TODAY: Intersection between the past and the future
I was thinking the other day how far I’ve come in the last 10 years, both in developing my business and as a person. The last 10 years saw both my parents pass on, and me finally create a home of my own, meet my life partner and marry him. I learned marketing and bookmaking and found my voice as a writer. I learned that although language and communication are innate skills at which I excel, I have an even stronger skill: relating to people. I think that’s why I like this blog so much. It’s certainly why I enjoy networking and love teaching workshops and seminars. The ancillary benefit for me is knowing I’m helping others achieve their dreams of writing and publishing their own books.
In realizing how far I’ve come, I also had to acknowledge how little I knew when I began this journey. Writing and communication have always been innate skills for me – but I had to learn to be an editor. I had to learn what marketing meant, why it is important, how to go about it, and how to teach it to others. I had to learn how to network and grow my business. And along the way, there have of course been missteps.
While I don’t advise looking back with regret or anxiety about what we haven’t yet accomplished, it’s only in reviewing the past that we can truly see how far we’ve come and where we have succeeded. If you’ve published a book, that’s a pretty significant accomplishment in its own right. You can look at the physical book – or see the eBook for sale online – and know you’ve achieved something pretty big. But the book was a process – it didn’t come together in an instant. First you had the idea. Then you started writing. Slowly, the book itself took form.
If you’re still writing your book, it may be harder to see the achievement – but I promise you, it’s there. Think back five years. Where were you then? How far along was your book at that point? What inspired you to begin writing it in the first place? What kinds of research have you put into it? Where have you gone for support or encouragement?
If you want to finish your book, I encourage you to stop viewing it as a singular gigantic project. First, create a goal date by when you will finish writing it. Tell people you’re working on it and ask them to check in with you every once in a while to see how you’re doing. Then add another date for editing. Another date for book cover and design. Another date for typesetting. Another date for printing. Make a task list with dates, and then get out of your way. Take each task, one at a time, and your book will unfold before you.
My coach tells me that we often quit just as we’re about to make our biggest leaps, because those big leaps are scary and it’s much easier to maintain the status quo. That’s why I find this life review process so powerful. When I look back to what I knew, who I knew, how little I knew 10 years ago, I can see how much I’ve grown and developed. I didn’t know nearly what I know today, but I knew enough to begin my business. I probably wouldn’t have been able to write this blog even three years ago – but I’m writing it now. And I’m sharing the new things I learn as I learn them, because trust me – I know I don’t know everything!
I was scrolling through topics from TedTalks this morning and came across one under the Storytelling theme that caught my eye, because the speaker’s name is the same name as a new client of mine: Sarah Kay. This Sarah Kay is an innovative young woman who pioneered Project V.O.I.C.E. (Vocal Outreach Into Creative Expression), a program that encourages people, particularly teenagers, to use spoken word as a tool for understanding the world and self and as a medium for vital expression.
One of my favorite passages from her presentation:
I became obsessed with stories, because it was through stories that I was able to see through someone else’s lens, however briefly or imperfectly. And I started craving hearing other people’s experiences because I was so jealous that there were entire lives I was never going to get to live and I wanted to hear about everything that I was missing.
And by transitive property, I realized that some people were never going to get to experience what it felt like to be a teenage girl in New York City, which meant what the subway ride after your first kiss feels like, or how quiet it gets when it snows. And I wanted them to know; I wanted to tell them.
It could be seriously easy to look at Sarah Kay’s achievements and start to dis on my own, to think, “Oh, she’s only 22 and look at what she’s accomplishing already. I haven’t done anything like that and I’m twice as old as she is.” However, I know better. One of the gifts of my last 10 years has been an appreciation for where people are – myself included. I’m not perfect at it, but I’ve set it as a goal and I’m improving daily at acknowledging that each of us has chosen a particular path to follow, and one path is not better, smarter, more elevated than the next. Each path is just different.
Sarah Kay starts her program by explaining that when she was little, she thought she would be able to do everything she wanted to in life – that there would be time and opportunity to be a princess-ballerina-astronaut. One thing I caught myself envying is that she had arty parents, both photographers. I had parents who encouraged my sister and me to become a vet and an attorney, respectively, because they were “good jobs.” Our mom and dad had much less concern for our Renaissance nature or desire for fulfillment than that we “succeed in life.” And we are succeeding – just not in the way that they would have had us do it.
I have a friend who is an international writer and photographer. I remember gazing with rapt awe at some of the black and white prints he’d taken of a recent trip to Peru. Before I met him, I’d always thought I wanted that globetrotting, cosmopolitan life. I suppose I did it to a lesser degree, living and working in the NYC area for almost 8 years. But I never chose the Peace Corps, not did I spend a semester abroad, like my niece is doing right now in Italy. I didn’t even go to college out of state. When I look back on my life, I can clearly see that I made some safer, more comfortable choices – but I don’t regret them because I know that if I had really wanted to roam the world, I would have.
Here’s the interesting thing. That George Eliot quote is true:
Yes, I have a husband now. We have 5 four-legged creatures who depend on us for their sustenance. But neither of those negates the possibility of travel, the possibility of greater exploration or activism or interconnectedness to the rest of the world. Sure, it may involve more planning than just throwing some jeans and underwear in a backpack and taking off for six months like my good friend Ashley did a few years ago. She’s another whose life I used to envy.
Today, I stand at the center of my life, able to look back at the past and see how far I’ve come – and able to look forward to the future and decide where I want to go next. You can do the same.
Happy reviewing … and planning ahead!
We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.
Visit the Write | Market | Design Facebook page to meet other authors and aspiring authors who have a sincere interest in writing, publishing, and selling the best books they can. And if you need a self-publishing consultant in your corner for anything from advice on structure to developing a marketing strategy, drop us a note at MarcieBrock@WriteMarketDesign.com or give us a call at 602.518.5376!