Writing a book is one thing; publishing it is another. The publishing world is changing and opportunities abound, but authors these days have to be publicists, speakers, social media experts, entrepreneurs, advocates, and experts. Even fiction and creative nonfiction writers have to show up as authorities in their fields. This is called “positioning.” Have you thought about how will you position yourself and your work?
As a memoirist you might argue that you are the expert of your life or that you are an expert in writing. After all, you wouldn’t be writing a memoir if you weren’t also learning (and hopefully mastering) the art and craft of writing. But what is your memoir about? Is it about growing up on a farm in the Midwest? Winning your fight against cancer? Running ten marathons in two years? A memoir doesn’t chronicle one’s whole life; it tackles a part of one’s life and is organized around an event, circumstance, or issue.
My memoir is about how I cured chronic stomach problems and began living my dreams. But telling my story is only half my work. The other part is ferretting out and connecting with readers. To do this I must ask, who are my readers? What is my target audience? I need to be specific. It’s not enough to say my readers will be women who like reading memoirs. My readers must resonate with my subject. For example: I’m writing about raw, vegan food; healing body, mind, and spirit; and personal transformation. My readers will likely be people interested in the raw vegan lifestyle, people seeking greater health, happiness and personal transformation, and people seeking alternative healing opportunities involving body, mind, spirit. My readers will be people interested in cultivating consciousness and living a life filled with abundant energy and vibrant health. This was my goal eight years ago when I began the journey I’m writing about today. I wanted a life filled with vibrant health and abundant energy.
Last week I posted on Facebook that adopting a raw, vegan diet was the first step in moving from victim to co-creator of my life. Never have I felt so alive with vibrant, creative energy than I do now! Yet my work sometimes feels unending and overwhelming. When I start feeling like an octopus with a double set of arms swirling in multiple directions, I remind myself of this story:
A university professor holds a jar filled with rocks up in front of his classroom and asks his students, “Is this jar full”?
“Yes,” the class says, since the jar is obviously filled with rocks.
Then the professor pours sand into the jar. The sand settles into the spaces between the rocks. “How about now?” he asks. “Is the jar full?
“Absolutely,” the class responds, noting there’s no room left in the jar.
The professor then pours a glass of water into the jar, and asks, “What’s the moral of the story?”
The class is silent.
“Put your big rocks in first,” the professor says.
This is great advice for navigating life as well as school, but it helps to know what your big rocks are. Mine are my creative and spiritual practices: journal writing, meditation, practicing yoga, dancing, and reading. When I neglect these activities, my life doesn’t work well. I become anxious, confused, and crabby. Putting my big rocks into my day first doesn’t grow my business, get my chores done, or involve being accountable to anyone but me, but the extent to which I am able to show up for myself in these ways reflects not only on my productivity but also on my joy!
What are your “big rocks”? I’d love to hear about them.
I recently came upon this quote by American existential psychologist, Rollo May: “Real creativity is not possible without anxiety. In many ways, it’s the price of admission to the artist’s life.”
For years this kind of thinking not only legitimized my suffering, it inspired me to cling to it. I had chosen a creative life. Anxiety was to be expected, right? Wrong!
I’m anxious when I’m identifying with my ego instead of my Spirit. I’m anxious when I’m fearful and when I doubt myself. I’m anxious when I think I’m all there is. When I disregard my connection to every living thing and to source energy. I’m anxious when I think I need to be someone I’m not, or when I’m under the delusion that who I am or what I do is not enough. I’m anxious when I think I’ll never get what I want. When I spiral into negative, unconscious thinking. When I forget I have the ability to choose my thoughts, which create my emotions as well as my life experience. I’m anxious when I disconnect from my inner wisdom and intuition. I’m anxious when I shut myself down, when I think I’m alone at my desk and ignore my many guides (both physical and spiritual). I’m anxious when I’m unaware, when I let my thoughts race unchecked over horrific landscapes, when I could, with a bit of consciousness, choose to dwell on my opportunities and gifts.
Sure, writers—all artists—are sensitive, but we have a choice about where and how to focus our attention. We can choose what to believe about others and ourselves. And as we make these choices, we create our lives.
Writers are not the only people who tell themselves stories. Everyone does this. What story are you telling yourself?
I’m done thinking anxiety is the price I pay for being a writer. That story had me believing if I followed my bliss, if I wrote what needed to come forward, my husband would leave me, my parents would disinherit me, and I’d end up homeless on the streets—or worse, institutionalized in a mental hospital.
I believe what’s written in the gnostic gospels:
If you bring forth what is within you,
what you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you,
what you do not bring forth will destroy you.
This has been my experience. Speaking my truth, saying what needs to be said, bearing witness to my life experience is liberating, and has set me free. It’s when I don’t write, when I’m afraid to face and bring forth what’s pressing to be explored that I suffer.
We’ve come a long way in consciousness since May published his first book in 1969, and as we continue to evolve I hope not only writers, but every person alive on our planet will understand that anxiety need NOT be the price of admission to a vibrant, active creative life! All it takes to turn this paradigm around is a new story and a bit of faith. So have at your creativity—and enjoy it!