The other night I dreamed a friend told me to “stop talking!” The directive pertained to my memoir, Raw: My Journey from Anxiety to Joy, and it stung because, as a newly published author, it’s my job to talk about my book.
Over the past few weeks I’ve done ten radio and podcast interviews, attended four in-person book-related events (eight more to go between now and November), and had eleven articles and/or interviewspublished (or soon-to-be published).
I’m thrilled to be having conversations with like-minded people about subjects I care about deeply: creativity, consciousness, health and healing. My media involvement has connected me with readers, helped me sell books, and boosted my platform as well as my business because readers have reached out to me for coaching. It’s the connections I make with others I find most gratifying. My tribe is forming.
Still, my dream roused old negative thoughts that harkened back to childhood admonitions such as, “Don’t call attention to yourself,” “Keep quiet,” and “Who cares?”
“Just shut up already!” a pest of an inner voice said, echoing my friend’s chastisement, which felt like an ominous warning.
Luckily, before the dream ended, another friend appeared. “Really?” she countered. “You’re going to fall for that again? Why even engagewith a voice that tells you to ‘just shut up’! When was the last time you said that to somebody other than yourself?”
“Never,” I acknowledged. When I woke up and had a minute to contemplate my dream, I could see how untrustworthy—and definitely not “friendly”—that message was. So I dismissed it. I let it go.
That “shut-up-already” voice is related to the ambition that drove me hard for decades. Last summer I went into overdrive researching publicists. I spoke to fifteen (and their references). Looking back, my conscientious due diligence stemmed from caring a little too deeply about being seen. I felt a quiet, desperate need for my book to be successful—as if it were linked to my worth. It’s not. What we do isn’t who we are. And our value is inherent.
According to my publisher, Brooke Warner, a “successful” book earns back its costs over three years. The measurement she’s referring to is in book sales earnings, but for me, as a teacher and coach, my book has already been successful because it has expanded my practice. I’ve added anxiety coaching to my offerings. And I’ve loved working with new clients in this arena. It’s an incredible feeling when someone reaches out wanting to work with me because they’ve read my book. One new client bought Raw because she resonated with the raw food component, and, like me, had no idea she suffered with anxiety—until she read my book. Another new client has a powerful urge to tell her own story, after having read mine. She’s determined to speak up on her own behalf, to send her own pests packing. Another client started working with me because of midlife anxiety issues, which have now settled, allowing us to move on to conversations about what’s next.
Living full out takes courage. I love that word: courage. Its root, “cour” means heart in Latin. Living with heart is what I want most. I’ll be “successful” if I practice living with more heart, and less fear.
Here’s what I’ve learned from book publicity (and from life) over these six weeks of being a published memoirist: When I’m grateful for what shows up, more goodies materialize. When I focus on what I don’t have, I suffer. Gratitude or scarcity. It’s up to me. I get to choose how to interpret my experience.
Also, outcomes are not my job. It’s enough to show up and do my best—whether that’s in writing or promoting my book.
When I speak to writers, students, and clients who desperately want their books to be successful—and this looks different for each person—I invite them to consider what’s fueling their ambition. Does wanting their book to be on the New York Times bestseller list come from a genuine desire to share what’s in their heart for the good of something greater than themselves? Or does it stem from something less noble? Does it come from a craving for recognition or legitimacy? Is it emanating from the heart or from unconscious, fearful thinking?
No amount of external validation will create lasting satisfaction or peace if you believe negative inner voices that tell you you’re not good enough. Accolades and achievement may create moments of joy, but they’ll be short-lived. Soon you’ll be onto your next goal—striving hard as ever, pushing and forcing your way through life and work, fighting, perhaps grumbling—and this is exhausting. And unnecessary. When you realize you’re fine the way you are—that you don’t need to achieve anything or be anything more than you are—you can let out a deep breath. You can trust your experience, release worry and fear, and enjoy the ride.