How a Major Career Shift Led to 8 Book Deals. My Interview with Illustrator & Author Aura Lewis

Aura LewisToday I’m excited to share my podcast interview with illustrator and author Aura Lewis. She shares her story of making a huge career shift to focus on the arts, how she developed her first book, got a book deal, and then in the last year signed deals for 6 additional books!

You can listen to the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below, or in the following places:

Some of what we discuss in the interview:

  • How she made two shifts in her career: “I was almost going to become a therapist, but made sharp turn to become a graphic designer. I worked in that field for 7 years. But it wasn’t really aligned with what I wanted to do. It took me awhile and a lot of different experimentations to realize I wanted to do illustration. That was a huge shift. It came out of the process of trusting my intuition and the voice saying ‘do this'”
  • The idea for her first book began as a project in graduate school.She said: “I didn’t know if it was good enough to be a book, but I knew it was good enough to show people.”
  • She found her agent through her own network, reconnecting with a colleague she hadn’t seen in years.
  • Even though she was getting her degree, she dug into research into the children’s book market through online research and podcasts, saying “I wanted to give myself the education I didn’t feel I was getting.”
  • Aura embraced collaborators as she developed her book, and she said it made a huge difference.
  • She describes how luck and timing are a part of this process, but of course, the entire interview showcase show much work she has done to be ready for the right moment when it happened.
  • How she handles social media, even though she is an introvert.
  • Describing the career path of illustration and authorship: “”It’s scary, no one ever promises you another book.”
  • She discussed how she schedules her time in terms of writing and illustration and managing projects with the rest of her life. She spends 9am – 2pm doing the bulk of her work, then schedules appointments and social engagements after 2pm when she has less creative energy.
  • … and so much more!

You can find Aura at:
auralewis.com
Instagram: @auralewis
Her books:

I’m making big changes this year

This year I am celebrating 10 years of running WeGrowMedia. Starting this company was a huge risk for me and my family. It was founded just as our first son was born, and I had left a corporate job that had a good salary and benefits. In many ways, it felt like a leap into the unknown.

In that decade, I have worked with thousands of writers and creators, filling my days with the people who inspire me most. It has just been amazing.

As I look to the next 10 years, I have been re-committing myself to the mission behind WeGrowMedia.On January 1, I made some major updates to my website, including a new About page which shares my vision and background with writing and the arts. It also includes this childhood photo of the time I met Muhammad Ali (I’m on the left, and that’s my brother in the back):

For 2020, I have been working with my team on a lot of plans. Here is what you can expect

  1. I want to be radically helpful to writers. This is the core of what I do, and I want to double-down on this. More training, workshops, advice, resources, and simply showing up where writers are.
  2. I’m planning on publishing my second book in June. For years, I’ve been developing two books, and in the past few months I mashed them together (“mashed” is an editorial term you may be unfamiliar with) so that the next book is as good as it can be. I’m not holding anything back. The revised outline is now super-solid, and the 75,000 words I’ve written are going to spend months (and months) going through revisions and edits.
  3. For the latter part of the year, I’m developing a big crazy project that scares me. Something brand new for WeGrowMedia that 100% aligns to my mission, but that I have never tried before. I’ll talk more about this later in the year.

I also made a big change to how I offer the programs where I work directly with writers on marketing, platform, and creative habits. Last year I developed a series of monthlong programs where I would provide personalized feedback to each writer every single week. They went well.

But… (and I’ve been thinking about this for quite awhile)

Maybe you have noticed that when people release online programs and courses, they tend to have these big launches with deadlines. You are inundated with emails telling you about the day the doors close. The emails offer bonus after bonus, reason after reason, that you don’t want to miss out.

Many of these launches rely on “the fear of missing out.” Basically, it is pressuring you to sign up before the opportunity goes away. In reality, this is a highly effective marketing tactic.

But in reviewing my mission for WeGrowMedia, I challenged myself to consider “If my mission is to help writers, wouldn’t I offer that help every single day?”

So I completely revised the way I offer my programs. You can sign up for nearly all of them anytime you want. Here is my brand new programs page, and what I offer:

In every one of these programs, I provide direct feedback to you at every step of the process. I answer all of your questions directly, offer direction and support. If you need help in any of these areas, please considering checking out the programs.

One final thing for today…

Earlier this week I shared my refections on what I have learned from 10 years of running a full-time creative business. You can watch a video of me talking through all of this here:

Or listen to on my podcast.

The truth is that creative work and entrepreneurship can be filled with confusion and doubt. The one thing I have learned is that you simply have to keep showing up. To keep creating. Keep honing your work. Keep bringing new ideas to the table. Keep connecting with like-minded people who are inspired by the same things you are.

Thank you for showing up for me in the last 10 years. I cannot possibly express how much it means to me and my family.

Have you set your intentions for 2020? I’d love to hear them, email me back and let me know. Thanks!
-Dan

Lessons From 10-Years of Running a Full-Time Creative Business

I’m celebrating 10 years of running my business, WeGrowMedia, full-time. In that decade, I have worked with thousands of writers and made space for creativity in my daily life. Today I want to reflect on what that decade has taught me, and how I am using that to set my goals for this year, and for the next decade.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below, or in the following places:

Finding more time to write next year

Today I want to discuss how you can find more time to write and create next year. This is a topic I obsess about, so I want to dig right in…

Challenge Your Own Assumptions

I spend the last quarter of every “year going back to the well” — reconnecting with my creative vision and making strategic plans to make it a reality. (Here is a podcast I recorded talking about that process.)

To find more time to create amidst your otherwise busy life, I want to encourage you to challenge your own assumptions about the time, energy, and process of writing.

Why?

Because all I do every day is talk to writers. They are my clients, members of my mastermind, I interview them, I connect with them via phone, Skype, Zoom, email, text, in-person, and on social media. In these connections, I focus more on the deep conversations than I do on the retweet.

When I ask about their writing process, the answers are always inspiring. These are people who create amidst the cacophony of sounds in their kitchen as kids roam in and out, and 100 other responsibilities beckon. They write in their cars. On their phones. Very early and very late. They write on vacation, in small bouts, and often with interruption.

No one writer does all of those things. What I mean is that writers who actually write have challenged the assumptions of what they need to get it done.

Many writers insist that they need total silence. Unbroken hours. Solitude. A specific writing chair. A well-organized manuscript. Research material at the ready. And perhaps some other mental and physical rituals to properly orient themselves.

If you have that, I genuinely admire that you are able to do so.

But most writers I speak to rarely have that situation. So what they have done is challenge their assumptions about their own creative process.

This is one of the walls in my studio, it is filled with creators who inspire me:

In studying their stories what you find is that each and every one of them created in less-than-ideal scenarios. They created masterful work amidst intense pressure, unbelievable deadlines, with constant distraction, and without the proper resources.

How can you challenge your own assumptions to create 10% more in the new year?

Focus on Craft and Connection

So many writers I speak to are overwhelmed with all they are told they “have to do.” All the “best practices” of writing, publishing, and marketing.

What if you ignored it all. And instead you focused on two things:

  1. Craft: writing more.
  2. Connection: finding meaningful ways to connect your writing to real people.

Instead of looking at the new year and asking “what else can I add?” — you instead see what you can remove. What you do less of. What you ignore. What you get rid of. And you put all of those resources of time and energy into craft and connection.

You become a student of how to fit writing into your life. On how to explore the stories you want to tell. How you can get even better and writing and publishing them. And then… how you can insure that people actually read and connect with them. Change the idea of marketing from something you avoid until you absolutely have to, and instead replace it with a sense of shared purpose.

In the same way that I like to imagine a little village centuries ago… people in town simply know you as ‘the writer.’ The one who creates and shares. And you engage with them as someone who cares about connecting others with story or information.

Too many writers hide their craft, and in doing so, hide their voice.

What if next year, you did the opposite?

Double-Down on Your Creative Vision

Above I mentioned having the goal of writing and connecting 10% more. But what if you wanted to go bolder with your creative vision?

Could you double how much you create next year? Could you double how often you connect with readers next year?

I want to encourage you to really consider what this would look like. I’m sure your daily life is incredibly busy. You likely end the day feeling that you barely had a moment to just stop and breathe and think. But what would your week look like if you found a way to create and connect twice as often?

When could you do it? Where? For how long? What tools would you need?

Then consider, could you do a weeklong test of this process? One week where you create and connect twice as often as all other weeks? Could you try on that investment in your creative vision?

Then, if that isn’t enough, I would encourage you to consider, what would 10x look like? Meaning: creating and connecting 10 times as much as you do now. I totally understand that this isn’t feasible for you in reality, but I find the thought-process to be useful.

What would it take to write 10 times the number of words each week? Or to connect with readers, other authors, booksellers, librarians and the like 10 times more often?

Even if this scenario isn’t likely, it is not entirely impossible. I have friends who suddenly at mid-life decide that they are going to run their first marathon. Or train for their first Ironman. These people have busy day jobs, young kids, and all the responsibilities that come with it. Yet someone, I watch them find 10x more time and energy to train for these massive goals.

And it makes me wonder: what does that look like for a writer?

The Best Way to Ensure Success

The best way to ensure success with any of this? Don’t go it alone.

The writers and artists I speak to who seem to create more often, more consistently, and connect their work to real people in meaningful ways — they don’t struggle alone.

Instead, they have collaborators, colleagues, and a support system of other people.

A lot of writers have this romantic vision of the lone creator, alone in their writing studio. I will admit, I kind of like that vision too, because it is a reminder that one person — one writer — conjures an entire universe. An entire story. An entire book. It’s just so inspiring to consider what one writer can create.

But…

I have spoken with too many writers who struggle alone. If you want to create and connect more in 2020, I strongly encourage you to not go it alone. Find ways of engaging with others who can guide you, help you stay accountable to your creative vision, and inspire you when you need it most.

In our non-writing lives, this is common. For instance, this week I began working with a new trainer for my workouts. Why? Because without a trainer, it’s been like 2 years since I’ve properly worked out.

In the past week that has changed. My trainer has assessed my goals, my schedule, and my health.

He’s written up a clear set of workouts and nutrition plan.

He’s answered my questions, sent me custom instructional videos, and has made himself available anytime to help. He was even texting me on Dec 24 and 25th to check-in.

I mean, imagine that kind of support with your creative goals.

This week I recorded another podcast exploring why you should join a mastermind group. There are so many benefits, all aligned with creating and connecting more.

If you want immediate assistance with all of this, please check out the Creative Shift Mastermind group that I run. We begin January 1, you will spend three months with me directly helping you find more time and energy to write and create.

I share my best advice, answer all of your questions, and provide a support system for your creative process.

Full details are here.

Thanks!
-Dan

Why you should join a mastermind group

Today I review what I have learned in running a mastermind group for writers and artists for the past four years, and why you should consider joining one yourself. I also mention my Creative Shift Mastermind: https://wegrowmedia.com/mm.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking ‘play’ below, or in the following places: