand that, then we can talk! If you need help deciding what your goal for writing a book is, then contact me for a 30-minute, free, no-obligation call. Let's talk.
If left undisturbed, no phone calls, texts, knocks at the door, errands, or a to-do list, I can write for hours. But life's not like that. It interrupts me constantly. Today, for instance, I got up at 4 a.m. to write because at 10 a.m. I need to take my car in for repairs. I can't just drop it off and flee back to my office. I use a mechanic who works out of his own garage. He left a 9-to-5 job as a shop mechanic to do his own thing on his own time. He's good, very good. And he's cheaper too - $35 an hour rather than the $85 an hour the old mechanic at a local auto shop charges. He lets me buy my own parts too. (Rockauto.com is the best, cheapest place in the world to buy high quality car parts by the way.)
The point is, I have deadlines from hell, but need to juggle and fit my life into those deadlines. I'm fortunate that I have a washer/dryer and a dishwasher. They save me insane amounts of time, but I still have to load, unload, and put things away. I have to shop for, and cook food. I need to feed the cats and empty their litter box. I have to sleep. All those things interrupt my writing. Writing becomes just another thing I schedule if I want to get it done. So I do. Here are my tips for making life work for you rather than interrupt you:
Keep a Calendar and Refer to it Often:
I have calendly for setting up appointments. It frees me from playing that, "What's a good time for you?' game where I go back and forth with someone for 20 minutes over the best day, time, and hour to meet. I send people the link and they take it from there. Seriously. I have between 5-10 calls a week to set up with clients, interviews, and vendors, editors, and friends. The Calendly site is seriously awesome at saving me several hours a week I can then devote to writing. I use Google Calendar on my iPhone and desktop. Also makes life easier.
Keep a To-Do List
I use the app, Leadertask to maintain a running to-do list. You can get the free version, or a paid version to use more features. It helps me organize tasks into folders - one for each client, and ones for my own projects. It works on my phone, tablet and desktop and syncs everything so it's all up to date.
Most of us schedule doctors appointments, meetings, and things where we have to go somewhere - like a party, conference, etc.. Scheduling forces us to carve time out of our day to get something done. It makes us accountable. That's why I also schedule tasks - like writing time, lunch, naps, and things I need to do around the apartment. By making something part of my schedule I'm not worried about if I will "have time" to do something - whether it's cleaning out the fridge, walking, exercise, or going on a decluttering spree. I KNOW I'll have time because I scheduled it! Shoot for 7-to-11 items to schedule per week. Make at least two of them fun ones - like go to Papa Jims for ice cream, or watch a movie. This also helps me say no to outside distractions. I simply check my calendar and tell the person "I'm sorry. I've already got something scheduled then." People will argue with you when you say "No," to their requests, but are less likely to argue if you say you've already scheduled something for that day/time. Funny how we all put more importance on a scheduled task than simply deciding whether to do something or not on the spur of the moment. At the end of the week I then look back over all I did, or didn't do and reset my goals and the number of items I schedule. It's kind of like a budget. You don't manage your time, your manage your priorities.
Manage Your Priorities, Not Your Time
Mike Salomon at SherpaGuides saved my life and my business with his Time Management program. He is a business coach who focuses on helping people manage their priorities in order to manage their time. We can't really manage time, we all have 24 hours in a day. But we can manage how we choose to use that time - i.e., the manage your priorities tag. By doing a mind dump of all the MUST do things in your head, then prioritizing them in order of what's most important, you do several things:
Stop Reading Your Email Throughout The Day!
This is the most important time saver of all! When you check email first thing in the morning what's in there sets your agenda for the day. We tend to forget everything we intended to do and spend hours answering, responding to, and being distracted by email. I don't check email until I've been up and working for a few hours. I don't check it throughout the day unless a client has texted they're sending me something. When I do check email I do several things. I employ the rule of two. If I can respond to, answer, or deal with an email in two minutes or less, I do. It's like only handling paper/mail once. I set aside 30 minutes three times a day to deal with email and then forget it. I have an alarm on my phone and computer that remind me to check it. I go through it as quickly as possible. If something will take longer than two minutes I send the response to my To-Do list. If it involves several steps to answer it goes to my scheduling list and gets scheduled for the next week. If someone needs something right away, chances are zero they're going to get it done unless they pay a rush fee. Clients mostly know to give me at least a week to work on their project because they know I schedule everything. I'm not perfect, and I do stumble but when I do it simply reminds me to get back with the program.
I aim for an empty in-box. This is hard to do, but once you do it, the feeling is awesome! It means unsubscribing to a lot of things, and setting filters and rules for your inbox, but it's worth the hassle and saves so much time. When we have emails sitting around in our inbox to "deal with later" we end up rereading them. It's a time waster. Empty your inbox. Delete the things you have responded to or taken care of. Schedule other things and put what you need on a to-do list. I know. What about emails you may need to refer to in the future? If it involves information or other details you may need in the future, move it to your archive folder. Let it live there, out of sight and out of mind until you need it again.
There's more, lots more, but the time I scheduled to write this blog post is up and it's time to write! I'm working on a book about prioritizing your work and life and will post it here when it's done! What's your biggest challenge when it comes to managing your time and attention? Leave a comment below!
I'm on a deadline. I'm always on a deadline. And the very thought of deadlines sends pheromones out into the world, inviting friends and strangers to defeat me. These anti work pheromones waft past friends who then feel a sudden urge to call me "just to talk." They pressure acquaintances to text or just drop by for a visit. Deadlines have the amazing power to ensure I don't meet them.
I'm staring down three big deadlines right now. I'm wondering how the heck I'm going to hit any of them. Here's how:
Along with the three books I'm working on, I have groceries, laundry, appointments, and an apartment to declutter. It's amazing how attractive all those things become the more the deadline approaches. So, I write EVERYTHING down on sticky notes to get it out of my head where it carooms around like a steel ball in a game of pinball, hitting alarms and bells and setting off flashing lights to make me freeze with anxiety. Once my sticky notes are done I paste them on a white board above and behind my computer. I can see them there - all color coded and everything and out of my head. The urgent, must do notes (like whose book to finish first) are in neon pink. Appointments (doctor and dental) are orange, and everything else is in neon green. As I finish each task I cross it off with a Sharpie, but leave it up so I can see what I've done and feel motivated to do more and cross off more. I prioritize according to most important and urgent.
Set a Timer:
If I had my druthers I'd just work until I drop with exhaustion. But I work better and faster if I set a timer for 1.5 hours and then get up and walk around, eat, pet the cats, or take a 20-minute nap. Yes. I nap often throughout the day. It's wonderful. You should try it! The exercise gets my blood flowing and also revives me. Every three hours I do something simple - like load or unload the washer/dryer/dishwasher. That way I don't panic that "life" isn't getting done.
Turn off Distractions:
I only answer email three times a day, and never first thing in the morning. Looking at email first thing means I'll be sucked into it and never get a jump on the day. Email will define your day if you let it. I check it only after my first 1.5 hours of work. And I have a process for checking it:
Stock up on Snacks and Drinks:
Those are three things that help me "git 'er done." I still procrastinate, but I'm getting better. How about you? What are your deadline killing tips?
-Have you ever wanted to learn how to write a memoir? Here's your chance. This small (only 10 writers accepted) workshop in the Catskill mountains ensures you get the personal, one-on-one attention and personal feedback and critique of your writing over three days. $550 covers your tuition, catered lunch, morning coffee, and your room/housing/B&B on site - no commute, just walk out the door and into the classroom. Private rooms - no dorm housing. Some rooms come with a kitchenette. All come with private bathroom/tub/shower. There are campfires at night, and a grill if you want to grill out. Parking is never a problem, and there are hiking trails, a stream, and plenty of places to explore if you'd like. The workshop includes one-on-one feedback 30 minutes or more each day with Stephen H Foreman, a Hollywood Screenwriter and author (He wrote the screenplay for The Jazz Singer, among others).
Here's an excerpt from one of his books:
Excerpt 2 - from the book Toehold
How Sweet-ass Sue Got to Toehold, Alaska
Sweet-ass Sue weighed eighteen pounds six ounces at birth, larger than a polar bear cub. Her mother complained throughout her entire pregnancy that she felt like she was carrying a cow. Sue was a full blood Athapaskan Indian with a frame like a refrigerator – big, very big, but solid. She was not Walmart Fat at all, just huge. If she had on a football helmet you’d mistake her for a nose tackle. She always wore her raven black hair in two long braids hanging down her back topped with a purple headband. People have a tendency to believe, when somebody’s so big, that deep down inside they’re really just a pussycat. Sweet-ass Sue gave the living lie to such bullroar. She had a heart, but you’d have to dig halfway to China to find it. People knew one thing about her for sure: they didn’t want Sweet-ass as an enemy. They weren’t totally sure they wanted her as a friend, either.
Sue was in her forties, so she just missed out on the time when female athletes were coming into their own. Even so she would have had a tough go of it because her sport of choice was football. So often Sue wished she had been born a boy, not because she wanted to sleep with other girls (which she certainly did not, high school gossip to the contrary) but because she wanted to compete in a man’s game at a man’s level. She considered it a cosmic misfortune that she had been super-sized at birth but handed the sex of a woman. By the time she was sixteen she was six feet three inches tall, weighed two hundred and fifty pounds with the sleek, muscular haunches of a draft horse, and she could bench press three hundred. So Sue decided to right a cosmic wrong and go out for the football team. She was bigger than any of the guys except for the star defensive end who had her by a hair. Still, the coach dug in and said no way. She was a girl; she’d get clobbered; he didn’t want to be responsible for what he considered child abuse.
“Why not take up soccer?” he said. Sue pointed out that their school had no soccer team to which the coach threw up his hands and insisted, “No can do.” Then he pulled his sweat pants out of the crack of his ass, took a sip of his diet Pepsi, and said could she excuse him, he had a practice to prepare for. Sue never had been one to take no for an answer, she decided this called for drastic measures. How to prove that she had the stuff to play football? When she finally thought of a way, she knew somebody was going to get hurt, but she didn’t think it’d be her. Whatever. Sue was willing to take that chance. This kid had guts for days!
“Stop thinking,” she said to herself. “Get to it.”
And she did.
At lunch the next period, in the cafeteria in front of the entire school, she knocked the tray out of the defensive end’s
hands and told him to watch where the fuck he was going. He didn’t know what to do.
“Are you gonna apologize or what?” she demanded.
“You bumped into me,” he retorted.
“You calling me a liar?” She went right up in his face. Then she pushed him.
“You better cut this shit out,” he threatened.
“Why? You gonna hit me?” she said.
“You’re a girl, goddamnit,” he squealed totally confused about what the hell was going on here.
“I think you’re a pussy,” she replied.
“What the hell are you?” he said.
“You calling me a pussy? Huh? You insulting my sex? Huh?”
He was completely bewildered, and then she smacked him across the face. “Does that feel like pussy, asshole?” she
taunted. “Does it?”
“Let her have it,” shouted one of his teammates. “She’s asking for it.”
“Yeah, kick her ass,” yelled somebody else.
“He can’t,” Sue yelled back. “He’s afraid of a girl. He ain’t nothing but a pussy himself.”
At that, the poor kid lost it and punched Sue so hard she fell backwards into a table. The rest of the students expected to see blood and tears. What they got instead was a smile on Sue’s face. “Is that your best shot?” she wanted to know. “You didn’t kill me with it, and you’re going to remember that mistake for the rest of your life,” at which point she charged head first, speared him in the belly, and landed two hard shots to each side of his jaw before he hit the floor. Later, in the nurse’s office, he didn’t remember anything after the charge. The school still refused to let her play football. In fact, the administration refused to let her continue as a student. They kicked her out and wouldn’t let her back in the door. Not that she gave a shit. As soon as she came of age, Sue joined the Coast Guard and struck out for what she hoped would be more interesting than watching TV and chewing whale blubber.
It was there that she got her nickname and met the love of her life.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Do you want to learn to write like that? Then consider attending this workshop in September. Go to SprucetonInn.com to sign up and reserve your spot. There are only a few spots available. Email email@example.com or call 518-989-6404 to reserve your place. They’ll take a 50% deposit via credit card upon booking. Registration officially closes August 1st, if not sooner once it’s full!
Tell someone you're reading a "memoir" and most of us will assume the book is about growing up with an addiction, a difficult childhood, a disability or some sort of personal challenge we've worked through. Indeed, memoirs are the genre of choice for those wanting to write about the most memorable moments in their lives.
But what is a memoir? A memoir is a collection of memories, usually around a theme of some sort (coming of age, getting clean and sober, surviving trauma of some sort - the moments or events, both public or private, that happened and impacted the person in a significant way. Memory isn't an exact science, but the events are believed to be factual, altho as recalled by the author.
But memoirs don't necessarily have to be about our personal life. They can be about our business life, our careers, the wisdom and insights we've gained during some aspect of our work life. And the good thing about a memoir is, unlike an autobiography, you can write as many as you want.
Memoir is a specific genre. And, like all genres, it has specific characteristics, primarily being autobiographical without actually being an autobiography, and being factual. Memoirs however, are primarily about one's memory about a particular theme or experience. The word comes from the French mémoire, meaning “memory.” And, memoirs are just that. The author picks a particular theme or event and for however many words remembers, reminisces, and reflects on that event or experience in their life - hopefully in a way that conveys wisdom, insight, lessons learned etc. to the reader. In a business memoir the author those themes may be "loss, love, success, business, failure, leadership, entrepreneurship, challenges faced and won or lost." In his book Shoe Dog, Nike founder Phil Knight recounts all the challenges he faced when founding and growing Nike. If you haven't read it, you should - especially if you're considering writing your own business memoir.
The first memoir I ever read, Paper Lion, captivated me and made memoirs my favorite genre of all time. I was 12 years old at the time. Paper Lion shaped my life and drove me into a career in journalism and writing. Paper Lion is about a journalist, not an athlete - yet in 1960 he arranged to pitch to a lineup of professional baseball players in an All-Star exhibition, then write about the experience in his book Out of My League. Three years later he repeated the exercise, only this time by joining the football training camp of the 1963 Detroit Lions. He wanted to know how the average man off of the street would fare in an attempt to compete with the stars of professional sports. As you can imagine, they wouldn't fare very well.
What Plimpton did with his books wasn't so much about football, or sports, but about the people who played and lived the lives of professional athletes. When I worked security for the Denver Broncos in 1983, the first year John Elway played for them, I got to attend training camp as an observer of sort. Plimpton's writing rushed back into my head. He'd been so accurate about the training camp culture and events it was erie. I became even more obsessed with memoir. I saw it as a way to bypass the "proper" stories that left out the reality of life, and focused on appearances. I loved the raw reality of life and the people who embraced it.
Over the years I got tired of memoirs that dealt mostly with addition, trauma, and crappy childhoods. I longed for another Paper Lion. I moved into autobiographies and soaked them up like a sponge. They were fascinating, but not as enjoyable as memoir. Autobiographies begin and end and travel through a person's life. They're great for getting to know what the person, famous or otherwise, wants you to know about them, but they're rarely as revealing as a good memoir.
Writing the business memoir, in my mind, is writing like George Plimpton - wading into the rawness of failure, challenge, pain, and personality. Another favorite business memoir of mine is Tough Choices, Carly Fiorina's memoir about her time at Hewlett-Packard as a woman, and as an executive who was fired. But let her describe it:
From her Amazon page:
"For five and a half years, Carly Fiorina led Hewlett-Packard through major internal changes, the worst technology slump in decades, and the most controversial merger in high-tech history. Yet just as things were about to turn around, she was abruptly fired, making front-page news around the world.
Fiorina has been the subject of endless debate and speculation. But she has never spoken publicly about crucial details of her time at HP, about the mysterious circumstances of her firing, or about many other aspects of her landmark career. Until now.
In this extraordinarily candid memoir, she reveals the private person behind the public persona. She shares her triumphs and failures, her deepest fears and most painful confrontations. She shows us what it was like to be an ambitious young woman at stodgy old AT&T and then a fast- track executive during the spin-off of Lucent Technologies. Above all, she describes how she drove the transformation of legendary but deeply troubled HP, in the face of fierce opposition.
One of Fiorina's big themes is that in the end business isn't just about numbers; it's about people.This book goes beyond the caricature of the powerful woman executive to show who she really is and what the rest of us male or female, in business or not can learn from the tough choices she made along the way."
That's not hype. It's a very accurate description of what Fiorina writes about. And it's riveting. What Plimpton and Knight, and Fiorina and dozens of others have done is shatter the mirrors that reflect only what the powers that be want us to see. They give us a rare glimpse into "how the sausage is made," as an editor once explained to me. They change lives, perceptions, and insights. They open doors. If you want to make an impact and get people's attention, consider writing a business memoir. You don't have to be a CEO, or famous, or head up a large company. You simply have to share some aspect of your business wisdom or challenges. If you want to know MORE, download the free PDF here.
And, of course if you're interested in writing a business memoir, or any memoir, set up a free, no obligation 30-minute call to contact me with questions.
SHOULD YOU WRITE A BUSINESS MEMOIR?
Why shouldn't you write a business memoir? If you long to be a mentor, but don't have the time, a business memoir is a great way to pass along your experience, insights, failures, challenges, and wisdom. Too many entrepreneurs and small business owners don't see a need for a memoir - claiming they have nothing to say. But they do. We all have stories. We all want to be remembered. Most of us want to see others succeed - in part from wisdom we've shared with them. If you're still not sure, download the free PDF here. You don't even have to give me an email address or contact information. Just download it.
If you think you'd like to plunge right in and learn more about memoir, there's a three day workshop coming up in the Catskill Mountains Sept. 22-24 at The Spruceton Inn. Screenwriter and best selling author Stephen H Foreman will be leading the workshop. He keeps his classes small - only 10 people may attend and it's half full already. Watch the slideshow below to see more about the Spruceton Inn.
The workshop runs from 22 September to 24 of September. The $550 cost covers your room for two nights, catered lunch each day, tuition for the workshop and one-on-one time with Stephen.
"Words," Tony Robbins explains, "have a biochemical effect on the body. The minute you use a word like 'devastated' you’re going to produce a very different biochemical effect than if you say, 'I’m a bit disappointed.' "
Robbins is a popular and successful motivational speaker who understands the power of both the written and the spoken word. As he has pointed out, the words we attach to our experience become our experience. When you say, 'I'm happy,' you feel differently than if you say, 'I'm elated!' or 'thrilled.'" The words we choose to use aren't just about developing a more expansive vocabulary. It's about tapping into the power of words and understanding how they affect you and your reader on an emotional and physical level. The same thing happens to your characters and your readers. The words you attach to your characters define not only their experience and character, but how your reader will respond to them in your story. For instance:
"John was a big, broad-shouldered and heavily muscled guy. He could have played linebacker for any professional sports team in the NFL. John was, as I say, BIG."
"John had to turn sideways and duck to fit through the average doorway. The width and density of his muscles suggested he might have the DNA of a Mack Truck or Tyrannosaurus Rex in his family. If he had tried to play professional sports he would have been banned from the league for being twice the size of any other player on the field. John redefined the word BIG."
Which description makes John's size come alive for you? By creating a visual image of a man so big he has to turn sideways to get through a door, the reader has something to compare his size with - a doorway!
If you're a writer (or even if you aren't) the power of words to impact others is CRITICAL to understand if you want to make an impression on your readers. Our choice of words can make our writing move, and dance or die. As Dr/ Andrew Newberg, author of Words Can Change Your Brain, said:
"Language shapes our behavior and each word we use is imbued with multitudes of personal meaning. The right words spoken in the right way can bring us love, money and respect, while the wrong words - or even the right words spoken in the wrong way - can lead a country to war. We must carefully orchestrate our speech if we want to achieve our goals and bring our dreams to fruition."
If you've never thought about how words make you feel, or their true power, remember this. God SPOKE the world into existence. When we write we WRITE our characters into existence by how we describe them. One of the hardest concepts for new writers (and many experienced ones too) to grasp is how to SHOW our readers rather than tell them about our characters.
Telling: "He was lazy and hated waking up in the morning."
Showing: He rolled over in bed and eyed the alarm clock for a full minute before groaning and covering his head with his pillow.
Telling: She was very tired.
Showing: She yawned until her jaw began to hurt, then collapsed onto the couch and flopped over, unwilling and unable to move.
Telling: The car broke down.
Showing: The car gasped, heaved, and shook violently from side-to-side - until every mechanical part it had clanked, whistled, buzzed, or clanged before coming to a full and complete stop, never to move again.
Words are your tools. Learn to use them and use them well!
Who is with you in the fire? A few days ago an Internet meme crossed my Facebook feed. It read, "Remember Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? God didn't put out the fire. He put Jesus in the fire with them. Life is not about God putting out your fires, but about His being there with you in the midst of them."
Who is with you in the fire? Who supports you, encourages you, shields you from critics and haters? Who stands by you through good times and bad? Whether you're religious or spiritual or not, we all need someone who believes in us whether we're successful or not, struggling or not, flush or not.
Businessman Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, created a great metaphor when he asked, "Who is on the bus with you?" He was comparing a business to a bus, and the leader to the driver. Most people, he explains, assume that great bus drivers (leaders) immediately start their journey by announcing to the people on the bus where the bus is going. Apparently great leaders (drivers) do things differently. They don't start with "where" they're going, but "who" they're going there with. They get the wrong people off of their bus, put the right people on the bus and make sure everyone is in the right seat. They stick with that process no matter what - people first, then direction.
We, as writers, need to do the same. Get the right people on the bus. Know who's going to stand by you in the fire - physical or spiritual. First "who," then "what."
Metaphors aside, the point is, we ALL need others - no matter how strongly we believe we can do it alone. That person might be an editor, a spouse, a family member, a classmate, a coach, even a stranger you meet at a conference. But without feedback, support, encouragement and friendship, it's hard to succeed as a writer, or anything else. If you have people in your life who support you, take time to thank them. You'll never know how valuable they are until they're gone. If you don't have someone in your life who is there for you - join a meetup group, a Facebook group, a writer's group, a church or synagogue or Mosque. Take a class, join a gym, but do something to find someone who will be with you in the fire. They don't have to be a writer, but they do have to respect you and your writing.
When we don't stand alone, it's so much easier to stand at all.
Everyone can write, but not everyone is a writer. Some non-writers get this and hire me to write for them. This doesn't mean they're bad writers. They just understand there's a time and place for DIY, and for hiring a professional.
For instance, I can work on my own car and I often do. It saves me money and time and I enjoy it. But when I need real mechanical work done, or I'm buying a car and need to know if it's a lemon or a find, I hire a mechanic. They know waaaay more than I possibly could about cars and I want to take advantage of that knowledge. I'm willing to pay for it.
Writing is the same thing. Most people can write a letter, a report, or communicate day-to-day via email and social media. But when the time comes to send out a resume, a cover letter, or write copy for a website, it's critical to have a professional do the writing for you. Why? Because not all content is the same. You may be a brilliant novelist or academic, but you probably don't know how to write sales copy. Why would you? Yet, it's that sales copy that's going to get people's attention and make them pick up your book, or go to your website, or buy your book. That 300-500 words on the back cover of your book? That's sales copy. That introduction/summary on Amazon about your book and the stories inside? Sales copy. Landing pages, emails. ads, marketing material? Sales copy. All these avenues and content are all about hooking and selling readers and convincing them to buy your book. There's no shame in hiring another writer to write the kind of thing you know little to nothing about.
What about that manuscript you just spend 2-5 years finishing and polishing? It's brilliant, but are readers going to know that? They probably won't unless someone is able to catch their attention in 300 words or less. A good copy writer doesn't just sum up your book, a good copy writer sells it through the use of imagery, suspense, tension, and teasing. Copy writers, it's often said, "Sell the sizzle, not the steak." Copywriters understand how consumers skim and read. They understand the importance of an attention-grabbing headline and can craft them. They understand "calls to action," and how to sway and persuade their readers. They're professionals and have worked at their craft to be as good as you are at yours.
The next time you're putting together a proposal for an agent, or a cover letter for your manuscript, consider hiring a copywriter. It will be money well-spent.
On a good day I can easily write 10,000 words. Writing that much has more to do with how fatigued or sleepy I am and has nothing to do with my mental ability to churn out words. Most days I write 4-5,000 words. I'm currently writing for three blogs (clients) my own blog, a 60,000 word book that must be completed in four weeks (client), and another 20,000 words to finish yet another book. I don't even count the words I try to write for the ebooks I'm writing for this website. But I write.
It helps that I've been writing since I was 10 years old. I was a journalist for 23 years, and I have been a ghostwriter for another 10 years - so I've easily hit the 10,000 hours Malcolm Gladwell says one needs to become an expert. While I was a working journalist I was also freelancing for magazines. The more I wrote, the more money I made. So I got fast, and good, and disciplined. Newsrooms are crucibles for writers. They FORCE you to write. You have a set number of stories to write in a day, a set number of words to craft, and you're expected to hit your deadlines. If you want to keep your job, you learn how to write no matter what mental, emotional, or physical blocks are in your way. If you can't get a job in a newsroom, and you want to write, you need to find a way to set your own deadlines and hit them.
If you're a new writer, writing 500 words a day, every day may be terrifying. So make it 100 words a day. Or make it 50. If all you can muster is ONE SENTENCE a day, then do it. But write something. The only way you get better at writing, is to write. You can go to all the conferences you can afford, take all the classes you can find, or listen to podcasts and videos until your eyes and ears hurt, but your writing won't get better until you write. So write.
It doesn't matter if "it's good." No one is going to read it but you. So write. It doesn't matter if anyone else loves it, or hates it, or if you think "they" wouldn't like, approve, condone, support, or encourage your writing. NOTHING matters but YOU.
"But I can't!" writers wail. Yes you can. You write on Facebook. You write on social media. You leave notes for your kids or spouse. You make lists. You can write. Writing is the act of stringing words together. Stop thinking you have to craft the next great American novel and just write - one word, one sentence at a time. You will get better as a writer. You'll begin to believe you're a writer. Your writing will get better. You'll begin to feel more confident, secure, motivated.
But you have to write. Start a blog with a pen name and write where people don't know who you are. Keep a paper journal. Find something that works for you and write every day. It makes a difference.
Consistency Matters More Than Talent
You don't have to be talented to succeed. You do need to be consistent.