writing for your business

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

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

Blogging beyond tricks: how to work the magic of intention and attention

Sovereign Standard, Issue 29 MG_Header_w_biline_hires There are so many blogging gurus and “easy peasy” blogging plans out there. I’ve never claimed to be a blog expert and I will never tell you that writing is an easy process that you can hack through.

Instead, I call myself a writing coach and I promise to guide you and walk beside you through what can only be called a dedicated practice of writing for business.

Blogging beyond tricks: How to work the magic of intention and attentionYes, there are specific strategies that will make your blogging more effective - and will shorten the writing time. You can even shorten the editing process when you bring it to someone like me!

And yes, you might say there are blogging “tricks” that help you create posts that are really special - not because you’re pulling a fast one but because you’re working your own kind of magic.

You don’t need blogging tricks, but a little magic is always helpful

Something you should know about me: I believe in magic.

I believe in magic because I have no interest in living in a "what you see is what you get" world. I believe in the magic of stories, symbols from nature, and the depths of dream.Mostly, I believe in magic because I have no interest in living in a "what you see is what you get" world. I believe in the magic of stories, symbols from nature, and the depths of dream.

I also believe that magic flows when you focus your intention and attention. That’s exactly how words and sentences flow too.

You don’t need tricks to make your writing practice work for you and your business. You need a strong intention and you need to give your writing the attention it deserves.

[tweetthis]Magic flows when you focus your intention and attention. Same is true for your #writing.[/tweetthis]

Before you write a word: begin with intention

When you sit down to create content for your blog, what motivates you?

  1. You’re trying to keep up with those “epic content dudes” who tell you that modern business is about publish or perish.
  2. You’re fulfilling a promise to your coach or some sort of accountability group.
  3. A general case of the “shoulds.” You’re not even sure why you’re blogging, but you figure you better get started because you’re already so far behind.
  4. You wish to explore a long percolating idea or a sudden flash of insight. Taking these ideas beyond scribbled notes and Word docs and into the public arena deepens the process and opens new perspectives.
  5. You’re writing out of love and service, trusting that the people who need to hear your message will offer your words the attention they deserve.

Because this is a post about a writing practice guided by personal intention and attention, there’s no single right answer.

There are, however, a few very wrong answers – if your motivation to write is based purely on obligation or fear.

Your “why” is the source of your writing magic

When you don’t know why you’re writing something - when you’re unclear of your intention - it’s nearly impossible to connect with the reader.

When you don’t connect to your reader, you’ll never achieve the goal of the post or article.

Your goal may be simple: “get more business.” But no one will get past the first few lines of a blog post if it’s clear the writer is only in it for the sale. The reader also won’t get very far if it seems the writer is just publishing because someone told her she “should.”

So why are you really writing?

Call me a romantic. Call me an idealist. Heck, call me a writer! I believe the only writing that ultimately succeeds is composed in a spirit of love and service.

Consider the success of direct mail copywriters and lousy popular novelists. Clearly you can write successfully when inspired by the love of money and in service to the beast of fame. I’m not here to judge those folks. They prove that passion and dedication will get you what you want.

But I think you’re a little bit more like me than you are like the guy with the perfect marketing formula.

You care deeply about your business and what you offer your clients. You love the people who buy from you – and not just because you adore the ka-ching of your PayPal notification tone.

Thing is, you don’t necessarily love writing for your business. Put it another way - you haven’t fallen in love with the writing process yet because you don’t understand the why of your attraction.

[tweetthis]The only #writing that truly connects is composed in a spirit of love and service.[/tweetthis]

Your writing “why” has a name and a face

A lot of brilliant people say you must write for yourself first.

“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 is exactly right.

Hear a “but…” statement coming?

Presumably this great novelist is talking about fiction, not writing a blog post that helps bring in business.

Kingsolver would be spot on if we were still in the heady days of personal blogs when finding your voice was so central and “if you write it, they will come” was still semi-true.

Now, many take selfies to tell personal stories. Creative entrepreneurs and therapists use blogs to further their business, art, and practice in a more systematic, strategic way.

You can tell your personal stories just about anywhere. Your business blog exists to serve the reader. (Your stories are important, but they're the vehicles that carry your message, not your writing's fundamental raison d'etre.)

Your reader is your “why.” To satisfy her needs and curiosity… that must be your intention every time you publish a post.

The blog is the place to engage the reader with stories that illuminate her story. The blog sustains the reader with solutions to problems that keep her up at night.

Ok, your blog is still about you - in a way

There’s one part of blogging that’s about you: determining what sort of content you can comfortably, sustainably create. After all, creating content is a marathon, not a sprint.

This goes back to intention… You’re intentionally building a business around your gifts, your passions, your desire to solve the problems of a community of people you love.

Logically, any writing you do to support this work will feel doable - even if the writing itself still takes a lot of effort.

Does blogging feel like tea with Glinda or a bucket of water with a wicked witch?But, if every writing session is torture and you feel like a house fell on your sister rather than you're flying in an orb of fairy dust, there is something wrong.

You need to figure yourself into the writing process too and make adjustments to your writing routine, topic choice, and delivery style. If you don’t feel like a good witch when you’re writing, change your approach.

When your writing process feels more like a Dark Art rather than a lovely session with Glinda and Dorothy, let’s set up a complimentary 15 minute chat and share a long distance cup of tea so I can help you identify at least one adjustment you can make right away.

Once your intention is clear, you know where to direct your attention

Writing can be an emotional entanglement of sorts. Everyone has a different relationship with their words, but there’s one common factor in every writer-writing relationship -- attention.

An attention-starved writing practice is absolutely nothing but a dusty notebook inscribed with regret.

You love your business, you love the people you have been called to serve.

And so we return to:

You write online content out of a spirit of love and service, trusting that the people who need to hear your message will offer your words the attention they deserve.

When you show your love to your business and your reader-clients, they repay your intentional attention with their own (incredibly valuable) attention.

Blogging = Love. So how do you fall in love with the writing process so you can share the greater love?

Because I want to wave my magic wand and take the pain out of blogging for you, I am tempted to tell you that you can click your heels together with intention and pay simply attention to what the Wizard says.

There’s a great chance that getting clear on your "why" and sitting down to DO the writing is all you need. But that does you a great disservice if you’re someone who feels like she can’t cast a writing spell without some help.

You have other options. You can create video. You can start a podcast. You can create visual experiences for your beloved community.

You can explore the different kinds of writing support that are out there and make a decision based on your skills and resources.

And you and I can talk about your writing-for-business intentions and how they mix - or don’t! - with your reality as an entrepreneur or clinician whose attention is already pulled in so many directions.

Send me a note and we’ll schedule 15 minutes to sip tea and talk about how you can find the magic in your own message.

Why You - and Your Business - Need the Creative Constraints of Blogging

Sovereign Standard, Issue 27 MG_Header_w_biline_hires Big-eared and sweet-eyed, the doe is where nature's sense of peace and trust collide with the potential for flight and terror.

Earlier this week, my 19-month-old and I shared a sacred, homey moment with the local deer herd. It was a well-earned pause after over two weeks and over 2000 miles of travel.

As I watch, I’m rooted in the moment, but I’m filtering it all through my writer’s lens. Am I distracting myself from being in the moment by taking mental notes and adapting family stories to prove a professional point?

It’s my way of being in the world and I don’t think I could ever stop. In fact, I think this kind of dual awareness is essential to leading a writer’s life.

A blogger's confession: sometimes, I don’t want to write a story you’ll care about

A blogger's confession: sometimes, I don’t want to write a story you’ll care aboutThoughts of “this would be great in a post” aren't distracting me. It’s the stupid the window screen and the way I have to keep shifting my gaze so I see the deer rather than the crisscross patterns.

To deal with my annoyance, I play with the metaphor. As I muse about what divides us from nature and the sheer pleasure of the present moment, I consider the scene from a dozen different angles.

But really, I just want to describe this moment. I want to dwell on how it’s my grandmother’s birthday, and though she’s been gone for over a decade, this feels like her blessing. I want to revel in the way my daughter’s hair looks like rose gold in the dawn light.

Truthfully, I want to forget about you, dear reader. I want to pretend I can't hear your ever-present question: “What’s in this story for me?”

I want to transmit the magic of this moment without concerning myself with how it’ll further your writing practice. I want to present the trust of that wild animal’s eyes and leave it you to run with the story on your own fleet hooves.

Thing is, I would never get around to writing such a sweet little vignette.

The Power - and Necessity - of Creative Constraint

Constraints give us a starting point and some building blocks to work with—a problem to solve, an innovative twist to be revealed, or a person to please. - David Sturt

Why you and your business need the creative constraints of bloggingWithout constraints, you struggle to find a container or a framework that grounds your creative work. You need a venue, a deadline, and an audience with a set of expectations to get your ideas out into the world on a regular basis.

My weekly Sovereign Standard posts demand that I focus my “I could write about anything!” energy and actually publish something worthwhile each week.

I think if you’re given a clean, fresh palette, and you do whatever you want, it’s almost too much freedom, at least for me. - Damien Correll in Belle Beth Cooper’s article about how artists and entrepreneurs use limitation and restriction to create great things.

The business blog is an inherently restrictive platform. It has limits - thank goodness!

The delectable, reliable constraints of your biz blog

A business blog post needs certain elements to be successful. These characteristics are what differentiates it from a personal or “hobby” blog where you can write whatever you want. (Within reason… you still have to produce interesting, well-written content on a non-commercial blog.)

Each professional post must:

  • Have a goal. You want your reader to do something at the end of each post based on your Call to Action (CTA). The whole post is leading your ideal client to take the next step and engage more deeply with your brand. Ask them to sign up for your newsletter, listen to the podcast you just appeared on, or call to set up a free introductory consult.
  • Make the reader the hero. Even as you tell captivating, elevating stories - many of which may be inspired by your own experience - you need to consider how the reader is experiencing the narrative. Can she relate to what you’re talking about and understand how the story is a guide of what to do or what not to do?
  • Know the value of attention. The job of each sentence is to get the reader to reach the next sentence. Don’t squander your reader’s precious time on extraneous details that don’t either draw her into your world or give her something useful to do or consider.  
  • Appeal to the skimming reader. Your blog is not a book, a term paper or your thesis, or a professional document. Don’t sacrifice your voice to imitate the style of UpWorthy or even Copyblogger, but remember that people are reading your work on an iPhone, not from a leather bound volume. Honor your reader’s splintered modern attention spans or prepare to lose her to the next shiny digital object.

What NOT to write about on your biz blog

You can’t abandon a regularly scheduled post that’s full of practical information about maintaining a strong marriage in order to simply rave about your romantic getaway.

You can’t skip the tips about managing your children’s difficult behavior just to describe how smoothly the first day of school went at your house.

You can’t rave about how delicious the gluten free blueberry cream cheese coffee cake you just made without including the recipe.

You wouldn’t post content like this on your business blog because it sounds like self-centered bragging, of course. Without the “news they can use” or the moral to the story, you’re likely wasting your reader's time.

Think about “what not to write” from the positive side:  you wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to offer the helpful content your readers love just because your muse wants to linger in the afterglow of a life well lived.

Get a room. Better yet, get a guest post spot.

Personal experiences provide excellent material for your professional blog. Just be sure you do it with respect and set your TMI filters to “very, very picky.”

But, when you find your story cup overfloweth and you want to explore ideas that don’t connect directly with your business, remember that there’s a whole other world of blogs out there that don’t demand that your writing leads to an obvious, income-boosting call to action.

People with passions for stories, readers who seek out beauty and inspiration… They’re out there, and they’d love to have you write for them.

If and when you do land a guest spot on a blog that focuses on travel, parenting, or cute fuzzy puppies, do remember to maintain your own Sovereign Standard and honor the advice you’ve picked up here!

Other lessons from the deer and the little girl who scared her away

How to keep up when they’ve got the kind of beauty that movesI’m honored that my friend Vanessa of Nessa Knows Best has offered me a guest blogging position on her site for savvy moms.

There were countless ways I could have explored the metaphor of the window screen, the doe, and the toddler… which did I choose? Come read How to keep up when they’ve got the kind of beauty that moves.

Four Common Traits Lethal to Rock Stars and Blog Writers

You know the songs that matter. They have a way of illuminating your past. At the same time, they shed new light on your present and make you look forward to a brighter future. (Articles and blog posts can do this too, of course.)

I’m still unfurling my muscles after a few days stuck in the back of a fully packed minivan. We’ve just completed the summer pilgrimage up to the Canadian Maritimes. Members of my family have been making this trip since my grandparents immigrated to Boston in 1949.

Such trips are a chance to go back in time - even as you’re unmistakably immersed in the present and the future. Countless stories about the people you've loved and lost are told over the noise of the newest generation.

Between the reminiscing, reciting every nursery rhyme I knew to soothe the toddler, and fending off the five year-old’s requests for yet another ice cream cone, there actually were a few quiet moments in the van.

What U2 can teach you about presenting content to people who care

U2 Bono: Four Common Traits Lethal to Rock Stars
U2 Bono: Four Common Traits Lethal to Rock Stars

As I watched the Prince Edward Island farmland stretch to ocean, I caught a U2 song I vaguely remembered.

It wasn’t blurred by time - U2 songs from twenty-five years ago are indelibly etched in my mind. This was a new song from that “oops” album that the band pushed at everyone last year.

U2 “gifted” the album to everyone with an iTunes account. Songs of Innocence wasn’t addressed to the faithful fans or even rock music listeners. It was launched at 500 million people, many of whom didn’t know the difference between U2’s lead singer and some guy who used to be married to Cher.

The chosen audience for this music - everyone - simply didn’t care.

Ego, generosity, self-promotion, and fear are a lethal combo - for rock stars and for writers

If U2's “oops” appeared on your radar screen, you likely recall the backlash.

No one even had time to notice whether the music was any good because they were so angry that it appeared unbidden on their iPhones. (And if anyone from Apple dares to take up one more blessed megabyte with content we don’t actually want, there will be rioting. Or snarky tweets. Whichever.)

Shortly after the album’s release, Bono apologized for their tactics and tried to explain why they did it:

A drop of megalomania, a twitch of generosity, a dash of self promotion – and deep fear that these songs that we poured our life into over the last few years mightn’t be heard.

Why should you, a content creator and small business blogger, care about a U2 album that will only endure as a reminder that free music isn’t free if you have to pay the fines of public ridicule?

Like it or not, you likely blog and write online content for the same reasons U2 paired up with Apple. Though each element that Bono describes can be good in itself, when mixed together you find yourself in a fine mess.

  1. Ego (“megalomania” is a term best reserved for rock stars and CEOs, so let's scale it back): When you write merely to hear your own voice and to rack up shares and likes, you’re going to lose track of your online raison d’etre - the reader.
  2. Generosity: When you give away all your insights you’ll bankrupt yourself and compromise the quality of what you offer to your paying clients.
  3. Self-Promotion: You blog in order to build an online platform, but, if you’re writing in order to be seen rather than to deliver value, you’ll end up alienating your audience.
  4. Fear: Any venture motivated by fear is bound to fail eventually. Blog posts written in the spirit of “if I don’t get something out on time my readership will forget all about me!” will never be as successful as those grounded in wisdom and anchored in trust that your message is worth listening to.

What happens when you write a blog post for just anyone

This particular track I heard?  “Song For Someone.” The irony was kinda crushing...

When U2 chose to toss their album on everyone’s digital doorstep like a piece of junk mail, they lost track of the special someones who stuck by them even after a decade (more?) of cringeworthy releases.

In order to make a song connect and endure, it has to be sung to someone who wants to listen.

If you want a piece of writing to connect and endure, it has to be addressed to someone who is receptive to the message.

“Someone” doesn’t care about what you have to say. A carefully considered ideal reader who has the problems that your goods and services aim to solve… she’s the one you need to write for (or sing to!).

Everything you bublish needs to be a song for someone in particular

“Song For Someone” will never be anyone’s “With Or Without You.”

Maybe it’s because the song was tinged with that ego, misdirected generosity, self-promo, and fear. Maybe it’s because the band lost sight of what really mattered in their bid to stay relevant and be as cool as Apple.

Maybe it’s because Bono has been more focused on saving the world than he has on music. There are plenty who say that’s a fine thing. And if his mistake makes you a better blogger, just put on Joshua Tree and get writing!

Want to learn more about how to write for your special someone? Consider joining the Sovereign Writers Circle. 

The Agony and the Ecstasy of Following Your Own Advice

The Agony & the Ecstasy of Following Your Own Advice about business blogging on vacationThis post is being written from an undisclosed location. There’s no cell service, but there is WiFi, and while I have not completely honored the “no work during this vacation” rule, I have only popped on to social media to do professional stuff, not to post pictures of my girls in paradise. I’m in my sacred place. When I tuck my girls into bed, in addition to calling in the sweet family ghosts, I bid my own child-self to watch over them.

Here, my daughters count the same faded roses on the wallpaper of the “middle bedroom.” They creak back and forth in the same backyard swing. They’re told not to pull the bark from the same birches that line the grove beside the house like rows of endless summer sentinels.

My decision to keep the photos in the sanctity of my own smartphone’s memory wasn’t a conscious one.

I may start Instragramming at any moment. But each time I consider it, I think of the two days we spent in the car to get here. Maybe you need to put yourself through that to take part in this sort of beauty.

Or maybe I’ll feel like this kind of perfection shouldn’t be hoarded and I will start to share.

And so, it seems that I am taking my own advice. A couple weeks ago, I asked is that adventure really worth blogging about?

This adventure is worth so much more. The blog can wait. The heron in the marsh, the tea in the pot, the children rooting into the same red earth that’s so much a part of their mama… that needs my attention right now.

A couple of sweet reads on the topic of pausing for what’s most important:

Brenna Layne talks about Recalibrating. Full of perfect lines, this piece is about getting back to the routine, making peace with being away, and wrestling a neglected story back into relationship with a big bear hug.

Stories, like people, get crotchety if they’re ignored.

Autumn is a truthful season, revealing the world in all its messy glory.

And then there’s Suzi Banks Baum on her Laundry Line Divine. In Monday Morning at the Lake she writes of how she took the advice about whether each summer holiday adventure needed to be blogged about. I love the way she danced with the idea, typing lightly in the midst of family in her most beloved place.

Creative practice happens no matter what the sky looks like.

So true, Suzi, but creative practice may need to take on a totally new form that has nothing to do with blogging and entrepreneurial vision when the sky looks like this...

The sky over Camelot

Hold on there, summer friend - is that adventure really worth blogging about?

Sovereign Standard, Issue 24MG_Header_w_biline_hires It's one of those working-vacation weeks. You know the type -- you hope to be at least semi-productive and still have a good time (all the while ensuring that your own deadlines don't kill anyone else's relaxation buzz).

I think I'm managing this tightrope act as the girls and I visit the folks back at home on Cape Cod.

Trevor the Juggler in Brewster MA

Juggling and magic shows, long days at the beach with multiple sunscreen applications, and mom trying to get some client stuff done after everyone is asleep… You know, the usual.

I started to write a post about why the internet is like sharing news with a big, noisy family.

There was an outside possibility that it was going to be the best thing I’d ever written. Honestly though, the Red Sox have a better shot at the pennant than I have at making that post worth more than a “that’s nice” comment as you, dear reader, return to your “if only I wasn’t working right now” daydreams.

But now, I'm typing this at the breakfast table. In case you didn't know - laptops and eggs and that beautiful noisy family on a perfect Cape Cod August morning don't mix.

The few paragraphs I had written about how the digital world is like endless summer have about as much life in them as a deflated beach ball. Because I love you, I am going to spare you all that.

I could slam the laptop shut and climb back into a bed full of sand rather than hit publish (the joys of sharing a sleeping surface with an 18 month old who naps right after the first beach trip of the day).

Instead, I am writing about what’s not really worth saying.

Do not pour another precious hour into a blah, blah, blah blog post that you can’t even be bothered to care about until you pause a moment.

Is it time to step away from the keyboard?

Ask yourself: Is it worth writing anything at all?

The answer is NO if you don’t have a steady commitment to your newsletter and blog reader.

Don’t force yourself to meet some personal, arbitrary writing deadline if you don’t really have anything to say. You run the risk of losing them forever because you couldn’t bring your “A” game.

The answer is YES if you have a palpable enough connection to your readership that they’ll care about your well-deserved vacation or your writer’s block or the distraction that is keeping you from doing the “real” writing.

Just be cautious here - the same “make the reader the hero” rules apply here. Your hard working readers want the best for you, but what’s in it for them as you share your bliss and your struggles?

The ultimate test: do you have a Call to Action?

Hold on there, summer friend - is that adventure really worth blogging about?In my case, I am writing about not writing because I know that you need some guidance about what not to say as much as you’d like help with deciding what you want to say.

The clincher question as you decide whether or not to spend another summertime minute on a blog post: do you have a call to action?

A call to action is that thing you ask your reader to do at the end of each post (sign up for the list, listen to this podcast episode, attend my next event, etc.). It’s the raison d’etre for any particular post on your business blog.

When you know what your reader to do, it’s pretty easy to write them in that direction.

If you’re too busy thinking about whether the kids are getting a burn or whether the next drink will have an umbrella in it to think about what your reader should do when they’re done reading, it might be a good idea to skip posting an article this week.

My call to action for you

Trust the present moment. Observe the needs of your business and the tides of your life.

Write when you’re called to.

Step away from the laptop when you can.

Bring your best to your family and your readers and give each group the time they really need.

How to Crack Your Readers Wide Open

Sovereign Standard, Issue 23MG_Header_w_biline_hires Open letters aren’t new.

The Bible is full of them. The advent of the printing press gave secular writers the chance to play the “Dear Joe, I’m going to write to you personally in order to tell everyone how much I disagree with you” game.

And, of course the internet has given all of us the power to reach multitudes with one carefully aimed piece of prose.

This week, writer and activist Naomi Wolf published an open letter in Britain’s The Guardian newspaper.

Young women, give up the vocal fry and reclaim your strong female voice had such promise! A famous feminist appearing in a major publication to speak to young women about using their powerful voices? Who cares that I had no idea what “vocal fry” was… I was prepared to read, heed, and share.

It turns out “vocal fry” is a speech pattern adopted by Millennial females. Apparently it’s a Kardashian thing, but since I pride myself on ignoring them completely, I needed to watch the video to figure out what it is.


According to Wolf:

Vocal fry” has joined more traditional young-women voice mannerisms such as run-ons, breathiness and the dreaded question marks in sentences (known by linguists as uptalk) to undermine these women’s authority in newly distinctive ways. Slate notes that older men (ie those in power over young women) find it intensely annoying.

The video is hyper critical. Old guys allegedly hate it. But, to be honest, I’d never even considered creaky voice syndrome before.

Was that because I don’t hang with enough twenty-somethings? Wait, I do! Are my daughters’ babysitters teaching them to croak and I’ve never noticed? Or (worst of all) is it because I do it myself?

Open Letters that Crack Open the Reader's Inner World

The Open Letters That Prove Your Words Can Crack Your Reader Wide OpenAt 11 PM when you’re reading one last article before you brush your teeth (even though you know late night screen time is the #1 sleep killer) the last thing you need to do is start reviewing your own YouTube clips to figure out if your vocal patterns would irritate the majority of the members of the Supreme Court.

I considered pulling out the headphones to do just that. But then I found an open response that saved me from all that paranoid analysis.

In An Open Letter To Naomi Wolf: Let Women Speak How They Please Debbie Cameron offers:

What’s really destructive and undermining to women is not their way of speaking but the constant criticism to which their speech is subjected. Telling women their speech habits are bad and wrong is not going to make them more confident speakers: it’s more likely to reduce them to silence. Continually repeating that women’s speech lacks authority just gives people yet another reason to dismiss whatever they say as unworthy of serious attention.

Debbie Cameron, we just met, but I’m sort of in love with you (and I say that without an upspeak question mark that would in any way limit my authority because I am so damn sure about how awesome you are).

I'll be listening for vocal fry in myself and others, but you stopped me from obsessing about it before I even had a chance to start. I've got video production plans in the works so it means the world to me!

What does this have to do with why your writing matters?

Whether or not you’re particularly concerned with your own speech patterns or those of the rising generations (though I hope you are since these women are or will be your clients and customers!), there’s one thing to take away from all this:

These open letters were powerful enough to push my bedtime back by an hour as I reconsidered something as fundamental as what happens when I open my mouth.

You have this power too.

Essentially every blog post you write is an “open letter” to your ideal client - and it could change everything.

Demian Farnworth has a great podcast episode about how effective it is to address every blog post to one person and start with "You've been on my mind lately." (Of course you won’t publish those words, but that’s what’s in your head as you write.) That approach instantly prepares you to write about what really matters to the audience members who matter the most to you.

Write about something that speaks directly to the concerns and, yes, insecurities of your ideal client and you’ll open up doors to their inner world. The question is - what solutions will you offer once you’re inside their inner sanctum?

The Sovereign Standard is a weekly newsletter that invites you to explore writing, entrepreneurship, and everyday creative magic from a fresh angle. Subscribe today!

Want to connect with your reader? Cut "should" from your writing

Sovereign Standard, Issue 19 MG_Header_w_biline_hires Nobody likes a “should-er.” (No, not shoulder… we all need a shoulder to cry on sometimes and the entire game of baseball would be wrecked if there weren’t shoulders to rest the bats on.)

Become a better writer and content marketer - cut out the shouldsI’m talking about that evil “s” word - “should.”

“You should…” reeks of unsolicited advice, shaming, and regret.

I check every piece of writing I publish to be sure that I avoid that “s word.” Readers come to me for insights into how to write brilliant stories and copy to support their creative work. You’re not coming to me for a wagging finger and the implication “you likely know better, but you’re still doing it wrong.”

“Should” damages personal relationships & teaching relationships

This is from Hannah Braime in Why the Word “Should” Can be Harmful and 3 Empowering Alternatives. Substitute “authority in your field” for “friend or partner”:

I realized that when I told other people they should or shouldn’t do something, I wasn’t respecting their ability to make the best decisions for themselves. That didn’t fit with my personal philosophy (that people are free to do what they want as long as they’re not harming others), and I knew I wasn’t being the best friend or partner while I was using “should”-based vocabulary.

I love what teacher John Spencer has to say about the problem with should. Replace “teaching” with “educating, engaging, and inspiring through content marketing”:

See, the problem with "should" is that it places all of teaching into rigid, binary, either/or, right/wrong boxes. It takes away the individuality, the autonomy, the creativity and the contextual knowledge required to teach well. Any strategy, any tool, any medium, any resources has benefits and drawbacks. The hard part, the part that requires patience and humility, is learning how to refine our craft as teachers based upon the needs of students.

But “should” is such a handy word for authorities, isn’t it?

Mentor and consultant Blair Glaser has made the brave and beautiful decision to leave leadership for authority. She’s making “authority” sexy - so stop thinking about buttoned up authority figures and start imagining a connected, compassionate someone who walks her talk and knows her stuff.

Her first paragraph in the blog post that announces her shift away from leadership and toward authority is laden with “shoulds” (underlines are mine!):

Read enough [books on leadership], and you’ll start to see a formula on how leaders should BE: authentic (hard for many to really know what that means); humble; curious; calm, empathetic, open, and funny.

You’ll also collect a list of behaviors of what leaders should DO: Serve (this can border on religious); listen more than talk, and empower by coaching.

They shouldn’t act bossy, they don’t “manage,” and, heaven forbid, they certainly don’t micromanage.

Blair goes on to describe her vision of authority (by the way, there isn’t a single “should” in the post once she starts riffing on her beloved new concept):

Personal authority comes from the ability and willingness to be the author of our own lives.

Authority in this context is the antidote to feelings of helpless and hopelessness, to the victim role. With a little work you can find your authority in almost any situation.

As I like to say, authority = confidence plus creativity. This is what makes authority irresistible as a force that will draw people to you.

Based simply on how Blair phrased these passages, what you rather strive to be -- a wannabe leader who is always looking over her shoulder trying to follow the shoulds and avoid the should nots OR an authority who employs creativity and confidence to be an irresistible draw?

You don’t need “should” to own your authority and offer advice that matters

The word “should” inherently separates.

If you berate yourself with “I should’ve…” language you’re creating a barrier between an ideal you and a real you that never measure up (I should eat better, I should sleep more, I should return emails faster…).

If you fill your writing with shoulds you stand apart from the reader, creating an ideal world that may make them feel inadequate.

Connect, don’t divide. Teach, don’t lecture. Advise, don’t preach. Suggest, don’t decree.Connect, don't divide. Teach, don’t lecture. Advise, don’t preach. Suggest, don’t decree.

There’s almost always an alternative to “should” in any sentence you write. Substitute a more evocative, specific word and watch your blog posts and other professional writing take on a new tone that invites people to learn more from you - the compassionate, down-to-earth authority who is always there to help.

I’m always here to help you with your writing whether it’s in fine tuning your word choice or developing your editorial strategy. Learn more about what I have to offer on my services page.

Before you waste a summer day inside writing a blog post, read this

Sovereign Standard, Issue 18 MG_Header_w_biline_hires This year, you're going to put “lazy” in hazy days of this summer - in a very good way.

You deserve this kind of warm weather downtime. You need long days of lazy moments in order to replenish your creative resources. A good break is what you need refill your well of patience and compassion - for your clients, your family, and yourself.

In order to make time for those guilty pleasure novels and to be truly present for the firefly chasing, you have to make the hours you do work a heck of a lot more efficient.

What part of your business needs to become quickest and easiest as the temperatures rise? The thing you’re most likely to ignore and procrastinate about -- your blog and your newsletter writing.

Your business needs you to keep writing this summer, but you need summer to be like summer

Before you waste a summer day inside writing a blog post read thisIt may be tempting to hang a “see you in September” sign on your blog, but you’d be missing a valuable opportunity. Many people use their “lazy” summer time to Google fresh solutions to their problems and do that professional research they never have time to do during the average work week.

Imagine this: while you are on the beach with your kids, someone is replying to your email newsletter and asking to set up an appointment that will guarantee you have enough money to pay for that last week of summer camp.

That is so much more likely to happen if you stay present online during July and August by publishing quick, meaningful blog posts and keeping in touch with your list.

The one thing you have to do to produce those quick, meaningful summer blog posts (Hint: it’s not about brainstorming ideas or composing a killer title)

You need to simplify.

For many creative entrepreneurs, “simple” is a bad word - it implies facile and “simplistic” and your work is deep and meaningful (dammit!).

Or, “simple” is an impossible dream. When a business sits at the core of your livelihood, your creative output, and much of your sense of self, it’s bound to be a nuanced, multilayered affair.

If you feel like the business is entangled in just about everything, writing for your personal stories for your beloved clients is anything but quick and easy.

Yes, friend, you are as rare as a glitter dusted zebra-striped unicorn and as complex as Superstorm Sandy,  but your next blog post doesn’t need to be - really!

Two ways simplify the story and produce blog posts before they even miss you at the beach

1) Give 25%. You had a flash of insight during your morning jog? Jot down as much as you can then walk away for a while.

Come back to your notes and ask yourself how many ideas were really included in that flash of insight. It wasn’t just one perfect ah-ha - you were pounding the pavement for a good 45 minutes! You don’t want to get stuck inside writing a 3000 word epic. You want to offer up 750 words of succinct quality content. Either strip away all the extra stuff and toss it as the unnecessary padding it is or save it for next week’s post.

2) Recycle. Didn’t have a stroke of brilliance during your run? (Because, honestly, it’s vacation and there was that last bottle of chardonnay that just had to be finished before bedtime.) That’s great.

Go back and read one of those wicked long posts you dragged out of yourself over the winter. You know, one of the missives that you yourself have trouble reading all the way through? Pluck out one idea and expand on it. Or, if you’re proud of all the content because it’s central to your brand vision, break it into an easy-to-digest list and pare down the language for your lazy summer readers.

Simple writing takes practice

There’s this delicious Italian word, "sprezzatura.” It means “studied nonchalance.”

Someone who exhibits “perfect conduct or performance of something (as an artistic endeavor) without apparent effort” is simply glowing with the qualities that marked a successful 16th continental century courtier.

I learned about sprezzatura when studying Yeats as an undergrad. If anyone slaved himself to produce a line that was achingly simply and painfully profound, it was that Irish poet. But, he kept it up for a lifetime and became one of the greatest writers who ever lived.

You, my sweet summer friend, may also be destined to earn a Nobel Prize one day. I won’t stop you from delighting in every difficult task related to reaching that great height, but I will remind you that the blog posts your writing during the summer of 2015 are not going to make or break your chances with the Scandinavians.

It’s hard to simplify your ideas and to offer the quick and easy version of your brilliance because something as foolish as enjoying the sunset demands your attention, but if you’re going to be worthy of that next client - or that Nobel Prize - you have to give it your best shot.

I'm here to help you discover your own simple writing style. Let's talk about how hiring me as your writing coach can ease your summer writing load.

How to Write for the Skimming Reader (and actually be ok with it)

Sovereign Standard, Issue 17MG_Header_w_biline_hires If you’re skimming this post, you’re “doing the internet” right. You’re granting this piece just enough attention to glean useful information. And, if it would be of interest to the people you wish to engage, you’ll share it with a brief comment that shows you’re paying attention to important things.

If, as a writer, I’ve done the internet right, you find it easy to breeze through these 1600 words. You get what you need, How to Write for the Skimming Reader (and actually be ok with it), and move on.

Headers help you navigate. Lists help to break the main ideas into bite sized portions. Bold passages show you when to pay attention.

How to Write for the Skimming Reader and actually be ok with itYes, there are technical points to master - they matter (find more steps on doing that below). But you know there's more to writing a post that people care about than "just make it skimmable.”

In order for something to read quickly and easily, you as the writer have to put in a heck of a lot of time and effort.

Does that sort of make you want to cry?

The internet really has changed how we read & think

You want to be available to your potential clients, customers, and readers, so you write content and post it online.

Even if their attention is scattered, it’s something, right?

The goal is to give people just enough in a blog post to engage their curiosity. Once you've intrigued them, they’ll invest their attention in a longer piece of your writing (a book either on their tablets or in print). When blogging is part of your content marketing strategy, you’re hoping that readers who got free content will soon spend money on your product or service.

You’re hoping that your readers have what Tufts University's Maryanne Wolf calls a “bi-literate brain.” They'll switch from a quick skim to an in-depth relationship with your work.

Professor Wolf researches the effects of this online skimming on our ability to read like we're "supposed to." Listen to this Note to Self podcast for assurance that you’re not alone if you feel like your brain works differently these days. Many are finding it hard to jump from speedy info consumption to contemplative, focused reading. (I'm just grateful I had to read Ulysses before the Web rewired my mind!)

In a Washington Post article, Wolf says:

We can’t turn back. We should be simultaneously reading to children from books, giving them print, helping them learn this slower mode, and at the same time steadily increasing their immersion into the technological, digital age. It’s both. We have to ask the question: What do we want to preserve?

Personally, I want to preserve that alchemical process of turning thought into written words that inspire a reader and change the world - even if many readers are just skipping through, looking for the quick news they can use.

How do you write when your reader's brain has been altered?

These sources don’t explore what it means to write with and for these new brains. As Note to Self says about what they found in the course of this episode:

It's another example of a phenomenon we see over and over again: If you feel like a device or any technology has messed with you, you might be onto something... way before any researcher can prove it.

The internet has messed with the way your readers engage with your content - now what?

[tweetthis]The internet has messed with the way your readers engage with your content - now what?[/tweetthis]

As a writer who lavishes her writing talents on screen-only material, this is how I cope with the reader who’s just skimming through:

  • Accept that blogging is a bit like Zen sand art
  • Write “good enough to be proud of” blog posts that meet my audience's expectations of an online reading experience

Blogging: an object lesson in impermanence

Zen garden of the Buddhist temple of Hosenin, in Ohara

Blogging is an ephemeral art - and I believe it can and even should be an art, not just a perfunctory advertising technique.

Writing for the internet is a lesson in accepting the impermanent nature of life. Even posts that go viral get shunted off the front page eventually.

I think we can go further to say that blogging is also a spiritual practice. After all, blogging teaches you how to resist attachment. You simply cannot expect specific outcomes and end up feeling successful.

A blog is part of the business long game. There’s no guarantee that any post will bring in a dime. If there is an ROI, it’ll be cumulative and hard to trace to this one bit of writing. Instead, each post builds a relationship and takes a potential client that much closer to trusting you with their investment.

Most of the gifts of blogging come through the practice…

  • The practice of writing each post gives you a chance to explore ideas as they occur to you. You can spend a few hours thinking deeply about how to communicate your thoughts into comprehensible messages. That sort of deep thought helps you maintain your bi-literate brain.
  • The practice of maintaining a blog and writing over time gives you the chance to examine how your visions has grown and changed. You are able understand the relationships between your ideas and develop them into something more lasting like a book or a program.

A blog post is impermanent and they're just skimming it anyway - does it have to be perfect?

One of the first lessons in living without attachment I ever learned: let go of perfection. (As a writer who gets paid for typo-free prose, this was a hard one for me.)

Perfectionism really does equal paralysis. It also is responsible for business writing that never gets done and countless client relationships that never had a chance to get started.

So, “chuck perfect” as Karen Brody says.

Instead, focus on consistently creating material that is just good enough to stake your professional reputation on. Not every post needs to be a magnum opus. (Though keep in mind: you just never know when a particular passage is going to be your all important first impression.)

5 Features of a Good Enough to Be Proud of Blog Post

  • Focused. The post is designed to convey one single, elegant idea. Take the pressure off yourself and the post itself by allowing it to perform a single simple task. Chances are, you can always get three posts out a single “ah ha!” moment. Dare to be brief or to go deep with one concept.
  • Well-written: The post is as close to typo free as you can get after three read throughs. People can look past a few errors, but consistent oopses will erode your credibility. If you’re killing yourself to catch the missed words and you stress over every potential there/their/they’re humiliation, retain me as your writing coach and editor.
  • Clear & organized: If your reader wants to skim, help them! Cut adjectives. Use small words and short sentences.Use headers that a clear rather than clever so your reader skip around as they please. Break ideas down into lists even if that offends your sensibilities as a “real” writer.
  • Story-driven: The post is framed by a story or uses storytelling to convey main ideas. You use stories to give readers a taste of who you are, but also to engage yourself in the process. Stories breathe life into information. Don't lose yourself (and the reader) in your autobiography, but do allow your personality to shine through.
  • Relevant: If the post is going to appear on your business blog, it has to relate to a product or service you offer or speak directly to the questions and concerns of your ideal client. Wrote a beautiful essay about seeing an eagle in flight or want to share your opinions on your favorite Netflix drama? That’s nice. Don’t blog it here. What you publish serves the mission of your business - to solve the problems of your customers and clients. If it doesn't, put it on your personal social media profile or submit it as a guest post someplace else.

But does it still hurt that you’re getting skimmed over?

Buddhist temple of Sanzenin in Ohara

No one has ever accused me of being particularly “zen” - at least not with a straight face. I strive to practice this non-attachment thing and ignore my stats and trust good content to make its own way (with some strategic social sharing, of course). Sometimes, however, it seems like we’re in a permanent state of imbalance - pouring all this exacting energy into writing something that people skim and consume rather than read.

People are turning to podcasting and YouTube for this very reason. I understand the attraction, but I still believe that it’s worth writing for your business - especially when you’re armed with the right mindset and understand that the rewards of writing may emerge far in the future.

Why it’s important to keep writing - and writing well - for the online readers

  • You’re smart and literate. There’s a great chance that your ideal clients and customers are too, If you like to write, the person who thinks you’re perfect probably likes to read. That’s a good enough place to start - even if they’re "just" skimming your blog.
  • Writing helps you think. It helps you discover new ideas and develop them from zygotic in the shower thoughts into big, beautiful visions that change lives.
  • Though the human brain was not designed to read and write, we’ve been doing it for over 5000 years. I’m going to side with tradition on this one and conclude that we won’t stop reading in just one or two technology drenched generations

I’d love to help you contribute to the perpetuation of the English language. Oh, and help you communicate your ideas to your audience too. Here’s how I can help you as your writing coach.

Writing for the Web Is Crushing Your Creative Spirit

Writing for the web is crushing your creative spirit. Marisa Goudy, Writing CoachLast week, we explored how to take a story from your own life and shape it into a narrative that bolsters your visibility or furthers your business. The goal is a simple one: connect to the reader through a description of a personal experience and then offer some useful or inspiring content that makes the reader the hero.

Essentially, invert that high school essay writing funnel: go from the narrow personal tale to the more universal message that speaks to the interests and concerns of your tribe.

I devoted two posts to this Art of Using Personal Stories In Professional Writing.  One was a basic “how to” and the other was devoted to modeling the process.

Part of me hates that advice and part of me stands by it… because I am about to do it again.

Note: I’m defying the form I just offered you and inverting  the “personal to universal” funnel.  I may switch to another metaphor completely. 

Since this post is about identifying and defying rules - as well as owning up to the pain of the online writing process and honoring the needs of your own creativity - funnel nixing and metaphor mixing seems acceptable.

But first, let’s establish some more rules - just so we can have the pleasure of breaking them. And so we can admit how we all feel a little broken by all these bloody rules.

Five “rules” for writing for the web

 When you’re trying to follow typical internet writing conventions, you make sure that every web page or blog post is:

  • Focused - Devote yourself to one central question or theme. Go deep rather than broad and realize that most of your big ideas are actually the foundation of dozens of different articles.
  • Brief - This isn’t just about word count since important, “substantial” posts of 1500 - 3000 words can be highly successful. Be sure to break ideas into bite sized pieces so that the distracted reader can digest what you’re trying to say.
  • Clear -  Even if the goal is to raise questions for the reader rather than simply dole out a bunch of overly simplistic “shoulds,” don’t muddy the waters with your own ambivalence.
  • Actionable - Every post should be the beginning of something - an ongoing relationship because the reader signed up for your list or the first step in the buying journey. You’re missing a huge opportunity if you don’t invite your reader to take a next step when they reach the end of the piece. 
  • Fascinating - Well, at least be interesting... The previous four rules are pretty irrelevant if you're boring the reader.

You and I will ignore those writing for the web rules (is that ok?)

Rules are made to be broken, of course, and you can point to a zillion successful articles that annihilate these conventions. Such posts compel you and even go viral because  they’re aimed right at the collective sense of concern, outrage, or “awwww, so cute!”

One thing about those rule-breaking posts though? Readers may comment and share them, but they probably aren’t spending any money based on the content they've just consumed.  It’s hard to invest in a writer or a company who rambles about their own confused state of affairs....

It’s important to remember - the “be focused, brief, clear, and actionable” aren’t just guidelines that exist “because the internet.” They’re just good business sense.

If “the confused mind does not buy,” then the confused entrepreneur does not attract buyers.

But what if you don’t feel focused and clear in your writing (or in your thinking)?

As I said, I kinda hate the advice I gave about using your personal stories to frame a bit of useful business information - but I believe in it enough to do it again (and again).

Telling you about my ambivalent, nuanced relationship with the blending of personal storytelling and forwarding a brand doesn’t make for focused, brief, clear, actionable prose. So, most of the time, I keep the existential angst to myself.

I tell part of my story about storytelling, hit publish and feel just good enough that I offered my readers something authentic and worthy of their time.

But then I stew. For days.

I fill a couple dozen journal pages, questioning the role of entrepreneurship and storytelling in my life. I analyze my place in the entire capitalist venture. I long to abandon business and blogging and all the well-meant advice so I can hole up with a word processor and a dream of being a novelist.

Ok, so I don’t do this every week (I’d end up in alone, likely  in a van down by the river), but when I do get myself into this state, I write headlines like:

For I Will Go Mad If I Write Only for the Marketplace

I long to spool out meandering paragraphs that go on for pages, expecting the reader to stick with my muddled quest for clarity simply because she loves being along for the artist’s journey…

Invariably, I swing the other direction, glad that I’ve given up dead poets and all that opaque academic writing for the vibrant, immediate world of the creative entrepreneur.

I trust that there’s room in my life for the personal writing, the fiction writing, and the business writing.

I hate tangling my creativity in business goals and online writing rules. (Except when I don’t hate it.) 

This, my friend, is not the stuff you blithely toss on the blog and share to LinkedIn with the expectation that new clients will start tying up the phone lines.

Why am I revealing all this anguish? Anguish I cooked up by publishing my own useful, business-focused blog posts? Because I think you’re going through something similar.

This writing-for-your-business stuff doesn’t always feel good. What’s the source of the pain?

Your writing process is often a burden or an unanswered "should." Let’s be honest about why all this blogging and guest posting and website content creation is hard - or even painful.

Here are 5 reasons that the creative entrepreneur resists the writing-for-your-business process (at least some of the time). 

  1. Creativity doesn’t like serving a single-minded master - particularly when that master is concerned with doing what’s necessary to sustain a viable business
  2. Storytelling is an art in and of itself, and sometimes it feels like you’re selling out when you use your own stories to sell a product or service
  3. There’s only so much creative juice in your glass, and when you drain it for something as ephemeral as a blog post, you resent how the “real” creative projects suffer
  4. Certainty isn’t part of the creative journey - and you don’t want it to be… asserting your in-process vision as fact because the skimming online reader doesn’t see shades of gray feels reckless
  5. You want to believe that stories matter because they matter, not because they’re a means to an end

Some of these are pulled right from my own fevered journaling sessions. Others come from conversations I’ve had with creatives who struggle with their online writing chores. All of them resonate with me, but I think, collectively, we could go even deeper.

Please share your reasons for resisting or resenting the writing-for-your-business process in the comments or on your favorite social media post (please do tag me and share this post!)

Why wallow in "writing is hard!"?

We're not throwing a "woe is me, the connected creative with a business and a following and a commitment to my art" pity party here. Instead, we're owning up to our resistance and our periodic crises of faith in the whole endeavor of building an online platform.

In a world where ambivalence or being "in process" is seen as a weakness, we must take a stand for the very real state of "becoming" and embrace the clarity as well as the mess.

Dare to follow the rules of writing for the web - sometimes. Put out posts that are focused, brief, clear, actionable and tell enough of the story to meet your own Sovereign Standard.

Other days, allow yourself to defy those conventions and just write into "fascinating." Write what you must write, not what the marketplace seems to demand.

But, do me a favor - breathe deep and pause before hitting publish. Some ideas must be allowed to marinate in the mind and in the journal for a while... even if you are dedicated to making this whole online writing thing work.

Let's make this writing-for-your-business work easier... I'd love to support you as your writing coach. Have a look at what I offer and we'll set up a free 15 minutes chat about how I can help you.

Why Writing Means So Much to the Creative Entrepreneur

Why Writing Means So Much to creative entrepreneursWhat becomes possible when you own “creative”? Use it as a noun or an adjective. Use it as a title. Use it as a source of inspiration. Let it express your very reason for being.

What happens to your work, your process, and your own view of yourself when you dare to declare yourself a source of new stories and solutions?

Not that you asked, but I can tell you that claiming “creative” changed everything for me.

If You Want to Be a Writer, Write. If You Want to Be Creative, Create.

The secret to owning “creative” is in the act of creating, of course. (If only it were that simple!)

My husband nearly threw himself into the Atlantic the morning of our wedding because he found writing his vows so frustrating. (We blame fear of writing, not cold feet!) He’s the last guy to give writing advice. But it’s the non-writer who can put it most plainly: If you want to write, write!

He suggested that when I was a bored hourly employee and when I was stifled at my salaried management job.

Later, he might have said something about “just write” when I was forcing myself through various marketing and website design biz ventures, but I couldn’t hear him over the pounding of my scared, success-starved heart.

How “Just Do It” Really Works for Creatives

“Just do it” fits nicely on a tee shirt, but it’s not advice that will change your life until you’re ready to hear it. And do it.

When my second child arrived, I saw how ragged my dreams and my reality had become thanks to a four-year-long entrepreneurial experiment. I’d learned too much to force myself into momtrepreneurship times two kids without making fundamental changes to my approach.

That’s when I realized I had to source my entrepreneurship in something other than “I have to make money for my family and be available to them at the same time” (the fundamental drive of the mom entrepreneur).

I had to devote myself to work that satisfied more than my need to be the super mom who makes the dinner and pays for it too (even though both those things still had to happen).

And so, even as my mothering responsibilities increased, I traded the identity of mom entrepreneur for “creative entrepreneur.”

Suddenly the professional title I gave myself didn’t indicate that I was an over-scheduled, under-rested woman who negotiated contracts during diaper changes. What I called myself was inspiring and invigorating rather than draining.

How Will You Connect the “Entrepreneur” and “Creative” Dots?

Yes, my daughter's birth made me realize that I wanted to leave the mom entreprepreneurs’ playground and find a place in the creatives’ studio, but realizing and doing are two different things.

Finally, I was able to listen to that wise husband of mine.

I wanted to write, I always had. I was going to write my way into the creatives’ circle. Enough with thinking they'd never admit a fraud like me who had the hopes but not the word count to prove she wanted to be Diana Gabaldon someday.

But what about you?

Writing isn’t the only way to step into the “I create things” arena, but it’s the way that is most immediately useful to the entrepreneur.

We know that creating content is essential for marketing your business and that words and stories are still the most important way to do that.

By learning how to write your book - even if it’s not the sort of trade non-fiction aimed directly at your current clients - you’re gaining skills related to story architecture, idea sculpting, and platform building that are indispensable for the entrepreneur.

Enter Sovereign Reality, Enter Tracking Wonder

Last summer when I was juggling client work and trips to the beach with the kids (it was supposed to be a vacation), I somehow stole an hour for a webinar for anyone writing & publishing a book led by Jeffrey Davis of Tracking Wonder. I'd known Jeffrey as an esteemed colleague and as a dad from the preschool and knew I loved his work, but this experience was somehow different.

Marisa Goudy Jeffrey Davis Your Brave New Story Authors Intensive

I still felt like a fraud as I tuned in, there amongst the "real" creatives doing the work to become "real" authors. But over the next hour, I was filling my journal not only with Jeffrey's practical advice, but with scraps of plot and character names and ideas about the bigger themes that my novel needed to explore.

Sovereign Reality, the trilogy of novels, became real to me. And the entire concept of “sovereignty” began to take shape as the backbone of my professional work.

On that summer afternoon, I stepped on to the path. I had a work in progress. I was going to be an author. I had a new perspective on my dreams and what I had to offer to my business.

 I really was a creative entrepreneur.

Making the Commitment to Creativity, Story, and the Book that Matters

By October of 2014,  I found myself surrounded by a select tribe of Jeffrey’s dedicated writers at the Your Brave New Story Authors’ Intensive at Mohonk Mountain House. Immersed in my story and the importance of my compatriots’ books, I felt every bit as alive and fearless as I did in those blissful moments after childbirth - even though I was only at the very beginning of my fiction writing journey. 

That's the thing - writing a book is a journey and you need a tribe and you need a guide to support you. Jeffrey offers that all year long through various programs and consultancy options, but especially with the Your Captivating Book mentoring program.

If this really intrigues you, email me - act by April 30 and I can get you a special discount and maybe even a free initial consult with The Book Papa himself.

One final reason to think about writing that book that has been holed up inside you and to do it with Jeffrey's help: he's about more than just books and authors... He is distinguishing himself as a major voice for doing business as UNusual and speaks directly to the needs of the business artist, AKA, the creative entrepreneur.


5 Steps to Reclaiming Your Writing Practice

The Sovereign Standard, Issue 8 MG_newsletter400x86

A creative entrepreneur’s editorial calendar can be her salvation. Making a commitment to generate ideas, get the writing done, and put something in front of an audience signals to your community (and your brain and your spirit) that you’re fully invested in this work.

5 Steps to Reclaiming Your WritingBut, then again, a writing plan can just be a spreadsheet full of punishment and guilt. If you can’t seem to work the plan and meet your deadlines, does it mean you don’t truly care about your business or the people you serve?

Of course not. But when you’re blinded by the glare of the blank page or find every idea fizzles after two paragraphs, you start to panic. Especially when you’ve been on a consistent publishing streak.

You're thinking nothing short of a natural disaster should stop you from posting on schedule, but here you are, about to fail because you can’t find and stick to one halfway decent topic on an average Tuesday.

Step 1 for Reclaiming Your Writing Practice: Set Your Information Filters

The problem isn’t a lack of ideas. Most likely, it's an overabundance of information and possibility that has you stuck.

So, the first thing to do to vanquish writer’s block is to practice discernment about what sort of information you consume.

In Relax, Their Blogging and Marketing Advice Doesn’t Apply to You I offer a case for why you can tune out what the majority of experts have to say about content marketing - even if you’re dedicated to writing a blog in support of your business.

But then, once you’ve shut off the information fire hose, you’re left with the paradox: now that I finally have some quiet around here, I’m just going to add to the noise.

Step 2 for Reclaiming Your Writing Practice: Believe In the Writing Process

Is the ultimate cure for writer’s block simply killing the urge to write?

What if you convince yourself that producing more articles just adds to the chaos of the oversaturated digital stream? Then you can just walk away from the whole writing enterprise and congratulate yourself for reducing the information glut, right?

 No. That’s not right.

 There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you. – Maya AngelouThere is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.

- Maya Angelou

Writing is medicine. Words want to make alchemists of us all.

To shape your flashes of insight and prayers of gratitude and revelations of joy into a message that someone else can understand… that is the great prize of the human intellect, the greatest expression of aliveness in this Age of Information.

Writing has saved your sanity more times than you can count, but you forget this. I forget this. And so we research a little more in order to avoid taking the cure that is just as bitter as the disease.

Why is it that when it's time to write we open Google Search instead of opening a Google Doc? 

Step 3 for Reclaiming Your Writing Practice: Avoid Writing By Reading About Writing

Why is it that when it’s time to write we open Google Search instead of opening a Google Doc? Proving that we need writing to sustain us, when I didn't want to write this week, I began to read.

 Seth Godin says:

Writer's block isn't hard to cure. Just write poorly. Continue to write poorly, in public, until you can write better.

He’s right, of course, but the path to success he describes is outlined in traffic cones. Like me, I am betting you were hoping for velvet ropes or a seashell strewn path.

So turn to Kelly Galea who offers the same idea but prepares you a soft writer’s nest with the perfect writing implement and a beloved journal.

 The pen is an instrument … YOU are an instrument. Be used to express this collective consciousness in YOUR voice Just express yourself. Just BE. So simple, really. Again, are you wondering where these thoughts and words are coming from? This pen. How is that for an answer? The pen is an instrument … YOU are an instrument. Be used to express this collective consciousness in YOUR voice – your unique voice, the voice someone (MANY someones) are waiting to hear, to call them forth, to bring them home. Lead them, guide them, help them, inspire them, teach them. Give them hope. Give them love. Give them that spark. Give them compassion for themselves.

Kelly got me cozy, but I might just burrow into that nest she crafted with her words and never write a thing, so I look to Jeffrey Davis to get me moving.

In Jeffrey’s Post Ecstasy Laundry List he addresses the inevitable come down after a peak creative experience, but much of this advice applies to you if you can’t imagine feeling creative ever again.

He’s telling you to keep writing too:

Make mistakes. The only catastrophic choice a writer makes is not to choose. Whether it’s genre or working story arc or angle. Show up. Get messy. Hit dead ends. Flounder. That’s part of the quest.

Step 4 for Reclaiming Your Writing Practice: Assimilate Rather than Create

I allowed myself one more click before I told myself I would just walk away from the desk and pray for inspiration over the next diaper change (after all, it’s in moments of rest and boredom that the real answers flow).

Then I discovered Karen Brody’s work. Great goodness! She’s an expert in the struggle exhausted, depleted women who inspires you to change your way of being: “Because your life needs you fully charged.”

Life needs you fully charged, and so does your writing practice.Life needs you fully charged, and so does your writing practice. Addressing writer’s block by staring at the page is like passing someone a Kleenex to cure grief.

Karen offers 9 insights into the art of being well-rested, and it's barely a stretch to apply each of these to the  “I have no idea what to write” lament. My favorite:

Welcome Everything. Think of all the hours you live in an either/or mentality. Real transformation comes when you can drop the false idea that you’re separate.

Apply this approach to your daily life, welcoming every experience as a potential inspiration for your next blog post or article.

Step 5 for Reclaiming Your Writing Practice: Practice Compassion

Bless you and your commitment. All hail your editorial calendar that can. You keep rocking that publishing streak.

But remember that your writing practice is meant to give back to you.

The hours you put in aren’t just in service to another post, another snack for the voracious internet marketing beast.

Your next post is a distillation of your presence in your life and in your business. It is a message from the heart of your work to the heart of someone who needs your wisdom, encouragement, or strategic advice.

The people who matter - the people who want to be beguiled and convinced and changed by your words - they don’t want you to look at a blank page gone blurry with tears of frustration. If they must, they can wait til next week.

And so can your spreadsheet.

But before you give up and beat yourself up:

  • tune out the extraneous noise
  • remember why writing matters to you
  • seek wise counsel
  • be present in the moment, and
  • be kind to yourself

 I can’t wait to read what you'll write next!

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Why Myth Matters to Your Writing and Marketing

We need myth. We always have, and we always will - if we want to retain our humanity.

Why myth matters to your writing and marketing
Why myth matters to your writing and marketing

Called “a roadmap to the human psyche,” myths exist to explain the big questions like “for what reason was I born?” and “what will happen to me when I die?”

Myths lay out pretty clearly what is on the human smorgasbord: what we want, what we fear, what we would like to have, what we would very much not like to have. Those human fears and human desires really have not changed, and they're reflected in the myths that have been with us for a long time.

 --Margaret Atwood

Myths are also indispensable when it comes to less existential matters like creating a Hollywood blockbuster, writing a novel, and assembling a marketing plan.

The Myth that Everyone Knows: The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey as originally framed by Joseph Campbell is something of a cultural standard these days, particularly for storytellers.

Turns out, “everyone” wasn’t always aware of this great twelve part cycle until Christopher Vogler brought it to Hollywood’s attention in the mid-1980s (at least that’s how he tells it). Of course, it was hiding in plain sight as George Lucas’s Star Wars had already transported us to a galaxy far, far away and transformed movie hero-dom forever. (Later, John Wayne, we've got a farm boy with a character arc!)

Vogler offers great advice on following the Hero framework when crafting a story (this also applies to any attempt to lay your ideas over someone else’s framework):

As with any formula, there are pitfalls to be avoided... The hero myth is a skeleton that should be masked with the details of the individual story, and the structure should not call attention to itself.  The order of the hero’s stages as given here is only one of many variations – the stages can be deleted, added to, and drastically re-shuffled without losing any of their power.

The myth is infinitely flexible, capable of endless variation without sacrificing any of its magic, and it will outlive us all.

(While you’re brushing up on the basics of the Hero’s Journey, do check out the summary of the Heroine’s Journey by Maureen Murdock too… I know I’m intrigued.)

The Hero’s Journey through the Marketplace

The hero's story is is a human story that speaks to us on multiple levels. At its best, the Hero’s Journey can connect people with resources that will better their lives. At its most banal, it can be used to make people buy stuff.

First, the “what NOT to do” example.

In Brand Storytelling: 10 Steps to Start Your Content Marketing Hero’s Journey, you’re guided through “The CM Brand Hero’s Journey."

Stop. Right. There.

Develop a marketing and content strategy with you or your brand in the hero’s role and you’ll alienate those who really matter to the story: the people who invest in your work and use it to change their own lives.

The brand is not the hero, just as the writer is not the hero. In case you forgot, Pamela Slim will remind you: It is not about you.

Lest we get sidetracked, deriding those evil marketers who cheapen and co-opt everything, there are clever, useful, sensitive ways to apply this wisdom to business.

Copyblogger’s Brian Clark masterfully re-envisions the role of the brand in the hero's tale: the magical mentor.

The mistake most often made in “marketing” is thinking of your business as the hero, which results in egocentric messages that no one else cares about.

The prospect is always the primary hero, because they are the one going on the journey — whether big or small — to solve a problem or satisfy a desire.

Another reason to tune in to this New Rainmaker podcast: Echoing the cyclical nature of the hero’s journey, you get a new perspective on the funnel: the concentric circles of belief. (If you're excited by the Heroine's Journey this "feminine" diagram of the sales process may really appeal to you.)

A New Mythic Model for the Magical Mentor

Brian Clark employs two of our most beloved mentors to illustrate his point: Obi Wan and Morpheus from The Matrix. You know these guys. You'd trust them if you were chosen to save the world.

Here’s another option that hasn't hit the multiplex: the Sovereignty Goddess.

As I describe in my St. Patrick’s Day post, 5 Lessons on Writing and Entrepreneurship from an Irish Goddess, the Celtic Sovereignty Goddess plays a vital - though fleeting - role in the creation of the hero. She owns her magic and never stresses about playing second fiddle.

“Just” having a supporting role in the hero’s journey is actually what being a storyteller or running a business is all about.

This introduces the paradox of the hero:

We don’t need another hero. Everyone is a hero.

You’re most effective when you realize you’re not the hero of the piece you’re writing or the business you’re running. And yet, you must remember you're the hero of your own story.

The Hero’s Quest: Be of Service

“The hero’s journey is to be of service”: that’s Lisa Engel’s “ah ha” statement at the end of this episode of The Jess, Scott, and You show, “In the Service of Others.” (I had the good fortune to be a guest on this particular show too.)

Though it’s true that it’s not all about you (here, Susie Moore explains why that is such a good thing), you are also on your own quest. You must practice self-care and act from self-love and self-interest in order to grow and meet your potential (we discussed that at length on the show).

You'll never prove your heroism through an egotistical romp aimed showing off your skills and authority. Instead, you become the hero through a willingness to imagine, learn, endure, transform, and then bring the magical elixir home.

Who are your heroes? How have you been called to take on the role of the hero? And what has that taught you about who is really in charge? Leave a comment or tag me with the answer on your favorite social media platform.