Writing for your business

Would a #365project give you what you need in 2016?

Why I kept one #365project promise, broke another, and will make a new one in 2016

 Would a #365project give you what you need in 2016?When you sign yourself up to make something every day for an entire year, you’re making a fabulous commitment to your creativity.

And when you decide to post about it every day on social media, you’re stepping up and saying “I’m ready to be seen” in a big way.

As both a #365project success story and a #365project drop out, I know plenty about what it takes to make it work and why it might not.

And I know what makes a project fulfilling and worthwhile… all year long.

First, ask yourself what kind of content you would want to share every day

Brené Brown makes it easy to decide what subjects to post about and talk about:

“I share what is vulnerable, not what is intimate.”

And how does our Daring Greatly/ Rising Strong sage recommend you make the distinction between the two?

Brené makes sure that she has fully explored everything before she brings it to the public arena. Her ability to heal and remain “wholehearted” does not depend on how her audience reacts to what she shares.

When I heard her describe this during a recent interview, it hit home because I’d learned this distinction myself - the hard way.  

I’m deeply grateful for one successful #365project and one abandoned attempt the following year. They taught me what it really means to share my story, create media, and be seen. And they taught me how to distinguish between intimate and vulnerable.

A #365project helps you find meaning in your own story

In 2014, I participated in the #365feministselfie project.

I cataloged the last month of pregnancy, the wonder of new motherhood, and lots of mundane moments throughout that year. Some of the Instagram shots were raw, some were posed pics to help bolster a bleary-eyed mama’s self esteem. All of them were me.

This daily practice helped me cope with the  isolation of being a work-at-home mom with an infant in the midst of the Polar Vortex winter. It was my chance to discover my own narrative thread when it was all too easy to lose myself.

I didn’t have the free hands to write, but I could snap a pic and use my thumbs to draft a quick caption that gave the moment some context in my bigger story.

A #365project that didn’t work

Giddy with the triumph of devoting a year to someone else’s project, I was excited to start my own project in 2015.

Boldly, I called it #365SovereignReality. The goal was to publicly explore my evolving “concept” that made so much sense inside my own head, but hadn’t made it into easy-to-tell story form.

It didn’t last for lots of reasons. The pressure to make an important discovery about my life’s work every day and post it online was too daunting. It took almost no creative energy to snap and post a selfie. My ill-defined sovereignty project demanded more creative energy than I had to give.

Intimate moments need to stay that way

My own pet project failed for another key reason - my kids.

Now that I had permission to take the camera off myself, it seemed logical to turn it on my constant companions. My little muses had been in plenty of the selfies with me, so it didn’t seem like a problem.

Truthfully, I’d always ignored the little voice that said “don’t start creating your kids’ digital footprint without their consent.” But somehow, when I was always in the frame with them, I could give it a pass. I told myself that my protective maternal gaze warded off predators and voyeurs.

But now that I was casting them in leading roles in my #365SovereignReality, it didn’t seem right. Without their mama in the frame to keep them safe, it didn’t seem authentic - it seemed like I was exposing them to stranger danger.

A new #365project that hits all the right notes

So, what are the ingredients of a sustainable #365project?

  • It has a set form. You don’t have to expend extra creative energy figuring out the focus.
  • It’s related to your professional or creative work.
  • It’s about visibility, not ego.
  • It’s a practice that helps you grow - not just another “should” or obligation.

Introducing #365StrongStories

Marisa Goudy's #365StrongStories projectEvery day in 2016 I am going to write a story.

It will be less than 200 words. Sometimes, it may not look like much more than a metaphor. There will be days when I’m sharing someone else’s story and using a quote. Each story will be accompanied by a picture, so you'll find it on Instagram and Facebook and all the usual social spots.

It feels a little crazy to sign myself up for something so ambitious. After all, taking a picture is easy compared to promising to write an actual story every day. But I’m dedicating my professional life to helping people tell stories that matter… and I need to walk the talk about how it really can be easy.

My 2016 #365project why…

  • I am a storyteller, but I want to get better
  • I want to be a more concise, efficient writer
  • I’ve been in retreat for a while and it’s time to be seen online again
  • #365StrongStories is aligned with my work. In a week or two, I am launching an offer called 5 Strong Stories that helps emerging thought leaders write content that connects.

Would a #365project give you what you need in 2016?

Saundra Goldman, who created a brilliant community around her #continuouspractice project posted her reflections on 2015 and her plans for 2016. Check out her post for ideas for creating your own project and why it's totally valid to make a much shorter commitment than 365 days.

And I'm grateful to Saundra for another idea - who will you dedicate your practice to?

I am dedicating #365StrongStories to you, my dear reader. I am going to tell the stories that I must tell, but only because I think they are the stories that you must hear.

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?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

To fight or to heal: the power of word choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How challenging! How terrifying!

Your metaphors create your writing’s tone of voice

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

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

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

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

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

The everyday violence in our language and in our world

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

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

Writers are trained to take their readers prisoner.

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

Marketers are groomed to force themselves upon you.

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

People suffering from disease are told to arm up.

Join the fight to kill cancer. - United Cancer Foundation

Sometimes, you want to be a warrior

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

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

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

And sometimes, words do cause harm

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

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

Your writing matters. There are no throwaway phrases.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Writing = thinking, understanding, feeling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is the Vulnerability Business, right?

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

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

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

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

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

The gift of “I don’t know”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

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

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

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

Does creativity feel like a risk to you?

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

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

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

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

Art was life, not risk.

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

Blogging for business can be your best creative outlet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Experience. Listening. Mindfulness.

And trust.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is writing the "right" story harder for therapists?

Is writing the "right" story harder for therapists?

Storytelling is an intensely personal act.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what do you do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I want the writer to do you ask.

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

Oh,  you say, I’m not sure…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, but there are stories that must be told

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

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

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

I get that.

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

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

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

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

How shiny is your online presence star?

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

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

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

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.

A Writing-for-Business Practice is a Writer’s Practice

Sovereign Standard, Issue 28MG_Header_w_biline_hires An editorial calendar is nothing; a writer’s practice is everything.

I kind of stole that from Ike.

“Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” EisenhowerPlans are nothing; planning is everything.”

President Eisenhower was likely talking about the planning process required for taking a beachhead or running a country, but his statement encouraged me to think about blogging and writing for your business in a new way.

[tweetthis]Making a plan for your #blog is nothing. The #writing process is everything.[/tweetthis]

Making a plan for your blog is useless. The writing process is everything... When the coaching industry exists to sell you strategies and organization tips, this sounds like heresy, but editorial calendars are meaningless to me - and I bet they’re pretty useless to you too.

Forget editorial calendars. Writing is sustained by practice (and, well, writing).

I write and support writers for a living, but I have never had an editorial calendar.

[tweetthis]An editorial calendar is nothing; a writer’s practice is everything.[/tweetthis]

I’ve started plenty of spreadsheets called “editorial calendar.” I’ve listed publication target dates on the left side and created columns with important headers like “title,” “category,” and “call to action.”

And then… I’ve never gotten past the first entry. Six months later, inspired by advice I’ve given to my own clients, I try all over again (sometimes I even remember to just copy and past the old, useless calendar).

Invariably, however, I fall back into my old “no-plan plan.” And the writing still gets done.

Why do I do it this way? Because it works.

Does it work because I’m a born writer who thrives on chaos rather than organization?

Nope.

It works because I’m dedicated to my writing-for-business practice. And it’s not the sort of practice that you can outline in marathon sessions every few months.

The writing-for-business process is the very process of being a business owner, a thinker, and a writer. And it happens in its own time, according to what you’re learning and how you’re growing in real time.

What is a Writing-for-Business Practice?

To be a professional who writes to support your business, you have to sit down and put words on a page - but it’s about so much more than that.

To have a real writing practice that works, that actually supports and furthers your professional goals, you need to invest yourself in the entire process from generating and channeling ideas to publishing and sharing your content.

You don’t need to follow anyone’s specific framework or keep track of your progress according to any set form, but you do need to understand your own process well enough to replicate what works so you can publish according to your own schedule, week in and week out.

5 Key Elements of a Business Visionary's Writing Practice

This list isn’t exhaustive. The writing practice - even when it’s for business rather than pure creative expression - it’s a fiercely personal endeavor. You can make it as simple or as complex as as you are.

After five years of writing my own professional posts and helping many clients develop theirs, here’s a bit of what I know must be part of your practice:

  • Curiosity - You look for the layers of the meaning in the every day.
  • Storytelling - You see the potential plot lines, themes, and characters in your seemingly mundane experiences.
  • Dedication - You show up to write regularly, even when life and “real” work want to get in the way.
  • Tenacity - You keep writing and publishing even when no one seems to be listening (keep at it, produce well-made, fascinating content and, eventually, people will read, share, and take action).
  • A recognition that writing is its own reward (at least at first) - The process sustains you and you’re able to see the benefit in organizing your thoughts and becoming a stronger writer - even before the loyal following shows up.

The Writing-for-Business Routine

Above, I say that the writing-for-business practice happens in its own time. That’s true, but in order for it to be a practice, it has to have a reliable enough rhythm.

Here’s the flow of my writing routine when it comes to producing weekly blogs:

  • take notes consistently (the notebook goes everywhere and scraps of ideas get written down because there’s no telling what will grow into something big and important)
  • draft the post on Tuesday and Wednesday
  • edit on Thursday
  • format and schedule it in WordPress before bed on Thursday night
  • read it all over just once more just before it goes live on Friday morning

One writer’s process is just that - one writer’s process. I wouldn’t assume to tell you this is the best schedule to follow.

My weekly process shows you that even though I am free of the editorial calendar, I am not without discipline and commitment. You may not be planning your writing weeks and months in advance, but you are planning to write every week.

Another important thing to note as you settle into a writing routine: give yourself time between “that would make a great blog post” and clicking publish.

Time heals wounds and it also exposes faults in logic, boring storylines, and egregious typos. You need some distance from your writing to see your blind spots, so don’t try to go from start to finish in one session.

A writing-for-business practice is a writer’s practice

A writing-for-business practice is a writing practice - Coles Phillips Life MagazineGone are the days of the elitist “real writer.” There's no need to play the artist or the intellectual who separates herself from the hack and the profiteer.

Thank goodness we can put those nasty divisions aside and recognize that plenty of real writing can take place in the commercial sphere. It’s no crime to apply your writing talents to make a real livelihood.
By the same token, if you are someone who has fallen into the role of writer because your business demands it, this is your chance to realize the true gifts of a writing practice.
As an entrepreneur or healer, an expanded vision, clearer thinking, and new connections are just the beginning of what you can expect when you establish a writing practice to support your business practice.

When you go to practice, you expect to see a coach there

I don't generally do sports metaphors when I talk about my writing coaching. (If you're the kid whose single basket during middle school YMCA basketball is still a point of pride for your poor dad, the coach, you'd avoid talking about sports too.)

And yet, as I talk about the importance of practice and the longterm commitments and implications of such a practice, it does feel like I'm asking you to get better at playing a game. And in order to really hone your skills, you want a guide and an ally to teach you new skills and refine your own natural abilities. You want a coach.

I would love to support you and help you discover a writing-for-business practice that you can sustain and that can sustain your business.

And if you’re someone who thrives on spreadsheets and long term visioning, I can even help you create and maintain an editorial calendar (just don’t ever ask to look at mine!).

Consider what the Sovereign Standard Writing Coaching Program can do for you.Sovereign Standard Writing Coaching Program with Marisa Goudy

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.

[embed]https://youtu.be/YEqVgtLQ7qM[/embed]

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!

Choose How to Use Your Power: 4 Ways to Create Great Written Content

Sovereign Standard, Issue 22MG_Header_w_biline_hires We live in an abundant universe and we are the ultimate authors of our lives.

That’s all fine and good, but you only have so much time to write your business’s stories and get that blogging done.

How are you going to use your power?

“Write this week’s post” or “update the website copy” are on your to do list. You've decided to apply your power to crafting your ideas into words and sharing them with people who want lives that are more beautiful, bearable, or bold. Yay!

Choose how to use your power: 4 ways to create great written contentAnd you intend to take the ideas from draft to final copy all by yourself because you love to write, you’re on a budget, or because you fear you’d sacrifice authenticity if you outsourced it… but is that the right choice? Is that how you really want to use your power?

As I write this, my five year old is trying to make the Eiffel Tower out of mostly dried up Play-Doh. I am only 95% sure that the markers my toddler is using to draw all over her t-shirt are washable.

My maternal powers are diluted and I'm sure every paragraph I write is riddled with typos.

But I am making it work. I choose to see myself as powerful - at least according to Michele Woodward’s definition.

“Power is the ability to get stuff done.”

This definition was a common refrain in a recent How She Really Does It podcast in which Michele and Koren Motekaitis put a positive spin on power. Yes, we all have the capacity to build and store power, but how are we going to use power in helpful, efficient ways?

Choose How to Use Your Power: 4 Different Ways Create Great Written Content

You’re on board with content marketing. You’ve been storing up stories and ideas for ages. Your website looks great and is waiting for the right copy and a consistent blog.

It’s time to channel your power and get this writing stuff done. How do you make that happen?

The answer isn’t necessarily simply “go write.”

1) Give it up: Outsource your content writing completely

You can fully empower a ghostwriter to do it all from topic research to writing to image selection to posting the piece.

When this works best: There are lots of news and information sources related to your field that a trusted writer can review and translate for your audience based on your company story. Early in my writing career I combed the medical research and did this sort of blogging for a nutritional supplement company.

When this doesn’t serve you: If you have a personal brand, it’s reliant on your voice and your stories. This hands-off approach doesn’t generally serve coaches, healers, or those who sell information and wisdom that stems from personal experience.

2) Team up: Partner with a writer

Develop a relationship with a writer who becomes part of your team. She’ll get to know you, your brand, and your vision and ask questions from an outside perspective that will help expand your vision of what you’ll have to offer. You’re part of the brainstorming process but she takes care of organizing all the ideas and making the words sing.

When this works best: You have a ton of big ideas and general concepts you want to share. Your business is strong enough that you can afford to invest in this process – good writers will require a lot of time and attention at the beginning as they endeavor to really understand you, your voice, and your brand.

When this doesn’t serve you: Even though you are very involved in the process and will be the instigator of every piece of writing, you’re a step removed from the process. Since you’ve both agreed that the writer would publish under your name and you paid for the service, the intellectual property is yours and the product is 100% yours. But, if you have a writer’s soul you may not feel that this option suits your needs.

3) Tune up: Hire a Writing Coach

When you work with a writing coach, it's your writing - only better. A writing coach will help you meet your editorial goals now and build skills that will take you far into the future. Plus, you'll have the insights that only a "second pair of eyes" can really offer. This makes you a better writer and it also helps you dig deeper into your own stories and wisdom.

When this works best: Writing doesn’t come all that easily to you, but you want to get better at it. Or maybe it's easy for you to fill "ideas" notebooks but you never make the time to turn that material into polished posts. You also worry that your writing style doesn’t lend itself to the needs of the skimming internet audience. No matter what, the stress over making it perfect kills the joy you find in the process.

Learn more about the writing coaching relationship.

When this doesn’t serve you: Your business is at a stage where you’re more focused on scaling your business and landing speaking gigs. You don’t harbor any dreams of being a writer and would be better served partnering with a writer who can translate your ideas into prose.

4) Train up: For the bootstrapper who has time to teach herself the craft

Writing is a skill. The more you practice, the better you’ll get at it. There are loads of resources out there from Copyblogger’s free library and paid training programs to big old books on the subject like the Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert W. Bly. I refer to both when I’ve written myself into a corner, I need inspiration, or I need help remembering that writing for the internet is more about selling than writing much of the time.

When this works best: You have more time than money to invest in sharpening your writing skills. You likely trust your writing skills enough and enjoy writing enough that you can follow a set of tips to tune your craft.

When this doesn’t serve you: Writing scares you and depletes you and you’re intimidated rather than energized by the DIY approach. You understand that consulting with an expert who is focused on your individuals needs and challenges will help you build your business and your writing skills faster and more efficiently.

How will you use your superpowers to get more of the vital work done?

I’ve been “the writer” in all these situations. Because every entrepreneur, creative, and healing professional has her own needs and superpowers, each writing approach is valid.

At this stage in my career, I see my clients experience the most personal growth and satisfaction when they go the writing coaching route. In addition to producing great content today, they’re preparing themselves to handle a marketing scene that will always demand good writing. And when it’s time to write that book? They’re ready.

How can I help you amplify your superpowers? Check out the services page.

How to Heal Chronic Internet Fatigue Syndrome

Sovereign Standard, Issue 21MG_Header_w_biline_hires What’s the number one reason bloggers quit writing?

Forget that… what’s the number one reason you want to quit the writing practice that's mean to build your business or your professional platform?

Because nobody seems to read what you write, right?

It’s one thing to know that most online readers are just skimming, it’s another to feel like you’re not even reaching those eyeballs.

How to heal Chronic internet fatigue syndromeYou slip into despair if your site stats don’t match up to the investment you made in the post. Who can blame you? Writing a from-the-heart, meaningful, useful post every week or two takes a lot out of you, but it’s a labor of love.

It’s the next step, the “doing social media” to get the link in front of prospective clients and readers that pushes the whole venture into mission: impossible territory.

Unless you have a fully charged phone while you’re in line at the DMV or killing time someplace similar. In that case, you have time to share the blog post on every social media platform you’ve ever heard of.

Those deep dives into social media can be really useful, but soon they teach you something vital...

Social Media Isn’t About Posting Strategy or Likes, It’s About Real Relationships

Getting people to read what you write really isn’t about crafting Tweets and status updates and making everything sweet-as-pie Pinnable.

If you don’t have the online relationships, even the best piece of content is likely to languish in obscurity on your under appreciated blog.

As social media matures and the networks figure out how to monetize their “free” platforms, it becomes increasingly hard to hear and be heard above the noise.

Instead of tuning in to every Mari Smith email and Social Media Examiner podcast like I used to, I’m focusing on nurturing real connections with people I care about. It's the only way to heal a modern disease I bet you know all too well...

Are you suffering from Chronic Internet Fatigue Syndrome?

My case of Chronic Internet Fatigue Syndrome flares up regularly. Sick of the sales pitches, the false promises, the self aggrandizement, and the sheer meaninglessness of it all, I burn out and hide myself in a few good novels. (Or a Candy Crush Soda binge… don’t judge me.)

During these hibernation periods I tend to lose hard won footing in the social universe. The disappearing acts make me seen inconsistent and, hence, I'm easily forgotten or dismissed.

It’s easy to claim “because my kids”  but really, I just can’t sustain these online “connections” that aren’t forged in real, sustaining reciprocal relationships.

At the early stages of building a platform and becoming a trusted voice in your area of expertise, it feels like it’s all about giving, producing, and introducing yourself.  It's so easy to burn out. Eventually, you’ll reap what you sow and see a return on all that effort, but only if you are offering yourself and your writing to the right people.

The Writer’s Cure for Chronic Internet Fatigue Syndrome?

Reach.Connect.Uplift WomenReach.Connect.Uplift Women

As with any chronic ailment, the goal is to break the cycle and enjoy sustained health and vitality. You want to find a sustainable online community that loves to read what you write and offers up content that betters your personal and professional life as well.

You do, right?

Ok, so come join me over at the Reach.Connect.Uplift Women Forum because I think it’s the cure for digital burnout.

Just when I realized I needed to break my feast or famine social media efforts and focus on an online community that gave as good as it got from me, founder Lany Sullivan told me about how the RCUWomen Google+ group was migrating to its own membership forum.

As Lany describes it, "We decided to go old school and build a forum on our website that we could really let loose and have a broader reach. "

What, it's 2015 and we're back to a message board? If you're getting lost in the social media crowds, it may be just the medicine your content creator's soul craves.

Here's Lany's explanation of "why a Reach.Connect.Uplift Women Forum, why now?":

Lany Sullivan Reach.Connect.Uplift WomenWe want a platform that allows us to really highlight our members, provide valuable resources, and be able to monitor and manage it with maximum efficiency. Social Media doesn’t do that for us or our members.

Building an audience off social allows us to have a greater impact, better connections and deeper relationships with our members. Instead of sifting through the millions of posts on social everyday, our members can drop by the forum for some of the top content in the market. Plus, we have some additional SEO and link building benefits that has a positive impact for everyone.

So, will you join me over on the new forum? My social streams and my inbox are too full and I'm missing your great content, but I know I'll see it if you become a RCUWoman too (and guys, if you've got the stones to join the ladies, we'd love to have you too!)

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.