70th Post: Confessions of a Writing Entrepreneur Mom

What makes a blog both exciting and dangerous is the immediacy of the format. Confessions, passions and urges are typed onto a little box on a screen, one rectangular button with the corners worn off is clicked with a tap of a key, and those confessions become public.

I’m a person with three novel manuscripts waiting perfection. I’m not impulsive about getting my work out before the public eye because I’ve been wounded by the public eye, been overly-sensitive to what others wrote about my work or thought about it. The blog format, therefore, is good for me. In many ways.

But it is still dangerous, and right now I’m aflame, in a quiet and deep way.

I just crawled out of bed after a long “nursey-nappy” with my family, a nap I spent finishing Po Bronson‘s excellent What Should I Do with My Life? The True Story of People Who Answered the Ultimate Question. He’s got quite a target market there: anyone who’s ever wondered, Is That All There Is?

But what made me LOVE this book was first, the excellent writing. It’s just so well-written. If you want to know what good writing is, read this book. It’s not flowery, pretentious, or even poetic. It’s honest, articulate, driven by a voice of intelligence and integrity.

If I knew Po Bronson better, which is to say if I’d ever met him or met his cousin or seen him do a live reading, say, I’d call him up right now instead of blogging, and I’d run my ideas past him. But you, dear reader, are being asked to stand in. Here’s what I’ll do to help you out. I’ll quote a few lines, and you see if you can take up the spirit of the voice of this book and answer me back, okay?

He writes:

So finding your calling is not “the answer.” Callings are vehicles that help us let our real selves out; callings speed up the process. You can find your calling, or you can find your people, or you can find an environment that nurtures you–they all lead to the same place. Many people get there without ever finding their calling. Head in that direction. (p.390)

And then he writes:

A calling is not something you know, it’s something you grow into, through trials and mistakes. Work shouldn’t just be fun. Work should be like life–sometimes fun, sometimes moving, and defined by meaningful events. Attack your fears, rather than shy away from them. Bring what you do in alignment with who you are. (p.391)

And just one more:

You can get good at what you need to to serve what you believe in. . . . Nothing helps like knowing you are not alone. (p. 391)

Okay, go buy this book! And then come back here and listen to me confess.

I’ve mentioned that I’ve been studying marketing with Michael Port, and that I appreciate that he emphasizes love and integrity. In fact, our last class, in which he made good use of a book called Love is the Killer App, by Tim Sanders was mind-bogglingly wonderful. It focused on the idea that networking is the process of taking care of other people by sharing your intangibles.

What are your intangibles? Your network, your knowledge and your passion.

Meanwhile, I’m reading Po Bronson at night, surrounded by babies, with my little clip-on reading light fading mightily. I got to the end of Ch. 46 last night and it was late for someone with two little guys who wake up before the birds around here, and so I switched off my sputtering little clip-on light, but I couldn’t sleep for two more hours. I was thinking about what he wrote at the end of Ch. 46.

And I’m working out who and how I want to teach, who and how I want to edit. I love teaching and editing; I love being good at making connections, pushing people toward their strengths, teaching what doesn’t seem to be taught much–craft, for example, close attention to words; how to write the books you write best, better. And how to finish things . . . write a whole book and then rewrite it, and write another one. What if people left an M.F.A. program with two complete, book-length manuscripts?

So I’m thinking about how to build my teaching and coaching and editing business, how to serve the people I’m meant to serve. But at the same time, of course, there’s something else: I want to be a writer.

I’ve known this for a really long time and it keeps not changing. I don’t like growing in public or marketing my wares-cum-deepest creative efforts. But I keep pulling past those blocks, changing my mind, being willing to figure out a new way to be willing to grow in public and to see selling my wares in a different light.

Add to the mix that I’m raising two kids, and that I want to raise them. I want to be there for the rolling out of the new words, for the jokes they make and the dance moves they invent and the art they create that, frankly, blows my mind.

So that’s business, writing, kids, in no particular order, and not to mention my relationship, my friends, and my voracious appetite for reading . . .

And each of these items has a few sides to it.

Because besides the amazing sentences my boys utter and the laughs they earn and the hugs they give, there are also endless meals to cook, surfaces to wipe down (counters and bottoms and floors) and dishes to clean and toys to pick up off the floor–again–and laundry to do and baths to be given and hair to be washed and no one likes to brush teeth, it turns out . . .

And writing comes with building a platform and collecting rejection slips, which means addressing and stamping and mailing envelopes (or is anybody even doing that anymore?) and researching markets and proposing articles and books and then convincing other people to buy them . . .

And building a business comes with letting other people know about it and developing products and courses and trying methods of outreach that fail, and doing taxes, and keeping books and records and mailing lists and returning phone calls and emails . . .

Everybody else just woke up, and I was planning to drive the point home if I could, but then people needed dinner and a lot of attention.

So . . . where was I? Oh yes, all the pieces of a whole and the many wholes that compete for attention.

Here’s my immediate, not-yet-digested idea after finishing Po Bronson’s book: I am going to structure my courses and coaching to support my–and hence my clients’–writing life. Perhaps a first-thing-in-the-morning group check-in to rev us up and get us going? Followed by a three-hour writing block. A lunch hour course rotating between planning your book (Mondays?), writing your book (Wednesdays?), revising your book (Thursdays?).(Clients can move among them as needed.) The craft course to keep all of us in the best shape possible for writing great prose . . . And then afternoon coaching sessions for people who are ready to soar.

This is a work-in-progress, but at its heart is my belief that serving others can be done best when I am serving myself. And as I learn about building a platform using all of the exciting media options available, as I create tours and promote books, I will share this information. I want to help apprentice writers become professionals, and professional writers become stars. Myself included.

What do you want? What is your driving passion? What should you do with your life?

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3 Comments

  1. Whoa. I don’t even know where to start, here. Thank you for this wonderful confession, and yet again helping me to reflect on my own inner workings.

    I almost could have written your sentiments myself (other than the book, I have yet to read Po Bronson but that book is now on reserve at my library!).

    My ‘backstory’ is rather large, but I recently closed down my online and wholesale business of making herbal medicinal teas because while I love alternative medicine (I’m a trained clinical herbalist, amongst other talents ;>) what I was doing was far too limiting for me. I realized that I was building a rep locally as the ‘tea lady.’ And when called this, my heart did not sing. In fact, it deflated a little.

    To put this in the framework of Bronson’s words (wonderful insights) I am now clear that this work was *helping* me towards my calling, however it was not IT — it certainly did not cause me to rise up and greet the day.

    Writing does that for me — it has in various ways since I was young, but I always pushed it aside for more “serious” endeavors (really, I think I was in denial and simply did not take myself seriously). That, combined with somehow sharing my lifetime’s passion with consciousness studies, spirituality, ritual and mythology — and why these elements are so vital to our evolution. Now more than ever.

    I’ve always known I was supposed to teach, but I struggle constantly in regard to what exactly, and how. I see writing and speaking as somehow going hand in hand (for instance, writing articles on consciousness in day to day life, as well as giving classes on meditation, self-possession, etc. And, of course my book THE SOUL’S BELOVED, which at its core is a tale of how we as soul’s evolve, played out here on Earth) and yet I constantly trip myself up.

    And then there are my two children. I also, WANT to be present. I grew up with parents who constantly wanted to be somewhere else, and I still sting from the damage it caused (well, they were abusive and neglectful, to be clear). I want to raise them, be here for them — be present to them. And yet, becoming a mother is in part was has finally enabled me to give birth to myself –finally — as a woman, as a writer. Hopefully as a teacher.

    I’ll stop here, there is so much to say! I think your ideas for these classes, tailored around people’s ‘non-linear’ lifestyles is wonderful!

    You rock, woman!
    Kimberely

    Reply
  2. Elizabeth, I love this post — your integrity, your passion, your urge to figure this (writing, loving, child-rearing,reading, teaching, inspiring) life out. I utterly agree with you —– for one thing, of COURSE you’re a writer, and absolutely, this should come first — AND, yes, I wholly agree that your writing — your life as a writer — is enmeshed, embedded, in the other aspects of your labor. I think this about myself as well, only I SO don’t have the energy you do (well, I am very old, now; is that an excuse?). But I do feel somehow that, for me, writing is at the heart of my world, perhaps intertwined with the love I have for family and friends . . . and all else goes into and emerges from that.

    Reply
  3. @Kimberely–You rock, too! I so admire your ability, for example, to write well while caring for children at the exact same moment! I love watching you journey and bloom (to mix metaphors).

    @Harriet–Old! You are so funny. Thank you for affirming my writing and my various paths–you are certainly a role model for me.

    Reply

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