Everyone has a zone of creative genius. It’s just a matter of tapping into it and capturing your ideas before they fly away. Robin Colucci’s guest today is her good friend, Sam Bennett. Sam is a best-selling author and creator of The Organized Artist Company. In this episode, she and Robin discuss strategies for breaking down your creative blocks, so you can get going with your writing and get it done! Index cards, buddy systems, and learning how to believe in yourself are all great examples of strategies Sam advocates. Want to learn more? Listen to this episode! Relax, enjoy, and soak in these valuable insights you’ll need for your writing journey.
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Tap Your Creative Genius And Conquer Writer’s Block with Samantha Bennett
My guest is Samantha Bennett. Sam is a writer, speaker, actor, teacher and creativity and productivity specialist and the author of the bestselling book Get It Done: From Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 Minutes a Day, which Seth Godin called, “An instant classic. Essential reading for anyone who wants to make a ruckus.” I can tell you that Sam is a longtime friend of mine and if there’s one thing that she’s also good at besides creativity, coaching, it’s making a ruckus.
Her bestseller is Start Right Where You Are: How Little Changes Can Make a Big Difference for Overwhelmed Procrastinators, Frustrated Overachievers and Recovering Perfectionists. Maybe some of our readers see themselves in that. Sam is working on her book Secrets of Highly Creative People. She is the Creator of The Organized Artist Company, which is dedicated to helping tens of thousands of creative people get unstuck and help them to focus and move forward on their goals.
She’s also written the script for the hit musical In a Booth at Chasen’s which is about the courtship of Ron and Nancy Reagan. She is an award-winning marketing expert, having spent fifteen years as a personal branding specialist for Sam Christensen Studios and she’s been honored as an ultimate market or finalist at InfusionCon. She’s also a key certified consultant and reseller. Sam and I are going to talk about the dreaded phenomenon of writer’s block and other blocks that prevent us from starting, finishing or publishing our books. If this is something that you have ever struggled with or worried about struggling with, you’ll find this episode particularly valuable. Relax and enjoy.
Sam, welcome to The Author’s Corner.
Thanks, Robin. I’m so happy to be here.
I’m excited to have you here. As you know, you are one of my favorite people on the beautiful planet of ours.
Right back at you.
I’ll never forget how we met. It’s especially fun for me to think about it. We met at a business development workshop. When I think about where each of us was, which was years ago. Since then you’ve had two books published. I published one plus the ones I’ve helped other people.
I was going to say plus the zillions of other ones.
Both of us have developed thriving businesses and it’s been such a fun thing to share the journey with you. To watch both of us grow and to be able to grow together has been super fun.Find the coach that scares you, someone who's already done the thing that you want to do. Click To Tweet
For all of you out there, I want to underline two things. One, we met in this business developing this coaching thing. It was personal development and business development. I don’t know how anybody succeeds without it. Find the coach that scares you. Find one that’s done what you want to do who’s already done the thing that you want to do. They haven’t learned about it. They’ve done it themselves. Find them and pay them whatever they want because you don’t know what you don’t know, you can’t see what you can’t see. You need to be in a community with other people who are on the same path because no one knows what we do or why. You need to have people around you who get it and that you can talk to you and be with you. After years of friendship, we’d be able to call each other anytime and cry on each other’s shoulders or celebrate. Not everybody knows how to be happy for you when you have your first $10,000 a day or $100,000 a weekend or whatever.
You’ve got to get to a point where you have to be careful on who you share your wins with and what kinds of wins you share. I know I leaped way ahead. The reason for our readers that I invited you to here is because you are, in my mind, the expert on getting over yourself and your resistance. To anybody who’s reading who is a highly creative person but you have trouble finishing, maybe you have trouble getting started but even if you can get started, you have trouble finishing. Samantha Bennett is the authority in my view on this topic and she’s got two bestselling books to prove it. This is such a big deal for authors. Not only for first-time authors. Sometimes it’s for second-time authors who’ve been successful are even more resistant than they were with the first book when there was no bar to meet and when there was no expectation.
Your first book is your greatest hit. You probably already tested that material. For the second book, you’ve got second album problems.
The Sophomore Jinx.
It’s scary and that would be the first thing I would say, “You’re scared and you’re doubting yourself. Who wouldn’t?” Fear is not assigned to not do it. It’s like stage fright. Stage fright is not a sign that you shouldn’t go on stage. It’s a sign that you are about to go on stage. It’s a totally natural part of the process. To go like, “Here I am completely freaking myself out over starting this book, finishing this book, working on this book, admitting that I’ve written a book, finding an agent, finding a publisher, self-publishing or whatever it is.”
We’re tribal animals. We are designed to live in a group. Our animal brain knows that we cannot survive alone so we’re very sensitive to the good opinion of the tribe. We don’t want to do things that make people not like us. I hardly ever talk about this but I feel the urge. There are things that I think of as creative dualities where it’s two things that are completely opposite and true at the same time. For example, on the one hand, we care about what everybody else thinks and we want everyone to like us, approve of us and be thinking that we’re good. Equally and at the same time, we don’t give two figs what anybody thinks about us. We want to do what we want to do and everybody else can screw off.
The key to a happy life is to bring these two ideas closer together. Surf the tension between these two things. Another one of those that come up for everybody is we want things to be nice, normal, familiar and safe. Equally, at the same time, we want things to be new, exciting and different. We want both of these things at the same time. Bring these ideas closer together. Surf the tension between these two things. Don’t feel it’s got to be all one thing or all the other. It’s both.
Both of those tensions are so key to the creative process.
Even the, “I suck. I’m great.” That’s another one. It’s like, “I’m terrible. This is stupid. Who’s going to listen to me? I’m not an authority. This is lame. I should go live in a cave.” Equally at the same time, “That’s good. I know some things. Forget about this.”
“I’m the boss. I’m the stuff. I’m it.”
Every once in a while especially as a writer, I’ll read something or write something and be like, “I don’t care who you are. That’s a good sentence. That’s good writing there. That right there is a good piece of writing.” Not everything I do is a good piece of writing. That’s a good piece of writing.
When you’ve written enough, you’ve earned the right.
This is a question I get sometimes from writers about, “What if it’s not good enough? How do I know if it’s good enough?” It’s normal and natural to have that voice in your head that’s going, “This isn’t good enough. You’re stupid. Nobody’s going to care about this.” It’s a totally natural part of the process. What I tend to do is restate the question in a slightly different tone of voice, which is, “Can I make this better? Do I know how to make this piece of writing better?”
Sometimes the answer is, “I do. I can take out all those adverbs, make the verbs a little punchier, give a better example and take out this thing that I thought was a funny joke that is laying there a limp banana. I can make this tighter and better.” Other times you read it and you’re like, “Maybe it needs to be better but I don’t know how to make it better. This is why God made editors. Thank God for editors.” The question, “Is it good enough?” I don’t know. Do you know how to make it better?
That’s such a smart question because when you ask that and you’re honest with yourself, you know immediately if you can make it better or now. Even before you have a chance to think about lying to yourself, you already know.
Sometimes talent is deeply overrated. Even things being good are deeply overrated and certainly things being perfect. If I made a list of my favorite books, movies, songs and people, is it because they’re perfect books, people or movies? No, some of them are junky books. Some of them would fall into the category of trashy books and I love them. I would take them to a desert island with me. I adore them and everything about them is just right. Are they perfect according to the world? No. Are they perfect unto themselves? Yes.You are a terrible judge of your own work. Click To Tweet
One time I had a dear friend who’s also a terrific editor and she was looking at some of my writing and she’s like, “I don’t know, Sam. I feel like these aren’t as good as some of your other stuff.” I said, “I agree with you and all I can tell you is they’re meant to be this way. This is the way they came out. They’re for a slightly different audience. They’re not as sophisticated as some of the other things. They’re not as complicated. They are a little simpler. It’s not my job to judge my work.” You are a terrible judge of your own work. You may have noticed this about yourself so stop trying.
We’ll talk about two equal and opposite things that can exist at the same time. People both judge themselves too harshly and they let themselves off the hook at the same time. With a less experienced writer who hasn’t been published much, it’s harder to bring those two things together. When you’ve had enough external feedback, after a while, you start to internalize that a little bit more of that objectivity of being able to see when you’ve given yourself more credit than you should or not.
I used to quote this all the time. There’s a quote from Leland Val Vanderwall who was one of those 1920s personal development guys. I’m paraphrasing slightly but the idea is, “The amount of success that a person can experience is directly proportional to the amount of truth they can stand to hear about themselves without running away.” It takes grit, courage and a couple of deep breaths to go, “This isn’t as good as it should be.” “There’s rejection.” “There’s some feedback that I wasn’t hoping to get but there it is.” The desire to make excuses, to disassemble, to run away, to say, “That person doesn’t matter.”
Blaming the person who gave the feedback.
“It’s them. They’re projecting.” Maybe but they’re projecting onto you for a reason. I’m going to guess it’s probably not the first time.
It’s because they’re projecting doesn’t mean they’re 100% wrong.
It’s because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean everyone’s out to get you. We also get trapped in this fallacy of a good idea, “I have this idea but I don’t know if it’s a good idea or not.” I’m like, “You don’t. How could you possibly know if it’s a good idea or not?” First of all, you haven’t checked with anyone because it’s sitting there in the hermetically sealed box that is your brain. You’ve got to let it hit the air. There’s lots of room for bad ideas. Bad ideas can turn good. Good ideas can turn bad. Here’s the thing with highly creative people and that’s the most of who I work with, everyone is creative. Let me say that everyone is creative. Not everyone is artistic. There’s a difference between creative and artistic.
Everyone has a zone of creative genius, some areas that they’re naturally great at and naturally interested in, good at problem-solving and love to do. If I woke you up at 3:00 in the morning and said, “We’re going to go do this thing.” You would be like, “Yeah. Where are my shoes? Let’s go.” It’s the thing you spend a lot of time on and your friends are all like, “You didn’t have time doing that? Why are you doing that?” You’re like, “It’s fun for me.” That’s a creative genius. If you can turn that into your life, your job and your business, you have won the lottery. It’s fantastic.
Robin and I are both lucky enough to be able to do what we love to do all day long. Everyone has at least one of those. Most people have several, highly creative people who have a ton. They’re good at a lot of things and they have a lot of ideas all the time. They have ideas in the middle of having ideas. They have ideas that wake them up in the morning. They have ideas about your ideas. It gives creative people a little bit of a reputation of being flighty, can’t focus or sparkly object. It’s not a character defect. You just have a lot of ideas, which is fine. Have a way to capture them and retrieve them. Not every idea is a mandate. You don’t have to do every idea that you have but you should capture it because you never know but not in a journal. You’ll never find it again.
Journals are about process. Journals are about the act of journaling. It’s not a good recordkeeper. Find another place to put your ideas. I like index cards. Some people leave themselves voice memos. I use the Notes app on my phone quite a bit and TextEdit on my computer. They’re like computer Post-its, Evernote or whatever works for you. Have a way to retrieve the idea once you have them. I will also say that sometimes you might see other people get weird about their ideas. It’s because they’ve only ever had the one. They get a little protective of it. I see highly creative people do it. People come to you with their idea and you immediately have ten ideas about their idea and you can watch their little faces like, “Oh.” Be careful. Don’t put your big giant feet all over their little garden.
That reminds me that there is this incubation period where you should sit with an idea before you go for feedback. This is true in writing fiction. I rarely work with novelists but when I do, the covenant is you can only talk about your story with me until it’s finished. A little sprout that is destined to become a giant oak, can get squashed before it even unfurls its first leaf, by the wrong person, innocently. Usually saying the wrong thing and that’s it. The whole thread is lost.
There are people in your life and you know who they are, who have a gift for saying the exact thing that will stop you dead in your tracks.
Especially don’t share your ideas with your family.
Don’t go to the empty cookie jar. Do not share your work with people who are not capable of supporting you. Also, this is true for others. It’s also true for entrepreneurs. Your friends and family are not your ideal client. Your friends and family are not your ideal reader. They’re not here on this earth to be your ideal client or ideal reader. They are on this earth to be your friends and family and to love you and support you for being the person you are the same way that you are for them. You don’t give a crap what’s going on in their law office or what happens when they go to work every day. You don’t care about that. You care about them as a person. Same-same. Let them care about you as a person. Don’t talk about your work with them. Don’t do it. If you’ve happened to let it slip and somebody says, “How’s it going?” You say, “Fantastic. How are you? Tell me about you. Tell me about your story.” Turn around. Book writing has a real shroud of mystery around it. You can use that a little bit in your favor going, “It’s going great. Thank you for asking. It’s a delicate stage now so I’m not talking about it with anybody.” They’ll go, “Mysterious.“
“I can’t wait to read it.”
“I can’t wait for you to buy a copy.”You don't have to do every idea that you have, but you should capture it. Click To Tweet
Let’s talk about it because as I’ve observed as a book coach and I’d love to know your take because I’ve noticed that there are a few key points where people tend to get particularly stuck. One is getting started. It’s making that commitment of, “I’ve thought about this idea for a while. I’ve thought about it enough that I can see it’s aligned with what I want to accomplish in the world. I see that this as something I should do and want to do,” but they have trouble getting started so can you share a little bit about that phase and maybe some ideas for our readers.
I had this problem with Get It Done, my first book because I had the thing of, “It has to be perfect inside of my mind before I start.” I wasn’t sure if it was a workbook. Is it going to be like one person’s story, one of those slightly fictionalized nonfiction things? I didn’t know how I wanted to do it. I thought, “I’ll let the book tell me what it wants to be.” I said that I like index cards so I carried around the big pack index cards. Anytime I had a thought for something that I thought should be in the book, I wrote it on the index card and I put it in a big manila envelope on my desk labeled Genius.
I did that for about 6 weeks or 1 month. I dumped the envelope out onto my big dining room table and started to clump them up. I’m like, “Here’s the stuff around procrastination. Here’s this stuff around perfectionism. I wrote this three times. Apparently, this has to be in the book.” I let the project tell me what shape it wanted to take. I then used the buddy system. We’re tribal animals, we do well with others. I had another friend who was also working on a book. We would meet at a coffee shop, say hello and write. We were disciplined about not talking.
We easily could have sat there for three hours talking. This is writing time. Talking time is another time. If I didn’t know what I wanted to write, I could use that on envelopes as a grab bag of, “I’ll write about this now.” That’s one thing. You don’t have to know in advance. Especially with tools like Scrivener, it’ll help you to do different pieces of it and rearrange it and move it around until it starts to take its own shape.
I would suggest that you can’t know where to start because it’s the act of writing some of it that illuminate what’s missing what else you need to say or maybe something you thought belonged in the book. Once you see it written out, you’re like, “That’s not for this book. That’s for another book or maybe that’s for nothing. That’s for the journal.”
That’s the alchemy of art. You get the idea. Let me say this to all of you. Don’t refuse to download. Those ideas that get downloaded to you where you’re like, “I have the whole thing in my head.” That’s your engraved invitation from God. That’s it. Nobody gets more than that. You’re like, “I’m not sure.” You are. It got delivered especially to you. Nobody else got it. You got it. That’s the one you should do. I don’t know how to say it more boldly than that. Do that.
It doesn’t have to be hard.
Not everything happens that way. Not everything happens in different situations. Some things are a big fat slog but occasionally it comes gift wrapped. Don’t refuse the delivery and the download. When it goes from in your head to on the page, that’s one transformation. It’s different then. It’s different in your head than it is on the page. Someone else reads it and they change. The pieces have changed and you are changed. That continues to happen. That’s the alchemy of art and that’s what you have to get out of your head because it has an impact on other people and it can’t hold while still locked in.
For the next phase, we’re going to focus on book writing. We’re not going to get into book proposals because there are extra places where people freak out.
Book proposals are in their own personal little corner of hell.
That’s a separate show.
I have to say that it’s hard to write a book proposal. It’s hard to write a good book proposal. It’s worth it but it is hard work.
For you have good help, it’s not terrible.
Hire somebody.Don't refuse to download those ideas that just get downloaded to you. That's your engraved invitation from God. Click To Tweet
I always say to people that we have a coaching and a ghostwriting option. I’m like, “Let us go write it for you, please, because it’s not a skill you need to have.”
I have to say, in my last book proposal, I was extremely pleased with myself. I did all this stuff that I thought was super innovative, different and stuff. It turns out they don’t want it like that. It’s still 1985 in publishing. They want it in Courier or Times font in Word, no pictures. They don’t care if it’s designed. I had all this great web page with all these links and stuff in there.
“That’s so cute but no.“
The agent’s like, “We’re not showing that to anybody.” It’s so great.” “We don’t care.”
In book writing, the next period that I notice that people get particularly squirrely is when it’s near done.
That’s the worst because it might turn into something. All you can see is what’s wrong with it and all the ways in which it’s not the thing that was originally in your head. Every monster will come out from under the bed.
I’ve seen people subconsciously create drama in their lives. I had one woman who had stopped writing because it was a big snowstorm in her area and the power and water were out. Every teenager in the neighborhood had moved into her house because her house was the only one with running water and no power. I said to her, “What you need to do is you need to sit down and get back on your writing schedule.” She did and within 24 hours it all went away. The power came back on and the children all went home. She got her house back.
When you are about to make a big change in your life and publishing a book is a big change in your life, everything happens. The roof will collapse, the dog’s legs fall off, health crisis, financial crisis, earthquake, tsunami, it will all happen and it feels way too personal. It is. You have to know some of it has happened because earthquakes, tsunamis and crises happen. It would have happened whether you were publishing a book or not.
Sometimes it’s self-created and sometimes you make it happen because you want a distraction. It always feels different because you are changing. You’re a different person. You are handling the world a little differently so it’s going to turn to the teenagers, to the person in your life that you love that’s having a crisis and say, “I love you. Here’s the way in which I can support you and here’s the way in which I have to keep going on this other project.” This is what they call boundaries.
It’s important because it’s such a great excuse. There are so many tempting excuses that come up especially when we’re getting to that 2/3 to 3/4 of the way done with the book. It’s usually where I see the show up for people. It can be tough sometimes. Sometimes it’s a loved one who becomes ill or something like that. You have to have that conference conversation with yourself to keep going and say, “I care for this person but I have to still keep this commitment and keep pressing forward.”
There are all those statistics about businesses that fail or books that don’t get written. I don’t think it’s a failure. People just stopped. They quit. Your commitment to yourself, to your idea and your book, you have to keep your word. We build respect with other people by keeping our word to them. We build self-respect by keeping our words to ourselves. It’s probably the biggest thing that I see when people want to work with me. It’s not that they don’t trust me. They feel fine about me. It’s that they don’t trust themselves. They’ve let themselves down so many times. They’re cautious about wanting to invest again in themselves. I get that.
I also get that it’s a journey. Sometimes an important step on the journey is paying for a course and not ever opening it. Buying a book and not reading it, I’ve done that. Sometimes that’s what somebody needs to do. Sometimes listening to the first session and that’s it. That’s all they needed. “I didn’t finish it.” This isn’t school. Nobody cares. That 3/4 or 2/3 of the way through, you start to feel like you’re going to get the sparkly thing, “I have this other idea. That one’s new and sexy. This one’s old and tired.”
Let’s talk about that because that’s a big deal. It’s one thing to say, “I intended to take this course. I took a little bit of it and I felt I got what I needed and I moved on,” but this is something different. This is where we’re talking about, “I’ve got this great idea. Put all this energy into it but rather than finishing this idea, I’m going to leave it 3/4 of the way done and I’m going to go over here because now I’ve decided there’s this other book I want to write or this other project I want to do.” This is a common thing for people to do and especially with somebody who is feeling a stuck creative or the feeling of, “I work and work and never get ahead.” This often would be at the root in terms of the behaviors. What do you think?
It’s hard and this is how being an author is the best personal development training ever because this is where you have to do the work on yourself. This is where I would recommend reading Gay Hendricks, his book, The Big Leap. I’ve read that book probably 4 or 5 times. I got the audio version last time. I was like, “I need to hear this book in a different way. Listen to it by audio.” I swear I heard something new. He talks about the ways in which we self-limit, the ways in which we are like, “This is about as successful as I feel comfortable being because there’s a rule in my house when I was growing up that said I wasn’t allowed to be more successful than my sister,” or there’s a rule that you can’t make too much money. There’s a rule in the house that says whatever.
This is where we start to unpack some of that subconscious behavior, make it conscious so we can look at it and go, “I get that there’s this bargain. My sister and I had a bargain that I wouldn’t outshine her. That was more than 40 years ago. We’ve both moved on. It’s okay. I can make it safe for myself, too.“ You may need extra support. This is where you hire a coach, set a deadline and sign a contract because you’re going to need some external support. It’s challenging to do on your own.
People underestimate the transformation that occurs when you become an author. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking it’s about holding up the book and saying, “Look at me. I’m an author. Here’s my book. I’m an author.” I always liked to say that’s evidence. That’s like a diploma. It’s not the twenty years of education that led up to the diploma, that’s only the diploma that says, “I have this degree.” That’s what the physical book is. The transformation occurs and everything that you’ve been talking about the self-inquiry. When you have to articulate your ideas in a book, you can’t be hand-wavy about it. You can but it’s not going to be a good book. You’ve got to think about, “What do I believe here?”
What’s the truth? What is my truth?
You can’t say something and change it because it’s going to be in print.
You’re going to have to do interviews about it for years.
You have to say in the interview what’s in the book.
Two things. One is when my first book was getting published, we were in that coaching program. I was getting coached by Steph Tuss, one of the best coaches in the world. We get on the phone and I don’t know what I was telling her but she goes, “Wait. Stop. What happened?” I’m like, “What?” She’s like, “I don’t know. Something happened. You don’t sound right. Did something happen with a client? Did something happen with your family? What’s going on?” I’m like, “Nothing happened. I’m fine. Everything’s fine.”
She’s like, “You’re not.” I said, “I did get endorsed by Seth Godin and he called my book an instant classic and essential reading for anyone who wants to make a ruckus. That’s blowing my mind a little bit. It’s freaking me out.” She goes, “You got outed.” I’m like, “I did. I got outed.” You can’t see what you can’t see. You don’t know what you don’t know. This thing looks like a wonderful blessing and it was. God bless you, Seth Godin. Thank you.
It could have been a good book.
Thank you and he did tell me that later on. The secret is, “Write an outstanding book.” It freaked me out. The other thing I will say though, too, is you have to lean into the magic of it because there’s no it’s mysterious. This is another one of those creative dualities. On the one hand, you need to set a deadline, have a goal and pursue it relentlessly. You have to be a dog with a bone. You can not do it. You have to do it no matter what is happening. You have to commit and you have to do it and that’s the end of the story.
Projects sometimes have their own timeline that’s different than yours. Sometimes, it needs to wait. My friend, Linda Sivertsen, a terrific book coach, always says, “Trust the delays.” We don’t always know everything. Wheels are turning that I don’t know about. It may be the right thing for you to put it aside for three months. It might be the thing for you to wait. You might be waiting for some technology to come out that you didn’t know was going to happen. I ended up doing a bunch of videos that got sold to LinkedIn Learning and Udemy and stuff.
Good for you.
Thank you. It’s super exciting and tens and thousands of people are now seeing my stuff. This project that I was a little stalled out on and I’m like, “I haven’t called my agent because I’m too embarrassed because I haven’t talked to her in too long.” How much better is it going to be for me to be able to come back to her and say, “I have this whole additional platform that I didn’t have twelve months ago.”
It’s funny that you say that because when I see those kinds of delays show up in book proposals, something amazing happens in the author’s platform. I usually am also coaching them on developing some aspect of their platform before we go to pitch and those wheels have a little bit more time to turn over. The package that we’re presenting is radically better than the package when they came. I’ve seen that happen. It’s a tricky one because trusting the delays, it’s a line. You walk the line. When does it turn from trusting the delays to outright procrastination? How does somebody know?
It’s almost impossible to tell. The answer is to keep showing up to the question with some cheerful optimism. A couple of years ago, I had some health issues so I stopped working out because I couldn’t. I was better but I still wasn’t working out. I love working out so I was like, “Why is this not happening?” It was mysterious to me why this wasn’t happening and I was being hard on myself about it. That self-punishing voice was having a field day. I was like, “Samantha, you did this professionally. Let’s see if we can wrap our heads around this.” I started to change the thinking from, “I can’t believe I’m not doing this. You’re so lazy. You’re stupid,” to, “I wonder what will happen to make me want to start working out again.”
I wonder what amazing invitation is going to show up that’s going to make me want to start working out again. I’m sure it’s coming any minute now. I’m going to sit here in cheerful anticipation that the invitation will show up. Same thing with the book. I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen that’s going to make me want to open that document again. I am sure something will happen. That’s an everyday thing. You’ve got to check in every day. Check–in with the question, “I wonder what will happen that’s going to make me want to do this thing?” Eventually, sure enough, something will happen.
It will bring the focus of your mind to anticipate something that’s going to show up. You recognize it as it is versus if you’re beating yourself up, you won’t even see the opportunity.
The thing that the brain is best at is finding what it’s looking for.
Unless it’s my reading glasses.
In which case, you have to have twelve in every possible place in the house because you will never find them otherwise. On the couch, I have reading glasses and the distance ones are for the television. It’s ridiculous.
I want to get to the last stage where I see people hit the freak out. I’m sure what I’m going to say but it’s before you go to press.
First, let me completely validate how completely terrifying and isolating it is because no one knows what you’re going through. People keep coming up to you going, “Aren’t you excited?” You’re like, “Yes.” I inadvertently found the solution to this and I will share it with you. It was right before my book launch. I was completely freaking out and part of my freak out was it was going to be in stores. I was going to be able to sit there and talk to everyone individually and make sure it was the right thing for them. That was part of my concern.
“Let’s sit down. Let’s do a complimentary coaching call and find out.”We build respect with other people by keeping our word to them. We build self-respect by keeping our words to ourselves. Click To Tweet
“Let’s see if this is right for you to spend $16 on this book.“ I started having a launch event and my family came out. I live here in Southern California where it’s beautiful. One of the things we can do when you’ve got 75-year-olds and 5-year-olds so my parents and also my niece and nephew went whale watching. It’s a beautiful day on the boat. It was great. It was nice and calming to be there. It’s something the whole family can enjoy. I saw the whales and I was like, “That’s right. Most of this planet is water. Most of this planet isn’t even for us. It’s for them. There’s a whole world out there that doesn’t care about me at all. I am a speck on a speck. I am here on this planet for a minute. Let it go. It’s not that big of a deal.“ I found that restful. It put me back in the orientation to the universe.
The other half of that happened when my second book came out. It was this feeling and realization that it’s not my book. I created it and it came through me but it’s not mine. I am not a parent but I assume this is how people feel about their children. If your child goes out and does something wonderful, you had a hand in it but it’s not your success. It’s theirs. The person they are and the things they do and the way other people experience them, that’s theirs.
It’s the same thing with the book. The way people experience it and what happens to it, I’m not in charge of all of that. I found that also calming. It’s not my book. It also calms me down for interviews. It’s not my interview. The interview is going to be what the interview is going to be. It’s my job to show up as fully present as I can be, rested, hydrated, worked out, prayed, meditated, walked, cobbled and all the things but it’s not mine to control. That’s another one of those creative dualities between controlling everything you can control and releasing everything you can‘t.
I love that perspective of how the book belongs to the world. Whoever in the world is going to receive whatever they’re going to get from it. That’s a beautiful perspective.
That lightens everything up. They’re going to love it or not love it. I was pleased when I finally got my first one-star review on Amazon. That made me feel like a real writer. Up until that, I wasn’t sure but once I got a bad review, I was like, “Okay.”
You’re not successful until you have at least one hater. That’s how you know you’ve made it.
What I’m waiting for is to see one of my books in the yard sale or in the used bookstore or something. I want somebody to get rid of the book then I will know.
Somebody who couldn’t bear to throw it away. That’s how I would frame that one.
I love this idea of books banging around the whole world. That is so amazing. You’re not in charge. One time I got home, there was a box on my doorstep and I opened it up. I was like, “I don’t know what this is,” and it was my book. It was done in hardcover. I went, “What?” Luke goes, “Is everything okay?” He’s like, “I’ve never seen this look on your face.” I’m like, “I’ve never had this look on my face. It wasn’t published in hardcover. I don’t know what this is.” What had happened was Barnes & Noble had bought the hardcover rights to my book because they do that. They have their own publishing arm so they bought the hardcover rights and had it done on their January Inspiration Motivation table. There I am next to Zig Ziglar and all these guys. Your publisher doesn’t tell you these things.
I’m laughing because I remember around that time seeing your book in Barnes & Noble and I even took a picture of it and sent it to you.
“I’ve been doing the softcover and all of a sudden there’s a hardcover. That is crazy.” You have no idea where this is going and that’s part of the joy of it. It’s like a love affair, stay optimistic.
Those questions with those positive expectation questions could apply to anything.
I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen. I’m sure something is coming. It’s the ability to see the opportunity because so often when your self-esteem is low, when you’re depressed and I lived with depression, anxiety. I don’t use that word lightly. It can be hard to see the opportunity. If somebody says, “Let me help you,” or, “I wanted to show my friend,” and you think, “They’re being nice. They don’t mean it,” so you don’t follow–up and you don’t get the opportunity. Even when somebody says, “I’d love to reach out to you. I’d love to work with you.” You’re thinking, “They give me their card and you never call them.” This is a gesture I call, “Get that money away from me.”
Keep that. Don’t give that to me.
You have to be alert for the opportunity. A friend, somebody who knows me and I was a little surprised, she was like, “How come everything works out so great for you, Sam?” I was like, “I’m sorry. What?” She’s like, “It seems everything falls in your lap. How is that?” I was like, “I don’t even know how to respond to that question because first of all, from where I sit, almost nothing has fallen into my lap.”
I’ve only seen crackers and breadcrumbs.
Soy sauce when you’re having sushi. Otherwise, no. She’s like, “I know you work hard.” I’m like, “I work ass hard.” Here’s the thing. What happens is I say yes to a lot of things and some of those things work out. That’s what you see from the outside, it’s the couple are the things that worked out. If you look at my date book, there are a lot of things that didn’t happen, didn’t go, got stalled out. I wrote a musical that was in development for ten years. It was like, “We had a producer.” “We don’t.” “We got the money.” “We don’t.” “We’re opening in November.” “We’re not.” It finally got produced. It was successful and then the pandemic happened. It’s like, “We’re not taking the show on the road.“
You‘re right because you were looking at doing a national tour before the pandemic.
There’s a lot we can’t control but there is stuff that you can control. You can’t do anything about what’s going on out there. You can’t control public opinion, politics and the weather. Stop complaining about it because it has nothing to do with you. What you can control is your own creative output and what goes on inside of your own mind. Exert control over what you have control of.
That is the key to getting it done.
Enjoy a happy life. It’s hard to keep your nose out of everybody else’s business.
Trying to fix everyone around you.
What I find is when I keep my eyes on my own paper, my score is higher.
Before we wrap up, tell me more about this LinkedIn course.
I’ve been on LinkedIn forever but I don’t do anything there because I work with highly creative people. Most of them don’t have jobs so what would I be doing on LinkedIn? I started to get annoyed at LinkedIn because I was getting all these invites. You probably get them, too, all the time with people like, “I work with coaches and authors helping them.” Who is teaching the strategy? This is the dumbest strategy in the world. I don’t know who you are. No, you cannot get on my calendar. Clearly, you don’t know who I am. This is half a step away from spam. This is so annoying. I get one that’s three sentences long, “Sam, I’ve seen some of your online videos. Would you be interested in creating content for Lynda.com and LinkedIn Learning? If so, I would love to talk. No sales pitch, just talk.”
Part of it was because he name-checked Lynda.com, which is a Carpinteria company. They’re based here and Lynda was a pioneer in the online training space. Then they got bought by LinkedIn and LinkedIn got bought by Microsoft so now they are a bazillion dollar company that’s around the corner. I was like, “You name checks, Lynda. That’s cool.” I figured out that this guy’s in Santa Barbara. I’m like, “He’s local.” I go to his website. He’s a one-page website about himself. One page with a couple of sentences. I’m like, “That’s cool.” We got on the phone and he said, “We make these courses. We love your style. We’d love to do one with you.” The first one we did was called Time Management for Busy People. LinkedIn got excited about it and they made it one of its new and noteworthy courses that week. I was in the top three courses on LinkedIn training. I did one called How to Write Emails People Want to Read.
You’re so good at that.
Thank you. It’s doing well. I’m pleased. I’m hoping I can revolutionize the world of email. There’s another one out called Overcoming Rejection and Disappointment because I spent most of my adult life as an actor. It turns out, you learn a lot about overcoming rejection. I had a lot of unconscious confidence overcoming rejection. I’m so pleased because I’m getting pinged on LinkedIn every day from people going, “I took your course so it’s wonderful. Thank you. I learned much.” Especially for overcoming disappointment one because here in Southern California, you can’t swing a cat without hitting a life coach. This self-help thing is the oppressive optimism is everywhere. Self-help is everywhere but not so much in other parts of the country and not so much in other countries.
To be able to get some self-help stuff in there is stealth. It’s so lovely getting these wonderful emails from people, “I didn’t know how hard I’ve been on myself. I’ve been looking for a job for a year. I’m a data scientist. I thought I had the perfect thing lined up and it didn’t happen. You helped me.” That makes my heart so happy and I’m getting all these inquiries now from corporate like, “Can you come to a time management thing for us?” I did things for a company in Portugal for God’s sake. Sure.
Those keep coming when you can get on a plane to Portugal.
Let’s go to Portugal, Robin.
The last time you said that was, “Let’s go to Belize.” I’m like, “Here’s my credit card. What do I do next?”
“Me too. On the books. We’re sending out the first email about it tomorrow.” This is the other thing. When you write books, you get to go to Belize. This is the other thing we haven’t talked about in addition to having a serious talk with yourself when you stalled down on something, give yourself a big carrot. Promise yourself, “If you finish this thing by this date, you can buy yourself something pretty,” or you can go the other way. My friend, Amy, taught me this great strategy where you say, “Write out a check for $1,000 to a cause or a person with whom you violently disagree with. Give it to Robin and say, ‘If I don’t show you a finished draft by this date, mail that check.‘” That’s not playing around. It’s devious because it’s not even money. If they end up on their mailing list and on record, supporting this organization that you hate. Do whatever it takes. Carrots and sticks.
I prefer the carrot.
Me, too. I am also better motivated by a pair of Gucci loafers or get yourself a new puppy.
A puppy that’s barking in the middle of an interview. Carrots and sticks. Were carrot people.
You do have to reward yourself because it is hard and no one else knows or cares or has any understanding of what it is you’re doing or why. You can’t expect yourself to work forever with no reward. I’m not great at treating myself either but even if you make it conscious, “I’m buying this bottle of sparkling water and this is commemorative. I finished chapter five, sparkling water.” I am doing this thing that I would do anyway, having sparkling water but I’m reminding myself that this is a prize for having done a good job.
That is important too because then you get to create those moments for yourself. It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. It’s about acknowledging that you completed even a step. What’s the next thing? My mantra is, “Do the next thing.” It might be a little like sending a quick email or googling something online that you were curious about. If you keep doing the next thing, that’s how you build momentum and that’s how you see that forward progress.
Fifteen minutes a day. It’s shocking and you’d be amazed at how much you can get done in fifteen minutes and it hopscotches over your perfectionism. How perfect is it going to be in fifteen minutes? You’re going to do it again tomorrow and the next day. When you’re working on something every day, it starts to have a little momentum to it. You get to feel a little smug about it. You get that same feeling when you work out. You’re like, “I’m awesome because I did my thing. Thanks very much.” You’ve got that little light in your eyes. We love that version of you. You can write 200 to 250 words in fifteen minutes if you’re quick. If you do that for 100 days or 150 days, you will have a book. If you do it for ten days, you’ll have a booklet.
Another thing that I’ve noticed is even if you tell yourself, “I’m going to write for five minutes,” before you know it, once you’re in it not every time but a lot of times the next thing you’ll look up and it’ll be two hours later and you go, “Where did the time go?”
That happens. Some days it doesn’t. That’s okay. Fifteen minutes of unforced boredom never hurt a person. Stare at a blank page. It’s okay. You’re going to do it again tomorrow.
I’ll throw in one thing because that reminded me of something else that I’ve found to be true and when you were talking about wanting to come out perfect right in the first shot. One thing that I’ve found to be consistent and I’ve edited millions of words and hundreds and thousands of pages. What I can say is that almost never is the first paragraph, the first paragraph of every chapter, subheading, book or whatever it is. It is 3 to 5 paragraphs down.
I got full-body chills. I have never thought to say that but that’s exactly true.
What you do is write at least five paragraphs before you even think about what the opening line is because it will be there somewhere in those first five paragraphs. I also guarantee that most of what you wrote will go somewhere on that page but not in the order that you wrote it.
The other thing that’s on my heart to say is, “Let your writing process be your writing process.” There’s a lot of conventional wisdom out there that may not apply to you. For years, I didn’t think of myself as a writer because everyone’s like, “Writing is editing and rewriting. You can’t write and edit at the same time.” I can write and edit at the same time. I tend to be a first draft writer and I don’t like doing things twice. I don’t want to have to go back over it. I’ll be writing and I’ll put, “Insert a great story here.” I’d come back to it to keep going. Linda, for example, will edit forever. She will go over and over her manuscripts and I’m like, “That makes me feel so tired.” I don’t work that way.
For some people, it’s hard to write a book. They’re better off speaking the book, getting a transcript and editing their transcript. It is important to honor your own process and try different things. If sitting down and looking at a blank screen and blinking cursor isn’t working for you, try handwriting it, speaking it and doing it in small chunks. Everybody’s equation is their own.
Get a friend to ask you questions. I’m a big analog girl. I do everything by hand. Me and my Levenger legal pads and special pens from Japan. That’s it. That’s my jam.
I can barely write my address in an envelope. I am such a typing type. I’ve been in journalism. I’ve been typing my thoughts since I was twelve years old. Even when there were typewriters, I’ve been typing my thoughts since before the IBM Selectric.
I remember when the IBM Selectric came out. That was exciting.
It was a godsend and now it’s like, “Get that away from me.” I’m a mover. I have to be able to cut, copy, paste and move it. That’s why handwriting is a mess because I have to be able to shuffle it around.Being an author is the best personal development training because this is where you have to do the work on yourself. Click To Tweet
Keep experimenting and sometimes different projects call for different methodologies. The recurring theme here is to keep at it. Keep showing up to it. Keep showing up to the project. Keep showing up to the question. We’ve got all these negative voices inside of our head and all the messaging from the outside world that says, “Don’t rip. They’re too big for your britches. Don’t think you’re all that. Don’t work on your own thing. Work on everybody else’s thing,” and you have one little teeny tiny voice inside. It’s trying to stand up to all those negative noes. You’ve got to get that little voice a megaphone. You’ve got to give it fifteen minutes a day. You’ve got to give it some space and see where it takes you. You never know. Seth Godin might enjoy your book. Who knows? Weirder things have happened.
On that note because I can’t imagine a better thought to end on, I will say Sam, thank you for being on the show and sharing all these great insights with us.
My pleasure. Any time. We’ll do the follow-up interview in Belize.
- Samantha Bennett
- Get It Done: From Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 Minutes a Day
- Start Right Where You Are: How Little Changes Can Make a Big Difference for Overwhelmed Procrastinators, Frustrated Overachievers and Recovering Perfectionists
- The Big Leap
- audio – The Big Leap
- Linda Sivertsen
- LinkedIn – Samantha Bennett
- Time Management for Busy People
- How to Write Emails People Want to Read
- Overcoming Rejection and Disappointment
About Samantha Bennett
Originally from Chicago, Samantha Bennett is a writer, speaker, actor, teacher and creativity/productivity specialist and the author of the bestselling, “Get It Done: From Procrastination to Creative Genius in 15 Minutes a Day” which Seth Godin called, “An instant classic, essential reading for anyone who wants to make a ruckus.”
Her latest bestseller is, “Start Right Where You Are: How Little Changes Can Make a Big Difference for Overwhelmed Procrastinators, Frustrated Overachievers and Recovering Perfectionists”.
She is the creator of The Organized Artist Company, dedicated to helping tens of thousands of creative people get unstuck, helping them to focus and move forward on their goals.
Sam has also written the script for the hit musical, “In a Booth at Chasen’s,” and is working on her latest book, “Secrets of Highly Creative People.”She is an award-winning marketing expert, having spent 15 years as a Personal Branding Specialist for Sam Christensen Studios and been honored as an Ultimate Marketer Finalist at Infusioncon. She is also a Keap Certified Consultant and Reseller.
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