Becoming a Book Author: My Greatest Learnings So Far

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve been in full stream writing my new book on Connectional Intelligence (Macmillan, Feb 2015). It’s been a whirlwind process, lots of work, research, mind share and it’s been one of great learning experiences of my life. 

My experience has made me think a lot about the writing process and what it's all about. Authoring a book is so much more than writing, it's about believing in yourself, generating new ideas, gathering insights, and trusting the process despite challenges that come. 

It’s also made me more aware to practice what I preach.

As I write this book, my big questions are: How do I connect intelligently to get this book into the world? How do I marshal what I know that much more quickly? How do I find and take on supporters? How do I influence the greatest number of people? How do I propel connectional intelligence beyond networking and entertainment and toward a loftier purpose – improving other people’s lives, building sustainable societies, creating the futures we want? In short, how do I get behind this newfound connectivity in ways that are targeted and un-serendipitous, and that get us all to the places we want to go?

Here are some of my greatest real-time learnings from these questions: 

1) Trust the process.

I have to stick with writing process to make it work – breakthroughs don’t happen in an instant, they happen out of years of hard work. 

2) Don’t sweat the small stuff.

There are always little things that get in the way, but they are usually just politics, mindless emails or the ego, focus on the work at hand that really matters. 

3) My schedule is never fully structured.

Sometimes disorganization is okay and the creative process takes shape over time. Since I normally crave structure, I am learning that being in less structure can both keep me more creative and drive me crazy.

4) It's lonely.

Working on new material for the first time is hard and lonely, having supporters is really important to keep me going and energized that there is a larger purpose. 

5) Accept full responsibility of decisions.

There is not someone to “fall back on” when you are authoring a book, it’s about showing up and delivering 100% all the time. 

6) Choose more and choose wisely.

There are plenty of ways to use my time and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by how much information and how many connections are coming at me. Instead I am focusing on what I care most about and what will have the greatest effectiveness for my work.

7) Accept spending more time sleeping on friends couches than in fancy hotels.

This work isn’t glamorous, it’s hard work, involves a lot of travel, international Skype calls at odd hours, early morning emails, and taking care of my health.

8) Believe in yourself despite rejection.

Nothing happens easily, it takes time to find supporters and collaborators for any new ideas. 

Those are just of my few learnings so far, I’m sure there will be many more. 
 

What are you learning about the challenges you face in your life? Any big decisions you are facing? How do you think about “connecting intelligently” to the big challenges that are currently present for you? Thanks for sticking with me through this crazy journey and one of the best learning experiences of my life. 

Wanna go from irregular blogger to tribe leader? 10 Easy Ways to Make it Happen

In my last two posts, I've talked about how to become a writing genius and how to get organized about your writing. Yet we all know writing is only as important as its contribution to others. How can your writing have positive impact on others? How do you convert your writing into a faithful following– and build a movement around what you want to share or teach?

As a writer myself, I believe that Facebook “Likes” and Twitter retweets don’t do much for the people I am most passionate about reaching. Digital natives who understand social media know that there are much more complex and diverse strategies out there that can help any writer convert their writing into their tribe.

Here are my 10 tips to convert your writing into your tribe.

1) Answer these questions for yourself:

  • What is your brand?
  • What are your messages?
  • What do you believe in?
  • Who is your audience and what do you stand for?

These answers are the backbone of your writing strategy. They shape who you spend time writing for, the topics you share, and where you share your writing.

2) Once you decided on your brand,

start a website.

Your website houses your content. It should answer the questions:

  • Who am I?
  • How you can join me?
  • What am I doing?
  • Why am I so important?

3) Use your channels to increase the

presence of your work.

Use search engine visibility and your presence on major platforms and networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) to share your work.

4) Use Twitter to connect with

like-minded individuals.

Follow the content of leaders who you align with. Make twitter lists of people whose writing you like and share their work. Retweet and share your writing with those you admire.

5) Make sure to use Google Analytics!

Keep track of what people are sharing and engaging with. Sometimes a hot headline can make a big difference.

6) Use video.

Hands down? Visual communication is golden—it’s a great way for people to understand who you really are and what you’re all about. Share a video on your website about who you are and what you’re writing about. Don't worry–I'm launching some Bollywood videos soon šŸ™‚ 

7) Create an email marketing

list.

Collect email addresses at every chance you get. Use sites like StreamSend, MyEmma, Mailchimp, or Constant Contact. My fav? Mailchimp! You'll find more about its wonders by signing up to my Generational Alchemy Library on the right hand side here. 

9) Add Google Alerts

Set up a Google Alert for hot topics you want to follow. And google alert your name! You’ll never know otherwise where it might show up.

10) Set up your own office hours

Office hours are a great way to set aside dedicated time to connect with others professionally.  Make intentional dates for on conversations with people about your writing and try ohours.com

A version of this post first appeared at Levo League.

Organize your writing like a genius

In my last piece, I wrote about the nine ways to become a writing genius. The truth is that we would all love to write more, but sometimes we just get stuck. We don’t know how to be disciplined about our writing, get to the finish line, and and it keeps us from doing our best work. Most importantly, beyond just writing, we need time to THINK about our writing and revise our writing. This isn’t about having more work, it's about being more organized around work.

Here are the top 6 tips to turn your writing into a daily practice:

1) Separate time to brainstorm. Sleep on ideas, write them down, read related material and read unrelated articles to your writing. Then go back to them when you’ve had some time to think about them.

2) Have a conversation with someone else about your idea. Exploring ideas with others can make a huge difference. If you can’t meet or talk to someone, write an email to yourself and read it in 2 days. You’ll definitely have evolved thinking within 48 hours.

3) Get ideas into a external form. Even if you don’t know what your writing yet, get it on paper. Sometimes the best ideas come out of a journaling, free flow exercise.

4) Make a writing calendar. Set up intentional time to start thinking about your assignment. Take creative projects and turn them into scheduled appointments. Don’t let them get missed!

5) Make writing social. Form a buddy group and make dates with others to share 1500 words with each other in a writing meeting. Or form a googlegroup and make your own online writing team.

6) Externalize your writing. Have a workspace devoted to writing projects where you can store notes on each projects. I have a physical inbox of index cards of my ideas and my writing. I separate the writing workflow for each piece based on the date its due, the date my draft is due, and the date I will start thinking about the piece.

In my next piece, I’ll discuss how to convert your writing into a following—the essential next step. Stay tuned.

Want more free tools on writing, leadership, and career? Hop over to my FREE Tools and Dance Moves page!

Nine Ways to Become a Writing Genius

It takes time to build a new creative habit. So start now.

A key attribute of leadership is writing: being able to clearly articulate what you want to say in a way that others can hear it.

I never started out as a writer. In fact, I was scared of the idea—being a writer? It didn’t appeal to me. I wasn’t that person. Besides, I didn’t even know how to write. And I kept that story in my head for too many years. Little did I know the amount of creativity it kept just to make myself think that I, indeed, was not a writer.

One day, I decided to just start writing. I was methodical about it: I blocked time one hour each day for writing, and focused on developing my own opinions about the world. From then on, I was hooked.

With zero contacts in the media industry, I had to (again) get creative. I decided to start on Twitter: following editors of places like Huffington Post and Forbes, engaging with them, then emailing them my pieces. I didn’t get responses initially. But I followed up. And followed up. And followed up.

Soon enough, my persistence paid off. I’ve become a writer for both Huffington Post, Forbes, and a number of blogs.

My life is much more focused around writing than it ever has been before. And it’s definitely a practice-makes-permanent activity—in the sense that the more I do it, the easier it is to express my thoughts on paper. In that vein, here are the tricks that got me moving—and will get you going too!

1) Read more and imitate good writing. It’s simple, really: all good writers read. A lot. Not only do good writers read, they are also proactive; they learn from the books and articles they read. So in addition to your reading practice, find one or two great articles to learn from each day.

2) Write like you talk. Seriously. You can be as literal with this as you want. Use a transcriber, or try taping your ideas on Evernote to see what comes from your speaking voice and how that translates on paper.

3) Learn how to play with words. The dictionary is your friend. Use the Hollis and Oxford English dictionary to find great synonyms. And don’t shy away from the thesaurus, either.

4) Edit your sentences and paragraphs.  Look at the average line in your writing—do you see a period? Gauge how long your sentences are. As a general rule, shorter is better—in the sense that were you to err on the side of too-long sentences, you’d be unintelligible (this sentence is a decent example). Here’s any easy way to check your long-sentence habit:

  1. Find three long sentences in your piece.
  2. Divide each into shorter sentences.
  3. Focus on your paragraphs. Are they too long? Too short?
  4. Print out your piece and edit your paragraphs on paper.

5) Make sure that your paragraphs start with a topic sentence.  Write a reverse outline, put all the main points on a sheet and then come up with the title. Make sure the first sentence is very strong and the last sentence is very strong.

6) Get into the habit of cutting everything you write by 20%. Everyone has a different ratio of what is unnecessary versus important, yet 20% is a standard. It will help you focus on the ideas that really matter and will also increase the number of arguments and claims you make.

7) Establish a strong writing workflow. Start the workflow process in advance. Put time into your calendar to dedicate to writing– not only for creation, but also time for reviewing. It is important to make time to start writing early so you have time to dissociate it and then when it’s out of our head, you can work with it a bit more.

8 ) Get an audience. Most of us have, in our academic pasts, only really written for teachers. Having a real reader is someone who actually doesn’t have a stake in what you write will read it simply to learn. For the academic in me, this has helped tremendously!

9) Re-read, re-read, re-read– then aim for emotional diversity. Think about writing a joke, telling a story, sharing something moving and inspiring, or giving a toast. A truly great writer is a mastery over a range of emotions and tones. And adding a little spice to your writing will keep your reader interested.

For more writing tips and career advice, check out my free Tools and Dance Moves page.

A version of this post first appeared at Levo League.

No regrets. Let’s write and dance.

© Neiromobile | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

© Neiromobile | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Do you know the #1 regret women have when I speak to them? Not WRITING or DANCING enough. Boo. I'm going to help here.

In life, there are some things you can do without: the blind date, the cool outfit, the A on a school assignment.

But other things if never attempted may leave you unhappy. These are those real things, that make you shine and come alive.

I know. I used to ignore them. For much of my 20s, I was trying to "do it all” and lived someone else's idea of success, not my own.

It was when I took time off to dance and to write that my dots started to connect. I began to write about what I cared about rather than what I thought I should say. Within just a few months, I began submitting my work and getting published more often, in places like Levo League, The Huffington Post and Forbes. While I’ve always been a longtime dancer, I began daily Bollywood and African dance rituals to get my day started, becoming even sharper in my work on Gen Y leadership, all leading me to speak at Davos this year. In short, I began to own my life rather than letting it own me. And I have never had this much fun or felt nearly as creative and productive as I feel now.

If you want to own your writing and creative process, join Lex Schroeder and I for Ideas that Move: Ground Your Voice and Energize Your Work. This 3 day weekend retreat merges writing and movement practices in Hartland, Vermont (2.5 hours from Boston) on April 19-22.

During this Friday-Sunday extravaganza, you will tap into your own energy to write, claim your writing voice, and step into a new creative flow. Beyond serving as a chance to make real headway on your work, this retreat is an opportunity to move, laugh, and let loose among new friends –that means Bollywood Zumba, results-oriented writing exercises, meditation, and yummy organic food! Read full description here and register by March 25.