Saturday, June 13, 2015

How to Find What You Need to Write

One of the many things I love about my work is that I get to know great people who are as dedicated to learning and language as I am. One of those people is Sheri Andrunyk. Sheri and I connected over tea one day, and we have been supporting each other as teachers and writers ever since. I'm very proud to have trained Sheri in NLP, and it has been fun to cheer her on as she founded and has nurtured I C Publishing.

Here's the short version of what Sheri has contributed to so many writers, entrepreneurs and coaches:

"Sheri Andrunyk is the founder of I C Publishing (tour sponsor) and the I C Bookstore, entrepreneur expert, mentor, and author of Working From Home & Making It Work and Hearts Linked by Courage. She is writing two more books this year, and is extremely passionate about providing more choices, resources, and high level support to other writers, business professionals, wellness coaches, and spiritual mentors."

In my contribution to this year's Blog TourI will explore a little about how to connect to the stories you tell best, the stories that will inspire change in the world.

How to Create Content That Connects

The best way to create content is to not think of what you do as content creation. Think of it instead as conversation. Whether you're writing a blog or posting to social media, you're not just pushing stuff out there and hoping it sticks. You're taking a moment of someone's day to provide a human interaction that allows them to refocus and recharge. 

You don't have to be brilliant. The jokes that work in the lunch room or in line at the coffee shop do not have to be particularly clever. They just need to reflect a desire to connect and relax and heighten awareness. Great social media works the same way. It connects to a reader's desire to be a little more perceptive, to see something they have been missing, or to feel a human connection while they go through their day.

For me, the mark of being 'on track' is that someone reaches out to let me know that although a newsletter has gone out to a mailing list, they felt like the newsletter was written just for them - or that a blog post seemed to have just what they needed. Sometimes they 'like' a picture or post that felt a little random when I posted it. It's not about being "shareable" for me: it's about something real changing in someone's day because of what I have shared.

So, practically speaking: use what comes into your life as you would use it in a lunch room conversation. Sometimes you'll share something you've seen or read or done. Sometimes you'll give a little advice based on expertise or experience. And sometimes you'll talk through an issue so that you can manage it better yourself (and let your readers come along for the ride).

Creating Workshops, Programs or Keynotes

For me, all of these things are less about showing off expertise and more about creating an experience that allows people to engage their own best thinking in an idea or issue. Everything has a storyline: a sequence of feelings and actions that lead from a problem through adventures and confusions into a fresh place to start.

You might wonder about why it's a good idea to inspire confusion.  Research shows that people learn better when they struggle a little. The effort they make is rewarded with learning that sticks. So I create experiences that give people room to get confused and then resolve their confusion. Sometimes readers wonder how it's all going to fit together and then get a big AHA! when they realize it does.  This means I use a lot of interaction and storytelling, to help people stay engaged as they work through to a meaning.

The only "steps" I follow are these:
  • begin with an idea of the problem I want to explore
  • use mind maps, diagrams and lists to consider possible stages in moving through the problem
  • build interactions, metaphors or exercises that allow people to achieve the stages
  • go back and take another look at how I have defined the problem
  • write, consider, edit, repeat.

Writing a Book Begins with a Story Circle

If you're just at the beginning, play. Draw pictures (especially if you can't draw). Place words and ideas randomly on a page, and then draw in some connections. Create icons or words that represent big chunks of what you want to cover and move them around. Give your material different shapes by choosing to arrange it differently.

Some people think they have to start at the beginning of the first page and keep writing. That's rarely the best way to see the whole of your story and shape it for a reader. Instead, imagine that you are stepping into a story circle with the people who will read your book. Imagine that you are the teacher with a story that must engage active minds and bodies. You need to know the listeners and what they can imagine. You need to know the beginning and the ending of the story, the reason you have chosen it for these listeners, and what needs to happen in the middle to keep their minds busy and get you to the end.

Remember that once it is read, it is not longer your story: it's the reader's story too. So write it with them, not just for them.

Advice to a younger self?

I can't think of anything I could safely change, so I think I'd just give her a hug and tell her to trust her instincts.

My new work is about conversation

I've recently joined CAPS (the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers) and I'll be doing more speaking as part of our new program on how conversations get results and enrich lives. We often think of conversation, coaching and public speaking as separate activities. I believe that all are done best by people who know that language only works when it is completed by a reader or listener. I'll also be reworking my first book for publication and looking forward to launching a new version of our annual celebration of NLP and conversation, our 7th annual Symposium on October 17.

There's no substitute for community, so I'm always looking for new people who are willing to listen and then to add their voices to our ongoing conversation about how the human mind/body/brain system works and how our connections allow us to be our best and truest selves.

Passing the pen. . .
And now I'm delighted to introduce two of the writers it has been my pleasure and privilege to have as clients.

Balaji Raghavan is a writer, motivational speaker and trainer who loves to help people to get inspired. His first book "Awakening the Genie from within" was published this May. He has a background of sales and training in FMCG industry. He is now running his training and consulting firm TAP IDEAS in Toronto. Visit his blog at http://balajiraghavantapideas.wordpress.com

Eirinn Boots is a fierce competitor, a great motivator and a thoughtful trainer who is committed to getting results for the people she serves. Her blog, Best Yourself, combines her personal quest for improving her own results with strong advice to help her readers do better than they did the day before.














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