Posts in Behind The Scenes
Why are you waiting?

Have you ever felt as if you're just waiting to be handed success by somebody? 

Waiting for that agent to discover you on Twitter, or for that celebrity journalist to feature you in a magazine, or a publisher to seek you out and sail your works all over the world?

This is for you. Because I don't want you to get discourage when you struggle your way through the marathon of creating a publishable novel...only to find that the magnificent agent, publisher or book deal you dreamt about isn't simply there for you right away on the other side. (And to pose the question, whether that's even the best option for you at all...)

Do you know what most authors who manage to get a book deal are actually rewarded with? A huge lack of creative control, a template to have to fit or else they lose the opportunity, a lot of decisions made for them and their work that they wouldn't have chosen for themselves, and an advance or book sales that are usually not enough to leave the day job. That, after years of hard work, isn't what most authors expect.

So what else is there for a writer to do these days?

There has to be a better way to continue on your creative path than simply waiting for a rescue, a golden ticket, or an "out" that may never come, right? But of course.

You have to define success for yourself.

Your version of success doesn't have to be the cookie-cutter version everyone else is striving for.

Your ideal version of success may just be getting your novel in the hands of friends and family and the people you really care about. It might be simply to do it for yourself. Or it could be to make large amounts of money (but do you really need a publisher to do that?)

Your idea of success might simply be to teach, entertain, or inspire, and if it is - don't wait around while your message gets stale, waiting for some magical deal to come and make it happen for you. Don't let your ego trick you into believing that your success always has to be something granted to you by others to be worthwhile.

Your version of success should not have to depend on other people handing it to you.

@@If your current version of success is based on trying to impress other people, rethink your version of success.@@

If your version of success really really is to get that publishing deal with a top company, then by all means pursue it with all your heart. But do you want it because you want it, or is it something you've been led to believe you want?

(Because "self-publishing is lame" and "the real money is in the deal", right? Please!)

Tell that to people like the wonderful Regina Anaejionu, who used her books as essential tools to build credibility, then create the ultimate infopreneurial empire.

Or Mariah Coz, who didn't sit around waiting for anyone to publish her works - she published them herself and went on to make millions with her incredible e-books + courses.

Then there's my good friend Kayla Hollatz, the community-building superstar who fulfilled a goal of hers by publishing a personal poetry book that is touching thousands of people's hearts around the world, right now. 

You don't have to wait for anyone's permission. 

Times are changing, the lie of there being authority over our creativity is crumbling before our very eyes.

These days, the right author with the right mindset can make money from their living room; with no one breathing down their backs from a publishing house, telling them what is appropriate and what is not, stifling their creativity with their outdated laws and practices. No one dumbing down their message for fear of limiting their target audience, or blaming the lack of sales on them, despite providing little to no support with marketing. 

I don't know about you, but that sounds like the real "vanity publishing" these days.

I honestly don't have anything against publishers - but for the majority of authors, being published by one of the top five is an empty fantasy, and charging blindly towards it causes nothing but large amounts of stress, frustration and resentment in your creative life where it doesn't need to be. It's like striving to obtain the perfect bikini body: it doesn't just solve all of your life's problems once you get it.

So if there's anything I can tell you, to save you from would be to think outside the box and realise that there are SO many other opportunities out there for you.

Your ideal version of success may be way closer than you think - just around the corner, or within arm's reach. And the more personal it is to you, the happier you'll be when you achieve it.

Go get it.

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3 serious, no-bullsh*t ways to make a living from your writing

Most of the writers I come into contact with on social media these days are either hopelessly optimistic, jaded, or a combination of both.

They've either succumbed to a life of poverty, or are screaming their book link at people on Twitter and pretending that strategy works. There's really no one in the writing industry today that immediately comes to mind when it comes to "an author making loads of money." So today I hope I can be that person for you.

I've been doing this for over 7 years, making a living and doing it strong, winning awards and bossing shit up. Take me as the example that it is possible before we move onto the next steps that will make it possible for you.

There are three pieces of advice I want to share with you today on how to make it happen for yourself. If you take anything from this article, please take this - these three simple pieces of advice for your continuing journey. They’re the most important things to remember, and if you remember these things you’re golden. 

Don’t discouraged by the people around you
Don’t let the gatekeepers get you down, and
Build a business around your craft.

That’s it. That’s all you need to succeed, honest honest. But just so you completely understand what I mean, let’s dig into these things a little deeper, shall we?

1) Don't get discouraged by the people around you, the news or your peer's failures or successes.

This is the #1 thing that will mess you up on your journey - worrying or envying what other people are up to, or any other external influence that tries to convince you that it's not the right thing to do. Puh-lease! Please. I genuinely think what's wrong in the world is this obsession with trying to control or govern what other people are doing, but if you're going to succeed as a writer, you're going to have to learn to ignore all of this.

2) Don’t let the gatekeepers get you down.

I am not the biggest fan of gatekeepers in any form. I like my creative control, I like my creativity as the ultimate act of rebellion and full self expression. Having said that, I know that you might be one of the people out there that do want the traditional publishing deal and are going about it with full force. In this case, there may be times when the vicious industry will break your heart.

What I need to say to you, dear writer, is don’t let it get you down.

3) Build a business around your craft.

I often ask people in coaching with me this question: name one writer you know that makes money simply from books. With a 99% success rate, I can usually point out that the author they tell me about or think about has some other means of sustainable income that they didn’t think about.

If you're counting on your £3.99 paperback to make you enough money for a house and a bi-annual holiday, you're probably going to be disappointed. Look at any successful authors these days and you'll find that not only do they do the writing (which is the part they love) but they also have some way of repurposing it for higher profit. J.K. Rowling and Stephen King were lucky enough to have their books turned into movies, then there's audiobooks and author signings and speaking gigs and tours and and and. 

I know this way of making a living from your writing is not “the dream” and it’s not the vision of what you have in your mind of what a “real writer” looks like, but to be honest, you just have to get over it because for now, having that additional thing will be what keeps you afloat as a writer and that’s just how the world works at the moment until you get to a stage where you’re famous enough to choose otherwise.

The idea that you can make millions from one or two books and will never have to work again is a fantasy. The book will become the anchor for a vast web of alternative money sources, but not the be-all and end all. And so, if your book sales are pocket money at the moment doesn't mean you're a failure, it just means you need to expand, repurpose, or use the impact/influence/opportunities that writing a book provides you.

Ultimately, I will leave you with this:

In writing and making money is that there are no guarantees, but it will only ever work if you do. 

Thanks for reading, I love you.

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Your negative emotions are your muse in disguise

If there's one thing I've learnt in my creative life, it's that you just can't sit around waiting for the right feeling to hit.

Sometimes it will be there, sometimes not.

Sometimes the feeling that does manifest will be negative, but none of that means you aren't still as creative, wonderful and useful as you were yesterday. In fact, now, you're bringing something new to the table. 

Your negative emotions are your muse in disguise

We put too much pressure on ourselves to put on a show, where we pretend to be happy and empowered all the time, because we assume that's what the world wants from us. But what the world really needs is your vulnerability and authenticity, no matter what form it takes. There is as much power in creating something using your negative emotions, as there are in your positive ones.

@@The next time you're feeling stressed or frustrated, consider that perhaps, you have the perfect set of circumstances to make great art.@@

You're allowed to show up in sadness or exhaustion.

Sometimes that's all you have to give to the world.

It is only by showing up, in all your frustration and anger and sadness, that you finally start to heal. Let your desperate, creative, artistic soul put its energy to good use, because it just wants to be heard and validated, too. 

Even in your darkness, even in the depths of your struggles, you deserve to be seen and heard. You are a force, an overflowing chalice of creativity, a vessel of truth, and your voice deserves it's pedestal.

Today is the day it matters most.

It doesn't matter that you're not feeling your best.

It doesn't matter that you're not feeling all that courageous.

This might just be the time in your life where you are the most creative.

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Throw it out the window and see how it feels.

Sometimes I get super guilty about not doing things "the industry" has said I should be doing in order to "succeed". 

I feel like I should be doing webinars. And facebook advertising. No, twitter. Instagram? And bigger, more exciting launches and guest posts and interviews and newsletters and and and...

I can inherently see the value in these things and know that they might actually be beneficial, but there's just one problem.

I don't actually want to do them.

Every time I even think about doing them, my whole body tenses up. I'll stare at papers and plans for hours and my soul just can't bring yourself to make it work. Or to even start. The thought of doing the things bores the HELL out of me. 

Do you ever feel like this? That feeling that even if you tell yourself you'll do it eventually, and have even made plans to do it but still haven't? There's a reason for that. And it's not because we're lazy. It's simply because we don't want to.

It isn't a strength of ours.

It isn't an interest.

It isn't a priority.

So we can only do one of two things in this situation: we can either make it a priority and stop dicking around...Or we can: 

@@Throw it out the window and see how it feels.@@

Because having this huge thing on your mind without doing anything about it has a larger effect on your mindset and neurological health than you actually realise.

It's called the Zeigarnik effect, and it basically means that you cannot move forward or even perform effectively when you still have "that thing" at the back of your mind, plaguing you with guilt because you haven't done it yet.

It's time to move forward.

I'm doing this at the moment. I wanted to do guest posting at least once a week because it's obviously the thing to do in order to promote myself. I love connecting with people, I love writing, what could go wrong, right? On paper it seemed fine, but when it came down to it, the thought of force-writing another post each and every week, plus pitching just suddenly felt too much on top of everything else I do weekly. It took me a while to admit it to myself and I kept putting it off in the form of excuses and complaints. For example:

"Ugh, I don't like the idea of being forced to do stuff."

"I hate when I have to do things on a schedule."

"Pitching to so many different people each week is going to be time consuming and confusing."

"I don't have a good system to keep track of pitches."

"I'll have to hold back articles that I'll just want to share on my own blog."

"I don't even know where to start." << this is a big one. I can guarantee you do, you just don't want to.

I also recently threw an idea to create an audio course shop out of the window which had held me back for weeks (because I was forcing monetisation when my soul just wanted to give it away for free.)

@@When your body, mind and soul say "ugh", listen.@@

Now, let me tell you the best thing about this. When you throw shit out of the window, it honestly gives so much room to your strengths. Because you know what happened immediately after I let go of these issues? My mind went:

"Ahhh, great! Now we can focus on what I REALLY want to do."

For me, that's focusing on the people I already have and empowering them to share the message. I want to invite people into my world in my own way. I'm a flaky transgressive artist, I don't like to be on any schedules. Sure it may take longer for me to get awareness for my movement, but it will feel one hundred times better to do it the way I want to.

Does that mean I will never guest post? Not at all. But at this specific time, that specific idea is out the window - because subconsciously it was in the way of how I really wanted to do things.

So here is my lesson to you: Listen to your own intuition, and remember that just because something may be the best method, if you don't want to do it then it obviously isn't the best method for you. (And if that's the case, chances are it won't work for you anyway.)

You don't actually have to do all the things you COULD possibly do. I promise you that.

You always have permission to let go of the things you don't love.

So throw it out the window.

See how you feel.

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Your creative work has value.

When I started writing my spoken word poetry collection earlier this year, I had this constant nagging feeling that due to everything going on it wasn’t the right time to finish it, because it didn’t seem important enough.

It was about heartbreak which, compared to everything else that was going on in the world then and, doesn’t even seem like it should be in the top #10 of things we should be worrying about in our society and lives right now. Poverty. War. Modern slavery. Racism. Ridiculous laws being brought into our world by greed every single day. How would a spoken word album about heartbreak help anyone?

Why create a spoken word album when all of this was happening and was so much more important?

Why create a spoken word album when speaking on political subjects instead might help someone more?

I tried to Google my pain to see if anyone else could relate, or to see if Google would have some kind of magical measuring stick or perfect timeline for when I would finally feel okay about creating fictional works again without feeling guilty about it. 

I typed in, “Is my work important enough?” which, as smart as Google is, it had no answer for.

I guess what I was looking for was permission to complete it.

As a black, female, and member of the LGBT community there’s almost always something that seems more important than fictional works. Something to protest, something I can be angry about if I want to be. There are countless injustices happening; and so many people, voiceless, dis-empowered and suffering. But there comes a time where you realise that you can’t always carry all of this pain on our shoulders all the time, because frankly it is exhausting. 

Creating art that is serious and political all the time would put me and my art into a box that I don’t particularly want to be in; contributing to a stereotype of an “angry black woman” in a way that most people tune out unless it’s presented to them differently these days. 

So what I realised was that yes, there were more important things I could be protest about or champion or fight for in that moment - but to even have the energy to take on those battles, you sometimes have to create for yourself first; create things that light your soul up, that make you happy, or you’ll burn out from all the stress (and that helps no one).

It’s okay to create something even if the only reason you have to do it is because your heart tells you to. This is how you will open up your greatest revelations. 

You don’t know how “important” your work might become until you do it. 

Heartbreak might not seem all that important to write about in relation to other issues that were going on at the time in the world. Not even in the top #10. But to someone who is going through it right now - it is #1 the most important issue in the world. And that’s okay. I would never go up to someone and minimise their pain, or compare it to other issues I believed were more I have vowed not to do that to myself, or my art. 

I recognise now that importance is a subjective concept, and there is room for it all. I also recognised that:

“Not important enough” is simply another translation of the fear of actually creating something - the fear of wasting time and failing. 

Who knows where it could take you though if just this one time you ignored the fears that prevent you from trying and actually completed it?

Your work only has the potential to be worth anything if you actually make it

Everything you love today was once nothing but a doubtful idea in the mind of a neurotic creator. And it is often the things artists throw together in passion or frustration that turn out to become their most popular pieces, treasured and loved by their fans. 

It’s not your duty to analyse the thing you’re being told to create by the Universe. Ridiculous or serious, fiction or non, art is a bold statement in the world about your personal freedom, about the way you are choosing to express yourself, and your power to speak out.

So, this is me, giving you permission to create the art you want.

Your latest work might be the single piece of work that changes your life.

You literally, simply don’t know...but this is your permission to try.

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Face your fears head on today

My hands were a six on the seismic scale as I stood, naked, in front of the mumbling crowd.

Not really.

But having been out of the social scene for two months while working on new projects, it felt that way. 

I'd decided that the best way to dip my toe back into the water was to do a speech in front of over 500 people, including celebrities. Y'know, just to warm myself up. Because that was the rational thing to do, right? 

On the count of three, I forced myself to stammer something out. And there it was. My humble sound-wave, travelling at light-speed into 500 people's eardrums:

"Hi everyone! My name is Stephanie Lennox, and I'd like to thank you all for being here today."

I'd over thought, over-analysed and obsessed over every single word of that introduction. I wrote, then deleted. Wrote, then deleted again. And still, it was terrifying. But it taught me a lot about fear and how to charge right past it.

That thing you're most scared of doing? The thing that's been keeping you up at night? It's suffocating you.

As we speak.

Stealing your creativity, potential and motivation, when you should be working with these things instead of allowing fear to drain them away. How many more things is your relationship to fear costing you, right in this moment?

You don't realise how deeply fear has imprisoned you until you try to break free.

"We are so accustomed to the comforts of 'I cannot', 'I do not want to,' and 'it is too difficult,' Pandora Poikilos once said, "that we forget to realise when we stop doing things for ourselves and expect others to dance around us, we are not achieving greatness. We have made ourselves weak."

The more you stall on an idea, the higher the pedestal rises and the more unobtainable it seems, but avoiding your fears will never make them any easier. Walk up with your head held high, however, and you'll see them shrink before you.

You are not weak. You have the power to carry this thing out, and you have the courage to get through.

When I used to send messages to editors and agents, I'd walk away from the computer to stop myself from sabotaging the emails. The voice in my head would hiss at me:

"OMG what did you just do? You look so desperate. Email and tell her it was a mistake!" 

But still, I'd sit with the discomfort. 

"She's probably opening it right now, and laughing at how much of a loser you are." 

Still, I'd sit with the discomfort. 

Eventually, the voice would change. It would say: 

"Okay, that wasn't so bad. It's done now, I did what I could, and I'm okay with that. I can't ever say that I didn't take the opportunity. Now, on to the next thing."

Don't worry about the "no's", or the worst case scenarios, because whatever happens, you'll grow.

You'll strengthen yourself in preparation for better things to come. You'll learn something. You'll have the courage to do it again, and even better. The most important thing, always, is that you simply move past the first hurdle, because it only gets easier from there.

And don't forget to consider the alternative.

What happens if I never face up to this thing you’re scared of?

The alternative for me, if I had chosen not to stand up and share my story with that audience, was that I'd have ended up with no one to be vulnerable with - no one to laugh with, share resources, or celebrate my successes with. I might have missed the opportunity to meet the people I did, who I know will support me for life. 

If I had chosen not to stand up on that day, I wouldn't have received the thunderous applause and ovation I was destined for.

Consider your alternatives - the best outcomes, and the worst - then ask yourself:

 Isn't it worth the risk?

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