Today, let’s talk about how to deal with the fear of failure when creating.
When it comes to writing, you might find yourself spending a lot of time THINKING about writing, AVOIDING writing, TALKING about writing and feeling BLOCKED when finally sitting down to actually write.
See how time consuming it is already… and there’s STILL no writing being done?
After working with thousands of creatives over the last 15 years or so, I know that one of the biggest reasons for avoiding creativity is that we are being held hostage by fear.
The act of creating can bring up so many fears:
“Who am I to write this book?”
“Can I REALLY do this?”
“I don’t have anything original to say!”
“What if it’s terrible? What if I try my hardest and it isn’t good enough?”
“What will my parents/partner/children/friends/business colleagues think? What if they think I am untalented or ridiculous? What if they roll their eyes at my book?”
“I’m not an expert! I’m an imposter and this book will be evidence of that!”
“What if this hurts or negatively affects any of my family/friends?”
“There are so many other things I should be doing instead of creating. I’m a terrible person/wife/mother if I spend my time writing instead of taking care of other people!”
“I do NOT have time to write. There’s no way I can fit this in!”
And on and on and on…
The excuses seem endless. The fears seem insurmountable.
NO FREAKING WONDER IT TAKES SO LONG TO WRITE A BOOK!
But here’s the thing:
Writing a book actually doesn’t TAKE that long.
The actual writing process can be pretty fast when you’re not spending your time dicking about with fears. It’s why I’ve been able to write books in a month in a couple of hours a day.
So let’s talk about how to get rid of the fear so you can actually get to writing!
Here’s some practical ways to get your fears to shush it so you can become hugely more productive and actually get your book DONE.
#1: Give your fear another job to do.
Write it a letter.
“Possum, I get it. You are trying to keep me safe. I so appreciate how much you care about me. However, you’re not helping me in doing the thing I need and want to do right now. Instead, can you please help by doing this VERY IMPORTANT JOB i.e. guarding my writing time/using my subconscious powers to find the answer to world peace/whispering love songs to my cells as I work. Thank you so much darling. Let’s go make miracles together.”
For example, when I wrote the 40,000 word compendium that became my Double Your Biz e-course, I set myself a month to do it.
#3: Give yourself even smaller, sharper daily deadlines in a compressed writing period.
That deadline for my Double Your Biz compendium? My daily goal became very simple: write 3,000 words before sunset. I was sick with hyperemesis gravidarum, and had a short window in the afternoon where I could sit upright. By the time the sunset, I would be ill again. So I needed to write as much as I could in that short time window.
You don’t have to be ill to do the same however. If I was doing it again now, I would set aside 1-2 hours a day with a word limit to have reached.
#4: Fuck the distractions.
I use a Self Control app on my computer to stop me from me being able to access time wasting websites while I’m working. Facebook, Youtube, Buzzfeed, gossip websites are what I tend to find myself visiting when I am avoiding doing something. Using an external boundary to prevent me is a massive time saver. I also don’t keep my phone in my office to prevent the Instagram scroll from happening.
Tell someone – or as many people as you can – that you are writing a book, you want to write # of words and that the deadline is _________. It’s incredibly motivating, and I always get that much more done when I know I’m being watched!
I have a friend who wants to write more poetry. She asked me to be her writing accountability partner. I agreed, and asked her to define what success looked like. Writing more poetry is a really vague goal, and you won’t know if you are being successful at it or not. She had a think and decided her goal was to write poetry for 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Which was awesome – it was something I could hold her accountable to, and it was a very real, concrete action she could take and know she was completing her intention.
#6: Remember it is NOT your job to second guess yourself. Your job is to create.
I deeply believe that our stories need to be heard. That the things that are inside us – our journey, our experience, our wisdom, our gold – are great gifts that are needed in the world. Our stories can heal us as we write them, and they can heal others when they read them.
I believe that when you have an idea for a book, it is a divinely ordained request from the angels. They know that this creation is needed in order to help and heal the world. And so they plant the seed with you, in the hope you will birth it into the world.
With this kind of divine ordinance at play, who are we NOT to create? When the world needs the soul gold that lives inside us, who are we to ignore that mission?
Example Time: This is not about a book. But this is about a divine writing mission.
A few months ago, I had a strange feeling. I knew I was supposed to be writing a letter to someone I barely knew. I knew this person was going through a very difficult time. And I kept having this feeling that if I just opened up a page, and wrote to him, there would be things to say.
I had fears of course: What is this person going to think? Is it going to be the right message? Will I offend their religious beliefs by sharing the message I could hear? And who am I to do this?
But I knew I needed to nonetheless. The angels have blessed me again and again. They have given me so truth and wisdom and creative ideas that have healed me time and time again. Who am I to ignore them on this?
I should say here: I am NOT someone who hears the angels constantly. I only hear them clearly when I am writing. I can take dictation from them. I can occasionally hear them outside of writing – like in a sacred women’s circle, in dreams or in nature. They also came with my daughters’ spirits when both of them wished to be conceived. But that’s by the by. I just wanted to say – I wouldn’t regard myself as being super intuitive, or someone who talks to angels everyday. Reading back over this though, I definitely sound like a MASSIVE HIPPY however. Bahahahaha!
Anyways, the angels had given me a mission. And EVEN THOUGH I was scared, EVEN THOUGH I was not sure how it would be received… I knew I needed to do my job, and turn up, and respond to that divine calling.
I did. I wrote it, sent it, and gave it up to the world. I’d done my job. That was all that was needed.
I got a long email today, months after my mission missive message. It was a beautiful thing, coming full circle. He wrote to tell me what a bad place he had been when he’d received my email, and how my writing him had felt like God was speaking to him, reminding him that he was loved. That it was a touchstone for his healing.
And it was such a blessing, of course, to know that the mission I’d been given had worked as intended. But even if I hadn’t heard from him and hadn’t known the effect it would have, I still would have done the right thing.
The right thing is to create. The right thing is to heed the call of your creative soul and the call of the angels. The feeling you receive from doing it is indescribable. It is the closest to transcendence I have ever come.
The World Needs Us.
It’s time to get out of our own way, and get on with our all important mission.
We need to write our way to our own healing… and let those words free into the world to heal others too.
Fuck the fears. There is too much beauty waiting for us out the other side.
I started off this post to you just to share about a work thing I did lately which I’m delighted with.
But I need to be honest with you, as that’s the kind of friendship we have always had. I write and I tell you about all of this: the good stuff. The hard stuff. The life stuff. The business stuff.
And the truth of it is, I am going through an excruciatingly painful personal experience.
There’s SO MUCH that is glorious and good in my world – my marriage, my kids, my health, my business… and then there is a part that feels like it has had a bomb explode in it. I can’t share the details because it involves other family members and is not my story to tell. But it’s been a devastating crisis to navigate and manage and I wonder at my capacity to still be standing.
Yesterday I found myself on the bathroom floor, on a critically important phone call, bent over in a panic attack. It’s been a long time since I’ve lost my ability to breathe like that. My husband came to find me, took the phone to calmly tell them that I was having a panic attack and would be ok in a few minutes, rubbed my back, then handed me back the phone when I could breathe and speak again. So I could carry on, doing what needed to be done.
He said later:
It was hard to know what to do. At one end of the house, there is Beth asking me to help her build a cubby fort. And then there is you, and you are going through something so painful, and there isn’t anything I can do to stop that experience.
Throughout this searing experience though… I am cognisant of just how much good there is.
Even though this fire will be life-changing for myself and other family members, I dearly hope it will result in something even better. That the Phoenix will rise from the ashes and bestow us with her blessings of new adventures and deepening connections.
I’ve been afforded some extraordinary grace, compassion and kindness. My husband, my brother and my friends have been a saving grace.
And perhaps, most of all, I told my husband this:
I feel like I am going to come out the other side of this as a different person. I feel like I am being sculpted into something more. That I am being ushered along the path that crafts me into someone with more stoicism, more resilience, more compassion. And that the pressure will turn my coal into diamonds, will bolster my spirit towards strength. I won’t be the same person as I was coming into this experience.
I will be more human. More touched by life.
My heart will be broken. The cracks will be filled up with even more of life. By god, it will be lovelier. It will be more tender and more courageous all at once.
Today, I thought I’d let you in behind the scenes on how I’ve sold well over $1 million in books.
I’ll share with you both the history and the how-to’s.
I’ve ALWAYS wanted to write a book. If you had asked me when I was four what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would have said the same thing I was already doing: writing books and making art.
The first book I remember creating was a book called Cyclone Charlie. It was the true story of our cattle farm being hit by a cyclone. I dictated it to my Mum, and illustrated each page. I still remember the page where I described how the rain made small waterfalls down the mountains.
That’s me at about that age, baby sister on hip.
Writing and illustrating books was my destiny, the thing that was sure in my bones. It was just a matter of time before that would be my job.
I started blogging when I was 21, and wrote my first book when I was 22.
That book was like a graphic memoir – I just didn’t realise that was the name for it! I just did it intuitively, combining art and words as I have always done in my journals.
To get that book written, I set myself a really short, sharp deadline: write it and have it available for sale within one month. I was working full time in the public service, so the book was written in lunch hours, on the bus, at night and on weekends.
I think that’s the thing: everybody assumes that to write a book, you need vast swathes of time. You don’t. You just need to apply your energy to the thing and get it donesville.
I know that if I set a more “realistic” deadline of say, six months, I would NEVER get the book done. Too much would come up in the meantime, and the months would go by, and it still wouldn’t be done.
By using the Wild Donkey method, I devote my focus to being immersed in getting one project done and finished as soon as possible.
Here’s a little bit of what it looked like on the inside:
Doing the short, sharp deadline mode of creating doesn’t just work for graphic memoirs either.
I’ve also done a 40,000 word business book in that time as well.(That book was then turned into my Double Your Biz e-course. I’ve retired that now, but will release a new updated business course this year.)
Again – I wrote that 40,000+ word business book when I had a LOT of other things on my plate as well. I was in the final stages of my second pregnancy, and horrifically ill with hyperemesis gravidarum. At that point, I spent most of my day bedridden, and got a small reprieve from the debilitating nausea by late afternoon. It was enough to be able to sit upright and be able to think somewhat.
I would set myself a deadline of writing 3,000 words before the sun set over the rainforest. I’d take frequent vomit breaks to run out to my office balcony and vomit over the lawn for the forest animals to eat. I’d keep writing as much as I could before the illness swallowed me whole again and sent me back to bed.
I would like to clarify here:
I am really big on sane, healthy working practices, good self care and great work/life balance. I don’t want to share this story to be a martyr of “Too bad if you’re sick! I was sick too!”
There’s all different kinds of life circumstances. In the earlier stages of my pregnancy illness, I was chronically debilitated and in hospital often, so this kind of project wasn’t going to work for me.
By the time I did take the project on, I was six months into the pregnancy and still fucked up but not AS fucked up. I also desperately needed SOMETHING to think about apart from the misery of my illness. So even though it was still challenging to pull off, it was what I needed.
I’m definitely taking the same Wild Donkey approach with my 40 Days To A Finished Book e-course… but it definitely still can be done whether you are working full-time, parenting or having “life stuff” going on.
Okay, that’s slightly off track.
Now where were we?
Ahh yes! My first book! I released it, and I sold a few hundred copies. At the time I was totally delighted. For me, it was less about profit and more about OMG! I actually DID THE THING! I WROTE THE BOOK!
Sometimes the reward of completing a creative thing is not the revenue or recognition, it’s about the pride and joy of accomplishment. As I always say:
Momentum breeds Momentum.
Completing a project like a book can help you become even more productive and feel even more fulfilled.
Honestly though, I was pretty shithouse when it comes to marketing the book. That was in the early days of my business. Now when I release books, I know the marketing of it is going to be the driving factor for its success.
I kept blogging, and started running retreats, doing coaching and running e-courses.
Come December 2009, I was working part-time at my government job and pregnant with my first child. I knew the coming year would be intense, and that the initiation into motherhood. By that point, I’d also started setting goals and discovering just how powerful that was. So I decided to give myself the gift of setting goals for 2010 to keep me sane and inspired during my first year of motherhood.
I looked around to see if there was any books out there that I could fill out to help me set goals. But everything I found had two major issues:
they weren’t comprehensive – I wanted to go deeper than just “set three goals!”
they were black and white and corporate and felt really masculine.
I wanted something that was inspiring to fill out and rainbowy AND also helped guide me through setting goals for every area of my life and business.
So I decided to create something FOR ME to use. I spent three days around Christmas time creating my goals workbook, and I loved it so much I thought it would be fun to pop online and sell as a PDF and see if anyone else wanted to use it. I thought it would be super cool if like 10 people bought it.
I went on to sell over 1000 workbook PDFs that year which was SO groovy.
hit #1 and #3 bestseller SIMULTANEOUSLY on Amazon AU for ALL FREAKING BOOKS (!!!!)
generated well over $1m in revenue (probably over $2m – I need to go back to count all the years!)
In that time, I’ve also gone through different types of publishing:
I started out selling as a PDF only
A couple of years later, I started selling it as print on demand through Amazon’s self-publishing service
A few years after that, I decided to try printing in China instead and using distribution houses in three countries. I hired a lot of staff to try and cope with the increased workload, and realised just how much I hated managing staff and logistics. I wrote about my decision to stop doing that here.
I went back to using Amazon’s print-on-demand service while I scouted for a publishing deal for the workbooks.
Me, stoked at no longer having to manage shipping logistics anymore.
There are pros and cons for all publishing routes, and what’s right for you will change over your business career. I’ll go through the behind-the-scenes details of the pros and cons of all of them in 40 Days To A Finished Book. I’ll talk about what’s more profitable, what’s easiest and what gives you the most credibility, and how to maximise all of these.
Now, let’s talk about what made the difference between selling fuck all books and selling a fuck tonne of books!
When I look back at where I started with book writing and the results I got then to the results I got now, there are some really big things I did differently.
Let me tell you the key pieces of creating book success.
#1: Writing the book is 10% of the job. Marketing is 90%.
That may make you groan, but it’s true. You need to spend WAY LONGER marketing the book than you think you need to.
If you think “if it’s a great book, it will speak for itself! I won’t have to market it at all!”… you’re wrong. Sorry mate, it just doesn’t work like that.
“Just putting it out there” isn’t enough. It’s lazy. And it is not of service to the world.
If you’ve spent all that time in creating something, you need to invest time in making sure that the people who would care about it and find it useful actually HEAR about it in the first place.
I’ll talk more about the how-to’s of book marketing in the course.
#2: The three most important parts of selling: Testimonials. Testimonials. Testimonials.
I once asked a very well-known copywriter what the three most important parts of a sales page were. Her answer? Testimonials, testimonials, testimonials.
The same is true for books.
Have testimonials for the book in the first few pages of the book – the more the better!
Give advance copies away in exchange for a review on Amazon or Goodreads.
Consider giving away books to peeps with a profile who have similar interests as your target market. You can even get a bit polished with it and do it up as a cute package. I’ve sent my books to bloggers with chocolate, tea and pens in wrapping paper – all the supplies they needed to have a gorgeous time with my book!
Ask people at the end of your book to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads if they love it.
Collate all your testimonials and reviews on your sales page.
Speaking of which…
#3: It’s not enough just to give fucking links to Amazon. You need a sales page!
A sales page is a long, comprehensive page giving people EVERYTHING they need to know about in order to BUY!
There’s some REALLY important parts to a sales page including:
a sales video
who the book is for
how the book helps
why you are the best person to learn from
benefits and results
and a big call to action.
I’ll go into all these in detail in the course, but I really want to reiterate: STOP JUST SENDING PEOPLE TO AMAZON TO BUY. YOU NEED TO SELL THE FUCK OUT OF THE BOOK FIRST SO THEY WILL ACTUALLY BUY IT!
#4: Stay connected with your readers. They’ve got bonza ideas!
That way, I get to hear when people are confused by something, LOVE something and want more of it, ask about a certain feature or want another companion product in the future.
Your readers have great ideas. They love your thing, and they can help come up with ways to make it better and write even more books!
#5: Offer it both digital and printed
It’s SO much easier than it was 10 years ago to self-publish books both digitally and in print. I’ve tried a few services, but keep coming back to Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. They formerly were called Createspace, but it’s all merged into one platform now.
#6: This one tip will make you WAY more money!
This one is SUCH a simple tip, but can hugely increase your $$$ income.
Get your pen and paper out, and write it down!
When you do point to Amazon for people to buy your book, MAKE SURE you are using your own Amazon affiliate link.
On the book front, look for writers with a unique voice that attracts you. It doesn’t matter the genre – instead you are on the hunt for other authentic voices. Something in you knows when you’ve found one – it feels like the author is speaking directly to you. They carve language in a new way. The words are so thoughtfully crafted you hold your breath.
You might find it in different places from me. That’s PERFECT. Just find the voices that do speak to you. And let them be a soul lighthouse for your authentic voice.
They are proof that it is doable and possible. And that when you do, it will move great mountains.
4. Copy the EFFECT, not the STYLE.
When you DO find writers that inspire you, don’t just be a copy and paste of them. The world doesn’t need another JK Rowling… it already has one!
Instead, notice what it is you love in your favourites, and think how you can create the same. Dive a little deeper than just the surface into WHY they are great writers. Break it down to its scrumptious essence.
So, for example: I love Nikki Gemmell’s writing. Especially her non-fiction books.
What do I love about Nikki?
I love her searing honesty, even when it’s uncomfortable and unmentionable.
I love how she plays with words, makes them up, uses them in an innovative way.
I love how bare-hearted she is in her words.
Those are the things I hope to replicate and respond to, but in my very own Leonie way.
Another example: Trent Dalton:
I love how I can read an article and know within the first paragraph that it is his.
I love that he is unabashedly emotional, how he looks into the heart of people and shares his response to them.
I love how he loves people with his words. He is kind about almost everyone, no matter how odd they may be. He loves humanity.
Again: marvellous essences to tap into and aspire to, without becoming a carbon copy.
Copy the EFFECT of their words, not the STYLE.
5. Falling too much into the comparison trap? Go Full Hermit.
On the other hand, sometimes it can be unhelpful and even painful to read writers you love. You may find yourself comparing yourself viciously or wondering why you should even bother writing when there’s so many other great writers out there. Sometimes there’s so many voices in your head it’s hard to hear your own.
That’s when you know it’s time to go Full Hermit.
Unplug, unfollow and ignore all the writers that trigger you into comparison-itis, indecision and creative inertia.
Plug into YOU instead: journal. Write. Look back through anything you’ve written over your life – note what you love about it.
Do the inner work and self care so you’ve got enough quiet and confidence to share the birdsong that only lives in you.
6. Fuck the masses. Go full weird.
Don’t try and appeal to the masses.
If you try to appeal to EVERYONE, you end up appealing to NO ONE.
Instead, go hard with your own definitive way of writing. It will resonate more deeply with your right audience. It will amuse or touch you more. It will have its own special joie de vivre in its wily weirdness.
Some people, I am sure, think that my writing style is OTT and overly contrived and too sweary/blunt/what the fuck ever.
Even at school, I had some English teachers who would tell me my writing was too “flowery” or “emotional.” And I just remember thinking: NO DERRRR. AND THAT IS WHAT MAKES IT GREAT. YOU ARE WRONG AND I WILL CARRY ON MY MAGICAL WRITING WAY.
And that’s exactly what I did. With great and glorious gusto.Ha!
Here’s the thing: if someone doesn’t resonate with my writing, it means they aren’t the right personality fit for my business. The ones that DO like my writing like it a LOT. They LOVE that I swear, they LOVE that I make up words, they LOVE that I get deeply personal and emotional. If I tried to cull the weird out of my writing, it would have taken out the best bits.
And the people who DO love my writing? They are just the right kind of person for me: funny, compassionate, big-hearted creatives.
Being your own style of weird pays off in attracting people who ADORE your work, and who are just right for YOU.
7. The only way to write well… is to write.
I saw a friend recently. She is brilliant and wise and just a gorgeous person to know. She has SO MUCH to share in her fields of expertise, and has been wanting to start teaching online for years. She already has all her content written… it’s just that fear of actually getting out there and doing the thing.
“The thing is,” she says. “I don’t feel like I’ve got a great speaking voice yet. So I think I should go do Toastmasters or something before I can do anything.”
I looked at her and laughed.
“Fuck off, mate. The only way to learn the thing and get great at the thing is by DOING THE THING. Just start teaching, fuck ya! Start putting courses out already! People needs your work! You’ll learn as you go, and grow as you go. If I’d waited around until I was perfect at everything, I still wouldn’t have done anything! My speaking voice is still shithouse – it shits itself regularly, it’s raspy and I’m a throat speaker. But it is better than what it used to be, and that’s just from sheer practice! JUST DO THE THING ALREADY!”
Have I told you I am a very bossyblunt encouraging friend?
The same is true as well when it comes to writing. There’s no way to all of a sudden snap your fingers and become a great writer… without writing.
The only way to learn and grow and find your authentic voice is by PRACTICING. Write every day. Blog every day. Journal every day. Whatever form you want to take… the only way out is THROUGH.
No more waiting for perfect.
No more wanting to be anything but who you are. It’s time to use that voice of yours that only lives in you, and start sharing its gifts in the world.