How to write what you know when it hurts too much to talk about in public

How to write what you know when it hurts too much to talk about in public

So much has happened to get you to where you are - so many terrible mistakes and private joys and worrisome truths. There’s an inherent challenge embedded in “write what you know” when what you know is too private or stressful or in-process to share in public.

And, "write from the heart" is a downright punishing statement if you’re a healer or a clinician who helps people solve problems and find peace and happiness when your own daily life is full of conflict and confusion and frustration.

15 Stories that Will Help You Find Your Way Through the Holidays

15 stories that will help you find your way through the holidays | short stories collected by writing and storytelling coach Marisa GoudyIt’s the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and the sun has some climbing to do before it reaches the horizon. The house quakes in the wind and I’m unaccountably sad that there are trucks collecting garbage in the freezing darkness of rural New York November. Somehow it seems tragic and strange that we live in a world that doesn’t have enough daylight hours to deal with its trash. Perhaps my cozy, privileged little bout of worry is forcing story into the hands of those hardened waste collection warriors.

It’s just a paycheck, lady, they might say. You keep to your words and those gigantic cups of tea, and we’ll work at the edges of the day to keep the world running smooth enough for the storytellers and the dreamers and mothers and all the rest who create pretty things for a living. After all, someone has to keep clearing away the scraps to reveal all that beauty you’re looking for.

Stories always find a way. Stories help us find the way.

That. That right there. That little paragraph is proof that there are stories waiting to be revealed in every conversation - real or imagined. Stories lurk in every moment of reflection. Stories even hide in the noisy blackness of a Hudson Valley back road at six AM.

Stories guide us toward the dawn. Stories anchor our worries and our blessings so they become real enough to be spoken aloud.

I didn’t wake up this early to fret over America’s waste problem or its labor practices, though both would be worthy preoccupations in their own time. I’m at my desk because I’m sleepless with stories and gratitude.

I’m here to offer 15 tiny gifts that are all more enduring than the latest soul shaking headline or the worries that race through your mind.

Each story you read, each story you write: it’s a gift.

Early in 2016, 15 writers answered a call.

Fifteen writers joined me for my frightfully ambitious #365StrongStories project. Each contributed a story - of birthing, of dying, of living in spite of all the pain that these simple events bring forth.

With their contributions, each writer lightened the burden of a daily writing project that ended up demanding too much from me. After well over one hundred posts, in May I abandoned my promise to tell a story each day. My life wasn’t designed to produce and publish a story 365 times in a row. I’m not sure that anyone who is dedicated to tending and protecting her creative source would want to force herself into such an arrangement.

But the writers who joined me were doing so much more than helping an overcommitted #365project sister out. Each story was a gift: for me, for the readers, and for the writer who gave herself permission to lavish attention on her own tale.

It’s not to be taken lightly, this work of shaping ideas into something that has a beginning, middle, and end. Turning twenty-six letters into a code we can all understand and then deftly splicing and slicing the words in their own divinely inspired order so that they make a story… that’s alchemy. And alchemy is transformational magic.

[tweetthis]This work of shaping ideas into something with a beginning, middle & end is not to be taken lightly[/tweetthis]

15 short story shaped gifts for you & yours this Thanksgiving

And so, now that the sky is brightening and it’s time to launch my girls into one more school day before the Thanksgiving break, I want to take a moment to thank each writer and to offer their stories to you as the gifts that they are.

Before the family arrives, before you’re up to your elbows in stuffing and sage, and before you have that next glass of wine, read a few of these stories.

May they offer comfort. May they offer inspiration. May they remind you of what you have lost and what you still might find.

Meet the #365StrongStories guest storytellers

Read Doubt and Annie D. by Suzi Banks Baum when you’re rumbling with creativity, self-doubt, and missing your babies.

Read Knowing Motherhood by Barb Buckner Suárez when you’re struggling to find your own voice while still honoring those who taught you to speak.

Read Echo Grandma by Evelyn Asher if you’re separated from your loved ones and are seeking creative ways to connect.

Read When Elder Becomes Child by Tania Pryputniewicz if you’re carrying a parent as you hold tight to stories of the way life used to be.

Read The Woman and Her Irishman by Brenna Layne if you have an ancestral mystery to solve.

Read Traveling Distances by Peggy Acott when you’re journeying to a meal you’re never going to forget.

Read Luis: A Study in Breath by Liz Hibala because we share this holiday with our animal companions too.

Read As I Remember It by Ginny Taylor because the past is often full of pain and survival and we need to honor those memories.

Read The Inconvenient Allure of Solitude by Maia Macek if you just want to slip away from the table to be blissfully alone.

Read Dance Camp by Sara Eisenberg because you need to experience your body through movement, not through overeating.

Read Walking Home by Dawn Montefusco because you need to root into your core beliefs… especially when certain members of the family start talking politics.

Read Stand Here by Stan Stewart if someone in your family is struggling with addiction.

Read The Martyrville Messenger by   Lois Kelly if a loved one’s illness keeps you close to home this year.

Read Up the Mountain by  Sharon Rosen to dive into the sensations of the body and savor the blissful and the brutal.

Read Never Evens by Kelsey Rakes to prepare yourself for the unexpected - especially if you’re expecting.

Are you ready to tell your own authentic, compelling stories? Learn how the Story Triangle can transform your writing and your practice.

Get Your Free Storytelling Guide

Stop asking your writing to be original. Ask it to be meaningful.

What do I have to say about how to live a good life that hasn't been shared or said a million times before?

Jonathan Fields asks this question in the introduction to his brand new book How to Live a Good Life.

I know you've asked yourself the same thing. My clients wonder - and worry - about this all the time. I know I've wasted too much delicious writing time stressing about whether the world needs my words.

Truth is, whatever it is, it's almost definitely been said before.

You probably don't need proof on this one, but here it is. I had written most of this post before I picked up Jonathan's book and saw my own concerns reflected back at me. But, he wrote on and trusted his voice. Since that's what I invite people to do every day and since I do try to take my own advice, I'm publishing this anyway.

A loving reminder for you, the writer who is afraid to dive into a big topic because the luminaries in your field have already written brilliant books on the subject:

Write It Anyway | Marisa Goudy, Writer & Storytelling CoachWRITE IT ANYWAY

The big names... they're fulfilling their mission to awaken and inspire the multitudes. The rest of us - the brilliant "not yet household names" and the beautiful "don't care to ever be household names" -  right now, our mission is to make those messages REAL for people.

A reader may be ready to change everything thanks to Love Warrior, but all Glennon can do is inspire from afar. Daring Greatly may crack a vulnerable heart wide open, but Brene isn't a clinician, she's a researcher. Jonathan charges $1000/hour for consulting, and while I believe that's a completely worthy investment for certain people, there's a lot of vital, sustainable work to do at the $100/hour level too.

You're in the transformation business, not the originality business

The desire to transform, to be happy, to lead meaningful lives? These are timeless human needs. Wise people have been trying to crack the good life code and help others do the same from the very beginning. (Honestly, listen to Rob Bell's series about the Wisdom tradition and prepare to be amazed at how ideas presented in the ancient Hebrew feel utterly contemporary.)

Yes, all the truth tellers in the world of transformation, healing, and consciousness are essentially talking about similar things. That happens when people start discussing what's true and what's real.

As a healer, a therapist, or a coach it's part of your job to take the stuff "everybody" talks about and make theses truths your own. And, it's your job to help people own these truths.

You dive in and connect these big, ubiquitous concepts to your own stories. You bring the essence of who you are to the page. You don't speak to everyone, you speak to the ones who you wish to serve.

And then you put your work on your blog or in elsewhere in your marketing because you know people who are seeking and hurting need your perspective - and your help.

That's how you show your potential clients that you get it, that you get them. That's how you build a business and change your corner of the world.

It's not about being the first and only creature to share an idea. It's about speaking the right words in the right tone to the people who have access to you and your transformational magic.

It's about making meaning and building a connection with the people who matter.

Write it anyway. Write it now. Click the button for a printable PDF that will remind you to make it happen.

End writer's block now.

The 5 Traps that Silence Writers In Troubled Times (And How to Escape Them)

The 5 Traps that Silence Writers In Troubled Times (And How to Escape Them) by Storytelling and Writing Coach Marisa GoudyEvery time I see a well-considered, from-the-heart blog post that seems to further a writer’s personal and professional mission, I’m impressed. When I see such a piece during the summer of 2016, I’m in awe. There are so many forces that conspire to silence us and get us to put off this week’s blog post, video, or newsletter. Some are external forces that are rocking the nation and the world. Some of the troubles that silence you are more internal affairs.

All end up being deeply personal because these are the forces that influence the way you understand and craft your stories and how you share them with your readers and clients.

Yes, we need periods of silence and introspection to process difficult events and develop a truth-filled response rather than a knee jerk reaction. But we can’t stay in analysis paralysis.

As a professional in the transformation business, it’s part of your job to create content that speak to the worries and preoccupations of the day. It’s not about taking sides, It’s about considering what your ideal readers might be thinking and offering the healing and the insights that help them make sense of collective and personal struggles.

[tweetthis]In the transformation business? It’s your job to write content that speaks to the events of the day[/tweetthis]

And, your transformation work also includes staring your own demons in the face so you can show up to share your unique medicine with your ideal clients and readers.

So, what’s keeping you from sharing your stories and ideas?

The 5 Traps that Silence Writers

The passage from silence to speaking and sharing your truth begins with understanding. Let's take a moment to look within and figure out what’s causing the words to catch in your throat. Once you know the “why” behind your publishing slump you’ll be freed to take the steps toward healing, writing, and sharing.

Trap # 1: You’re concerned that there’s so much tragedy out there, and you have nothing to helpful to contribute

“There are no words” and “my heart is too heavy” are common statements in the summer of 2016 when we’ve watched violence erupt across America and across the world. These are perfectly human, worthy responses to Stanford, Orlando, Falcon Heights, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Nice, and other healdines.

Illegitimi non carborundum (don't let the bastards grind you down) | Marisa Goudy | Storytelling and Writing CoachWhen the shock has worn off, can you see it as part of your work to add light to the collective darkness? Whether it’s in alignment with your message to say “illegitimi non carborundum” or offer prayers or write an impassioned response to the injustices that you see before you, when you have a community built around your ideas and services, you do have something meaningful to say.

The people who trust you and your work will be grateful that you’re helping make sense of this senseless season of strife.

[tweetthis]Keep writing. Your readers will be grateful you’re making sense of this senseless season of strife[/tweetthis]

Trap #2: It feels wrong to do business as usual when so many people are suffering

In this spirit of full disclosure, this is the misconception that has silenced me for most of the summer. I couldn’t even write into the idea directly (hence this more broadly focused post!).

Thank goodness for my digital community of wise entrepreneurs and writers. With deep gratitude, I share Carrie Klassen of Pink Elephant’s brilliant response: How can we talk about our businesses when the world's on fire?

Yes, we can talk about business even when the news feeds are full of sorrow and anger and fear. In fact, as healers and world changers, we must.

Trap #3: You’re listening to the inner critic’s whispers of “not good enough”

Regardless of the state of the world, this is a perennial problem for so many of us. What can you do about that critical voice? Write more.

Yes, it’s for all the reasons you might expect. Practice will make you a more clear, efficient, effective, and engaging writer who knows herself and her readers.

But, there’s another reason.

When you commit to a regular writing practice (can you imagine writing two, three, or more times per week?) you become stronger than your inner critic. She’ll be huffing and puffing with her head between her knees while you’re conquering the next blog post with confidence and grace.

Trap #4: You’ve decided that it’s too noisy online and there are too many content creators competing to be seen

When you decide that the blogosphere or podcast ranks or Amazon top sellers lists are too saturated that doesn’t mean you’re being realistic. It means you’re letting fear take over.

Worrying over the audience that will not show up is just another manifestation of your doubt and not-good-enoughitis.

Maybe by telling you my story you can better tell yours which is the only way home, Mary Karr #365StrongStoriesSo, if you are the sort of writer who can drop into the flow of ideas but never gets the beyond the first draft journaling stage or if you’re someone who rarely writes at all because “no one is listening,” consider this:

The world - or, more specifically, your circle of ideal readers - they do need to hear from you! They need your insights, your solutions, and the magic and the medicine that only you can serve up.

Every big time author and internet famous thought leader started somewhere… they started with the belief that there are people who needed their help and their stories.

Trap # 5: There’s too much going on in your own life right now and the stories are all too in-process

Ok, so maybe there are two big reasons that I find it hard to get into the public writing flow.

Summertime is always complicated for a mother of young children, Add in those trips to the lawyer’s office and the endless charity deliveries that are part of selling my mother-in-law’s house and preparing for her to move in with us… I need to ask you, dear reader, to read between the lines and understand that many of my stories from the home front are pretty raw and unfit to print.

Be gentle with yourself when you’re living the story and trust that there will be time to write it… eventually.

If you’re in the messy middle of something and don’t dare to tell the stories you, check out these past posts:

For the “just get it done, lovie!” perspective, try this post.

If you’re in the sort of mood where a phrase like “If you stick around your professional online haunts even when you feel like an emotionally crippled zombie, you risk your sanity - and potentially your reputation” appeals to you, try this one.

The remedy is in the stories

When everything is beautiful, we need to tell and receive stories. When everything feels like it’s going to hell, we really need to share our stories.

[tweetthis]When everything is beautiful, we need stories. When life is hell, that's twice as true. #writing[/tweetthis]

Need help unlocking your stories? Wishing you had a concrete reason to quit planning to blog and actually start writing for the readers that need your unique message? Check out the You, Your Stories, and Your Audience course. There's a summer deal running between now and Labor Day and I would love you to save some money and get writing while the sun is still shining high in the sky!

You, your story, and your audience ecourse for therapists, healers, and coaches by writing coach Marisa Goudy


This is why your audience missed your best story

If they can sleep through fireworks #365StrongStoriesIn a third floor loft with giant skylights opening on the fading summer dusk, two small children closed their eyes and fell asleep. This isn’t much of a story until you understand that it’s Independence Day on Cape Cod at a condo just a few blocks from the beach.

The mother watches the glow of fireworks on her children’s slack cheeks before she slips into her own oblivion. There are families saying “ooooh!” and “ahhhh!” all across the neighborhood, but the booms and cracks are just a lullaby to everyone at 19 Grove Lane.

This two year-old and this six year-old have come to their grandparents' house to be stuffed with marshmallows and wrapped in red, white, and blue dresses. This is the week when bedtime is a fairytale and adults hurry kids to get to the beach to catch the tide, not to get out the door to catch the bus. We are a family who believes in much of the patriotic excess of July 4.

But just not this year.

That word might not mean what you think it means - at least not to everyone

Vacation only has 8 letters, but it has a billion different meanings. For some, it’s hammocks and lemonade. For others, it’s mouse ears and princesses. For some it's hanging off a cliff or shooting down the rapids.

Then there are those who use the word to describe packing up the kids and throwing them into a house with a bunch of people who share the same gene pool but enjoy vastly different daily lives. We then add in some sand, salt, sugar, and pour adult beverages on top of it all and V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N spells emotional and physical marathon full of the joys of victory and the agony of defeat.

Vacation looks a lot more like survival (another 8 letter word) than relaxation.

In our case, July Fourth fell on the fifth day of our holiday and we were too worn out to care about sparklers or bonfires or the rockets red glare.

It’s Not Your Fault Your Audience Couldn’t Tune Into Your Story

If my kids and I could drift off during a huge fireworks display set off a few thousand feet from our beds, your ideal readers could definitely miss your blog post. Heck, your audience may well miss the fact that you’re blogging or podcasting or newslettering at all!

We live in a world of distraction. We live in a world of too much stimulation and too little human stamina to take it in - even when it’s wonderful, even when we said we were coming to town just to experience it, even when it’s part of being happy enough 21st century Americans who hold out some hope that Washington will look like Jed Bartlet’s city some day.

Yes, it might occasionally be you, the storyteller, who needs to shift the story to meet the needs and interests of the audience.

But it’s likely that you’re telling a splendid tale and pitching it at just the right people but they’re just too full or too tired or too preoccupied to absorb it.

So what do you do?

You can always try again next year when everyone is a little older and wiser, but the good news is that you probably don’t have to wait 365 days to try to put on the show again.

If you’ve got a story that you believe in, keep nudging it into the world. Not with pyrotechnics that wake the neighbors. Not in some annoying, spammy “read my post, dear Facebook group I never participate in unless it’s for self-promo!” sort of way.

Share it in a way that feels like an invitation to learn or enjoy something really meaningful.

Remember that a lack of response isn’t necessarily a judgement on the quality of your story. It’s timing. It’s overstimulation. It’s proof that we’re all just fragile humans trying to balance FOMO (that's "fear of missing out") and a wee bit of self-care.

Do you have a story that you're really proud of that your ideal readers missed out on? Leave a link in the comments below and I'll do my best to share it with my community.

What do you stand for? Who do you write for?

I know why the cardinal in the woods around my house sings in the early morning: Because he has to. And so I write on… Dan McCulloughThe email subject was “read the last paragraph first.” When my dad sends me a snapshot of a newspaper article you can bet it'll be Cape Cod Times Sunday column by Dan McCullough.

Here’s that last paragraph:

But then I realize what all true writers understand: That we don’t write for our readers - we write for ourselves. We can’t not write. It’s a wonderful, beautiful, terrible, frightening, delicious, dangerous addiction. I know why the cardinal in the woods around my house sings in the early morning: Because he has to. And so I write on…

This isn’t a novel concept. As Dan says, all “true writers” get this. Most of know how Barbara Kingsolver invites you to close the door and write for yourself alone.

Yes, I am in Dan’s camp. I need to write and I would do it even if it wasn’t part of my self-created job description.

But what about you? Must you write?

I know some members of my community are dedicated, in-it-for-life writers.

Then there are those who love to write but who are trying to make something of that relationship.

There are probably a few of you who like the idea of falling in love with writing but you just haven’t met the right stories yet.

Wherever you are on that spectrum, what does the “I must write” declaration of a white-bearded college professor who looks like he comes from Central Casting’s “Yankee fisherman” department mean to you?

It means “1500.”

Put another way, it means 28.846 years.

Still confused? You had to read what came before that crucial final paragraph. In this piece, Dan was looking back on the experience of writing 1500 consecutive weekly columns for his local paper.

How does that make you feel? Inspired? Envious? Ready to write the guy a permission slip to take a well deserved vacation?

In my case, it has me thinking about how a writing practice illuminates the practice of living.

Dan writes about global events, the peace of the salt marsh, homelessness on Cape Cod, and the experience of watching his son grow. Think of all the observations and wonder and frustration that have been distilled into all those column inches.

Think of all the opportunities he had to ask himself “what do I really think?” and “what must I take a stand for?”

Do you need to commit yourself to producing 1.5 million words or promise to sit at the desk until Saturn takes another run around the sun to reap those sort of benefits?

No. One impassioned journaling session or one quick set of notes jotted down between clients that eventually becomes a blog post that matters to you and to your ideal readers is enough. For now. That’s the thing about writing meaningful content. You want to keep doing it.

Why are you writing?

Creating a body of work that you can be known for is a brilliant goal. Certainly Dan’s long public writing career has been a gift to the people on my beloved sandbar. (And it's a gift for Cape Codders alone. I'm not linking to his full post because I can't - there isn't a trace of Dan's piece on the Cape Cod Times site. Perhaps they seek to preserve a local treasure. Maybe they simply know that the guy sells papers.)

But I do agree with Dan. To keep up a consistent writing practice of any sort you must consider your needs and interests as a writer and a storyteller.

Take it from a man who has been writing since Reagan was in the White House - writing is ultimately a gift to oneself. It is part of the natural expression of who you are, as surely as the cardinal’s scarlet feathers are an expression of its power to fly.

We’ll soon be packing the car and heading to the Cape ourselves. I’ll have limited spots for new writing coaching clients over the summer, so I invite you to take the You, Your Stories, and Your Audience course and get inspired to write into the stories that you must tell.

Enroll now and save $50 when you use this special link.

The Truth About Fast and Easy Blogging

The Truth About Fast and Easy Blogging #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy“You can ask me anything!” What a bold and crazy statement.

As it happens, in the right environment, it feels safe and smart to do just that.

This week, I am thrilled to be the featured expert over at Agnes Wainman’s Blissful Practice, a Facebook group for clinicians who want to change the conversation around what it means to have a private practice. The group hit 700 members, so if you’re a therapist looking to find a blissful, vibrant community, ask to join!

It started with “what is this whole storytelling thing, really?

I’m grateful for this chance to dive right into questions that include “what is this whole storytelling thing, really?” to how to honor professional boundaries while telling a personal story that tells clients “I get you.”

Then I got a question that kind of freaked me out

A therapist who coaches her colleagues on building their practices wanted some tips on how to streamline her blogging practice. She was writing a weekly post in an hour and wanted to shave some time off the process.

I needed to be sure that my response honored her approach and also stayed true to my message and my experience. After pounding the delete key 1,245 times I replied:

I'd say an hour from start to finish is pretty remarkable.

I must admit I'm not the best resource for "quick and easy blogging tips." I see blogging and writing as part of the bigger picture... developing your ideas on the screen is part of becoming the clinician, businessperson, and individual you want to be. There's no shortcut for that. The intention is that the process is every bit as rewarding as the outcome.

(Just one woman's opinion since years of "just create content!" blogging left me feeling depleted, invisible, and unsatisfied.)

Was I concerned that someone in the business of boosting business would laugh at my answer? “Ha! No writing shortcuts? That’s nice for some people, Miss Writer Girl” Oh, yes.

I was worried that my advice would seem lovely but simply impractical for busy professionals who are already trying to do so much.

Writing & blogging bliss is found in the midst of the process

But then this I got this response from this awesome therapist/coach/writer who happens to be short on time. Her name is Allison Puryear and she's the woman behind Abundance Practice Building 

THANK YOU! Seriously. I think I internalized the message that I should be churning them out. I can write some crap or "quick tips" pretty fast, I bet. I feel like more of a storyteller in my blogs than an advice giver. I decided last year that I'd rather write one valuable blog a week & take the SEO hit by not posting more frequently. I don't want to dilute my message with filler. Now I feel like I have "permission" to enjoy my process instead of feeling like I should be faster. Thanks!

YES! There is power in enjoying the writing process... even if it takes a little while. And our digital world will be a little richer now that Allison is giving her inner storyteller the chance to take over the keyboard.

What about you? Is it time to move away from churning out content and embrace storytelling that connects you with yourself, your stories, and your reader?

Start Here


Do you and your ideal reader speak the same language?

What do you mean you can't read my mind? Advice for lovers and writers #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy

What do you mean you can't read my mind? Advice for lovers and writers #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy

The fighting is over, but it’s not quite time for kiss and make up. It’s that tender, in-between time when neither is ready to dissolve into love but both are grateful that the crisis has passed. If you’re watching the sort of movie that allows the characters to take a breath between the plate throwing and the shot of the heap of clothes on the floor, there might be a song to move the action away from conflict and toward romance.

Any director worth her salt would say “we need a song that feels like ‘Let’s Stay Together.’ But obviously we need to pick to something less… obvious.”

Thing is, sometimes real life is just that cheesy and obvious.

What do you mean you don't know that song?

This weekend saw a disagreement in the Goudy kitchen. No plates were thrown, but someone may have been asked to quit putting the dishes away and make some g.d. eye contact so we could talk things through.

And just in that movie-perfect moment when we’d found our way back to common ground and the kids were playing quietly in the other room, "Let's Stay Together" came on the radio.

And then my husband opened the fridge to make a sandwich. He seemed to understand my hopeful, love song-inspired smile to mean “would you make me one too?”

After a moment or two, my soft look turns into the prelude to a snarl. “Um,” I say, “This is the part when you sweep me into your arms and we fall in love with the universe and with each other just a little bit more because this song played at this moment.”

“What song?”

I have married the only man in America who does not know “Let’s Stay Together.” Ok. I can breathe through this.

“How can you not…?” Right. I’m breathing. We’re in making up mode. I’m freaking breathing. “Ok, then how about you listen to the words?”

“You know I never listen to words.” Yep. I, the writer, am married to man who never listens to the lyrics.

This is actually relationship magic at work

In the end, this didn't cook up a new battle. It was a chance to remember that as much music as we’ve shared in the last twelve years, we’ve managed to stay together without Al Green’s help. It was a chance to see that we don’t always share a common language of songs, symbols, and words even though we’ve pledge to share our lives together.

As a partner in a marriage, this is an essential realization, and I know it will change how we communicate. I’ll leave the deeper discussion to the beloved and brilliant relationship therapists and coaches in my client circle like Lily Zehner and Robyn d’Angelo.

I know they can help us understand what’s really going on here and how to recognize and shape such moments into opportunities for connection.

This is actually storytelling and sharing magic at work

I'm analyzing this moment through my writer’s spectacles.

Even when you’re speaking a common tongue to a carefully chosen ideal client, you don’t necessarily share a complete set of reference points.

You, dear reader,  may not think that every person in America would know “Let’s Stay Together.” You may not be drawn into the story of a married couple’s spat because you haven’t met “the one” yet or because monogamy just isn’t for you.

A while back, someone left a reason for unsubscribing from my newsletter: “I don’t identify with the voice in these messages.” When I first read that it seemed a little bit like “I don’t like you as a person,” but now I can see that we just didn’t share enough common reference points to make the connection.

Three ways to stay connected to your readers

So what do you do, especially when you’re communicating in writing and you can’t clear up a misunderstanding with a smooch? How do you make sure you're working with a shared frame of reference?

1) Check with your assumptions that “everyone knows about this!”

You may be using your favorite TV show to help you illustrate your point, but if it’s a niche program with only a few million viewers, you can’t assume that everyone is in on the secret. (But really, you all would love Outlander and I wish we could all watch it together every Saturday as long as you promise not to talk during the episode!)

2) Seek feedback from people you trust

If you have a story to tell or want to build a blog post around a specific example check in with a trusted circle of early readers. Ask them if they get the references (“What do you mean you didn’t watch Inspector Gadget before school in the 80s?"). Revise or add context as necessary.

3) Value clarity over cleverness

Ingrid Bergman was so right with “Be yourself. The world worships an original.” When the world isn't worshipping the latest cookie cutter pop singer, it’s totally true.

Dare to give us your unique voice and perspective - please! Just remember that you’re blogging to build a practice or a business. If you alienate your readers by telling stories and using examples they can't relate to, you need to reevaluate your goals or your approach.

Another way to stay connected with your readers is to understand the Story Triangle. Take the free class that teaches you how to use storytelling to inspire and engage your ideal clients.

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This Is the Worst Writing Advice I've Heard In a While

One of the 8 million risky things you do not need to do in order to become a better writer, #365StrongStories by Marisa GoudyWhat do you imagine your favorite novelist is doing right now? Is she being romanced by some gorgeous hero? Is he resolving a generations-long family feud? Perhaps the person who writes those best sellers you love to take to the beach is on a two week bender that will be resolved with a trip around the world to find herself. Nah. Most likely she’s updating her Facebook page and booking flights for her next appearance at Barnes and Noble somewhere outside of Chicago.

And what about your favorite blogger? Is he saving a kitten from a tree? Is she landing an agent to make that blog into a book? Maybe that writer you love to see in your newsfeed is water skiing in the Mediterranean while contemplating the next viral post.

Doubtful. She’s probably trying to scrub the mysterious sticky spots off the counter so she can put down her laptop and get 200 words down before the family comes home and everything goes from messy to noisy and messier.

As a writing coach, I get to give my share of writing advice. I also get the chance to hear what other writers and non-writers say about how to make the process easier and how to produce more engaging stuff.

Some of that advice is brilliant and I do my best to embody it so that I can offer my own version of it. And some of it makes my skin crawl.

Myth: Your content isn’t engaging your audience so you must be a boring person

Recently, a professional who keeps a blog to promote her business was brought to tears by a coach who declared that if your writing isn’t connecting with people it must mean you have a boring life. The advice was to go out and take some risks. And then, I guess, come back and "wow" people with how adventurous and special and fabulous you are.

This is lazy advice. Clearly it’s also damaging advice. And, in this writer’s opinion, going bungee jumping or visiting Tahiti or going on a blind date aren’t necessarily going to make you a better writer.

If you feel that your writing isn’t connecting with people you don't need more "material." Instead, you need to give yourself time and permission to do something with your human moments.

Readers don’t seek high drama and “amazing” tales when they're looking to heal a broken heart or connect with the guy sitting beside them on the couch. They need to see what's possible in their everyday lives. They need to see how life can be a little more beautiful or bearable before they’re going to care about how bold you are.

"Go be more interesting" is the kind of counsel offered by someone who is afraid of the process of meeting yourself in the silence of the page.

Trust the magic that happens in the little moments of life. To make a connection at the simple, truthful level of the human heart you have to remember that this beautiful organ almost always beats along in the most perfectly mundane way.

When you're writing your next blog post, meet your ideal clients where they are. Don’t drag yourself up a mountain just to find them.

Be who you are. Write about who you are in your everyday mess and everyday loveliness and everyday struggle. That's what will make readers care. That's what it means to connect.

Learn how to tell real stories that matter to you and to your ideal client in the You, Your Stories, and Your Audience ecourse. Doors are open now!

You, your story, and your audience ecourse for therapists, healers, and coaches by writing coach Marisa Goudy


The best writing advice you'll ever want to ignore

“Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer.” ― Barbara Kingsolver #365StrongStories“Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It's the one and only thing you have to offer.” - Barbara Kingsolver This is some of my favorite writing advice. Some of the time.

Kingsolver is right. Writing for the marketplace and trying to please the masses every time you tell a story sets you on the path toward mediocrity and misery. There's no guarantee that anything will sell or that anyone will care. If you don't at least write for yourself, you're writing for no one at all.

And yet... Kingsolver is not talking to bloggers, to those of us who are writing to build a business and connect with the people whose lives will be changed by the programs you offer and the services you provide.

For us, there must be a time for diving deep and figuring out the message. You need time to look within in find the Sovereign Story that you must share with your community.

But then, it's necessary to open the doors and the windows and the browser and the Facebook feed. You need to look to what people are worried about and longing for and use your writing to connect your personal stories with the stories they need to hear.

I've created a class called the Story Triangle that gives you insight into how to honor your audience, your story, and yourself when you sit down to create online content. It will change the way you look at blogging and connecting to your clients.

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What hot water and Ani Difranco can teach you about story

What Hot Water & Ani Difranco Can Teach You About Story, #365Strong Stories by Marisa GoudyEvery once in a while, a woman with small children will have a chance to shower without anyone poking the curtain or worrying over the distant screams. She'll get to shave her legs and wash, rinse, repeat if she wants to. This is the chance to put on some of her own music so she doesn't find herself singing "Baby Beluga" (again!) as she scrubs her back.

Thanks to the endless spring twilight and a husband willing to take a shift searching for worms under all the backyard stones, I had twenty steamy minutes to myself. I practiced my ablutions (wow, how often do you get to say that in a sentence) and I listened - really listened - to the album that got me through that summer of crappy 60 hour workweeks.

Ani Difranco's Little Plastic Castle  is just as wonderful. And the title track has a lot to teach us about a well-built story. See the lyrics and my annotations below.

In a coffee shop in a city Which is every coffee shop in every city On a day which is every day I picked up the magazine Which is every magazine Read a story, then I forgot it right away

The ordinary world. (So terribly, terribly ordinary.)

And they say, "Goldfish have no memory" I guess their lives are much like mine And the little plastic castle Is a surprise every time And it's hard to say, if they're happy But they don't seem much to mind

Just enough details about our heroine/narrator to be curious. Show, don't tell. Intriguing and allowing us to fill in the blanks and entertain our own goldfish memories.

From the shape of your shaved head I recognized your silhouette As you walked out of the sun and sat down And the sight of your sleepy smile Eclipsed all the other people As they paused to sneer at the two girls from out of town

Here's the rising action. This is where setting and character exposition becomes plot.

I said, look at you this morning You are, by far, the cutest But be careful getting coffee I think these people want to shoot us Or maybe there's some kind of local competition here To see who can be the rudest

Oh, the conflict!

And the turning point. This is where Ani takes us from story to commentary - much like a good blog post that begins with personal anecdote and brings the reader into the heart of the message. In this case, how does Ani really feel about being a feminist icon in an ordinary, hypocritical world that asks so much of women like her and yet offers nothing but forgettable magazines and rude coffee drinkers.

And people talk about my image Like I come in two dimensions Like lipstick is a sign of my declining mind Like what I happen to be wearing The day that someone takes a picture Is my new statement for all of womankind

And I wish they could see us now In leather bras and rubber shorts Like some ridiculous new team uniform For some ridiculous new sport Quick someone call the girl police And, and file a report

In a coffee shop in a city Which is every coffee shop in every city On a day which is every day

Your turn. Listen - really listen - to something by your favorite bands or singer-songwriters and see what you can learn about storytelling. Long, hot shower optional, but highly recommended.

Some words that matter more than words

The words that matter more than words, #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy, writing coach for therapists and healersThe afternoon is heavy with the perfect kind of April damp that invites you to play outside for a while and then rush inside for popcorn and a movie in front of a blazing fire. The kids are tucked onto the couch with their grandparents and we're watching Inside Out. I wish I didn't have to have the laptop out, but I'm doing good work and everyone is safe and warm and feeling all the feelings. I have the room to hold space for this moment, the project at hand, and this...

Earlier today while I was on a quest for blog posts that combine story and the authors insights, I stopped over at Momastery.

There are blog posts that shine brilliantly as they tear up every script. They transcend mere bloggery and just... speak. To the heart and to the soul and to all the things that matter.

Read this one.

Life is hard but they are brave by Glennon Doyle Melton of MomasteryIt breaks every form because it's written according to the laws of love and sorrow, connection and death. It's about the things we're most afraid of and the places we are most brave. It is about everything that quiet, non-eventful Saturdays seek to keep at bay because, as much as we want don't want to let the dark stuff in, "the hard" still part of our greater reality.


How to Write a Strong Story When You Feel Less Than Strong

How to Write a Strong Story When You Feel Less Than Strong, #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy, writing coach for therapists and healersMaking blogging, newsletter, and other content marketing details when you're sick, stressed, or sad... It's one of the toughest parts of running a practice or a small business because, let's be honest, you're pretty much always writing this week's material just days or hours before it goes live. What happens when life or your mood gets in the way of getting yourself in front of your audience?

First, ask yourself: MUST I get this written today?

That depends on several factors, so go deeper and ask yourself a few more questions.

Are these self-imposed deadlines or did you promise a guest post or something that is going to print?

When another site or publication is waiting on you, writing becomes a job you simply need to do. I suggest you set a time, sit down in that chair, and put words on the page. Call in a friend or an editor to help you bring it up to your "I feel fabulous!" standards if you're having trouble connecting your ideas and connecting to readers.

Breaking a promise to yourself is no easier than letting down a colleague or an editor, but it may have fewer longterm consequences. Can you forgive yourself for posting on a Friday instead of a Thursday? If you're not in the middle of a big launch cycle, can you skip on the newsletter this week?

When you set publication schedules for yourself, be clear about your own boundaries. Be realistic and be compassionate with yourself.

In my case, a #365project offers ZERO wiggle room. Daily means daily and skipping a day seems like a really big problem. The pay off on showing up every day is huge, but there is a big price. I admit that I am looking forward to a nice, manageable weekly project for 2017! (Editor's note: by mid-May 2016 I realized that a daily publishing project was a terrible idea for me.)

If you decide you MUST write even when you're not feeling like yourself...

Look into your own working style. How do you handle other projects when you just don't feel good?

Are you more successful when you muscle through (and then take a much needed rest after)?

Or, are you more productive if you are tender with yourself throughout? Do you thrive with lots of tea breaks and gentle stretching and doing the work in the corner of the couch wrapped in your favorite blanket?

What if writing wasn't a chore? What if it was your solace?

When you are writing a post that comes from the heart, try to look at blogging itself as part of your own healing process.

After all, as a therapist or healer or creative being, many of the issues that your ideal reader faces are likely related to low energy and  longing to get the zest back. People appreciate it when you meet them where they are - though do remember that your job is to offer hope and some sort of next, positive step.

Write from a place of quiet and restoration. Let the message be soft. This post may take way longer to write than it "should." Let that be ok - especially if the the alternative is "I feel crappy" default mode whether that's a Netflix binge or staring vacantly at your Facebook feed.

Write what feels good today and call that your "self-focused first draft." Get to bed early tonight and come back to things in the morning. Then, thanks to the gifts of distance and perspective, you can tighten up your sentence and paragraph structure and look at the whole piece in terms of the needs and interests of the ideal reader.

Need help deciding how to look at your writing through the eyes of the ideal reader? Start by learning the Story Triangle.

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The content writing that is worth your time is part of a broader plan

I love it when the core of my work gets challenged, I realize I agree with the argument, and I feel all the stronger about doing what I do in a way that truly serves the greater good.

This is how I felt when I listened to Jonathan Fields of Good Life Project talk about “The Content Marketing Delusion.”

Jonathan's argument - wonderfully delivered in one of his short weekly “riffs”:

Content is more about sustained growth, positioning, and trust and, yes, eventually leads than it is a high probability vehicle for launch and accelerated growth.

Put simply:

Content is your long game. Hustle is your "now" game.

Challenging the "When all else fails, blog!" mentality

Jonathan goes on to talk about  how hiding behind the blog page or the podcast mic and relying on content creation can be an act of self-protection. After all, hitting publish is easy. Gearing up for conferences or calling potential clients or influencers… <gulp!>

I launched my #365StrongStories because I loved to write and because I wanted to walk the content creation walk, yes.

A few dozen posts into my 2016 project, however, I saw that I was allowing a story-a-day to monopolize my energy because I felt safe in my private creative space. I was praying my stories would be seen, but also pleased that it was all on my own little terms.

That said, I have immense compassion for myself on this one. After all, mothering small children doesn’t exactly set you up to attend lots of snazzy networking gigs in the city.

And think about Susan Cain's book Quiet and what she taught us about introversion (and even the needs of gregarious extroverts). Depending on your constitution, putting yourself out there might require more energy than you can spare. Based on the reality of my own daily life, I just didn’t have the energy to do more or show up anywhere but my own blog most of the time.

All of that is OK, but you have to align your daily actions with the professional and creative dreams if you expect to succeed.

I wasn't building the livelihood my family needed by simply writing a lot.

"Just write" can't be the only visibility strategy for an entrepreneur with bills to pay. Writing and exploring ideas is satisfying, but it doesn't fill the belly. Marketing and connecting with people who will take action based on those brilliant words is what makes entrepreneurship work.

Oh yes, the hustle.

Jonathan’s message was  big, fat moment of TRUTH - even though, upon first glance,  his title it may look like a slam of my bread-and-butter writing coaching work.

The content writing that is worth your time is part of a broader plan

Not so long ago, this podcast might have sent me into a panic. How could I build a business around helping people tell stronger stories if content marketing is a “delusion”?

Blogs and guest posts and free reports do have a key role to play for many entrepreneurs and private practice owners. My work is vital to the right people who are doing the writing for the right reasons.

If someone is opening a brand new business or practice and expects to write some blog posts and expects the appointment calendar to fill, however, my #1 job is to remind them that content is part of a bigger puzzle.

Content connects, it strengthens relationships and establishes loyalty, but as Jonathan says, you gotta “hustle”

"Hustle" is a tricky word. When Brene Brown told us we didn't have to "hustle for worthiness" I was thrilled to leave all the stress of hustling in the dust.

But when you tune into Jonathan's quick episode I think you'll see the word in a broader, more constructive context.

Most of the time, you need that first digital or real life introduction. You need to move it and shake yourself out of your creativity cave and find your first readers who will love and share your content. You find them through conversation and asking the right questions, not by saying "hi, I wrote this, read it!"

It would be great to rely on "love at first blog post" but it's almost never that simple.

Again, this Good Life Project podcast came at the perfect time.

Right now, I am hustling in a way that feels great to me, connecting with my own ideal clients (and genuinely fabulous humans) on Facebook groups like Melvin Varghese’s Selling the Couch Community and Agnes Wainman’s Blissful Practice.

And, as my business matures and my family is able to do without me for a few nights, it is time to take that "hustle" into the real world. I'm booking a bunk at Jonathan's Camp GLP. (Will I see you there in August?)

Remember, the writing coach isn't telling you to quit writing

There's another side of content creation that Jonathan doesn't have time to address in his riff: the way that writing helps you develop your vision, your professional brand, your creative power.

Writing and content development are absolutely necessary as you develop your online presence and platform. They are fundamental to growth. Just be sure that you understand that writing and publishing alone aren't likely to catapult you to six figures or to whatever "enough" is for you.

“Share what is vulnerable, not what is intimate.”

Share what is vulnerable, not what is intimate - Brene Brown | #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy | writing coach for therapists, coaches, healers, thought leaders

Share what is vulnerable, not what is intimate - Brene Brown | #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy | writing coach for therapists, coaches, healers, thought leaders

"I don't share anything until my feelings and growth aren't still dependent on it."

- Brené Brown

A slide with this quote on it lit up the chat box during the recent Story Triangle webinar.

We were deep into our exploration of what makes stories work and what makes them fall flat. At this point in the class, we were talking about how a story loses its balance when you, the writer, get lost in the details of your own story.

It's almost always a struggle, deciding what story elements add depth and what's going too deep.

As I hit publish, I’m grateful to have Brené to look to when I worry “Is this TMI?

After all, when writing is both your private, emotional processing tool and the way you communicate publicly and professionally, it can feel like a tightrope walk.

How do you tell the difference between a rich, compelling story and simply pouring out your guts?

Again, there’s a Brené quote for that. (Isn’t there a BB line for just about everything related to relationships and speaking truth?)

“Share what is vulnerable, not what is intimate.”

Sharing vulnerable stories reveals your humanity and creates connections.

Pouring out the intimate details into a public space where people who aren’t prequalified to hold you in all your glorious imperfection…

At best, you get no response at all. At worst, potential clients judge what they do not understand, turn away, and seek out someone who they believe is more in control of their sh*t.

So how do you tell the difference between the vulnerable stories that are ready for the spotlight and intimacies that need to be held in reserve?

  1. Check in with your own process. Can you say “I’ve healed this” and feel you’re being completely honest with yourself?

  2. Decide why you’re telling the story. Do you have something to teach based on your experiences or do you just need someone to be your witness?

If your answer to #1 is “I haven’t healed this yet,” that’s great. Pull out your journal, call a friend, make sure your on time for your next therapy or healing session.

Do. Not. Blog. This. (Yet.)

If you your answer to #2 is “I need a witness,” embrace this beautifully human moment. Everyone needs to be seen, heard, and understood.” Yes, be fully present in your need to be seen, but do so with the people you know and trust - not your professional audience.

The People Need Stories, Not To Do Lists

The people need stories, not to do lists, #365StrongStories by Marisa GoudyThe difference between telling a strong story and writing “just another blog post”

There are million different ways to approach a topic. Say you wanted to write about how to talk with your partner about a struggles a creative entrepreneur.

You could use the good old “people love list posts” approach:

Seven ways you “should” approach the situation including “make a spreadsheet that he can understand!” and “make sure everyone is well-rested and ready to fully engage in the conversation.”

If your readers are worrying about how to get their partner to be more supportive of a business venture, they just might come away with a tip that helps them along.

But then there’s the storytelling approach:

It’s one a.m. when she gets to bed. She’s chilled from sitting at the computer for so long and feels so grateful when he entangles his sleep warmed limbs with hers. Visions of Facebook ads and YouTube clips swim before her eyes as she tries desperately to sleep. The kids will be up soon and there’s so much more work to do to get this new course launched.

He knows the pattern of her breath. He knows it doesn’t mean anything good. “Did you get everything done?” he asks. When she snorts, he asks, “Did you get at least one thing done? Are you upset?

“Yes. And yes.” She starts to cry because finishing up a LeadPage doesn’t feel like much when the to do list stretches across so many notebook pages.

She is not ok. She is tired and she is scared and she is so desperate for all of her work to pay off.

It would have been easy to mumble “it’s all good” and roll over to feed her fears into the lonely darkness. Instead, she chose to be honest. She chose to speak her truth and ask her husband for the kind of help that only he can give - to listen to her in the darkness and make the world feel safe again.

Though they’ll both be exhausted in the morning, there’s one less brick in the wall between them. There’s space for sunshine and support and connection to flow in their marriage, in her business, and in their bank account.

This is why storytelling works

Because it’s a story, the reader connects with you in a real way that builds trust. They get drawn in by the emotion. Even if they’re not looking for “quick and easy tips for having tough conversations with your spouse about your business,” people who understand the challenges of entrepreneurship will be drawn in.

Stories are like giant magnets for the brain -  people want to be invited into the room, into the conflict, and into the resolution. A story like this one shows them they’re not alone and exposes the other side of “grow your six figure online business” sales pitches.

How to make storytelling work for you, your audience, and your business

Is that my story above? Well, I can tell you that I am launching a new course and I’m pretty sleepy today…

That’s not the point of all this, though. My goal is to help you understand that stories are what connect you with your readers and with your potential clients.

We dive deep into why we need stories and list posts in the Connect With Your Readers & Clients: Discover the Story Triangle webinar. The recording will be available through Monday, April 11.

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How to balance “I must publish” and “I need to find a story that matters“

MG_Header_w_biline_hires Sovereign Standard, Issue 40

The greatest epiphanies are just clichés - until they’re true

“You’ve had it in you all along” is one of those mundane epiphanies tossed about by countless gurus and charlatans, true healers and glitzy motivational speakers. And yet, the day you truly come to know this as your truth, it’s like the sunset, moonrise, and northern lights all fill the sky at once.

For years, I’ve been living out loud on the internet. Perhaps you’ve been like me - trying (and generally failing) to be an easy, breezy online writer. I refused to dumb down my message, but I also avoided a avoiding the hardest questions and denied the most personal answers.

Basically, I was so intent on saying something that I would rarely let myself slow down, look within, learn more, and ensure I was saying something that really mattered to me.

You’ve heard the old marketing adage “you aim to appeal to everyone and you appeal to no one”?

When you don’t feel free to tell the stories that are really important to you as a writer, you’re never going to tell stories that are important to the reader.

How to balance “I must publish” and “I need to find a story that matters“What it means to put the inner story first

At last , I’m committing to prioritizing my interior process over the public conversation.

That means I'm committing to diving deeper, thinking longer, allowing ideas to germinate before I push myself to publish.

This isn’t a prescription for permanent radio silence. Heck, I'm blogging about my decision to putting the inner work before the public exploration of what I’ve learned!

The goal is not to become an all-analog hermit. Instead, it means I’m placing my creative emphasis on knowing a story at its intimate core before I bring it to an audience.

It means I ask myself questions that matter to me before I try to tell you why any of it might matter to you.

I’m exhausted by the pace of a digital world that puts action over contemplation. It feels good to play with phrases like:

Tell Stories that Matter: Dive Deep Before "Share This"Perspective before performance.

Introspection before exhibition.

Dive deep before ”share this!”

Finding the balance between finding the inner story and publishing it

As a writer who depends on building online community to build my business, deep dives into “what stories must I tell?” will cool my self-imposed “gotta publish at all costs!” madness.

But I know that the “explore the inner story” and “publish something now” is balancing act that puts other people on the opposite side of the teeter totter.  (Thanks to my brave compatriots in the Quest 2016 community - see below.)

You might be a writer who loves to let a good idea simmer. It would be wonderful if my frantic "must create content!" experience makes you feel more secure in your slower-to-publish approach.  

Many frantic writers wish they had your sense of trust and composure. Hopefully, you see that your ability to contemplate and craft your thoughts is a rare gift in this “get it out there” environment.

But, maybe you’re more of the “perfection = paralysis” kind of writer. You tend to over-think your work and start cleaning the bathtub with a toothbrush to avoid committing to a regular blogging schedule. I’d love my push to publish energy to rub off on you a bit.

It's good enough. Get it out there.

I know my 2015 commitment to the very-nearly-weekly Sovereign Standard is going to have a perpetual payoff, both personally and professionally. Even if I put the "real" story on the back burner while I tried to put out simpler messages intended to please the crowd.

Find the balance between the inner exploration and the greater conversation

Ultimately, if you're someone who wants to build a business through "content marketing" (telling stories and sharing your wisdom to entice new clients and delight your current community) or if you're a creative who must put ideas on the page, it's about striking a balance.

You need the inner exploration and you'll thrive when part a greater conversation.

If you'll excuse me, I need to get back to the stories still welling up inside me. But I promise I'll come back with ideas that will help you tell yours. Subscribe to my weekly Sovereign Standard newsletter - please?


This post was initially inspired by Prompt #1 in Tracking Wonder's Quest 2016. The mastermind of this project, Jeffrey Davis, has called together 12 visionaries to help you create your best 12 months. It was a powerful way to begin my 2015 and I'm eager for this year's experience.

In particular, I was responding to Susan Piver who asked us to consider "What I most need to tell myself about 2016 is…"

Find more about Susan, the Quest, the business artist pledge, and how to join (it's totally free).Questers-Community-2016

A story from the cave beneath the mountain of marketing and spin

Sovereign Standard, Issue 39MG_Header_w_biline_hires Right now, every fiber of my being (except for the fibers that are occupied with holding a toddler on my hip as I help my first-grader make turkeys out of candy corns and Oreos) is occupied with story.

What does it take to translate the thoughts and emotions and in-process “stuff” into a story that engages, reveals collective insights, and exposes truths?

I don’t have the whole answer yet, but I’m getting closer.

A story from the cave the mountain of marketing and spinThe best writing begins in private

To allow myself the true freedom to wonder and wander, I’m dialing back my public writing. I've been pulling deep inside to where the really stories live. It's the place deep below the marketing and the spin - in the caves where the truth rubs elbows with fear and dreams struggle against despair.

[tweetthis]Story is born in caves where the truth rubs elbows with fear & dreams struggle against despair.[/tweetthis]


In a world where storytelling is celebrated as an art and foisted upon us as a marketing tactic, it’s easy to get burned out on story - particularly when you feel like you weren’t blessed with the Scheherazade gene.

I do believe that “everybody has a story” because it was reality long before it was a cliche (or the theme of a zillion ad campaigns). But there’s a lot more to unlocking natural storytelling abilities than shoving a mic or a blog password into someone's hand and commanding “have the courage to tell your story.”

The alchemy of turning "your stuff" into "Your Sovereign Story"

As 2015 dims to allow the new year to shine bright, I’ll have a great deal to say - and to offer - about this alchemical process of turning “your stuff” into “Your Sovereign Story.”

In the meantime, please give yourself permission to slow down and watch out for the unforgettable characters and plot twists (especially those who show up around your Thanksgiving table).

Begin to consciously collect the experiences that will give your stories life... I'll be back soon to help you figure out what to do with the material!

How to say the right thing when every word matters



Sovereign Standard, Issue 38Words are like playthings.

The amuse. They teach. They inspire. They’re the building blocks of story.

But words can also be discarded toys, spread all over the floor. Just more clutter. Meaningless and forgotten.

When mindful people (and professionals) use words mindlessly

How to say the right thing when every word matters. On writing and speaking your truth by Marisa Goudy.

How to say the right thing when every word matters. On writing and speaking your truth by Marisa Goudy.

Writers, healers, and clinicians whose work relies on talking it all through... Words are at the heart of what we offer. Even though language has its limits, we count on words to mean something.

And yet, I know I’m guilty of using words mindlessly.

Lapsing into profanity when I’m tired or “in a mood. ” Barking conflicting commands as I try to rally my first-grader to the bus stop. Just throwing together a bio for a social media profile without thinking about whether I am sharing the most important parts of my story.

Everyone has heard “do as I say, not as I do.” For many of us, “do as I do, not as I say” is often just as applicable.

In part, this refusal to "mind the mouth" is a stand against political correctness. It’s rebellion in the face of mindfulness.  

Some of this mindless use of words is to be blamed on the influence of the culture - particularly when violence creeps into our metaphors.

And, frankly, sometimes it’s just exhaustion. It’s hard to keep track of every word when you're in a state of constant communication.

If some words matter, all words matter

I am compassionately declaring an end to my hypocrisy:

If some words have power, then all words have power. And I'm going to try my best to use my power wisely.

[tweetthis]If some words have power, all words have power. I'm trying to use my #writing powers wisely[/tweetthis]

The hurtful words and the healing words. All the language that falls in between that great spectrum of thought. Every word is important in the spells you cast, in the messages you’re sending out into the world.

“It’s just a throwaway comment” isn’t an excuse you can fall back on when you assert that words have power and resonance.

(Believe me, I am not completely happy about this pronouncement. The last thing I need are more rules or complications. But stick with me - there are lights every few feet along this tunnel into the underbelly of how we communicate!)

The resistance: nobody likes the word police

Engineers hate being married to English majors.

Oops… I just threw out “hate” and made a sweeping generalization there. I know it’s not really true. And I am almost sure that you know that I know it’s not true, but I wanted to get your attention and it felt like a fun, clever way to introduce this next point.

You see, paying close attention to your words doesn’t mean that you have to become a milquetoast writer… You just have to know when you’re throwing a bomb spiked with letters and punctuation.

When my husband and I are debating (ok, I should probably say “arguing”), I sometimes ask if he really means what he just said, because "I do no think that word means what you think it means." I tell myself I am seeking clarity and connection, not being a vocabulary zealot. And I am hoping he thinks “cute Princess Bride quote.”  

Unfortunately, he doesn't like it when he feels the dictionary policewoman is calling him to task on imprecise language. “Sorry, we can’t all have master’s degrees in English!” he’ll remark.

To be fair, sometimes distracted English majors get irritated with their techy mates.

I often ask Husband to pass me “the thingie that we use to fix the baby’s toy with the stupid broken bit.” He smirks, asks whether I want the phillips head screwdriver to repair the cracked battery door, and takes care of it himself. “Sorry, we can’t all build robots for a living,” I sigh.

As a writer and thought leader-in-training you owe it to yourself to analyze your word choices

Though potentially quite illuminating, analyzing word choice in the midst of conversation feels pretty tedious. Fortunately, reviewing the way you choose and use words in your own writing is much less stressful - and quite unlikely to result in either spouse sleeping on the couch.

Thanks to the direction of my brilliant sales coach, Tami Smith, I am examining the “threads” that have shown up repeatedly in my work over the last year. It’s a quest to uncover my recurring words, concepts, and images.

This is my opportunity to pause and look at the common elements in my own stories. It’s helping me understand how I’ve been defining and living my signature concepts, Sovereignty and the Sovereign Story - often without even knowing it.

In this case, the unconscious use of language is helpful and revelatory.

Shut up, listen to yourself, and do some research

There are certain words you use again and again. Over time, you inhabit their meaning. You then expand and redefine what these words mean to better express your unique vision.

This expansion and redefinition process can be organic and even accidental as you write into a term, use it in your daily life, and shape it with your experiences.

But then, there’s even more to learn when you close your mouth, put down the pen, and start listening to yourself.  

When you pause to dig into a beloved word’s history and connotations, these fresh ideas push the boundaries of your work even further. And reaching your edge beautiful thing.

Some insight into one of the mindful professional’s favorite words

One word I use constantly is “insight.”

I am drawn to insight because it folds information, knowledge, and wisdom together into a nice, two syllable package. I want to be seen as someone who is insightful and I want to be someone who opens readers and clients to their own insights.

The former academic in me cringes when I cite Wikipedia rather than go to primary source materials, but I’m giving myself permission, just this once. That’s what Wikipedia is for after all - it guides you in the initial “I wonder…” stage and then open doors to further inquiry.  

Adapted from the entry on insight, the word can generally be defined as:

  • The capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.

  • Suddenly seeing a problem in a new way, connecting the problem to another relevant problem/solution pair, releasing past experiences that are blocking the solution, or seeing problem in a larger, coherent context.

In psychology, insight

  • occurs when a solution to a problem presents itself quickly and without warning

  • can mean the ability to recognize one's own mental illness

In marketing, insight

  • is a statement based on a deep understanding of your target consumers' attitudes and beliefs, which connects at an emotional level and provokes a clear response

Suddenly, what I thought was a nice, broad term related to imparting truths and gaining understanding reveals itself to be an important term in the field of psychology. Now, I will use it more mindfully in copy that’s directed at the clinicians in my audience. I’ll also be able to use it more skillfully in writing coaching consults and copywriting jobs for therapists.

And it’s meaningful to note that “insight” is also a marketing term. I instinctively knew that we all need insight into our ideal clients and readers, but I had no idea it was a “real” buzzword (at least according to the anonymous strangers who created this Wikipedia article).

Owning the power of words is a brave, necessary, challenging act

Once you admit to yourself that every word does have a measure of power, you can’t teach your child that old “sticks and stones” rhyme in good conscience. You can’t write off sexist or homophobic remarks as mere teasing. Never again can you ignore any threats that someone makes to herself or others.

Sounds… earnest.

If you’re a semi-irreverent soul like me, someone who doesn’t much like formalities and who thinks creativity is about coloring outside the lines, it sounds like a rather uptight way to move through life.

That’s just my fear of change speaking. I'm afraid of holding myself to a kinder, more conscious standard because I'm afraid I'll fail.

In truth, playing it fast and loose and talking or writing yourself into corners (“I know I said that, but, actually, I meant…”) is actually a much more restrictive way to live.

Yes, as you become what Don Miguel Ruiz calls “impeccable with your word,” you’ll irritate some people. You'll fall into old "whatever" speech patterns. You'll go for easy but dangerous metaphors rather than articulating your healing truth.

Trust yourself. Forgive yourself. Speak for your best self. Stand sovereign in your dedication to telling a story that you’re proud to claim as your own. Writing coaching by Marisa Goudy.

Trust yourself. Forgive yourself. Speak for your best self. Stand sovereign in your dedication to telling a story that you’re proud to claim as your own. Writing coaching by Marisa Goudy.

Trust yourself. Forgive yourself. Speak for your best self.

Stand sovereign in your dedication to telling a story that you’re proud to claim as your own.

Can you commit to mindfully choosing your words? Let me know you're with me in the comments and please share this post with your community.

To fight or to heal: the power of word choice

Sovereign Standard, Issue 37MG_Header_w_biline_hires “Write as you speak.”

Generally, this is the right advice when someone is stuck in academic or clinical writing mode or just can figure out what to say.

Like most advice, you need to decide if it applies to you before you even consider taking it to heart.

You probably don’t really want to write as you speak.

Not if you’re prone to the occasional f-bomb. Not if you’re the kind of person who stops herself mid-ramble with “oh, am I still talking?” Not if you pepper your speech with expressions that need to be heard aloud to be understood.

You can say that, but you might not want to be quoted

Even when speaking with clients, you aren’t nearly as mindful of your words as you must be when you publish on a professional website or enter an online conversation with group of colleagues.

After all, when you put ideas into text, you don’t have tone and gesture to rely on. The words just sit there, waiting to be interpreted by the reader.

How challenging! How terrifying!

Your metaphors create your writing’s tone of voice

We use most of our metaphors and expressions unconsciously. And we can say some brutal things without even realizing it.

Common phrases become so familiar that they lose important aspects of meaning.

Everyone knows what “rule of thumb” means when it’s used to discuss a general guideline of some kind, but how many of us remember this phrase’s origins? It actually refers to the width of the stick a man could legally use to beat his wife.

As a healing professional, as a creative entrepreneur dedicated to making the world more beautiful, bearable, and bold, the last thing you want to do is promote violence.

But are you accidentally injecting words of warfare and conflict into your writing?

The everyday violence in our language and in our world

A dose of everyday violence - Princess Leia with blasterIf you are using violent images without thinking about it, you’re not alone.

I definitely just bought a balloon with guns all over it for my six year-old daughter's birthday. In my defense, "Because Princess Leia and Han Solo" seems to sidetrack many conscious moms and dads' dedication to peaceful parenting. But the casual injection of violence is not just a Star Wars blind spot.

Writers are trained to take their readers prisoner.

Writers are told that they must “grab” or “hook” or “capture” the reader. But think about those metaphors. Their theme is violence and compulsion. They suggest a relationship you might want to have with a criminal, not a reader. - Tracy Kidder and Richard Todd, Good Prose

Marketers are groomed to force themselves upon you.

A testimonial is “punching people in face with value. - David Newman, Do It! Marketing: 77 Instant-Action Ideas to Boost Sales, Maximize Profits, and Crush Your Competition

People suffering from disease are told to arm up.

Join the fight to kill cancer. - United Cancer Foundation

Sometimes, you want to be a warrior

To fight or to heal: the power of word choice - Valkyrie Warrior WomanI’m not arguing that we need to become complete pacifists.

There are days when I need to enter my “warrior woman” mindset to get through the day despite the exhaustion, the stacks of dirty dishes, and the endless demands of a business that relies completely on my own ability to show up and do the work.

As long as no one gets hurt, I’m ok with writing into what Traditional Astrologist Molly Morrissey calls the “Mars energy” and using every martial word in my arsenal to combat grime, dirt, mold, stains, waste, and weeds (thanks, MKN!).

And sometimes, words do cause harm

In Having cancer is not a fight or a battle, Kate Granger asks “Why is military language used to describe cancer? These words are meant to help patients but can have the opposite effect."

I refuse to believe my death will be because I didn't battle hard enough.

Your writing matters. There are no throwaway phrases.

Don’t let a fear of offending readers you’ve never met keep you from writing and publishing. Trust yourself and trust your own good intentions.

Allow your shoddy first drafts to clunk with cliches. Mix your metaphors with wild abandon until you settle on the unifying image that ties together a section or an entire piece.

Don’t be afraid to step into the trenches and give it your best shot. But just be aware, by the time you reach your final version, you might want to say you engaged deeply with the experience and did your best.

Often, a warlike metaphor is best replaced by a straightforward truth.

Let's make our shared discourse a little more conscious and peaceful. Please share this post and subscribe to receive the Sovereign Standard each week.