How to Write a Book: A Focus on Conviction

How to Write a Book: A Focus on Conviction

How to Write a Book Part 1: A Focus on Conviction

I have a friend whose ex-husband drove an Uber for a while. As soon as there was a surge, he’d drop everything, and jump into his car to take advantage of the higher fee. It caused chaos in their family life. She described it like a drug or gambling addiction. He responded to the surge notification with a dopamine hit and bolted out the door no matter whether they were in the middle of a family meal or socializing with friends.

As creative people, we have to be super vigilant about becoming reliant on externally generated dopamine hits, like the uber surge notification, to feed our creative process. Applause. Awards. Publishing deals. Facebook likes. Retweets. While it’s important to get feedback and to know that our work is connecting with an audience, I believe this validation must defer to something far more reliable. We cannot outsource self-trust, or what I call, conviction.

I know creative people who make a career out of self-doubt. They are always looking for someone else to tell them they’re good enough, or they have permission or they should give up their day job and go full tilt into their passion. Only if someone (in this case, a publishing house) tells them they can write a book, do they believe it (and not for long – this kind of feedback fetish requires ongoing maintenance – the ego, after all is a hungry ghost).

This distrust of self becomes a creative stutter.

So the first strength I teach aspiring authors who want to write and publish a book is this: self belief. It trumps so called ‘talent.’ It’s the foundation of finding your writing voice. And once you hold it energetically, it becomes a guardian of the creative process. Think of it this way: if you do not fundamentally believe you have something worth saying, it doesn’t matter how much of the craft you learn. You’ll never put anything you’ve written out there. What will people say and think?

What gets in the way of conviction is a complex matrix of self-limiting ideas and beliefs, including perfectionism, jealousy, comparison, people-pleasing, attachment to approval, vagueness and indecisiveness, playing small, taking feedback personally, hesitation, small-mindedness, feeling victimized by your life or circumstances and a fixed (as opposed to growth) mindset.

My signature Author Awakening Adventure shows writers how to self-diagnose if they suffer from a lack of conviction, and then elucidates the steps to take to harness self-assurance, a robust sense of self worth and self-esteem. I teach people to reframe ‘mistakes,’ ‘shames’ and ‘failures’ as rich repositories for their stories and their creative process. As the Spanish poet Antonio Machado wrote in his poem ‘Last night as I was sleeping,’ we have to ‘make sweet honey from old failures.’ What else could all our beautiful broken pieces be for?

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

We begin by shifting our consciousness from ruthless self-critique to radical self-compassion. Once when I was spiraling into self pity about some terrible mothering mistake I had made my husband told me to ‘stop beating myself up just because it was my fault.’ Humour is a great reframer. When we can laugh – even giggle out loud – at ourselves, we lighten up. The paradox is that it’s only when we stop taking ourselves so seriously, that we actually begin to take ourselves seriously as a creative person.

The greatest strength we develop in the creative life is self-trust.

You produce something and you feel it: wow, that works. That really works.

It requires us to engage in self celebrating behaviour. To say yes to our writing. To say no to bullshit. To burrow into our intuition and to listen to its song.

I have known traditional success (book deals, #1 Amazon best sellers, international best sellers) and I have known their ugly twins – the ‘failures,’ the ‘we’re-pulping-your-book’ emails, the shitty one star reviews on Amazon. If I were to measure my worth as a writer based on either of these, I’d be flirting with the same devil – both are false positives.

Success cannot be something we let others define for us.

One of my books, Love in the Time of Contempt: consolations for parents of teenagers sold much more poorly than I had hoped, only a few thousand copies. I was bitterly disappointed given how much work I had put into not only the writing, but the launch – I’d run a campaign called A Million Connected Parents, given away free copies of the book to early adopters – it had taken up six months of my life and I invested my entire advance into the campaign.

A year after publication, long after I had gotten over the disappointment, I received an email from a woman in Korea, who wrote:

Dear Joanne,

Hello from Korea.

I have read your book(love in time of contempt)

And I’d like to say thank you so much.

I’m a mother of 32 months’ kids.

My daughter is so far until teenager.

But I was helped you.

Sometimes I left her in another room for punishment

Recently I think It’s not good.

But I don’t know how to do

In your book, I found answer.

After reading your book, I stand beside her.

It’s very good.

Thanks, Fiona

There is no algorithm that guarantees that any book will succeed or sell. So we cannot judge ourselves or our book by how it sells.

What this has taught me is that I can’t allow others to decide what value I place on my book. Not a publisher. Not reviewers. Not even buyers. You, the author, must love your book. It must be your beloved, for whom you would do anything.

When we have conviction, we don’t allow others to define what success means. Royalties are wonderful – we all want them – and godknows, authors bloody deserve them. But a book has more than commercial value in this world if it changes someone’s life.

‘In your book, I found answer…’

If you’d like to take the Author Potential Profile Assessment to see how you score on conviction, you can do so here.

If you’re ready to take your self-belief to new heights and to join the Author Awakening Adventure, you can pre-enrol for our next intake here.

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I imagined my writing voice as this mystical, elusive, willful creature that I somehow needed to persuade to come and work for me. I believed once I had secured its services all my troubles would be over, writing would become effortless, miracles would rain from the heavens, doors would open and I’d be showered with success. Yet my quest for the writer’s “Holy Grail,” my very own writer’s voice, felt hopeless. I wondered where to turn next. Perhaps I could try someone else’s on for size: “Writing Voice Wanted. Please Apply Within.”

It was in those simple words I’d finally unearthed my answer: apply within. I wasn’t going to find it racing around, asking others for help. It wasn’t lurking out there somewhere, hoping to be noticed. It was inside me waiting to be rediscovered.

It wasn’t even lost – it had just been hiding. Hiding behind all those old fears and doubts that I’d been carrying around. It had disappeared behind that rock I’d stuck in my own way that said, “I have nothing to say that anyone would want to hear.” It shrank to a whisper each time I’d thought, “They know more than I do,” “they are more interesting than I am,” “more qualified,” perhaps even “more important.”

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About Fiona

Fiona MacKay is a freelance writer and wildlife photographer who enjoys sharing her passions for creativity, travel, environmental issues, holistic lifestyles, complementary therapies and wildlife photography through the written word. She is a propagator of trees, flowers, thoughts and ideas and is currently writing her first book – a guide to the palliative care of animals under the guidance of Joanne Fedler.

www.FionaMacKayPhotography.com

Finding your writing voice does require a quest. Not the comical searching down the back of the couch kind, but rather one of quiet internal reflection. Armed with the courage to be vulnerable and the confidence to value yourself and your life, you need to look lovingly and with self-compassion in the mirror. Not giving just a quick glance, but a long hard look.

Your voice is waiting amongst the scars of the life you’ve led. It resonates with all the memories you’ve created, the places you’ve seen, the things and people you’ve loved, and lost, all the pain you’ve survived, every time you’ve laughed or cried and every ounce of wisdom you have accumulated. It vibrates to the unique tone, pitch and harmony of every thought, emotion, memory and experience you’ve ever had.

It is simply you on the page. Not trying to be anyone else. Not trying to impress anybody. Just you, unfettered, unadulterated, free and true.

You need to give yourself permission to use it. Not the voice that whispers what you think people want to hear. The voice that rises from your heart imbued with the passionate imprint of your life, carrying the echo of all your pain and all your love.

It’s time for you to own your life and your very own beautiful, powerful voice.

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She who always knew
that she was destined – destined, mind you –
for more than domesticity
never suspected that perhaps her knowing
might be nothing more than the soul’s delusion
holding imprints of hopeful mystery.
This knowing comes now to bother her
in the hubble and clutter of kids-cats-anniversaries
to a dissatisfaction
an impatience
with the humble goodness of her ordinary life.
As if she needed reminding that
the envelope of options
is sealed now
and the unfurling of
what will be has become a matter of
unmagical consequence.
She who longed both for this
and for a roaming otherness
now remembers past lovers
and the taste of their tongues
as she fights the shame
of a temper at small infractions by her
children-thank-god-for them
never knew such temper simmered
aching to be lost.
She sinks into memories and dreams
folding corners of herself down
like a neat napkin
hiding the stains, the dirt
of her most wondrous gypsy self
so that this life – this perfectly happy life –
might proceed without incident
medication
tragedy.
She who writes this song to herself
sings now for the selves
that have no place
to be sung.

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Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

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How to Write a Self-Help Book Guide

How to Write a Self-Help Book Guide

Our books will bear witness for or against us, our books
reflect who we are and who we have been….
By the books we call ours we will be judged.”
― Alberto Manguel

I’m a self-help book junkie.

I started reading them in my early twenties, and I’ve never stopped.

As soon as I finish one, I’m ready for the next. They’re like fries that way. Except without the guilt – in fact, they leave me on a high. When I read a book in which someone has figured out one of the many problems I’m facing (emotional, spiritual, psychological, financial, business, writing), I begin to feel the stretch of an emotional muscle; the flicker of light inside me as someone illuminates a path through my tunnel of darkness.

Self-help books help us solve problems.

They’re glorious because there are as many ways to solve a problem as there are human natures and perceptions. That’s why every single one is different – because as the poet Mark Nepo writers, ‘If I’d experienced different things, I’d have different things to say.’

A self-help book is a wise guide by someone who has already walked the path I am stuck on. They point out to me where I am stumbling. They tell me stories that show me how others healed, worked through the pain, survived, overcame. I put one down, and I sigh. “I will get through this problem. I see it can be done.”

But there are good self-help books and there are poor ones.

Author Potential Profile Assessment

Discover your hidden strengths as well as the areas you need to build on to become an author.

What distinguishes a great self-help book from a crap one?

I’ve analyzed the hundreds of self-help books I’ve read and worked out that there are two fundamental issues an author must address, and that, for each of those, there are eleven areas an author must tackle to ensure the book does what it’s meant to do.

And I’ve created a guide for anyone who is writing or who wants to write a self-help book called How To Write A Self-Help Book – ingenious title, right? But the first lesson of a great self-help book is just this – keep your message simple – make sure your book tells people what problem you are solving for them in the title.

I break the process down into reflection questions, structure, storytelling, methodology and I share my framework for writing a well structured, engaging self-help book that shares your insights in a way that turns the personal into the universal.

Because if you’re going to take the time to help people, make sure you write the best book you can. Your book can – and should – change people’s lives.

We all have life experience and wisdom to share. We’re all wiser, braver and more talented than we know or give ourselves credit for.

So, here’s a question for you: what do you know about (life, love, failure, health, parenting, divorce, marriage, fitness, money…. or anything you’ve gained great experience or insight in) that you could pass on to others? And what if you put it in writing as a gift to others?

If the idea excites you, you can purchase my How To Write A Self-Help Book Guide here for $19.95 which will walk you through the process, step by step.

So many of us have hidden insights and wisdom that remain locked inside us. By writing a self-help book, you gift these treasures to others and leave a legacy.

How To Write A Self-Help book will show you how to turn your lived experience into a meaningful narrative that serves humanity. I don’t know of a better way to honour the life each of us has lived.

My hope is that this guide makes the process easy, exciting and accessible to you.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

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Who Are You to Write Your Story?

Who Are You to Write Your Story?

Over the past years, I’ve been working with ordinary women who are writing the ordinary stories of their lives.

‘Why would anyone care about my story?’ each one asks in her way. ‘Who am I to write my story?’

‘What does my life matter? I’ve done nothing special. I’m no-one important. Who would be interested in my life?’

Yet just what constitutes these ‘nothing special,’ ‘unimportant lives’?

I healed from a chronic illness. I left an abusive marriage. I raised my children alone. I lost a child. I was raped. I nursed my dying mother. I was sexually abused. I was abandoned. I am living with breast cancer. I am raising a disabled child. My family rejected me. I adopted an abandoned child. I was widowed. I lost my mother. I raised four children. I stayed in my marriage. I built my own business. I decided to keep the baby. I left my religion. My child is a drug addict. I left my homeland. My husband left me for another woman. I couldn’t have children. My daughter was raped.

Each one is a staggering narrative of survival, and a triumph of the human spirit.

What is startling is that none of these women thinks of herself as a hero. Each one is innocent of her own greatness, oblivious to the power and wisdom in her story. These women do not appreciate or value their own courage and how their lives are lanterns to others. In most cases, not one of them has ever been told ‘you are beautiful, you are brave, you are an inspiration.’

Men who fight in wars are bestowed with medals, salutes and state funerals. Sports stars are over-valued, over-paid and treated as a subspecies of little gods. In our culture, celebrities are lauded over for their wealth, their wardrobes and their Oscar wins. While men still fight wars (real and on sports fields), women on the whole, work to nurture, bring life and beauty to the planet. Quietly.

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Discover your hidden strengths as well as the areas you need to build on to become an author.

As women age and we pass into our forties and fifties, our status plummets dizzyingly. As pertness gives way to gravity, and our generous bodies stop bleeding so we can no longer bear children, we stop satisfying traditional standards of beauty. We become shadows. We grow invisible. Some try to hold back time, and Botox our sagging butts and boobs back into youth. Some of us grieve. Our children leave us. And it’s round about this time that a woman may decide that she’s going to (finally) do something for herself. Just herself. That’s when she finds me. That’s when she whispers, ‘I’ve always wanted to write… but who would be interested in my life?’

It is one of the best kept secrets in the universe right now that true power and wisdom reside in these women and their experiences. Our planet is desperate for their teachings. Our world urgently needs the lineage and luminance of their humble labour, unrewarded, unacknowledged.

So when people ask me, ‘Why do you work only with women? And women over forty?’ here it is. It is my spiritual calling, my mission if you like, to help women write and curate their stories as a collective act of conscious healing so that together we can tip these narratives back into the world.

What I know is that women’s stories – of growth, healing, transformation, creative endeavour – are the medicine this world needs now. When written from a place of deep knowing, with care and craft and conscientiousness, the personal voice speaks into the universal voice. And each time a woman stitches herself back into the fabric of life with words, she create a groove for someone else in which to rest her own tremulousness. One woman’s courage breaks ground for others.

In a troubled world, I believe our work as writers is to use our words to inspire, nourish and grow the spirit – our own, that of the reader, the planet, or the Great Spirit that runs through all things.

Perhaps when the world has learned what it takes to leave an abusive marriage, what it asks of the human spirit to forgive your rapist and what work is needed to heal an illness, we will find a way to deserve our future.

If you are wondering, ‘Who am I to write my story?’ perhaps now is the time to invest in yourself, and to honour the life you’ve lived.

Joanne Fedler

Joanne Fedler

Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?

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