Join me next week for a free workshop: Find Your Ideal Audience: Know Who Your Readers Are, Where to Find Them, and What Engages Them. Friday March 10th at 12:30pm ET. If you can’t make the live call, register anyway and you will receive a video replay of the event. Register here.
Today, I want to talk about the amazing power of books, what lasts, the impact we can have as writers, and finding clarity in one’s creative goals. So, this is a year of milestones for me:
- The 6 year anniversary of my book is next week!
- My 50th birthday is next week, as well.
- The 1-year anniversary of my father’s passing is this month.
- My youngest graduates Kindergarten in June.
- My oldest has his bar mitzvah later in the year.
- My wife and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in October.
Milestones are a strange way to measure our existence. So many of these numbers just look weird to me. It feels like I published that book three years ago. It feels like I can still just call my dad on the phone. It feels like our wedding day was 7 years. Recognizing the milestones, to me, is an important way to honor where we spend our time, and what I do with the time I have now.
I’ve talked a lot about the importance of getting clarity on what you want to create. You can see my Clarity Cards exercise on this. Once you have established a focus for your time and energy, you are left with… the work. In spending so much time with writers, I find that every one of them has their own way of viewing their creative goals. For some, their writing is an escape, a chance to be captured by the muse and experience the bliss of the creative process. For others, it ties into their career aspirations, including financial goals.
I suppose the place I consider is the gap between our intentions and our reality. I was speaking with a writer earlier this week about the concept of treating their writing goals as a job, just as an accountant or plumber would show up every day for an 8 to 10 hour shift. So this could look like showing up each day to write, to navigate the publishing process, finding new ways to share their work, understand their ideal audience, and forge meaningful connections.
But of course, some people resist at this notion of treating creative work as a “job.” Why? Often because so much of their lives are already spent with important obligations, and their writing goals are their one area of freedom. Or perhaps because their goals aren’t driven by the desire for a specific financial outcome.
When I look at the list of milestones above, I can see them in different ways. Of course, there is the sentimental side: the hundreds (thousands?) of times the people have told me that my book truly helped them; or the many amazing conversations I’ve had with my wife; or the pride I feel in seeing my son prepare for a big milestone as he learns and grows.
But another way to view it is the work. The work is often not glamorous. It can sometimes feel unrelenting, thankless, and like it is sapping energy away from other responsibilities or goals.
The milestones we strive for with our creative work are made up of meaningful experiences, mixed with the work to get there. Perhaps this is why I’m so sentimental, and why I love working with writers so much. There is so much discussion about the place of books within our culture at the moment. In an odd way, it is heartening to me. Here we are in 2023, and books matter more than ever. And the work that writers put into creating them, publishing them, and sharing them, helps lead to those moments that matter. Where a reader discovers it. Where someone is immersed in it. Where it sparks a meaningful conversation. Where someone finally feels understood, inspired, or as if a door is unlocked for them.
If you are a writer on the journey to your creative goals, I want to encourage a few things:
- Define the experiences you want to create very clearly. Not just the objects (a book, a painting, an album), but the experiences that happen around this creative work: the conversations, the gatherings, the feelings, the way a work of art can reframe who we are and what we are capable of.
- Be open to aspects of “the work” that you are apprehensive about. Maybe it’s because I help writers with marketing, I often see how that can really paralyze people. If that feels familiar, begin talking to some writers who have published their books about their experience. Forge a path to sharing your work that feels meaningful for you. (Oh, and keep reading my newsletter each week!)
- Set boundaries. Okay, let’s dig into that one more…
I love boundaries. Why? Because boundaries honor your goals. They honor the experiences you hope to fill your daily life with. And for a writer hoping to write and publish a book, and hoping to connect with others around the themes you write about: boundaries are critical! You have only so much energy and time in a given week.
What is one way to set boundaries? Saying “no,” with grace. I’ve done that quite a number of times in the past few weeks:
- I said “no” to an old friend who wanted to have lunch.
- I said “no” to being a guest lecturer at a college continuing education class.
- I said “no” to being the guest on a webinar.
- I said “no” to running a workshop at a creative retreat center.
- I said “no” to a request to deliver some gifts for a local community center.
I mean, I sound like a real jerk, right? So why did I say no to each of these wonderful opportunities? Because in order for me to fully show up for my family and my clients, I have set clear boundaries. Again, this is why I like using Clarity Cards so much, because they allow me to make clear decisions around where I put my energy and time.
For the online speaking events, they were in the evening, which is reserved for family time. That is non-negotiable for me. I turned down the retreat center invitation because I don’t travel for work. At all. Because that disrupts my ability to show up for clients and family.
But that leaves the two more personal things: how on earth can I say no to lunch with a friend, or delivering gifts? What is wrong with me?! Am I a monster?!?!
I hope not. I was clear with my friend that things are so busy now with family and work, that we should revisit this idea later in the year. And for delivering the gifts, I took a very realistic look at the next week, and realized it would truly stress me out. For each of these, I would only be saying “yes” to live up to the perceived expectations of others. And it would affect my mental health in a negative way. I’d rather be 100% honest with people, than to say “yes” purely out of a sense of obligation, knowing it could have negative outcomes that they may not be aware of.
So for each of these, I tried to say “no” as honestly and gracefully as possible. In each case, the person completely understood. Setting these boundaries also allowed me to reply quickly to each person, instead of ghosting them. And it’s worth noting that I’ve said “yes” to plenty of wonderful requests in the past few weeks, including online speaking opportunities. The boundaries are meant to be a process, not a barrier. (And please invite me to things, I try to say “yes” as often as possible!)
6.5 years ago, I came up with an idea for my book by chance. I then wrote the book in 30 days and spent a few months editing it. Here I am, today, still having people discover the book, messaging to me that they loved it, or that it changed how they think about marketing. A book is an amazing thing. For whatever you are creating, whatever your goals may be, I simply want to encourage you to consider the path to get there, and the wonderful experiences that may exist on the other side of it.
Reminder: join me next Friday for a free workshop: Find Your Ideal Audience: Know Who Your Readers Are, Where to Find Them, and What Engages Them. Register here.