Episode 199 #HowtoLovePromotingYourWork - #AmWriting
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Episode 199 #HowtoLovePromotingYourWork

 

Our guest today, Dan Blank, sure seems like a man who loves his work. On his own podcast, the Creative Shift, he’s a warm and engaged interviewer. In his emails, he’s genuine and engaged. Is he selling his book and his services as an advisor to authors developing their platform and launching their work into the world? Sure, but it never feels like he’s selling. It feels like he’s sharing.

Wouldn’t we all like to feel like that, and have our readers see us that way?

We were hoping Dan would share his magic sauce and we’d all go skipping off towards easy street down a rainbow path, but it turns out there’s some work involved here. So instead, we talked about process, from the way you manage your personal trolls to the way you manage your emails, and then we talked—buzzword alert—authenticity, and finding the things you genuinely want to share with the people who are a match for your work. (You can download Dan’s free guide, 5 Ways to Immediately Connect with Readers, here.)

Episode links and a transcript follow, and that’s it for shownotes, because man has it been a couple of weeks. It’s been February for at least a year, right? And I thought January felt long. A few things you can do to help us out or get more #AmWriting:

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LINKS FROM THE PODCAST

#AmReading (Watching, Listening)

KJ:

Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid

How Could She: A Novel, Lauren Mechling

Red, White, & Royal Blue: A Novel, Casey McQuiston

Sarina:

The Starless Sea: A Novel, Erin Morgenstern

Dan:

Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts

Bonus: Clementine, The Life of Mrs. Winston Churchill

Our guest for this episode is Dan Blank, and you can find more about him at We Grow Media.

This episode was sponsored by Author Accelerator, the book coaching program that helps you get your work DONE. Visit https://www.authoraccelerator.com/amwriting for details, special offers and Jennie Nash’s Inside-Outline template.

Find more about Jess here, Sarina here and about KJ here.

If you enjoyed this episode, we suggest you check out Marginally, a podcast about writing, work and friendship.

Transcript (We use an AI service for transcription, and while we do clean it up a bit, some errors are the price of admission here. We hope it’s still helpful.)

KJ (00:00):

Hey listeners, KJ here, if you’re in with us every week, you’re what I like to call people of the book. And some of us book people discover somewhere along the way that not only are we writers, we’re people with a gift for encouraging other writers. Maybe that comes out in small ways for you, but for some of you, it’s a calling and an opportunity to build a career doing work you love. Our sponsor, Author Accelerator provides book coaching to authors (like me) but also needs and trains book coaches. And if that’s got your ears perked up, head to authoraccelerator.com and click on become a book coach. Is it recording?

Jess (00:41):

Now it’s recording.

KJ (00:43):

Yay.

Jess (00:43):

Go ahead.

KJ (00:44):

This is the part where I stare blankly at the microphone like I don’t remember what I was supposed to be doing.

Jess (00:48):

Alright, let’s start over.

KJ (00:48):

Awkward pause. I’m going to rustle some papers. Now, one, two, three. I’m KJ Dell’Antonia and this is #AmWriting. #AmWriting is our podcast about writing all the things – fiction, nonfiction, essays, book proposals, all the things that I list every week because this is the podcast about sitting down and getting your writing work, whatever that is, done.

Sarina (01:20):

And I’m Sarina Bowen. I’m the author of 30-odd romance novels and my new one is called Heartland. You can find more about me at sarinabowen.com.

KJ (01:31):

I’m excited for Heartland. I was just crawling all over your website today for no apparent reason. Anyway, I am KJ Dell’Antonia. I am the author of The Chicken Sisters, a novel coming out in June of 2020, as well as How To Be a Happier Parent, which is out in hardback now and in paperback this summer. And I am excited to say that we have a guest today. So let me just introduce him. Our guest is Dan Blank. He’s so many things that I don’t know what to put first, so don’t judge me by how I rank these. But he is the host of The Creative Shift podcast, the author of Be the Gateway: A Practical Guide to Sharing Your Creative Work and Engaging an Audience, the creator and wunderkind behind the We Grow Media Organization, and a man with a true passion for what he likes to call a human centered approach to reaching your audience. And I would have to say that Dan has a human centered approach to everything. So, welcome Dan.

Dan (02:32):

Thank you for the lovely introduction. I appreciate that.

KJ (02:36):

You’re welcome. A couple of weeks to go. We recorded an episode on what we do all day and you don’t have to convince either of us that the most important thing that we do is create. But we both struggle to put that first sometimes because of all the other stuff that feels pressing. And all that other stuff is mostly about marketing, and promoting ourselves and our work, and getting it out in the world and communicating with our editors or agents or audio book recorders or cover designers – just so much stuff. So we are hoping to have kind of a two-part conversation with you: if getting the work out in the world is the second most important thing, how do we do that better and smarter instead of just chasing shiny new opportunities and how can we get it done? And full disclosure here, before I stop talking, I think that you love connecting your work with people or at least it feels that way to me. And Sarina and I both would like to feel that way. So I have dubbed this #HowToLovePromotingYourWork. And that’s not a challenge or anything. I did not ask you a question. How can we start? What should be my first question?

Dan (03:59):

To me, it always starts with clarity. And I totally agree with you, that for a writer it begins with their craft. It begins with what they create, why they create it, and of course their ability to do so. And then from that, it’s about the idea of connecting it with people. I find that a lot of people absolutely do what you say, they struggle to create because of all the other important things in life. And sometimes it is distracting. Like going on a co-host website for no reason and just spending time there, which I do all the time. But a lot of times it’s critically important things like kids, and job, and to feeding your family, and that sort of thing. So when I think of the idea of productivity and getting writing done, a lot of what I think about is that battle for clarity. Of knowing what is the most important thing, and knowing it in your bones, and having made decisions around it. And I think if you don’t have that first, then it’s very difficult to start weighing things in your day. Of like, well I should volunteer for that, I should do this, maybe let me just check that out, and someone told me about that book let me check that out, or let me get back to email. So the place I like to start is talking about clarity, but I’m not sure if that’s starting too far back for you.

Sarina (05:23):

I would love to jump in and tell you that you’re already saying some things to me that really resonate. Because my relationship to productivity and to my clarity of purpose has changed so much over the last five years and not in a healthy way. And I’m sort of struggling to go back to where I was. Well, I started writing romance novels out of frustration about five years ago, because the things that I had been working on were not working, not finding a market. And so I wrote the first couple just out of joy and just for fun. And I accidentally became a romance novelist because the moment that my first romance came out, then I found success. So everything started to work for me. But the problem is now that my relationship to that work has changed so much because of reader expectations. And now my inbox is full of people who want things from me. Whereas, when I first started writing these stories, they were just for me. I mean, I had the hope that somebody would read them, but now I literally get messages every day from people who are demanding that I do a particular thing next. And it’s really messed me up a little bit. You know, when I sit down in front of my computer in the morning now, I have all those voices in my head and they want certain things to happen in my fictional worlds and they want certain books next. But I’m on deadline on this other one. And you know, cry me a river, right? Because I have an engaged audience, but sometimes it’s too loud.

Dan (07:19):

Yeah. I mean, KJ knows this about me. I work in a small studio here in New Jersey and on one of the walls is nothing but photos of artists, and writers, and musicians who inspire me. And I pick photos of them when they are either very young, before they’ve had success, or when they’re sort of in that moment of risk. And I stare at them all day. And you talking about that thing that a lot of people have, which is I don’t want to write to an audience, but I want to feel that my life is filled with an audience. And how to navigate that is a tricky thing. And as I look at that wall right now, I think of how all of these other creators had to deal with that, too. You come out with a successful album, or painting, or show, or performance, or book and you’re immediately thrilled at the success and then saddled with that success. And you’re also talking about not just in your head, you’re talking about, it’s like infiltrating your day through email, and probably through private messages, and things like that.

Sarina (08:20):

Yeah.

Dan (08:24):

Now we will get to the crying. I mean the first thing I think about that, is the ability to compartmentalize it. And sometimes that is a system you create. So you have a virtual assistant who is actually in your inbox and moves things to different places so that you’re not always confronting them at a bad moment. That’s one way to do it. Another way to do it is to sort of reframe feedback from readers almost in a community marketing role. So you’re expecting this. And the way I like to think about that is to have a process. Because if we think about anyone, JK Rowling, anyone who has a big fan base, and all day long fans come up and tell them about their life there’s a real emotional baggage to that. Let alone if they’re saying, why don’t you do this, why don’t you do that? If it’s reframed as this is a marketing role, this is a reader connection role, this is a me being there for people role. In a background way that might be a way to compartmentalize it in your mind, but then the service that you’re doing of engaging with them, it’s a whole different thing. You have a process by which to process that. And again, I think KJ knows this from from my work, but I have this little thing I call creativity cave trolls and it’s basically anything that distracts you, takes you off of your clarity. And I imagine that this is one of those cave trolls for you. And the whole concept behind it is not that you want to kill the troll, the troll will always be there. It’s sort of this dumb, lumbering thing that will always be a part of your life. And the way that you manage that is that you build a system to manage it. You’re always going to get these emails so let’s plan for those emails and let’s find a way to process them. Again, it could be hiring someone, it could be flagging them in your inbox, and you deal with them only on Mondays from 4:00 to 8:00 PM. Or you have a script that you use, something where if you know they’re going to come and take you off track, we find a way to process them. And then hopefully that would give you more mind space to create and then fewer things to take you way off the rails.

KJ (10:40):

And I think that we all struggle with that inbox full of demand. Whether it’s reader demand, like Sarina gets, or editor demand, or school volunteer demand, or just all the things. My inbox right now is full of direct messages from social media and many of them there were, ‘Yeah, I sure I would love to be on your podcast, actually.’ But they all require sort of a processing time that is very real and that’s so annoying. Why can I not just process them in the amount of time that it takes to read them? That’s a little crazy, but it’s just like, why does it take me 40 minutes to crank through three emails?

Dan (11:35):

Can I really dig into email? Is that okay? Cause I’m so passionate about this. Okay, so I know this is another thing KJ and I’ve talked about in the past, which is my philosophy that your inbox is not a to do list. And the problem I think a lot of people have with email is they ask for it to do too many things. And it’s one channel. So a number of ways to even think about what you just said. And that’s to: one, turn off the notifications. If they’re going to go to Instagram, or going to go to Twitter, let them go to Instagram and Twitter. Don’t also have them pop into email because then that’s a bottleneck for everything. Another way to kind of lighten the load is to think about having different inboxes for different purposes. So one thing that I do is I have almost every newsletter that I get (and I get a ton of newsletters cause I kind of study them) I have an email inbox (a Gmail account) just for newsletters. So the email that I use every day gets almost no newsletters. And I unsubscribe from everything. You know, if I buy something from Guitar Center and they accidentally put me on their newsletter list, I actively unsubscribe from things, I actively route things to different inboxes. And the idea is the fewer things I have to even look at and sort through, the more clarity I have to manage the things that are there. So that’s sort of the first thing I would say with email and the second thing is, again to sort of have a process to process the inbox. So I’m one of those really, really, really annoying people who’s basically always at inbox zero. And that’s because I’m always offloading things from email. So the super quick version of what I do is I don’t consider my inbox my inbox. I use Apple mail and they have like a flag folder and Gmail has a star folder. So right then and there when I open up email and they all pop in in the morning, I don’t really read them, I flag emails that I have to look at. So everything I don’t flag just goes into the endless archive. I don’t worry about deleting them, I don’t move them into folders and pretend that I’m like a librarian of my inbox cause that takes a lot of time and decision making power. Then I just go to my flagged folder and there are just the 16 emails I flagged let’s say that day. And from what I do then is I try to process what I can quickly. Like if I can just do a one word or a one line reply back, I do that. And for anything more, if it’s client saying, ‘Oh, can we do it out here and I’m gonna add this to our agenda’, I move it out of email, I put it in the folder I have for that client. I move it into another working process, I don’t keep it in the inbox. And for things I can’t process right away either I leave it in there until later in the day or I email that person and say, ‘Thanks, I’m going to get back to you within 48 hours on this.’ So I always take action on it and where I can’t take action, I at least set an expectation that I see you and you will hear back from me at a certain time. And that sort of has worked wonders for my inbox. It’s been a very long time since I’ve ever worried about email because that system works for me. So I typically end the day with a totally empty flags folder.

Sarina (15:05):

Huh. I love how analytical that is because it seems like maybe I could manage that as I’m analytical about most everything, but I also hear you sort of saying that I should just get over my anger at some of the things that people email me.

Dan (15:24):

Yeah, I mean I think that there’s such a power, there’s such an energy that it takes and I like the idea of how do we flip that? How do we have a script that we can send to these people? How do we have a thing in your website that says how you deal with it?

Sarina (15:39):

Oh, I have the thing, it’s just that people don’t pay attention. It says in beautiful pink letters right above my contact form. Like, ‘Due to the volume of questions Sarina cannot respond to questions about publication plans, audio plans, paperback dates, et cetera. Between the newsletter and upcoming releases we have you covered. Thank you for understanding.’ And every day I get an email that just says, when is the audio book coming out? Or something like that. But it’s partly this, I’ve had to cross this little personal rubicon where pretty much before last year I really believed that everyone who reached out to me with a question deserved an answer, and promptly. Because that person’s about to throw down $15 for my audio book. And then I just had to come to a place of, ‘Well, I won’t ever produce another thing again if I’m always answering that question.’

KJ (16:38):

It’s not a bad problem to have.

Sarina (16:41):

I saw it as a problem.

KJ (16:42):

I know you do.

Sarina (16:44):

Well, I actually don’t respond anymore to that particular question and I definitely do not respond anymore to, ‘Is there ever going to be another book about so-and-so?’ Because, like I’ve said, I’ve reached this place where I can’t actually reply to everything or I won’t finish the writing goal of the day, but it feels bad not to tell that invested person that I can’t answer your email. Except it says right over the contact form basically click here to see all the public plans. Like, if you’re curious about a thing, here is the page for that. So yeah, I’m a little stuck.

KJ (17:38):

I know you have a virtual assistant, they could just weed those for you and have a canned response that says what the pink letters say, only friendly, not that pink letters aren’t friendly. And then you would know like, okay those people all got an answer that basically said nothing, but I didn’t have to do it. When I was getting my New York Times emails, I had somebody do that for some of the years, depending on the years, just, you know, volume of submissions, blah blah blah. Because I did feel like everyone deserved at least a basically automated response. It’s hard, cause arguably everyone doesn’t deserve a response. It’s sort of like the social media direct messages for me. And that’s an interesting one, Dan. Cause I don’t actually ever go on this particular platform, but I have such a large following there that I don’t want to shut it down. That’s why the Twitter dm’s come and my assistant handles most of them, but these were all things she couldn’t handle. Somebody who was cleaning it out, but I don’t know. I mean you’ve probably thought of that and there may be reasons that you haven’t done it, or haven’t done it yet.

Sarina (18:55):

Well, I have somebody on some of these platforms. But of course Facebook makes it difficult.

KJ (19:04):

Yeah, Facebook won’t let you.

Sarina (19:05):

Yeah. Like if I share with my Canadian assistant, my login, then Facebook will flag me as not a real human.

KJ (19:16):

Really, Facebook messages are like the bane of my…that should have an audit. You should be able to have an automated response that basically says, ‘I don’t do Facebook messages.’ or you should be able to turn it off.

Sarina (19:28):

Well, Instagram is actually even worse because they pile all of the actual messages in with so-and-so reacted to your story or whatever.

KJ (19:38):

Yes, that’s a new thing that people can like make a little clapping sound under your story, which is fine. That’s delightful, clap for my story. But now it’s in my dm’s and yeah.

Sarina (19:49):

Well, at the risk that I’ve just spent the last 10 minutes sounding like a horrible human who doesn’t like having invested readers, I did listen to your podcast, Dan, when you were helping someone who was a nonfiction author, develop a more authentic relationship with her Facebook following and she was, I believe, a client of yours. And her topic was something very accessible, but also sort of serious, which was divorced, I believe. And you said the word authentic enough times when I was listening to it that I thought, ‘Okay, okay.’ So this is another lesson I need to take from you. And basically after I listened to that episode, I cut out a bunch of the things I was doing on social media that didn’t feel authentic to me. And I basically came home and I wrote a list of when do I feel the most authentic in my social media communication. And then I just hammer that list lately. Like those are the things we’re doing now because I feel the best about them. And I was left wanting to hear how that might change when you’re dealing with people who write fiction though, because obviously somebody who counsels others who are going through a divorce has a very one-to-one relationship with helping that person. And since all marketing is sort of problem solving, but the problem I’m solving for you is just that you have something to read this weekend and you didn’t before, so it’s a more tenuous relationship with that follower. And I just wondered – you must have thought of this and I was curious about it.

Dan (21:46):

Yeah, I was thinking of this and I think it was maybe in Jennie Nash’s newsletter this morning. She referenced like a Harry Potter podcast whose tagline was something like, ‘We don’t read for escape, we read to become more human or to more fully, you know, be a part of life.’ And whenever I think of like a novelist, or even a memoir writer, I think of that. Which is, to me, it’s not just about escape, it’s about connecting to something within someone, a worldview, part of their identity, a theme, a possibility in life. And I think about how for a novelist that can be a part of what they share. And I also think a lot about the duality here, which is the author is not the work. You know, the work is the work and the person behind it is the person. Yet as a fan of a book, or a fan of a theme, or a story, or something like that, we can get engaged with the person behind it. And that’s why we love seeing cat photos or dog photos of an author who doesn’t write about cats or dogs. And we have little in jokes that aren’t part of the book, they’re a part of that. And I think about sometimes there’s a crossover. There are things that novelists can share that is about the identity and about the worldview. So if you pick just big obvious themes about love, or friendship, or duality, or commitments, or whatever, you can think of lots of little things that one can share that they align with, the reader aligns with, and also kind of fits with stories. But I also think it is about being what you want to see in the world. The word authentic I think is a very challenging one, cause we like to think it’s just what we want to do. It’s like who we are. But authentic, you’ve got to be careful with that, too. Like what is authentic? If we were being authentic, we’d all be wearing pajamas right now. You know, we’d be in big comfy chairs, there’d be ice cream surrounding us, that’s very authentic to how we’d like to be. But we’re all probably wearing more regular clothing, we’re sitting in a desk chair, we’re sitting up cause we’re on a podcast. And I think that we get to filter how we’re authentic online. And I think that with this question or what you’re sharing here and I’m thinking about, and even your other one, I think a lot about Bruce Springsteen. Partly because I’m from New Jersey and partly because the few times I’ve been actually right next to him, I’m surrounded by mobs of fans, and behind them are fans, behind them are fans, behind them are fans. And here’s someone like you, who doesn’t have enough time to get to everyone and he’s had to find a way to be okay with that. And he is (to me) the great construct of an image of authenticity. He has an authenticity he’s showing you that is true, but it’s also a filter of what’s authentic.

Sarina (24:52):

Yeah, well sometimes my readers help figure out these themes for me.

Dan (24:59):

Oh wow.

Sarina (25:01):

So well, yeah. So, of course I write in series and my series tend to have certain themes running through them. One of them is hockey, one of them is Vermont. So people will post in my Facebook group, news stories all the time that remind them of little things that have happened in those books. Like this past weekend, a goalie made a goal for his team by basically flipping the puck all the way down the entire length of the ice and scoring. So, when things happen that are newsy, those things will turn up in my reader group. And so people help me identify what are those external, internal. Like the blend of what people take away from fiction and put there. And for example, I had a book three books ago where a character’s avatar was Lobster Shorts because of his picture. And he was known as Lobster Shorts for the entire book and people have been posting lobster printed clothing items since the day that book came out. So sometimes I get a leg up on what it is that people are charmed by or taking away from the stories, but sometimes it’s mysterious to me and I have to sort of blunder my way through the conversation to figure out what’s resonating and what’s not.

KJ (26:38):

Well, I was looking at some notes from our interview with Marika Flatt a couple of weeks ago. And she had had this thing on her website about finding the theme of your work. Like the huge theme, not the individual theme for books. And I had was writing down sort of samples for me and samples for you. And I had written something like that your theme is romance can be hard but fun or something like that. Like, you know, it’s complicated, but there’s a joy in it and a humor in it. And to me, that’s what comes across in your social media and that’s what’s authentic about your writing and your connection – is that there is always the humor. I mean, joy may not be the right word, cause sometimes it’s kind of a snarky humor. But yeah, finding the funny in tough situations, to me, that’s part of your brand.

Sarina (27:38):

Well that’s the thing is it’s great when people help you figure out what your brand is. But from where I sit, I’m looking at other romance authors and I see so much that’s really not me. Like some romance authors, they’re part of their brand or their family is part of their brand. And I’m more private than that, I don’t share that much. It’s possibly because I’m older and more circumspective, didn’t grow up in a sharing culture, but I do struggle with that, too.

KJ (28:13):

What, with what you’re not?

Sarina (28:15):

Well, just that I’m reluctant to share things that other people might share.

Dan (28:19):

One thing I look at a lot online is people that seem to be sharing so much as I really try to see, well where are their boundaries? And I’ll notice things where someone has a big following and they’re sharing their family, sharing their home, and their spouse, and their kids. And on that, well where are their boundaries? And if I look for them, I often see them where it’s like, oh, they do share their kids, but it’s never more than once a week. It’s not always, but often a profile view, or it’s at home and they never mention where they live, or the school, they mention them by nickname, they share their home, but it’s only in a certain way. It’s one thing I like to think a lot about is the agency that everyone needs to choose what and how they share online. Because I agree with you. Everyone needs to have their own boundary and it’s a different place for everyone. And I like to think of it as an opportunity to define – you know, I’m going to share this interesting part of myself, whether people care about it or not, because who I am. And I’ll share a little bit of this other thing, but only so far. And I think of that even in the offline world with polite conversation with how people talk and introduce themselves and how they’re open and they’re open to a certain degree so that they can get along and feel human, but then they protect the things that they feel should not be for public consumption either.

KJ (29:43):

So Dan, one of the things that I have done because of you and that I respect about you, is that you are really big on finding pretty much exactly what it is that we’re talking about here. That authentic thing that we want to share or sort of the flip side of that is the audience that we want to reach. And by that you don’t mean, you know women aged 18 to 35 living in big cities. You know, you mean who are we and who are we trying to reach? And you have some sort of ways to help people get at that. Can you talk about how we can figure out what our theme and our audience is if we’re struggling with it?

Dan (30:35):

Yeah, there’s a lot to take into there. I think in general, you wanna allow your audience to surprise you in a positive way. And I think sometimes we put up these rules about what we’re not, and that closes us off to what we are or what we can be. So, one easy place to begin with this, and I’m not sure if this is too simple, but a lot of writers I speak to, they don’t know where they fit in the marketplace. They don’t know who their comparable books or comparable authors are. And they feel disconnected from social media because they feel they started too late. Is a conversation there a little too far back or is that okay?

KJ (31:17):

No, that’s a good place to start. And let me just say that everyone feels like they started too late on social media.

Sarina (31:25):

That’s true.

Dan (31:25):

Yeah. It’s funny, this is something that I’m working into my next book and it was a part of the mastermind I run. Which is a couple of weeks in, I used to do a little video saying, ‘Oh you’re not behind.’ And I noticed everyone loved that and I started moving it up and now I actually share that video the day before we start the mastermind. Because I found that even on day one, hour one, people now come in feeling behind from a lot of things in life and it already sort of makes their experience of things so much more difficult cause it’s like showing up to a beautiful retreat and on day one you walk in and you already think everyone else knows what they’re doing. They’re dressed better than I am. They know where to go. Like it’s sort of casts a shadow on the whole thing. So in terms of what you’re about, I guess there’s two main ways I think about it. One is internal and one is external. The internal way is I have a lot of different exercises I go through with people to get real clarity about what do you care about, what would you fight for, what would you rather spend time on more than anything else. So I have a process called clarity cards and it’s really this idea of looking at not just what you create, but your whole life and thinking what matters to me. And some of that is task-driven. It’s you know, your family, your health. But some of it is I’ve had so many people go through this and there’s a lot on there that is about their fiction, and about their memoir, and about their nonfiction work. And what they’re doing is getting really clear of this is who I am, this is what I believe, this is what I write about, but this is also why I spend my time there.

KJ (33:02):

Can you give us an example, without sort of calling out a person? Like what would be one of those themes that might pop up on these cards?

Dan (33:12):

I’ll use myself as an example, cause it’s the easiest thing to do with no preparation. You know, for myself, I am an introverted germaphobe who is scared of going out and doesn’t travel cause I’m scared to fly. Yet I have this business where I work with writers and it’s typically more in the marketing end of things. So, what that means when I look at that (and I tried to describe that really pathetically) so when you look at the themes that I care about, well because I genuinely care about people who create, it’s writers and it’s not just writers, it’s people who create. Because I feel like if you’re doing that, you are advancing our culture and you are taking a risk that other people are not. So you are my people. So one, I’m already defining it there. It’s not just I help writers with marketing. It’s the deeper why of why do I spend all my time? Why is my wife an artist? Why have all my friends growing up been artists and writers, photographers and performers all day now? I’m at 10 years of this company and all I do is talk to writers and creators. So it’s that drive part of it. It’s not just I help writers market things. It’s the deeper why there. Then, I look at how you started this conversation, which is if we’re not creating, nothing else can happen. So what I think a lot about is the creative process and like the photos on the wall here, I meditate on this idea of having clarity of what you create and embracing, of going all in. And when I look at stories of writers, or performers, or creators, I look at the ways where they did have to isolate themselves. They had to sacrifice, they had to have the world laugh at them, laugh at their idea, and persist anyway, and only later did they see what the genius was. Also because I believe in the creative process, I mean I’m working a few blocks from where I live. I have a very small life geographically and other things I kind of said tongue in cheek before (Oh, I don’t like to fly. I don’t like to go out.) well that’s allowed me to embrace this idea of having a life that’s dedicated to my family. I’m either with them or I’m here working with writers. So in a way that’s a very small life. And what it means is that I’ve had to say no to a lot of things because I want to embrace those two things as fully as I can. So to summarize, if you look at my Instagram, or my newsletter, or my podcast, you see those themes coming up. It’s who I am and that gives me a lot of latitude to not just say, ‘This is the marketing for writers podcast where we teach you how to sell, sell, sell.’ Which, sure, it’s part of what I do, but it’s maybe paper thin when you think about all the things holding that up and all the things that I love talking to writers about. And that’s what I think gives me, you said this very generously earlier, which is like you seem to love what you do. And I do. And that’s why I love what I do, because I’ve just explored – if I don’t like to go out, and I don’t like to fly, and I do this job marketing with writers, like how is that the thing that fuels me? And I wake up super excited to do this work.

KJ (36:31):

It is so hard to take the time to work through that thought process. But it’s really, I think, important and rewarding and also a great thing to think about at the start of a new year and a new decade. Going back and revisiting if we feel like we’ve already done it, to go back and try to find those themes and find that clarity. I’m loving this as a general thought. So to bring it all back home to this question of, okay, how can we love marketing our work? I can answer that for you, but I want you to answer it.

Dan (37:13):

If you know why you create, if you make creating a priority in your life, which does mean a lot of decision making and turning down other potential obligations, and you believe that the work that you are creating has a purpose and that can be a lower case P, it can be an uppercase P for you, that this work can and will connect with someone, and you care about this for all whatever deep reasons you have, sharing that work is your ability to just communicate that, to just say, this is what I believe and why, and I’m sharing it with good intentions and not shoving it down your throat. As the idea of wanting to fill your life, not just with, I wrote these books and they’re on a shelf at a store, but living the life of a writer is someone who fills their life with moments, and experiences, and other people who care about these themes, or these types of work, or the conversations you have. And I think that does look different for everyone. But in general, it’s not just about how do we get it done. It’s how do we build a life that feels fulfilling in what we create, how we share that with other people, how we connect with them, and how that comes back around. And I firmly believe that creative work is complete when someone else experiences it. Because half of that work is what you intended and half of that work is what the reader brings to it. And I think that that is utterly, totally, completely magical.

KJ (38:50):

I love that. And magic is my word of the year. So, now I’m especially delighted that we’re sort of wrapping up on that note. So, to shift gears, I forgot to warn you, but I hope you remember that we ask everyone what they’ve been reading and loving of late and to give you a moment to regroup, Sarina will start. Ha ha, you’re on the hotspot.

Sarina (39:22):

I am digging into The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern.

KJ (39:27):

Oh, I have that! Is it good?

Sarina (39:28):

You know, the beginning is great.

KJ (39:31):

I just finished Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid and I am currently reading a book called How Could She and I forget who the author is. And I’m having this really interesting experience that maybe even gets down to what we’ve been talking about, which is that I don’t like the people in either of these books. I don’t think you’re meant to, if I’m not enjoying a book on some level, if I’m not getting something out of it, and if it’s not well done, if it’s not fulfilling, I don’t finish. And I 100% finished Such a Fun Age and I’m gonna finish the one that I’m reading right now, but in both of them, they both really center around people with what I would call kind of a sour view of life.

KJ (40:40):

And in a lot of cases, a sour view of pretty good lives. Now Such a Fun Age has a lot of characters that are hugely demographically different. It’s got themes of race, and class, and money. So not every character is sour about their privilege, but none of the people in these books feel very hopeful. And so I’m not having very much fun with them, even though I’m reading them. And I don’t quite know what to make of that. They are more challenging than reading, you know Red, White, and Royal Blue, which is so, so totally on my bedside table and I’m super looking forward to. So I guess there’s that, there’s different themes. But yeah, it is this question of do you spend more time reading about characters that you would actually like to spend time with or characters that you maybe have a different life outlook and maybe you want to know more about? Maybe that’s where I am with those. It isn’t that I don’t recommend, I wouldn’t mention the book if I didn’t like it. It’s just, it’s a different kind of liking. It’s a weird kind of liking. Your turn.

Dan (41:57):

My turn. I’m 200 pages into the thousand page biography on Churchill called Churchill: Walking with Destiny by Andrew Roberts.

KJ (42:08):

And do we like this? Do we want to spend more time with Churchill?

Dan (42:14):

It’s interesting really, for probably the reasons you just said, a very complex character, very complex era. And this is a newer biography and it seemed to be the one that balanced (by all the reviews I could read) a lot of different thoughts, recent things that have come out, new archives that were not available earlier. So it seemed to be a very recent, modern take on a very complex subject.

KJ (42:46):

I just heard about a book that was about Churchill’s wife and it’s new and I am trying to find it, but I am stymied by the fact that there are actual human beings named Anna Churchill, and I think her name was Ana. Just throwing that out there and I’ll find it for the show notes that there’s apparently an interesting – I actually don’t even know if it’s sort of a fictionalized version or if it’s a biography, but that she was apparently a really, really interesting character. So you can follow up, if you need more Churchill. Alright. Well, this was great. We really appreciate it. Before we sign off, tell people where they can find you and what you’ve got going on right now.

Dan (43:40):

You can find me on my blog at wegrowmedia.com. The podcast is called The Creative Shift with Dan Blank. Social media @Danblank and I have a little Facebook group called The Reader Connection Project that I’ve been doing a lot of teachings recently on social media for writers. We have a thousand writers in there, you’re welcome to join. And I do a lot of different programs on the idea of how to connect with your readers and all the different facets around that from marketing, to book launches, social media websites, and then even what we’ve talked about a lot here, which is productivity for writers. So you can check all that out. Thank you.

KJ (44:26):

I’m going to give a co-sign to the idea of signing up for your weekly email because it is really good, and really heartfelt, and an excellent example of the genre, which I guess wouldn’t be surprising since you read a lot of them. Sarina, you want to take us out?

Sarina (44:45):

I will, right after I sign up for Dan Blank’s weekly email. I would like to remind you all to keep your butt in the chair and your head in the game. This episode of #AmWriting with Jess and KJ was produced by Andrew Parilla. Our music, aptly titled unemployed Monday was written and performed by Max Cohen. Andrew and Max were paid for their services because everyone, even creatives should be paid.

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