I’ve tried - oh how I’ve tried – to fit in to the general expectation of society for the concept of working. I’ve tried to enjoy my job, I’ve tried to believe that we’re all supposed to turn up and do the same repetitive tasks every day, and I’ve tried to accept that this is simply just how life works. I’ve tried and I’ve failed.Read More
Setting goals is important in life as the right goals can provide motivation and encouragement. They can help you pick yourself up from the floor whenever something goes wrong, they provide a strong feeling of purpose and meaning to your life, and they help keep you focused. But only when we set the "right" kind of goals...Read More
My February started in a sad way with the passing of my grandfather. Throughout my life he has always been there not only as my grandfather but also acting as a father figure, a role model, and a great mate. I loved him dearly and I will miss him greatly but I am not one to dwell on negativity, even in times like these. Instead I like to focus on the positives, to laugh at the good times spent with granddad and to remember the lessons he taught me...Read More
Recently I attended a negotiation training course that I was pleasantly surprised. with it. The course gave me a timely reminder to be confident and back myself in the face of resistance, and it demonstrated the simple (yet difficult to master) skills that I believe are required to build positive and successful relationships...Read More
If you are living true to yourself and your inner drivers (and not purposefully trying to hurt others) then you never need to apologise for being yourself. People who want you to change, or want to belittle your thoughts and dreams, or just want you to stop being yourself are not healthy people to spend your time with. If people cannot respect you for being true to yourself then they need to be shown the door...Read More
Think big. If you’re anything like me (and you are reading my website so I think that’s a fair assumption) then you’ve probably heard those two words plenty of times before. Hell, you’ve probably even had several people tell you that if you want to chase your dreams, achieve great success, and be able to set your own path in life then you need to think big. But why stop there? Why stop at thinking big? Thinking is only one part of the success-process (that’s right I hyphenated those two words to make it sound like a 1990s infomercial product - deal with it). There is another, more important, part to fulfilling your dreams: actually doing something about it.
Which is why my motto is: Don’t just think big; do big.
Thinking versus Doing – aka “Paralysis by Analysis”
It’s all fine and dandy for people to tell you to think big but that just puts the entire focus on the thinking, or planning, stage. And I’ll be honest, this is NOT where the most progress is achieved.
Sure, thinking things through and undertaking some effective planning sessions are great tools but they don’t actually get too much done do they? If you’ve got a great idea then sitting down and planning it all the way through just doesn’t work. It blunts your creative flow, it halts your progress, and it drastically effects your enthusiasm. And if you put too much emphasis on the planning stage (i.e. thinking big) then sometimes you never actually make it to the doing phase. This is known as Paralysis by Analysis.
Many people have grand plans and big dreams, but not many achieve them. Why? Because they spend their life analysing the possibilities, they waste their time worrying about every little detail, and they never take a chance to actually do something about their dream.
They think and think and think and think and then think some more just for good measure. They think things through to the millionth possible degree trying to factor in every possible outcome (“so I could quit my job to start my own business but then what if the US President dies in a freak golfing accident which triggers another world war, causing oil prices spiral out of control, and resulting in a massive depression? I'd better not even bother...”) just to feel “safe”. But to be blunt, these people are not being safe. They are just making excuses.
Are you one of those people? Are you making excuses for your life and for why you’re not chasing your dream? If you say no then I say you’re lying because everyone makes excuses for themselves at some point. I still catch myself thinking in this excuse-oriented mindset because it is an easy habit to fall back into. But just because something is easy doesn’t make it right.
The key to snapping this bad habit is to learn to recognise what you are doing when you make excuses and ask yourself why. Why are you making excuses? Why are you holding yourself back? Why are you not even trying? What is it about the possible fulfilment of your dreams that you don’t want?
Most of the time the answers will be fear-based (e.g. fear of failure, fear of new things, fear or change) but guess what? That fear is completely normal. But so is pushing through it.
As I mentioned in a previous article, fear is useless and irrational. It does not actually provide us with much benefit. In an evolutionary sense it was used as a system to invoke sudden bursts of energy (i.e. strength for fight, or speed for flight) to save us from life threatening situations. Except now we don’t face many of those situations in our everyday lives and instead we just create a sense of fear when looking to the future.
When we feel this fear it invokes our natural fight-or-flight mechanism. We are urged to put up a fight or run away. The problem is that there is nothing to fight. The fear we feel is a fear that we created through imaginary negative outcomes set in the future, meaning that what we are fearing has not even happened yet. Because there is nothing to "fight" the result is that we always activate the "flight" option when we are in this fearful mindset. We cannot fight what does not yet exist but we can certainly try to run away from the possibility. This is exactly what we are doing when we hold ourselves back from our dreams through fear.
I would also wager heavily that most fears people have about their dreams are not directly life threatening. I bet that not too many people have dreams that are so dangerous that anything but the successful completion of that dream will mean death. So the question needs to be asked: if you cannot actually die by chasing your dream then why are you fearing it?
Try before you die
Too many people die with regrets, wishing they had followed their inner passion and gone after their dreams. But it is not that they didn’t achieve their goals that really haunts them. It is that they never even tried.
Chasing your dream and missing out is much better than dying without trying.
When I talk about chasing dreams I am not just focused on the actual accomplishment and fulfilment of said dreams but also on the wonderful benefits received just by trying. Here is why chasing your dream is good for you:
Reason 1 for chasing your dream - you live life with purpose
When you coast through life, avoiding challenges and not chasing dreams, then you are not living life with purpose. You are just living from one day, one bill, and one job to the next. But when you chase your dreams then your life becomes filled with a purpose. A strong and meaningful reason for your existence. Suddenly every little action becomes a step towards something greater rather than just a means to an end. This attitude shift makes everyday living a whole lot more fun.
Reason 2 for chasing your dream - you meet wonderful people
When you set your mind and attitude on fulfilling your goals you start sending out different signals to the rest of the world. You start showing a positive, productive, and happy attitude and that starts attracting similar people. You will naturally find those people that are living their lives with purpose and passion. And these people will want to help you succeed. They will share their insights and their experiences and they will do whatever they can to help you on your road to success.
Reason 3 for chasing your dream - you might actually achieve it
Brace yourselves. I know this may sound crazy and far-fetched but when you take action and attempt to fulfil your dreams and goals then sometimes you actually succeed, and in some of those times you even achieve more than you ever could have dreamed of. Crazy huh?
But do you know that there is only one single action that guarantees you will never achieve your dreams? Doing nothing. When it comes to your dreams, doing anything is always better than doing nothing.
Don’t just think big; do big.
And we’re back full circle to where I started this article. I’m not just encouraging you to start living your life with passion, to follow your dreams and find something that excites you, but I’m telling you to do it in the biggest possible way that you can imagine.
If you dream of starting your own business but need money then get out there and find some venture capitalists to pitch to. Prepare a kick-ass presentation, impress them with your idea (and your passion) and then ask them for MORE money than you initially budgeted for. It's your dream, don’t settle for less.
If you have a great idea for a novel series but are fearing your lack of credibility as a writer then sit yourself down and just write the bloody thing. Not just one book, but the whole series of books. By the time you have written your five-book masterpiece I guarantee that you’ll have more than enough credibility and that will result in more than enough success.
If it has been your life-long dream to travel around the world and see every country then do not settle for a quick three week trip squeezed in between work projects. Quit your job, book your tickets and just go. Indefinitely.
That’s how the real dream-achievers do it (another 1990s informercial style phrase). That’s how they succeed. When it comes to their dreams they don’t just think big – they do big too. And so should you.
You don’t know everything. It’s as simple as that and more importantly everyone else around you knows that you don’t know everything. This very thought should be liberating. It allows you to be wrong sometimes, it allows you to make mistakes, and it allows you be honest and upfront when you don’t know something. At least that is how a strong leader sees it. But not a weak leader. A weak leader tries to paint themselves as an expert in everything without realising that they are just setting themselves up for significant and embarrassing failure. By not accepting that they do not know everything (or even just accepting that no-one else believes them when they pretend to know everything) they are forced into an uncomfortable position of always having to give an answer. Even if they have no idea what they are talking about.
The better solution is to accept that everyone has holes in their knowledge and just be honest about it. Saying “I don’t know” is a much stronger option but alas, not many people like to admit they don’t know something. The feel insecure about admitting to a lack of knowledge, even though doing so actually gives off a strong impression of confidence and self awareness.
But admitting to a lack of knowledge is only half the problem. Not only do people pretend to have knowledge in areas they know nothing about but they also tend to drastically overestimate the accuracy of their knowledge.
You could say that these people have no idea that they have no idea. Put in a nicer way – these people don’t know what they don’t know.
People don’t know what they don’t know
This has been proven in many psychological studies but a prime example is the work conducted by Alpert and Raiffa. They tested a set of Harvard MBA students by asking them to make range-based predictions of an unknown variable and to ensure they achieved 98% accuracy. The test was not to measure their actual knowledge but their individual evaluation of their own knowledge.
If we assume that everyone can accurately estimate their own knowledge then the expectation is that we would only find 2 errors per 100 people surveyed. The results, however, were vastly different.
These “experts” over-estimated their own knowledge by so much that the actual error rate was a mammoth 45%! That is to say that nearly half of the test population failed to accurately understand the difference between what they actually knew and what they thought they knew.
This problem isn’t limited to just highly-educated professionals. Similar studies have been repeated with all sorts of cross-sections of society (different race, religion, socioeconomic status etc) and the results are all undeniable. The average error rate is in the 15-30% range (not the expected 2%) and this occurs for all groups tested regardless of the makeup of the individuals within the group.
Applications for leaders (and wannabe leaders)
This has important consequences for those diligently (or desperately?) trying to look like an expert so they can climb the corporate ladder. Put simply: don’t bother.
Don’t pretend to be an expert if you aren’t one, don’t try to seem like you know everything, and don’t try to bluster your way through work (or life) with bullshit and lies. It just doesn’t make sense.
Instead, have enough courage to admit what you don’t know. Be honest and accept the holes in your knowledge. There are many benefits to doing so.
Firstly, by being honest to yourself about your level of knowledge you allow yourself to be continually learning and growing. If you admit that you do not know everything then you can actually ask questions of the real experts and start learning more. That’s right; you can actually get smarter when you don’t care about looking smart.
Another benefit to be gained from not being a know-it-all is that people won’t treat you like one. This is a good thing as it means people will actually listen to what you say. When you always have an answer (even if you’re just making one up on the spot) people will give your ideas and comments less credence. But when you are honourable enough to say “I don’t know” it changes the way you are seen. People give you more respect and are more willing to listen when you speak up later on.
Finally, the biggest and most important part of being a good leader is that your job is to manage and motivate other people to grow. A good leader is someone who knows that their main responsibility is to get the best out of the real experts. A good leader is uninterested in showing off or appearing smarter than they actually are – they only care about delivering the best possible outcomes and they do this by leveraging the knowledge of the experts around them.
A good leader is not an expert in everything. A good leader is an expert at knowing what they don't know and an expert at motivating others. Are you a good a leader?
Everyone has an opinion, and quite often people enjoy sharing (or forcing) their opinions with others. However, opinions are tainted because they only exist in each person’s own frame of reference. That is, each person forms their own opinion based on their own experiences and their own observations of the world. What is “right” for one person is not necessarily right for another. In fact, when it comes to opinions, this is rarely the case I believe that other people’s opinions are not that important to me, and particularly so when that opinion is about me. Other people simply do not have the same level of experience or knowledge about my life as I do and thus their opinions will never be as accurate as mine. I will ultimately know the most about my life, my thoughts, and my desires which means that only my opinion of myself matters.
Which leads me here – writing about how other people form their opinions of us, why these opinions are irrelevant most of the time, and why only your own opinion of yourself is what matters.
Opinions are just a matter of perspective
The first part to the consideration of other peoples’ opinions is to think about how they actually form these opinions. In general, all opinions are formed by a person using their own set of life experiences, knowledge, beliefs, and thoughts as the basis. That is, they form these opinions from their own frame of reference, which is completely different to our frame of reference (which is where we performed the various thoughts and actions that are being judged).
Example: The CEO and the guitarist
To make an example – imagine a successful and happy CEO of a small company walking down a busy street and running into a dishevelled looking man (long hair, beard, no shoes) who is playing a guitar and singing for the passer-bys. From the CEO’s perspective he judges the guitarist as a “bludger” and forms an opinion that he is homeless and in need of a job. He might even give him some money to help as that is what the CEO, from his perspective, thinks the man needs.
Now switch perspectives, and consider the guitarist. He’s not a bludger at all - he actually has a very nice home and enough money that he has chosen not to work. Instead he travels the world and plays his guitar. He looks at the be-suited office workers (including the previously mentioned CEO) as they pass and he feels sorry for them. He believes they are missing out on their life and forms the opinion that they must be greedy and unhappy because those are the only reasons he can think of for why they would continue to work.
Neither perspective is right, but neither perspective is wrong. Each person has a very different set of circumstances which has led them to their current situation and their frame of reference. Their perspective is built from their life journey and as such they can only make judgements and form opinions with that information. Hence why the CEO thinks the guitarist must be a homeless beggar because he simply cannot fathom someone “rich and successful” quitting their job to live a semi-vagrant lifestyle.
And the guitarist suffers the same folly. Because he was never happy at work he cannot believe that other people could possibly be happy at work. He looks at the CEO almost with contempt, believing that he is willing to exchange happiness for money even though he knows nothing about the CEO, his job, or his happiness.
The way opinions are formed
When someone forms an opinion on you they are doing so based on the extremely limited set of information they have been presented with. They align it to their past experience and knowledge and form an opinion that they think suits the situation best. This opinion has no relevance to you because it does not factor in anything else about your life and what you have gone through previously to arrive at this point. Their opinion only considers what they have recently observed.
Look at the (pretty crude) sketch I’ve drawn above. Consider yourself to be the circle on the left. The outer part is what you allow to be seen by others. This is known as your outward-facing "persona". Inside your circle is everything that defines you. That is where your past is stored. That is where your emotions live. That is where your thoughts happen and where your decisions are made.
Now look at person A and person B (the circles on the right). They exist completely outside of your circle and they have their own outward facing persona and their own internal elements. These are what they use when they form opinions of others.
The two coloured cones represent these people looking at you and your external persona to form an opinion. But as you can see, these opinions never consider the full you. These opinions that are formed by others can only look a very limited set of your external persona (remember that is only what you let them see) and they can never reach inside your circle and understand all those internal drivers in your life. As such, the opinions of others are formed solely by them assessing the limited information they can access – the small outward-facing part of your persona they have witnessed.
Of course this means that their opinion is never going to fully align with you. They never know exactly what you know, or what you have seen in your life, so they can never fully appreciate all your internal drivers and why you think, act, or do certain things.
As time goes by and you repeatedly interact with the same people, they will experience more and more of your outward persona. This will enable them to modify their opinion of you but it is still only an opinion that is formed on based entirely on your outward persona. Eventually you may “open up” and allow these people to see parts of what is inside. You may allow these people to look behind the social mask and see what actually drives you.
We do this with our loved ones, but even so we never give them the full picture. We might turn part of our persona into a window that allows them to see inside to understand what drives us. But just like a window on a house, you can never see everything that is inside from a single window. There a rooms hidden from view, and as such, even our dearest and closed loved ones will never have a complete understanding of our internal drivers. The will know far more about us than anyone else but they will still not have the complete picture.
This is not a bad thing but it is just the nature of being human. In the end we are essentially individual creatures living in a coexistent environment, sharing parts of lives through language, emotion, and action. This means that others will only ever understand what we choose to share and then only if we are skilled enough to express ourselves accurately.
Your opinion of yourself is what matters most
Therefore, what truly matters most is your own opinion of yourself. Only you know what your life has been like, what you are capable of, and what you want to achieve. Only you can see all that and form an opinion that has taken everything from your life in to consideration.
But too many people hide from themselves and avoid making assessments of their own actions. I believe that these people are functioning in a purely reactive and “stressed-out” way. They are not living in the moment, they are not aware of their own actions, and they are not consciously in control of their own life.
If you are one of these people then you need to start being honest with yourself and start forcing yourself to assess your own actions. What have you done so far in your life? Have you treated others with respect and equality? What sort of person have you been? More importantly, what sort of person do you want to be? When you start asking yourself these questions, don’t be afraid to answer them honestly for that is the only way that you will initiate positive change in your life.
Remember, your opinion of yourself is what matters most so what do you really think of yourself?
Daniel Grant Newton is a kind, funny, inquisitive, and creative man and he has an impressive story. Not only did he recently quit his job to travel around the world but he also fulfilled his life-long ambition to write (and self publish) a novel. But it gets better than that. He published his first novel, The Last King of Shambhala in March 2012 and it has since been shortlisted as a semifinalist in the Kindle Book Reviews Best Indie Books of 2012. Now that's pretty impressive.
Knowing Daniel personally I knew that my readers would not only benefit from his insight into writing, but also gain insight into how he actually managed to achieve one of his life's ambitions and also the attitude and passion he funnels into his writing and his life in general. I hope his words can inspire others just as they did for me.
Writing a book is a long-term task and requires countless hours of dedicated effort. What made you want to go through this to write a book?
Thanks for inviting me to talk on your blog, Zac. To answer your question, I have always loved writing fiction from a very early age, and have started and stopped trying to write a novel ever since I was very young. It was never that I sat down and thought ‘I’d like to write a novel’, more that I got ideas and felt compelled to write – and dreamt that one of those ideas would become a novel and would be read by the world. I was no small time dreamer.
However, after years of having written the beginnings and middles of many novels, I made the definite decision to finish a book, and created different habits and strategies that would keep me on task. The real secret was that once I found a storyline and characters compelling enough for my ‘multi-focused’ brain, there was not much ‘motivation’ needed as the story pulled me back to working on it in any spare moment. Hopefully this will have the same effect on my readers.
What were the reactions of your friends/family when you told them you were writing and self-publishing a book?
My wife was always very supportive, and that was important for me. She was my biggest fan, just loving my story ideas from when we first met. As for the rest of my family, they knew I had always been writing, and were also supportive. But perhaps, knowing the magnitude of the task, they may have questioned whether I would finish it, I don’t know. I tended not to tell friends, and it was difficult to tell family, but usually once I did they were very supportive. Perhaps only other writers – jaded ones – were naysayers.
The thing that really raised eyebrows was when I decided to self-publish rather than go the traditional route. Almost everyone (bar my wife) thought that was the best way to not sell a book. I am starting to make independent publishing believers out of them now however.
Your story is a journey across multiple worlds and periods of time with many different characters. Where did you draw inspiration from for your novel?
I think when you are being creative you draw inspiration from all over the place. For me, I have a keen interest in different world mythologies, folklore, spirituality and religions, cults, lucid dreaming, astral travelling, psychic phenomena and cold reading, comedy, psychology, alternative histories and conspiracies, and even music… and so there were many ideas drawn from those subjects (or inspired by them) and interweaved into the multiple story arcs. I am also a fan of stories that are a little different (for example, the ‘Journey to the West’ TV adaption ‘Monkey Magic’, ‘Sanctuary’ and the British comedy the Mighty Boosh), or incorporate mythology (like ‘Stargate’, ‘Indiana Jones’, ‘Thief of Bagdad’ and ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’), and so my stories incorporate mythology and are a little different, I think.
I guess you tend to write what you like to read or watch.
What methods/tools did you use to ensure you kept writing, and kept progressing towards your goal, even through tough times (e.g. writers block, lack of motivation)?
There were many different strategies I used to keep motivation, but for me, I never got writer’s block. I think if you do however, perhaps just take the time to sit and daydream about your characters or story, read through your notes or what you have written, or take a little quiet break and come back to it. This will usually get the juices flowing again.
As for motivation, a quick way to get in the zone is to do the above, or watch something inspirational on YouTube. For example, if you are writing an action sequence, watch one from a movie on YouTube. It’s not to copy it, but to get you in the right head space. Another key thing I have learnt is to ensure your writing catches up
with your ideas. If you are no longer excited about what you are writing, or the ideas are no longer fresh and energising, inspiration will be difficult. You’ll be tempted to skip ahead to the next part, and it could eventually kill the motivation completely and you’ll be onto your next book. That said, sometimes you need to let the story simmer in your mind, and come back to it later.
You can use this time to research which is another great way to keep motivation. (I wrote about things I loved to research which made research fun and easy to do for a long time, and fun to incorporate in the story.)
I know that you were working full time whilst you were writing the book. How did you balance yourself between work and your writing?
Working full-time, with an active family and friend network, makes writing very hard. You need to fit it in around your schedule, and being productive and doing your best is nigh impossible, because you are – or at least I was – always tired.
As a result, I decided to have a solid schedule where no matter what, I’d sit in front of the computer and write. I tried early mornings and late nights, and both were difficult to get the energy required, and to be inspired because I put pressure on myself to get stuff done. Actually, the pressure to do an acceptable amount of words in a short time was the worst – very stifling. And if I didn’t get enough done each day I’d actually feel depressed.
The trick in the end for me was deciding to go down to working four days a week, and dedicate one full day to writing. In that time, my productivity each week increased phenomenally, and my happiness levels greatly increased. I had no pressure to write at odd hours, but interestingly, the times I decided to sit down at these times produced more than when I had simple set the time aside during the working week. I put a lot of that down to the lifting of pressure.
Describe how you felt in the moment when you finished the book, the moment you realised you had just achieved one of your biggest goals?
So very excited. I practically danced about the house like I was on drugs. But at the same time, a little sad that the journey had come to an end – I suspect I’ll feel this much more when the series is all over and I kill all the characters off … just kidding!
But I think there’s a funny thing about goals, even big ones, once you have accomplished them, it doesn’t take long before your focus turns to the next goal. For me, once it was done, like a madman, I turned my focus to my next book and began adding to the extensive ideas for the second book I had made during writing the first book.
This time I thought, it took me ‘x’ years to do my first book, but now that I know what I know, and know how to do it, I’m going to write my next book in a much shorter period of time.
What lessons have you learned about writing a book?
There are a lot of lessons I have learnt, and it could take another whole book to impart them all, but here’s a selection.
1) Write notes whenever you get ideas. Do NOT ever miss writing down a good idea that you cannot see fitting because it might become useful in the future. In addition to that, it is important to note that often great ideas come when you are occupied with other things like work or in the shower, but you’ll probably forget them if you don’t write them down at the next possible moment. From all my notes, I could have actually written countless variations for my book, all very different from each other. I chose the ideas I preferred.
2) Get to know your characters and fall in love with them. Talk to them in your head as if they are real people. The more you like them, the more the reader will.
3) Free your creativity. If any part of what you are writing is boring for you, it will probably be for your readers. I’d scrap that part and look for a better way to write it, or a better situation.
4) Start chapters with something that will draw you in, like intrigue or action or the anticipation of action. And finish every chapter with a cliff-hanger of some type.
5) Set your goals and a plan to achieve it. As a reader of Zac’s blog, you no doubt are aware that this is the only way to achieve anything worth achieving… well, almost anything.
What lessons have you learned about self publishing?
I am at the beginning of self-publishing, so I am very much still learning. There are a couple of points I can pass on.
Firstly, I never really considered publishing. For me and my artist brain, someone else owning the rights to my book, and doing what they want with it, turned me off. Or at least until I had proven the book and had a bit more control.
I have heard horror stories about the surprisingly low amount of sales many published books sell, and how after a few months with minimal promoting, if your book isn’t being sold magically (or with your unaided marketing sweat and tears paying off), it is no longer printed and you cannot print it until their contract runs out (in five to ten years). And from what I have heard, if you aren’t an established author or a celebrity (yet), YOU will be the one promoting your own book. So why bother? Especially since independent publishing is closing the gap traditional publishing once had.
A new traditionally published writer gets about 20c for a $15 hard copy book or so (I’ve heard, you might want to do your own research there), and perhaps less for an online copy. That is just not fair. Yes, they are taking on the risk, paying for services like printing and editing and graphic designers, and are running a business. But, bottom line, you wrote the book – and that intellectual property should have a much higher value.
If you self-publish online, you will get on average about $3 per $6 book sold – it varies depending on location and store (e.g. iBooks and Amazon). If you had a traditional book deal that gave you 30c per online book sold (and they’d no doubt make it harder to sell with a much higher price), you’d need to sell ten times more.
That mightn’t sound much, but if the self-published author sells ten books, the published author needs to sell one hundred books to get the same amount. If the self-published author sells one hundred books, the published author will need to sell one thousand to make the same amount. And so on.
I have not gone down the Print-on-Demand route yet, but from my initial research you can get about $5 or so for a hard copy book selling at $15 on Amazon (there are other companies too). That includes printing, packaging and mailing out – and has no risk as you are only charged when a book is bought. And they can produce as little as one book, so there are no storage fees.
On a side note, I once went to a writer and publishing house seminar, and the publishing houses cried poor about their dying industry. All the authors and inspiring authors in the room sympathised with them and talked down about the changing industry – and the end of the world.
But for me, this proved I was right about my thinking and decision to go independent. One – the changes benefit the writer and the readers. The readers benefit because publishing houses will only print stories that have a ‘proven market’, meaning the books you are buying sound like books you’ve already read. Independently published books can be just as good as published, but can take you on all sorts of journeys, not just a ‘revamped Twilight’.
And two – if the industry changes, you have to change with it – not complain. Some publishing houses have taken writers for granted before, but with the Internet and advances in technology, we writers can do it ourselves. It will take work, but do not be fooled, being a new published writer will take just as much promotion unfortunately. If publishing houses want to keep up, they need to improve their services.
So anyway, what was the question? … :)
Just kidding, but as you can see, when you ask me about self-publishing, there is a LOT to consider for a new author. The big thing to consider is you need to look into ways to promote your book, do them, and think outside the box.
Once you have reached a certain mass of readers in the right niche, providing your book is good, you can then focus on writing and your relationships with them. Why? Because your readers are your best marketers. They’ll spread the word for you.
How are the book sale figures in relation to your expectations?
At the moment, I am still starting out in promotion, so it is too early to judge. The great news is I am understanding who my target market is better, and are planning around how to put this book in front of those who’ll enjoy reading it.
Not everyone will be your ideal reader, but I’ve had great feedback from those in my target market, and I have already apparently inspired a few to begin their own novels – which is the biggest compliment you can get I think.
What will you do different next time?
Write more novellas (shorter novels) that are serialised. The more material you have out there, the more ‘touch points’ you have for new readers to find your work.
In my research of the industry, readers like reading shorter stories online as well as books of traditional length, especially if these shorter novels are 99c or free. By showcasing your imagination and style in these shorter books, even for free, helps develop your emerging fan base.
What are you working on now?
I have just finished a novella called Don’t Shoot the Messenger, which is about a team of soldiers who travel back in time to change the world by assassinating a key but unlikely historical figure. There are some – controversial, let’s say – twists in the plot that make this quite a fun story, but I’m keeping them under wraps at this point in time. Don’t Shoot the Messenger will be available in the coming month.
The other books I am working on are the sequel to The Last King of Shambhala (Akashic Records Series) called Mysteries of the Black Sun, a prequel novella to the same series called Tsinto and Atlantis, the other side of the Frosted Mirror, and a teenage sci-fi series yet to be named. After those are complete, I have a backlog of ideas that will make up more novellas, and then the final book in the Akashic Records Series.
So yes, very busy, but it is what makes me thrive!
What advice do you have for any budding first-time novelists (like me)?
I could write a book about tips, but here are three pieces of advice to get started.
1) Enjoy the entire process, if your story at any point seems like a task, rethink it, and take it in a little bit of a different direction. Not only will it be hard to write something uninspiring, your audience will no doubt find it uninspiring too!
2) Don’t procrastinate planning too much, just jump in there with the main thrust and shape it as you go. Too many people I talk to who want to write a book use ‘planning’ as an excuse to not start, fearing they won’t produce something any good. You will fix and enhance all your work in the rewriting and editing, but that can only be done once you have something to rewrite or edit.
3) Learn all you can about character development and plot creation, but don’t let it get in the way of your writing. I love learning about the best ways to tell my stories. I took subjects at university on creative writing, and I obsessively paw through books and the Internet for tips, and learning about your craft does make it better.
But creativity is a natural process, and you don’t need to comply with any tip or suggestion if it makes sense not to. (Perhaps the only general rule that applies to almost every good story is that there is a beginning, a conflict and a resolution, and at least one of your main characters will have changed as a result of that process.)
As a caveat on the above, don’t let anyone intimidate you and your work. Because there is this idea that being a novelist is highly competitive, it tends to breed desperate writers who are quick to put you down and make themselves sound amazing. If you haven’t done a writing course and haven’t read Dickens, it doesn’t mean that you haven’t got amazing stories to tell. And if you have, it doesn’t automatically mean you do.
So don’t take on board the words of a naysayer, and don’t be a naysayer yourself (it does more harm to you and your subconscious psyche that it does to theirs!).
I considered starting this off by saying that honesty plays a very important role in living a happy, positive and successful life but that just doesn’t justify the importance of honesty. Honesty is the cornerstone of all positive relationships and the number one aspect that defines our lives and the happiness and success that we can have. I know this because I used to be a big liar. I was so proficient at lying that it became a compulsive habit. I lied about nearly everything in my life trying to impress others, improve my relationships, and have more success. Funnily enough, none of those things came from lies but I only realised this when I forced myself to be honest again.
Honesty (and a lack of it) influences absolutely everything we do. But it is too easy to not be honest. Especially now, more than ever, with the ability to hide behind the curtain of social media and communicate via text message or email. It is too easy to be fake, too easy to lie to people, and too easy to embellish simply for “social reasons”.
We do this, even though the long-term results of lying are profoundly negative for our lives. The crux of the problem occurs in our usage of lies. We use them as a short-term solution, a crutch to bypass awkward social situations and (wishfully) propel ourselves into a better life. But we blind ourselves by focusing on these short-term immediate (and mostly superficial) gains. Rare is it for someone to observe the long-term negative effects of lying and even more rare is it for that person to be introspective enough to attribute their problems to their earlier lies. Instead we point the finger at something (or someone) else and never understand or accept the full impact lying has.
However, there is a way to break out of this habit. There is a method for awaking yourself from the subconscious action of lying and regaining control of your life by focusing on honesty. This method is called brutal honesty.
About brutal honesty
Brutal honesty is about being 100% honest at all times. It means always saying the whole truth (and nothing but the truth) even if the results make you feel uncomfortable. The idea is to say exactly what you are thinking without dressing it up or hiding it from others. That’s the brutal part.
It’s brutal on you (some people find it almost impossible to actually say what they are thinking) and it’s brutal on others (other people are usually not used to hearing such raw comments). But that’s the beauty of it. Brutal honesty is such a juxtaposition to what the rest of society does that it causes immediate responses and reflection.
Being brutally honest is a very hard thing to do. It requires a great deal of self-confidence, the ability to calmly observe your own thought processes, and a hell of a lot chutzpah!
But the rewards are worth it…
Three reasons to use brutal honesty
There are many benefits to being brutally honest but here are what I consider to be the top three reasons to use brutal honesty in life:
1. You get to be true to yourself
When people lie they are putting on an act, covering up their real identity and saying what they think other people want to hear. But there are many problems with this style of thinking.
The first problem is that none us are mind readers so we don’t actually know what other people want to hear. People have a hard enough time figuring out and controlling their own thoughts but somehow manage to believe it easy to understand what everyone else is thinking in every moment. We make wild assumptions on what people are thinking and then use that as the basis for forming lies and covering up our true identity. Crazy.
But if we focus on being honest; always speaking the truth about our own thoughts, feelings, and desires then we do not need to worry about performing the miracle of mind reading. We can just focus on living an honest life and reaping the rewards.
Remember, an honest person is comfortable with themselves and confident with their own thoughts. They always act in a way that is congruent to their internal drivers and they are respected for doing so. Even if other people do not like what you say they will at least appreciate your honesty and respond in kind. Honest people always receive genuine response in social interactions.
2. Honesty is win:win
What happens if you believe you know what someone else is thinking so you make up some lies (maybe to impress them) and then you find out that they actually dislike whatever it is you lied about? You went to all that trouble of hiding the real you and making something up to impress the person, only to have the complete opposite effect.
This happens all the time when we lie to others. When we try to make ourselves seem different, we create a fake version of ourselves that we *think* the other person will like. But if we’ve read the situation incorrectly (quite easy to do) then we end up in a worse position then we started. Not only is the target person not impressed with us but they have also made a negative judgement of us based entirely on a fake version of ourselves.
When we lie we create a lose:lose situation. If the lie is accepted and liked by others then we now must continue the deceit forevermore into the future which is tiring and emotionally draining. But if the lie is not accepted or liked by others then we incur a different loss. We discover that all our efforts (being fake and lying) were wasted and we’ve been judged on these falsified actions rather than being judged on who we actually are.
But when we are honest we create win:win situations. If we are honest, truthful and congruent at all times then we can accept the response we receive from others. If someone does not like our truth then that is fine. It is their prerogative and their opinion and they are entitled to it. But at least you have both been honest and you both know where you stand.
3. You gain more respect
Honesty is always respected. A known liar will be greeted with mistrust, held at arms-length, and never fully welcomed into any interpersonal interaction. But someone who is known for their honesty will be welcomed with open arms. These people are respected and trusted because you know exactly where you stand with them. There is no second-guessing, no game-playing, and no manoeuvring or backstabbing because you know you can trust what an honest person is saying.
And that level of trust gives an honest person more power. Their opinions will be held in higher esteem, their ideas will be given more credence, and their stories will captivate the attention of others. We look up to honest people and, as such, we give them a greater level of attention and respect.
Honesty has many benefits for our life, and brutal honesty is just taking normal honesty to the extremes. It’s a method that forces us to think about our action and it reminds us to live an honest life that is always true to ourselves.
Do you need a little bit of brutal honesty in your life?