“You Have to Shift From Consuming to Creating.” My Interview with Marcus Whitney

Marcus WhitneySomething Marcus Whitney said to me has been bouncing around my mind all week: “You have to shift from consuming to creating.” Today I am excited to share my interview with Marcus, where he shares an inspiring message of what creative power is, and how to turn ideas into action. He has a new book out called Create and Orchestrate: The Path to Claiming Your Creative Power from an Unlikely Entrepreneur. He is also the Co-Founder of the Nashville Soccer Club, Jumpstart Foundry, and Health:Further.

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

You can find Marcus in the following places:
His book: Create and Orchestrate: The Path to Claiming Your Creative Power from an Unlikely Entrepreneur
His podcast: Marcus Whitney’s Audio Universe
Instagram: @marcuswhitney
Twitter @marcuswhitney

Success as a Writer is Joy Inside You and a Connection with Readers. My Interview with Monica Bhide

Monica BhideToday I want to share the inspiring story of how one woman followed her dream to becoming a successful writer. Her journey is filled with amazing wisdom for what it takes to find your voice, get published, and truly have an impact in the lives of readers.

This is how she describes success as a writer: “People misunderstand that to be a writer, or a creative person and to make a living that you need these gazillion million people to follow you. You don’t. You need the small intimate group, the community that makes you feel joy inside and that you can grow with. If you pursue and follow that, the success and money are side effects.”

Let me introduce you to Monica Bhide. In the past 20 years her published books include a novel, poetry, cookbooks, short stories, and inspirational books. She’s also published hundreds of articles for major publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Town & Country.

Incredible, right? But her journey as a writer didn’t begin that way. It began with this:

At age 14 when she first told her father that she wanted to become a writer, his reply was, “You can either feed yourself or become a writer.” Later when she got into university for a degree in journalism she said, “The whole family reacted as if I was going to an insane asylum.” They worried, “How are you going to earn a living with a degree in English or a degree in Journalism?”

She described how that masked what was really going on: “I think what happens is people put their own fears on us. It’s a projection. What they are really saying is ‘I couldn’t do this and I struggled with this, so I want to protect you.”

In truth, her love of writing came from her father, who talked about his appreciation of poetry, reading, and discussions about books.

Like many people who dream of creating, she put her creative aspirations on the back burner as she went to school and developed her career. But that dream found a way to tap her on the shoulder and remind her how important it was:

“I was living the American Dream. I had the six-figure job, I had the house, I had everything. Yet, every morning when I would wake up, it was like a part of me was dying. It sounds horrible to say that, because there is so much to be grateful for. But I wasn’t all there, and it started showing up in my health. I was constantly unhappy. The number of medications on my counter were growing, and I didn’t know why. I didn’t know why I was getting sick.”

Monica dreamed of storytelling, specifically around food. How did she start to embrace this? It was in an online community where foodies talked about food. This was back in the 1990s.

“It was finding a community of interest, more than a writing outlet, that sparked the creativity, that sparked the inspiration that made me want to tell the story. I was literally just talking, I wasn’t preparing essays and writing. I belonged to a group that understood my passion. It was a safe place to be.”

But then something shook Monica to her core, a good friend died suddenly. It made her realize that if she dreamed of writing, she had better take action now. Because there may not be time later.

“I remember looking around at my little cubicle at work thinking, I’ve been putting off my dream of writing, waiting until I retire when I’m 60 or 70. I was 34 at the time, and I thought, what if I don’t make it to 35? What if? It happened to her. It could happen to any of us. My whole world was destroyed. I remember going home, sitting down and thinking to myself: I need to leave this job, I need to do what I want to do, which is write. So I quit my job.”

Not long after, she got a few stories published, but still felt that she didn’t have enough connections to get the writing assignments she wanted from magazines and newspapers. She didn’t know how to pitch, and didn’t feel she had a presence in the industry.

She decided to change that. What she did next blew me away.

“I went to Kinkos and printed out all of my stories. I went to Michael’s and purchased these brown flat wooden trays, came home and spray painted them red. I had 15 trays, I put all my articles in that, covered it with Saran Wrap and a bow.”

“I took an Amtrak train to New York City and went to every single food magazine office that I could think of. I knew the name of each editor, but that’s all I knew. I would take one of my trays up, this was back when you could go up to an office and talk to the receptionist and say, “Hi there Gourmet magazine! This is for Jocelyn Zuckerman, can you give this to her?” They would ask if she knows who I am, and I would say no. I would just sit there and they would go into the editor.”

“Out of 15 editors, 10 to 12 came out and talked to me, and I got assignments from all of them. This is not luck. This is me putting my ego in the back seat and going in and getting doors slammed in my face, which I did. Somebody told me I was crazy to even think about doing this. But I said to myself this is now or never, this is my chance, jump in.”

From these meetings she got an assignment from Gourmet magazine, who sent her to Dubai to write an article.

When I asked how she came up with this idea, she said, “99% of it is inexperience. I didn’t know any better. They were getting so many pitches by email and mail. I considered, how would they remember me if I was one of 900 emails that came that week? Would they know I’m different enough. My goal behind this entire exercise was that even if only one of them remembers my name, I’ve done my job.”

For pursuing writing she says, “The opportunity cost was so high. I left a job. I had gone against everything I had learned as a child, and I was like: I’ve got to give it my all. Then, if I fall on my face, at least I can go down saying I tried. I really really tried. That was the most important thing. I loved writing, I loved telling stories, I loved connecting with people.”

And it began to work, ““I started writing about food for many different places. For the first two or three years of freelancing I must have written 100 articles a year. I would write for anybody and everybody, and pray that it brings in more work.”

Monica became more and more successful as a writer, but that didn’t mean that that path to publication was easy. She talked about having a well-known author give a personal introduction to his editors. Even then, she got rejection after rejection. The editor may have loved Monica’s writing, but they may not have felt it had a big enough audience, or fit within their own editorial vision.

This is something that comes up often when I interview writers and artists in my podcast. To truly find success as a creative professional requires stamina and consistent outreach. It means continuing on through rejections in order to find the opportunities that others miss.

She had some books published by traditional publishers, but eventually embraced self-publishing. She described it this way, “I created my own little group of readers. Not millions of people, not hundreds of thousands of people, but maybe a few thousand. I have my readers, I put my books out, they read it, they give me feedback, I write my next book. I decided that [traditional publishing] wasn’t for me. I was wasting more energy trying to figure out what they wanted than what I wanted to write.”

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

You can find Monica in the following places:
Instagram: @monicabhide
Twitter: @mbhide


Make Every Moment a Creative Moment, with Author Michael La Ronn

Michael La RonnAuthor Michael La Ronn has already written three books this year, and he will likely write three more before the year is done. Today I want to explore how he is able to fill his life with creativity, infusing writing into all he does.

It’s worth framing all he is responsible for in a given week:

  • He is married and has a five year old daughter, plus a dog and a rabbit.
  • He has a full-time job working in insurance at a Fortune 100 company
  • He is the author of more than 50 books, mostly fantasy, science fiction, and self-help for writers.
  • He is going to law school on nights and weekends.
  • He is a part-time teacher of insurance classes.
  • He posts a weekly video to his YouTube channel.
  • He posts a weekly podcast.
  • He is the outreach manager at the Alliance of Independent Authors.

I’m not going to lie, I’m exhausted just writing all that out, let alone considering how he does it all. And somehow, he makes it work. When I last interviewed him two years ago, he was already writing 10 books per year on average. This week I talked to him to discuss how he sustains this, and how the pandemic has (and hasn’t) changed his process.

Invest in Mental Health First

When I asked how his creative process has changed because of the pandemic, he said that he first invested in his mental health. He decided to sleep an extra hour each day, because he treats mental health as the foundation of all he does in life.

I loved hearing that, this idea that rest is a critical part of creativity and work. He says, “If you don’t have your mental health in shape, it’s gonna be difficult.” He is trying to use this period of time to feel more grounded and improve his own creative process. That begins with sleep and mental health.

Make Every Moment a Creative Moment

How will Michael write 6 books this year? By ensuring he can create wherever he is, and let tiny moments of creativity add up to an incredible body of work. He put it this way:

“Before the pandemic, I wrote 40% of the words on my phone — in the backseat of an Uber car, in the waiting room at the doctor’s office. Little moments adds up. I use the Scrivener app on my phone. That is how I learned to be really efficient. The most important thing you can do is to master the tools of your trade. If you can master those, then you can be more efficient.”

It is inspiring to see how he changes the context of everyday moments to turn them into creative experiences. He tracks how many words he writes on what platform (computer vs phone) so that he can understand the importance of that tool, and the process.

Focus on What You Can Control

As Michael and I discussed the way the pandemic has shifted his process, he talked about how he was focusing on the things he could control, not the things he couldn’t.

“I asked myself when all of this started: when this is all done, what do I want my story to look like? What did I do for my family, for myself, for my readers.”

Michael is so intentional about where he puts his attention and energy. He didn’t just focus on disruption, he instead envisioned what he can create.

Fail in the Short Term to Succeed in the Long Term

He said that he pursues so many different fields — in law, writing, and his job — as insurance for the future. So that he has more options for success.

“The decision I made to be so busy are hedging my bets against the future, and having something to fall back on. I’m going to allow myself to fail as often as possible, because failure is a far better teacher than success. This helps me become a smart, better, and more efficient writer.”

This is something that came out again and again in our chat, how every experience in his life is something he viewed through the lens of how it makes him a better writer. Everything is geared towards craft, even things that someone else may think are separate. Michael talked about how his day job in insurance makes him a better writer, and how going to law school makes him a better writer. All the pieces fit for his clarity of his goals.

“For me, everything I learn at work, I can bring it over to my writing, and vice versa. One of the only reasons I went to law school is so that I can become a better writer. So I could learn copyright law, learn business, all those things that writers need to know, but don’t know.”

He encouraged people to not have a wall between work life and personal life. To bring what you learn from one to the other. I think that allows someone to be in the writing mindset all the time.

Don’t Let Impostor’s Syndrome Stop You

When I asked him about impostor’s syndrome, he shared advice that a mentor once gave him about how he can work through it. If he ever feels impostor’s syndrome about a specific task or goal, he asks himself these three questions:

  1. Can I learn?
  2. Can it advance my career?
  3. Can I influence people moving forward?

So he focuses on how each action he takes moves his writing process forward, and his career forward. He reframes the thinking that stops so many other people. Again, his creative clarity is just so inspiring, and it’s amazing how it leads to clear actions he takes each day to create and share.

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

You can find Michael in the following places:

Generosity, Social Media, and Living Your Mission as a Writer, With Author/Illustrator Jarrett Lerner

Jarrett LernerWhen I first noticed author/illustrator Jarrett Lerner, he was using his Twitter account to constantly celebrate other authors and books. His generosity got him noticed. The result? 20,000+ followers. His first book was published in 2017, his second in 2019, and he has 9 more books in the works to be published within the next two years. In today’s conversation, I talk to Jarrett about what it means to live your mission as a writer, and what that daily work of creating and sharing looks like. 

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

You can find Jarrett in the following places:
His books
Twitter: @Jarrett_Lerner
Instagram: @Jarrett_Lerner

“What Can I Create?” The Powerful Question to Navigate Change, with Jenny Blake

Today I talk to author Jenny Blake about how to navigate change and uncertainty. Her book, Pivot, The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One, showcases her process for this, but our chat goes deeper. When everything shut down in March, her entire speaking and workshop business got “wiped out.” This is an honest conversation not just about managing the strategy of having a creative career, but how to manage the emotions of it as well. 

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

You can find Jenny in the following places:
Pivot Podcast
Her book: Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One
Twitter: @jenny_blake
Instagram: @jennyblakenyc