content marketing

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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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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Writing Prompt: Write Something “Useful”

The bar you set for product development should be the same bar you set for marketing—especially content marketing. People should know what they can expect from engaging your content and how it will help them transform something about their life or business. This cannot be vague. It cannot be hyperbolic. If you want it to be effective (you do), it needs to be incredibly specific and measurable. People need to be able to know when the objective is reached.

A promise to help you live your dream life or “crush it” in business is not a promise that can be kept. It’s not a good value proposition. It cannot be measured.

This comes from a Tara Gentile post that totally opened my eyes to some of my own blind spots when it comes to writing and content marketing. I’ll be diving into all that throughout this week’s #365StrongStories posts.

Writing Prompt: Write something "useful" #365StrongStories by writing coachi Marisa GoudyIn the meantime, I invite you to take a first step toward thinking about how to ground your stories in something real and measurable.

Take an incident or a moment of inspiration from your weekend. Something that made you say “I wonder if that would make a good blog post?” Write down a first draft that focuses on your thoughts and experiences. Then, walk away and come back and craft a second version that helps your ideal client “transform something about their life or business.” Be a bit strict with yourself. Cut away the fluff and refuse to be vague or hyperbolic. Be real and be helpful. 

Send that second draft to me or tag me when you post the final version on your blog and social media!


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.

Storytelling Is About Relationships

Story depends on relationships. Relationships depend on story. #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy Is this your fantasy too? You get to be the person with the space, the time, and the luxury to simply write. Uninterrupted days are lavished on your own ideas without a care for the reader or the marketplace.

Well, that is certainly my fantasy, but we all know I have an incurable addiction to words and sentences. Maybe your fantasy is that you'd never have to write another word again! Maybe you pray that you'll be able to build a solo business or practice without creating online content and telling your brand's story.

Whether your a born writer or you're someone who needs to be tied to the keyboard to get the blogging done, we all need a reality check:

Stories depend on relationships and relationships depends on story.

Next week, in the Connect with Readers & Clients: Discover the Story Triangle we're going to explore how stories build relationships and how stories depend on relationships.

We go a little in today's Facebook live video (below). Be sure to sign up for the free webinar to learn how to make these relationships work in your own writing. Save my seat!

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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What to do when content you loved writing doesn't get read

What to do when content you loved writing doesn’t get read #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy Even though every creative entrepreneur and every thought leader looking to make a difference has been there, it still hurts. It's hard when content that you poured your heart into does not connect. This morning after St. Patrick's Day, I woke up with a different kind of hangover than might be considered the traditional type you often experience "the morning after the night before." I had something of a "creativity hangover" because I was disappointed the content I had loving crafted in honor of one of my favorite days of the year didn't get read.

Today's #365StrongStories post is a video that explores that tension between the need to create from your core and the need to connect with an audience.

When you take the risk of exploring your passion and focus on telling the story that is important to you, you are almost guaranteed to take your eye off the marketing ball (at least for a little while). You have to do that from time to time if you want to grow new, provocative ideas that will make into someone worth listening to.

Here's to understanding that not everything you write or produce is going to have the luck o' the Irish - even when you post it on March 17! Here's to valuing the comments more than the numbers of retweets. Here's to recognizing that this happens to all of us from time to time.

Created something that you loved that just didn't get seen? Post the link in the comments and I promise to visit and respond!

Is That a Rant or a Story?

Rant or Story? My life is an Unmade Bed, #365StrongStories by Marisa Goudy This morning as I rushed from room to room gathering necessary clothes and snacks and computer accessories and toys, it occurred to me: My house is like an unmade bed.

I was tangled in the twisted bed clothes of an entire household of stuff. Everything I needed was lost in this riot of a rumpled nest and it felt nearly impossible to meet the day.

This blistering tirade fueled my mad dash (because, of course, one girl had to make the bus and another had to be dropped at playgroup exactly on time so that mama could make her daylong VIP session with a client).

Once I was safely belted into a quiet car with my coffee, I began composing the day’s story in my head, so pleased that I had such a powerful image and title. But then I paused.

Was I a storyteller or a cranky woman who just wanted to score some sympathy points for performing the impossible? (At this point, I realized that I wasn’t a righteous super hero. I would probably just sound like a disorganized creature who, though hilariously human, was also a trifle whiny.)

Do you want to entrance them with story or blind them with shared rage?

A strong story is compelling. It moves the reader to say “me too!” and click share. Of course, the same can be true in the case of a red hot rant that pushes your audience’s buttons.

But one of these is likely to be full of gory details that you don’t want to revisit or defend in conversation. It’s about a topic that’s too intimate, too raw, too prone to morning after regret.

When you think about it that way, if you’re writing to build your business and establish your professional reputation, you want to avoid that kind of TMI like the plague.

An authentic blog post is intended to give people a window into your world, but the goal is to hold onto a few shreds of dignity and authority so that readers will say “I want to work with that human.”

A story is a well processed piece of prose that features a beginning, a middle, and an end. It has a conflict and a resolution and a protagonist you can root for.

When you write a story, you want to be vulnerable, but you’re not yowling about an open wound like you might in a full blooded rant. Instead, you’re showing off your healed scars with a smile.

How do you know when your post is more diatribe than engaging story?

A rant doesn’t have a strong ending. It may not even have a clear beginning. It’s all messy middle as far as your harangue colored glasses can see.

There’s plenty of conflict, but resolution hides below the horizon of a limitless sea of indignation.

Now, your rant may have characters - generally the wounded party (who may or may not be you, the writer) and the evil perpetrator (an actual villain or just the beasts of excess and chaos). In your unfiltered narrative, you might not be able to make your hero likeable enough to root for. An angry victim will boil alone in her vitriol if she doesn’t have a plot to hold her and prove her case.

Ask yourself: how do I want to connect?

We live in the age of storytelling, not in the age of tirades.

Ok, so that is a total lie seeing as we are living through an American presidential campaign, but we really are in a golden age of storytelling when we get to market our businesses not through newspaper ads but through content that connects.

An emotional explosion might bring the right people through your door. But, most often, those rants will fall flat and keep keep your ideal clients at arm’s length. How can they see the solutions you offer through the drama you describe?

Write stories, not rants. Your readers and your business will thank you for it.

Need some help telling a story that connects? Download your free strong storytelling guide now.

5 Reasons to Keep Writing & Creating Content You Care About, #365StrongStories 55

imageAnyone could blame the weather. Here in New York, we have been been slipping from spring sunshine to a few inches of February fluff to slush and misty gloom. All of it is born away on a tide of mud that just never washes out.

Or, I could blame motherhood and all the ways it shatters my focus and steals my sleep.

And, if I chose, I could blame the creative impulse itself. This need to write and share and connect with readers is a mad, beautiful journey.

No matter the reason, it’s easy to lose track of the “why” during long, dreary days at home in front of the laptop. It's easy to forget about the great goals when the to do list never ends.

Why add more words and pages to this noisy digital world? Why steal time from my family just to try to be seen and read by strangers? Why not just get a job instead of making it all up as I go along?

The welter of worries that threatens to swallow all the creative and professional dreams. You know them too, I am guessing?

And so, the aimless Facebook scrolling begins. Fortunately, I’ve been at this game of questions long enough to stop myself before I start reading my spam messages or looking up high school boyfriends’ little sisters.

Instead, I seek out the resources I know will replenish me and get me back on course: the insights from clients and colleagues I know and love.

We're much the same as we try to carve out enough space for family and relationships and for entrepreneurship and creative passions too. We have unique goals and needs and sources of inspiration to make the balancing act work, but when we can rally together to share the “why” of it all, all of us can get back on track.

This isn't the first time I've worried that there are too many stories out there already, of course.

Luckily, last time I began to believe that the emerging thought leaders I long to help were just too busy being awesome at life and work to sit down and create content they really care about, a wise friend and colleague got me back on track. She reminded that she knows writing and diving deep into her ideas is vital to her practice and her big dreams.

As she described it, you need to write blog posts and HuffPo articles and all the rest because:

  • Content builds trust
  • It’s how clients get to know you
  • It’s how you weed out the wrong people before they even call
  • It’s how you first inspire people to know you’re worth your full fee
  • Content makes people want more of you in programs and classes and all the good stuff you want to sell

I couldn't have said it better myself!

Your turn: Are you convince you need to create content? What's your "why"? (And I would love your answers even if you're thinking "I know I should start writing but I just can't make it a priority")


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!

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.

“I don’t have time to write!”: the Tough Love Answer and the Soul-Level Response

MG_Header_w_biline_hiresSovereign Standard, Issue 35 What’s the reason why people get this close to inviting me to be their writing coach and then press the pause button?

“I really want to give this content creation process the attention it deserves, and I am just not ready to do that yet.”

Whether you're looking to hire a writing coach and editor or whether you're working solo on all the website content, blog posts, and guest posts, you feel the same pressure: “I don’t have time to write!”

The tough love answer to “I don’t have time to write”

“I don’t have time to write!”: the Tough Love Answer and the Soul-Level ResponseBecause I like you, I will tell you that, even as a writer, I understand this squeeze. Granted, for me the problem is “I don’t have time to write enough,” but the principle is the same.

There’s so much you want to say, so much that you want to explore… there just aren’t enough hours in the week.

And because I love you, I'll listen to your “not enough time!” lament. Then I will then ask you what your goals are - professionally, creatively, personally.

You’ll think I’m changing the subject and giving you a chance to tell me about all the other really neat stuff that’s more important than your writing practice including your plans to:

  • Start a podcast
  • Build a membership group
  • Develop a product and make money while you sleep (finally!)
  • Work your way to Oprah’s couch (because it’s the goal even when you need cable to see it)

I will be so excited to hear about everything you've got cooking! And then I am going to say, because I really believe you have valuable insights that will earn you income and recognition: but how are you going to manifest all that without a writing practice?

Praying that you don’t think I’m telling you to put your dreams on hold while you do something "impossible" (dedicate three hours or more per week to the process of writing), I will remind you:

  • A powerful podcast grows thanks to the strength of its show notes and the written content that attracts readers and converts them into listeners.
  • A membership group that is all audio or video based will disappoint people who prefer to read information and it will never be a fully searchable, useful resource for anyone.
  • Even a sound and visual-based product needs a written component too - and it needs to be marketed with rich content that tells a story.
  • Last time I checked, the way people like you and me get on Oprah is by writing a really awesome book.

The soul-level response to “I don’t have time to write!”

“Because it will forward my business” and “because I need to boost my visibility to share my message” - these are great reasons to develop and stick with a writing practice.

But are knowing it's good marketing strategy and understanding my points above really enough to get you to set writing dates with yourself?

"Because entrepreneurship" has never been a strong enough reason to get me to show up to this blog week after week. No promises of big money or fame has inspired me to fill all those little black journals.

There has to be something more to this writing thing. There's a deeper value that compensates the time and the energy and the devotion you must lavish on the writing process.

But, of course, a writer says writing is "the thing"

Now, taking writing advice from a writer -  someone who needs to write to make sense of this heartbreaking, ecstatic work of being alive - it’s a dicey thing.

Admittedly, I’m a person who would ask a dozing seatmate on a packed New York City commuter train for a pen because a 90-minute trip without writing implement is unendurable.

It's good to have crazy scribes like me out there (unless you're a cranky commuter). We're here to do the writing for you, right?

The copywriters and the writing coaches in the world - we're good, but we're not that good. We can help you get clear on what you really want to say.  We can make you look good on paper. We can empower you to feel like a "real" writer and not just somebody blogging for attention.

But, you need to touch the words at some point in the process. You cannot outsource the practice of writing itself - the discipline of it, the ritual of it, the insights and serendipitous connections that spring from it. Well, you could, but then you'd miss out on all sorts of untold magic.

When you delegate the entire writing process you lose tremendous opportunities to explore and expand your own thoughts. As a creative entrepreneur, as a clinician or healer who wants to make a difference in the world - you need access to your own brilliance.

Writing gives you a direct path into your own most vital wisdom.

Writing = thinking, understanding, feeling

As a writer, my inner life is my only instrument. I understand the world only by my attempts to shape my experience on the page. Then, and only then, do I know what I think, feel, believe. Without these attempts (the word essay derives from “attempt”) I am lost. - Dani ShapiroI write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say.” ― Flannery O'Connor “I write entirely to find out what I'm thinking, what I'm looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear." - Joan Didion

Need some inspiration to turn the writing chore into a writing practice? Meet Saundra Goldman and her #continuouspractice project and join the community of people who show up each day to the practice that matters.

Ready to make time for the writing your business needs you to do? Let's talk about how writing coaching can help you create a practice that works for you.

And, even though my "brave" writing is mostly being confined to my journal, I'm still inspired by the Bravery Blogging Project. This week, it felt courageous to ask other great writers to speak for me!

Can you be vulnerable and write “I don’t know” on your business blog?

Sovereign Standard, Issue 34MG_Header_w_biline_hires The writer looks like she is sitting at a keyboard or scribbling furiously in a journal. She seems to be occupying the same space and time as everyone else in the room, but, in reality, she’s exploring territory that she can explain, but never let you view directly.

Whether it’s fiction or theory or even marketing copy that comes from the heart, she’s deep in her own inner landscape. This marvelous space is only limited by the scope of her own imagination and knowledge.

This private world is not infinite. Instead, it’s an eternally elastic territory. The borders are pushed outward by everything she learns and by every experience that invites her to grow.

And yet, there are limits. The writer will reach her edge. Then what?

The Blogger’s Dilemma: The Question Without an Easy Answer

When I worked on the first draft of this week’s blog post, I found myself writing into a question without an answer.

Can you write into your "I don't know"?It was something so close to my “expertise” that I was shocked when I hit a big “I don’t know…”

Often the best questions don’t have ready answers - that vast unknown is the seed of a book, a career, or a life's passion. By the same token, the best blog posts don't necessarily follow the "proven" formulas.

But, in my case, it felt like I should have an answer (and I don’t even let myself use the word should). After all, I was writing about storytelling and this was “just” a blog post… Finding myself at the edge of my frontier of knowledge was as unexpected as it was unsettling.

Sitting quietly in front of a Word doc, I felt uncertain and exposed.

I felt horribly vulnerable - even though no one ever needed to know that there was something really important about storytelling I couldn’t write about with ease.

And then, the magic of the writing practice kicked in: describing the view from my own intellectual edge became more important than the expertise I thought my readers would need.

This is the Vulnerability Business, right?

Last week’s post was about being in the vulnerability business. If you seek to transform lives and make this world more beautiful, bearable, or bold, you have a stall in the marketplace of vulnerability.

You hold space for your clients’ shame and uncertainties. And you strive to recognize vulnerability when you see it - starting with your own.

The writing process gives you a perfect window into your own vulnerabilities. After all, it’s about showing people how you organized ideas and  crafted them to be understood by others. It's about being seen.

Something that wasn’t in the last post - writing can also expose what you might perceive as your “weaknesses.”

Remember, before Brené Brown taught us that “Vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity,” most of us just equated vulnerability with weakness.

The gift of “I don’t know”

That unexpected “I don’t know” dropped me into the “fraud, fraud, fraud” pit. I’m sure I needn’t tell you that no decent writing has ever been produced in that despairing hell hole.

Let’s take a moment here to celebrate one of the many gifts of the writing practice: you can write your way through despair all the way to retrospect - sometimes in the same writing session!

Now, I can see “I don’t know” as a tremendous gift.

It’s an invitation to see things in a new way. It’s an opportunity to forgive myself for being a mere mortal who is still learning every day. It’s a chance to hit pause and do some really delicious research - and perhaps even read those books on writing that I love to buy but never have time to read (because it would eat into writing time, of course).

I don't know is a gift - as long as you give yourself time to receive itBut what if you don’t have time receive the “I don’t know” gift?

New perspective, self-acceptance, mindful pauses. Lots of people tell you how wonderful they are.

Truth is, it is hard to see all the opportunities in “I don’t know” when you simply don’t have the time to wander and wonder and expand the bounds of the known world.

There is only so much writing time per week. This time is not meant to be lavished on research or stumbling into terra incognita. It’s not meant to be spent on Facebook either, but that's another story.  

So, what happens when you write yourself into an "I don't know" shaped corner but you just need to hit publish?

4 Ways a Writer Can Respond to an Unexpected “I Don’t Know”

Research. The universe just may be telling you that it IS ok to skip this week’s post and put your writing time into developing your own answer to that big, scary question.

(Admittedly, this week I told the universe I would get back to it about expanding my mind after I found a way to write something worth publishing, baked cupcakes for my 6 year-old’s birthday, and finished the outline for my new membership group. This may be an instance of “do as the writing coach says, not as she does.”)

Release. “Release” may be about skipping or delaying a post (see above). Losing sleep or publishing something that isn’t ready just because it’s supposed to be on the editorial calendar is never in your best interest.

(Personally, I find it almost impossible to break the publishing promise I've made to myself. I often choose to understand “realease” as letting go of the troublesome topic and allowing another idea to emerge.)

Repurpose. Look back at past posts, particularly material that appeared on old websites or on guest blog posts. Redo the intro and the conclusion and let yourself off the “must create original material” hook. Remember: this is always an option.

(Do you even remember what you wrote last year? Chances are there's real gold there. Looking back to your past posts isn't cheating - it's using all your resources wisely.)

Reach out.  As I wrote this late into Wednesday night, I whined to my husband about being stuck in the blogging vortex. While I was happy that I had been able to release the original idea and repurpose the feelings that “I need to do more research” stirred up, I had well over 2000 words of wandering wonder. All I wanted was an intro, some useful content, and a compelling Invitation to Action! That was when the light went on - if only I had a writing coach!

All day long, I look at clients’ snarled up brilliance and help them pluck out the brightest, most evocative ideas and stories. It’s nearly always impossible to get perspective on your own work. If you can relate to this story, reach out to me and we’ll see how I can help you uncover your most brilliant thoughts.


This week’s post was inspired by many factors including my big scary “I don’t know,” the conversation that last week’s vulnerability post has generated, and the Bravery Blogging Project I stumbled across this week (thanks, Molly!).

Illana Burk of  Makeness Media is looking for her community to make “Real, original, difficult content.” I’m new to their world, but finding yet another circle of people who want to dive deep into an idea and risk writing outside the blogging “shoulds” stretches my mind in a wonderful new way. And it makes me feel like I can keep blogging about the “I don’t know” stuff and it encourages me to ask you to do the same.

The unexpected way your writing practice builds client loyalty and love

Sovereign Standard, Issue 33MG_Header_w_biline_hires “I feel really vulnerable right now,” she said. “I’ve never showed anyone but my husband a very first draft of my writing.”

We have a name to that feeling of being exposed thanks to the brilliant Brené. (Do I even need to mention her last name in this company?)

We must dare to show up and let ourselves be seen. This is vulnerability. This is Daring Greatly. Brene BrownAs a culture, we’re learning that vulnerability is vital to connection and growth. It’s an essential skill to master if you want to make the world more beautiful, bearable, and bold.

And yet, actually doing the stuff that puts your vulnerability skills to the test? Well, that’s another story.

Honoring your clients' vulnerability - and bravery

The client I quote above reminded me that sharing your writing - especially what Anne Lamott famously calls the “shitty first draft” - can be a terrifying experience.

Pressing “publish” and sending your words into the public arena isn’t the only thing that’s scary. Just sending it to someone who has earned your trust, like a writing coach, can give you the whim-whams.

Even if you want me to look more deeply at your writing. Even if you want me to question your logic and rework a paragraph that took you 45 minutes to write. Even when you trust me and trust our co-creative writing process, you still may shudder when I say "so, I read your piece..."

Almost everyone wrestles with the writing shame that was instilled in them by dismissive English teachers, unholy nuns, or grammarian grandmothers. I have to remind myself - often - that I’m pushing people into uncomfortable spaces by simply doing my job.

Are you in the vulnerability business too?

My dance with these beloved, vulnerable writers becomes even more complex since my clients themselves are in the vulnerability business.

And some of them never knew it was going to be part of the entrepreneurial ride. 

Dear therapists and counselors, thank you for being our vulnerability gladiatorsTherapists & Counselors, thank you for being our vulnerability gladiators

Therapists, of course, are schooled in the art and science of vulnerability. You specialize in emotional exposure - and how that tends to make people react or shut down.

Thank goodness we have you, dear counselors! I envision you there doing your brilliant work in the green room of the Daring Greatly "arena.” 

Creative Entrepreneurs, you know you have a place in the arena too, right? Suit up!

And then there’s the rest of us creative entrepreneurs who learn from Brené Brown’s books. We look to the thought leaders (and bloggers!) who expose the crazy-sexy-scary underbelly of being alive and putting ourselves out there.

We creative entrepreneurs are not necessarily trained in the intricacies of the human psyche, but we still need to recognize we have a role to play in this arena.

When  you’re in  the business of  creation or transformation  and you dare to dip beneath  the surface of everyday life,  you’re going to be asked  to hold space for clients when they come up against their own shudders of shame. Step into the arena.When you’re in the business of creation or transformation and you dare to dip beneath the surface of everyday life, you’re going to be asked to hold space for clients when they come up against their own shudders of shame.

Support clients in their most vulnerable moments and help them make real, positive change… When you do that, you’re performing a service that’s so much more valuable than whatever you say you do on your website.

When you hold space in that way you’re creating a long term client and a forever fan.

How can you make vulnerability one of your greatest assets?

The Unexpected Way Your Writing Practice Builds Client Loyalty and Love: Be vulnerable even in the arena.If being “that person” who can hold space for a client when she feels most exposed is how you earn the trust that builds a practice and a business, how can you get better at it?

Start by recognizing what makes you feel vulnerable. Start with what feels risky. Start with your writing.

4 Key Lessons in Vulnerability You Can Learn From Your Own Writing Practice

  • Recognize that you are stepping into the arena whenever you publish a blog post. Congratulate yourself for that.
  • Realize that showing one focused reader something that you have written may feel a lot harder than sending it to a million faceless internet surfers.
  • Acknowledge that your writer’s block is about more than time constraints and a hatred of grammar… it's likely rooted in that tricky mix of “please see me” and “eek! stop looking at me!”
  • Notice when you’re asking your readers to be vulnerable. You’ll hone your vulnerability super powers when you become aware of the content that pushes readers out of their comfort zone.

Simply put, when you know your own vulnerabilities more intimately, you’ll be better able to detect them and honor them in others. People love it when you do that, you know. Think you might be ready to entrust me with your stories and your writing practice? Learn more about the writing coaching relationship.

I'll leave you with my favorite working definition of vulnerability by the brilliant Ahri Golden. Soak in these words. Put them into practice.

Vulnerability In the space between you and me Vulnerability is power Vulnerability in the space between you and me Vulnerability is the opposite of weak

The end of the "call to action" for healers and private practice therapists

Sovereign Standard, Issue 32MG_Header_w_biline_hires What is your goal when you sit in a room with a client?

To guide, to partner, to support. Perhaps to educate and inspire.

What about “convince” or “persuade”? Um, ick.

The role of the healer

As an energy healer with my own small practice, I cringe at the thought of “convincing” a vulnerable client of anything while she lies on my table. Though I am not bound by the codified ethics of a mental health or other licensed medical practitioner, I am bound by my own personal ethics and by the basic “job description” that my teacher and mentor Eleanora Amendolara gave me:

To be a healer is to facilitate another’s awakening.

To facilitate and hold space for another person’s unfolding is a privilege and an honor I don’t take lightly - and as a clinician or holistic professional, I know you also feel the precious weight of such a responsibility too.

In session, deep work takes place. Huge blocks get cleared. A great deal of pain and resistance might emerge in the process. As a healer, you are the witness and the source of safety.

You don’t force or convince anyone of anything that isn’t theirs. The healing wisdom each individual needs is already within. You’re there to help unlock those hard-to-find internal doors and windows.

The healer’s experience as a marketer

How do you get those beautiful people in need into your office so you can perform your magic and offer up your healing medicine?

You market yourself.

At least that’s the mainstream way to talk about it.

You use ads and in-person networking and social media and you create a website that converts. You develop just the right copy and just the right elevator speech that speaks to the pain points and shows that you’ve got just the solution.

Some of this marketing stuff feels fine, some a little suspect, and some advice simply doesn't apply to you. You do what you have to do to spread your message and introduce your work to your perfectly imperfect people.

Walking in both worlds: the private practice and the public marketplace

Walking in both worlds: how to be in private practice and in the public marketplaceAs you know, I am steeped in this marketing process.

I moonlight as an energy healer - quite literally, in the sense that my healing abilities get charged up thanks to a sighting of the moon. She reminds me that there’s a great big universe out there that puts all our human stories in perspective.

But my “real” job is as a writing coach who helps you produce meaningful content so you can be an effective player in the online marketing game.

I walk in both worlds. And, as a healing professional who is building a business, you do too.

We perceive the dissonance between the persuade, convert, sell approach and the gentle, connected process of actually helping people.

But we agree that "marketing" isn't a dirty word, right?

“Marketing is a bad word” is so 2010. 

Saying “I don’t do marketing” with a vaguely superior shudder just doesn’t cut it anymore. You probably don’t even know many practitioners like that since you’ve set out to connect with colleagues who share your growth mindset!

[tweetthis]The "I don't do marketing" attitude is so 2010. I'm a healer with a growth mindset.[/tweetthis]


So, yes, we have accepted - and embraced! - the dynamic, creative process that is content marketing. We use blog posts, articles, and social platforms to tell stories that draw readers and clients.

But, still, there’s dissonance between the mainstream messages about how to lure clients and the experience you create for the clients you have.

If “persuade them to take action” is the foundation of marketing, do you have to be one person in your treatment space and someone else when you're trying to attract clients online? 

In a word: no.

You can walk in both worlds, stay true to yourself, and build business.

[tweetthis]Yes, you can walk in both worlds and thrive as a healer and a businessperson.[/tweetthis]

The secret to authentic, integrated marketing for therapists and healers

As you’d expect from a writer, I’ll tell you the secret to authenticity is in the words you choose.

As you’d expect from a healer, I’ll tell you the secret to integrity is in the energy you put into your communication.

Simply shift “persuade” or “convince” into invite.

The end of the call to action

The end of the call to action for healers and private practice therapistsFor years, I’ve happily offered up one of the most elementary acronyms in the copywriter’s arsenal: CTA.

A “call to action” is what every web page and every piece of sales collateral needs to include. (Or so “they” always say…)

It’s time to adjust the wording to reflect an energetic shift in how we  look at transforming curious web surfers and readers into committed clients.

Let’s call it the Invitation to Action.

It’s a minor shift, especially since there is nothing particularly objectionable in the word “call” itself. But, as clinicians and holistic service providers who hold rather than force, isn’t it time to step away from phrases that are synonymous with “tell ‘em what to do”?

How can the "Invitation to Action" change everything about your approach to marketing?

“Invitation to action” is not an invitation to forget everything you have learned about marketing.

It doesn't allow you to escape the risky business of self promotion and it doesn't permit you to pull back into yourself.

It’s not an excuse to write “nice,” vague copy that hints at “maybe you want to call me someday.” 

Instead, "Invitation to action" is an energetic pivot that takes you out of pushing and into holding.

The "ITA" is still effective. It's all the more effective because it's in alignment with who you really are.

Begin to get comfortable with this phrase by using it as the headline on an invitation you’re writing for yourself.

You are invited to compose your next sales page, blog post, or social media update as a fully integrated marketer-writer-healer.

Use your website to create a safe, welcoming space. Use your words to offer ideas and options and well-intentioned suggestions. Use your expertise - and trust your expertise - to show prospective clients that you’ve got the medicine they need.

Learn a new way to invite clients into your practice - discover the Story Triangle. Sign up for the next free class coming up on May 11!

Join the webinar

How do private practice therapists take the creative risk and keep a blog?

"Creativity is the ability to take a risk. To actually put yourself on the line and risk ridicule, being pilloried, criticized, whatever. But... you must take that risk."

Sting - and specifically his Ted talk about how he reconnected with his creativity - inspired me to think about the risks we take as writers, as thinkers, as content creators, and as publishers.

Does creativity feel like a risk to you?

How do private practice therapists take the creative risk of keeping a blog?

How do private practice therapists take the creative risk of keeping a blog?

Creating and sharing haven’t always felt risky for me.

Think of yourself as a kid. Think of what Picasso said: "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."

Art was life, not risk.

As I grow older, as my circles of influence grow a little wider, and as more people are likely to read my words, I finally feel the tingle of “this is risky” when I hit publish.

Blogging for business can be your best creative outlet

As full as life is - and I know you can relate to this - creative time can be scarce. You're in two nonstop races when you run a family and you run a business - or at least it can feel that way.

In my case, if there's any “me” time at all, it’s a choice between meditate, exercise, or do some creative writing.

Since I tend to choose whatever offers maximum overall benefit and can be done during nap time, I choose meditation. That means I’m in pretty lousy shape and it means my beloved fiction projects are languishing.

It also means my untapped creative writing juices get poured into my blogging and content marketing. Because I need to build a business to support this family, that’s the perfect mix right now.

If writing for the business is the creative outlet, then blogging can feel risky too

[tweetthis]If creativity=risk and biz blogging is a #creative practice, does that make #writing risky?[/tweetthis]

Thinking aloud, trying out a theory in a public space, taking on issues that people would rather not examine, publishing it online for all the world to see… all of this can feel dangerous.

Even though we’re all getting used to living out loud when we're on online, it can start to feel dicey when you consider your professional persona.

This is especially true if you feel particuarly cautious about sharing personal stories - either because you’re a naturally private person or because you’re a therapist in private practice.

When you start to build an audience and you sincerely hope those people will invest in what you do, “just write and hit publish” starts to feel kinda scary.

And there’s a particular kind of risk inherent to publishing a blog post for your business: 

You can’t always be sure that you’re writing about an idea that speaks to the concerns of your ideal readers and clients. What if the story you need to tell right now springs from your own psyche and your own needs?

Discern your own stories from the Greater Story your business & your readers need you to tell

[tweetthis]Some stories are private. Some need to get tweeted like crazy. Can you tell the difference?[/tweetthis]

Experience. Listening. Mindfulness.

And trust.

Trust that you’ve created a reciprocal relationship with you readers that allows you to hear their needs above your own internal noise.

Trust that your readers are willing to journey with you into the uncharted territory of your inner world. (Within reason… this is a professional, not a confessional blog!)

There’s no simple formula. Again, it’s a creative act - because yes, blogging for your business can be a deeply creative process. There are risks and you may not always get it right, but that whole “nothing ventured, nothing gained” idea certainly applies in this case.

[tweetthis]Shh! I'm writing. #Blogging for my business is my creative outlet.[/tweetthis]

Is writing the “right” story easier or harder for therapists?

So, having decided to write about other people instead of myself, a further irony is that sometimes you reveal more about yourself than you'd ever intended. - Sting at TED Vancouver in 2014

Is writing the "right" story harder for therapists?

Is writing the "right" story harder for therapists?

Storytelling is an intensely personal act.

That is why it is such an effective way to reach and engage people. You do risk revealing yourself when you tell a story - even if you never use a personal pronoun.

The way a narrator takes a chance and puts herself on the line? That is exactly what gets people to pay attention.

You might think that discerning whether a story is acceptably universal or too rooted in personal concerns would be easier for therapists. After all, your work is about witnessing and holding space for others’ emotions.

You know what occupies many hearts and minds. And you've generally been taught to keep yourSELF out the equation.

For example, when someone  reveals a concern about infidelity or chronic anxiety or the stress of parenting, you know it’s a topic that you could explore on your blog (ethically and without identifying details, of course). When you see patterns emerge in your practice, you've discover a collective problem that will interest many of your readers. 

But what if you’re drawn to discuss a topic because it’s rippling through your own life or because it colors your past?

Then, telling the story - even without an "I" - can feel risky. You're not so sure you're telling the "right" story and distinguishing between the personal and universal.

Through the writing process - which reveals countless hidden truths - you may realize that it's hard to publish a post and maintain your professional posture when you’re bent under the strain of your own experiences.

So what do you do?

When your own "stuff" wants to come into your blog and you're not totally sure what is yours, what is important for the community, and what is just plain old whiny nonsense, in addition to practicing mindfulness and trust, practice gentleness.

Be gentle with your story, with your need to tell it, with your audience. After all, they put themselves in your care when they gather round to hear what you have to say.

And get a second set of eyes to review the post before you hit publish.

Often, a non-therapist with distance from your situation will be the best reader because they offer the gift of impartiality. They can tell you what resonates in the heart of the common reader, what feels like psychobabble buzz, and what feels too autobiographical.

I happen to be a non-therapist who loves to play the role of your ideal reader.  As your writing coach, I can help you figure out which stories to tell and support you as your find just the right words to tell them.

No, beloved, I cannot help you write and edit your next blog post UNTIL…

Sovereign Standard, Issue 30MG_Header_w_biline_hires You’ve got an idea for a really important blog post for your business’s website - brilliant!

Tell me about it. Tell me why you need to write it. Tell me the story that will glimmer with insight. Tell me what you’re asking your reader to do when she reaches the end.

What I want the writer to do you ask.

Yes. You know, the call to action. It’s the logical, necessary conclusion to every business blog post. It’s anything from join my email list, to get my free report, to book a session.

Oh,  you say, I’m not sure…

Well, how about you send them to your services page? In a pinch you can always say “learn more about what I do” and invite readers to delve more deeply into your website that way.

Um… I’d rather not. My services page is kind of outdated. I keep meaning to get back to it.

No, beloved, I cannot help you write and edit your next blog post UNTIL...You’re starting to shut down. You’re kind of wishing you’d never asked me - your friend the writing coach - to look at something you wrote.

This is when I get a certain look in my eye. I really, really want to give you a hug, but I see you're pulling back. I know that feeling. The last thing I want to do is discourage your writing, but I have to be honest.

I am about to deliver some news you probably don’t really want to hear, but that you and I both know you need to hear.

This blog post isn’t where you need to put your energy, friend.

We’re wasting our efforts on this one precious article if you’re still struggling with pangs of website shame. 

Tough love: 5 things your online presence needs BEFORE you invest time, energy, and writing coaching dollars in your blog

5 point of the online presence starWhether or not you want to be a blogging superstar, regardless of whether you buy into the quest for any kind of superstardom at all, you need to be the star of your own online show if you're going to make your business work.

And so, before I start helping you promote yourself through blogging and content marketing, I want to be sure that you've shined up all the points on your online presence star.

[tweetthis]5 things I tell my friends to do before they write a #blog post[/tweetthis]

  1. You've got overall clarity on what your website is meant to do for your business. Your website is a key member of your sales force. Yes, even if you run a itty bitty business or a private practice you actually do have a sales force.It might just a force of two: you at networking events introducing your work and passing out cards and your website with the "book now" button. Make sure it's clear that your site has a job and be the boss who makes it do the work! (Note: your site does need to be more than an online booking platform - it welcomes prospects with a clear, comprehensive overview of who you are, what you offer, and what problems you solve, too!)
  2. Your About page shines with your Sovereign Story. Beyond sharing some key elements of your biography, the About page expresses your passion and your mission. It inspires people say “I want to have coffee with this person and find out how she can help me. Heck, I want to hire her!”
  3. Your Services page describes what you do and answers fundamental questions about your work. The Services page on your site is a resource for you too. When you’re new to business or you’re making changes in your practice, you can refer to your website as your organization's “manual.” You already figured out the length and cost of a session and you posted it for the world to see - no need to second guess yourself when someone asks your what you do and what you charge!
  4. You’re continuing your relationship with your reader by building a list. You get an extra gold star when you tell me you have an email opt in offer (like a video series or a report) that incentivizes sign ups, but simply asking people to join your community and entrust you with their email address is a great start.
  5. You’re consistently strengthening your relationship with your online community. Communicating with your list. Posting useful content on social media from a variety of sources. Starting conversations with colleagues, potential clients, and the people who inspire you… All of this helps you develop an online platform and build and audience so there’s someone there to read this awesome blog post that is blossoming within you.

Yes, but there are stories that must be told

What, what’s that you say? The blog post you need to write is burning you up inside?

It’s about your clients, your business, your relationship with how you serve the world and nothing makes sense until you get it out there. It’s one of those immediate stories that has to be birthed now, huh?

And you say that putting your concerns about list building over this really big idea just crushes your soul.

I get that.

Your friend the writing coach takes a deep breath... (that's me, remember).

I can’t help myself - I too am driven by story, art, connection, and the need to express that idea that will not be denied. I understand how you are dedicated to so much more than "doing the internet right.”

Alright. Just this once. Just ONE post. Show it to me. I'll make suggestions and edits and ask you to clarify a few things, ok? Expect to get it back by Tuesday. If it's that important we'll be the this one post will inform all those other web presence building activities I talk about above.

But, once this is published, do you promise that our next project involves a comprehensive review of your site so you can put website shame to bed forever? Or, if you're just not sure where to begin, we'll have a Message Development Session. Promise?

How shiny is your online presence star?

Help me understand where you are right now... Do you feel like you have all five points covered and you're ready for the blogging adventure?

If you're still polishing up your online star, which points feel bright and shiny and which could use some help?

Please let me know in the comments so I can craft some content that will help you set all five points aglow!

Does your business need a blog? Depends on what you need from your business

Sovereign Standard, Issue 16MG_Header_w_biline_hires I’m a frugal lass. I squeeze the toothpaste tube for a week longer than any sane person would and I still manage to have fresh breath.

If there’s still some meaning to be eked out of a revelation like “I gotta quit entrepreneurship,” I’m going to find it. I’m obligated to find it. (Yeah, I get that this can be obsessive, exhausting, and self-defeating.)

When you ask your business to ask less of you, how will you show up online?Then I’m going to spend a few hours crafting it into words. And then I am going to share it with my readers - even if the article doesn’t take me one inch closer to attracting copywriting clients or further my creative projects.

Blindness? Egomania? Fear of missing out?

Can we call it dedication? I’ve found a tribe who, like me, is feeling the crush of creative entrepreneurship and the idea just won’t leave me alone.

You’re downshifting from entrepreneurship into freelancing. It’s time to do the work that immediate rather than pioneering a visionary program or building a firm (at least for now).

Living and working like the creative-in-business you want to be may mean adjusting how you do business by offering the basic, 'useful' services.

This is why I am shifting my attention to offering the right people my copywriting and editing services while the 'real' creative work gestates in the dark for a while.

Read the rest of Burned Out? Maybe It’s Time to Split the Creative from the Professional

When it comes down to it, “don’t waste anything!” probably isn’t a good enough reason to keep writing about a concept that may or may not be aligned with personal and professional goals.

So I ask myself (in the way I know best - a piece of writing I intend to publish)  do I even need to keep blogging and sending out the Sovereign Standard if I’m redefining my relationship to my business?

As you ask your business to ask less of you, how will you show up online?

So, what if you are called to make a shift in how you relate to your business?

Tons of your behind the scenes habits and attitudes will change, but the hardest changes you make will relate to how you decide to show up online.

You know you still have to think about your visibility, consistency, and reputation. Even if you're happily shutting down a larger company, with creative dreams like yours, there's going to be a time when you want an audience who knows and loves you.

Over-hyped as it may seem, content marketing is key to building a business in 2015. It's key to building a creative platform as well. We hear about “the importance of creating compelling content, of all lengths, and across all platforms” from countless sources. Everybody’s doing it and if you’re serious about building a business or a platform as an author or thought leader, you have to do it too.

(Wait, is that really true?)

Not surprisingly, I do think writing is important - even essential. But, you don't blog because "they" say you must or because you think it's fun compete against mega stars and companies with mega budgets as everyone vie for the web surfers' finite attention.

You create written content because it supports your personal, professional, and creative growth. Ultimately, you need to establish a writing practice that gives back to you.

Must you write for your business (even if you’re scaling it back)?

You've got so much going on. You just want a break. The point is to devote creative energy to the work that matters, not to the marketing and the ephemeral blog posts...

Can you just quit?

As with most answers to important questions, there is no one single “should” when it comes to deciding how you’ll figure out how to show up after you change the rules to your own professional game.

Instead, there are just more questions. This is what I'm asking myself as I restructure my relationship with my work.

How do you write for a changed business? The practical marketing questions

  • Do I have enough contacts and other resources to pull in the clients I need without doing my own content marketing?
  • What do I blog about now that I am running a more “low key” business that’s built on my scale, not to be scalable?
  • Do the clients who hire a smart, competent freelancer want something different than clients who are investing with a creative entrepreneur?

Pause. Here's an answer to those last two questions:  Remember that clients don’t really care about what you call yourself as long as you get the work done. And readers don’t care either as long as you’re interesting and helpful.

A new opportunity to prioritize writing for business (or not) and to honor your creativity no matter what

Yes, no, maybe? Business writing is time consuming enough without adding the pressure of an existential blogging crisis on top of it all. Let's cut through the deliberation and establish what's most important:

If you still have to earn a livelihood as a self-employed person, you fundamentally need to focus on the income-generating activities that will sustain you today, tomorrow, and in the near future.

And, if you want to be the person you know you're mean to be you also need to honor and creative acts will nourish you today, tomorrow, and in the near future.

To that end, I'm going to ask myself these three questions before I sit down to write another word on any project.

  • Am I writing this for myself and/or to further my creative vision?
  • Am I writing this to win real business?
  • Am I writing this because part of me has been trained to equate “likes” and spikes in my site stats with approval?

Tell me, what other questions do you ask yourself as you decide how to spend your precious writing time. And if you have any answers? Glory, glory, they're more than welcome too!