GOOD QUESTION: I want to write a book but it’s haaaard. Who can help me?

 
 
 

Dear Alex,

I am trying to write a book but I’m feeling stuck. Do you know any good writing coaches… or anyone who might be able to help?

–K.

 
 

Dear K.,

When people say to me:

“I want to write a book!”

What they usually mean is…

“I want to inspire people.”

Or: “I want to educate people.”

Or: “I want to entertain people.”

Or: “I want to move people, and make them feel things.”

Or some combination of those effects.

There are so many ways to inspire, educate, entertain and move people.

Writing a book is certainly one way.

Hiring a professional (like a ghostwriter or biographer) to channel the book for you is another way.

But books aren’t the only way to inspire, educate, entertain and move people.

You could also produce a podcast. Start a webTV show. Or a blog. Or not a blog. Or maybe just host a dinner party and tell rollicking stories around the table, while breaking open a nice, crusty baguette and sipping a crisp Rosé.

If you’re feeling stuck with your book, I’d recommend that you ask yourself — really honestly — if a book is truly what you feel called to create.

Maybe there’s another “container” for your ideas that would be easier to produce, or more suited to your personality and communication style. A different kind of “contribution” that you could offer to the world.

Stop. Check your Hut (heart + gut). And see.

And if you discover that — YES! — it’s a book, it’s definitely a book, it absolutely has got to be a book…

Then I DO have a few suggestions to help you find the support that you need.

Here we go…

 

If you can’t get motivated to write because life is so “busy”…

Read this (it will make you cry): http://dieempty.com/

 

If you want to tell raw, vulnerable, true stories that grip the heart…

Work & study with Laurie Wagner from 27 Powers. She’ll help you mine your gold: http://27powers.org/

 

If you want an inky fairy godmother to walk you through the ins & outs of writing a bestselling book …

Linda Sivertsen, aka the Book Mama, can help: http://bookmama.com/

 

If you want to join a writing circle that’s encouraging, not critical and nitpicky…

Dave Ursillo’s online community, The Literati Writers, is a great choice. Learn more at: http://daveursillo.com/

 

If you want to pick a veteran literary agent’s brain & find out how to make your book more appealing to publishers…

My literary agent, Kristina Holmes, offers brain pickin’ dates and consulting for authors. (She particularly loves spiritual, emotional stories that speak to the heart): http://holmesliterary.com/

 

If you need to write a book proposal & have no clue where to begin…

This program can help: http://yourbigbeautifulbookplan.com/ [I was on the team that helped to produce this program... and later, I used it to craft my own book proposal!]

 

If you need an editor or copywriter to help you find the right words…

I have a list of highly-recommended wordsmiths right here: http://alexandrafranzen.com/things-i-love/ [scroll down a bit to find them.]

 

If you’re writing a memoir or coffee table book, and you want somebody to edit, design and print it for you…

I’ve heard great things about this company: http://echomemoirs.com/

 

If you need someone to proofread your book & clean up all those typos…

Woz Flint is an eagle-eyed superstar (I’ve used her several times… with great delight!): http://linkedin.com/in/wozflint

 

If you want to self-publish your book & sell it online…

I think that’s a fine choice! Here’s a smart guide: http://lifehacker.com/how-to-self-publish-your-own-book/

 

If you dream about writing a children’s or picture book…

Simone Kaplan is an absolute delight (with 20 years of experience in the industry): http://picturebookpeople.com/

 

If you need someone to illustrate your book or design your book cover…

Rebecca Pollock is a queen! She did my very first print book, and created templates for most of my digital books, too: http://rebeccapollock.com/

 

If you just realized that you DON’T want to write a book, but actually you want to produce a MAGAZINE…

Shauna from We Are Branch does phenomenal web & print design, including gorgeous magazines: http://wearebranch.com/

 

If you want simple advice on how to get your blog & social media fans OH SO EXCITED!!! about your new book:

Talk to Sarah Von Bargen: http://sarahvonbargen.com/offering/secret-weapon/

 

If you need a therapist because you keep sabotaging your efforts to write & finish your book:

Please hire Dr. Gelb: http://drsuzannegelb.com/

 

If you want to stop making excuses & write your damn book, already…

Paul Jarvis created a free email course to help you do exactly that: http://mydamnbook.com/

 

If you would like to start (and finish) your book with me, by your side…

… or even hire me to ghostwrite the entire manuscript… that can happen. In 2015. For a very small number of nice people.

Hop on my mailing list if you’d like to stay in the loop. (I’m excited to share more… when it’s time.)

 

If you feel compelled to bring a book into the world… please do it.

Even if it’s only for your sweetheart to read… or your amazing niece… or your best friend in the world… or a handful of blog readers & clients who are cheering for you.

There’s nothing worse than moving through your life with potential, unfulfilled… projects, unfinished… books, unwritten.

Don’t be that person. Give it. Finish it. Make the contribution.

It is the BEST feeling. Trust me.

 

“Don’t go to your grave with your best work inside you. Choose to die empty.”
Todd Henry

 

xo.

PS. Do YOU help people write, edit, proofread, design, publish, promote or distribute… books?

Drop a note down below and share what you do!

(Don’t forget to include a link to your website, blog, secret garden, post office box and so forth.)

 
 
 

Read More good question

What kind of “professional” do you want to be?

 
 
 

The room was filled with one of the most beautiful sounds in the world — at least, to my ears:

Typing fingers and scribbling pens.

It was the opening night of one of my writing workshops, and I had just given out the first assignment:

Write a short statement to introduce yourself to the room. In three minutes. Don’t over-think it.

Include your name and a few words to describe your work — not just your “job title” but the contribution that you want to make in the world.

Three minutes flew by. Pens returned to the table. I saw a few smiles of satisfaction.

But the doctor was not amused.

When it was Dr. Gee’s turn to introduce herself, she sighed.

“I really struggled with this exercise, because what I wrote down is so… unprofessional“, she said.

“When I started to write about my ‘work’ and my ‘contribution’, I didn’t write about my medical training. I wrote about how much I love to laugh.”

The room went silent, surprised and intrigued. Dr. Gee continued:

“I wrote about how I’m constantly laughing at work, with my patients — who are very sick people. How the other doctors can hear our laughter through the walls, all the way down the hall. I love to celebrate life, so my patients and I… we laugh every day.”

She paused.

“But of COURSE, I can’t say that on my website, or to a potential client or patient. Like I said, it’s so unprofessional. I mean… who’s going to want to go to a doctor like THAT?”

I glanced around the room, then back at Dr. Gee.

This was a woman who radiated love, joy and compassion from every cell of her being. I could see it. We all could.

So I said what everyone was thinking:

“Um… the answer is EVERYONE. EVERYONE wants to go to a doctor like that.”

The entire room erupted into nods and words of agreement.

Dr. Gee smiled.

“Thank you,” she said. “Thank you for saying that.”

And then, the room was filled with another one of the most beautiful sounds in the world:

Her laughter.
 

. . .

 

Too often, we hide our humanity in a misguided effort to be ‘taken seriously’.

But why hide like that? It’s painful and ultimately, it serves no one.

Loving does not make you ‘unprofessional’.

Laughing does not make you ‘unprofessional’.

Caring deeply does not make you ‘unprofessional’.

It’s exactly the opposite.

When you deliver the results that you’ve promised… AND you make a positive imprint on someone’s heart… THAT’S the mark of a true professional.

Skill AND Soul. Expertise AND Humanity.

Both, not one or the other. Just like Dr. Gee.

So… what kind of ‘professional’ do you want to be?

xo.

 
 

GOOD QUESTION: How can I get un-hooked from Facebook?

 
 
 

Dear Alex,

How can I get myself un-hooked from Facebook? I know you’ve done it. Help?

–Natasha

 
 

Dear Natasha,

I remember the exact moment when I created my very first Facebook account.

It was just before my 21st birthday, and I had just experienced the most painful, heart-wrenching break-up of my entire life — to date.

Think: calling my mom at midnight, sobbing, suitcase in hand, begging to crash on the couch because I had nowhere else to go.

Like that.

A few days passed, in a fog of grief, and I got the notion to check out this ol’ thing called Facebook that everybody was talking about.

“Might be nice to reconnect with a few old friends,” I told myself, brightening slightly, at the thought.

It was nice. Too nice.

Before long, I was a glassy-eyed mess. I had spent nearly 24 hours straight, on Facebook, barely eating or sleeping, incessantly updating my feed, ogling photos, gossiping and spilling vulnerable details of my life to “friends” that I hadn’t spoken to in years.

Every new message was a little drip-drop of happy-making neurotransmitters, distracting me from the reality of my life. Yum-yum-yum. More-more-more.

I remember indulging in a highly flirtateous Facebook conversation with an ex-boyfriend from high school who had treated me horribly, and who I didn’t even respect — just because it felt so good to receive some attention.

It was then that I realized:

“Whoa. I don’t like myself very much, right now.”

It wasn’t Facebook’s “fault.” But Facebook certainly wasn’t helping.

I deactivated my account and never touched it again — except for a very brief interval in my mid-twenties, when representing my employer on Facebook was part of my job, in the communications department. (After getting transferred to another department, I no longer had to do that particular task. Freedom, at last!)

And that… was that.

When people find out that I’m not on Facebook, they usually react with a mixture of jealousy and horror.

“But how do you stay in touch with friends?”

I call them. Or they call me.

“But don’t you need it to promote your business?”

Apparently not.

“But what if somebody wants to invite you to a party, and they can’t find you?”

Well, I guess I’m not going. Or, if it’s really important, I trust that they’ll track me down some other way.

My advice to you, Natasha, and to anyone else who wants to get un-hooked from Facebook?

Ask yourself:

“Do I like the kind of person that I am, when I’m using Facebook? Do I feel like I’m using it for the ‘right’ reasons?”

If the answer is “Yes,” carry on.

If the answer is “Ew, not really”… then just stop.

Block the site from your computer for one month, if you need to.

See how it feels to be… you.

You, without the yummy drip-drop you’ve grown so accustomed to.

It might be uncomfortable.

It might feel amazing.

You won’t know until you try.

And the very fact that you want to “get un-hooked” is a good sign… that you should.

 

“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” –Toni Morrison

 

xo.

PS. Are you concerned about your relationship with Facebook, or another social media platform? How do you manage the impulse to check-check-checkity-check?

 
 
 

Read More good question

12 “oh, duh!” ways to get more people reading & sharing your blog.

 
 
 

I have a lot of opinions about why it’s so important to keep writing, even if it feels like “nobody’s reading.”

I’ve also written about why you are a really big deal, regardless of your audience size.

I’ve also written about why blogging isn’t for everyone & what you can do, instead.

But!

All of that being said, there are plenty of perfectly good reasons why you might want to seek out new blog readers — or encourage people to share what you’ve written.

I get that.

And… building an audience does NOT have to be complicated.
 

Here are 12 simple, unfussy ways to make it happen:
 

1. Quote someone? Let them know. If you mention someone in a blog post, send them an email and let them know. They might feel inspired to share what you’ve written with their own audience… or not. Either way, it’s a lovely thing to do. You will make that person feel very fancy, notable & quotable. You’ll probably make their day!

“Hey! Just FYI: I quoted you in my latest blog post: [link]. Because your parenting advice is always SO good! Thank you!”
 

2. Inspired by someone? Let them know that, too. But do NOT demand a response. Just be cool. It’s quite likely that your hero will want to share what you’ve written with others… as long as you don’t crank up the pressure.

“Hey! Your TED Talk on the power of positivity rocked me to the core. I wrote a piece in response, inspired by you: [link]. No need to reply. Just wanted to say: thank you.”

 

3. Be specific. Give your readers specific, actionable instructions on how to share your work.

“Do you know someone who’s thinking about quitting their job? Email this piece to them & encourage them to consider these 5 questions, first.”
 

4. Get curated. You can write to bloggers who do “curated posts” or “link round-ups” to give ‘em a heads up about something you’ve written… if you genuinely think that they’ll dig it.

“Hey! I love your weekly round-up of inspirational links — it’s like candy for my soul! I know that you’re obsessed with erotic novels (who isn’t?) so I figured you might be interested in this: [link].”
 

5. Make it intriguing. “A photo recap of my trip to Italy!” = fun, but not particularly intriguing, unless you’re Beyoncé.

“A photo recap of my trip to Italy — and 5 super-sexy things that Italians do that YOU should do, too.” = fascinating and very shareable.
 

6. Make it easy to explain. If you glance at the 21 most popular blog posts of all time, you’ll notice a commonality:

Every single post can be easily summarized in a sentence or less.

“Oh, did you see that piece about why smart kids are more likely to grow up to become heavy drinkers? You gotta read it.”

When the “point” of a post can be summed up in a few seconds, people are far more likely to talk about it… and share it with others.
 

7. Leverage the spotlight. If you’re getting profiled in the media — yes, even Cousin Pete’s Weekly Podcast-o-rama counts! — write a special blog post especially for that particular media audience, and then tell them about it!

“After listening to this interview, you might be thinking, ‘I can’t wait to start training for my first half-marathon!’ Well, you’re in luck: I just wrote a blog post featuring a training plan for total beginners, and that post is on the homepage of my blog, RIGHT NOW. Check it out!”
 

8. Offer a next step. Once folks get to the bottom of a post, they’re often wondering, “What next?” Invite your readers to pull up a chair & stay awhile, by directing them to another post on your blog.

“Like this post? You might also enjoy: [link].”
 

9. Get syndicated. There are literally thousands of websites, blogs and online magazines who are desperate for writers who will contribute (free) content.

Getting featured as a “guest writer” can be a great way to raise visibility about your work & draw people back to your own site — and no, you don’t need to be famous to do it. It’s generally just a matter of writing to the editor and saying:

“Hey! I’m in love with [name of site] and I’ve been voraciously devouring your posts.

It looks like you feature guest writers, from time to time, which got me thinking… if I wrote a piece called [title] about [topic] and submitted it to you, does that sound like something you & your readers would be into?

If so, let me know (no rush, whenever you can). And if my guest post sounds like a fit, I’ll whip it up & send it to you — for your consideration. Thank you!”
 

10. Get personal. From time to time, I’ll send a personal email to a friend or client and say:

“When I wrote this post — [link] — I was thinking about you.”

I’m not doing it because I’m hoping they’ll immediately share that post with their legions of Twitter followers or Facebook friends.

If that happens, well… fine. It’s a pleasant side effect, but it’s not the point.

My main impulse is to simply let that friend know:

“I’m thinking about you & I made this for you.”

Good things — surprising things — tend to happen when you reach out to a friend with care, concern & love.

(Things that are far more meaningful than a couple extra re-tweets on your latest post.)
 

11. Be dependable. If you create a reliable rhythm — one poem every Friday, an advice column once a month, a short essay every full moon, whatever feels good — then your readers will have something to look forward to. They’ll count on you.

Writing consistently creates an audience that checks in, consistently. You don’t have to be rigid & punish yourself for “missing a post,” occasionally. Just be consistent as often as possible. More often that… not.
 

12. Just write stuff that’s good. The best “marketing tactic” always has, and always will be… just writing stuff that’s helpful, inspiring, loving and truthful. You know. GOOD.

As I like to say:

“Don’t write blog posts. Creates little miracles for people.”

Focus on that, more than anything else, and your readership will grow to the exact size that it’s meant to be.

Be patient. Keep it simple.

It will happen.

You’ll see.

 

xo.

PS. Do you spend a LOT of time & energy thinking about how to increase the size of your readership? How could you let it be… simpler?

 
 

Read More business // acceleration creativity // inspiration

How to consult with a mystic (… and ask really good questions.)

 
 
 

I’ve had dozens of fascinating conversations & consultations with mystics, over the years.

Psychics. Witches. Readers. Intuitives. Angel whisperers. Hey, some of my best friends are Oracles!

I’ve learned that when it comes to seeking guidance from a professional mystic, framing your questions in the right way can make all the difference.

 

Here are my tips on how to have a highly productive conversation with a mystic:

 

1. Avoid “Yes” or “No” questions.

“Will I meet the love of my life, this year?” = not a great question.

“What are some things I could focus on to raise my chances of attracting an amazing partner, this year?” = a much better question.

“I’ve been struggling to meet people. What might be holding me back from connecting with someone amazing?” = a great question, too.

I’ve yet to meet a mystic who believes that the future is “set is stone”. Most of the mystics I know believe that your future is entirely up to you. Yes, certain opportunities may be better than others, and certain dates may be more auspicious, but at the end of the day, you call the shots, which means… it’s impossible for a mystic to give you a definitive “yes” or “no” answer on most topics.

As The Tarot Lady likes to say, “The cards tell a story… but YOU write the ending”.

 

2. Give options & ask for a forecast.

“I’m so lost! What should I do with my career? ” = not a great question.

“I’m at a crossroads in my career. Here are two options I’m considering: [describe both, simply]. Which option feels like a stronger path for me?” = a way better question.

Mystics tend to shine when presented with 2 or 3 options that they can respond to.

A channeler, for example, could do a quick check-in with her spirit guides to get a “vibe” on each path. (“Option One looks fraught with complications & friction… but Option Two looks like pure sexy-town…”)

 

3. In the end, trust your “hut”.

(Hut = my personal term for “heart + gut”.)

Just like there are terrific car mechanics and shady ones, there are terrific mystics… and there are hot messes. Choose wisely.

But even if I had the greatest mystical adviser on the planet, I would never, EVER do something solely because a mystic told me so.

It’s imperative to trust your instincts.

Mystics can help confirm what you already know (building your self-confidence, so that it’s easier to take action).

Mystics can help illuminate possibilities you hadn’t considered (or blindspots you’ve been overlooking).

Mystics can help articulate the potential pros & cons of the various paths you might choose.

But mystics are not there to “tell you what to do”.

That’s up to you.

 

To your magical life…

xo.

PS. If you’re curious, here are a few of my favorite mystics on the planet. I’m probably forgetting a few… forgive me.

Theresa (the gold standard for tarot). Paige (adorable & full of mischief. plays the ukelele, too). Heidi (she reads the stars & writes poetry that wakes up your heart). Ellen (she’s a career strategist & resume editor with a secret weapon: astrology). Laurel (she talks to angels & they talk back). Dyana (she’s an oracle: ask her to dream for you). Pace (she helped me think about “god” in a whole new way). Kris (she has conversations with mermaids. see also: bad-ass drummer). Catherine (she might not consider herself to be a “mystic,” but I do). The AstroTwins (stylish, jargon-free horoscopes from identical twin sisters. swoon).